America’s Wars as Choreographed Infotainment

cheerleader camo
“Military appreciation” now includes cheerleaders in skimpy camo outfits

W.J. Astore

A few weeks ago, I was stuck at a dealership, my car awaiting service.  In the waiting room, The Today Show was blasting out, featuring a performance by a well-known pop star.  Choreographed and repetitive, her performance was substance- and content-free, a repetition of words that were mostly unclear to me, set to a machine gun-like beat echoed by gyrating dancers on stage.

And I thought to myself: this is much like America’s wars, or at least how they’re packaged and presented to the American people.

America’s wars have been choreographed.  Obligatory cheers for “our” troops.  Plenty of flags and songs to “bless” America.  Lots of video footage of gyrating jets putting “bombs on target.”  Meanwhile, the overall meaning is unclear.  Vague promises are made of “progress,” but signs of the same are difficult to decipher.

War has become the background music to our lives.  A sobering fact: If you’re a high school student in America, you can’t remember a time when America has been at peace.  Your country has always been at war – and so it always will be, for it’s impossible to win a war on terror, because war is terror.

But back to The Today Show.  I watched it in the 1970s.  Back then it featured serious news along with lighter “fluff” pieces like movie reviews (I fondly recall Gene Shalit).  Now it’s dominated by entertainment and celebrities, infotainment driven by the pursuit of ratings.  In other words, it’s much like our war coverage, which features celebrity generals and various forms of fluff, driven largely by “ratings,” i.e. keeping the people happy — and happily ignorant – about the realities of war.

I remember talking to an Army battalion commander about some of the realities he and his men faced in Iraq.  Back in the Surge days, he mentioned a “churn rate” of 50% in U.S. infantry units: troops either didn’t want to reenlist, or they went into privatized militaries and doubled or tripled their pay.  He mentioned repetitive overseas deployments that contributed to stress, domestic violence, divorce, and broken families.  He himself was not at home for eight out of twelve Christmases.

In the field, his troops faced 12-16 hour days of drudgery.  He referred to the Surge as “mental ditch-digging,” the fatigue that came with humping gear in the desert (or the cities) of Iraq with little to show for it.  Such work, often frustrating, occasionally deadly, placed enormous strain on young troops, many of whom had been in high school not that long ago.

Nothing about this is exceptional – it’s just war.  Demanding.  Tough.  Ugly.  The kind of war that isn’t featured on American “news” shows, driven as they are by ratings and infotainment.

Of course, a real shooting war is far worse than simply long hours and repetitive duty.  That’s why an Army major used to remind me, “Any day in the Army you’re not being shot at is a good day.”  But our media prefers to put a happy face on war.

America’s latest wars are never-ending.  A reason for this, not acknowledged enough, is the way they’re being packaged, sanitized, and sold to the American public as infotainment.  As a performance that’s meant to be cheered briefly and just as quickly forgotten, like that pop star and her gyrating dancers on The Today Show.

9 thoughts on “America’s Wars as Choreographed Infotainment

  1. during the vietnam war the tv news showed bodies and people being killed. not now. the american public is totally ignorant and so we have donald trump.


    1. Good post. Succinct and to the point. (Is that redundant?)

      As for Astore’s essay, I sure wish I saw those beauties in a previous life. War is hell, and beauty can’t change it.


  2. The picture above reminds me of high school when our very excitable cheerleaders would start yelling “Block That Kick” — every time our team lined up to punt.


      1. No. I don’t think that our girls wanted to cheer for the other team. They meant well. They just didn’t know anything about the game of football.

        Which puts me in mind of a great many people who work in a large, five-sided building in Washington, D.C. They don’t seem to know much about war, either, although they do a pretty good job of jumping around and yelling about it. The jobs pay pretty well, though. So I suppose they will persist.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. By the way, fellow Crimestoppers, I have it from my usual unreliable sources that the Pentagram intends to conduct an audit so that the U.S. taxpayer will finally know, for the first time ever, where all the trillions of dollars in taxpyer revenues have gone over the past several decades. Really. I kid you not, as one of the early “Tonight Show” hosts, Jack Paar, used to say.

    This particular “high-tech” audit will produce, naturally, the U.S. military’s signature “fragile gains,” “signs of progress,” and other post-modern tropes and metaphors too numerous and ever-changing for me to possibly list here in this age of the universe. This militarized audit — devised for the U.S. military by someone named Kagan writing from deep in the bowels of the American Enterprise Instute or some other blowhard belief-tank — will “surge” (and throb) as all such militarized penile erections do. But it will not have to contend with those pesky deadlines. No deadlines. Never any deadlines. You know what I mean: those unreasonable things like known dates when the auditors have to demonstrate conclusive results. None of those. Senator John McCain, for one, would never hear of such incumbrances to what he imagines as “military efficiency.” (The concept of oxymoron, eludes his grasp, too).

    In specific and intentional contrast to such proceedings when conducted by certified public accountants, this audit will fully conform to Parkinson’s Law, which states that the work will expand to fill the time alloted for its completion. In other words, this militarized audit, like America’s “wars,” will take as long as it takes to take more time for more time-taking. It will last a long, long, long, …, long time, “or beyond.” This will be a “generational” audit in which the future descendants of today’s military academy graduates (themselves graduates of American military academies) will bequeath to their decendants (also graduates of …) the task of further bequeathing … and so on, ad infinitum.

    In other words, fellow Crimestoppers: Lots of “auditing” — formerly known as “busy work” — but no actual audit. Not while anyone now living continues to live and breathe. Really. Honest injun. I kid you not. My unreliable sources at the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post wouldn’t lie to me. They told me so. And what on earth could ever, ever, … ever-ever-ever cause me to doubt their word?


    1. Or, like my former-bookeeper Chinese wife likes to say about the movie title Final Destination 6 “The number after the noun, ‘destination,’ sort of defeats the meaning of the adjective, ‘final,’ doesn’t it?”


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