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Nobel winners press NBC to cancel Wesley Clark’s war-based ‘reality’ show

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, August 13, 2012 15:01 EDT
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Retired General Wesley Clark, appearing in a war-based "reality" show on NBC. Photo: Screenshot via YouTube.
 
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Nine Nobel Peace prize winners said Monday that NBC must “immediately” drop a planned “reality” show called “Stars Earn Stripes,” where former four-star general and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark sends celebrities on military-style training “missions” to entertain viewers.

Signers of an open letter to the network include Nobelists Desmond Tutu, Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Jose Ramos-Horta, Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Rigoberta Menchu and Betty Williams.

“That might seem innocuous since spectacular, high budget sporting events of all types are regular venues for airing new products, televisions shows and movies,” the Nobelists’ letter explains. “But ‘Stars Earn Stripes’ is not just another reality show. Hosted by retired four-star general Wesley Clark, the program pairs minor celebrities with US military personnel and puts them through simulated military training, including some live fire drills and helicopter drops. The official NBC website for the show touts ‘the fast-paced competition’ as ‘pay[ing] homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services.’

“It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining.”

The Nobel Women’s Initiative added that the group is supporting a protest in New York City on Monday night at 5 p.m. outside the NBC building in Rockefeller Plaza.

“The long history of collaboration between militaries and civilian media and entertainment—and not just in the United States—appears to be getting murkier and in many ways more threatening to efforts to resolve our common problems through nonviolent means,” they wrote. “Active-duty soldiers already perform in Hollywood movies, “embedded” media ride with soldier in combat situations, and now NBC is working with the military to attempt to turn deadly military training into a sanitized ‘reality’ TV show that reveals absolutely nothing of the reality of being a soldier in war or the consequences of war. What is next?”

Their full letter follows below the video.

This video was published to YouTube by NBC on July 24, 2012.

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WAR ISN’T ENTERTAINMENT — AND SHOULDN’T BE TREATED LIKE IT IS
August 13, 2012

An Open Letter to Mr. Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, General Wesley Clark (ret.), Producer Mark Burnett and others involved in “Stars Earn Stripes”:

During the Olympics, touted as a time for comity and peace among nations, millions first learned that NBC would be premiering a new “reality” TV show. The commercials announcing “Stars Earn Stripes” were shown seemingly endlessly throughout the athletic competition, noting that its premier would be Monday, August 13, following the end of the Olympic games.

That might seem innocuous since spectacular, high budget sporting events of all types are regular venues for airing new products, televisions shows and movies. But “Stars Earn Stripes” is not just another reality show. Hosted by retired four-star general Wesley Clark, the program pairs minor celebrities with US military personnel and puts them through simulated military training, including some live fire drills and helicopter drops. The official NBC website for the show touts “the fast-paced competition” as “pay[ing] homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services.”

It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence. Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics. Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining.

Real war is down in the dirt deadly. People—military and civilians—die in ways that are anything but entertaining. Communities and societies are ripped apart in armed conflict and the aftermath can be as deadly as the war itself as simmering animosities are unleashed in horrific spirals of violence. War, whether relatively short-lived or going on for decades as in too many parts of the world, leaves deep scars that can take generations to overcome – if ever.

Trying to somehow sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition further calls into question the morality and ethics of linking the military anywhere with the entertainment industry in barely veiled efforts to make war and its multitudinous costs more palatable to the public.

The long history of collaboration between militaries and civilian media and entertainment—and not just in the United States—appears to be getting murkier and in many ways more threatening to efforts to resolve our common problems through nonviolent means. Active-duty soldiers already perform in Hollywood movies, “embedded” media ride with soldier in combat situations, and now NBC is working with the military to attempt to turn deadly military training into a sanitized “reality” TV show that reveals absolutely nothing of the reality of being a soldier in war or the consequences of war. What is next?

As people who have seen too many faces of armed conflict and violence and who have worked for decades to try to stop the seemingly unending march toward the increased militarization of societies and the desensitization of people to the realities and consequences of war, we add our voices and our support to those protesting “Stars Earn Stripes.” We too call upon NBC stop airing this program that pays homage to no one, and is a massive disservice to those who live and die in armed conflict and suffer its consequences long after the guns of war fall silent.

Sincerely,

Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1997
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize, 1984
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize, 1977
Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize, 2003
President José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize, 1996
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize, 1980
President Oscar Arias Sanchez, Nobel Peace Prize, 1987
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, 1992
Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1977

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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