Gary Ghirardi / NNOMY - What began for the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth as an adjustment of our phone forwarding from an answering machine to a cell phone, revealed a bit of a surprise for our office this month of October 2020. What resulted were five phone calls within seven days of both young men and women seeking counseling on how to get out of the Delayed Entry program for military service that they had initially signed up for. All said that they had changed their minds; one for family issues being needed at home to help his mom during this difficult time of Covid. The other young men just did not want to go any longer with no explanation. Two young women, both more nervous than the men discussing such a decision with an unknown entity on the other end of a phone number they gathered from our website.
It became apparent that there were youth that were finding their way to the NNOMY DEP pages from searching Google for “Getting Out of the Delayed Entry Program.” NNOMY's “Getting Out” page is in our top 20 most popular web pages with 42,308 hits registering on NNOMY.org and the same article on our blog page, NNOMYpeace.net, registering 37,580 hits. The more generic DEP description page ranks number one most visited on both sites with 149,924 hits and 147,242 respectively. Getting Out on the NNOMY.org site comes up first on my Google search and fifth on the Bing search engine of the Microsoft Explorer browser. All our pages that refer to DEP have links to better places to call than us like the GI Rights Hotline or the Military Law Task Force but we still seem to be getting some calls as a result of the phone forwarding. We have put additional information on our DEP pages to make certain that those who wish to get out of DEP, can feel free to call, indicating we will put them in contact with a GI Rights counselor since this past week's experience of receiving calls .
I believe here lies an opportunity for groups that are interested in doing some form of counter-recruitment activism that is direct, valuable, and completable without much effort, during COVID when we are all discussing how to engage in counter-recruitment work with limited or non-existent access to schools, especially networks like Veterans for Peace, About Face Veterans Against the War, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and Peace Action, that have multiple chapters as well as others. If they all put “Getting Out of DEP” information on their websites, both on their national and regional web sites and social media channels, with contact numbers to counselors, we increase the amount of noise for this issue on the internet and increase the chances of those recruits considering changing their minds to make contact with a counselor. It also gains confidence to the searcher to encounter so many groups listing support information visually on the search engines when considering not showing up for the military can be a very intimidating prospect, often further complicated by recruiters pressuring those recruits to change their minds or possibly trying to coerce recruits with false threats.
Much of what stands for success on virtual activism online is building relationships and that is accomplished by being visible and consistently getting your message out, month after month. This has been a struggle for many peace groups and networks that lack the skills and staffing for an effective online outreach. Making things worse is an algorithm that is self learning through it's Artificial Intelligence brain, that often tracks and penalized those individual social media managers doing vigorous political or social justice campaigning demanding that they qualify themselves as not being subversive foreign social media hackers with an agenda to tear down the country. NNOMY had to jump through various hoops just to get permission to send out our content including filing a notarized affidavit with Facebook to identify ourselves as legit. After all that hoop jumping, we are waiting for the next shoe to drop, limiting or cutting off our ability to use social media channels we built to continue to get our messages out to our network of counter-recruitment groups. Trying to circumvent the monetization model of these platforms like Facebook and Instagram without paying for our content to be seen by who we want and how many at a time is just a zero sum game. We need to be seen to grow our community of concerned activists, and community members responding to the threats that our youth are facing in and out of their schools from viral military recruitment. It is a constant struggle on the best of days.
There are strategies that can circumvent the algorithm, to an extent. If we make a concerted effort, as networks, to place this information throughout our online presence, and keep it fresh with periodic posts and articles, remembering to use the same hash-tags related to Delayed Entry and Future Soldier Programs, the same ones that the military invents for themselves, we will have a profound effect on providing visibility to an alternative narrative on the DEP. That will be accomplish-able if we take it seriously and not to just put the idea aside because we have doubts, or lack the skills to do it, or have prejudices against social media as just more informational clutter. We need to understand that at the end of the day, if we increase the amount of engagement to our appeals by DEP recruits that are having their doubts make a more informed and confident decision not to show up for the military, we will have accomplished assisting them in making a decision that will have profound importance to their lives and futures and the futures of others that may have been negatively impacted by their military service.
We can also start moving forward organizing a Zoom webinar to discuss how to operationalize such a campaign by discussing best strategies of how to use social-media effectively inviting those to the table that can and are willing to assist us to accomplish an initial project like the Getting Out of DEP informational outreach and in turn, measure our impacts and apply them to other coordinated campaigns moving forward into the next chapter of our groups and their activism during COVID and post-COVID. A nationwide DEP informational social-media campaign is low lying fruit for counter-recruitment. It is very doable. - NNOMY Office