war the U.S. is presently engaged in is unprecedented in many
ways, one of those being the seemingly unlikely alliance between
the Bush administration, the military, and the media. While the
media has always been along to cover a war, this is the first
time reporters have been embedded with a battalion of soldiers.
The president tried building a coalition with foreign states and
failed, maybe this coalition will succeed since everyone seems
to be on the same page as well as speak the same language—
money. Nobody knows more about spending as well as making big
bucks and how to put that perfect spin on both failures and blockbusters
than Hollywood. This coalition is hoping for a spring blockbuster
that would make the
look like the latest version of
The media likes snappy names for news stories. The war with Iraq
is certainly news. For weeks we were treated to stories under
the banner, “Showdown With Saddam.” Sort of sounds like
something Sly Stallone might star in. Once the war had officially
begun, the banner heading has changed to “Operation Iraqi
Freedom,” which sounds like something Bruce Willis would
star in. In fact the die-hard actor offered his services to the
U.S. military. Thankfully the Armed Forces informed Willis that
his services wouldn’t be required as an actor or as a battling
GI. Apparently it isn’t in the Pentagon war budget to equip
every soldier with a stunt double, which would have looked like
favoritism had Willis donned a uniform.
The use of Hollywood headlines for a horrible occurrence is not
new. The media has always loved lurid titles on which to hang
a story. “Hillside Strangler,” The Black Dahlia,”
and “The Red-Light Bandit” are just some that were employed
in cases of grisly murders. Using marquee-type titles for things
like murder and war distances the reader or, in the case of television,
the viewer from the horror of the act that was committed. One
thing this Administration (or the media) doesn’t want to do is
offend American sensibilities. Both are spending big bucks on
the operation and both want a boffo box office.
In the case of the Bush administration, they would like to see
a quick resolution where Saddam and his bad boys are wiped out
and the army can then occupy Baghdad without having to deal with
the annoying problem of what to do with a deposed dictator and
his Administration. Based on the “success” of U.S. troops
after just a few days of bombing Baghdad, the stock market shot
up like a middle aged-man overdosing on Viagra. Prior to our hurling
weapons of mass destruction at Iraq, the market had been falling
faster than a turkey tossed from a 747.
pesky problem of war, besides creating plenty of dead bodies,
is its tendency to destabilize economies. Ours has been so bad
the last few years, a mere flick in the wrong direction could
send it spiraling down a financial black- hole that would make
the Great Depression look like a day at Disneyland. The Bush administration
has never made any arguments that it didn’t support big money,
after all, what’s good for Halliburton is good for the country.
Thus a win on Wall Street is a win for the U.S., even if many
Americans don’t have a nickel in the market.
One of the first images the public has been treated to, courtesy
of this relationship between the army and the media, is a soldier
cutting down a larger than life size portrait of Hussein. This
plays into what I call the “Iwo Jima” fantasy. Americans
love to see their flag raised over the vanquished. Even though
every one of the “enemy” might already be dead, it isn’t
a truly official victory until that flag is raised, sort of like
having to get the ball into the end zone and then go for the extra
point. Americans also love seeing icons of the defeated torn down
or blasted to smithereens. That is sort of like the athlete responsible
for making the big play getting to shimmy and shake after the
play is over.
This coalition between the media, military, and government appears
to be a “win, win” merger. What all three want is a
Hollywood ending. The Administration wants Baghdad and the oil
it craves. The military wants to use its toys and thus justify
a large infusion for the fiscally vampiric military industrial
complex. The media wants good ratings and they will get them as
long as the war doesn’t get too ugly for our side.
What about the average citizen living in Kansas? They get a war
delivered to them Hollywood style. Considering America’s
love for reality shows, this is a big win for the Nielsen folks.
Now if we can just wrap this whole thing up before the May sweeps,
the U.S. can’t lose.
Zaresky is a freelance writer who’s articles have appeared
Los Angeles Times
San Diego Union
, as well as other periodicals.