March 24, 2003 – 11:27 am
The Arnie War
The more I watch the coverage of the war in Iraq, the more I’m reminded of scenes from 1980s science-fiction films.
For instance, whenever bombs or planes are discussed, animated 3d ‘collector cards’ appear on the screen that look like they’ve come directly from the Schwarzenegger oeuvre, the footage from the ‘embedded journalists’ looks for all the world like those attempts at gritty realism you get in some of the more apocalyptic ‘War Games’-y movies… and reporting live via video-phone?! A pre-Titanic James Cameron would be proud.
It’s all part of a cultural project to make real life in the early 21st century resemble as closely as possible the screen fiction of the late 20th.
There’s a website where you can compare the various media outlets’ coverage from the comfort of your personal computer. Could this actually be the first desktop war?
I do have to wonder about those ‘embedded’ journalists though. Surely that’s media manipulation through fear. If you’re a journalist, no matter how hard-nosed, you’re not trained in a military fashion and you’re certainly not there to die for your country.
Therefore, your tendency’s going to be to err on the side of safety when it comes to revealing your position – or indeed, anything of a particularly newsworthy nature. You’re going to balance the possibility of getting THE story of the war with the possibility of getting killed in the process simply because you gave too much away in a routine report.
Embedded journalists are there to document staged acts of heroism and to ensure that the war ISN’T reported accurately or impartially. The complete loss of impartiality in the journalism is heralded by the shift from the use of the word “they” to the use of the word “we” in reportage.
Sadly, although the pictures get better and the excitement gets more tangible, the closer you get to the action, the less reliable your reports become. Sure, there’s the realism of the eyewitness account, but the reports lack a sense of formulating a coherent picture of things – and it’s the context that’s so desperately needed.
Never mind a bunch of butch guys in a dusty tank crossing a patch of bare terrain in Basra – who are the Turcomans? Why are the Turks so interested in them? Why are the Kurds of Northern Iraq starting to get a terrible sinking feeling about their initial enthusiasm for the invasion? Why can’t I find Kurdistan on a map? Why has the US Government already accepted tenders from US contractors for the rebuilding of the Iraqi infrastructure? How can a representative democracy like Great Britain act in defiance of the wishes of 80% of its constituency?
What are the names of the children who are dying – and would the soldiers who drop bombs on them be quite so willing to comply with those orders if they were asked to kill just one of them face to face? Maybe in a room with the child’s family (and perhaps their own) looking on? Maybe with a rock. Can someone tell me the difference?
Generals are kicking themselves for not having thought of this whole embedded thing earlier – and media conglomerates are congratulating themselves on the sheer spectacle of it all in the ratings sweep.
Cynical, perhaps… but if the first Gulf War taught us anything, it’s to distrust television news reporting during times of conflict. Perhaps I’ll go and rent an action film instead – but then again, why bother? I mean… stop pretending it’s news and start treating it as an Arnie flick and it all makes so much more sense.
It also helps numb you to the realisation that the whole thing constitutes the worst form of pornographic snuff film-making – the sort that has willing participants, dupes and victims – all on a mass scale.