On “Shock & Awe”

March 22nd, 2003

So the “shock and awe” of this war with Iraq began yesterday afternoon. I watched CNN gape jawed, motionless, in my office. I kept thinking, ‘Please stop. That’s enough. Please stop.’ We ran downstairs to go live, but aired just a five minute brief, then returned to our plan to do a live half hour at 7:30.

What was most shocking to me as yesterday ended, is just how comfortable and casual we’ve all become with this whole thing. The control room was far less frenetic — though we were only doing a scripted half hour, not an unscripted, undetermined length of time — than it had been in previous days. People were exhausted, to be sure, and were quietly listening to the show unfold, even giggling at gaffes and puns. And to me that’s been the genious — intended or not — of the Bush Administration’s campaign. By the time the “show and awe” started, we’d been warmed up to it. We’d seen and heard some explosions. We knew the landscape. We’d learned the language: embedded, EPWs, weapons of mass destruction. And many just didn’t care anymore. They wanted their weekend.

One factor in that apathy, I think, at least as the (current) MTV Generation audience is concerned, is the desensitization that video games and Hollywood have created. We’ve seen it all before. According to our polling, 70% of the audience is not desensitization — they were shocked and awed — but I think they’re just giving us the “right answer,” not their truth. They’ve seen it all before, and they’d rather watch ‘Friends.’

I have so many thoughts on this war: the Administration’s goals, its apparent objectives in the “New Century,” the ramifications of this action, the benevolence and malice. Overwhelmingly, it is a most gray matter. That is, it is not black and white, good verses evil. It’s not simple. It’s complicated. It’s like a bowl of spaghetti, or the brain, each fiber intertwined with the rest, all connected, all messed up.

Late Friday afternoon, in the lull between watching the Coalition bombing, and doing our live show, the murky gray New York skies were heavy outside our windows. There was a terrific white flash. An instant later, a terrific concussion tore through the city, rumbling through the canyons of concrete and glass. Everyone paused. The newsroom went silent.

Thunder. It was only thunder. Still, it stopped our hearts.