NBC has a new un-reality series, featuring celebrities competing in military-style challenges. It’s called “Stars Earn Stripes.” The series pairs up celebrities with military personnel to go through simulated military training and win a competition. For an extra dose of “reality,” it’s hosted by retired General Wesley Clark [who should be ashamed of the exploitation]. The series’ producer is Mark Burnett, one of whose claims to reality-tv fame is the highly-manipulated “Survivor.”
Just after the new series premiered—following a non-stop promotional blitz during the London Olympics–10 Nobel Peace Prize winners joined together to protest its premise.
In an open letter to the chairman of NBC Entertainment, the Peace Prize winners accuse NBC of glorifying war and military combat:
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 scarsthat 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 Nobel Laureates go on to say that:
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.
The letter was signed by:
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, Nobel Peace Prize, 1992
Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1977
Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize, 2006
Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.