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The military's marketing machine gives potential recruits science fiction instead of the bloody reality of war
Aug. 29, 2009 | I'm a video game geek, so as I sat through movie previews a few weeks ago, I was sure I was watching Nintendo ads.
There on the cinema's screen was a super-sleek plane flying over a moonscape while communicating with an orbiting satellite. In the next moment, a multicolored topographical map, orders being barked — and in my own mind, memories of "Call of Duty" graphics. And then, finally, two guys in front of a computer console, and the jarring punch line: "It's not science fiction; it's what we do every day," said the bold type, followed by a U.S. Air Force symbol.
Before giving the audience a chance to digest the slogan, it was onto another montage, this one of helicopters and explosions with 1970s music playing in the background. A preview for a Steve McQueen-themed game, I thought. Then, though, the familiar kicker: "The drones fight terrorism and protect America, and in the process, they keep the front lines unmanned," said the voiceover, adding, "This isn't science fiction; this is life in the United States Navy."
During this, one of the bloodiest months in the Afghanistan war, the spots promote a somewhat comforting, if disturbingly misleading, message — and it is aimed not just at potential soldiers, but also at the public at large.
More broadly, the American psyche's slow progress toward an increasingly peaceful disposition could be stunted by the propaganda's powerful paradox: While sanitizing ads play to the country's growing disgust with militarism, they could ultimately lead us to be more supportive of militarism. How? By convincing us that violence can be just another innocuous expression of adolescent technophilia.
If we end up thinking that, we will have once again forgotten what all wars, even the justifiable ones, always are: lamentable human tragedies.