Thunderbird propaganda

Saturday, Kekula and I were on our way to O'ahu and got delayed on the tarmac on Maui because the Thunderbirds air show in Waikiki had closed the airspace over Honolulu. While we were waiting, I was having vague thoughts about the T-birds basically as propaganda for militarism. Then I saw this from Ian Lind's Saturday blog post, where he says what I was thinking and more:
Two definitions of propaganda.

“Propaganda, n. any form of communication in support of national objectives designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of any group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly.” [Source: American Heritage U.S. Military Dictionary at]

“Propaganda. Message conveyed in order to support and spread a particular opinion or point of view, engaging both the intellect and the emotions of the audience. Propaganda may consist of an overt appeal such as most advertising copy or be non-overt such as the seller’s participation in community events, company slogans and logos, special employee benefits and so forth.” [ Source: Barron’s Marketing Dictionary at]

I have to say it. I can’t help being amazed at the eagerness with which all local media lined up at the propaganda trough before, during, and after the Air Force Thunderbirds performances this week. This was, after all, military propaganda at its best. No overt pitch for military values and perspectives was necessary, simply that uncritical glee expressed about big machines going fast. And no worries because barely a critical word appeared in any of the “aw shucks, golly, they go real fast” reporting.

He goes into a bit more detail about F-16s as "central characters in our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, recently criticized by top British military officers because of the civilian casualties caused by our heavy reliance on air power." And "also a major part of our politically complicated and controversial weapons trade, in which we have the dubious distinction of leading the world in spreading the tools of destruction into current and prospective war zones."
It seems to me that, at minimum, these jets should be dealt with in the same manner as you might teach “responsible” gun ownership. That is, it should be made clear that these are weapons, that their main purpose is killing, and that their use, even if and when considered “necessary”, is a sign of the failure of other important policies. We need to be aware of the responsibility that goes with the possession of such tools of destruction.

On the other hand, stressing the thrill of the show serves the interests of those who would rather not foster the public’s appreciation of the unpleasantness of war and the political problems for those in power that can bring.

Of course the other crucial piece is that their presence here in Hawaii is also part of a prolonged illegal military occupation.

Update: A related letter in today's Star-Bulletin.

Posted: Tue - September 18, 2007 at 09:32 AM    
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Published On: Sep 18, 2007 01:19 PM
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