Whether you are in uniform, in politics, in protests or in blissful ignorance of war, you are militarized. Militarization is the process by which the military and war-related themes come to dominate a society. The effects of militarization are often so prevalent that they can be difficult to see unless you take a conscious step back. This special issue of Buzzsaw, in addition to the corresponding event series, is meant to encourage people to critically examine militarization in their everyday lives.
It’s been 50 years since Dwight Eisenhower coined the term “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address. In part of his famous speech, he said, “We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
We at Buzzsaw think that Ike was a bit of a prophet, even if his administration’s policies are partially responsible for our current situation. Much of the militarization we experience every day has become normalized and, contrary to his warning, taken for granted. Buzzsaw had a similar issue five years ago, called “War is Complex,” but even a few years have brought about drastic changes in the ways citizens experience and interact with the effects of the military. The people of the United States are increasingly involved in wars, but at the same time, most citizens continue to become increasingly detached from those same wars (see “The American Population is Disconnected From War”).
The past five decades have seen the unprecedented expansion of military spending and activities. The United States has troops around the world, both waging a new form of warfare and serving as a permanent presence in “peacetime” countries (see Jacquie Simone’s article, “Overseas Base Overload”). Meanwhile, the mainstream media largely ignores anti-war protests, as explained in Alyssa Figueroa’s article, “Passing on Pacifists.” The military’s heightened role in society has translated into repercussions for gender politics, as many women in the military endure sexual assault during their service (“The Battle Behind the Barracks,” by Hayleigh Gowans).
Militarization is even evident in less political aspects of culture. From children’s toys to video games to movies, Americans have had a longtime fascination with war entertainment. Children are being exposed to war themes early on through their popular toys, as examined in Karen Muller’s article, “Operation Toybox.” Films also have significant links to militarization—in fact, the interview with author David Robb shows that the Pentagon sometimes plays a role in assisting and editing blockbusters. In these ways and more, even seemingly innocuous entertainment shapes the ways we view war.
Journalism is supposed to stir debates among “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” and stimulate a questioning of accepted ideas. This issue is not necessarily a call to action, but we hope it is a call to active thinking.
– The Editors
See the online archive of all the articles from this issue here.
See the printed version of the Militarization issue here.