The Washington Post

Archbishop Desmond Tutu protests NBC reality series ‘Stars Earn Stripes’

Cast of “Stars Earn Stripes” (NBC/CHRIS HASTON/NBC)

“This program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence,” the Laureates wrote to NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, producer Mark Burnett, and to General Wesley Clark, the former presidential candidate who’s hosting the competition series.

The show is “a massive disservice to those who live and die in armed conflict and suffer its consequences long after the guns of war fall silent,” the Nobel laureates, said in a letter, which was sent to reporters Monday by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, a group created in 2006 by six female Nobel Peace Prize winners.

“Trying to somehow sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition further calls into question the morality and ethics of linking the military anywhere with the entertainment industry in barely veiled efforts to make war and its multitudinous costs more palatable to the public,” the nine continued.

“Stars Earn Stripes,” which debuts Monday, and which NBC plugged relentlessly during its coverage of the London Summer Games, “pairs minor celebrities with US military personnel and puts them through simulated military training, including some live fire drills and helicopter drops,” the nine described.

The show stars actor Dean Cain, “The Biggest Loser” trainer Dolvett Quince, former WWE champion Eva Torres, former boxer Laila Ali, singer Nick Lachey, former Olympic gold medallist Picabo Street, actor Terri Crews, and Sarah Palin’s husband Todd.

“NBC is working with the military to attempt to turn deadly military training into a sanitized “reality” TV show that reveals absolutely nothing of the reality of being a soldier in war or the consequences of war,” the group said.

During Summer TV Press Tour 2012, Brent Gleeson, a former Navy SEAL told members of the TV Critics Association that the reason he and the other Special Ops guys hired to train the celebrities, are participating was not just to raise money for charities or “to shine the spotlight on the soldiers that have gone before us and those that will continue to fight the fight.”

“I mean, let’s be honest — recruitment is a huge aspect and focus in the Special Operations Forces right now, as it is in the police force,” Gleeson explained. “It’s difficult to get the right people into the top of the funnel because the training is so difficult that you’re only graduating the same amount of people in every class… So, I mean, if recruitment is improved by an amazing show like this, then we’re all the better for it.”

In their letter, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates said a long history of collaboration between militaries and civilian media and entertainment in the United States and elsewhere, “appears to be getting murkier and in many ways more threatening to efforts to resolve our common problems through nonviolent means.”

They noted active-duty soldiers are performing in Hollywood movies, “embedded” media ride with soldier in combat situations, and now NBC is “working with the military to attempt to turn deadly military training into a sanitized ‘reality’ TV show that reveals absolutely nothing of the reality of being a soldier in war or the consequences of war.”

The Laureates signing the open letter included Archbishop Tutu, who was feted for helping end apartheid in South Africa, as well as;

Jody Williams (1997), Mairead Maguire (1977), Dr. Shirin Ebadi (2003), President José Ramos-Horta (1996), Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980), President Oscar Arias Sanchez (1987), Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992) and Betty Williams (1977).

A rep for the Nobel Women’s Initiative told the Post that the organization is in regular contact with the male Nobel Prize winners, such as the ones listed on the letter.

The Laureates said they support support a protest of the show being staged Monday at 5 p.m. outside NBC’s 30 Rock HQ.

An NBC spokesman responded Monday: “‘Stars Earn Stripes’ is about thanking the young Americans who are in harm’s way every day. This show is not a glorification of war, but a glorification of service.”

The network, meanwhile, announced Monday that “SES” contestant Palin has been nicknamed “Rambo” by the other competitors.


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