Friday, March 16, 2007

SCREW TED KOPPEL 2.0: Even the most useless person can serve as a bad example, someone said

Last Saturday, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow worked over Ted Koppel's Our Children's Children's War on the Discovery Channel.

I promised to get back to it and will do so by first talking a little bit about what surrounded Koppel's show within the schedule of the Discovery Channel.

For better or worse, it's useful to think of the reasonably well-known cable offering as a venue for white-trash entertainments made faux high-falutin' through the use of better language and production values.

On the Saturday before Koppel's special ran, someone named Jamie "wrestled sharks" most of the day. If watching the channel for a week, one is also likely to be astonished by the number of times Dirty Jobs, a show on working in landfills, manure pits and sewage treatment plants, airs. Fundamentally, it's a video excuse for a stream of tricked-up shit jokes.

Running on Sunday night, Koppel's expose was sandwiched between two segments of Futureweapons.

Futureweapons, also in heavy rotation on the Military channel, is hosted by an ex-Navy SEAL with a shaven head, a man who becomes really excited and erect when gesticulating over the latest limpet mine (Sunday it was the Krakatoa from Alford Technologies), rocket-equipped artillery piece or billion dollar jet fighter.

Flashing the occasional tattoo so viewers know it's serious business, the ex-SEAL and the show deliver themed episodes like "weapons of mass annihilation" and "weapons which strike total fear into the heart of the enemy."

Surrounding Our Children's Children's War, the panoply of military might was shown. The ten greatest weapons, ever, chosen by viewer poll, were delivered via the glowing tube.

At number ten, the rocket-propelled grenade launcher!

Number nine -- the Tomahawk, was fondly described by Steven Zaloga, editor of Better Homes and Missiles magazine, or something like that. Another liver-spotted white guy waxed poetic on the Joint Direct Attack Munition, into the list and strong at number eight.

"Americans don't get enough credit for all the care they take to limit collateral damage," he added with some sincerity.

In essence, Koppel's show, on our emerging endless national struggle, was perfect spice for the red meat of Futureweapons.

From the start, Koppel's spiel on the coming forever war was off. Travelling to Central Command in Tampa, Koppel stood in a large command and intelligence center, trying to convey an air of gravity over the situation we are said to face. Giant computer screens flashed in the background. Too bad one of them was carrying a pro sporting event.

Mystery Science Theatre, a humor show whose hosts -- a man and two puppets, lampooned bad sci-fi movies, had a special response for those times when production lapsed. When viewing a particularly execrable selection, one in which the monsters were shown wearing sneakers or with zippers on rubber suits a little too obvious, everyone shouted, "They just didn't care!"

Well, for Koppel's Discovery news production, "They just didn't care!"

Naturally, ex-counter terror man Cofer Black played a big part. Now as one of the top men for mercenary/private security contractor Blackwater USA, Black would like you to imagine it as a potential relief organization fresh from the weight-training room, replacing the work of the UN, the Red Cross, or the Peace Corps in desperate places like sub-Saharan Africa.

However, humanitarian isn't the first thing one thinks of when one sees clips of ex-Special Forces men, Blackwater security troopers, steroidal and shouting, firing en masse on the company shooting range or engaging in a mock storming of a complex of rooms.

Koppel spent some time interviewing General John Abizaid, the former Iraq commander. In doing so, he unintentionally ruptured himself by not even blinking when Abizaid uttered the following howler: "If we ever decide we're going to fight this war by walking away from our values, we're going to lose it."

Slogging to Ethiopia, Koppel showed National Guardsmen from Guam training a squad of soldiers in fitness and bush combat. In the fictional high school yearbook of military organizations, next to this Ethiopian crew one might read: "Most likely to commit atrocities on a village of peasants in the next five years."

Ted Koppel wasn't always an intelligence-insulting schnook but Our Children's Children's War was an admittance card to the club. The good news is Koppel doesn't have nearly the audience he once had, so the damage was limited.

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