Free-Trade Propaganda

Aquarian Weekly 3/28/07 REALITY CHECK


Uncle SamHave you seen the new ad for the Armed Forces? The Columbia Broadcast System has been running it incessantly during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Prime audience. Good demographic. No doubt. Young men 18-35. It is very moving, almost sweet, and dripping with Americana. Nothing wrong with that. It is effective propaganda, the core of any good ad campaign. It shows a decidedly enviable side of the story. Just not the whole story. Nothing new there. However, there is no other voice refuting it, providing an alternative viewpoint, as with the other junk pitched during sporting events. And this I have a problem with.

In the ad we have a young man, white, middle-class, midwestern farmer’s son – healthy, handsome, prideful, articulate. He stands dressed impeccably in his U.S. Army uniform, adorned impressively with shiny brass, a beret slanted upon his shorn crown. We have the proud father, a graying middle-aged man, choked up about his once mixed feelings when the kid came to him for permission to join the service, but how it has made him a powerful, disciplined, respectful young pillar of society. We have the mother gushing. We have the backdrop of wheat fields and cows grazing, a classic field tractor set beside a sun-baked wooden fence harkening to a romantic time long ago.

The tag line is “You made them strong – We’ll make them Army strong.”

It is an excellent piece of propaganda. Truly. I am not being facetious. It is well crafted, drifting towards maudlin but not quite sickeningly so. It is certainly better than all that nonsense about joining the army to learn computer skills and blow up stuff and run around with face-paint brandishing guns and “being all you can be”. It is homespun and relatable, and it honestly depicts the backbone of this country. Without a functioning army and the sacrifices of thousands upon millions, I would not be writing this today. You would certainly not be reading it.

Why not have a wounded veteran, a young, good-looking, articulate soldier tell potential recruitees what happened to him/her?

However, I think it patently unfair to not have an ad running during the basketball tourney that depicts the other side of the pitch. Isn’t that what a free-trade democracy is all about? Isn’t that why we endured the Cold War against the Godless Communists?

I see an ad for Coke. I see an ad for Pepsi. I see and ad for Nike. I see an ad for Reebok. I see an ad for Chrysler. I see an ad for Toyota. I see an ad for this hotel and that hotel, this airline and that airline, this computer and that computer, and so on and so on. All of it is some form of propaganda, some less subtle than the next, but hardcore propaganda at its best. Playful half-truths and a few forgivably blatant lies set to music or basked in humor. People going to great lengths of travel, construction, and emotional entanglement for a goddamn light-beer that tastes like cat piss. It’s silly stuff, mostly. But there is a myriad of choices available. There is a free enterprise, competitive nature to it that makes living and consuming in this nation a hoot.

So why not see an ad displaying the risks of joining the U.S. Army? Otherwise it is flat-out brainwashing, made ever more frightening by the fact that it is bankrolled, produced, and disseminated by the federal government, which is supported and bankrolled by the American people. Isn’t a one-way message forced down the citizenry’s throat one of the prime reasons why our armed forces went all over the globe defeating corrupted governments and blind dictatorships in the first place? Ironically, isn’t that what we are ostensibly trying to build in the Middle East?

Why not have a wounded veteran, a young, good-looking, articulate soldier tell potential recruitees what happened to him/her? How about some of these kids in the hospitals – maybe even shoot it from the lousy conditions at Walter Reed as a realistic backdrop – warning viewers of the very real and consequential risks involved with serving in the military?

Obviously the federal government is not going to trot out a legless victim of war, a soldier with permanent brain damage, or a disgruntled participant in a foreign conflict who was promised computer training and fun in a submarine but is currently barely surviving in a desert halfway across the globe. Maybe there should be a privately funded ad run during major sporting events featuring indentured servants of large universities (basketball factories) trumpeted by ex-jocks and exploitive network freaks streamed to a nation of gambling addicts.

It is not too much to ask from the longest-running democracy on the planet.

I know the other side of my argument: We have to have a strong military, and the armed forces – the Navy, Air Force, Marines – produce fine young people, take kids from bad environments and dead-end lives and gives them important jobs, engendering a sense of pride and accomplishment. Are we to allow this institution, the bedrock of our nation, to falter? And I say, not at all. But if we allow only one side of the story, the young, handsome, middle-class white kid from the sticks, to be the only spokesman for the institution, we are not serving the citizens of this country to its fullest. Not the kids. Not their parents. No one. Not without telling the whole story.

Of course I’m dreaming. This is never going to happen. Run an ad telling the complete truth about service in the U.S. Army? Think of the revenue CBS would lose. The CBS Network News has never recovered from the stink of leftist anti-American slants following Dan Rather’s botched Bush bashing two years ago. Think of the exodus en masse of the sponsors, so afraid of appearing unpatriotic, unthinkably running their parade of deceit next to brutal truths. Think of the furor to be raised by the holy-than-thou NCAA, so filled with phony, money-gorging mutants.

One last thing: People are always whining about stuff on television offending them. Well, allowing a single partisan, biased, and wholly propagandized version of a pitch without refute offends me.

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