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Saturday, March 22, 2003
What's on tonight?
I remember when Vietnam was called the first television war. Well, actually, I don't remember it at all; I was crawling around watching Sesame Street at the time. But I remember reading history books that made the claim. And now it seems so silly, doesn't it? Yes, footage of what was happening in Vietnam made it onto the evening news. Several days later. Ha! How... twentieth century. Now I can watch real-time footage. 24-hours a day. I smirk at you puny Vietnam War watchers with your puny evening news coverage.

Hmm. I wonder what the next generation of coverage will be. Interactive viewing? We'll get to pick from which camera angle we want to observe the war? To choose which satellites and radar systems we want our televisions to use to put together composite pictures of troop movements?

I jest, but it seems to me that these advancements -- and make no mistake about their imminent arrival -- are going to significantly alter the course of war. The news media is already pushing the envelope in the area of operational security; I've already seen, several times in the last two days, an "embedded" reporter yelled at, on camera, for giving out too much information -- or in one case, for giving away the unit's position with his camera's light. But since these reporters are embedded, the military does have some control over them, and in addition, the U.S. networks are generally being responsible in their decisions about what information to air.

Soon, though, it will be impossible to control the spread of information at all. Well, at least not without targeting journalists directly -- which might result in bad publicity. (And ultimately, even that won't be sufficient. Surely if the U.S. can build unmanned drones for aerial surveillance, so can large media corporations.) Certainly there are some technical solutions -- communications can be jammed, after all -- but that will merely hinder the media; it won't defeat them. Will it make warfare obsolete? Don't make me laugh. Hasn't every new technology -- steamships, dynamite, nuclear weapons, just to name a few -- been hailed as a means to abolish war? Unless I missed a news bulletin, war continues. But each invention has changed the face of war, and I suspect that it will happen again in ways we can't even begin to foresee. (Not including Tom Clancy, who already wrote this plot.)

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