Nine Nobel Peace Laureates have written an open letter to NBC to cancel its newest reality television series, Stars Earn Stripes, claiming it presents a family-friendly version of war to appeal to television viewers. In their letter, the nine Nobel Laureates, who include South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias Sanchez, argue the show "continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed competition," and that "military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition." The show pairs eight celebrities with real-life soldiers and law enforcement agents to complete a series of missions. In the premiere episode, celebrities had to jump out of helicopters in water while wearing heavy gear, and then had to blow up "enemy" ammunition. In promoting the show, NBC claims the show "pays homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. armed forces and our first-responder services." When the celebrities complete a mission, they receive a donation to the veterans' or first-responders' charity of their choosing. At the end of the season, one celebrity will win $100,000 for their charity. Linda Holmes in a blog post on NPR notes, "If you successfully complete a series of military-style drills designed to emulate military service, NBC will give your charity one-fifth as much money as CBS gives to the champion of Big Brother." The chief criticism the Laureates have with the show is that it "sanitizes war." "Real war is down in the dirt deadly," write the Nobel Laureates. "People – military and civilians –die in ways that are anything but entertaining." In response to the letter, NBC released a statement, arguing, "This show is not a glorification of war, but a glorification of service." However, this glorification of service by media organizations also deeply concerns the Laureates. "Active–duty soldiers already perform in Hollywood movies, 'embedded' media ride with soldiers in combat situations," write the Laureates. "Now NBC is working with the military to attempt to turn deadly military training into a sanitized 'reality TV show that reveals absolutely nothing of the reality of being a soldier in war or the consequences of war. What is next?"
Joseph Misulonas is a summer 2012 In These Times editorial intern.