November 18, 2006

Vietnam — The Ride


As a news medium, web and blog space generally dictates you stick to the essentials.  In contrast, YahooNews has a feature — called the Hot Zone, showcasing the still and video images of “conflict journalist” Kevin Sites — which functions more on a network news/cable news model.  In other words, the mission is as much about volume and background color as it is about the actual nut.

Given the all-too-real history and status of Bush 43’s Iraq ride, “Junior in Vietnam” sounds less like a news event than a fabulous (and confabulated) idea for a Daily Show sketch.

Faced with the complicated task of washing off those neocon delusions, the last thing these times dictate is more fancy.  And yet, in a fantasy merger of  top headlines and entertainment news, the Hot Zone feature in question, in quick order, manages to blur the distinction between South East Asia and the Middle East; the ’60’s and the ’00’s; and Bush’s acid trip in Iraq as background to Bush’s finger wagging trip to Vietnam.

I draw your attention to the feature in the Hot Zone Vietnam extravaganza entitled “The Violent Underground,” illuminating the fantastic tunnels of the Viet Cong. (Link.)  Obviously, snapshot crazy history hounds can’t get enough of them.  It’s the way they are framed in the Hot Zone, however — in the midst of Bush’s bizarre GWOT campaign trip — that is particularly war trivializing and Disney-fied.

In a particularly cynical way of promoting soft news, the story lede reads as follows:

The tunnels of Cu Chi played a critical role in North Vietnam’s war effort, and were possibly an inspiration for Hezbollah’s bunker system.

Possibly an inspiration?  …On the last page of the on-line tour (led by a man presenting himself as the Vietnamese tourist industry’s version of Hollywood kung-fu star, Jackie Chan), the tunnels are specifically likened to that other cool set of underground passages.  Opposite this photo, the copy reads:

The Viet Cong’s tunnels proved effective.  Intelligence analysts familiar with the military tactics of Hezbollah say the guerilla group studied the VC tunnel network in creating their own bunker system in south Lebanon.

But then, maybe I’m making too much out of this comparison.  Rather than wasting time on obscure analogies (like comparing Rumsfeld with some old dude named McNamara), the Hot Zone, in fact, might have stumbled on a brilliant way of putting the last six years behind us.

Instead of holding hearings, why not just turn our bloody foreign interventions into tourist attractions?

(images: Kevin Sites/The Hot Zone.  August 27, 2006.  Cu Chi, Vietnam.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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