Sunday, December 07, 2008

Why we fight


(U.S. Army recruiting poster, Tasker-Morris Station, South Philadelphia)

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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19 Comments:

Blogger N/A said...

Peter,

Are you mocking the sign or the troops?

Hopefully, you're only mocking the sign. Recruiting signs have always been poor - advertising-wise - but bear in mind that this is contracted-out and the advertising campaigns are usually written by some advertising guy who never spent a day in uniform, and does not know shit - to use a military expression - about the military.

And the advertising guy is probably a former newpaper guy (Ha).

I believe the primary reason why young men and women join up today is the same as it was in my day during the Vietnam War (yes there were volunteers then), and all of our wars - an unabashed feeling of patriotism and a sense of adventure.

Don't begrudge the troops a little inducement, for they go hand-in-hand with the low pay, long, hard hours, discipline, sarifice, hardship, and sometimes, personal danger.

Paul

Paul Davis
daviswrite@aol.com

December 07, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm decidely poking (gentle) fun at the sign. No matter how pacifistic I might ever become in some future life, I hope I will never, ever make fun of anyone who's putting his or her ass on the line the way soldiers, sailors and airmen do in wartime.

No, I'm making fun of the sign, of how military advertising, no less than any other kind, appeals to the same craze for simulation ("The Army experience") that any other kind of advertising will.

December 07, 2008  
Blogger Philip said...

I do not doubt that some men and women join the armed forces out of "an unabashed feeling of patriotism and a sense of adventure", which is why it would be nice if presidents and prime ministers and their minions did not lie about the source and nature of threats to the state. The sense of adventure will persist only in those who are misguided, and if the rest are lied to the feeling of patriotism will be sorely damaged, and so will they.

But then we must also consider this:

CBS News: "As American companies continue to slash jobs, more and more people are enlisting in the military as an alternative to unemployment...The troubled economy has even become part of the recruiters' arsenal."

SkyNews: "The economic downturn may be bad news for most of us, but for the (British) Army it's proving to be a bonus. Increased unemployment is boosting recruitment."

It has always been thus. And I am not inclined to blame "the advertising guy" for the nature of recruitment campaigns. The military knows which buttons to push and, just like the execs at a corporation, they give final approval.

December 07, 2008  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

I dunno, I always thought the military was really bad at recruitment. One of my friends was married to an Army sniper, and whenever someone in his unit did something really stupid, they would say, "Oh, don't mind him, he's an Army of One."

December 07, 2008  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

"A survey conducted in 1999, showed that about 6,300 military families were on food stamps."

http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/moneymatters/a/foodstamps.htm

It certainly hasn't improved and may be a factor in recruitment.

December 07, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I should add that I don't begrudge the troops a bit of recreation. And I'd say it's a positive step that the military recognizes that personnel have lives. But still, the sign makes an odd sight.

Loren, I, too, found the "Army of One" campaign odd because the sppeal to self-fulfillment was so at odds with traditional notions of patriotism, sacrifice and even altruism that are more traditionally associated with the military. Once again, that does not make it bad, just odd. The military's advertising, like any other, tries to follow trends, and if a society tends toward self-involvement, it's no surprise that advertising will do the same.

December 07, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

The general public doesn't know this, I suspect, but two of the items advertised (theaters and exchange/commissary) are paid for by funds generated by the activities themselves. Fitness center funding comes from appropriated funds in the DOD budget, since it's in the services' interest to have healthy fit personnel.

The money goes into and comes out of something called the Morale, Welfare and Recreation fund.

This information provided solely for the use of our audience. No reproduction, blah blah blah...;)

December 07, 2008  
Blogger N/A said...

Peter,

I spent 37 years in the Navy and the Defense Department so I've been around the military nearly all my life.

As I noted, recruiting campaigns are contracted-out to advertising firms who think they know young people, and the campaigns are then sold to military officials who ought to know better, but appear to be equally clueless.

The best example of a clueless campaign was when a Navy official thought it would be great to have the Village People sing the song "In the Navy," despite the fact the group was not only gay - they were screamingly gay.

The song was catchy, though.

The best campaign slogan in my view was "Navy: It's not just a job, it's an adventure."

And the old "Uncle Sam needs you" was a good one.

As for servicemen and women and food stamps, please note that the military feeds the troops - very well in fact. The food stamps are issued by states when a low-rated (and thus low-payed) serviceman has a family to support.

Yes, many young people join up due to a lack of jobs and a poor economy, and I know that many more sign up for the education, training and college money after they serve their enlistment.

But I believe that the spark of adventure and love of country has to be a strong factor as well. The military is not for everyone.

For me, I enlisted on my 17th birthday in 1969. I could not wait to go in. Looking back, there were awful moments, and a lot of chickenshit nonsense, but on the whole the military was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I went around the world, saw things and did things that few can claim, and I had a good bit of fun as well.

I'm proud of my service, although my contributions were minor.

As for Military recrutiers, I suppose they are no worst than used car salesmen.

Paul

Paul Davis
daviswrite@aol.com

December 07, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Speaking only for myself, I went into the Navy in 1972 knowing I wanted to finish college at some point and wanted to get the GI Bill to help me do it. Did, too, seven years later.

I went in with my eyes wide open, since my Dad was career Navy. The biggest adjustment I had to make was learning that the enlisted side was a helluva lot different from the officer side that I'd grown up with.

December 07, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter, Philip, N/A, John, Linky, Loren

My little brother just got back from a nine month deployment to a well known base in northern Iraq. What was surprising a little to me was that he had to stay on the base almost all the time - there was zero possibility of R&R within Iraq. At least in Vietnam if I understand this correctly soldiers and marines could walk fairly freely around Saigon go to bars, the movies etc. Impossible in Iraq or Afghanistan. So if you're deploying for say 15 months to one base it bloody better have a gym, a cinema etc. because you're going to have a lot of psych cases on your hands if it doesnt.

The worst recruiting campaign I remember is when they showed a guy running an assault course, jumping in a muddy river, climbing into a helicopter and shooting during a live firing exercise and the voice over says "we do more things before 6OO AM than you'll do all day." All the non morning people just think "ouch, no thanks."

December 07, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

I thought it might be appropriate to enter a link here (it's just to my blog, not anything of great moment): Pearl Harbor Day, 2008

December 07, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lady and gents, I never thought this post would generate the comments that it has. Thanks to all of you. Their seriousness demands more thought than do my usual replies, so I'll try to respond at greater length over the next day or two. For now, Adrian, I raise another glass to your brother. Welcome back. And Paul, the campaigns you cited are more in line with what I've always thought of as capturing the military's appeal, certainly more so than the odd sign that I posted.

That particular sign is one of several in the current recruiting campaign. I'll try to remember to note the contents of the other signs.

V-word: bones

December 08, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"It has always been thus. And I am not inclined to blame "the advertising guy" for the nature of recruitment campaigns. The military knows which buttons to push and, just like the execs at a corporation, they give final approval."

Philip, the sign pictured here is posted in a subway station. Since this post seems to be turning me into an urban anthropologist anyhow, I should probably see what form the recruiting campaign takes above ground. Philadelphia's subway system is far more economically segregated than New York's where, as a fascinating comparative article in my newspaper once pointed out, even the billionaire mayor rides the subway to work.

I would want to see whether this current campaign uses different pitches to an urban working-class population than to middle-class, professional or suburban folks. I first started thinking along these lines thanks to a fascinating subway ad campaign for H&M stores some years ago that appealed to three proverbially American concerns -- sex, bargains, and cheerfulness -- in some fascinating ways. But more on that later, if at all.

December 08, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

seanag, that's a simple, touching post, and proof of its own proposition that memories live on. I'm not sure how I feel about the suggestion that we have at times been different people or different selves, and so on. By temperament I'm more attracted to the notion that we each are one self of intimidating complexity. But that could be mere sentimentality on my part and irrelevant in any case to the matter at hand. I suggest that anyone who reads this click on the link and read your post.

December 08, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, no blah-blah disclaimer is necessary. I know approximately zero about the military, and this is probably an especially good time in this nation's history for me to increase that knowledge.

I'm heartened to learn that an Morale, Welfare and Recreation fund exists. It's nice to see that the idea of supporting the troops can be more than a bullying, partisan Republican slogan.

December 08, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

I'm not sure how I feel about the suggestion that we have at times been different people or different selves, and so on. By temperament I'm more attracted to the notion that we each are one self of intimidating complexity.

Not to oversimplify it, but I expect it's largely a matter of semantics. I don't think Carroll was talking about completely separate identities, but maybe selves as something more like aspects of a larger overriding entity--and that the necessity or at least hope was to integrate them. Or at least give them all their due in some way. Splintered was a word that came up a lot in the discussion, and I think the idea or at least ideal was to make them whole or one again. I may be misstating it though.

December 08, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm sure you're right. This was a casual reference, not a detailed theory of personality.

You oversimplify? I overanalyze!

December 08, 2008  
Blogger Philip said...

Peter, it would indeed be interesting to know the slant of campaigns above-ground in Philadelphia. An article in the November 10 NY Times about the new 'Army Strong' campaign mentions that the military uses nine advertising agencies in its recruitment drives, eight of them part of McCann Worldgroup. One McCann agency focuses upon Asian-Americans, another on Hispanics. The sole non-McCann agency, Carol H. Williams, targets African-Americans. Other agencies deal with public relations, events and sponsorships, websites, digital and direct marketing, medical personnel, media planning.

This is very, very high-powered stuff, and I strongly suspect that these agencies constantly fine-tune the campaigns in accord with changing cirumstances and changing demographics, group by group, city by city, county by county if it would benefit, and I suspect they are working overtime right now. It would be interesting to know just how fine the fine-tuning gets, e.g., Philadelphia above-ground and below, New York compared with Philadelphia, either compared with any county in the Jackson Purchase.

As of 2005, 44% of the US military came from economically depressed rural areas, just 14% from major cities. Fifty per-cent from lower middle-class or poor households. Two-thirds from counties in which the median household income was below the US median. The military will be looking to change that, at least in the sense that they may well now be able to recruit from economically depressed major cities.

December 08, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Maybe I'll even be able to get a blog post out of all of that. Philadelphia has a large African American population, and the subway line where I saw there ads runs through an area with an expanding Mexican population and skirts by a few blocks another area populated by some of the older Latino groups. My next step could be see if the pitches vary from stop to stop in the subway and to correlate that with who lives above.

The H&M campaign that I mentioned was an especially interesting case because a year or two later, H&M ran a similar campaign in the Paris subways. The campaigns were virtually identical except for one difference, to which I naturally attached cultural significance.

December 08, 2008  

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