I wanted to see this show for myself. Trust me -- the reviews were right. Despite the explosions and rapid gunfire and fake drownings, it was as boring and stilted as can be. The host, Wesley Clark, is a washed-up retired general who once ran for president, and I can see why he didn't get too far in politics. He recites his rote lines like Mitt Romney on Valium. The guy has all the enthusiasm of a slug, yet the D-List stars pretend to be afraid of him and gratuitously call him "Sir!" like they were real grunts. And the female drill sergeant is played by a former Dancing With the Stars hostess whose job is to stand around and bark sexy directions in her skintight olive drab tee shirt.
The indoor set in which the stars get their orders and lectures is pretty cheesy too. It's rigged up as a command center deep in the bowels of some top secret Special Ops bunker. There's a wall of what looks like GPS and satellite coordinates, but when you look at it closely, it's just one big flashy ad for one of the show's sponsors: LifeLock. That's a company which purports to protect you from identity theft. Which is a joke, given that the corporate security state is stealing your information and spying on you every single day. (Google "Stratfor", or see this on the growing TrapWire scandal, or this on how our future movements can be predicted)
Speaking of sponsors... the only reason I watched the two-hour premiere was to find out exactly which corporate giants are paying millions and millions of dollars to shill their products and bring this obscene travesty into the living rooms of America. So there I sat, notebook in hand. And I filled three pages, noting every single spot. My count was about 80 commercials*, (not including the dozens of ads for NBC's own shows and fall line-up) some mere seconds long, some repeats, in only two hours. NBC is making a fortune. I don't know how they're paying their actors, but they're giving only a measly $100,000 to the first responder or military charity of the winner's choice.)
The biggest advertiser of the evening (by about a dozen commercials) was Ford, and they were selling a lot of macho trucks to tie in with the show. The ads blend in seamlessly with the violent narrative. First you see six-figure military Humvees, then you see scenes of more affordable Ford trucks. The commercials inexplicably have civilian vehicles careening through roadside explosions and dodging incendiary devices of unknown origin. Oh, and Walmart ran three ads. Two of them were for its big fat juicy red-meat steaks and the other one greed-washed an alleged entrepreneurial program for disabled veterans. This phony patriotism, of course, absolves them from having to pay their employees a living wage and health benefits.
|Have You Driven a Ford Lately?|
Upcoming NBC appearances by this summer's medalists on various shows were advertised as well. In between sniper practice and rocket grenade launches last night, for instance, we learned that Michelle Obama is teaming up with Gold Medal gymnast Gabby Douglas to go on Jimmy Fallon. (Michelle's Nobel Laureate husband, by the way, was not among those signing the protest letter to NBC.)
You can read that letter here.
Roots Action is starting a petition drive against the show. They're also questioning how much of our taxpayer money is going into this extravaganza. What is the cost to us of the weapons, the helicopters, the couture, the hummers, the human simulacra getting shot up? This is where fascism comes into play. This is where the government hacks, the politicians, the corporations, the entertainment industry, the defense contractors and the military all come together to gin up some patriotic propaganda. From Roots Action:
While 57% of federal discretionary spending goes to the military, weapons makers can't seem to get enough of our tax dollars. In the spirit of transferring veterans' care to the realm of private charity, "Stars Earn Stripes" will give prize money each week to "military-based charities" in order to "send a message." We have our own message that we will be delivering to NBC: Don't lie to us.
One of NBC’s corporate parents, General Electric, takes war very seriously, but not as human tragedy -- rather, as financial profit. (GE is a big weapons manufacturer.) A retired general hosting a war-o-tainment show is another step in the normalization of permanent war.We do know that the Pentagon cooperated with NBC in producing the series, because one Special Operative was recruited on the very same day he retired from active duty. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiles Green Beret Grady Powell, whose family always knew he was destined to become a star:
When his five-year hitch was up, his plan was to "travel the world not getting shot at." But on his last day in the Army, a job placement officer told him, "Hey, Grady. Hollywood called."
Casting agents were recruiting for "Stars Earn Stripes," a reality-competition series from Mark Burnett ("Survivor") and Dick Wolf ("Law & Order") making its debut at 7 p.m. Monday on NBC....
At first, Powell wasn't enthusiastic. "We've all seen reality TV and know what it does," he said last week in an interview in Los Angeles, before NBC introduced the series to TV critics meeting there. "I didn't want to be involved in putting a bad face on the military."
"Coming into this, I thought it was going to be the same old corny military show where they’ve got the obstacle courses and BB guns or little soft toy guns, water guns and whatnot. That was the furthest thing from 'Stars Earn Stripes.' We’re jumping out of helicopters. There are people crying. Might see me cry. There’s explosions everywhere. There’s dirt in your eyes."Powell was used to seeing stars from all those real-life explosive events he was in. Now he has different stars in his eyes. War isn't Hell when it has dollar signs written all over it. For the heartless greedheads and their sponsors at NBC, it is pure heaven.
And in case you're still having doubts that, in the words of Chris Hedges,"war is the force that gives us meaning", do watch this video rant from the inimitable Lee Camp.
* List of "Stars Earn Stripes" Sponsors:
- Capitol One
- JC Penney
- Lowe's (home improvement)
- Kraft Foods
- Staples (a Mitt Romney creation!)
- University of Phoenix
- Nissan (luxury Infiniti)
- Dunkin Donuts
- TJ Maxx
- Olive Garden
- SE Johnson ("A Family Company")
- JM Smucker (Folgers coffee)
- Met Life
- Pizza Hut
- Scott Brands
- CBS Films ("The Words" movie)
- Procter and Gamble (included ads for Jif peanut butter and Swiffer)
- Lionsgate ("The Expendables II" movie)
- TD Bank
- Doctor Pepper
- Raymour & Flanigan
- PepsiCo (Mountain Dew)
- Caesar Dog Food
- Jason Mraz & The Ban
- Biotene (Buchanan Group)