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  • majoki

to the mud

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

It really wasn’t his thing: pain and panic way too up-close-and-personal.

The chaotic video and jarring audio, the total mayhem of battle were so not his thing, but it was up to him to wrap this melee in a nice, neat bow. A twenty-two minute package of war that Cosca demanded should “curb-stomp the viewer to their couch.”

As he slogged back through camp to review the morning’s take in his make-shift editing cubby, Miro couldn't step past what he’d already seen with his own eyes: a once quiet little town that was mostly rubble now, with once gentle townsfolk who were mostly mud now.

And in his cold, damp tent, on his battered laptop, he’d have to review even more visceral footage of carnage from all manner of sources: official military body cams, drones, bots, munitions, as well as unofficial cell phone, doorbell, and dashboard cams. The battle video flooded into Miro. No wonder he always felt underwater, dragged ever deeper into the murk.

And that was just footage from this one battle. All over the world, footage of fierce fighting was pouring into his producer. It was no surprise that even a two-bit scumbag producer like Cosca could turn all that raw war porn into a mainstream reality show: Back to the Mud.

The show had gained such fast success that Cosca began sending Miro out on location to the front lines. “Read Abercrombie!” he exhorted. “There’s a guy who knows how to visualize a battle. You can’t see the real action, tell the real story, from the cheap seats, Miro. You gotta get to the heart--and then rip it out while it’s still beating!

“Cuts and guts. That’s what we’re about. All the gory glory. Any tested soldier will tell you that war is mostly waiting around for shit to happen. We’re cutting that out. Getting right to the good shit. To be the ESPN of war, we gotta be where the shit is happening. So, get up close. Smell it! Taste it!”

Pure venom is what it tasted like, to Miro. But Cosca was right. You couldn’t tell the real story of war from the back row, from the comfort of peace and quiet. You had to get muddy. You had to get bloody.

The “good shit” Cosca wanted was the dread, terror, and horror of soldiers and civilians killing or being killed. If Miro’s editing shied away from the intense and brutal and veered toward the subtle or nuanced, Cosca harped on him, “Read Dickinson! Then show me agony! You can’t fake agony.”

As if any of the fighters and folks caught in the crossfire were faking it. Miro was the only one faking it. Telling himself it was a job worth doing. That maybe the visceral carnage of battle, the stark trauma of war, might turn warmongers towards compromise, mercy and peace.

But the pissing matches just got bigger and more abundant, dousing more and more poor souls in their foulness. Decades and decades ago, it was thought that the nightly news airing of horrific combat and suffering may have turned American public opinion against the war in Vietnam. Now, it seemed to Miro, the more we saw and heard, the less we felt.

The world was mired in muck. And Miro was as much a muck maker as the muckrakers of the past century. He stopped outside his tent and slowly looked back the way he’d come. Heavy footsteps through the muck, a senseless track back from the battlefield.

With all we’d learned, with all we’d built, with countless eyes to see the world in new ways, here we were. Back to war, back to sanctioned brutality. Was he already a dead man walking? Were we all?

Miro lifted his eyes to the heavens. Had to be something better than what he was mired in. The old ways our world was stuck in. A clearer way forward. In the far distance he saw indistinct shapes against the roiling clouds. Maybe a flock of birds in a timeless migration, heading to a better place. Maybe. Just maybe.

Then he heard it. The whispering whirr of attack drones.

More misery. More footage. Miro bit his lip, cursed Cosca, and ducked into his tent. There was nothing for it but back to it. Back to the mud.




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