Last night I stumbled upon what I first assumed was a History Channel documentary on the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazi Germany, one of those ones they do in that gaudy Technicolor finish. There were loud, boisterous, fanatical and nationalist crowds chanting mantras and combining to execute perfect rhythmic gestures. There was loud, nationalistic music, and fly-overs by military airplanes. Soldiers marched pre-game, and were deified like heroes of Ancient Greece. Even the crowd and side-lines were top-heavy with men and women in military uniform. The commentary was unified with one, mantra like message; ‘Support the troops!’
I was, of course, wrong, and I was actually watching coverage of the NFL last night. A sport, a pastime and an entertainment, completely and utterly hijacked by all branches of the military.
Hold on now, steady your hand for one second, before you go barging into the comments section, virtually waving your arms and shouting blue-murder.
A couple of full-disclosure type disclaimers before we get started. First of all, I have the utmost respect for those who decide the military path is for them. My extended family has a number of veterans in its ranks, heroes one and all, to me. I have a number of close friends who have served, also, and I tip my cap with full reverence to them. This is not a rant against the necessity of organized armed forces, and definitely not a rant against those who make up their ranks. Having studied history in college and having been brought up by a brilliant historian, I urge you not to confuse the below with some kind of misguided rant against the military.
This is also not a war on Veteran’s day. Yesterday’s celebrations across the stadiums of the United States at supposedly entertaining, friendly, sporting events acted as the catalyst though, to a line of thinking, curious and questioning towards the endless, ceaseless stream of pro-military propaganda (that is what it is, like that word or not) that is embedded into the fabric of modern sporting America.
Here’s the problem. Not so long ago, before ‘Glasnost’, before Mikhail Gorbachev and the fall of the Soviet Empire, we all scoffed in unison at the blatant and clumsy Russian deification of their massive armed forces. Those massive pro-communist forces, socialist murals and posters may have looked magnificent, but to us in the West they were a symbol of an oppressed peoples, misled by their leaders. Those of us in Europe in the 1980s in particular recall the massed ranks of Soviet military making up most of the attendance at their soccer team’s games in European competition. A little bit before that, the far greater evil of Nazi Germany practically wrote the book on integrating sporting activities and Nationalist propaganda. We have all seen the footage, the massive, throbbing crowds chanting and roaring in unison, Nazi flags everywhere you looked.
Why is the United States following that path so readily, so easily, and so completely without question? Trust me, I checked. Absolutely no one has even raised a sniff of a hint of a question about this bombardment of military propaganda within the sporting realm. Forget the semblance of opposition, there isn’t even the vague suggestion of a questions as to whether this is the right path to be following.
Maybe it’s best to take a second to look at ‘Why?’.
Why is there so much recruitment propaganda on sporting websites that children and young adults frequent? Why are soldiers, sailors and airmen being wheeled out at every single sporting event until sometimes you forget there is a game about to be played. The military slant is fast becoming a feature of the entertainment being presented to us.
But why? This isn’t a garage sale, and it isn’t a tinned foods drive, the Military certainly isn’t having any issues raising funds. Why is the sporting media and why are sports events across the States trying to make the military look so inviting? What are they trying to paint being part of the military in such a good light for? Is it because they care so deeply about the well-being of the youth of America, the young men and women of the United States poorer cities (far and away the greatest percentage of the combined armed forces are from Detroit, Atlanta and the other damaged, broken cities of America)?
Well if that were the case, they wouldn’t be promoting the act of sending them to faraway places to be killed, maimed and psychologically impaired. If that were the case then they would be eulogising and waxing lyrical about the vital importance of education. If that were the honest case, they would be trying to reach the youth of the United States to educate them on the importance of a good diet and the dangers of obesity.
However, no, we get endless flashy, glossy advertisements on sporting websites telling us how sexy it is to put a uniform on and serve Uncle Sam.
The only logical answer to why sports media, online, in print and at sporting events presents being a part of the military in such a glowing light is that same military badly needs warm bodies. Your white, well-to-do son isn’t going to do it. He and or she will be too busy in a upscale college to get their hands dirty in the Middle East. No, it’s going to take a lot of sports loving, Hispanic, Asian, African American and other ethnic group’s kids to get the military populated to the numbers the massive war machine of the United States needs.
Where better to recruit these children, youths and young adults than the sports websites and events of the games and teams they love?
Obviously, no one is going to skip and hop down to the recruitment agency after watching the Omaha beach landings in Saving private Ryan. However, stick a few busty cheerleaders in front of them, and get a few NFL\MLB\NBA players to shake the current incumbent military personnel’s hands while giving them a well-meaning hug, and the watching youth of America are probably considerably more likely to sign away their lives on the dotted line, right?
Once again, we are not just having an unnecessary ‘poke’ at the military. They are what they are, a necessary evil. What I am wondering here is, do we really have to deify the military like this at sporting events? Do we really have to expose the children and young adults of the United States to the trappings of what is a deathly, serious, business and do we have to hijack sports in order to do this?
Look, no doubt this is going to be an unpopular piece, but before you go hammering into the comment section with the usual fist shaking, ranting vitriol, think for a second. Ask yourself the question, why are the US sporting media and the relevant sporting bodies going this far out of their way to heap adulation on men and women who are involved in basically travelling overseas and killing people from other cultures? Why is it being rammed down our throats every kick off, every time out and every break? Honestly, are you 100% comfortable with a carpet bombing campaign of military recruitment bring flung out our youth on ESPN, CNNSI and Yahoo sports?
Is this really the path we should be going down, a path well worn by the media of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia?
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