Nicholas Thomson -
The first real computer, the ENIAC, was built in 1946. The first computer war game appeared two years later. It was built by the Army Operations Research Office, and it was as rudimentary as you might think. Since then, the relationship between the military and world of games has gotten endlessly deeper. Veterans help develop popular games, and popular games help veterans recover. The US military uses games to recruit, and critics complain that modern war’s cruelty comes because it too closely resembles videogames. In 1997, this magazine ran a cover story about Marines modifying the game Doom for training purposes. This past month, news came of soldiers training with a system called Tactical Augmented Reality.
What if the relationship could be still deeper, though? What if, for example, the best game developers produced tools for the Pentagon? And then what if those tools ended up back in games? What if, instead of videogames copying war, war copied videogames—and the two things became, in a certain way, the same?
The idea comes from Will Roper, a Rhodes scholar in his late 30s with a PhD in mathematics. Roper runs the Defense Department’s secretive Strategic Capabilities Office; his job is to study where war is headed, and to develop the technological tools that help the United States win there. The military services think about today; DARPA thinks about the distant future; Roper thinks about tomorrow.
A new book unfolds how the “military-entertainment complex” entices soldiers to war and treats them when they return
Hamza Shaban -
According to popular discourse, video games are either the divine instrument of education’s future or the software of Satan himself, provoking young men to carry out all-too-real rampages. Much like discussions surrounding the Internet, debates on video games carry the vague, scattershot chatter that says too much about the medium (e.g. do video games cause violence?) without saying much at all about the particulars of games or gaming conventions (e.g. how can death be given more weight in first person shooters?).
As Atlantic contributor Ian Bogost argues in his book, How to Do Things with Video Games, we’ve assigned value to games as if they all contain the same logic and agenda. We assume, unfairly, that the entire medium of video games shares inherent properties more important and defining than all the different ways games are applied and played. The way out of this constrained conversation is to bore down into specifics, to tease out various technologies, and to un-generalize the medium. We get such an examination in War Play, Corey Mead’s important new study on the U.S. military’s official deployment of video games.
A professor of English at Baruch College CUNY, Mead has written a history, a book most interested in the machinations of military game development. But War Play, too, lays a solid foundation from which to launch more critical investigations—into soldier’s lives, into computerized combat, and into the most dynamic medium of our time.
The country of Ghanzia is embroiled in a civil war. As a soldier in America’s Army, your job is to do everything from protect U.S. military convoys against AK-47-wielding attackers to sneak up on a mountain observatory where arms dealers are hiding out. It is a tough and dangerous tour of duty that requires dedication, focus, and a bit of luck. Fortunately, if you get hit by a bullet and bleed to death, you can reboot your computer and sign on under a new name.
America’s Army is a video game — a “tactical multiplayer first-person shooter” in gaming lingo — that was originally developed by the U.S. military to aid in its recruiting and training, but is now available for anyone to play. Among the most downloaded Internet games of all time, it is perhaps the best known of a vast array of video game-based military training programs and combat simulations whose scope and importance are rapidly changing not just the video-game marketplace, but also the way the U.S. military finds and trains its future warriors and even how the American public interfaces with the wars carried out in its name. For all the attention to the strategic debates of the post-9/11 era, a different sort of transformation has taken place over the last decade — largely escaping public scrutiny, at modest cost relative to the enormous sums spent elsewhere in the Pentagon budget, and with little planning but enormous consequences.
These “games” range from the deadly serious, like programs designed to train soldiers in cultural sensitivity or help veterans overcome the trauma of combat, to the truly outlandish, like a human-sized hamster wheel that makes virtual-reality software feel more realistic. There are even video-game modules that teach soldiers about the perils of sexual harassment. All told, the U.S. military is spending roughly $6 billion each year on its virtual side, embracing the view, as author Tom Chatfield put it, that “games are the 21st century’s most serious business.”
Isidro Ortiz | Draft NOtices | October - December 2017
Editor’s Note: For this article, Isidro Ortiz interviewed Juan Perez, a Marine veteran majoring in sociology at San Diego State University. Juan will be graduating in May 2018 and plans to pursue a career in social justice activism.
Anti-militarism is often associated with the Baby Boomer generation. Thus, as the generation begins to pass, it might appear that anti-militarism does not have a future. Missed in such an observation is the emergence of a new crop of activists in generations X and Y. Juan Perez is one of those new activists.
Juan describes himself as “woke.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “woke” is defined as being “alert to injustice in society, especially racism.” When Juan describes himself as “woke” he is light years away from where he was at the time he enlisted in the Marine Corps during his senior year in high school. Juan grew up as an undocumented immigrant in one of the poorest communities, City Heights, in San Diego. In this community he attended some of the city’s lowest-performing schools. By his own admission Juan was not socially or politically conscious at that time. Indeed, he gave little thought to societal conditions and was “gung-ho” about joining the Marines.
How did Juan become woke? The roots of Juan’s woke lie in an incident during his tour of duty in Helmut Province in Afghanistan. While on patrol Juan’s unit spotted what appeared to be an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). In keeping with protocol, the unit communicated to headquarters, which in turn informed the specialized team charged with IED disposal. Within a short time, Juan’s unit was instructed to verify that the suspicious item was indeed an IED. Verification would require a physical inspection of the item.
Juan and a fellow Marine volunteered to fulfill the verification task. While this at first seemed to be the appropriate action for a couple of gung-ho Marines, it turned out to be more momentous than Juan had expected.
Juan and his fellow Marine approached the suspicious item. Verification, of course, required that the item be physically lifted and inspected. Without stopping to think about the wisdom of such hazardous and possibly deadly actions, but in keeping with his tendency to follow orders, Juan lifted and inspected the item. He then returned to his post.
Greta Zarro -
America is up in arms about guns. If last month’s “March for Our Lives,” which attracted over one million marchers nationwide, is any indication, we’ve got a serious problem with gun violence, and people are fired up about it.
But what’s not being talked about in the mainstream media, or even by the organizers and participants in the March for Our Lives movement, is the link between the culture of gun violence and the culture of war, or militarism, in this nation. Nik Cruz, the now infamous Parkland, FL shooter, was taught how to shoot a lethal weapon in the very school that he later targeted in the heart-breaking Valentine’s Day Massacre. Yes, that’s right; our children are trained as shooters in their school cafeterias, as part of the U.S. military’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) marksmanship program.
Nearly 2,000 U.S. high schools have such JROTC marksmanship programs, which are taxpayer-funded and rubber-stamped by Congress. Cafeterias are transformed into firing ranges, where children, as young as 13 years old, learn how to kill. The day that Nik Cruz opened fire on his classmates, he proudly wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the letters “JROTC.” JROTC's motto? "Motivating Young People to Be Better Citizens." By training them to wield a gun?
Perhaps what’s key above all, however, is that JROTC, and U.S. militarism as a whole, is embedded in our sociocultural framework as Americans, so much so that to question it is to cast doubt on one’s patriotic allegiance to this nation.
Pat Elder - May 23, 2018 -
Both Nik Cruz, the Parkland shooter, and Dimitri Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the Santa Fe shooter, were emotionally distraught because of girls who rejected their advances. They were both outcasts in their respective high schools. They both played video games that simulated war. In his Facebook bio, Dimitri showed interest in joining the US Marine Corps “starting in 2019.” Nik Cruz felt more at home with the Army.
This is not a cheap shot. The military recruits gamers from the virtual world.
The America’s Army(link is external) video game, a vicious first-person shooter game, has millions of avid fans. It is one of the world’s most frequently downloaded games. According to a study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “the game has more impact on recruits than all other forms of Army advertising combined.”
The military exploits the visceral appeal of virtual killing. More than that, the Pentagon seeks virtual shooters who have developed surprisingly complex strategic and tactical skills learned through thousands of hours of gaming experience. These skills are like those commanders on the battlefield use in real combat.
The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center-Training has its own Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Games (MMRPGs) to train new recruits. The system, similar to World of Warcraft(link is external), allows individual soldiers around the world to log into the Army MMRPG and play as individuals or as units.
Thanks to the great defender of freedom, Edward Snowden, we know about a 2013 NSA Document(link is external), “Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments.” The NSA and the CIA have teamed up with the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ to deploy real-life agents into the virtual World of Warcraft and has infiltrated Xbox Live with tens of millions of players worldwide. The world’s two top spy agencies can identify a labyrinth of social networks of those with the inclination for virtual killing. The targets of the espionage may be in Syria or Venezuela; Florida or Texas.
In World of Warcraft, players everywhere on earth share the same virtual world, walking, running, travelling around, and killing a variety of computer-generated monsters, along with custom-designed human avatars made by shooters 10,000 miles away. Build your own here!(link is external)
Pro Publica, a recipient of Snowden’s release, describes, “killing computer-controlled monsters or the avatars of other players, including elves, animals or creatures known as orcs. Players create customized human avatars that can resemble themselves or take on other personas — supermodels and bodybuilders are popular — who can socialize, buy and sell virtual goods, and go places like beaches, cities, art galleries and strip clubs.”
Real and virtual are blurred.
SAIC, the defense contractor behemoth, has studied MMORPG’s and concludes they can be used for a variety of purposes by America’s enemies, from recruiting members, training fighters, and spreading propaganda – like the US does with The America’s Armyvideo game.
It is ironic to consider the NSA may well have data on both Cruz and Pagourtzis who likely played MMORPG’s.
- Youth camps shape new generations with patriotism, pushups and prayer | Reveal News | Will Carless | March 9 2018
- Connecticut Peace Group Engages Students with a Peace Wheel
- NNOMY at the 2017 VFP Education Not Militarization Convention in Chicago
- Military Recruiting And How To Confront It
- Trump's Austerity Budget Increases Military Recruiters' Power to Prey on Youth
- Rebuttal to Groups Supporting Female Draft Registration
- Growing military presence in high schools | WORT 89.9 FM Community Radio | Pat Elder | March 8 2017
- Countering Military Recruitment Celebrating and Carrying On John Judge’s Legacy
- A debate on recruitment
- Uncle Scram
- War Opponents Train For Visits to Area Schools And Recruitment Centers
- Countering the Military Invasion of DC High Schools
Opinion Article Count: 2
The NNOMY Opinion section is a new feature of our articles section. Writing on youth demilitarization issues is quite rare but we have discovered the beginning articles and notes being offered on this subject so we have decided to present them under an opinion category. The articles presented do not necessarily reflect the views of the NNOMY Steering Committee.
Globalization & Militarization Article Count: 1
Military Presence in Our Schools Article Count: 8
Art & Cultural Activism Article Count: 1
The Militarization of U.S. Culture Article Count: 23
Though the United States of America shares with other nations in a history of modern state militarism, the past 65 years following its consolidation as a world military power after World War II, has seen a shift away from previous democratic characterizations of the state. The last thirty years, with the rise of the neo-conservative Reagan and Bush administrations (2), began the abandonment of moral justifications for democracy building replaced by bellicose proclamations of the need and right to move towards a national project of global security by preemptive military force .
In the process of global military expansion, the US population has been subjected to an internal re-education to accept the role of the U.S. as consolidating its hegemonic rule internationally in the interest of liberal ideals of wealth creation and protectionism.
The average citizen has slowly come to terms with a stealthly increasing campaign of militarization domestically in media offerings; from television, movies and scripted news networks to reinforce the inevitability of a re-configured society as security state. The effect has begun a transformation of how, as citizens, we undertand our roles and viability as workers and families in relation to this security state. This new order has brought with it a shrinking public common and an increasing privatization of publicly held infrustructure; libraries, health clinics, schools and the expectation of diminished social benefits for the poor and middle-class. The national borders are being militarized as are our domestic police forces in the name of Homeland Security but largely in the interest of business. The rate and expansion of research and development for security industries and the government agencies that fund them, now represent the major growth sector of the U.S.economy. Additionally, as the U.S. economy continually shifts from productive capital to financial capital as the engine of growth for wealth creation and development, the corporate culture has seen its fortunes rise politically and its power over the public sector grow relatively unchallenged by a confused citizenry who are watching their social security and jobs diminishing.
How increasing cultural militarization effects our common future will likely manifest in increased public dissatisfaction with political leadership and economic strictures. Social movements within the peace community, like NNOMY, will need to expand their role of addressing the dangers of militarists predating youth for military recruitment in school to giving more visibility to the additional dangers of the role of an influential militarized media, violent entertainment and play offerings effecting our youth in formation and a general increase and influence of the military complex in all aspects of our lives. We are confronted with a demand for a greater awareness of the inter-relationships of militarism in the entire landscape of domestic U.S. society. Where once we could ignore the impacts of U.S. military adventurisms abroad, we are now faced with the transformation of our domestic comfort zone with the impacts of militarism in our day to day lives.
How this warning can be imparted in a meaningful way by a movement seeking to continue with the stated goals of counter-recruitment and public policy activism, and not loose itself in the process, will be the test for those activists, past and future, who take up the call to protect our youth from the cultural violence of militarism.
The "militarization of US culture" category will be an archive of editorials and articles about the increasing dangers we face as a people from those who are invested in the business of war. This page will serve as a resource for the NNOMY community of activists and the movement they represent moving into the future. The arguments presented in this archive will offer important realizations for those who are receptive to NNOMY's message of protecting our youth, and thus our entire society, of the abuses militarism plays upon our hopes for a sustainable and truly democratic society.
Resources Article Count: 2
The Resources section covers the following topics:
International Networking Article Count: 1
Book Reviews Article Count: 5
NNOMY Network News Article Count: 12
News reports from the groups associated to the NNOMY Network including Social Media.
CR Reports Article Count: 5
Reports from counter-recruitment groups and activists from the field. Includes information about action reports at recruiting centers and career fairs, school tabling, and actions in relation to school boards and state legislatures.
CR in the News Article Count: 8
David Swanson Article Count: 6
David Swanson is the author of the new book, Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, by Seven Stories Press and of the introduction to The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush by Dennis Kucinich. In addition to cofounding AfterDowningStreet.org, he is the Washington director of Democrats.com and sits on the boards of a number of progressive organizations in Washington, DC.
Jorge Mariscal Article Count: 2
Jorge Mariscal is the grandson of Mexican immigrants and the son of a U.S. Marine who fought in World War II. He served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and currently teaches at the University of California, San Diego.
Matt Guynn Article Count: 1
Matt Guynn plays the dual role of program director and coordinator for congregational organizing for On Earth Peace, building peace and nonviolence leadership within the 1000+ congregations of the Church of the Brethren across the United States and Puerto Rico. He previously served a co-coordinator of training for Christian Peacemaker Teams, serving as an unarmed accompanier with political refugees in Chiapas, Mexico, and offering or supporting trainings in the US and Mexico.
Rick Jahnkow Article Count: 8
Pat Elder Article Count: 12
Pat Elder was a co-founder of the DC Antiwar Network (DAWN) and a member of the Steering Committee of the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, (NNOMY). Pat is currently involved in counter-recruitment projects in a dozen jurisdictions in the DC metropolitan area. Pat’s work has prominently appeared in NSA documents tracking domestic peace groups.
COMMUNITY ACTION Article Count: 2
Network Actions Article Count: 5
EVENTS & CONFERENCES Article Count: 4
NNOMY periodically participates in or organizes events(e.i. conferences, rallies) with other organizations.
CR Activist Reports Article Count: 2
CR Discussion List Article Count: 1
NNOMY in the News Article Count: 13
National CR Database Article Count: 1
GI Resistance Article Count: 1
Conscientious Objection Article Count: 1
NNOMY National Conference Article Count: 11
Materials/Training Article Count: 1
For Educators/Guidance Counselors Article Count: 2
Recruiting on College Campuses Article Count: 1
Model Programs Article Count: 1
School Policies Article Count: 5
EN ESPAÑOL Article Count: 1
Equal access Article Count: 1
NCLB Article Count: 1
MILITARISM & WAR Article Count: 3
FOR ENLISTED PERSONNEL Article Count: 1
FOR PARENTS Article Count: 1
CONSIDERING ENLISTING? Article Count: 1
RECRUITING IN SPECIFIC COMMUNITIES Article Count: 1
MILITARY RECRUITING TOOLS & METHODS Article Count: 3
SCHOOL BASED COUNTER RECRUITMENT Article Count: 6
Know Your Rights Article Count: 2
Delayed Entry Program/DEP Article Count: 1
Alternatives by State Article Count: 1
NNOMY Article Count: 13
ALTERNATIVES TO THE MILITARY Article Count: 3
Facts & Figures Article Count: 1
COUNTER RECRUITING ESSENTIALS Article Count: 1
The Counter-recruitment Essentials section of the NNOMY web site covers the issues and actions spanning this type of activism. Bridging the difficult chasms between religious, veteran, educator, student, and community based activism is no small task. In this section you will find information on how to engage in CR activism in your school and community with the support of the knowledge of others who have been working to inform youth considering enlisting in the military. You will also find resources for those already in the military that are looking for some guidance on how to actively resist injustices as a soldier or how to choose a path as a conscientious objector.
Steering Committee Article Count: 1
Articles Article Count: 205
John Judge Article Count: 5
John Judge was a co-founder of the Committee for High School Options and Information on Careers, Education and Self-Improvement (CHOICES) in Washington DC, an organization engaged since 1985 in countering military recruitment in DC area high schools and educating young people about their options with regard to the military. Beginning with the war in Viet Nam, Judge was a life-long anti-war activist and tireless supporter of active-duty soldiers and veterans.
"It is our view that military enlistment puts youth, especially African American youth, at special risk, not only for combat duty, injury and fatality, but for military discipline and less than honorable discharge, which can ruin their chances for employment once they get out. There are other options available to them."
In the 1970's the Selective Service System and the paper draft became unworkable, requiring four induction orders to get one report. Boards were under siege by anti-war and anti-draft forces, resistance of many kinds was rampant. The lottery system failed to dampen the dissent, since people who knew they were going to be drafted ahead of time became all the more active. Local draft board members quit in such numbers that even I was approached, as a knowledgeable draft counselor to join the board. I refused on the grounds that I could never vote anyone 1-A or eligible to go since I opposed conscription and the war.
At this point the Pentagon decided to replace the paper draft with a poverty draft, based on economic incentive and coercion. It has been working since then to draw in between 200-400,000 enlisted members annually. Soon after, they began to recruit larger numbers of women to "do the jobs men don't want to". Currently recruitment quotas are falling short, especially in Black communities, and reluctant parents are seen as part of the problem. The hidden problem is retention, since the military would have quadrupled by this time at that rate of enlistment, but the percentage who never finish their first time of enlistment drop out at a staggering rate.
I began bringing veterans of the Vietnam War into high schools in Dayton, Ohio in the late 1960s, and have continued since then to expose young people to the realities of military life, the recruiters' false claims and the risks in combat or out. I did it first through Vietnam Veterans Against the War/Winter Soldier Organization, then Dayton Draft & Military Counseling, and since 1985 in DC through C.H.O.I.C.E.S.
The key is to address the broader issues of militarization of the schools and privacy rights for students in community forums and at meetings of the school board and city council. Good counter-recruitment also provides alternatives in the civilian sector to help the poor and people of color, who are the first targets of the poverty draft, to find ways to break into the job market, go to a trade school, join an apprenticeship program, get job skills and placement help, and find money for college without enlisting in the military.
- War Opponents Train For Visits to Area Schools And Recruitment Centers, Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post
- Counter-Recruitment and the Campaign to Demilitarize Public Schools - Scott Harding, Seth Kershner
- C.H.O.I.C.E.S., John Judge
- Interview - John Judge - U.S. Wars & Military Recruitment
- Military and your Schools
- A Celebration of the Life of John Judge May 31, 2014
- In Memory of John Judge - Washington Peace Center
- John Judge- Obituary and request for reflections - Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA)
- The Loss of John Judge Hits Hard - David Swanson
- John Judge, Leading Change: A Transformational, Quiet Servant Leader, David Ratcliffe