When I think of the 10-year anniversary of the Iraq War, I think of the Weather Channel. On March 20 of 2003, I was in Boston, visiting my brother at his college while on my own spring break. For reasons I won’t go into, I was staying at a budget hotel near in Kenmore Square, which meant I could watch lots of uninterrupted TV.
Initially I kept the television tuned in on the war coverage to stay informed, plus there was little else to watch.
Over the next couple of days I watched as the networks played the same few images and the same few phrases, like “shock and awe,“ again and again. No one on air was saying anything critical or even skeptical about the war. Correspondents reported primarily on the administration’s prognosis of the events, which of course forecast assured victory. As I lay there alone and under the covers, trying to avoid touching the hotel bedspread, an anxious feeling crept over me. I couldn’t identify it at the time, but in hindsight I think it was the kind of depression that arises from a real or perceived lack of agency.
Up until then, I had never had much trouble watching unpleasant news coverage. I was naturally interested and also felt it was my responsibility to be an engaged citizen and follow recent events, like the 2000 Election, Bush v. Gore, 9/11, and the War in Afghanistan.
But when Iraq happened, watching the news did not make me feel very engaged. It only made me depressed. I looked for something else to watch, a station that could get away with not covering the war.
So I flipped to the Weather Channel. Over the course of my stay, I watched more and more of that and less and less of CNN and MSNBC. On the Weather Channel I was assured that no one would have an opinion about anything, except for maybe whether it would be warm enough this weekend to break out the barbecue. It was better at least than news channels that did not seem at all concerned about the people whose lives would be disrupted and in some cases destroyed by us bombing their country.