I'm not often likely to get political on this blog often, but I'm posting this video about armed forces recruitment in response to Zadi's excellent post on Army recruiting on Cinco de Mayo. Let's examine what we know.
1) It's no secrete that our armed forces are having trouble keeping up with recruitment.
2) It's no secrete that the majority of our armed forces come from mid to lower income families.
3) It's no secrete that our armed forces are disproportionately made up of minorities when compared with the makeup of the US population. (I have no exact facts at this time, please feel free to refute this or back it up with facts)
4) It's no secrete that recruiters are very aggressive in their tactics.
Now let's examine what's on the following video.
Watch it: 17yroldstinger1.mov
1) A 17 year old high school student, writing a story for his high school paper on recruitment is told by the recruiter to lie on his application about his age.
2) The same recruiter recommends getting a fake high school diploma, even suggesting a fake high school name so as to be more discrete.
3) Upon paying a couple hundred bucks to get the fake diploma the student is referred to a second recruiter who recommends a non-prescription cocktail of some "drug be gone" product (my term not theirs) after the 17 year old tells the recruiter he smokes pot.
After you're finished watching that clip you might watch Zadi's clip of Army Recruiting at Cinco de Mayo which she put online yesterday.
Now, I don't want to say to much, that's not why I do this. I do this to share and spread the clips and the footage, but I did want to say the following. I'll try to keep it short.
While I'm appalled by the recruitment techniques of the 17 year old I'm mixed on Zadi's footage of recruiting at Cinco de Mayo. It's unnerving how deliberate and bold the Army's recruiting tactics are. They walk right in and start recruiting overtly in the middle of a minority holiday, blatantly turning the holiday, the good feelings, the insecurity and inexperience of the youths, and the patriotism of the event to their ends. Even the mass audience plays to their favor as peer pressure comes into play.
Their sales tactics are honestly not much if any better than that of a used car salesman. They are preying on the insecurity of 18 year olds and certainly some that aren't quite 18 yet. Finally, the thing that most unnerves me is their overt targeting of minorities. I've seen these recruiting practices before at the Maxwell Street Market in Chicago, a largely hispanic weekly market, but it's not a holiday event. I've seen other local TV news coverage on these techniques of targeting minorities and those from lower income families in Michigan and yet I'm torn because aggressive recruiting is necessary. They must recruit. And while I've never seen such tactics in upper class neighborhoods I know sales people must go where the selling is best. It's counter intuitive for a sales person to deliberately seek harder markets, and yet this is the same excuse that was used to justify racial profiling. Is it just that they're so overt or is there something truly wrong with our armed forces recruiting practices?
I encourage you to post your comments on Zadi's (or my) blog. And more importantly I encourage you to post these videos, or find other footage and post it to your own blog and frame your own conversations. I'm not interested in getting a half a dozen comments. I'm interested in starting a half dozen conversations.
About this video clip: Most interestingly, the above posted news clip is courtesy of Michael Moore's website. Say what you will about the man, but he didn't make this clip, and he didn't recruit a 17 year old through malicious means. This clip is traveling all around the web this week and Michael Moore (or more likely one of his representatives) merely brought it to our attention by hosting it on his site.
Inherent in that simple act of posting a video to a website or blog is the power of this new medium. Sure we can express our opinions, but even more importantly we can legally QUOTE rich media and we need to exercise our right to do so. By creating our own video and quoting others media we can recontextualize the debate, we can frame the debate, we can lift the debate off the airwaves where we are spectators and bring it onto the living web where we can be active participants.
In this democratic media, we choose what to focus on, what is important, it's not just that we can share our opinions on it, but it's that we can set the agenda. We not only can talk about it, but we can share it and see it. And no matter what you think of Michael Moore's films it doesn't take a genius to see the power and the potential of this evolving democratic media may well very quickly surpass the undeniable influence of his films. Perhaps it already is. New media's power is as sure as you are reading these words and the only thing that will stop it is if you choose not to speak up, not to engage, not to start your own blog, post your own videos and share your valuable opinions and points of view.
Perhaps Michael Moore should take respite from film for a bit and start a vlog? When you leave the theatre you leave it with only the memory of the event, but online information lives as a conversation, as a living memory. We can share it, see it, and discuss it. It's not history, abstraction or memory, it's a living medium.
Thank you Zadi.