TV: The Shock of the AWEful Images
And so it began, an endless barrage of rockets, missiles and artillery winding
their way with surgical-like precision into the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
Operation Shock & Awe, designed to stun Saddam and his inner circle and
surpass any attacks that had gone before.
And while one certainly cannot doubt that the shock being felt in that
city is as much physical as it is mental, the awe of watching the night
sky turn bright with firepower is certainly one worthy of a Rod Serling Twilight
Zone voice over.
Only you don't have to be in Baghdad to experience it. With over 500
journalists imbedded within the troops and broadcasting live from the hotspots,
the entire world has a front row seat on the front lines.
Welcome to SurREALITY TV.
Our new American Idols are the military men and women and the Fear
Factor they are facing head on is beyond anything network television could
ever dream up. Eating horse rectum certainly pales next to direct combat,
live fire and the threat of chemical weapons.
To quote Donald Rumsfeld, we are experiencing an "unprecedented event"
in the real time coverage being broadcast of this war. Not only do we get
to see the fighters taking off from the aircraft carriers, we watch them blast
their targets, and then land back on their ships, heading to debriefing only
after making a detour to the CNN correspondent. Their interviews are
strangely reminiscent of football players being questioned on the sidelines
during time outs in the NFL.
And that is where some of the "shock and awe" come into it for the
viewing audience. Considering the subject matter and images we are seeing,
there is a feeling that is almost voyeuristic. We know that when we
see those bombs exploding, there are most certainly lives exploding along with
them. For months leading up to this assault, we have seen the faces of the
innocent citizens of Baghdad, the same faces who now cower under their kitchen
tables, shielding their children with their own bodies. How great must
their Fear Factor be?
We are also finding out in real time when casualties are happening within our
troops. Details that even during Desert Storm would have taken upwards of
24 hours to confirm and relate to the affected families and finally the public,
are on a live feed right into our living rooms. But those living rooms
don't just contain interested, but luckily unemotionally attached viewers.
They also contain the relatives, the husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers,
fathers and friends of the brave men and women living and dying in combat.
They know the unit names, the positions, the work of their loved ones.
SurREALITY TV is unfortunately reaching these families quicker
than a military member can call them by phone or knock on their door to formally
notify them of their loss. THAT is shock and awe. THAT is
the shocking and awful reality of our technological advances.
As we continue to stay glued to our television sets, let us not forget that
those same media capabilities that are keeping us so intimately informed, are
also keeping the relatives enmeshed in a live, technicolor hell.
Our obsession with reality TV shows - from The Bachelor to Are You
Hot? - has revealed our appetite for watching the public humiliation
and discomfort of others. I only hope that this exposure to SurREALITY
TV reminds us of our humanity and that all our soldiers come home Survivors.
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