Lawrence Wittner - In 1915, a mother's protest against funneling children into war provided the theme of a new American song, "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier." Although the ballad attained great popularity, not everyone liked it. Theodore Roosevelt, a leading militarist of the era, retorted that the proper place for such women was "in a harem―and not in the United States."
If Roosevelt were still around today, a century later, he would be happy to learn that preparing children for war continues unabated.
The military in the United States portrays itself as endowed with the highest virtues—honor, duty, self-sacrifice, courage and patriotism. Politicians, entertainers, sports stars, the media, clerics and academics slavishly bow before the military machine, ignoring its colossal pillaging of state resources, the egregious war crimes it has normalized across the globe, its abject service not to democracy or freedom but corporate profit, and the blind, mind-numbing obedience it inculcates among its members. A lone soldier or Marine who rises up inside the system to denounce the hypermasculinity that glorifies violence and war, who exposes the false morality of the military, who refuses to kill in the service of imperial power, unmasks the military for what it is. And he or she, as Chelsea Manning has learned, swiftly pays a very, very heavy price.
Military shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield sell in their millions, dominating the charts and presenting a very particular view of war and how it is fought. Fans call it escapist entertainment, but with armies recruiting directly from gamer communities, and drone warfare becoming ever more automated and game-like, how long can developers absolve themselves of sociopolitical responsibility? Is it still OK to play at being soldiers in games that barely register the complex realities of the conflicts they represent?
How a writer on the world’s biggest shoot-’em-up has come to advise Washington on the future of warfare
Six months after Dave Anthony left his job as a writer and producer on the video game series Call of Duty, he received an unexpected phone-call from Washington DC.
That week, the caller, Steve Grundman, a former Pentagon official who served in a succession of appointments at the US Department of Defense during the 1990s, had been watching his son play Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. “Grundman told me that he’d been struck by the realism and authenticity in the game and in particular the story,” says Anthony. “So struck by it, in fact, that he’d been compelled to track me down.”
Image: The Extreme Truck, a 15,700-pound mobile recruitment vehicle that roams the country dazzling prospective soldiers. Photo courtesy of the US Army
For decades, the US military has been using souped-up mobile exhibits to recruit prospective soldiers. In July of this year, the military deployed the latest addition to a fleet that roves the country hoping to win the hearts and minds of American youth. The new vehicle, known as the Extreme Truck, is equipped with two 32-inch gaming stations, a 60-inch flat-screen television, several smaller TVs, and pull-up and push-up platforms. It has its own Facebook page, which, at press time, has been liked 111 times.
There are a lot of young men who play Call of Duty on their Xbox consoles, so it makes sense that the government would use Xbox Live as a billboard for recruitment ads for the Canadian Forces.
In case you weren’t aware, Xbox consoles connected to Microsoft’s online service show paid advertisements on the system’s main menu screen. The Ottawa Citizen reports the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces started paying for these ads between 2006-07. So much of the ads likely appeared on the Xbox 360.
Documents say the purpose of the ads was indeed to reach an audience of males between the ages of 18-24. The audience is described as “18-24-year-olds, male & female, looking for adventure & excitement and/or interested in helping others.”
A record number of Japanese flocked to a trade show for military paraphernalia and gaming that attracted recruiters for the country’s Self-Defense Forces, the latest sign Japan is shaking off its postwar pacifism.
About 4,000 people, including a growing number of women, attended the March 30 “Victory Show” and related “ASGK Festival” in Tokyo to shop for military uniforms and model weapons, take target practice with air guns and show off their prowess at the World of Tanks video game. That’s the largest crowd since the now-quarterly event started in 1981, when it drew about 80 people, organizers said.
“About 10 times more people come to our booth here than at ordinary venues,” said Nobuaki Sato, one of four SDF members from the northern prefecture of Iwate staffing the recruitment stall. “You can feel the interest.”
Through articles, images, survey data and interviews, Sowing Seeds: The Militarisation of Youth and How to Counter It documents the seeds of war that are planted in the minds of young people in many different countries. However, it also explores the seeds of resistance to this militarisation that are being sown resiliently and creatively by numerous people. READ MORE