Posts Tagged ‘Stars Earn Stripes’

Hurrah! We Did It! Protests, Petitions, Articles, Letters Got NBC to Cancel Deplorable War is a Game Show
Joan Wile

Did any of you have the fortitude to sit through NBC’s new, erroneously labeled a reality show, “Stars Earn Stripes“? If you did, you would have seen the most chaotic, violent, sleazy, reprehensible program this viewer (who could only stomach half a show) has yet encountered on television. And, that speaks volumes inasmuch as so much of TV is chaotic, violent, sleazy and reprehensible.

But, this one takes the cake, because in addition to all those qualities, it was a recruitment commercial in disguise and a resounding slap in the face to all those engaged in and victimized by our current wars in Afghanistan and God knows where else.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark hosted this show, commanding a motley crew of third-rate “celebrities” including Laila Ali (anti-war hero Mohammad Ali’s daughter) and Sara’s husband, Todd Palin (how he earned the title of celebrity is a mystery). The “celebrities” were pitted against some ex-armed forces and police personnel in a contest in which they had to perform simulated military maneuvers such as killing enemies and blowing up ships using LIVE AMMUNITION. War as fun and games.

The performers all extolled their actions as showing them what it was really like to be in battle. A somewhat immodest claim given that there were no bullets or bombs aimed back at them. Gen. Clark looked pathetic giving orders to shoot and kill to the phony combatants — to think I supported him for President in 2004 because he represented himself as being against war. And, here he was strutting around in what appeared to be a fifth-rate Hollywood piece of propaganda to seduce young people into seeing war as a game and joining up in what would likely ultimately result in their being maimed or worse.

Well, we in the anti-war movement didn’t like it one bit. Luckily, we were forewarned by the endless stream of commercials NBC ran for the show during the Olympic broadcasts and thus had a little heads up to prepare to counteract it, even, we hoped, get it canceled.

A New Jersey mother of a son deployed in Afghanistan who was a member of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) contacted a New York City MFSO member expressing her alarm about the proposed program. From there, overnight in a flash, a number of peace groups organized a protest campaign at NBC headquarters in 30 Rockefeller Center to begin on the same day as the show’s debut, Aug.13. It was amazing how quickly practically every anti-war organization in New York City came together for this action, a rarity in an often-splintered movement where every group tends to go its own way.

At the same time, David Swanson writer and head of Roots Action and the web site, War Is a Crime, began a petition to NBC, as follows:

“Dear NBC,
Your entertainment show “Stars Earn Stripes” treats war as sport. This does us all a disservice. We ask that you air an in-depth segment showing the reality of civilian victims of recent U.S. wars, on any program, any time in the coming months.”

The petition swiftly went viral, obtaining over 18,000 signatures by the first broadcast and by the fourth and last, over 50,000. See

A further pressure was created when Jody Willliams, a Nobel Peace Laureate, received an email from the NYC chapter of Code Pink announcing the scheduled protest for Aug. 13. She notified other Peace Laureates, and nine of them, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, immediately sent a strongly-worded letter to NBC demanding cancellation of the show. In part, the letter read :

“We call upon NBC to 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 presence of Tutu’s name on the letter sparked a world-wide publicity blitz as thousands of media and press outlets picked up the story.

On Aug. 13, the day of the first broadcast of “Stars Earn Stripes,” approximately 70 of the City’s peacenicks were outside NBC’s studios with signs, barriers and their own anti-war songs continuously sung by the Raging Grannies.

In the three subsequent protests through our final one on Sept. 3 when the last segment was broadcast, we gave the huge petition to an NBC official, had highly compelling street theatre and a model of a drone one-fifth its actual size. We chanted “War Is Not a Game Show” and handed out fliers to people passing by. We did all this under the watchful eyes of at least six security personnel standing nearby. At one point, during the third protest, they tried to barricade us, but one of the protest leaders, Barbara Harris of both Code Pink and the Granny Peace Brigade, succeeded in talking them out of it.

I guess we were pretty effective, because before the fourth airing, NBC announced that it would be the last one. Our protests, David Swanson’s petition, and the Nobel Peace Prize winners’ letter combined to do the trick. Wow, united citizen action CAN work!

Perhaps this will serve as a deterrent to other producers contemplating Rah Rah Let’s Play War shows. More remotely, perhaps it’s the beginning of a renewed, hopefully more effective era of opposition to the war in Afghanistan and elsewhere?

JOAN WILE — author of newly-published book, GRANDMOTHERS AGAINST THE WAR: GETTING OFF OUR FANNIES AND STANDING UP FOR PEACE (Citadel Press, May 2008 — available at and in book stores), which is an account of her founding of the anti-war group, Grandmothers Against the War, who famously were arrested and jailed when they tried to enlist in the military at the Times Square recruitment center. She is a lyricist-composer-singer-musician for TV, cabaret, jingles, theatre, recordings, concerts, movie film scores. Winner, ASCAP POPULAR AWARD, and WESTPORT-WESTON ARTS COUNCIL AWARD FOR MOST PROMISING NEW MUSICAL. Runner-up AMERICAN SONG FESTIVAL AWARD. She’s had 5 musicals produced off- and off-off-Broadway. Joan has received numerous civic awards for her work with the grannies and is listed in Who’s Who in America and all its various spin-offs. She is a grandmother of five.


“See Them Burn! Hear Them Scream!”
The Most Sickening TV Show in History

Surely we have reached some hideous moral low—if only a temporary one—when a TV “reality” show like NBC’s “Stars Earn Stripes” can reduce the blood-soaked, brain-spattered canvas of war to a feel-good athletic competition between washed-up actors, ex-jocks, and Todd Palin.

The show–which features skier Picabo Street actor Dean Cain, and a host of other musclebound nonentities—premiered last night. Before it even aired, it was reviled by Desmond Tutu and other bishops, which actually got me curious enough to tune in: I mean, what other cheesy reality show has been slammed by a Nobel Peace Prize winner?

It was hosted by Wesley Clark—to his eternal shame. After this debacle, I would imagine that he is no longer Michael Moore’s choice for President.

War’s had a grip on me recently, for two reasons. For one, I’m amazed by liberals’ silence about the ongoing slaughter conducted by their own favorite Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama. For another, this month marks the 150th anniversary of the first Battle of Richmond, in which my great-grandfather and namesake was grievously wounded and left for dead.

My full name is John Temple Eskow, and my forebear–Indiana farmer John Temple–was just one of 4,000 Union casualties in the battle, which is considered one of the biggest Confederate routs of the war. As it happens, I still possess my great-grandfather’s Union Army dogtags, his discharge papers, even the misshapen bullet that a battlefield medic dug out of his side. I keep these heirlooms of pain in a wooden cabinet near the TV, so that each time I looked up to watch Nick Lachey or Laila Ali pretending to be real-deal American soldiers–look at us jump from a helicopter! look at us wriggle in mud!–the tokens of my ancestor’s suffering were also in view.

John Temple, a young Indiana farmer, was so badly wounded that his regiment-mates were sure he’d die. In flight from the Confederates, they were forced to leave him alone in an abandoned one-room schoolhouse, delerious and hemmoraging. After a full day, he was overheard moaning by some other retreating troops; they carried him to a tributary of the Ohio River and hid him among bales of hay on a small barge floating north.

Several weeks later, when he finally staggered back to the farmhouse door in Crawfordsville, he’d become so gaunt, and looked so much older, that his wife had no idea who he was.

But gee, Laila Ali looks cute blowing up an empty guardhouse!

John Temple’s first-born son–my grandfather, also named John–was a doughboy in World War I, and his lungs were by scarred by mustard gas, so that every single breath he took, for eighty more years, tasted of death.

When World War II came, his firstborn son, also named John Temple–the one who taught my mother about art and poetry–wanted to defy family tradition by becoming a conscientious objector, volunteering instead to drive an ambulance on the battlefield. But he relented under my grandfather’s pressure, and became an Army pilot. His plane was sabotaged in an airfield in the Phillipines, and crashed in the ocean shortly after takeoff. His body was never recovered; my mother’s heart never recovered, either. His personal effects were not returned by the Army until 1964. When they arrived, my mother couldn’t bear to open the trunk; she asked me to do it instead. Inside the weatherbeaten trunk was his diary, and I followed the entries for 1944 as he wrote about his growing infatuation with a young Filipino girl on the base…and how he was tentatively, longingly, hoping to make love to her. Reading further, I realized that he was still a virgin. I kept turning pages, all of them filled with the ache of young romance, but then suddenly there were only empty blue pages…I had read right up to the morning of his death.

But look! Dean Cain is shooting at a slowly-moving target!

Still, my mother had one brother left–the second-born son, James–who also became a pilot, and a highly-decorated one, who received medals and national acclaim for safely landing a bomber full of explosives with his landing-gear locked. He was a prototype of the war hero that Stars Earns Stripes so cynically exploits.

One of the “technical advisors” on the show tries to fake aw-shucks modesty as he describes himself as “the sniper with the most confirmed kills” in US military history. Someone should tell him that one day he may yearn to surrender that title. Because even my uncle James–who’d thrown out his medals many years ago–spent his old age tormented by constant nightmares. “I see the Japanese soldiers–and just regular people–running on the hills under my plane…I drop the napalm on them…I see them burn..I keep hearing their screams.”

But Wesley Clark tells the celebrities: great job!

John Eskow is a writer and musician. He wrote or co-wrote the movies Air America, The Mask of Zorro, and Pink Cadillac, as well as the novel Smokestack Lightning. He can be reached at: johneskow –at–


NBC Invents War-o-tainment

by David Swainson

If you’ve watched the Olympics on NBC you’ve probably seen ads promoting a war-o-tainment reality show cohosted by retired U.S. General Wesley Clark, co-starring Todd Palin, and with no apparent role for reality.

The ads brag about the use of real bullets in a way that promoters of the new Batman movie probably wouldn’t try. But the chances that any of the celebrities engaged in “war competition” on NBC’s “Stars Earn Stripes” will be shot and killed is essentially what it was for John Wayne, as he promoted war while dodging it (even if nuclear weapons testing got him in the end). and Just Foreign Policy have set up a website at to push NBC to show the real cost of war, and to help get them started.

“Stars Earn Stripes” is being produced by the TV “genius” behind Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” and “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” (Husband Todd Palin is a “Stars Earn Stripes” co-star.) NBC is promoting the show during its Summer Olympics telecast as the next big sporting event. But the sport it’s exhibiting is war.

On “Stars Earn Stripes,” celebrities will pair-up with members of the U.S. military to compete at war-like tasks, including “long-range weapons fire.” Only there won’t be any of the killing or dying.

Our wars kill huge numbers of people, primarily civilians, and often children and the elderly. NBC is not showing this reality on its war-o-tainment show any more than on its news programs. Other nations’ media show the face of war, giving people a very different view of war-making.

NBC news programs have repeatedly used retired generals, pretending independence but getting their pro-war talking points from the Pentagon. See New York Times: Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand and Glenn Greenwald: The Pulizer-Winning Investigation That Dare Not Be Uttered on TV.

In the United States, our tax dollars are spent by the billions each year marketing the idea that war is a sport and associating the military with sporting events. Media companies like NBC are complicit in the propaganda. While 57% of federal discretionary spending goes to the military, weapons makers can’t seem to get enough of our tax dollars. In the spirit of transferring veterans’ care to the realm of private charity, “Stars Earn Stripes” will give prize money each week to “military-based charities” in order to “send a message.”

One of NBC’s corporate parents, General Electric, takes war very seriously, but not as human tragedy — rather, as financial profit. (GE is a big weapons manufacturer.) A retired general hosting a war-o-tainment show is another step in the normalization of permanent war. And consider for a moment who that retired general is. During the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia commanded by Gen. Wesley Clark, civilians and a TV station were bombed, while cluster bombs and depleted uranium were used. Had Clark done these things for another nation, NBC would probably favor his prosecution and certainly not employ him. See Democracy Now! Confronts Wesley Clark Over His Bombing Of Civilians. is asking NBC to stop treating war as a sport, and to air an in-depth segment showing the reality of civilian victims of recent U.S. wars, on any program, any time in the coming months. We’ve provided some resources to help NBC research and show the reality of war, at

David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War,” “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at and and works for the online activist organization