Monday, March 26, 2012

Racist War Propaganda

At first I thought this was the trailer for another Star Wars sequel when I saw it on TV over the weekend. Guess again:

Notice all those boxes of "Aid"' on the assault vehicles? Do they contain blood money for the relatives of the collateral damage? Bribes for the puppet dictators? Wads of cash for private contractors? Snickers?

This recruiting film is obviously aimed directly at a whole generation of  desperate unemployed and underemployed people -- and judging from the leading man, specifically at  African-American teenagers, whose unemployment rate is a staggering 42%. It is just another example of institutionalized racism, what author Michelle Alexander calls The New Jim Crow. The main character in the commercial is shown racing toward oblivion, the better to escape the chaos of life on the streets  and  NRA-enabled gun murders at the hands of vigilantes or a long stint at a for-profit prison for a petty drug conviction. The voice-over booms over the Dolby soundtrack: "Where chaos looms, the few emerge. Marines move toward the sounds of tyranny, injustice and despair — with the courage and resolve to silence them. By ending conflict, instilling order and helping those who can’t help themselves, Marines face down the threats of our time.”

The solution that our corporate-run government offers is not to abolish racial profiling by police thugs and civilian watch commanders, but to expand it for even more profit for themselves. Escape injustice and despair here by embracing it over there! And we'll even give you your own gun. "Which way would you run?" asks the recruiting commercial.

Besides the blatant racism inherent in this film, it also presumes geographical ignorance on the part of its target audience. The defunding of public education does serve a purpose, after all. These movie Marines storm the Normandy beaches and magically, immediately arrive in Afghanistan to rampage across the desert in a crusade of aggressive humanitarianism. War is Peace.

Leave it to the military industrial complex to partner with Hollywood to produce this overblown piece of pricey propaganda, and then waste even more taxpayer money to run it on the cable TV shows we already pay to watch. They have no shame because they are psychopaths.


4Runner said...

Karen, you & most of your posters are probably much too young to know about Tom Lehrer, a splendid singer/satirist back in the 60s. One of his classic tunes was "Send the Marines" and I was happy to find it is alive & well online--in fact, it's available as a ringtone.
Give it a listen as a proper antidote to this noxious recruitment video.

James F Traynor said...

Surely, Karen, you exaggerate.

Denis Neville said...

Our Founding Fathers recognized that the greatest threat to our nation was war with all the vested interests that grow from it. They were deeply suspicious of standing armies accountable solely to executive power.

James Madison, the chief author of our Constitution, spoke of this threat:

“Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts and taxes are the know instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended…and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect…may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manner and of morals, engendered in both. No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare…War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it. In war, the public treasuries are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honors and emolument of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venal love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.”

As Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1798, “The Constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the Legislature.”

Alexander Hamilton’s words also apply to the war-making powers: “The history of human conduct does not warrant that exalted opinion of human virtue which would make it wise to commit interests of so delicate and momentous a kind, as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would be a President of the United States.”

We have paid a terrible price for ignoring the Founders’ wisdom.

Because we and our elected representatives no longer have a personal stake in the decisions to go to war, there is no longer adequate oversight. Madison understood that “if men were angels, no government would be necessary.” It is precisely because men are not angels that the Founders placed the terrible power to choose and make war with those who would feel its burdens most directly. In Federalist 51, Madison argues that the “policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public.”

“Masters of War” © Bob Dylan

"Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks.

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly.

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain."

James F Traynor said...

Bad omen; Vlad the Impaler just got a new heart.

Anonymous said...

A bit more gnashing of teeth and more than a mite over wrought I think. One of the more noxious tenants of progressive thinking is this sort of apoplectic link to evil government plots of racist, militeristic thinking. Ahhhh....not really.

Denis Neville said...

Obama is not the Lesser Evil. He is the more Effective Evil.

Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report, on “Why Barack Obama is the More Effective Evil”

“He has been more effective in Evil-Doing than Bush in terms of protecting the citadels of corporate power, and advancing the imperial agenda. He has put both Wall Street and U.S. imperial power on new and more aggressive tracks – just as he hired himself out to do.”

“The prevailing assumption on the Left is that Obama has good intentions. He intends to the Right Thing – or, at least, he intends to do better than the Republicans intend to do. It’s all supposed to be about intentions. Let’s be clear: There is absolutely no factual basis to believe he intends to do anything other than the same thing he has already done, whether Democrats control Congress or not, which is to serve Wall Street’s most fundamental interests.

“But, the whole idea of debating Obama’s intentions is ridiculous. It’s psycho-babble, not analysis. No real Left would engage in it.

“The real Obama was the initiator of this Austerity nightmare – a nightmare scripted on Wall Street, which provided the core of Obama’s policy team from the very beginning. That’s why Obama’s so-called Financial Reform was so diligent in making sure that Derivatives were virtually untouched…

“The real Obama retained Bush’s Secretary of War, because he was determined to re-package the imperial enterprise and expand the scope and theaters of war…And he got away with it. Now, that is the Most Effective Evil war mongering imaginable. Don’t you dare call him a Lesser Evil. Obama is Awesomely Evil.”

“So, what does the Left do in this election?... disarm the Beast…that means ripping the farcical “humanitarian” veil from the face of U.S. wars – and that face is Obama’s face… If you want to resist actual imperial wars, you must fight Obama. Period. Anything else is to endorse or acquiesce in his wars… the alternative is acquiescence to Obama’s cynical duplicities…If the Green Party or any other party firmly opposes Obama’s humanitarian, Orwellian farce, then support them. If they don’t, then don’t lift a finger for them.”

“Power to the People!”


Anonymous said...

That was a truly surreal advert. As the "ex" of a US Marine, I have a lot of respect for their group cohesion. Never knew a bad one, though there are probably enough. The question is, what are we asking them to do?

I'd like to see a similar advert for public school teachers. Then I'd like to see the funding moved from MIC to education.

Karen, thanks as always for bringing our attention to this. Did Fred Drumlevitch weigh in?

If anyone didn't watch the video, I recommend doing so. It's seductive, and totally empty.

Better they should show the conditions for vets at now-shuttered Walter Reed Hospital.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Anonymous: Prior to your comment, I hadn't weighed in here on the subject, because after seeing that military recruiting commercial linked to by Karen, I had to tie myself hand and foot to a chair to keep from running down and enlisting — and thus, couldn't type!

Great post Karen. And great comments, as always, Denis.

Yes, "towards the sounds of chaos" they say — but no mention that nine times out of ten, that chaos was started by us, if not always directly as the "war is the continuation of politics by other means" von Clausewitz aphorism, then alternatively as the consequence of previous bad U.S. political judgment and support for the wrong people.

And your sarcasm about the absurdity of the prominent conveyance of aid boxes in what appears to be an initial assault is certainly warranted.

Note how many patriotic, selfless service, personal and collective strength, and life-should-have-meaning psychological buttons are pushed in this commercial. Leni Riefenstahl would be proud. What is most objectionable is that for years our nation (admittedly, like many others throughout history) has exploited for imperial purposes what would otherwise be admirable personality traits. Whether because of those aforementioned traits, or simply for economic reasons, the bottom line is that enough keep enlisting to keep the war machine functioning.

Messages from the imperial-plutocratic-corporate machine must be actively and loudly deconstructed, if this country is to have any hope of transitioning to more rational, more socially-just, and more globally-beneficial, operation. And messages such as that advertisement that both pulls in the manpower that enables military overreach and insidiously propagandizes it to everyone else are among the most dangerous.

Zee said...

“No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare… --James Madison

Thank you, Denis, for reminding us of the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. It is popular these days to belittle them as a bunch of old, dead, rich, slave-owning white guys who are irrelevant to our oh-so-modern day. But for all their faults, they understood human nature all too well—perhaps seeing the reality of it clearly in themselves—and they gave us a Constitution that might serve as antidote to the fact that all men are not angels.

I worked in the defense industry and am not ashamed of it; indeed, I am proud of it. As George Washington, another Founding Father, said: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

Though my contributions were distant from actual weapons applications, I am proud of them from both the scientific and “service” standpoints.

Still, we seem to be becoming a nation at perpetual war, much as Orwell and Madison foresaw. We have been in Afghanistan from 2001 to the present day. We were in Iraq from 2003 until recently. And now some are eager to launch a war in Iran before the Israelis can steal our thunder. Where does it end?

The fault, I think, does not lie with our military. Yes, many of them at the higher levels are caught up in the Military-Industrial-Complex (MIC). The ones who let the contracts for the Buck Rogers weapons systems of the future that somehow just never pan out, and who are rewarded and promoted by the mistake. Until their pet system is shut down owing to either skyrocketing costs, irrelevancy, or both. Then they retire and go to work for TRW, Northrup-Grumman, or some other MIC bandit.

But the numbers who are owned body and soul by the MIC are, I think, limited, and probably could be legislated out of existence by precluding participation in the private sector defense before a respectable number of years have passed. In fact, I think some such legislation may already be in place, but I have not been able to locate it at this time. Maybe it just needs to be strengthened.

I do not think that the servicemen and women in the field should be blamed. The problem lies with our politicians who are so fond of leading from the safety of the rear. Remember Madeleine Albright's question to Colin Powell in the run-up to our various interventions in the Balkans?

"What’s the point of you saving this superb military for, Colin, if we can't use it?" --Madeleine Albright

During the last quarter of my career I had the privilege to work with more than a few retired officers from the Viet Nam era. Some were R&D types like me, but others had seen ground combat. None struck me as anything other than decent human beings who felt the call to serve their country. Virtually all deplored Dubya's—and then Obama's –passion for “nation building.” None thought that Iraq or Afghanistan was worth a single American life beyond eliminating terrorist training bases in Afghanistan.

I looked at the advertisement that is the subject of this thread, and I saw nothing “racist” or “psychopath[ic]” about it. In many other contexts the featuring of a Black American as the “lead” might be called “diversity.”

The ad simply follows in the tradition of all other recruiting ads that emphasize the economic benefits or heroic aspects of military service while ignoring the death or disablement that can and will occur when the soldiers who joined the military to get a college degree are—as one of my military friends put it—actually asked to “earn their pay.” (His words, not mine.)

Our military can afford to be significantly smaller than it is today, and our politicians need to be persuaded at the ballot box that perpetual war is evil. But there is nothing fundamentally racist or shameful in answering the call to service.

Anonymous said...


"I looked at the advertisement that is the subject of this thread, and I saw nothing “racist” or “psychopath[ic]” about it. In many other contexts the featuring of a Black American as the “lead” might be called “diversity.”

And there's the rub. The military is one of the few truly integrated institutions in American life. We should probably be asking why the only fully integrated institution in these United States involves such a high rate of killing and/or being killed.

Valerie said...

THAT is a VERY good point, @Anonymous!


I don't think anyone here is blaming the rank and file soldiers for the wars. Sure there are the types who end up being contractors for Blackwater and love the power and gung-ho crap. But most are just scared kids who think they are serving their country.

The truth is our military was having a heck of a time recruiting soldiers until the economic collapse. I suspect too many of these young people are joining up out of economic necessity. They play Russian roulette with their lives thinking they will put in their time and maybe get a college education out of it at the end. The patriotic soldier image (being sold by the U.S. Military and the MIC) just helps the potential recruits justify the reality that their job is to kill - which goes against the grain of any decent person. That is why so many of these soldiers will come home psychologically damaged with terrible, haunting mental illnesses like PTSD - if they manage to dodge the bullets and come home “in one piece.”