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CNN: The Reality War

I’m too lazy to tune elsewhere, and BBC America doesn’t bother with war coverage anymore, instead showing reality shows where women are filmed with hidden cameras so they can be told how horribly they dress, and then given £2,000 to buy a new warddrobe with the advice of experts. So, I watch CNN a little bit every day, to see what war looks like.

It looks like whiz-bang computer graphics giving you a vague idea of where in Iraq the fighting is, and the vague capabilities of our high-tech weapons. “Well, it flies n miles per hour and is guided by satellites and it can be launched from a ship!”

It looks like grainy, jerky, crappy “live via Videophone” webcam images of guys driving around, getting into firefights.

It does not look like people getting blown up, maimed, wounded, killed, losing their loved ones. It does not show casualties. It does show Iraqi POWs sitting in the desert waiting to be trucked off somewhere, and of course eschews showing all but two seconds of Iraqi footage of American POWs.

The live dialogue always tries to bring up how fantastic their own news coverage is, thanks to technology, and their guys in the field, giving you unprecedented war coverage! Go CNN! And thanks to the philosophy of reality TV they can sink to the most disgusting lows – cheap emotional spectacle.

Last night, and it sounds like they love doing this, they got a soldier on the videophone, and then put his wife online, so we could watch them interact, awkwardly, in public, live: the courtship habits of the American military family. He was a bit shy, making sure to say “I love you,” and she was trying hard not to feel too upset at his being away. The worst of it was when he showed off his missing tooth, trying to reassure her that while he’d been hit with a concussive explosion, the worst he sufferd was a lost tooth. She was clearly distressed at the news he had volunteered that he had suffered a concussion; Sure it was just a tooth, but this just reinforces the knowledge that he’s in a situation where losing body parts is a very real possibility, and he’s being so cocky about it!

It is great, I think, that these two get a chance to talk to each other, but it is cheap, crass, disgusting exploitation that CNN is going to let a family use the videophone for the purpose of airing people’s private lives.

The decision to go to war, the decision to join the military, and the decision to marry a soldier are all very real, serious, difficult decisions that people make with great caution. The decision to be a journalist, and provide real, useful information to people, is far easier, in comparison. You don’t do that by exploiting people’s personal lives for spectacle. Michael Moore thinks Bush should be ashemed, but far more obvious to me is that CNN should be ashamed.

Shame on you CNN! I didn’t want to see you exploiting that family! Stick to the computer graphics of weapons if you are too inept to show us the real war.

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Categories: Politics