Sunday, July 17, 2011

Opiate of the Masses

The State Department works really hard to recreate an American lifestyle abroad as much as possible, both to ease the culture shock for diplomats uprooted every 2-3 years and to maintain ties with the mothership. And what is it that binds us most firmly to our countrymen? What makes our American blood run red, white, and blue and our American hearts beat the rhythm of "The Star-Spangled Banner"? Television, naturally.

For our viewing pleasure all the USG housing in Conakry comes with free service from the Armed Forces Network (AFN). The selection is a grab bag of shows from network TV and basic cable grouped into a couple of thematic channels. It's actually pretty good: they have all my favorite shows, and our time zone 2 hours behind Germany means I can watch the Daily Show and the Colbert Report and still be in bed by 10 o'clock. The downside is that we're getting shows the day after they aired in the States, but nothing's perfect.

The other quirk of AFN is that there are no commercials. The time other stations use to sell cars and Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs AFN fills with mini news clips on heartwarming stories of the armed forces doing wonderful humanitarian things and PSAs exhorting them to not do less wonderful things like huffing paint, raping women, running up exorbitant credit card bills, and abandoning their pets on the side of the road when they deploy. I've heard of one warning women not to shake their babies but I haven't seen it yet. I guess I'm not watching anough TV.


  1. There are definite don't shake your baby ads--not aimed directly at either parent. There's also a slew of don't drink and drive and don't beat your wife ads. They have some ads with a gerbil named Squeakers--but they go through periods when they don't air those at all--then they start airing them again. Don't forget OPSEC--it's everyone's responsibility.

  2. found your blog while exploring joining the FS. Good read so far. As a person who grew up on AFN, I can tell you it has improved over the years. We used to be 9 months or more behind with the television shows. Talk about torture. LOL