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ITS TIME FOR A SEQUEL: “OVER HERE”

By By Danny Schechter  Posted by Rob Kall (about the submitter)     Permalink
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MEMO: TO STEVE BOCHCO
FROM: YOUR NEWS DISSECTOR

SOMEWHERE IN EUROPE: Congratulations on getting your new series "Over There " on the air over here. As someone who has been railing about the fictional quality of so much news reporting from Iraq, and the 'militainment ' that has so distorted understanding of the conflict, its exciting to acknowledge that the war finally has a show of its own.

Ironically, it is one of the war 's biggest cheerleaders Mr. Murdoch who is bringing an entertainment series about the war on his F/X Channel into our living rooms. He must think that he and his news channel "own the war" because they did so much to promote it. Cashing in is what that is about.

Your reality series "Over There" like NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues before it largely improved on and enhanced TV news treatment of urban life and the culture of cops. So why not take on a war since the coverage of it is largely so pathetic?

No wonder that the NY Times, which did so little to challenge the march to war is thrilled with media writer Allesandra Stanley saying "exploitation is not such a bad thing. "

"Except perhaps in the cartoon strip "Doonesbury " reminders of war in the American news media is fleeting, " she writes. "Live battle scenes and Pentagon briefings flicker across television newscasts as fast as weather bulletins and weight loss features ....Fiction has a way of slowing time and putting a frame on a shifting, fragmented reality."

It is true. Drama can flesh out characters and explore moral dilemmas in a way that hard news can 't. It can lead audiences to feel the fear and see the issues more intensely than some correspondent can describe them from a hotel roof in the safety of the Green Zone.

So two cheers for boldly taking this on and being willing to show some of the gore and violence that TV has deliberately sanitized. You can be explicit where others are implicit and even take a point of view, even if in this case, it is safe one, as the NY Times reports: "hate war, love the troops. "
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That fits nicely with one of Pentagon 's propaganda themes: focus attention on Americans in harms way. It reinforces the AAU frame of the coverage: its all about us. Iraqis are not humanized in the series anymore than they are in TV News. In a sense they and their country don 't exist. Whats happening there is presented as if it is only by, for and about Americans.

Comments David Swanson who runs DowningStreet.org, the website about the secret memo that shows the war conspiracy for what it was, "This show (at least in episode one and the reviews suggest this doesn't change in the next two episodes) takes exclusively the point of view of the United States. The Iraqis in this show have no names and for the most part no faces, no stories, no families, no nicknames, no annoying and endearing habits, no motivations or regrets, no insecurities, no NOTHING. ".

In a TV interviews, Bochco was asked about the "enemy. "

His response: "We are defining the enemy as those individuals who are trying to kill us, who are shooting at us. And we don't put names on them or labels on them. They are just trying to hurt us, and they are the bad guys."

Hollywood has always been about good guys and bad guys, an insight which President Bush appropriated when he named the enemy an "the axis of evil " and said "you are either with us or the terrorists " The war has been sold with this hyped-up master narrative inspired by Hollywood narrative technique. Storytelling, not sloganizing has defined it. Bochco is just showing us that he can do it better,

Swanson is right to conclude: "Those inclined to see the horrors of war will see them here. Those inclined to think of foreigners as evil ones, as non-humans, will confirm that world-destroying prejudice. And by design "
But there are also two challenges here yet to be discussed.
First. how do we get the real story of he soldiers out, the horrible job they being forced or paid well to do? Can ´t we do better to tell the story of men who are trapped in Iraq, prisoners of US power and who are being bribed with promises of citizenship and more money to function as mercenaries,

An internet distributed GI SPECIAL about the troops tells this story every day with stories from the frontlines, the hospitals and the homes of veterans and those that have not returned. Its latest issue reprints a piece from last week 's USA Today on a marine unit that has done three shifts of brutal duty. Never mind that the obvious questions of US war crimes is not raised; the story does show the pain and pathos of men desperate to come home. Listen to one soldier:
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"I tell a lot of people: I wouldn't wish this on anyone," says Thurlow, 19. "It's very hard. It really is. You're just looking toward the end. That's all you want, is for it to be over." ..., many say they are angry to be back, shaken by the loss of more friends and feeling old beyond their years. "

UPI reports that it is not just their morale that is shaken: "

"The number of U.S. troops wounded in action from the beginning of hostilities on March 19, 2003 through Wednesday, July 27 was 13,657, an increase of 98 compared with the previous week.Well over 100 U.S. troops are now being wounded per week, many of them grievously, losing limbs or suffering permanent brain damage. That amounts to well over 5,000 per year. "

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