Saturday, November 8, 2014

Cartoonified War Propaganda

The heck with those quietly murderous Navy Seals getting all the glory, when it's the demented Marine Penguins who have the real guts in the gruesome national spectacle that we call Perpetual War.

In the simpering guise of a Veterans Day public service announcement, first lady Michelle Obama has bared her toned arms to arm an adorably psychopathic quartet of Hollywood penguins with her official White House (top secret, just like CIA torture) marching orders: Get out there and stealthily gin up the patriotism and pity for the returning troops! According to the slickly produced recruitment video, our sacrificial warriors just can't get any respect from the self-involved consumer-citizens of the American Dream. Therefore, it's up to some lucrative DreamWorks characters -- one of whom likes to swallow dynamite and then blow stuff up through the magic of regurgitation -- to do the job for the Military-Industrial Complex.... and for Michelle Obama to star in the trailer for the next DreamWorks blockbuster, coming to a multiplex near you just in time for the annual gruesome shopping spree known as Black Friday.

Irresponsible Manufacturer Not Responsible for Penguin Ingesting Sharp Objects Before Vomiting

 USA (USA!USA!) Today goes along to get along and calls Mrs. Obama's commercial -- complete with its deafening ballistic soundtrack and cartoonified F-35 stealth bombers --  "cute."  Or maybe they're being ironic:

We are impressed, again: Along with all her other talents, Michelle Obama can add acting with an animated Madagascar penguin to her resume.As part of her ongoing support-the-veterans campaign, the first lady appears in a new animated short starring the tuxedoed birds from the upcoming DreamWorks movie, The Penguins of Madagascar.
 Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private, the wacky-but-adorable penguins who growl like battle-hardened Marines and are always minutes away from disaster, nearly waddled away with the previous animated Madagascar comedies in which they first appeared. Now the fowl have their own flick, opening Nov. 26. The animation geniuses at DreamWorks have joined the Operation Got Your 6 campaign, lending the feathered stars for a PSA to be shown in schools as part of the Take a Veteran to School program to connect kids and vets. Mrs. O plays…well, herself, dressed in a purple sleeveless shift in a room at the White House. Suddenly Skipper “appears” by her side. She hits her mark perfectly, turning her head to “talk” to him.“We’re a little tired of the Seals getting all the good missions,” barks Skipper. “What about the Penguins?”

So she gives them a top-secret mission to debunk myths about returning veterans. And they’re off on an adventure, after a little mishap in the White House with some broken crockery.
“We’ll fix that!” Skipper shouts as he’s leaving. Very cute.

Not for nothing does the Obama administration gratuitously call the 0-10 age group at which this PSA is aimed the "Homeland Generation." The newest generation is being groomed to feel the terror, wave the flag, shoot the guns, drop the bombs, hurl the TNT, and never dare ask what their country and their elected reps can do for them. Generation Homeland exists to tighten their belts and shed their blood in loyal service to the Plutocracy. Like the Penguins of Madagascar, they will only be let out of their dystopian zoo cages when it's time to spy and fight. After all, Leon Panetta is calling the ISIS campaign a 30-year war, so there's more than enough time for the Homeland warriors of the future to shape up, sign up and ship out.
The plutocrats sponsoring Michelle Obama's grotesque war-profiteering infomercial include the usual suspects. There are virtually all the corporate media conglomerates.... ABC-Disney, HBO, NBC Universal, Fox/News Corp.

 There's  mega-bank Wells Fargo, still striving to repair the image damaged by its brutal subprime loan and fraudclosure rampage against service members and civilians alike. There's Macy's, which got into a heap of trouble for racially profiling shoppers in its emporium. Then there's Comcast, whose CEO is Barack's political donor and golfing buddy and who really, really wants to bypass those pesky monopoly laws and buy Time Warner Cable, the better to rip off families, both military and non-military.

 The latest war propaganda effort, dubbed Got Your Six, is one more iteration of Michelle Obama's "Joining Forces"  PR campaign co-opting military families. It's the brainchild of the Democratic Party-aligned defense think tank, Center for a New American Security, (CNAS) which in its own turn is stuffed with a panoply of revolving-door surveillance state/Pentagon moguls -- including Richard Armitage and John Allen. There's even a guy named Nathaniel Fick who runs a venture capital outfit called Endgame. I kid you not. Lockheed Martin and Goldman Sachs also have their slimy grasping tentacles wrapped tightly around the irresistible investment opportunities that CNAS facilitates.

 So, would it be politically incorrect and/or cruel of me to characterize Michelle Obama as our First Fascist FLOTUS? I mean, did you ever see Eleanor Roosevelt shilling for Disney while she visited the World War II troops in the hospital, or using her bully pulpit to sell clothing emblazoned with corporate logos and military insignia? That is just what Mrs. Obama's Got Your 6 website does. It openly brags that Hollywood and corporations are joining with the war industry to profit off veterans even as it purports to help them with college aid and low-wage jobs in the service and retail sectors.

 It spreads the myth that the American military exists only to spread freedom throughout the world. Using such A-list actors/Obama donors as Harrison Ford and Sally Field, it brazenly characterizes American imperialists as educators and builders instead of the murderers and plunderers they truly are. I'm actually kind of surprised that DreamWorks didn't call the adorable cartoon characters they're using to sell war to kids Emperor Penguins. I guess they're using Madagascar Penguins to make war feel all warm and fuzzy and tropical ocean-breezy instead of as Antarctically cold as death.

 Plus, since Forever War sucks up an obscene amount of fossil fuels, the military-entertainment complex doesn't want to remind the tykes that the whole Antarctic ice shelf is melting and breaking off, and rising the ocean levels -- all thanks to greedy grownups acting in such a criminally negligent way toward the cannon fodder of the future.


Denis Neville said...

Money buys whores, and whores service their customers.

“We must remember that in time of war what is said on the enemy’s side of the front is always propaganda, and what is said on our side of the front is truth and righteousness, the cause of humanity and a crusade for peace.” - Walter Lippmann

From the Puritans to the present day, adults have had no problem prescribing a moral framework in the form of political propaganda for the young.

“The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of a nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than to a small lie. For they themselves often tell little lies, but would be ashamed to tell big lies.” - Adolf Hitler

Hitler emphasized the great importance of children. Hitler wanted Nazi ideology to appeal to all levels of society, including the young. Board games and toys for children served as a way to spread racial and political propaganda to German youth in the Third Reich. Toys were also used as propaganda vehicles to indoctrinate children into militarism.

“Where there is the possibility of democracy, there is the inevitability of elite insecurity. All through its history, democracy has been under a sustained attack by elite interests, political, economic, and cultural. There is a simple reason for this: democracy – as in true democracy – places power with people. In such circumstances, the few who hold power become threatened. With technological changes in modern history, with literacy and education, mass communication, organization and activism, elites have had to react to the changing nature of society – locally and globally.” - Andrew Gavin Marshall

Our pro-war media parrot focus group tested messages that reduce the anti-war movement into the cartoon figures and caricatures that have been used to manipulate mass opinion ever since the military industrial complex and the corrupt system upon which it depends came into existence.

To the plutocrats sponsoring Michelle Obama's grotesque war-profiteering infomercial, “Let me ask you one question/Is your money that good/Will it buy you forgiveness/Do you think that it could/I think you will find/When your death takes its toll/All the money you made/Will never buy back your soul” - Bob Dylan, “Masters of War”

“Soldier and civilian, they died in their tens of thousands because death had been concocted for them, morality hitched like a halter round the warhorse so that we could talk about 'target-rich environments' and 'collateral damage' - that most infantile of attempts to shake off the crime of killing - and report the victory parades, the tearing down of statues and the importance of peace.

Governments like it that way. They want their people to see war as a drama of opposites, good and evil, 'them' and 'us', victory or defeat. But war is primarily not about victory or defeat but about death and the infliction of death. It represents a total failure of the human spirit.” - Robert Fisk, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East

“I should never have blessed America.” - TheGoodGodAbove tweet

Denis Neville said...

What a wonderful lame duck world this is going to be! Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently said the US should get ready for endless wars, as "tyranny", "terrorism", national security challenges pose a substantial "threat" to our national security. The Lame Duck and Congress can agree on the Global War on Terror.

When combat veterans with PTSD become fathers …

“Well my daddy come on the Ohio works
When he come home from World War Two
Now the yard's just scrap and rubble
He said "Them big boys did what Hitler couldn't do."
These mills they built the tanks and bombs
That won this country's wars
We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam
Now we're wondering what they were dyin' for…”
- Bruce Springsteen, “Youngstown,” The Ghost of Tom Joad album (1995)

“I imagine Bill de Blasio (whose father after being badly wounded during WWII, turned to alcoholism and then committed suicide in 1979) had the same father I had.” - Dale Maharidge, author of Bringing Mulligan Home: The Other Side of the Good War

“And along with hundreds of thousands of other veterans-turned-fathers, Dad was supposed to forget the war, embracing, like Mad Men’s Don Draper, a mantra of denial: It. Never. Happened. But the illusion of “normal” was interrupted by Dad’s sporadic screaming fits of rage. Anything and nothing could trigger them. Most of the time, he was a great father. And then, he could, for a time, become the worst. Early on, I wondered if this was related to the war.”

All thanks, as Karen said, “to greedy grownups acting in such a criminally negligent way toward the cannon fodder of the future.”

“We need to adopt reliable ways to measure the destruction our wars cause…to break through the collective amnesia that has gripped us. If we do not demand a full accounting of the wages of war, future failures are all the more likely.” - Dale Maharidge

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks for the comment, Denis.

Yes, we have always had war propaganda, but this "PSA" went so much further, given that a) the "war is positive" message is being aimed at very young children; and b)there is a direct commercial tie-in to a movie and thus it also encourages very young children to be consumers. The kids will (supposedly) be shown the film trailer in their classrooms, so naturally they'll be begging mom and dad to take them to see the whole movie as part of the Thanksgiving family agenda. Furthermore, this PSA sends a mixed message about guns and weaponry. You'd think they'd tone it down after all the school shootings.

I'd shown the PSA to my daughter, just asking her what she thought about it without mentioning my own opinion (she is an animation buff from way back) and she found it as disgusting as I did. And when you dig a little deeper and find out who is "sponsoring" the message, and how you can buy merchandise related to it, you really feel disgusted. They don't even try to hide their fascism any more.

Karen Garcia said...

PS -- Denis, I was responding to your first comment (hadn't seen your second yet.)

Funny you mentioned Mad Men, as I had missed most of the series when it originally aired,so just started watching it again from the very beginning on Netflix. One of those rare excellent TV dramas that packs a social/political punch with practically every line. And you are so right about the anti-war message. Plus ca change, etc.

I have also been reading "Nixonland" (Pearlstein) -- which is more about the 60s than about Nixon himself per se. The anti-war movement back then ran parallel to the civil rights movement andracial unrest. A "white backlash" against both hippies and minorities remains embedded in our political culture to this very day. Not many people at all are upset about the war on terror, mainly because it's an all volunteer military and "collateral damage" no longer gets shown on TV. Only cute cartoon penguins and talking heads.

Pearl said...

Worth reading.

Jay - Ottawa said...

The wars of tomorrow will be won with the agitprop of today.

annenigma said...

Thank you Karen. I've got little to say other than I'm overwhelmed by the sickness of this cultivation and grooming of an Obama Youth Movement. Blut und Ehre!

annenigma said...

Over the past few months of watching various local and national interviews with student veterans, I'm picking up on a disturbing trend. These former soldiers not only state that they feel alienated from our culture but more importantly say that they bitterly resent that we 'civilians' don't understand or appreciate them. They also state that we civilians aren't as skilled as they are, whatever that means, as if we're all a bunch of incompetents (or sheep). It's scary how they think of us as civilians and not fellow citizens, even after they have left the military and live among us. That reflects a mindset that is dangerous.

The most disturbing thing I've heard is their fervent and adamant belief that it is we civilians used them AND the Government to do our dirty work of 'fighting for freedom'. Doesn't that sound like they've been propagandized? Ever since Congress ended the ban in 2013 on the government targeting CIVILIANS for domestic propaganda, I've been wondering why and how. Now we're seeing the Military-Security Industrial Complex cult metastasizing. But really, why would our corporate rulers leave anything to chance here at home? They don't anywhere else in the world.

I think of cults as I hear former military who were not even special forces elites thinking of themselves as separate and superior (i.e. Exceptional) from civilians who are their family, friends, and countrymen. They aren't letting go of the military identity and are carrying it into the community, evidencing a continued loyalty to the military over their civilian compatriots.

The defense contractors are still making a killing and are now targeting our youth to be ensure their future loyalty. They are building a wall between the military and their civilian compatriots. That's the way to build a mindset that will obediently spy on all of us civilians and kill us if ordered. Walls are built by first destroying respect and alienating others as the enemy of one kind or another. Stupid civilians? Check.

Homeland Generation indeed.

President Obama, wake up and tear down this wall! Earn your Nobel Peace Prize.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@Denis Neville, @annenigma, and @(all):

Yes, an increasingly-sophisticated propaganda machine has been at work for years in the areas of U.S. imperial action, more general militarism, military service and sacrifice, and yes, it is highly disturbing and potentially dangerous.

But I think that there actually is quite a bit of truth to current and former military persons saying that "'civilians' don't understand or appreciate them". I think it's undeniable that this country has "contracted out" military service in general, and especially combat, turning these activities from general obligations to "employment" largely carried out (at least at the lower service ranks) by particular groups --- largely economically-determined in the case of the U.S., but with shades of India's caste system, or historical Japan's samurai.

(Granted, the general obligation was always imperfectly applied, to be sure, considering that during the Civil War, it was possible to "buy oneself" out of service, and later, up through Vietnam, the possibility of deferments and the influence of the rich and powerful in securing a safer posting for their spawn if they were called up).

So, I think that it's actually a predictable and natural consequence that two not-necessarily-exclusive attitudes should arise among the military.

Possibility 1 is resentment, a feeling of having been taken advantage of (and doubly-so with the multiple deployments to combat), in that their economic circumstances set the stage for a national function of burden and risk to be willfully shifted onto them. Ultimately, that resentment would be the case irrespective of how many flag-waving parades occur, or how many expressions of appreciation they hear, though such parades and expressions might delay the realization somewhat.

Possibility 2 is for a sense of superiority to develop, the belief that only they can/will do the work of military service, ergo they are superior to the bulk of the populace. They might even think that national purpose has been betrayed, and see themselves as savior of that national purpose. While this possibility could develop solely out of personal experience, I think that that it is greatly increased in both likelihood and magnitude by a steady diet of propagandistic celebration of national imperialism, exceptionalism, patriotism, incessant danger, and such, that is to say the message overwhelmingly disseminated every day by U.S. mass media and right-wing talk radio. Right now some proto-Fuhrer may be developing somewhere in the U.S., his (or her!) warped version of our national future gelling. But the average American will continue to shout "USA! USA! Support Our Troops", right up to the time a totalitarianism (albeit possibly an "inverted" totalitarianism, sensu Sheldon Wolin) is fully established --- and perhaps even after.

The consequences for democracy of either possibility are profound. (And "democratization" of military service via the draft provides no genuine solution, that simply provides an unending supply of cannon fodder for our military adventurism). The truly important issues, the consequences of our unending militarism to our politics, economy, democracy, society, and the world are seldom if at all considered by the average American. Will it take an even bigger failure than Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan before the U.S. revises its arrogant interventions in world affairs? --- Or will that simply prompt the U.S. to double down?

stranger in a strange land said...


...But the average American will continue to shout "USA! USA! Support Our Troops", right up to the time a totalitarianism (albeit possibly an "inverted" totalitarianism, sensu Sheldon Wolin) is fully established --- and perhaps even after....

Fred, I just spent a few minutes reacquainting myself with the "Inverted totalitarianism" Wikipedia page. Wolin's term, as characterized there, would seem to already be fully established.

As Karen writes, "They don't even try to hide their fascism any more."

Fred Drumlevitch said...

@stranger in a strange land:

You wrote that Sheldon Wolin's concept of inverted totalitarianism "would seem to already be fully established".

Yes, I'd generally agree. Perhaps my statement was a bit imprecise, because my focus was on the approval from the average citizen for the run-up to all forms of totalitarianism (or at least all forms wrapped in at least a veneer of "patriotism" --- and Wolin's is a subset of that).

As you pointed out, with respect to the specific style of totalitarianism described by Wolin, we do seem to be already there.

And as I noted, the popular patriotic utterances might well continue even after full establishment.