War Pimps

Beware of making too much of the world you see on television. With that caveat out of the way, let me proceed to make something out of my last hour’s viewing on CNN.

Tucker Carlson was sitting in for Aaron Brown — a faux journalist substituting for a faux journalist. As part of his quick tour of the news, he interviewed an official with an international aid organization about the problems facing the Asian tsunami zone. Then he went on, “thanks to the miracle of television,” as he put it, to a signoff segment focused on troops who are away from home this holiday season pursuing George Bush’s dream of democracy in Mesopotamia. Several troops were put in front of Department of Defense cameras in Iraq while CNN did the same with their families here in the States. I suppose it’s great to connect the troops to their families — hell, after getting an email from the Kerry campaign that called on supporters to give money to the USO so soldiers could call home over Christmas, I chipped in — but turning the reunion moment into video entertainment seemed cheap and demeaning (especially in the case of one soldier and his family subjected to an anchor’s relentless nudging to discuss what they were feeling). But hey, if these guys were game to go on camera, who am I to complain about how they were used by CNN’s producers?

Well, there’s this: The prevalence of feel-good images from the guys who are out “defending our freedom” — during the holidays, during the World Series, even during on our Election Day — hits me as a particularly loathsome kind of propaganda. Especially when the news-media purveyors have so largely excluded more troubling images of the human cost of the war to both our troops and the Iraqi populace. And especially when the big media have failed so utterly to explicitly examine whether this whole war has anything to do with defending our freedom.

So instead, we get more messages home from the front, more messages to encourage us to support the troops no matter what the hell we’ve sent them there to do; all messages that appear to add up to the bigger message that our intentions our good and that darn it, we need to stay the course. That’s not news and information anymore. It’s a form of pimping for the guys who set this whole mess in motion.

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