March 28, 2003

Real-time, gee-whiz coverage…

At our KC Bloggers meeting on Monday, Jay Manifold, Nels Lindahl, and I were discussing TV coverage of the war and antiwar protests and its emotional/intellectual effects on the audience, especially those of us (in this case, me) who question if this war is a good idea. Being anti-war doesn’t necessarily mean being against our troops or military victory. About watching the war on TV and my thoughts on victory, I said: “When I turn on CNN, I want to see an ass-kicking.”

In other words, I want to see the gee-whiz pictures of our troops opening a can of whoop-ass on Saddam. I want to see victory. I want to feel victory.

For context and something like an accurate, conflicted, and sober portrayal of the war–one that rubs the realities of war in my face, I read the newspaper.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the TV networks and cable outlets are trying to re-vamp coverage as they go and provide context and a glimpse at the big picture–something that’s difficult to achieve considering the structural biases of this medium. I don’t want that. I want pictures–ass-kicking pictures. What does it say about the emotional power of TV and the new technology that I want to see this stuff (never mind for a moment, please, what it says about me). Are we being desensitized to the spectacle of war (notice the pronoun switch)?

The article concludes:

Despite the raw power and immediacy of the live coverage, experts caution that TV can convey only so much and to recognize those limits.

“People need to wake up to the fact these are not video games,” said Boston University’s [John J. ] Schulz [professor of international communication], noting that much of the early coverage was “antiseptic and long-distance…. Television gives us the easy answers; it always has. It’s not the full picture.”

End note: Hmmm…I really really do not want to write a war blog. But the rhetorical intersections between the press and politics are too numerous, interesting, and important to ignore in regard to war. So it is now my goal to keep some kind of perspective rather than simply give in or give up. I write about the war under protest. But I also write about the war under obligation to my purpose as a scholar and popularizer if rhetoric. I’ll trust my readers to help me find that perspective.

UPDATE (11:45 a.m.): We ridicule, you decide: FOX News has this to say to war protestors. (via Thinking It Through)

UPDATE (29 March 5:05 p.m.): Maybe this is what FOX News had in mind.

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