Nobel Peace laureates Oscar Arias, Rigoberta Menchú protest U.S. reality TV show

August 15, 2012

Nine Nobel Peace Prize winners, including Costa Rican ex-President Oscar Arias and Guatemalan activist Rigoberta Menchú, blasted new NBC reality TV show “Stars Earn Stripes” for its content, which they allege turns war into schlocky entertainment.

The NBC series, which premiered Monday, puts several D-list celebrities through military and first-responder training. The network described the program starring Sarah Palin’s husband and a guy who used to play Superman on TV as “an action-packed competition show that pays homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services.”

Several experts on war and peace disagreed with the premise. A note, signed by Arias, Menchú, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel Peace laureates, stated: “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.”

The open letter was directed to NBC Entertainment head Bob Greenblatt, producer Rob Burnett and the show’s host, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a former U.S. presidential candidate.

“Stars Earn Stripes” features such minor celebrities as Laila Ali, the boxing daughter of Mohammed Ali, Dean Cain, a former Superman actor, Todd Palin, husband of Sarah Palin, Picabo Street, an Olympic gold medal-winning skier and Terry Crews, a former NFL player and funnyman better-known for his starring role in Old Spice deodorant commercials.

Those who complete their “missions” have winnings donated to charity.

But the Nobel laureates see the concept as more than hokey. Putting celebrities through a boot camp does 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 letter stated.

Nobel laureates signing the letter include Jody Williams (1997), Mairead Maguire (1977), Shirin Ebadi (2003), José Ramos-Horta (1996), Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980), Oscar Arias Sánchez (1987), Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992) and Betty Williams (1977).

Other organizations joined in demonstrations.

“Having my son return from two real wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the cost of war carried in his body and heart, I find this deeply offensive,” said Sarah Fuhro, a member of Military Families Speak Out, a U.S.-based group opposed to the Iraq War.

“Having met wounded children and refugees from these and other wars, I find this disgusting. I hope NBC will reconsider this form of entertainment.”

Joan Wile, founder of Grandmothers Against the War, another anti-Iraq War group, called NBC’s plan “an abomination” and a “reality show glamorizing war while our young people die in real wars.”

Sharon Osbourne, wife of metal icon Ozzy Osbourne and a reality TV star herself, also condemned the show.

NBC responded to the outcry over “Stars Earn Stripes” in a statement before the show’s debut: “This show is not a glorification of war, but a glorification of service.”

The first episode aired Monday and earned a rating of 5.1 million viewers.

AFP contributed to this story.

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