Are You Not Entertained?
On the military-entertainment complex.
You know there's a military-entertainment complex because it glitches sometimes. When that happens, it accidentally satirizes itself.
For example, last year CNN started playing an Applebee's commercial during their coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It upset a lot of people, especially CEOs and studio executives. They weren't angry about trying to make obscene profits off death and destruction. There was plenty of digital ink about the snafu, but nobody ever articulated what it really meant.
Here it is:
The corporate mass media apparatus works in conjunction with the military-industrial complex to ensure that the western public is always ready and waiting for yet another war, no matter how many times we lose and no matter how many times we regret it years later. The ugly truth is that a lot of Americans were already at Applebee's, watching the war unfold and getting ready to treat it like a college football game, which is exactly what they did.
Now they're bored.
Last year, millions of Americans practically drooled over war videos coming out of Ukraine. They cheered every tank blown up and every battleship sunk. There aren't many videos coming out now, as casualties mount and bodies pile up. Ukraine's counter-offensive has essentially failed. Our own commanders considered it a bad strategic move from the start, more of a PR stunt invented to hold America's short attention span. Total U.S. spending for the war in Ukraine will probably top out at around $100 billion, and it will have achieved nothing except inflating western egos and giving Vladimir Putin a mild headache.
Meanwhile, how many dead?
Millions of Americans celebrate war, because that's how our news entertainment media conditions them from birth. It's what they're doing now, too, except this time they're cheering for the wholesale slaughter of families and children, calling them terrorists and mindlessly parroting the idea that somehow we're fighting the equivalent of Nazi Germany.
The other day, I watched a 4-year-old girl die on the floor of a hospital in Gaza. Was she a terrorist, a Nazi sympathizer? Should she die like that a thousand times so Americans can feel good about themselves? In the west, the point of war isn't to defend anyone from anything.
It's to make obscene profits.
That's why, despite spending trillions on weapons, "the U.S. defense industrial base is not prepared for possible conflict with China." Major think tanks have published a number of reports telling us we wouldn't last long in a war with another major superpower. A lot of hawks have also been sharing a leaked slide that shows America's pitiful ship building capacity compared to China. Some reports say we can't even produce as many bombs or missiles as Russia. Rather than ask what the hell we're doing, some experts have said this deficiency only underscores the need for us to spend even more on our military.
So the military is underperforming. If it were a school, its funding would get slashed to nothing. Instead, they're getting a raise.
Only in America...
The sad truth is that spending more won't help, because our military isn't designed or even conceived of as a legitimate deterrent. It exists to make money while bombing women and children, and projecting strength it doesn't have.
We're witnessing the result of a constant military-entertainment propaganda campaign that works on us through our news and every facet of our entertainment and leisure to remind us that the American military is the best in the world, and that it deserves a large chunk of our tax money. And in fact, we can always afford to pay for our friends to blow up more people.
It's not just the news, either.
Box office block blusters have a way of glorifying war and violence. It's not exactly an accident. It's not a secret either, just a fact hiding in plain sight that most of us usually ignore or dismiss.
As cinema historians point out, the Hollywood film industry was practically born out of American military and intelligence agencies. Directors and politicians alike have bragged about how great propaganda works when you hide it in sleek, expensive movies and shows. The U.S. Department of Defense has a Media Entertainment Unit. If you want to make a movie using their equipment or featuring military bases, you have to submit your script to them for approval. They'll change the plot of your movie if they don't like it. In fact, they do it on a regular basis for all kinds of films, everything from Transformers to the Avengers. Sometimes the goal is recruitment. Other times, it's outright censorship.
It adds up.
You might remember this show called 24. It made a considerable imprint on American culture, beginning weeks after the September 11 attacks. The show just happened to spend the next decade glorifying an entire division of spies and assassins who celebrate torture and civilian slaughter, while our government was doing exactly that in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They call it "enhanced interrogation."
In Hollywood, it's simple. Torture makes the uninitiated squeamish, but that's how the good guys win. In reality, the vast majority of evidence on coercion and interrogation shows that it's not just morally wrong.
It also doesn't work.
It's only good for extracting false confessions. Turns out, the average person will say absolutely anything to stop you from waterboarding them. They'll admit to all kinds of crimes. They'll tell you they're a witch, a communist, a terrorist, whatever they think you want to hear. Even worse, these false confessions can wind up getting innocent people killed.
Big surprise, right?
And yet, these shows and movies always convince the public of the opposite. Violence works. Torture works. Projecting strength works. Bombing civilians works. When buildings blow up, it's okay. The good guys have to smash buildings in order to beat the bad guys. You have to do whatever it takes to beat your enemy, even if it violates your moral integrity.
In fact, especially if it does that.
Americans love watching grizzled men and women make increasingly tough choices to sacrifice this innocent civilian or that moral tenet so they can protect some kind of greater good.
Twenty years ago, we had Jack Bauer.
Now we have Jack Reacher.
Or is it Jack Ryan?
You have to stop and wonder. Why are they all named Jack? Because it's such a strong, American name. It's one syllable. It's guttural. You can use it over and over again. And of course, Jack Ryan himself has been around since The Hunt for Red October. He was just updated for the war on terror.
He, too, is allowed to commit war crimes.
So let's do a recap:
Our news networks approve of war. Our entertainment industry approves of war. They both routinely promote the myth of our military supremacy. They scare Americans into believing in phantom enemies around the world, when in fact the majority of terrorism is very clearly and explicitly aimed and framed as a response to western military aggression and occupation. Is it justified? No. But we can at least be honest about its real goal. By the way, the head of Hamas says the same thing we're saying: It doesn't matter how many innocent people die as long as you accomplish your goals.
Isn't that disturbing?
The wars themselves aren't about stopping terrorism or fighting fascism. They're about making money off bombs. Once the war gets going, they'll also use it as an opportunity to sell you hot wings and beer.
Are you not entertained?
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