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Ugly War, Pretty Package

How CNN and Fox News Made the Invasion of Iraq High Concept

Deborah L. Jaramillo

Publication Year: 2009

Deborah L. Jaramillo investigates cable news' presentation of the Iraq War in relation to "high concept" filmmaking. High concept films can be reduced to single-sentence summaries and feature pre-sold elements; they were considered financially safe projects that would sustain consumer interest beyond their initial theatrical run. Using high concept as a framework for the analysis of the 2003 coverage of the Iraq War -- paying close attention to how Fox News and CNN packaged and promoted the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- Ugly War, Pretty Package offers a new paradigm for understanding how television news reporting shapes our perceptions of events.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Table of Contents

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pp. vii

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Introduction:The Spectacle of Televised War

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pp. 1-20

War is a fabrication and the media elevate it to the level of spectacle. So goes the theme of Barry Levinson’s film Wag the Dog (1997), a Hollywood production about a Hollywood production. In the film, the president of the United States is implicated in a sex scandal days before a presidential election. ...

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1 High Concept, Media Conglomeration, and Commercial News

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pp. 21-40

Privately owned journalistic enterprises, like commercial newspapers and television news outlets, are participants in a “crowded information marketplace” (McNair 1998, 101). Consumers who purchase a newspaper or choose to watch a certain news program ...

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2 The High-Concept War Narrative

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pp. 41-88

On March 22, 2003, an incident in Kuwait exposed the practice of speculation on television news and the effect that process had on the crafting of a narrative. That day an unidentified assailant threw hand grenades into the tents of some commanding officers of the 101st Airborne at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait. ...

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3 Intertextuality, Genres, and Stars

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pp. 89-120

On March 23, 2003, Iraqi resistance fighters engaged with U.S. soldiers at a location that embedded reporter Walter Rodgers was not allowed to identify. Some of the Iraqis were riding in a pink pickup truck with an NYPD sticker on its window shield. The pastiche and marketable concept that the truck represented so impressed Aaron Brown ...

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4 War Characters

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pp. 121-144

On March 22, Geraldo Rivera, one of Fox News Channel’s maverick reporters who was stationed in Afghanistan, used a bit of well-worn rhetoric to imply that antiwar protesters were somehow acting in concert with Middle Eastern extremists. He directed viewers’ attention to a map of the Middle East and said, ...

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5 The Look and Sound of High-Concept War Coverage

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pp. 145-176

During a live firefight at Umm Qasr on March 23, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Van Hipp and military analyst David Christian commented on the events for Fox News Channel. Eager for a swift and decisive end to the firefight that seemed to drag on, Van Hipp remarked, “Hopefully we’re all going to get to see the effects of a JDAM ...

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6 The Marketing of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq

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pp. 177-196

In 2003, toy manufacturer Dragon Models created a series of action figures modeled on the U.S. soldiers in Iraq. One of those figures was named “Cody,” and his specific assignment was special operations in southern Iraq (Dragon- ModelsLtd.com 2003). Although Cody was available commercially, Dragon Models crafted him for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, ...

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Conclusion: The Narrative Exits Screen Right, the Coverage Fizzles, and News Is What, Exactly?

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pp. 197-218

Kellner writes that as the events of the war began to get more chaotic—or as they refused to follow the Department of Defense’s script—“the embedded and other on-site reporters provided documentation of the more raw and brutal aspects of war in telling accounts that often called into question official versions of events as well as military propaganda” ...

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Appendix A: Graphic Frames at CNN and Fox News Channel, March 19–24, 2003

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pp. 219-220

All of CNN’s frames retained the logo, text crawl, and banner at the bottom. One frame used three boxes, a large box on screen left that contained a night-scope image of Baghdad and two smaller boxes stacked on screen right. The box on top had a nighttime image of Baghdad, and the bottom box had a talking head. ...

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Appendix B: War-Related Animation Sequences at CNN and Fox News Channel, March 19–24, 2003

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pp. 221-222

The animated flight of a cruise missile aired early on March 20, 2003, after the first strikes intended to take out the Iraqi leadership and before the “shock and awe” bombing campaign commenced. At the beginning of the sequence, a graphic of the planet is visible from space, with an outline of the Middle East at the center of the frame. ...

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Appendix C: Promotional Spots at CNN and Fox News Channel, March 19–24, 2003

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pp. 223-226

This promotional spot touted CNN’s embedded reporters and aired during prime time on March 22, 2003. The voice-over, detailed in Chapter 6, matched the following visuals: A CNN logo appears at the center of the frame, then the promo cuts to a box outlined in white taking up five-sixths of the right side of the frame. ...

Works Cited

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pp. 227-238


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pp. 239-254

E-ISBN-13: 9780253003409
E-ISBN-10: 0253003407
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253353634

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2009