Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Commentary - The militarization of America - Part 2

Part 1 of this commentary can be found here:

Rumors about the toy box

Coinciding with the late 80's-early 90's escalation of combat operations and shining publicity was a curious sideshow involving secret desert bases, exotic advanced weapons and technology and a faint hint of otherworldly connections. Starting around 1987 the subject America's stealth fighter technology and experiments came to light. It began in technical and trade journals as well as the sub-culture of aviation enthusiasts. The existence of the B-2 bomber and the F-117 Stealth fighter had been verified by time of the Panama invasion. The invasion was the "test bed" for the capabilities of both weapons delivery systems, the first Persian Gulf war was the coming out party.

Bubbling under these two developments were rumors of other, far more exotic toys being played with in the toy box of the high desert of Nevada; Area 51. American interest had been piqued by the story sub-plots found in TV shows and movies like "The X-Files", "Men in Black" and "Independence Day" which hinted at or directly covered the existence of advanced military weapons systems that were kept in the secret Area 51 air base. These rumors and plot devices satiated the American appetite for superiority in all things related to the military and gave popular culture a new outlet for conspiracy theories and urban legend. Instead of public fear and outrage at these stories, Americans were strangely seduced and pleased by these stories. Why?

Look around you

The military, its suppliers and its second cousins are all around us. Turn on the TV if you have cable and there is literally a 24-hour a day presence of the military on your TV. The Military History Channel is one of the many channels which fall under the broadcast umbrella of General Electric and it's A&E Television Networks. In the early and mid-90's another basic cable staple, The Discovery Channel, was a science and history centric source of programming. It's shows featured stories about ancient societies, space exploration and world history. The only military themed shows were the 1 hour-long documentaries about military action from history. This aspect of the programming can be prominently seen in early episodes of HBO's The Sopranos, as lead character and mob boss Tony Soprano, is an enthusiast of these shows and their historical figures. In Gus Van Sandt's film "Elephant", a fictionalized account of the Columbine Massacre, the killers are seen skipping school with a Discovery Channel styled documentary playing in the scene where an automatic rifle is being delivered to them.

The Discovery Channel and General Elctric's web of cable stations all use the modern military, it's weapons and tactics as a central subject of much of their programming on top of the 24 hour coverage featured on The Military History Channel. The quantity and tone of this type of programming is quite unsettling when you begin to look closely at the subject material. Is this glut of military themed programming a result of public demand, or is it a carefully orchestrated plan to desensitize the American public to the mission of the military (wage war and cause death and destruction) and/or to desensitize them and give sympathy to the suppliers of military weapons? General Electric stands much to gain by their own form of self promotion.

I have not seen a single example of criticism of the fraud, corruption or fleecing of the American public by the makers of the American weapons industry on these channels. It is only wall-to-wall praise and glory for the purported capabilities of these weapons, weapon delivery systems and their designers. No mention of the checkered history of the Osprey aircraft platform. No mention of the massive cost overruns, abject failure to produce viable products in accordance with contractual obligations and flawed production of the LCS and Deepwater Programs. No mention of the sham and money pit that was the A-12 Avenger program. Chest thumping and sexy base reactions from the masses, yes. Honesty and critical thinking, no!

Switch channels to over-the-air broadcast TV and you'll see even more propaganda. The Armed Forces have spent a ton of money to sponsor cars in the NASCAR Nextel Cup racing series. At any sporting event worthy of national attention there is the obligatory honor guard and flyover of high tech aircraft. You can't sit down and simply watch a football game on a lazy Sunday afternoon without being assaulted with images of spit and polished servicemen, a close-up of a formation of F-18 Hornets, and now the on-screen box score even features the logos of and website address of the military. indeed. Especially if my team can go 5-2 after this game.

The military's advertising has even morphed into a variation on themes. One commercial features the POV of a middle aged parent, with their child informing them of the news that they have or are considering joining the military. The POV parent, of course, is silent for the length of the commercial as your youngster rattles off the promises of the recruiter. Another commercial approach shows the military as a video game. No comment necessary.

In conclusion

This militarization of the American masses is so ingrained in our culture that it's virtually a useless exercise to reverse the trend. Spend some of your time with your eyes open and your mind aware of the military symbolism all around you. What does your local police force look like? Here in Atlanta where I live and in the rest of the state of Georgia, out police officers rarely act or dress in the traditional way of law enforcement agents. Many wear all black uniforms, with their pants combat dressed into their boots.

All we need is for the Commander in Chief to dress in the uniform while in office and all is complete. Wait a minute, that already happened.

Image from Reuters

1 comment:

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