Militarizing the Homeland

Posted by Bulatlat

Award-winning journalist and Associate Editor of the Nation Institute’s Nick Turse writes in his book “The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives”: “As a product of the 1980s G.I. Joe generation, I can attest to the seductive power of those three inch action figures in selling the military to young boys.”

In an interview with Truthout, Turse observed, “Only later would I learn just how enmeshed G.I. Joe’s manufacturer, Hasbro, was with the military. One instance of this close association came to me in 2003 when the Department of Defense shared the specifications for their Future Force Warrior concept with the toy company, even before awarding the contract to General Dynamics. More important to the military these days are its ties to video game manufacturers. The latter turn tax-payer-funded combat simulators into first-person shooters that, in effect, pre-train youngsters in small-unit military tactics and irregular warfare.”

Turse also talks of the Microsoft Xbox game “Close Combat: First to Fight” which was originally a training tool developed for the US Marine Corps by civilian contractor Destineer Studios. His book reveals that the game “was created under the direction of more than 40 active-duty Marines, fresh from the frontlines of combat in the Middle East (who) worked side-by-side with the development team to put the exact tactics they used in combat into “First Fight.”

“… The game is typical of a recently emerging trend that has melded the video game industry (and entertainment industries more broadly) with the US military in a set of symbiotic relationships that literally immerse civilian gamers in a virtual world of war while training soldiers using the hottest gaming technology available. It’s the creation of a digital cradle-to-grave concept in which games created by or for the military are used as recruiting tools and also, as it were, to pre-train youngsters. Then, when they are old enough to enlist, these kids find themselves using video game-like controllers to pilot real military vehicles and are taught tactics and are trained in strategy using specially designed video games and commercially available, off-the-shelf games that have been drafted into service by the military. That civilian-created, military-aided training tool was then recycled into a civilian first-person shooter, rated ‘T’ for “teen,” with a marine on the game’s packaging and a blurb that exclaims, “Based on a training tool developed for the United States Marines.”

“First to Fight” is but one of many video games that the US military has availed itself of on an extensive scale to indoctrinate, desensitize, dehumanize and ultimately recruit young people into the vocation of legitimized violence in the name of heroism and patriotism.
When veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan gathered at a Winter Soldier event to share their stories and experiences in the occupations with the media, Kristopher Goldsmith, who has served in Iraq, spoke to Truthout about what influenced him as a youngster to want to join the military in order to kill people.

“It might sound crazy to anyone who is not a veteran, but video games and movies, especially recent ones, make death and dismemberment seem like ordinary things. You are desensitized to them. While growing up I used to think people at the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) were crazy, trying to censor violence and stuff like that… I was like ‘Oh, well violence is real life,’ but there’s a huge difference between witnessing first-hand any sort of violence and sitting in a movie theater watching someone faking a death. Reality and pretending are two way different things. It’s disturbing. You can ask any combat veteran, things like video games and cartoons like ‘G.I. Joe,’ dressing in camouflage and running around in the woods, even being in the Boy Scouts definitely makes children idolize soldiers … and not idolize them for standing up for their country but just for wearing the uniform and being a tough guy. It’s a sign of masculinity that a lot of young boys and young men want to achieve, and they do it through the wrong way.”

Goldsmith joined the military at 18, right after high school, wanting to go to the front lines because, “I was still under the influence of the media and its Terrorism paranoia, and seriously believed that somewhere in the deserts of Iraq were thousands of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction).”

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