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03/20/2003 - War as Showbiz

Brian A. Wilson


After 18 months of development, President Bush finally debuted the tentpole of his administration: Iraqi War II: Clone of the Previous Attack.

The current administration and its supporters are quick to deride and dismiss Hollywood as irrelevant and, frankly, just too darn liberal. But they've learned many lessons from us left coasters, including but not limited to the importance and excitement of live video from the battlefield.

This is the most attention this administration has paid to the pesky liberal media since the election campaign. Nobody in the Casa Blanca likes reporters asking annoying questions about the budget, the economy or social security, but now that there's a war to put on TV, they're letting the fourth estate saddle up with the Cavalry and zoom into battle!


Well, Dubya et al. probably hate to admit it, but politics has become showbiz. Administrations survive on the "box office" of opinion polls. Wars gain favor (and financial support) based on TV ratings. And as we're about to see, fighting isn't just for COPS or Survivor any more, because now we have Battlefield Live.

I find all this rather stunning. In the old, old days, say, 20 years ago, war was something to be avoided, shunned, eschewed. Now, it's prime time programming. And what's next? Will we have interactive polls to decide when to detonate the MOAB? Will ratings spike during infantry advances, but sag during nighttime Stealth surveillance flights? Will the military hold big battles until the largest audience is available? Will a frothy-mouthed journalist win an Emmy because his videophone transmitted some poor soldier getting his leg blown off?

Is this pro-active, pre-programmed, media-mad war the result of a culture built by violent movies and violent TV programs and violent video games, all of which had their genesis with writers, writers like you or I? I

have no answers. Discuss amongst yourselves.

If that is the case, the bad news is, many of us writers are part of this disturbing, destructive problem. But the good news is, it means we can all be part of the solution as well.

Think about what you write, and how the ripples of it will spread into the future.

Keep writing.


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