Krakauer includes passages from Tillman's diary that show a keen awareness of the propaganda that would follow his death. While on his first mission as an Army Ranger, Tillman was sent to rescue Pvt. Jessica Lynch, a soldier who had been captured by militants in Iraq. Lynch was falsely characterized by the Pentagon as a military hero who had gone down with guns blazing. She later testified that she had not fired a single bullet.
"This mission will be a P.O.W. rescue, a woman named Jessica Lynch," Tillman wrote. "As awful as I feel for the fear she must face, and admire the courage I'm sure she's showing, I do believe this to be a big Public Relations stunt. Do not mistake me, I wish everyone in trouble to be rescued, but sending this many folks for a single low ranking soldier screams of media blitz."
A year later, Tillman was the center of another public relations stunt when the Bush administration said he died fighting the Taliban, rewrote eyewitness testimony, awarded him a Silver Star, and broke its own law by announcing his death within 24 hours of his family learning of it.
Tillman seemed to predict that the government would turn him into a false hero. Spc. Jade Lane, a friend of Tillman's, told Krakauer that during their first night as Army Rangers in Iraq, Tillman had told him he was worried that if anything happened to him, the government would create a media blitz around him.
"One night he said that he was afraid that if something happened to him, they would parade him through the streets," Lane said. "And those were his exact words: 'I don't want them to parade me through the streets.' It just burned into my brain, him saying that."