Nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates have spoken out against a new American reality show, ‘Stars Earn Stripes’, because they claim it glorifies war. In the show, well-known Americans play war games as if their life depended on it.
One of the laureates is José Ramos-Horta, who served as president of East Timor until May of this year. He explained to Radio Netherlands Worldwide why he was so upset about a TV programme being broadcast on the other side of the globe.
“I signed the letter because I know full well that we live in a world full of conflicts, wars and violence,” said Ramos-Horta. “We know that the levels of violence in the United States are influenced by television and cinema. A programme like this one will only make the situation worse. It won’t contribute to a peaceful climate.”
Through the mud
In NBC’s ‘Stars Earn Stripes’, eight American celebrities undergo gruelling training, given by a real-life officer who trains soldiers for war missions. The programme is hosted by retired General Wesley Clark, who was for the former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe and later a Democratic presidential candidate.
Among the people taking part in the series are Laila Ali, the daughter of boxing legend Mohammed Ali; Todd Palin, the spouse of the former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Olympic ski champion Picabo Street. In the first episode, they crawled in the mud, jumped out of a helicopter and then back in, fired at a building and hacked doors into pieces using axes.
Everything was for real: the uniforms, automatic weapons, tears, the mud rubbed onto their faces and the spectacular explosions. “This is no joke. I know that I can die,” said Superman actor Dean Cain in between the commercial breaks for pizza and cars.
NBC says the new reality show “pays homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. armed forces”. The American military has lost 6,500 soldiers so far in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including South African bishop and anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu, have protested against this attempt “to turn warfare into a sporting competition”. In an open letter to the NBC management, they condemned the realism of the war game. “In reality,” they wrote, “war is extremely deadly. People – both military and civilians – die in a way that has nothing entertaining.”
In the week that NBC issued a statement, saying that the reality show wasn’t glorifying war, six American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. According to Joan Wile, the founder of Grandmothers Against War, “it’s abominable that a major TV network has broadcast that war is something glamorous, while our young people are dying in real wars.”
José Ramos-Horta fears that NBC underestimates the effects of this type of show. “There are tens of thousands of people in the United States who have deep wounds – in their bodies and their hearts – caused by wars. Thousands of veterans have committed suicide. The US public needs a more humane, positive approach to deal with this trauma. By glorifying war, the producers are simply aggravating the pain.”
The former president of East Timor knows what he is talking about. He played a key role in his country’s long and bloody struggle for independence from Indonesia.