Home Front: Life during wartime

High times at the surplus store, bunkers for sale, and behind the scenes at a media whorehouse.

Published March 31, 2003 4:37PM (EST)


Hey, war's not bad for all sectors of the economy. Business is up -- way up -- at Whitey's Army-Navy store in Ohio. Employee Jim Thwaite says customers are flocking in to buy flags, lapel pins and other patriotic items, and are also stocking up on gas masks and ready-to-eat meals. Paranoia -- it's good for business.

In England, fear doesn't just sell military rations and camouflage: It sells real estate. Cold War bunkers -- offering full-scale protection from a nuclear attack -- are up for sale in the English countryside at the bargain-basement price of 2,000 pounds apiece. It's unclear whether they're cable-ready.

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Attention job-seekers: The CIA is hiring! Positions are available in the department of Clandestine Positions, which only sounds like a porn movie. Special preference goes to those who can speak Arabic and Korean. U.S. citizenship is required, as is "absolute personal and professional integrity." The pay isn't great, but benefits include health insurance, overtime pay, and all sorts of in-house shopping and bonding opportunities -- biannual bowling competitions, discount movie tickets, access to unisex hair salons -- all through the organization's nonprofit Employee Activity Association.

Oh, and the salon also offers CIA-sanctioned manicures.

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As casualties rise and stocks tank, don't forget that it's not too late to join Jerry Falwell's prayer force. The seven items on the prayer's checklist include victory over the unregenerate Saddam Hussein and his vicious followers, wisdom and guidance for President Bush, and a spiritual awakening for America. For those of you who feel uncomfortable mixing the militaristic and the metaphysical, don't worry. Just read this short essay explaining just how and why the invasion of Iraq fits in squarely with biblical prophesy.

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First Person

The media is a whore. I should know

It may be blitzkrieg in Iraq, but its sitzkreig at the 24-hour cable news channel where I work. Operation "Enduring Boredom" continues. I have been working overnights since the fighting began and we went into "war mode" with 24-hour live coverage.

Like most Americans, last week I was filled with hope that this war would be brief, our victory complete, and that I would quickly resume a 9-to-5ish schedule.

But with reports of stiff Iraqi resistance and a four- to five-day "pause" in the ground offensive, I have abandoned all hope and descended into a hazy, caffeine-induced stupor.

I haven't seen my family in two weeks. I leave them messages at 3 a.m. singing, "I'll be home for Christmas." I've become tired and cranky and I have no life. They tell you war is hell. What they don't tell you is that it also makes you fat. The station serves us food all night, but only cookies and pastry, eggs and sausages. Now I understand how my uncle gained 10 pounds during the Yom Kippur War. I brought in a salad the first night, but who am I kidding? We're at war. Would Patton eat salad? I've been eating compulsively, out of boredom, and out of spite. If the evil corporation that owns us is profiting from this war because of the ratings boost, at least I can hurt their bottom line by eating all the free food in sight.

This place runs on autopilot at night. Other than eating I do absolutely nothing, except when something goes horribly wrong on the air and panic ensues. People in the control room start screaming, and I cower in my corner until it's over, like a soldier in the trenches waiting for a barrage of artillery to end.

I've bonded with the other overnighters. On our downtime, we play volleyball in the newsroom (we set up a net), trade jokes about the on-air "talent," and show each other pictures of our loved ones back home.

One of the overnighters says we have it worse than the troops in Iraq. That's going too far. But there are disturbing parallels between journalists and soldiers in wartime, and especially in this war. If you've seen NBC's Chip Reid or Kerry Sanders dressed in full combat gear except for the guns, you know what I mean. Antiwar protesters like to say that the media is "in bed" with the Pentagon. I think that's true, but only so long as it's profitable. If American public opinion turns against this war, the media will get in bed with United for Peace and Justice. The media is not liberal or conservative, hawkish or dovish. The media is a whore. And I'm a whore because I work in it.

I used to support the war. But now I see that my schedule will only improve once the shooting stops. So if it's going to be a long war, I say give peace a chance. I've been playing "War Is Over" by John and Yoko at my cubicle as a quiet form of nonviolent protest. I'm organizing a group of like-minded, disgruntled employees to stage antiwar protests in front of our building. We'll probably all get fired, but at this point, none of us really care.

-- Name withheld

By Sheerly Avni

Sheerly Avni is a freelance writer living in Oakland.

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