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Original Essays | January 27, 2014 0 comments
Sometimes inspiration comes to you not just from what you visualize, but what you can't, or don't want to, see. It may also arrive because you're... Continue »
No One Is Safeby Anthony Lappe
Shooting War is the story of an indie-media heartthrob named Jimmy Burns. The year is 2011, and the Brooklyn-based videoblogger gets his big break as he happens to be uploading a live rant in front a Starbucks when a suicide bomber blows the coffee joint to kingdom come. Jimmy becomes and overnight mainstream media star, and is snatched up by a new controversial, no-holds-barred network (Global News: "Your home for 24-hour terror coverage"). The network makes him and offer he can't refuse a shot reporting from civil war-torn Iraq, where the situation is so dangerous most of their competitors have pulled their star reporters. Jimmy's greatest dream (to be a war correspondent) becomes his biggest nightmare as he nearly loses his mind in the paranoia, chaos and destruction of the spiraling civil war.
Shooting War was in part inspired by my own reporting in Iraq for a documentary I produced for the Guerrilla News Network (with my partner Stephen Marshall) called BattleGround: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge. We traveled across the country just as the insurgency was beginning to gain strength, trying to understand the various forces that were fueling resistance to the coalition occupation. Near the end of our trip, we found ourselves smack in the middle of the Sunni Triangle interviewing Lt. Col. Nate Sassaman; the cocky former West Point quarterback had become a legend among his men for his aggressive attitude and tactics. After vehemently denying allegations locals made to us that his unit beat up old ladies, shot pets and hauled off innocent young men in midnight raids, a frustrated Sassaman blurted out, "My life is a surreal movie. Everyday I wake up, and it's a surreal movie." (Sassaman later resigned in disgrace after trying to cover up the killing of an Iraqi teenager by two of his men.)
Sassaman's comment stuck with me. And as soon as I got home, I began crafting a storyline in my head to try and capture the former college football star's moment of clarity. All war is to some extent or another inherently surreal, but Iraq will surely be the most surreal of our lifetime. The conflict has turned into a Hobbesian war of all against all thrusting hundreds of thousands of jacked-up, PS2-reared American ass-kickers, most of whom who can't find Iraq on a map, let alone explain the difference between Shia and Sunni, into a cauldron of centuries-old hatred and conflict.
Jimmy himself not unlike Sassaman, a classic cocky American who's always had it easy girls, friends, constant praise. But in Iraq, he's faced with challenges he could never imagine, and Jimmy's confidence begins to erode as he realizes he may not be equipped to handle being a correspondent in the most deadly war ever for journalists.
The book is both a critique of the mainstream media, but it also pokes fun of the narcissism and naivety of the emerging blogger movement. No one is safe in Shooting War.
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Shooting War creator and writer Anthony Lappe is Executive Editor of GNN.tv, the website for the Guerrilla News Network. He is the co-author of their critically acclaimed book True Lies and the producer of their award-winning Showtime documentary about Iraq, BattleGround: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge. He has written for the New York Times, the Huffington Post, New York, Vice, and Salon.com, among many others, and has been a producer for MTV News and Fuse. He is a frequent guest on Air America and other radio stations across the country.