Ugly war, pretty package: how the Cable News Network and the Fox News Channel made the 2003 invasion of Iraq high concept
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Analyses of war coverage address its relation to historical fact, propaganda, and bias, but I see a great need to position war coverage within the context of the industry that produces and distributes news content. To divorce televised war coverage from the entertainment industry is to decontextualize it in the most fundamental way. This dissertation investigates the way in which Cable News Network (CNN) and Fox News Channel (FNC) positioned and packaged the U.S. military’s invasion of Iraq in March 2003 for a domestic audience. I place those two networks and the 2003 invasion of Iraq within the context of post-classical Hollywood filmmaking, one offshoot of which is high concept. I argue that high concept—a filmmaking practice inextricably linked to conglomeration, new technologies, and an incessant, self-preserving drive to market— can be applied productively to the study of television news. When infused with critical theory, high concept is a valuable way to understand the politics and construction of entertainment-driven war coverage. The industrial development of television news has yielded a media artifact that mimics the practice of high concept filmmaking narratively, stylistically, ideologically, and commercially. By using high concept as an alternative approach to television news, I propose that studies that disregard or marginalize visuals, sound, narrative, and the industry that profits from the spectacular packaging of those elements cannot fully capture the thrust of television news. By stripping television news of its stature as somehow divorced from and above the rest of television programming, I aim to re-insert it into the entertainment industry. My intent is to bring together theoretical and practical insights from different disciplines so that I can contextualize contemporary television news in a unique and compelling way. In doing so, this dissertation aims to contribute to the pursuit of democratic media.