Over Hill, Over Dale: The Militarization of Culture
By Charles Sullivan
06/04/07 "ICH" -- -- A very disturbing commercial is being shown
on network television in the United States with alarming
regularity. I have seen it frequently during the past few weeks
on an NBC station that broadcasts from the nation’s capital,
It opens with a male chorus—perhaps a military choir--singing:
“Over hill, over dale; we have hit the dusty trail.” The song
has the cadence of a forced march. In muted light soldiers are
seen wading through fetid water with weapons aloft, while well
coordinated precision military operations are unfolding all
around, like a Rogers and Hammerstein musical. We are supposed
to be impressed with the military and technological prowess on
display, awed into admiration for it; awed into submission to
it, the oracle of our times.
As a montage of war images flicker across the screen, each of
them portraying military operations (none of them showing the
real horrors of war); a male voice extols the virtues of
technological warfare and the unification of all military
branches. Air force. Navy. Marines. Army. One force. The
commercial ends with the statement, “Northrop Grumman: Defining
The infomercial clearly targets a male audience. Northrop
Grumman and other defense contractors are realizing staggering
profits from U.S. imperial policy in the Middle East and around
the globe. The social and environmental costs, as always, are
born by others. This is corporate welfare in its most hideous
form—socialized costs and privatized profits. It is parasitic
capitalism in its most malignant incarnation. It is the kind of
propaganda Americans are exposed to their every waking moment.
No one who views the advertisement is going to run out and buy
an advanced weapons system from Northrop Grumman. Thus one must
ponder the real purpose of the ad. The message is not designed
to sell weapons systems; it was created to sell the American
people on the notion of superior technological prowess,
perpetual warfare and war profiteering that guarantees, for a
little while longer, at least, an unsustainable way of life:
ideas that have already won widespread acceptance among the
slumbering masses and the willfully ignorant.
We are supposed to believe that the Military Industrial Complex,
a conglomeration of defense contractors with its long poisonous
tentacles firmly lodged in the gangrened flesh of government, is
protecting us and our way of life from a hostile world intent on
destroying both. We are supposed to see perpetual war in
Orwellian terms of peace; ignorance as strength, evil as good.
Destruction of the commons and our civil liberties by fascist
corporatism is supposedly good for the country because it is
good for the war profiteers in government and Northrop
Grumman—which is only the tip of a much larger malignancy rooted
deeply in the cadaverous flesh of American society.
If Northrop Grumman is indeed defining the future, America—and
the world—are in deep trouble. We are witnessing the blatant
militarization of our culture by the forces of darkness, the
machines of misery and death.
Hummers, a military vehicle, populate the roads and highways of
America, even as the last drops of cheap oil are being sucked
from the sands of the occupied territories. The human costs of
war that sustain patterns of conspicuous consumption and waste
never enter the minds of consumers. After all we are an
exceptional people. The costs are born by others and kept hidden
The glorification of war is nearly ubiquitous in the culture.
You see it in the vehicles we drive, aggressive behavior,
excessive national pride, flag waving, military style clothing,
movies, video games; and now—television commercials. The
American consumer is essentially becoming a piece of computer
hardware programmed to download propaganda and to execute its
commands without thinking. It does what it is programmed to do.
Northrop Grumman, the neocons, and their timorous accomplices in
Congress are all peddling the same bogus image to the American
people. Like the forces portrayed in the television ad, they are
a well financed, well organized array of seemingly disparate
forces fighting as one. Who are they fighting? We the people.
Democracy. Truth. Peace. Organized labor. Working class people
the world over.
Charles Sullivan is an architectural woodworker,
photographer, and social activist residing in the Ridge and
Valley Province of West Virginia. He welcomes your thoughts and
comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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