The Militarization of Sports and the Redefinition of Patriotism

Lambert here: Freedom beer. Freedom bananas is more like it.

By William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He has taught at the Air Force Academy, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He blogs at Bracing ViewsOriginally published at TomDispatch.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a sports fan. As long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in the military. Until recently, I experienced those as two separate and distinct worlds. While I was in the military — I served for 20 years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force — I did, of course, play sports. As a young lieutenant, I was in a racquetball tournament at my base in Colorado. At Squadron Officer School in Alabama, I took part in volleyball and flickerball (a bizarre Air Force sport). At the Air Force Academy, I was on a softball team and when we finally won a game, all of us signed the ball. I also enjoyed being in a military bowling league. I even had my own ball with my name engraved on it.

Don’t misunderstand me. I was never particularly skilled at any sport, but I did thoroughly enjoy playing partly because it was such a welcome break from work — a reprieve from wearing a uniform, saluting, following orders, and all the rest. Sports were sports. Military service was military service. And never the twain shall meet.

Since 9/11, however, sports and the military have become increasingly fused in this country. Professional athletes now consider it perfectly natural to don uniforms that feature camouflage patterns. (They do this, teams say, as a form of “military appreciation.”) Indeed, for only $39.99 you, too, can buy your own Major League Baseball-sanctioned camo cap at MLB’s official site. And then, of course, you can use that cap in any stadium to shade your eyes as you watch flyovers, parades, reunions of service members returning from our country’s war zones and their families, and a multitude of other increasingly militarized ceremonies that celebrate both veterans and troops in uniform at sports stadiums across what, in the post-9/11 years, has come to be known as “the homeland.” 

These days, you can hardly miss moments when, for instance, playing fields are covered with gigantic American flags, often unfurled and held either by scores of military personnel or civilian defense contractors. Such ceremonies are invariably touted as natural expressions of patriotism, part of a continual public expression of gratitude for America’s “warfighters” and “heroes.” These are, in other words, uncontroversial displays of pride, even though a study ordered by Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake revealed that the U.S. taxpayer, via the Pentagon, has regularly forked over tens of millions of dollars ($53 million between 2012 and 2015 alone) to corporate-owned teams to put on just such displays.

Paid patriotism should, of course, be an oxymoron. These days, however, it’s anything but and even when the American taxpayer isn’t covering displays like these, the melding of sports and the military should be seen as inappropriate, if not insidious. And I say that as both a lover of sports and a veteran.

I Went to a Military Parade and a Tennis Match Broke Out

Maybe you’ve heard the joke: I went to the fights and a hockey game broke out. It was meant to poke fun at the fisticuffs in National Hockey League games, though these days there are fewer of them than in the “glory days” of the 1970s. An updated version would, however, fit today’s increasingly militarized sports events to a T: I went to a military parade and a baseball (football, hockey) game broke out. 

Nowadays, it seems as if professional sports simply couldn’t occur without some notice of and celebration of the U.S. military, each game being transformed in some way into yet another Memorial Day or Veterans Day lite.

Consider the pro-military hype that surrounded this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Not so very long ago, when I watched such games I would be transported to my childhood and my fantasies of becoming the next Nolan Ryan or Carl Yastrzemski. 

When I watched this year’s version of the game, however, I didn’t relive my youth; I relived my military career. As a start, the previous night featured a televised home-run derby. Before it even began, about 50 airmen paraded out in camouflage uniforms, setting the stage for everything that would follow. (As they weren’t on duty, I couldn’t help wondering why they found it appropriate to don such outfits.) Part of T-Mobile’s “HatsOff4Heroes” campaign, this mini-parade was justified in the name of raising money to support veterans, but T-Mobile could have simply given the money to charity without any of the militarized hoopla that this involved. 

Highlighting the other pre-game ceremonies the next night was a celebration of Medal of Honor recipients. I have deep respect for such heroes, but what were they doing on a baseball diamond? The ceremony would have been appropriate on, say, Veterans Day in November.

Those same pre-game festivities included a militaristic montage narrated by Bradley Cooper (star of “American Sniper“), featuring war scenes and war monuments while highlighting the popular catchphrase “freedom isn’t free.” Martial music accompanied the montage along with a bevy of flag-waving images. It felt like watching a twisted version of the film Field of Dreams reshot so that soldiers, not baseball players, emerged early on from those rows of Iowa corn stalks and stepped onto the playing field.

What followed was a “surprise” reunion of an airman, Staff Sergeant Cole Condiff, and his wife and family. Such staged reunions have become a regular aspect of major sporting events — consider this “heart-melting” example from a Milwaukee Brewers game — and are obviously meant to tug at the heartstrings. They are, as retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich wrote at TomDispatch back in 2011, propagandistic versions of “cheap grace.”

In addition, Budweiser used this year’s game to promote “freedom” beer, again to raise money for veterans and, of course, to burnish its own rep. (Last year, the company was hyping “America” beer.) 

And the All-Star game is hardly alone in its militarized celebrations and hoopla. Take the 2017 U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York City, which I happened to watch. With John McEnroe in retirement, tennis is, generally speaking, a quieter sport. Yet before the men’s final, a Marine Corps color guard joined a contingent of West Point cadets in a ceremony to remember the victims of 9/11. Naturally, a by-now-obligatory oversized American flag set the scene — here’s a comparable ceremony from 2016 — capped by a performance of “God Bless America” and a loud flyover by four combat jets. Admittedly, it was a dramatic way to begin anything, but why exactly an international tennis match that happened to feature finalists from Spain and South Africa?

Blending Sports With the Military Weakens Democracy

I’m hardly the first to warn about the dangers of mixing sports with the military, especially in corporate-controlled blenders. Early in 2003, prior to the kick off for the Iraq War (sports metaphor intended), the writer Norman Mailer issued this warning:

“The dire prospect that opens, therefore, is that America is going to become a mega-banana republic where the army will have more and more importance in Americans’ lives… [D]emocracy is the special condition — a condition we will be called upon to defend in the coming years. That will be enormously difficult because the combination of the corporation, the military, and the complete investiture of the flag with mass spectator sports has set up a pre-fascistic atmosphere in America already.”

More than 14 years later, that combination — corporations, the military, and mass spectator sports, all wrapped in a gigantic version of the stars and stripes — has increasingly come to define what it means to be an American. Now that the country also has its own self-styled strongman president, enabled by a spineless Congress and an increasingly reactionary judiciary, Mailer’s mention of a “pre-fascistic atmosphere” seems prescient.

What started as a post-9/11 drive to get an American public to “thank” the troops endlessly for their service in distant conflicts — stifling criticism of those wars by linking it to ingratitude — has morphed into a new form of national reverence. And much credit goes to professional sports for that transformation. In conjunction with the military and marketed by corporations, they have reshaped the very practice of patriotism in America. 

Today, thanks in part to taxpayer funding, Americans regularly salute grossly oversized flags, celebrate or otherwise “appreciate” the troops (without making the slightest meaningful sacrifice themselves), and applaud the corporate sponsors that pull it all together (and profit from it). Meanwhile, taking a stand (or a knee), being an agent of dissent, protesting against injustice, is increasingly seen as the very definition of what it means to be unpatriotic. Indeed, players with the guts to protest American life as it is are regularly castigated as SOBs by our sports- and military-loving president.

Professional sports owners certainly know that this militarized brand of patriotism sells, while the version embodied in the kinds of controversial stances taken by athletes like former National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick (cashiered by his own league) angers and alienates many fans, ultimately threatening profits. 

Meanwhile, the military’s bottom line is recruiting new bodies for that all-volunteer force while keeping those taxpayer dollars flowing into the Pentagon at increasingly staggering levels. For corporations, you won’t be surprised to learn, it’s all about profits and reputation. 

In the end, it comes down to one thing: who controls the national narrative.

Think about it. A set of corporate-military partnerships or, if you prefer, some version of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s old military-industrial complex has enlisted sports to make militarism look good and normal and even cool. In other words, sports teams now have a powerful set of incentives to appear patriotic, which increasingly means slavishly pro-military. It’s getting hard to remember that this country ever had a citizen-soldier tradition as well as sports teams whose athletes actually went almost en masse to serve in war. Consider it paradoxical that militarism is today becoming as American as baseball and apple pie, even as, like so many other citizens, today’s athletes vote with their feet to stay out of the military. (The NFL’s Pat Tillman was a noble post-9/11 exception.) Indeed, the widespread (if shallow) support of the military by so many athletes may, in some cases, be driven by a kind of guilt.

“Collusion” is a key word in this Trumpian moment. Even though Robert Mueller isn’t investigating them, corporate-owned sports teams are now actively colluding with the military to redefine patriotism in ways that work to their mutual advantage. They are complicit in taking a select, jingoistic form of patriotism and weaponizing it to suppress dissent, including against the military-industrial complex and America’s never-ending wars.

Driven by corporate agendas and featuring exaggerated military displays, mass-spectator sports are helping to shape what Americans perceive and believe. In stadiums across the nation, on screens held in our hands or dominating our living rooms, we witness fine young men and women in uniform unfurling massive flags on football fields and baseball diamonds, even on tennis courts, as combat jets scream overhead. What we don’t see — what is largely kept from us — are the murderous costs of empire: the dead and maimed soldiers, the innocents slaughtered by those same combat jets.

The images we do absorb and the narrative we’re encouraged to embrace, immersed as we are in an endless round of militarized sporting events, support the idea that massive “national security” investments (to the tune of roughly a trillion dollars annually) are good and right and patriotic. Questioning the same — indeed, questioning authority in any form — is, of course, bad and wrong and unpatriotic.

For all the appreciation of the military at sporting events, here’s what you’re not supposed to appreciate: why we’re in our forever wars; the extent to which they’ve been mismanaged for the last 17 years; how much people, especially in distant lands, have suffered thanks to them; and who’s really profiting from them.

Sports should be about having fun; about joy, passion, and sharing; about the thrill of competition, the splendor of the human condition; and so much more. I still remember the few home runs I hit in softball. I still remember breaking 200 for the first time in bowling. I still remember the faces of my teammates in softball and the fun times I had with good people.

But let’s be clear: this is not what war is all about. War is horrific. War features the worst of the human condition. When we blur sports and the military, adding corporate agendas into the mix, we’re not just doing a disservice to our troops and our athletes; we’re doing a disservice to ourselves. We’re weakening the integrity of democracy in America.

We can afford to lose a ballgame.  We can’t afford to lose our country.

[Note: For more on sports, the military, dissent, and patriotism, William Astore recommends Howard Bryant’s new book, The Heritage: Black Athletes, A Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism. An interview featuring Astore and Bryant on sports and patriotism can be heard by clicking here.]

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. AbateMagicThinking But Not Money

    In a recruit hungry military, in a nation where there is no draft, the influencers are going to be where the masses are and where emotions are elevated. Sport being war by other means, their targets are already mentally primed to sign.

    Perhaps another way to look at it is that the more vulnerable and stressed a nation is to actual threats or paranoia, the more patriotism is expressed. Jobs lost to China and lost wars could have a lot to do with it. Korea is a pungent reminder that has come back to haunt.

    At first instance this article reminded me of my surprise at learning that US generals have well funded public relations departments of their own. To me this shows that they are very well prepared for expected failures. – not failure in battle, but failure in war – almost a different matter entirely.


  2. eg

    As a Canadian who watches a lot of US TV sports broadcasts, this fetishization of the military has long been an object of some puzzlement for me.

    Unfortunately, milder forms of the same phenomenon have seeped across the border. I attended a Toronto Maple Leafs game last spring, and during a break in play the arena PA announced the presence of some military personnel in the stands, whereupon the audience rose to their feet in an ovation.

    Something about this disturbed me. My father was RCAF, and all I could think of was the profound embarrassment such a reaction would have caused him and others of his generation.

    1. ScottS

      Nearly all veterans I’ve talked to in person or read the writings of are embarrassed by the “Thanks for your service” expressions. Speculating, I imagine veterans know better than anyone what BS American foreign policy is and how twisted-around-the-axle the civilian fawning over them is.

      I’ve tried to separate my support of troops and veterans from my (lack of) support of US foreign policy with little success. The rare times I veer into political talks with strangers and acquaintances produce only knee-jerk reactions. “What, you don’t support the war in Iraq? SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!” Blech. I hope troops agree that the best way to support them is to pull them out of pointless wars.

      I’ve always found pro sports hard to stomach and the pre-game groveling before militaristic totems has done nothing to make sports more appealing.

      1. 1 Kings

        But, but, but, um butt..Haven’t you been bludgeoned into the we didn’t ‘win’ ‘in Vietnam because no support of troops meme. It was in all the papers, movies and mags, and definitely on every chicken-hawk politician’s lips since the day we sprinted out of there.

      2. JCC

        As a vet, I can safely say I can’t stand any of it.

        The sad thing is,when attending Spring Training, for example, my non-vet friends pressure me strongly to stand up and then all the nearby spectators spend the rest of the game “thanking” me. It’s really hard for me not be be impolite to them. I have to keep reminding myself it’s not their fault, they’ve just been thoroughly brainwashed.

        It takes some fun out of going to the games.

    2. Ford Prefect

      I was born in Canada and became a US citizen about a decade ago. As a new US citizen, the flag and national anthem had nothing to do with becoming a US citizen. Every country has a flag and a national anthem and usually a hyper-focus on those is a symptom of being a totalitarian state.

      Instead, my touchstone was the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments such as the 14th, 15th, 19th, and 26th. Generally, the shorter the amendment, the better they are as they are effectively absolute. Very few countries in the world have these protections written down in the constitution. When the US is at its finest is when a court finally figures out that one of these fundamental rights is not actually available to a segment of the population and they go about righting this wrong. Unfortunately, the US is still grappling with the legacy of racism and bigotry baked into the Constitution over two centuries ago. We are still waiting for some of the key amendments from over a century ago to be fully applied today.

      One of the most dangerous things on this planet is a US politician wearing a US flag lapel pin voting to begin a stupid war in a show of patriotism. Some wars have to be fought (WW I, WWII, the initial stages of Korean War, even the initial stages of Afghanistan) but many of our international and domestic problems come from wars that did not have to be fought in the first place (MacArthur going north in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq) as well as unnecessary covert actions (e.g. Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador that continue to generate illegal immigrants today).

      We should be showing our appreciation for our military by reserving them for critical, instead of gratuitous, wars. We should show them our appreciation by fully funding and properly managing the VA. We should show them our appreciation by supporting returning combat military in addressing PTSD and having fulfilling lives after they leave the service. We should show our appreciation for the military by ensuring that the Bill of Rights etc. are faithfully upheld.

      These real acts of appreciation cannot be replaced by staged acts of patriotism over a flag and anthem. I hope the military were actually fighting for our Constitution and not a flag. Anybody can appropriate the flag in a faux show of patriotism, but it is much more difficult to appropriate the Constitution in arguments in front of the Supreme Court.

      I support the right for athletes to do meaningful, non-violent, quiet protests during the national anthem. That is what the First Amendment is all about and it is in the highest principles of the country. Doing so does not disrespect the military because, as far as I am aware, none of the people protesting have ever mentioned the military as the reason for their protests. In fact, Kaepernick changed from sitting kind of glumly on a bench to kneeling after having discussions with Nate Boyer (Green Beret vet trying out with Seattle Seahawks) precisely to show respect while making his point.

      1. Plenue

        “Some wars have to be fought (WW I, WWII, the initial stages of Korean War, even the initial stages of Afghanistan”

        Aside from WW2, why did any of these ‘have’ to be fought?

        1. Ford Prefect

          WW 1 – late stage engagement tilted the playing field in the favor of Britain and France, the US went in on its own terms at Pershing’s insistence and stayed mobile. The French and Brits had assumed the Americans would simply fight in the trenches assigned to French and British units. The US mobility caught the Germans off-guard and helped control US casualties. This got the US a seat at the Versailles negotiating table – unfortunately Wilson was sick and could not get his Fourteen Points firmly established, including a strong League of Nations, so unreasonable reparations etc. set the stage for WW II. But the US came close to preventing the seeds for WW II being laid in 1918.

          Korea – this was the first major attempt in the Cold War for the Communist countries to grab additional territory post WW II borders. This was the first UN action to defend a country’s borders. The Inchon landings were brilliant and quickly re-established the pre-invasion border. The Korean War could have been over at that point with low casualties but MacArthur and Truman convinced the UN to keep going north and ignored Chinese warnings. The Chinese invasion caught the US military flat-footed in the dead of winter and caused most of the US casualties.

          Afghanistan – Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan and planned the 9/11 attacks from there. The initial invasion of Afghanistan, including the Tora Bora cave complex battles, disrupted their base of operations and got al Qaeda on the run so they were not as effective a terrorist organization. This is the only time that the NATO mutual defense clause has been invoked and it is the rest of the NATO countries that joined the US to defend the US (something Trump appears unaware of). However, the US then simultaneously invaded Iraq and converted the Afghan war into a spurious nation-building exercise trying to turn it into a corrupt democracy. This allowed the Taliban to regain footing in Afghanistan. The Taliban never seemed interested in doing anything but controlling the Afghan territory, so even if they did regain the country, it is likely that they have been inoculated against allowed international terrorists from setting up camp there.

          In all of these cases, the US had a solid reason for being there and the military executed the opening and early middle game of the chess match very well achieving their goals and objectives. However, the US fumbled the late middle game and end game in all three cases. This was usually a failure of the civilian leadership, not the military as those stages are really about attaining goals which are not militarily achievable, but have to be done through politics and diplomacy.

          1. Plenue

            You don’t actually answer why WW1 was worth fighting, in general or for the United States in particular. Let the remnants of Christendom beat each other to pieces, what business was it of ours?

            “The Communist countries”? As if unified international Communism was ever a thing. It was a war about reunifying the Korean peninsula. Given that South Korea was also a brutal military dictatorship, and the North having most of the left over Japanese infrastructure, on balance it probably would have been better if the North had won. Regardless, again, what business was it of ours? And yes, I know both we and the Soviet Union butted in and claimed jurisdiction after WW2. Affairs in Korea are the business of Koreans, not outsiders.

            The justifications for invading Afghanistan are extremely dubious, given that it was AQ and not the Taliban that attacked us. Especially in light of the fact that they offered to hand over bin Laden and we rejected their offer. And AQ weren’t much of an effective terrorist organization to begin with. 9/11 happened because of gross failure on behalf of various US agencies, not because it was some masterful plan.

            The US didn’t have solid reasons for being in at least two of those wars, with Korea being debatable. At least there we had already imposed ourselves on the South.

            1. Ford Prefect

              WW I wasn’t worth fighting at all in general. That was just nationalist egos at work and in turn destroyed the existing political and economic structures throughout Europe that started the war. People who didn’t like hereditary royalties generally came out on top. Europe had failed to learn the lessons from the American Civil War on the rapid industrialization of war and so the age of chivalry and class systems died an ignominious death in the mud of the trenches.

              The US was in it as it began playing a larger role on the world stage as the Old World destroyed itself. It is debatable if the US should have entered at that point, but from a geo-political perspective it wasn’t necessarily a bad choice.

              The initial invasion of Afghanistan was actually pretty light with little loss of life. It was when the US ended up doing nation-building with fixed camps and lots of convoys that the costs rose. Countries don’t like being occupied – that should be tattooed on every President’s forehead..

              The US military has actually done a good job over the years executing the initial achievable military goals. However, since WW II, the only time the US stayed with the initial goal as the final goal was the First Gulf War when Iraq was expelled from Kuwait. Even though Saddam Hussein was a pretty horrific ruler, he was contained and there was no need to go back in 2003. The WW II vet and Vietnam vet (Bush I and Powell) knew when to stop, a rare feat for US politicians.

  3. Alex V

    This thinking has not just infiltrated pro sports. Workout programs are increasingly referencing military imagery and themes. CrossFit is the most insidious example. Everything is a preparation for combat nowadays, it seems.

  4. 2nd world pose

    This is something I have observed for a time now…
    Also the language, namely in football.
    ‘Build a rapport with a receiver…’
    ‘Rally his troops’
    ‘threw a bomb down the field’
    ‘deep in the enemy territory’

    and so on…

    Nike Pro Combat gear
    Under ‘Armor’

    1. The Rev Kev

      You got a point there. Wouldn’t have to be at sports matches but could be at democrat events or Trump protest rallies for example. Psychologically that would be a very telling that as to how far the frenzy had devolved.

    2. voteforno6

      Although, in Washington, they were rather happy to celebrate the exploits of the Russians that helped the Caps win the Stanley Cup.

    3. cyclist

      Yeah, I have a nice cycling jersey from a Russian national cycling team that I picked up off eBay because I liked the design. Ten years ago I had no problem including it in the rotation, but haven’t put it on for a long time now. After Crimea I thought there might be a crazed Ukranian who might recognize the Cyrillic and run me off the road, but now, with RussiaRussiaRussia, it would be insane.

  5. Arizona Slim

    Something I really enjoyed while watching the World Cup matches: The lack of militaristic displays.

  6. Epynonymous

    I recall the scenes in Flags of our Fathers, where the war bond drive ferried the men around, before wild crowds who likely couldn’t find Iwo Jima on a map.

    My schools veterans program is complicit in this militarism. Free baseball tickets and a chance to win a Nintendo DS game system for any vet who participated. Endless emails interfering with my schooling and clogging my email without my permission.

    I joined for the education benefits ironically. Too bad the people meant to serve me were too busy making numbers, where I was just a commodity.

  7. Al

    I don’ like sports, I don’t own an American flag, I don’t own a TV and I don’t own a car. Problem solved.

    1. Newton Finn

      Problem solved for you…and for me. But we still are living in a country where the problem is only getting worse. As an aging Boomer, I don’t have many years left, but what’s happened to America makes it easier to move on. If only there was a time machine that could take me back to my college days, when we proudly kicked the military and corporate recruiters off our campuses.

      1. shinola

        Another boomer here. As such I find today’s patriotic militarism (jingoism) rather bizarre & disturbing. I do though understand the big propaganda push going on; there’s no draft. There would be very different attitudes towards war if our (grand-) sons & daughters faced the possibility of being forced to serve (as cannon fodder).

        Perhaps it;s time to (shudder) re-instate the draft, including women this time. Maybe then, instead of military displays, we might be hearing chants like:

        “Hey! Hey! USA! How may kids did you kill today?”

        1. Andrew Watts

          I think you’re underestimating the stupidity of large numbers of people in Washington. The draft didn’t deter anyone in the Johnson administration from sending two hundred thousand troops to Vietnam. They were emboldened by it and the draft assisted in facilitating their plans.

          If I was drafted I’d probably organize a mutiny or military coup at this point.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            For a monster with multiple children, how much money and press is a dead kid worth especially when there are spares? If a dead Fredo can win sympathy at every appearance, so much the better!

            Plenty of children are as precious as gold to these people, so they will tend to their needs. But still they are just another kind of asset.

        2. Newton Finn

          Nice to hear the voice of another old-school leftist who remembers the lingo. “What if they gave a war, and nobody came?” That might be the best we came up with.

  8. human

    The ceremony would have been appropriate on, say, Veterans Day in November.

    Perhaps if USAins began to remember that this was originally Armistice Day, a time to celibrate the end of war not those who prosecute it.

  9. jefemt

    The TV ads, promoting various branches of “service’, paid for by the branch being promoted. Oh really?

  10. PKMKII

    One of the changes I’ve noticed in professional sports that’s gone hand in hand with the rise of militaristic displays, is the increasing dourness of the games, particularly with regard to player behavior, at the same time. Goodell is eternally on a quest to make the NFL the No Fun League, attempting to ban players from showing that they have even the slightest joy from playing. All sorts of baseball owners, writers, pundits, etc., poo-poo players who bat flip after hitting a home run. The article notes that we haven’t had a truly boisterous tennis player since McEnroe, and the current dominant player, Djokovic, was criticized early in his career for not being “respectful” enough.

    Which sense from the militarization standpoint: ceremonial displays of militarism are strict, regimented, orchestrated affairs. Unrestrained emotions, spontaneity, thinking outside of the box, those are not acceptable. The games themselves are shaping into that mold, not just adjunct to the ceremony but a part of it. Which makes me worry that if they are one and the same, that criticism of the games will become seen as criticism of our soldiers. We kind of saw that with Kapernick, although his protest was aimed at something outside of the sport, but what if people had the same reaction to players protesting, say, the way the NFL has handled the CTE scandal by kneeling? Or protesting labor conditions and negotiations? Will the owners establish a narrative that questioning them is to be unpatriotic?

  11. John Wright

    Here is a story of a NFL staged on-field patriotic re-union from a few years ago.

    IIRC, this was reported on by NC, but perhaps some have not seen this.

    The link describes it quite succinctly

    We will probably see even more of this stuff to help with military recruiting if the official unemployment rate is evidence of a tight labor market, at least for low wage jobs.

    Per The Google, “The projected active duty end strength in the armed forces for fiscal year 2017 was 1,281,900 servicemembers, with an additional 801,200 people in the seven reserve components.”

    The number of USA employees of McDonalds is estimated at 1.9 million, so the USA military is a large employer similar to McDonalds in size.

    Of course, there is a conflict here, a government, assumed responsible for helping improve job opportunities for its citizens, has a military whose wage costs and recruitment efforts are hampered by a tight job market.

  12. Watt4Bob

    They are complicit in taking a select, jingoistic form of patriotism and weaponizing it to suppress dissent, including against the military-industrial complex and America’s never-ending wars.

    Like it always was.

    Jingoistic patriotism, IMHO, best describes one of the most disappointing facets of the American psyche, a reflexive tendency to wave the flag madly, while cheering on the murderous intent of the

    How is it that we have so little regard for our leadership class, until they ask us to wrap ourselves in the flag and kill people?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      We have little regard for the leaders of others. Our own leadership is AMAZING!! Or that one exception to the rule!!!

  13. Andrew Watts

    No amount of jingoism can erase the fact that the military is just another failed institution in our decaying country.

    1. Livius Drusus

      I agree with you but unfortunately I don’t think your point is seeping into the heads of most Americans. Polls show that the military is the only public institution that maintains widespread support among the populace. Political parties, corporations, labor unions, schools, churches and the government have all seen their support collapse but not the military. Many Americans, including many Millennials, would probably welcome military rule. Certainly the intense jingoism displayed at sporting events has contributed to this.

      1. Andrew Watts

        I don’t honestly think that it’d necessarily be a good thing if they realized that. The national spirit of our country was forged in large part due to the military. The Continental Army were the first major supporters of our early form of federalism and the Army which fought in the Spanish-American war reconciled the divided body politic from the War of Secession. Although it’s potentially catastrophic when a military as a whole becomes an active participant in civic life and first among equals in any democratic society.

      2. Tomonthebeach

        ” the military is just another failed institution in our decaying country” WRONG

        Asserting the US Military is decaying is utter rubbish. How as the military fallen into decay? It is the best-trained, best equipped military in history. With a huge budget plus-up, it is now better equipped than last year even. Even if meant metaphorically, there is no evidence of decay. Perhaps you would like the generals and admirals to be insubordinate? Maybe foment a coups like in Egypt?

        I wholeheartedly agree with LTCOL Astore. I also think that all but this comment have been constructive, insightful, and generally accurate. The military is not “failing”. It is we voters who do not demand a stop. It is the politicians we elect who squander the military to keep their donor’s assembly lines humming 24/7 making replacement bullets, bombs, and jets. Absolutely nothing has changed politically to stop that madness since I risked my ass in the second stupid war since WW-II, Vietnam. Since then, we have engaged in so many conflicts that few on the Hill could name half of them. Just recently, SURPRISE! We are all over friggin Africa now.

        Footnote: Building on the lapel flag comment, those pins are the best evidence that the Hill is 100% cowards who hire bullies to do their dirtywork. No congressman dares NOT wear their little pins (I forgot who started that) because the press will laser in on them as not patriotic – as bad as kneeling football players trying to get traction for racial equality.

        1. Yves Smith

          Please tell me what basis you have for your claims regarding the US military. It sounds like you are blindly repeating talking points.

          Like our bloated health care system, being the most expensive does not make it the best. The US hangs on aircraft carriers when they have been demonstrated to be superb sitting duck targets in various war games, yet we keep building them because pork. Don’t get readers started on the F-35. All branches of service have had to greatly reduce their recruitment standards to fill the ranks. Even so, active duty service members are doing unheard of numbers of tours of duty. That alone is proof the US is badly overextended and is burning out its working men and womem.

        2. flora

          I also agree with Lt Col Astore. The military men and women, for the most part, are dedicated to service to the country and not to politics or political intrigue.

          There’s an unfortunate conflation of the character of the service men and women and what is meant by “the military”. “The military” encompasses the servicemen and women (of all ranks), the Hill, the military budget (which includes the dark budget for the intel agencies), national politics, national security doctrines, and international projection of force. These things aren’t identical. In many cases, these things aren’t even similar. So talking about “the military” can quickly fall into a swamp of assumptions about terms, unless the terms are clearly defined, which they usually aren’t; this confusion often serves some politicos’ purposes. imo.

          Anyway, very good original post. Sporting events used to be a welcome escape from the anxieties of global politics – but no more. How I miss that.

        3. Plenue

          “It is the best-trained, best equipped military in history.”

          And yet can’t win wars. What was the last one we won? Libya?

          Even ‘best equipped’ is extremely dubious. At least on the naval and air front, we have new incoming arsenals comprised largely of broken, garbage hardware like the Zumwalt and the F-35. Meanwhile our proven weapons are woefully outdated. Chinese hypersonic missiles render our supercarrier battlegroups floating targets, and Russia AA and radar systems mean our beloved cruise missiles are essentially worthless (unless you believe the official story that all 76 missiles hit the Barzah research facility yet somehow left large segments of it standing).

          Actually, putting aside those instances and just talking about military hardware in general, from rifles to trucks to cargo planes, I’m not at all convinced the US actually has the best of anything. I’m pretty sure the French especially would dispute any claim of American technical superiority. The biggest difference between the US and other countries is that we have a lot more of everything, because we’re a monumentally rich country and that’s what our government has decided is worthy of spending priority.

          “Perhaps you would like the generals and admirals to be insubordinate? Maybe foment a coups like in Egypt?”

          We’re not at the level of coups yet (though I’m sure much of the Liberal ‘Resistance’ wouldn’t object if it were to happen), but do you mean insubordination like leaking classified intel to your journalist lover?

          Or how about ‘accidentally’ bombing Syrian government forces as a way to derail a ceasefire deal negotiated by the military’s civilian (supposed) masters?

          1. rd

            Bombing is much less effective than people think, including the political and military leadership:

            Germany WW II – military production tripled from 1942 to 1944 despite a 16-fold increase in bombs dropped:

            Vietnam – The US dropped more than three times as much bomb tonnage in Vietnam as in all of WW II –

            You have to occupy the ground with boots on the ground to have a chance of winning. If the population really doesn’t want you there, then you have to be willing to effectively wipe out any resistance. It is no different than police going into the inner city – even if the people are fighting among each other, they still won’t help the police in many cases.

            Asymmetrical warfare, practiced well, is very difficult to defeat on somebody’s home turf.

        4. Henry

          the flag pins on the lapel was started by Bush and Cheney to keep everyone in line by showing their support for the warmongers. It is still working very well. Seem another country had leaders doing the same thing to the citizenry during the 1930’s.

    2. Synoia

      i disagree. What the military is being asked to do is ill defined, unbounded, and lacks any definition of “win” or “complete.”

      Win “war on terror.” Nice. What’s the definition of “win”?

      What we have is a management problem.

        1. John Wright

          I remember hearing it as “How do you wage war against a technique.”

          But I also believe the leaders knew this ill-defined goal gave them freedom to do many things such as increased surveillance at home and abroad and military actions anywhere.

          They did not want a quantifiable required result.

      1. Andrew Watts

        The US military has failed according to their own metrics and internal analysis. According to the recently released US National Defense Strategy (2018) summary they’ve lost their military dominance. Their new goal is to seek a technological edge over their Great Power competitors. The unrealistic goal of full-spectrum dominance isn’t mentioned at all.

        Another area where they acknowledge they’ve failed is a controversial topic in the military blogosphere. The summary acknowledges that the education of professional military officers is in a woefully inadequate state. I could probably point out that years of unsuccessfully waging counter-insurgency warfare has left the US military as a whole ill-equipped to launch major military operations and stratagems against peer-competitors -but- every single time an issue is mentioned I always read the common canard that they need a strategy. I don’t even really believe an explanation is necessary.

        They also spend way too much time inventing nonsensical euphemisms like “jointness” when combined arms is a perfectly adequate and understandable description. Geez, I haven’t even started talking about the current wars or American military history yet.

  14. Steve Ruis

    In the NFL there is a contretemps regarding players kneeling (a sign of respect in church) during the playing of the national anthem. No one seems to question why the anthem is being played in the first place (it has an interesting history). I understand such displays at meetings of the City Council, or the Congress, or political rallies, but during a football match, a completely non-political meeting? Why? I have heard some answers but none make any sense at all. Neither does forcing school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every damned school day. Why?

    1. Jazzbo

      I believe that it was during WWII that the singing of the national anthem at professional baseball games was instituted. Does anyone know of any previous associations between professional sports and patriotism?

  15. johnonymous

    We can’t underestimate the power of these patriotic displays to coerce our thinking. Remember: it isn’t just the fact that you see the flyover and gigantic flag yourself, it’s that you see your neighbor witnessing the same message, too. AND s/he sees you doing the same. Now the message of “American Military and Sport are one and the Same and Great Forever!” becomes fact in our society–it is “common knowledge.” That’s how the common knowledge game is played by TPTB. Hat tip to Dr. Ben Hunt.

  16. ChrisAtRU

    Thanks for re-upping this. It’s a horrid state of affairs, especially when you consider the Pentagon paying for these “displays”.

  17. BoyDownTheLane

    Thanks for the re-post on this important issue. Locally, sports teams are A-100% behind Wounded Warriior programs, discipline players in soccer franchies who speak out of turn, and are also involved in the celebratory cover-up of the Boston Marathon bombing event. It’s interesting to note that the deceased and once-beloved MLB Commssioner Bart Giamatti was a member of a Yale seniors society and that his successor. Fay Vincent, owns a piece of premier real estate whose genesis is WIlliams College and sits on land once owned by a Rockefeller. The ties between the Rockefellers, Williams, Yale and the CIA can be discovered a number of ways.

  18. digi_owl

    While it may be more overt these days, (international) sports events have long been a case of war via different means.

  19. sierra7

    Good description of what is happening at most all our sporting events. Didn’t start with Trump. And, to continue to carry out our devious, sometimes murderous foreign policies over the decades the US has to bring that “military attitude” home so as to keep the US citizens hyped up to support those policies. Remember “Nuremberg”. Of course most people don’t. The glorification of sports is part and parcel of the brainwashing of our young.
    “Homeland” UGH!!
    “Warriors” UGH!
    “Heroes” UGH!
    “Friendly Fascism” (a book) is alive and well in America and has been for many years.
    (From a 5 year vet)

  20. earthling1

    “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross and a Dodger Dog”

    1. ambrit

      You’re in good company earthling1. Both Sinclair Lewis and Huey long are credited with that line too.

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