Nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates have signed a letter denouncing the new NBC reality show, ‘Stars Earn Stripes’, out of concern that the show glorifies war. Premiering August 13, the show features celebrities playing war games under realistic conditions.
Among those objecting is José Ramos-Horta, the former president of East Timor, who was a leader in that country's bloody struggle for independence from Indonesia. Ramos-Horta told Radio Netherlands Worldwide, “I signed the letter because I know full well that we live in a world full of conflicts, wars and violence,” said Ramos-Horta. “We know that the levels of violence in the United States are influenced by television and cinema. A program like this one will only make the situation worse. It won’t contribute to a peaceful climate.”
‘Stars Earn Stripes’ features eight American celebrities as they undergo gruelling training, given by a real-life officer who trains American warriors. The program is hosted by retired General Wesley Clark, who was once the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe and later a Democratic presidential candidate.
Among the people taking part in the series are Laila Ali, the daughter of boxing legend Mohammed Ali; Todd Palin, the spouse of the former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor Sarah Palin, and Olympic ski champion Picabo Street. The first episode depicted them crawling through mud, jumping out of helicopters, firing their weapons, and breaking down downs with axes.
The celebrities used the same uniforms and automatic weapons issued to U.S. troops, while the mud smeared on their faces and the explosions were also real. “This is no joke. I know that I can die,” said Superman actor Dean Cain in between the commercial breaks for pizza and cars. In the real war in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 6500 American service personnel have died, in addition to members of the allied forces. During the week that the show was released, at least six American troops were killed in Afghanistan.
NBC claims that 'Stars and Stripes' “pays homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. armed forces”.
Nobel recipient and South African Anglican bishop Desmund Tutu also protested the show as an attempt “to turn warfare into a sporting competition”. In an open letter to the NBC, he and the other Nobel laureates condemned the realism of the war game. “In reality,” they wrote, “war is extremely deadly. People – both military and civilians – die in a way that has nothing entertaining.”
José Ramos-Horta said “There are tens of thousands of people in the United States who have deep wounds – in their bodies and their hearts – caused by wars. Thousands of veterans have committed suicide. The US public needs a more humane, positive approach to deal with this trauma. By glorifying war, the producers are simply aggravating the pain.”
'Stars and Stripes' was launched by reality TV mogul Mark Burnett and "Law & Order" creator Dick Wolf. The shows pairs celebrities with military veterans and first responders, who train them for simulated missions in a contest to benefit national veterans, service and first-responder charities. Besides retired general Clark the other host is Samantha Harris of "Dancing With the Stars" and "Entertainment Tonight".
In addition to celebrities Ali and Palin, other well-known Americans in the show are actor and former NFL player Terry Crews, singer and TV host Nick Lachey ("The Sing-Off"), actor Dean Cain, Olympic gold-medal skier Picabo Street, "The Biggest Loser" trainer Dolvett Quince and pro wrestler Eve Torres.