Magazine article American Journalism Review

Playing War. (Free Press)

Magazine article American Journalism Review

Playing War. (Free Press)

Article excerpt

While America is at war, perky, patriotic anchors at a 24-hour cable news stations fawn over government officials and military analysts. A country singer's pro-war song climbs the charts. And the secretary of defense, in a televised announcement, suspends the Constitution.

This is the not entirely unfamiliar world of "A New War," a play by Gip Hoppe satirizing 24-hour news networks' reporting on international conflicts. Coverage of the war in Afghanistan inspired the play, which ran through mid-April at a theater near Boston. But when America began dropping real bombs on Iraq, Hoppe's fictional war, waged for "some reason" against enemies who wear "funny clothes" and eat "slimy, unimaginable things" seemed eerily prescient.

"It's extremely surreal," Hoppe says. "I had a lot of people tell me that they couldn't watch CNN quite the same way after seeing the play."

The 80-minute show unfolds on the set of the Atlanta-based "Cable News Channel," where two anchors package the "brand-spanking, shiny new war" as a fast-breaking top story, even though they don't know where it is, who's fighting or who started it. They interview a parade of people who know even less, including a military analyst, a TV star, a style guru and a "person on the street"--a Midwestern mom who says something like, "I don't know why they hate us. Everyone knows after we bomb them, they're much better off."

In another dead-on gag, the anchors switch often to a totally dark image of the U. …

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