Schlock and Awe

The media march off to war with Iraq: A TV glossary

Enlisted Soldiers From the battalions of colonels and generals and admirals pontificating for the camera over Stratego boards and room-sized Twister set-ups, you'd think the battlefields were made up solely of commissioned officers. Fox slips a captain in front of the camera in the deep hours of the a.m. But among the regular squadron, the lowest rank you'll see bloviating in the expert's chair is a major. Surely a misery-tempered marine sergeant would have some insight into the exhaustion, dread, anger, and killing-guilt of the forward troops. The near-total absence of enlisted soldiers on the TV stages is the equivalent of a sportscast staffed entirely by graying general managers.

Fedayeen Saddam Newscasters and analysts are outraged that these suicidal thugs in black pajamas won't stand out in the open desert under our precision-guided weaponry. Forget the Fedayeen's war crimes against the Iraqi people; these guys are guilty of bad sportsmanship. By Day 10, Donald Rumsfeld and Fox News will have promoted these dirty fighters from mere "terrorists" to the lofty status of "death squads."

Fun Run Forget whether our national holiday in Iraq is going to turn out to be a cakewalk or a pie in the face. On Day 3 of the war, an AP wire story reports that America's commander in chief is barely tuning in to TV coverage. Turns out that while Americans are sitting gut-wracked in front of CNN, George Bush is having a sleepover at Camp David and crowing about his efforts to shave precious seconds off his mile time.

GrandstandingWhile a bloodcurdling air siren goes Celine Dion in Kuwait City, ABC correspondent Mike Von Fremd makes a surprising admission about the courage of the fourth estate. During the last Gulf War, this young Charles Grodin look-alike confesses, reporters were reluctant to retreat to air shelters because they knew they'd be forfeiting one of their few chances at screen time. The desperate attention-seeking of Joe Millionaire contestants suddenly seems less embarrassing.

Hardcore Band Name Which phrase makes a better name for a hardcore band: "Shock and Awe" or "Coalition of the Willing"?

Holt, Lestersee Smiling Disease

House-by-House Fighting In the coming weeks, every time you hear this phrase in prime time, future Democratic presidential nominee and North Carolina senior Senator John "Pretty Boy" Edwards will add another vote to his estimated 2004 Electoral College tally.

Huns Is it only a matter of time before American TV tells us that Iraqi fighters are skewering babies on bayonets? Routine are the stories about Saddam's Satanists stringing up American sympathizers and pulling out dissidents' tongues with pliers. One Iraqi exile on MSNBC recounts the lurid fate of an Uday party girl who was punished for blabbing to her hairdresser by being stripped in front of a crowd, forced to dance naked, then covered with honey and fed to attack Dobermans. (When Maxim started this story back in 2001, the dog food was a demure architecture student.) Frankly, this cast of characters is wasted on TV news. Uday should be looking for work as the villain in the next Bond film.

International Community The Bush White House is more likely to talk about gay liberation in the marines. By the time the first Cruise missiles are landing around Iraq's Moustache-in-Chief, the phrase "international community" has been struck from the lexicon of the American media. Its appearance on the BBC's C-Span simulcast is enough to inspire Clinton nostalgia.

Al Jazeera American media critics point approvingly to the cornucopia of carnage to be seen on Qatar's satellite news service. This is your network to see the hollowed-out heads that the West calls "collateral damage." In the first few days of news coverage, the American media pussyfoot around hospitalized civilians and dazed American POWs, but by Day 7, burned babies and traumatized old men are starting to get screen time on all the U.S. networks and news stations. Forget the slogan of local American news: If it bleeds, it leads. The news criteria for Al Jazeera: If internal organs are leaking, it's speaking.

Judge, Mike Surely this King of the Hill must be behind the scenes doing the voice work for napalm-throated Colonel David Hunt, Fox's just-folks military expert.

Kid Rock MTV news announces that Mr. Pamela Anderson not only wants to go Ted Nugent on Saddam's ass, but would follow that up by getting all Barry Sadler on Kim Jong-il's pompadour.

Kudos There's more back-patting during war coverage than ass-slapping during a Superbowl blowout. Aaron Brown is the uncontested master of the form. "Photo editing" is "one of the great jobs." "The Tennessean" is a "great old newspaper." The New York Times' Michael Gordon is "a very fine reporter." In fact, the "ability of the New York Times reporters is a wonderful addition" to CNN's team. You can take the boy out of Hopkins, but you can't take Hopkins out of the boy.

Liberation The American media's term for Occupation.

Michael Moore Bless him for breaking Hollywood's vow of platitudes, but listening to this director recruit converts to pacifism through his shrill and smirking Oscar speech is like watching George Bush sell participatory democracy to Arabs.

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