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    Reductio Ad:
    Let's Have Even More War on Television

    by Papa Redcloud

    I have begun to wonder if what makes the war in Iraq so popular is the way it is packaged. It is not merely a war in the traditional sense—you know, with blood and destruction—but is also a TV show. Well several TV shows, and these shows run every day, all day and all night. You never have to wonder when your show is on, because it is on right now. It is sufficiently repetitious that you never miss anything by sleeping, answering your cell-phone, watching another program (Friends, duh!), or going to the bathroom. And whether you are an afficianado of the minimalist experience of watching paint dry or relish the frisson of suspensefully waiting for the world to explode in your face, there is something in Iraq War Two for you. What a great show!

    There is only one small problem in all of this piece of reality entertainment: people are getting killed. Well there are actually a few other difficulties too. Infrastructure (translation: property) is being destroyed and many of the survivors in Iraq, and Islamic observers elsewhere, are getting pissed. This has led me to wonder if there might not be another way to provide the stimulating and tiresome violent entertainment that Americans seem so desperately to want, one that does not produce or amplify Oresteian consequences (translation: September 11 parte deux).

    Here is my modest suggestion. Let's have reruns. Let's do World War II and a few other old wars over again. I don't mean that we should actually fight again. Let's have a re-creation of these conflicts in real time with simulated CNN, MSNBC, and Fox coverage. World War II would last six years! Or we could back up to the Munich Conference in 1938 and wait for the other shoe to fall! Seven years of glorious struggle against totalitarian meanies! And in the spirit of distortion we could include in our "newsclips" scenes from old movies. After all we all know that Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, and John Wayne were the guys who won the war.

    Some people might object that our knowledge of the events and outcome of the war might detract from the thrill of having "reality" war played out in front of our video cameras. These folks are truly ignorant, in my humble opinion. For how many people out there really remember anything that happened in the past? A few might remember that Germany and Japan lost the war, but that goes without saying for a production on American TV. Always a happy ending! (For us.) But, along the way, there are lots of ups and downs that almost no one remembers. And lots of continuing characters to follow. Who knows at the start who will survive and who will fall before the end of the show.

    However great this program might be, I think we should not start with World War II. Give that tussle a bit more time and we will forget so much about that one that when the show is produced it will seem really, truly fresh. We could back up further and do World War I first. All that trench warfare and the ennui of life in the muck. It's perfect for all-day news channels. And there is the excitement of waiting for the cloud of poison gas (weapons of mass destruction!). Further—all that great war poetry: Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves—we could get totally cultured!

    But save that one as well. And the Civil War—four fascinating years of fratricidal mayhem—ought to be reserved for our future enjoyment. Even the War of 1812 (who won that one? Watch and find out!) ought to be years ahead on our schedule. Here are the wars I would start with: the Persian Wars and the Peloponnesian Wars. In fact, I think we should replay the entire Fifth Century B.C. (B.C.E. to you.) That would take us a hundred glorious years to watch! And then if we watched all three Punic Wars, we would have had plenty of time to forget all those non-ancient conflicts. And for those ancient wars pitting Europeans (Greeks, Romans) against Middle Eastern and Northern African types (Persians, Carthaginians) we could invite Al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi Satellite TV to provide telecasting with another point of view.

    One can readily imagine a dialogue from shortly after a decisive naval battle:

    Minister of Information for Emperor Xerxes, King of Kings: It is not true that any of the Persian coalition boats were sunk today in the Gulf of Salamis. In fact our coaliton gave the Athenian fleet quite a drubbing. Quite a few were sunk and the rest, in disarray, are paddling towards Sicily.
    Reporter: In that case why are there so many Greek ships around us in the gulf?
    Minister: Oh, those are just some local fishermen. Lord Xerxes graciously allows them to work and to feed their families.
    Reporter: Why is it that the Greek fishermen use boats with battering rams on the front?
    Minister: The poor, benighted Greeks have very strange ideas of how to catch fish.
    Reporter: Where, then, is the occupying Persian fleet?
    Minister: It has sailed back along the coast to Thessaly.
    Reporter: Why has it done that if Greece has been conquered?
    Minister: Merely to make certain our lines of supply.
    Reporter: Where is Emperor Xerxes?
    Minister: He has left Attica. He wants to show his contempt for the Athenians by leaving them. See how they like that!
    Reporter: And now back to the studio in the Piraeus, where we are advised that Themistocles is about to give a press conference.

    *

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