Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Watching American TV in Iraq

At Baghdad Burning there's an interesting entry about the new onslaught of American media in Iraq...

Two years ago, the major part of the war in Iraq was all about bombarding us with smart bombs and high-tech missiles. Now there’s a different sort of war- or perhaps it’s just another phase of the same war. Now we’re being assailed with American media. It’s everywhere all at once.

It started with Voice of America and the other voices on the radio, telling them to lay down their arms and stay in their homes. Then there was Al-Hurra ("the purported channel of freedom") with their Arabic newscasts ("which is like watching Fox in Arabic"), and Al-Iraquiya ("Couldn't the PSYOPS people come up with anything more subtle?").

Then came the MBC channels which show American television shows...

We were introduced to MBC’s Al-Arabia- a news channel which was meant to be the Saudi antidote to Al-Jazeera. Simultaneously, we were accessing MBC’s Channel 2, which is a channel that shows only English movies and programs. The programs varied from talk shows like Oprah, to sitcoms like Friends, Third Rock from the Sun and Seinfeld...

The first time I saw 60 Minutes on MBC 4, it didn’t occur to me that something was wrong. I can’t remember what the discussion was, but I remember being vaguely interested and somewhat mystified at why we were getting 60 Minutes. I soon found out that it wasn’t just 60 Minutes at night: It was Good Morning, America in the morning, 20/20 in the evening, 60 Minutes, 48-Hours, Inside Edition, The Early Show… it was a constant barrage of American media. The chipper voice in Arabic tells us, “So you can watch what *they* watch!” *They* apparently being millions of Americans...

I’ve been enchanted with the shows these last few weeks. The thing that strikes me most is the fact that the news is so… clean. It’s like hospital food. It’s all organized and disinfected. Everything is partitioned and you can feel how it has been doled out carefully with extreme attention to the portions- 2 minutes on women’s rights in Afghanistan, 1 minute on training troops in Iraq and 20 minutes on Terri Schiavo! All the reportages are upbeat and somewhat cheerful, and the anchor person manages to look properly concerned and completely uncaring all at once...

We sat there watching like we were a part of another world, in another galaxy. I’ve always sensed from the various websites that American mainstream news is far-removed from reality- I just didn’t know how far. Everything is so tame and simplified. Everyone is so sincere.

Furthermore, I don’t understand the worlds fascination with reality shows. Survivor, The Bachelor, Murder in Small Town X, Faking It, The Contender… it’s endless. Is life so boring that people need to watch the conjured up lives of others?

I have a suggestion of my own for a reality show. Take 15 Bush supporters and throw them in a house in the suburbs of, say, Falloojeh for at least 14 days. We could watch them cope with the water problems, the lack of electricity, the check points, the raids, the Iraqi National Guard, the bombings, and- oh yeah- the ‘insurgents’. We could watch their house bombed to the ground and their few belongings crushed under the weight of cement and brick or simply burned or riddled with bullets. We could see them try to rebuild their life with their bare hands (and the equivalent of $150)…

I’d not only watch *that* reality show, I’d tape every episode.

2 Comments:

At 1:23 AM, Blogger Fischer said...

It's true that American television and by extension American culture have invaded the world man. You need only look at Canada to see how America slowly assimilates the culture into it's own and see what can happen.

By the way, I totally agree about your idea for the reality t.v. show.

 
At 7:23 AM, Blogger fdtate said...

The reality show idea wasn't mine. It was River's at Baghdad Burning. Sorry I didn't make that clear by my post. The assimilation of our culture into everyone else's is one of the grievances of bin Laden (remember him?) and his boys.
I was struck by how River saw American news and immediately perceived the vacuousness of it.

 

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