About two years ago I stopped watching cable news all together. Regardless of the channel, there is rarely anything on worth the time and energy it takes getting frustrated by the mostly non-news news stories being covered like Access Hollywood fluff pieces. But late last night as I was channel-surfing before turning in, I was chagrined to see this on Fox News:
I am loath to respond to anything Fox News does because it simply plays into their game, but consider this bait taken. To sum up, commentator Bob Beckel is upset that in last Sunday’s episode set in Vietnam, The Amazing Race had a clue marker at the site of the B-52 Memorial that contains the wreckage of an American bomber plane that was shot down during the Vietnam War. Additionally, the racers’ task for that leg’s Roadblock was to watch a performance of a socialist Vietnamese anthem and remember key lyrics that would be used for another task.
The things the panel of commentators say in the video about this non-troversy are so unbelievably asinine and uninformed. Their main point, as far as it can be ascertained, is that the Amazing Race producers are anti-American for showing a socialist song and insensitive toward Vietnam veterans and civilians for acknowledging the existence of a downed American plane. Beckel is so indignant that CBS hasn’t apologized, promising to “go after” CBS until they do. Dana Perino, former press secretary to George W. Bush, claims “of all the things people apologize for today, you would think this would be an obvious one, but they’re just being stubborn I guess.” Greg Gutfield adds with a supercilious smirk: “It’s called Fox News Syndrome. It’s that Fox News is covering it and no one else is.”
Fox News has some kind of syndrome, all right. Just not one that makes its latest ginned-up rage piece an actual story.
I’m about 98 percent certain none of these commentators have ever seen The Amazing Race, let alone this specific episode, because if they had they would know that the show has been all over the world, using hundreds of locations as backdrops for tasks and challenges that employ local customs, trades, and people of all kinds. They would also know that the show honors the cultural heritage of the locations they use, regardless of its nature. Using the socialist anthem in the show wasn’t an endorsement of socialism any more than using Stalin and Lenin impersonators in Russia on last season’s 8th leg was an endorsement of Bolshevism. The Race shows the host country’s history and culture for what it is, not for what the Greg Gutfields or Bob Beckels wish it would be.
As Lester at DryedMangoez points out, the show has been to Vietnam before: in season 3, when a Vietnam vet racer poignantly returned to the country for the first time; and in season 10, when the racers stopped by the Hanoi Hilton, where John McCain was held as a POW. They have also been to Auschwitz, the Berlin Wall, the USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor, and the “House of Slaves” in Senegal, the embarkment of the Atlantic slave trade.
As much as the show seeks to respect its more serious stops, they plow through every task and location so quickly (it’s a race after all) that any attempt to honor the fallen comes off as rushed and ham-handed. But they still go to these places not to give in-depth history lessons, to make a political point, or to propagate Fox News’ brand of flag-waving American exceptionalism abroad, but because these places are interesting and so contestants can win money. I accept the superficial, TV-drama aspect of the show because it allows contestants and viewers like me to experience and enjoy faraway lands we wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I didn’t even know of the existence of the B-52 Memorial in Vietnam until I saw it on the Race, and I wouldn’t be surprised if these Fox commentators hadn’t either – at least until some producer looking to grease Fox’s manufactured-outrage machine alerted them.
The Amazing Race might be just a profit-driven reality show, but it does more to illuminate and celebrate world cultures, exotic locales, and peculiar customs than any other reality show does or than Fox News ever cares to. I hope CBS continues to refuse to apologize, because it has done nothing wrong.