Wednesday, March 02, 2005

British Reality Show Depicts Guantanamo Torture Methods

After I graduated college in 1990, I tried to earn some extra money giving journalism workshops for college students -- focusing on smaller two- and four-year schools that lacked journalism departments. The kids were a little green, but they were eager to learn.

One tip I often suggested -- to recruit new staff and motivate those already on board -- was that the editors host a get-together at which they show my choice for the greatest movie ever about journalism, All the President's Men.

Sure, there are other good journalism movies, such as Broadcast News and The Insider, but if you want to show young writers what it means to be a journalist -- as real as the entertainment world can provide -- All the President's Men is your movie. And sure enough, the college papers that hosted such nights generally found the movie inspiring.


The point of this anecdote is to say that once in a while, the entertainment world captures a moment in history, allowing viewers not only to enjoy a production, but be educated by it, too. Some of the great mini-series of the 1970s -- Roots and The Holocaust, to name a couple -- are equal to that task.

Such entertainment have been shown in high school and university classrooms, to supplement text books, biographies and other reading material.

When the students of tomorrow look back at U.S. policy at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I wonder if any foreward-thinking teachers will show The Guantanamo Guidebook, a British reality series that debuted on Feb. 28 on Britain's Channel 4.

As reported on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann on March 1, the series features seven men who volunteered to undergo a 48-hour re-creation of some of the milder forms of torture used on detainees at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo.

The men spent two days with a group of American military interrogators. Five of the men are playing innocents, two are playing men with connections to Al Qaeda.

"All captured, shackled, strip searched, dressed in orange jumpsuits and put in cages, then submitted to Gitmo-style interrogation with very real results. Three dropped out before time was up," MSNBC's Monica Novotny reported.

According to the report, the show's producers say the techniques used in the reality series were approved by a declassified Pentagon memo -- including stress positions, forced grooming and sensory deprivation.


Many of the popular reality series in the U.S. -- Survivor, American Idol, Trading Spaces -- were adapted from British and other European television.

If the show proves a ratings smash in Britain, what happens if some U.S. production company -- paging Mark Burnett -- decides The Guantanamo Guidebook is too good to pass up?


To be fair, I haven't seen the program, so I can't gauge it's educational value. But it is certainly possible that students of tomorrow will learn as much from The Guantanamo Guidebook as I once did watching All The President's Men.

I wonder what they'll think ...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope this British reality show, I would consider to be more like a documentary, DOES NOT make it to U.S. television in any form.
The reason: I don't want to have to listen to a bunch of whiny Bush sympathizers strive to discredit the entire production as inaccurate, Michael Moorish-style left-wing propaganda.
The Right would likely launch a movement to keep the program from airing in the first place.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed. And -- like its reaction to Michael Moore and Farenheit 9/11 -- I'm sure the Swift Boat Veterans or some such group would create an alternate reality series/documentary, presenting Guantanamo as a happy place (like a summer camp).

6:07 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

The Talking Point (said with Coulterish condescension): "Oh dear, that looney country is off on another one of it's screaming rants! Just proves how out-of-touch, angry and hate-filled they are."

Not like our REAL allies in the "coalition", uhm... Australia... no? Poland, maybe? Has anyone seen Poland lately?

9:27 AM  

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