Channeling the Pentagon Channel: The New Socialist Realism
The Pentagon Channel is not the Military Channel. The Military Channel is Hitler plus top ten lists. You wanna know about the failed plot to assassinate the Fuehrer in 1944 and then learn the ten best attack submarines of all time--the Military Channel is your meat. It’s the NFL Network with a drill sergeant instead of a coach yelling at an audience of men so bored with their lives that trench warfare is an attractive alternative.
The Pentagon Channel is not the History Channel. The History Channel looks at many tyrants in addition to Hitler, plus UFOs and Biblical prophecies and ghosts. The Pentagon Channel is also not the the History Channel International, which is indistinguishable from the History Channel.
The Pentagon Channel has been broadcasting since 2004 without many people noticing. It’s on most of the basic cable systems in the United States, probably nestled in the high numbers with the other obscure reality channels. It seems to discuss Hitler less often than its competitors. Every few hours on a program called “Battleground,” they show a vintage propaganda film where he may be given passing mention. One of the best is called “Why Vietnam?” which must have been made around 1967. It shows a clip of Neville Chamberlin promising “peace in our time,” and then Hitler starts gobbling Europe. If Hitler had been stopped at the first mouthful, catastrophe would have been averted. And that is why we must fight in Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara are shown begging—not too strong a word— the American people to continue supporting the war, lest the “terrorists” win and gobble up the rest of Southeast Asia, just like Hitler.
Nostalgia for the Domino Theory is, however, only a small aspect of the Pentagon Channel. What it mostly does is soft features. It interviews lots of people working in military jobs that you never think about: a counselor who tells depressed soldiers that they are “part of a team, part of a family”; an MP who is proud that his Navy base in Japan has not had an alcohol-related arrest in something like 11,000 days; an artist dealing with PTSD by painting portraits of veterans; civilian employees of the Pentagon who do a few days of basic training at Fort Benning so they know what soldiers really experience. It’s like spending time with a cigarette salesman. He has good social skills, seems like he might be a good neighbor, is eager to know what’s hip with the youth of today, has a right to make a living...but he’s selling cigarettes.
Most of the music is heavy metal.
All the shows are half an hour, and all have segments lasting no more than three or four minutes. They rarely go more than three hours without a fitness show. They rarely go more than three hours without teaching you how to cook something.
There’s a show called FNG (For New Guys) that explains how to eat great and entertain yourself in Washington DC for less than $20 a day. The host asks military trivia questions and gives away cash if you know that a lieutenant general has three stars.