War is a central part of what the United States has become. Multiple forms of media are distorting our view of combat and consequently the legitimacy of war in our minds. War is death and destruction—the darkest expression of humanity. The Army, Marines, National Guard etc. bombard television viewers with commercials hoping to indoctrinate young people into enlisting and reinforce their image of war as the noblest of endeavors. They laud the honor of service while glossing over combat and the other difficult realities of war. Fighting for freedom is indeed a noble cause, but our armed forces are subject to political decisions and too often the glory of peace is underrated.
The Cost of War
War is also expensive. The Pentagon sucks in 80% of individual income tax revenue, consuming more money than the next fifteen highest spending countries in the world. The US military spent an estimated $667 million in advertising in 2012. Today there is a demand to increase military expenditures from the highest authorities. The industry surrounding our military has become a backbone of the U.S. economy and has pervaded many different corners of our everyday lives: sports, education, and entertainment. Despite this, most Americans are not acquainted with war through first-hand experience, but rather through fantastical media interpretations of battle. War has become entertainment, and it has been made into nothing more than a game for many people. One of the most startling examples of this can be seen in the video games of today. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III was a record-breaking release in 2011, reaching $1 billion in sales in just fifteen days. Our children are indoctrinated early to annihilate the enemy to win the game.
Video Games and the Fog of War
Video game manufacturers are constantly unveiling new releases for any individual to immerse themselves in the fog of war, yet be removed enough to feel the excitement without the pain. There are no hard choices about life and death, only the vicarious pleasure of reveling in body-counts. Video games are a sanitized version of war where one can enjoy candy-coated-carnage while ignoring the horror of lives destroyed in real conflicts: soldiers, bystanders, and family members of the deceased and emotionally damaged.
The gaming companies cover their actions by asserting that they do not to sell to kids under the age of eighteen, rating games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare IV “M” for “mature” audiences only. We all know that supposedly adult materials end up falling into the hands of minors.
Don’t get me wrong, I grew up playing Doom on the computer and James Bond’s Goldeneye at my friends’ houses. These games provided an outlet for some of my extra energy, but I wouldn’t consider it a healthy one. Simulated war, mimicking the most serious and severe of human endeavors in a game, cheapens the experience on a subconscious level. Just as adolescent brains shouldn’t be clouded by narcotics, they should not be tainted by violence.
Fantasy versus Reality
Reality is now mingling with fantasy as predator drones drop bombs on targets overseas while men staring at screens manipulate these real-life killing machines, similar to playing a video game but with real lives, where innocent civilians die. War has become an accepted part of our reality, one that has become greatly distorted by technology, misplaced hero-worship, and an unending stream of propaganda. We all were glued to our TVs when the initial bombing of Iraq occurred in the first Iraq war. It was mesmerizing.
Not only does the ubiquity of war in the media and entertainment subconsciously legitimize war, but it seems that we are training a new generation in the use of various types of weaponry. It would be excessive to say that video games directly caused any of the horrific mass-shootings we have witnessed recently, however, we must consider that these games provided an impetus for weapons training, the concept of mass killings, and numerous virtual rehearsals for these atrocities. In the media-saturated mind of a mentally disturbed teenager, how thick is the line between video game carnage and real-world slaughter? Does the early experience with video game warfare and misguided heroism in any way become a factor for the vulnerable mind in falling prey to ISIS indoctrination? Thoughts form the foundation for reality. If the leisurely armed conflict is a major part of society, it is inevitable that real violence will manifest itself in that society.