Aug 14 2012

Is War Now Entertainment?

NBC debuted its latest version of reality programming with “Stars Earn Stripes,” hosted by retired Gen. Wesley Clark. The series premise is real celebrities competing in various challenges for charity based off actual training exercises used by the U.S. military, accompanied by members of the United States Armed Forces and others. The money will go to charities that honor the troops but, as Glenn Greenwald wonders, will actual troop feel about their combat experiences and lives being exploited for fun and profit by NBC since the money NBC will from commercials will not go to charity. But, hey, it’s for The Troops. Are you against the troops?

The ways in which this is all so sleazy, repulsive and propagandistic are too self-evident to require much discussion. There is, though, a real value: here we have a major television network finally being relatively candid about the fact that they view war and militarism, first and foremost, as a source of entertainment and profit. Recall the incredible April, 2003, speech given by then-MSNBC-star-war-correspondent Ashleigh Banfield regarding how NBC and MSNBC, then owned by military supplier GE, benefited from propaganstic war coverage in Iraq, a speech that (as she clearly anticipated when she delivered it) caused her subsequent demotion and then disappearance from MSNBC and cable news [..]
I suppose you watch enough television to know that the big TV show is over and that the war is now over essentially – the major combat operations are over anyway, according to the Pentagon and defense officials – but there is so much that is left behind. . . .

That said, what didn’t you see? You didn’t see where those bullets landed. You didn’t see what happened when the mortar landed. A puff of smoke is not what a mortar looks like when it explodes, believe me. There are horrors that were completely left out of this war. So was this journalism or was this coverage?

There is a grand difference between journalism and coverage, and getting access does not mean you’re getting the story, it just means you’re getting one more arm or leg of the story. And that’s what we got, and it was a glorious, wonderful picture that had a lot of people watching and a lot of advertisers excited about cable news.

But it wasn’t journalism, because I’m not so sure that we in America are hesitant to do this again, to fight another war, because it looked like a glorious and courageous and so successful terrific endeavor, and we got rid of a horrible leader: We got rid of a dictator, we got rid of a monster, but we didn’t see what it took to do that. [..]

It’s actually necessary that America have a network reality show that pairs big, muscular soldiers with adoring D-list celebrities – hosted by a former Army General along with someone who used to be on Dancing with the Stars – as they play sanitized war games for the amusement of viewers, all in between commercials from the nation’s largest corporations. That’s way too perfect of a symbol of American culture and politics for us not to have.

Nine Nobel Laureates have called for NBC to end the show:

Nine Nobel Peace laureates, including retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on Monday called on television network NBC to cancel its “Stars Earn Stripes” reality show, calling it a bid to “sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition.” [..]

“It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence.

“Real war is down in the dirt deadly. People – military and civilians – die in ways that are anything but entertaining,” the letter said.

The Nobel-winning signatories called on NBC to “stop airing this program.” [..]

A number of anti-war groups have sponsored a petition to get NBC to protest NBC’s glorification of war without the blood and dying:

NBC has created an entertainment show that breaks new ground. “Stars Earn Stripes” is co-hosted by retired U.S. general Wesley Clark.  NBC promoted the show during its Summer Olympics telecast as the next big sporting event.  But the sport it’s exhibiting is war.

On “Stars Earn Stripes,” celebrities pair-up with members of the U.S. military to compete at war-like tasks, including “long-range weapons fire.” Only there isn’t any of the killing or dying.

Our wars kill huge numbers of people, primarily civilians, and often children and the elderly.  NBC is not showing this reality on its war-o-tainment show any more than on its news programs.  Other nations’ media show the face of war, giving people a very different view of war-making.

In the United States, our tax dollars are spent by the billions each year marketing the idea that war is a sport and associating the military with sporting events.  Media companies like NBC are complicit in the propaganda.

While 57% of federal discretionary spending goes to the military, weapons makers can’t seem to get enough of our tax dollars.  In the spirit of transferring veterans’ care to the realm of private charity, “Stars Earn Stripes” will give prize money each week to “military-based charities” in order to “send a message.”  We have our own message that we will be delivering to NBC: Dont lie to us.

One of NBC’s corporate parents, General Electric, takes war very seriously, but not as human tragedy — rather, as financial profit.  (GE is a big weapons manufacturer.) A retired general hosting a war-o-tainment show is another step in the normalization of permanent war.

You can sign the petition here

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  1. TMC

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