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Let Me Rock You, Shock and Awe

I watched Fox News Channel's war coverage for several hours last night, but I finally had to turn it off when I felt myself slipping into a coma.

As I hit the power button on the remote, Fox anchor Brian Wilson proudly announced, "We've been seeing some just astonishing pictures tonight." He had evidently been watching a different program. The pictures I saw could be better described as... what's the opposite of astonishing? Mind-numbingly, heart-stoppingly, bowel-emptyingly dull? Let's just say that my astonishment level would not be less high had Wilson spent the evening reading from St. Augustine's City of God in the original Latin.

The footage I'm referring to is coming from inside an American military vehicle as it advances toward Baghdad from the southern Iraqi border. Through the magic of modern technology, the video feed is being beamed back to the United States via satellite. Which sounds pretty cool, except that the satellite dish is evidently connected to the Fox studios by a 56K dial-up line. And some Fox intern is currently using most of that bandwidth to download a Creed album.

To say the picture is grainy would be an understatement. The image jumps and shimmies, bits of it freezing for seconds at a time while the rest continues to move jerkily, like ten minutes of porn packed into a two-megabyte MPEG. Much of the time, the entire screen is an indistinguishable mosaic of blurry, beige squares, as though Fox is airing a recreation of the war that some shut-in spent weeks animating with Lego bricks.

But even if the whole thing didn't look like Doom running on a 286, I would be hard-pressed to find much of interest in Fox's coverage. That's because for almost three hours that coverage consisted entirely of a picture of the side of an armored vehicle. I believe the vehicle was moving, based on the indistinct grey squares that periodically slid past its treads, but that's not quite enough to elevate the image to "astonishing picture" status. Robert Mapplethorpe with a whip up his ass pissing on a midget is an astonishing picture. The profile of an M-113 as it rolls through barren dessert, not so much. And no amount of Brian Wilson effusing about how fascinating he finds it will convince me otherwise.

Of course, the reason they're reduced to this level is because our government reneged on its promise that there would be shock and awe. The news team had to spend much of Wednesday night explaining to the viewing public that the two or three puny flak blasts in the skies over Baghdad were not, in fact, shock and awe, and they're clearly bitter about it. So all the while the screen displayed the side of an armored personnel carrier as it bounced and jiggled and turned into squares, the news staff was chanting the hypnotizing litany of "shock and awe, shock and awe." The effect was mesmerizing, like some kind of Dadaist experiment in journalism. I found myself transfixed, drifting gently in and out of consciousness.

My trance was broken when coverage suddenly shifted to an unexpected press briefing. Donald Rumsfeld was addressing the media with his usual stern demeanor. "As I have previously explained," he said, "we intended to begin this campaign by demonstrating to the Iraqi military the dramatic extent of our capabilities. That effort is now at hand."

"Approximately fifteen minutes ago, we set into motion a powerful show of Chaka Khan the like of which the world has never seen. Even now she is making her way toward the presidential palace in Baghdad, where she will launch into a barrage of devastating R&B hits. In response to those who were confused as to whether our earlier attacks were a part of the Chaka Khan operation, I will simply state, you will know Chaka Khan when you see her."

"If this alone does not convince the Republican guard of the sheer force of our will, we are prepared to send in Rufus."

That was when I woke up and turned off my set.


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