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War too icky for the evening news?

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Auggie27
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War too icky for the evening news?#0
Posted: 2/12/04 at 7:13am
We're at war, but sometimes, you wouldn't know it.

I've been watching various nightly news during February Sweeps, scrutinizing subtle new tune-in strategies. Last night, NBC ran it headlines, putting the gay marriage/Mass. story in the A position, and then cataloging lesser pieces. Everything from the Atkins controversy (yawn) to Bush's record followed. In NONE of the story promos did NBC even mention one of the bloodiest days in Bagdad, 47 plus people killed. You could've watched the first 3 minutes of the news and NOT KNOWN WE HAD A BAD DAY IN IRAQ. Cut to ABC, Peter Jennings lead with it. Two wildly different spins on the news at the tune-in point -- but which network chose to play softball on a hardball day? Bloodshed is too icky. And doesn't sell those Accuras. (Unless it's Laci Peterson's--and then, well, it at least reminds us of C.S.I.)

There are many other examples, but what this suggests, increasingly, is that promos about this war do not invite viewership. This comes on the heels of the Tom Friedman piece in the Times, when he voiced his outrage that we dared to dance, crotch-grab and reveal tit at the Super Bowl during a time of war. (Some of us noted the missing war climate during the Dickensian Christmas season, when the non-stop Zales commercials made it seems like these are the best of times, period.)

His thesis wasn't fresh, but is too rarely stated: that we are not capable of having a war, and sacrificing anything to accommodate it: not money, not gas, not T&A between touchdowns. I would add, that we seem increasingly unwilling to sacrifice our sense of well being for a critical dose of hard news.

"I'm a comedian, but in my spare time, things bother me." Garry Shandling
Updated On: 2/12/04 at 07:13 AM
Gothampc
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re: War too icky for the evening news?#1
Posted: 2/12/04 at 8:08am
I think the news learned their lesson in the early '90's when the Gulf War broke out. NBC showed so much of the war that viewers wrote in en masse and told them to stop. Tom Brokaw had to go on air and say "We have heard your complaints and we are returning to regular programming." The news has to vary their programming in order to keep viewers.
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iflitifloat
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And therein lies the unbridgeablse gulf. America wants its war to be bloodless, tidy affairs that won't spoil the mood for the evening. We are outraged...make that OUTRAGED...when ONE American is killed, but don't want to hear about it when dozens or more Iraqi's die en masse. It's fictionalized, sanitized war for prime time. And if the media doesn't give the people what they want, they'll switch channels.

I can't help but remember how during the Vietnam War, bloody images were the lead story every night, at leasts in my recollection. There was no escaping the fact that we were a nation at war and that people were dying. In my opinion, the packaging of Iraq as entertainment has done much to determine the level of support FOR the war within this country. The problem is that the snippets we see may be accurate, but the pictures they paint aren't necessarily true.
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Updated On: 2/12/04 at 08:36 AM
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I don't remember OUTRAGE of American soldiers being killed at all. I remember sadness. I remember reports of car bombs and suicides. But I don't remember any OUTRAGE at all. The only OUTRAGE I can remember were the assemblies of speeches and protests daily against the decision to go to war. To rely upon local or network news for accurate war coverage is outdated. You have to go to CNN or Fox News on cable. The only reason Vietnam had better coverage is because these cable networks didn't exist. The bigwigs at the networks will always be the ones to decide what is news. Michael and Janet Jackson are news. Atkins is news. Bush's military record is news. Screamin' Dean is news. Iraq is passe. It's been covered for a while and is no longer in style. America doesn't expect a bloodless war. It's what the networks want, and that is a war that lasts one season and hopefully the big stuff will occur during sweeps. Iraq just isn't bringing in the ratings this season and it looks like the networks are going to cancel the show.
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iflitifloat
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I didn't make myself clear. I don't remember outrage at American soldiers being killed in Vietnam either. But I do think there's more a sense of "how dare they" in respect to Iraq. Maybe I'm wrong. It was a different very different time and place.
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Of course it was. It was also a very different war. Walking by the numerous protests, virtually all the protestors were college kids trying so desperately to stop something they had no control over. I don't mind the protesting, but the vigilance with which they tried to force their opinions on others really drove me nuts. The protests of the Vietnam war addressed so many other issues other than "we don't want war". Nobody WANTS war. And while the Vietnam protests were somewhat influential, it is quite obvious that such protests have lost their power in modern administrations. I think the "how dare they" attitude stems not from modern TV so much as from our history with the Middle East in general. Middle Eastern leaders have voiced their hatred of the US so openly for so long, I think it just stings that much more when they succeed in killing our soldiers. It reminds me of 9/11 and the broadcasts of the celebrations in Middle Eastern cities dancing and singing and throwing candy. I didn't see anything even remotely similar occur here in the US when we bombed Baghdad. Everywhere I looked, Americans were sad and shocked and nervous. I'm not saying we're better than them or supporting our involvement in any way. It's just that attitudes towards war have changed. Vietnam proved we weren't indestructible and I think it still hurts to be reminded.
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
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Oh come now Matt. The social movements of the '60s absolutely changed the world. It's so mythically American centrist to pretend that protest really doesn't change much, but from the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s sprang the anti-war movement which begat the second wave of feminism and the gay liberation movements.

The world would be very different today without any one of those components. And without the war protests of the '60s, the Vietnam conflict would probably still be going on, in the same sanitized, no news is no news kind of way the Iraq conflict is going.
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Updated On: 2/12/04 at 12:47 PM
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I agree that the social movements of the 60s changed the world. Were the protests the only reason the Vietnam war came to an end? I don't think so, but I do think they helped to unite a more national mindset among the citizens. Like you said, it was one component out of a chain of events that caused the war to end, but it was a vital one. Opposition to the US government had been dormant for a while and people forgot that we don't always have to approve of the choices our government makes. But it was such a turbulent time and there was a major chain of events that led to these protests. Since then, protests have become some common that I think they've lost their impact. We see how much good global protesting accomplished last year. Bush made it quite clear that nothing will stand in the way of his own agenda, whatever it may actually be, and that he is deaf to the voice of the people.

I completely agree with you on the importance of the social movements of the 50s and 60s and that the world would be different without one of those componenets. And that is the problem today. Back then, it required many components to set the movement in motion. I feel that we somehow either don't have enough components to make the necessary changes, or we just have a stronger opposition that requires stronger components.

I hope this makes sense. It makes sense in my head, but trying to transfer it to the written page is exhausting.
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
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Of course. A movement is an entire compendium of things. When I was active in the AIDS movement of the late-'80s and early-'90s, it took an entire range of activities to get changes that benefit everybody to this day to happen. There were the in-the-street theatrics of ACT UP calling attention to the issues, there were the inside lobbyists who were finally listened to when ACT UP told the country "No more business as usual." From ACT UP sprang the still in existence Treatment Action Group that worked hard and established policies that to this day get drugs into bodies of people suffering from all sorts of illnesses, not just AIDS.

When I lived in Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts vetoed the gay rights bill for over a decade and a half. Finally, in the late-'80s they did it one more time. Because of the activism of ACT UP and its inspirational tactics, HUNDREDS of us took over the very state house that you are now seeing on the news as the gay marriage debate goes on. It was empowering, it was liberating, and it was an incredibly eloquent movement response to people being pushed down again and again and again by the very legislative body that is trying to find a way to ignore the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling on this very day. (Incidentally, the "opposition" was using the exact same arguments that they are using now, ie, "God Made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve." Then who made Steve?).

Well, many of my more centrist and conservative gay friends responded to my excited and empowered descriptions of this State House takeover with, "Well, I hear you've ruined our chances the next time this bill comes up for vote. Good move."

Two years later, the bill came up for vote again and was passed. And Massachusetts has lived with a gay rights law ever since (and no sky has fallen!). You had best believe that it passed because the memories of the takeover were fresh in people's minds. People in power need to know when there are powderkegs getting close to blowing, and that's what happened that time.

This is not to say that the dress and pearl wearing lobbyists who had worked for 17 years to get that bill passed didn't continue their work after the takeover. Of course they did. But the legislators saw what anger and muscle was behind it.

I think, Matt, you are looking as protests as isolated, just as my more reactionary friends did after the state house takeover. They weren't then, they weren't in the '60s, and they aren't now.

Believe me, the people in power benefit when people like you say, "Ho hum, just another protest, they never work."
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Updated On: 2/12/04 at 02:37 PM
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The protests against the Iraq war are not just college kids here in DC. They have been made up of people of all ages. Another reason you don't see as much coverage of this war as the Vietnam war is the restrictions put on the media by the Patriot Act. We've not seen one funeral or coffin coming home on TV. The news during the Vietnam era was filled with such images daily.
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"[a]nother reason you don't see as much coverage of this war as the [v]ietnam war is the restrictions put on the media by the [p]atriot [a]ct."

could you kindly find those specific restrictions and point them out (quoting from the text of the act, if you please) to me as i don't remember reading anything media blackouts that when i read the patriot act or its referring and referred codes and codicils. but then, since the patriot act can do everything else including cause cavities, why not?

thanks. re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: War too icky for the evening news?
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I'm not really looking at the Iraq protests as isolated because I'm aware of the global scale of which they took place and how they were ignored. However, the numerous protests that I witnessed in the Chicago area were mostly (not all) college kids who looked like they wanted something to do. It's difficult to explain, but I got the feeling that they were not so much about the subject as they were about protesting in general. There was plenty of dramatics, but no heart.
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Matt, that wasn't my experience at all. I was in my late teens at the height of the Vietnam War and participated in many antiwar protests (both peaceful, and not so much...)as a high school student and during college (Kent State). I was opposed to the war with every fiber of my being, and I wasn't unique. Was there a 'coolness' aspect to it? Absolutely. But the sincerety and extreme frustration that I, and everyone I knew, felt was indisputable. The situation was intolerable, and that was the first time I felt that I could make a difference. I'm much more jaded now. But that feeling...the frustration, and the need to DO something, anything, to stop the madness...is slowly reawakening.
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In the Vietnam War for the first time images came to houses of villages being torched and mothers holding babies screeming from the flames. The government didn't put restrictions on the media in that war because at first they were denying it existed. The technology was new. People started hating the military for what they saw on tv. In the Gulf war the military let no one come on the battle fields or report what they saw. Now with this war we get pictures of reporters saying nonsense with tanks behind them.
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iflitifloat - I think you finally hit it home for me. What I really didn't see in most of the protests I witnessed was the sincerity. At least, not the sincerity of stopping the war as much as just doing anything anti-government. I wasn't the only one who noticed this. There were articles in the local papers as well. And these were the more leftist papers in Chicago.

I could be completely wrong. But something about the whole thing gave me those feelings.
"What can you expect from a bunch of seitan worshippers?" - Reginald Tresilian
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As with anything, the reasons someone participates runs the gamut. Antiwar protesters were no different. It's always the extreme of anything that gets noticed. The showboaters...the biggest, flashiest, most obnoxious, most whatever.... You were going to notice Abbie Hoffman at a rally, not the likes of me.
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Maybe the restrictions the Bush administration put on the press in regard to televising the return of soldiers in coffins and funerals wasn't in the Patriot Act. But they have blocked the press from broadcasting those images.
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the restrictions on broadcasting from dover have been in place since 1991. the only change is that all other bases have been included as of fall 2000, prior to the election. while the policy was not enforced stringently during the clinton administration, nor during the afghaniostan conflict, due to civil rights challenges by the familes of deceased service members, they are now strictly enforced.
r.i.p. marco, my guardian angel.

...global warming can manifest itself as heat, cool, precipitation, storms, drought, wind, or any other phenomenon, much like a shapeshifter. -- jim geraghty

pray to st. jude

i'm a sonic reducer

he was the gimmicky sort

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Not much about the war, but how much air time has been given to Janet and Justin?