Operation Overload (or left-over notes from my vacation): Those familiar with my news junkie tendencies may be surprised to learn that I have sworn off TV and Internet coverage of the war. I believe, rather, that the best coverage of this war will be in magazines. Actually, the best coverage will be in a book that will be written 30 years from now, but in terms of “news,” magazines are the only medium that will provide you with an understanding of what is going on. (More on this later.)
TV has managed the lead-up and the first week of the war as a strange cross between coverage of the Rose Bowl Parade, a really gruesome reality show and the Super Bowl. It’s sick. And according to the WSJ today, watching it can make you sick. I refuse to spend more than a few minutes a day being overwhelmed by the shock and awe, carpet-bomb approach to news coverage.
One of the reasons for my disdain of this real-time, videophone reporting is the consistency with which embedded reporters and their handlers seem to misunderstand what they are covering. What is a battle vs. a skirmish? What is “heavy” fire? Is it news that it takes two hours rather than one to take a bridge?
An editorial in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune poses an interesting question, “What if CNN had covered the Battle of the Bulge?” Could we as a country have handled 19,000 casualties covered live? (Actually, there is a whole speculative-history genre related to such “What if?” scenarios, my personal favorite being a bizarre book by Harry Turtledove, Guns of the South, that examines the premise, no lie, of what would have happened if Lee’s army had AK-47s?” Suggestion to Turtledove: What if the Republican Guard had cruise missles?)
Rather than speculate about things that will never be, however, I once more will declare something that is a fact: magazines are the best news medium to turn to for a true understanding of this war. Peter Carlson, in today’s WP, makes the same point in his review of John Lee Anderson’s “Letter from Baghdad” in the current New Yorker.
You could spend the next month watching cable TV and not come this close to understanding the surreality of war.