Breaking News: The Government Lies To Us

Shocking, I know, but there it is.

Don McAdam, a true American Patriot, writes in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

About two minutes into the video, I could take no more.

I was going to break decorum. I mumbled, "It's a lie. It's the worst kind of lie."

Realizing that not even the two people sitting directly in front of me had heard my utterance, I raised the volume and repeated it. I stood up from my cushioned chair and in a stronger voice said, "This ad is a lie!"

I didn't dare glance at my family. I needed to remain in denial as to how my wife and kids were reacting to my outburst. My heart racing, and in my angriest voice, I shouted, "It's a lie, just like this war!"

That was the scene at my local movie theater prior to a showing of "The Golden Compass." The pre-show ad that was playing was a music video titled "Citizen Soldier," a slickly produced and, I suspect, highly effective recruitment ad for the National Guard.

The 3 1/2-minute music video incorporated an original song by the successful rock band 3 Doors Down with images of the National Guard's responses to past, present and imagined wars and disasters.

The scenes of the band playing were magnificently filmed with a shakiness that evokes a sense of being in the midst of battle explosions. I hated it in part because it was so well-made. It's a great advertisement because it sells the dream of the product, not its reality or its true price.

Its lie is obscured under the veneer of misguided patriotism and false realism. Its sterilized depictions of death and destruction pale in comparison with what actually happens when people and war collide. In the video, there are no dismembered bodies, no blood raining from the skies, no charred remains of babies caught in bomb blasts. And always out of our view are the horrified, terrified faces of the survivors.

No successful ad campaign about national service under our current civilian leadership could possibly tell the truth. If Americans saw the ugly truth about the war and occupation of Iraq, they would turn in disgust. The war would be ended and the perpetrators prosecuted for the lies that created it and the utter incompetence with which it was waged. Still many, perhaps even most, Americans despair over this endless occupation and the needless suffering of those who serve.

The truth about today's military service is that almost 40,000 of our armed forces are dead and wounded in Iraq, with the Army National Guard constituting about 20 percent of those. Suicide and divorce rates are escalating for combat veterans. According to recent U.S. Senate testimony, almost half of our returning troops are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Cases of traumatic brain injuries are at high levels. The quality and quantity of medical care provided to veterans is frequently inadequate.

Even with the repeated warnings of military experts that our military is at the breaking point, the policies of repeated and extended deployments remain. They remain for the simple reason that our military does not have enough people to properly carry out its missions. No wonder the National Guard spared no expense with its latest ad.

It's kind of a shame I never bought a 3 Doors Down album, cause now would be a great time to publicly burn one.

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Now that's something I can

Now that's something I can agree with.

Thanks for your comments,

Thanks for your comments, Don. I truly appreciated your perspective, and it was refreshing to see a piece like yours in a typically far too mainstream publication as the AJC.

I removed the last view sentences of your piece from my above posting because it's the one part I disagreed with. I don't think there was anything especially rude or boorish about your behavior; after all, you didn't interrupt the movie itself, just the advertisements preceding it. I experienced the same emotions you felt when I first saw the propaganda piece in the theater, but was so flustered and shocked I didn't know what to say. I'm glad there are people like you out there who were able to think on their feet and express themselves.

I also don't have much faith in the efficacy of your second strategy; do congressmen really care what you as an individual think? Will it effect their behavior? I doubt it. Your published editorial in a widely read paper did far more to influence public opinion (and therefore far more to influence the opinion and future behavior of politicians) than any letter or call to a congressmen.

Not exactly isolated

when I first saw the propaganda piece in the theater, but was so flustered and shocked I didn't know what to say

There are a ton of movies that make violence look really cool. Audiences - especially men - love that stuff. There's a genre of extremely pulpy fiction that glories in it. But some of the greatest literature glorifies men whose accomplishment is to successfully commit violent acts. The Iliad and the Odyssey is about warriors. Musicians glorify violence. It's not just military violence, but gang violence that is glorified by musicians. Men have a violence itch that loves to be scratched. Westerns. Bullfights. Boxing. Dog fights and cock fights. Doom, Quake, GTA. That ad is nothing new, nothing special, that I was able to discern.

The ad is an entirely honest presentation of the way that a lot of men feel. It's not a deception.

Reality and Truthiness: The first casualties of war

As far as I know, most violent movies, books, videogames, graphic novels, etc. don't end with a plea to sign up with organization X and engage in the same sorts of violent activities just witnessed on screen/page. Is the distinction between entertaining stories (even entertaining stories based on reality) and recruitment propaganda that hard to see?

The critique of this commercial is not that it is violent; we fully admit that is entertaining, skillfully produced, and so forth. That's what makes it so effective as propaganda.

Is it an "entirely honest presentation of the way a lot of men [sic] feel"? Only if you think the primary purpose of the ad is to reflect our "feelings." That would be a very strange, very creative interpretation. The primary purpose of the ad, it seems to me, is to increase military recruitment, and to do so by presenting an entirely dishonest (or more generously, an extremely selective, incomplete, and deceptive) view of what signing up with the military actually means in the present conflict.

Being propaganda does not make a true expression false

As far as I know, most violent movies, books, videogames, graphic
novels, etc. don't end with a plea to sign up with organization X and
engage in the same sorts of violent activities just witnessed on
screen/page. Is the distinction between entertaining stories (even
entertaining stories based on reality) and recruitment propaganda that
hard to see?

It is not at all hard to see. I can also tell the difference between green and blue eyes, and the difference between squares and circles. You need to do more than merely point out that it is an ad and claim that my supposed failure to recognize a difference you brought up somehow proves that I'm wrong. "Hey, you didn't mention that there was a flag in the ad. Since you failed to mention it, everything you wrote was wrong. Was the flag so hard to see? Are you blind?" Nope, that argument just doesn't work.

The critique of this commercial is not that it is violent; we fully
admit that is entertaining, skillfully produced, and so forth. That's
what makes it so effective as propaganda.

No. What makes it effective as propaganda is that it is honest - and pretty familiar. That's what lets it resonate in the viewer. The production values are good but this is not some sort of masterful psychological manipulation, it is pretty straightforward evocation of how a lot of people view the military, including, presumably, many in the military. The most resonant parts of the commercial are not the pictures but the words. I will never leave a fallen comrade, I stepped forward, etc. These aren't lies. If you're familiar with stories about the war, they're full of stuff about the unusually strong bonds that form between members of the same unit. And this is powerful, noble stuff. Music isn't a lie, because it makes no statements. (I didn't pay attention to the lyrics, so for all I know they might be lies - but if they are, please explain.)

Is it an "entirely honest presentation of the way a lot of men [sic]
feel"? Only if you think the primary purpose of the ad is to reflect
our "feelings." That would be a very strange, very creative
interpretation.

No, that is not even logical. If I say, "the car weighs X pounds", and you say, "no, that is false, the car does not weigh X pounds, and the reason this is false is that it is not the purpose of the car to weigh X pounds. Its purpose is to transport people." Such an objection isn't even logical. The car still weighs X pounds.

The primary purpose of the ad, it seems to me, is to increase military
recruitment, and to do so by presenting an entirely dishonest (or more
generously, an extremely selective, incomplete, and deceptive) view of
what signing up with the military actually means in the present
conflict.

At least you've recognized the distinction between the purpose and the means ("by"). You say "by presenting an entirely dishonest...". So you are distinguishing the function from the means, and claiming that the means is "an entirely dishonest...view..." It is, or is not, "dishonest", regardless of its function. So, just as I said. The car weighs X pounds even though its function is not to weigh X pounds.

You think it's "dishonest" because you're reading it wrong. It doesn't tell people that the temperature will be nice or the food delicious or whatever. It tells people that the military is a noble calling. And that is an entirely honest message, which a lot of people believe in.