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We are not your goddamn beer salesmen.
February 5, 2014 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Budweiser paid for Super Bowl advertising that supposedly was trying to honor the troops. But the troops and veterans themselves have strong and thoughtful opinions about the existence of the ad, their choice of returning soldier, and what it says about companies and organizations who use veterans as props.
"Of course you welled up with pride and misty-eyed joy at the sight of this commercial. We all did. We’re conditioned to do so, whether by societal norms or by memories of our own first homecoming from the sandy outposts of American foreign policy. We have come to accept soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines as props. Our honorable war fighters have been allowed to become fungible assets in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Veterans are on par with the Priceline Negotiator and Sarah MacLachlan’s gut-wrenching narration of starving puppies (seriously, cut that out before I adopt dog #4). They’re all means to end. America feels good. Dollars get spent. The terrorists don’t win."
posted by corb (217 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh god, I'm not the only one who things this sort of thing is deeply offensive. I was beginning to think I was.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:43 AM on February 5 [67 favorites]


A-fucking-A-men. I've gotten to the point of threatening to unfriend relatives on Facebook if they don't stop forwarding the likebait pictures of veterans, dogs, and cancer kids.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:45 AM on February 5 [10 favorites]


Was wondering about this. Thanks for the post.
posted by jessamyn at 11:48 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


The saturation level this year was really awful. "Products! Soldiers! America!" Even my less politically-attuned in laws were like "Whoa."

Of course Coca-Cola runs a feel-good ad but it features non-white people speaking different languages, so there was a hate parade.
posted by selfnoise at 11:49 AM on February 5 [15 favorites]


likebait

Thank you, I needed this word.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:50 AM on February 5 [30 favorites]


He could have left out this part:
As someone pointed out to me, at least it is better than the homecoming many Vietnam veterans received when they came home.
The someone who "pointed this out" to you is promulgating a shitstirring modern narrative that does not serve veteran's interests, let alone the truth.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:50 AM on February 5 [36 favorites]


You linked the wrong video. This is the Super Bowl commerical, that one was from 2011.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:50 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


This happens with the NHL in Canada, to some extent. The Winnipeg Jets (now F/A-18 logoed) and Don Cherry (Rob Ford keynote speaker) are the worst offenders.

(warning, loud music)
posted by anthill at 11:53 AM on February 5


As someone pointed out to me, at least it is better than the homecoming many Vietnam veterans received when they came home.

It worth noting that nasty homecoming endured by most vets returning home from Vietnam was itself a pernicious myth created for the purposes of slandering the anti-war movement.
posted by absalom at 11:53 AM on February 5 [55 favorites]


The Terrorists Have Won. They bought Anheuser-Busch in 2008. (You didn't think that was an AMERICAN puppy in that feel-good commercial, did you?)
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:54 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Apparently there *is* an upside to not getting the U.S. commercials in Canada.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:55 AM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Hey at least it's not a commercial for Camel Lights.
posted by phaedon at 11:55 AM on February 5


Their choice of returning soldier is apparently participating in the comments at the second link.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:57 AM on February 5


You linked the wrong video. This is the Super Bowl commerical yt , that one was from 2011.

Oh, shit, sorry - though I suppose it says something about the ubiquitous nature of this kind of crap.

There's another great article up at Foreign Policy that talks about how this relates - and how it should relate - to the Army's problematic relationship with alcohol, but it's paywalled, so I didn't want to put it in the main link.
posted by corb at 11:58 AM on February 5


It worth noting that nasty homecoming endured by most vets returning home from Vietnam was itself a pernicious myth created for the purposes of slandering the anti-war movement.

An old myth that will never die, it seems.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:01 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that the Ford ad featuring (USMCR Lt Col) Rob Riggle didn't play up his military background.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:01 PM on February 5


Ugh. A friend of mine started shouting at her husband during the Chevy commercial: "Watch! Look! They're honoring cancer survivors!" I said "No they're not, they're selling Chevys."
That was after my rant about the folks who took their hats off and put their hands over their hearts for "America the Beautiful." That's not our national anthem, folks!
I'm really fun at parties.
posted by Floydd at 12:02 PM on February 5 [87 favorites]


Since the start of the afghanistan war, I've been referring to the mindless chest thumpers here in the US as 'patrioglodytes.' I'm glad that the vets are helping call out how crass all of this is, it lends legitimacy to the rest of us who are hunting for sanity.
posted by Fuka at 12:02 PM on February 5 [23 favorites]


Must Make Racket Bigger
posted by lalochezia at 12:03 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


That was after my rant about the folks who took their hats off and put their hands over their hearts for "America the Beautiful." That's not our national anthem, folks!
I'm really fun at parties.


No, you sound like great fun at parties. People who put their hands over their hearts for any patriotic song should be made fun of. This is a party game we can play.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:04 PM on February 5 [15 favorites]


An old myth that will never die, it seems.

It's not even that old; it gained currency in the aughts as a way to conflate being anti-war with being anti-soldier, to deafen military families to the anti-war position.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:04 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


A-fucking-A-men. I've gotten to the point of threatening to unfriend relatives on Facebook if they don't stop forwarding the likebait pictures of veterans, dogs, and cancer kids.

In fairness, videos of veterans being welcomed by dogs are usually organic things: "My husband is home! Look at our dog getting excited!" They're very different in tone from "Our major corporation decided to pay for a parade for one arbitrary veteran and then buy him a Superbowl ticket."
posted by Going To Maine at 12:04 PM on February 5 [9 favorites]


It worth noting that nasty homecoming endured by most vets returning home from Vietnam was itself a pernicious myth created for the purposes of slandering the anti-war movement.
Lembcke's book argues, further, that posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a socially constructed diagnostic category that disparages the image of Vietnam veterans and provided another way to discredit the many veterans in the anti-war movement.
Pernicious indeed.
posted by Etrigan at 12:05 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


How did the spitting-on-vets thing ever gain currency? I mean, a moment's reflection would make you realize that a lot of ass would have been beaten if that were literally true. 'Hey, that guy's a killer, Ima spit on him and I'm sure there will be no consequences!'
posted by resurrexit at 12:07 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


It's not even that old; it gained currency in the aughts

Uh, no, I definitely grew up in the late 80s hearing all about how vets got spit on, etc.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:07 PM on February 5 [47 favorites]


Well, it's better than sending thousands of caskets to the Super Bowl. They don't cheer or buy souvenirs or overpriced beer.
posted by ReeMonster at 12:07 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


It's not even that old; it gained currency in the aughts as a way to conflate being anti-war with being anti-soldier, to deafen military families to the anti-war position.

I saw this happen around the late 1980s to early 1990s, as a way to stifle dissent about Cold War military spending and deployment of troops to secure oil supplies during the first Gulf War.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:08 PM on February 5 [13 favorites]


This reminds me of Edward Bernays, the father of modern advertising, rounding up all the New York women socialites and getting them to say that smoking cigarettes made them feel "free" and "equal to a man" in order to get Marlboro to break into a new demographic.

Not only did it work, it was a smashing success. And yet never in the history of mankind has a person been liberated by a cigarette. In other countries they call this propaganda. The point is not that the depiction of the returning soldier is erroneous; the point is that it is a subject that people want to feel good about.

Feel good, fade to brand. Simple. People are like cows on this level.
posted by phaedon at 12:13 PM on February 5 [12 favorites]


Thank you, George_Spiggott: let's get that said right away, lest we labor under another serving of the "Vietnam Vet spit on at the airport while in uniform" myth. Like the razor blade in the Halloween candy a child purportedly got down the street, it never happened. The advert was offensive enough, and we don't need to add that particular canard to the crap pile.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 12:13 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


As a Canadian, I watched the entire video and thought the issue was that they were showing persons of colour and women among the troops and crowd...perhaps even implying that they might make up more than 15% of the cast. Because, you see, that's such a rare thing to see on American television and I thought perhaps it was riling some people.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:14 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Uh, no, I definitely grew up in the late 80s hearing all about how vets got spit on, etc.

I saw this happen around the late 1980s to early 1990s[...]


Interesting. If I ever heard it back then it didn't make an impression. Certainly it wasn't quacked in unison by millions (and an entire news network) the way it was in the buildup to Iraq, and it seems to have embedded itself as the CW now... I've lost count of the number of well-meaning but misled modern peaceniks who call the supposed behavior regrettable and misguided as opposed to untrue.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:17 PM on February 5


Every time a corporation uses a veteran to shill its goods, the dignity of service is eroded.

Hell, it's eroded every time a politician uses one to advance their agenda, too. Of course, who the flap knows where the dividing line between corporations and politicians even is anymore?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:18 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


As you so astutely pointed out, the distinction between advertising and propaganda is less than one angstrom, phaedon.
posted by scolbath at 12:19 PM on February 5


Certainly it wasn't quacked in unison by millions (and an entire news network) the way it was in the buildup to Iraq

Now it's my turn! I can't say I've really heard it since I was a kid, and certainly not during the buildup to the more recent Iraq fiasco. Perhaps we live in different universes? Weird.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:21 PM on February 5


The third question of this Salon's Dear Prudence article also touched on the ad:
...For the record, having been through this process on multiple occasions and knowing how difficult reintegrations can be, I think "surprise" homecomings are awful and can't imagine how hard they are on families, especially children. I have tried to respond graciously in the past, but it is starting to get on my nerves. I don't think that the stories and ads are sweet and patriotic. I think that they are exploitative and insincere: that Americans post these feel good snippets so that they can feel like they are doing something to "support the troops" while they ignore/allow involuntary drawdowns, untreated PTSD, family violence, V.A. backlogs and all the other unpleasant realities that happen after the ticker tape parades are over. I know, of course, that my friends and family mean well and I don't want to upset them by unleashing this rant, but it gets harder and harder to bite my tongue. Can you suggest a firm but gentle way to request that the onslaught cease?
posted by zix at 12:23 PM on February 5 [18 favorites]


Yeah, when you said "it's not even that old" I agreed with you because I assumed you meant "it only dates back to the mid-80s".
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:24 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I also found it immensely problematic that a beer company would do this when so many veterans struggle with substance abuse. About as tasteful as the time an AIDS benefit here in town was sponsored by Death's Door Gin.
posted by Madamina at 12:24 PM on February 5 [9 favorites]


Interesting. If I ever heard it back then it didn't make an impression.

I blame First Blood as well as those late seventies movies like the Deerhunter about vets with problems trying to make it back in America. You saw it pop up in all sorts of pulp fiction, comics etc.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:25 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


Interesting. If I ever heard it back then it didn't make an impression.

Yeah, I was also hearing it a fair amount back in the early 1990s. I grew up around extended family, and their friends, who were Vietnam vets and were on their way to becoming... whatever the mass of people is called who would later listen to Rush Limbaugh and watch Fox News, but before those were really things yet. And while they were certainly not out on the John Birch crazy end of the spectrum, they were very insistent that vets don't get enough respect, the "hippies" don't love their country enough, etc. I can't remember any specific books or magazines or whatever about the issue, but it was definitely a truism among that crowd that vets had been spat on when they returned from the war. It was just generally accepted as true, at least among that smaller subset of the population. Maybe it took until ~2003 to go mainstream though, I don't know.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 12:25 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


As you so astutely pointed out, the distinction between advertising and propaganda is less than one angstrom, phaedon.

According to Bernays himself, no less.

"Making people want things they didn't need by linking goods to their unconscious desires." Bernays was cousins with Freud. He couldn't use the word propaganda because the Germans spoiled it. This is how you control the masses, guys. Fuck it just watch Century of the Self if you haven't already. Best hour of your life.
posted by phaedon at 12:25 PM on February 5 [14 favorites]


I saw this happen around the late 1980s to early 1990s, as a way to stifle dissent about Cold War military spending and deployment of troops to secure oil supplies during the first Gulf War.

From the movie First Blood (1982):

And I come back to the world and I see all those maggots at the airport, protesting me, spitting. Calling me baby killer and all kinds of vile crap! Who are they to protest me? Who are they? Unless
posted by bondcliff at 12:25 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


That ad is so goddamn stupid and manipulative I am never drinking Budweiser again.
posted by cloeburner at 12:26 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


I've been hearing the "vets returning from Vietnam were spat on" thing from certain quarters since I was a kid, but it really ramped up to Level 10 in 1990 and 2001 as a pre-emptive tactic to silence and discredit any American citizens who might have criticisms of the war machine.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:27 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (while driving a GMC).
posted by blue_beetle at 12:27 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


Corporations using soldiers as props: Bad
Corporations using soldiers as pawns: OK

Got it, thanks!
posted by sourwookie at 12:29 PM on February 5 [9 favorites]


Some people draw the line there, yes. Welcome to a world that is more complicated than the internet.
posted by jessamyn at 12:30 PM on February 5 [18 favorites]


A friend in the US Navy refers to this as "thanksploitation".
posted by Hlewagast at 12:35 PM on February 5 [111 favorites]


That's not our national anthem, folks!

That's the same thing I yell in my head at baseball games when I'm (the only person) not standing up for "God Bless America".
posted by hwyengr at 12:35 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


I hate surprise reunions/homecomings and the morning news shows love to show them. Every time there's a surprise homecoming for a child or wife, I say, "This is why we go to war. Without war, we wouldn't have all these separated familes and have these touching moments to appreciate over my coffee and donuts. Isn't it just great?

Now, on to the latest Tori Spelling news..."
posted by yeti at 12:37 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Why does every discussion of veterans on this site have to devolve into a discussion of what it was like for people coming home from Vietnam?

An old myth that will never die, it seems.

That shit drives me nuts because it's the same stupid absolutism you all are arguing against. If you're saying it didn't happen, give my dad a call. He had a job interview end with the interviewer telling him he'd never be hired because he was a Vietnam vet and "all you people are addicted to heroin". The plural of anecdote isn't data, but skip the back-slapping bs about how it was all invented 5 years ago to discredit the anti-war movement and move on. Please.
posted by yerfatma at 12:37 PM on February 5 [20 favorites]


There's still Tori Spelling news?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:37 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


As to the point of the commercial, it gives me the same creeps that NFL spot with Steve Gleason does: they hold him up to make themselves look good and he has little choice but to go along because he's dying of ALS and any money he can generate will help provide for his kids after he's gone. Just don't do it. Give him the dough and walk away.
posted by yerfatma at 12:38 PM on February 5


[Replaced the first link with the intended recent video instead of this one from 2011.]
posted by cortex at 12:39 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


FYI, if you don't want to drink Anheuser Busch InBev beer, you'll have to be vigilant because it is quite a list. For example, inBev has a majority stake in Goose Island. And they have a big stake in Craft Brew Alliance, which sadly put one of my favs Widmer Brothers in the stay-away list.

So...I guess do your research and by (genuinely) locally owned and produced beer.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:40 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


We are hurting.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:41 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


For the record, having been through this process on multiple occasions and knowing how difficult reintegrations can be, I think "surprise" homecomings are awful and can't imagine how hard they are on families, especially children.

OMG, I am so glad to finally hear someone else say that. Every time I see one of those videos, my first and only thought is, "Nobody had better ever try to pull that kind of thing on me or any hypothetical child of mine, or I'll have a heart attack, wet my pants, and throw up at the same time. And if there's some blankety-blank there FILMING IT, he'd better enjoy eating through a straw."

Derail: I also don't get the parents who tell their kids all spring that they're going to spend a week at Grandma's in June, then surprise them by driving to Disney World instead, and then get all pissed at the kids for being disappointed they're not going to Grandma's. Dudes, you just LIED to your six-year-old and YOU feel betrayed because you didn't get thanked enough for MONTHS OF FALSEHOODS?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:41 PM on February 5 [10 favorites]


telling him he'd never be hired because he was a Vietnam vet and "all you people are addicted to heroin".

Fair enough -- I have no doubt whatsoever that some Vietnam vets were treated badly by misguided people who would use them as a proxy for the war itself, particularly in an escalated confrontation -- but I hope you realize what you're describing is quite a different thing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:41 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Goddamn how I love the wry, understated dickery of a smart and savvy (ex)serviceman.
posted by echocollate at 12:42 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


Also, THE NFL IS TAX-EXEMPT? How in the name of Almighty Cthulhu did that happen?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:42 PM on February 5 [14 favorites]


"This reminds me of Edward Bernays..."

Ah, another person who watched Adam Curtis films.
Even Bernays referred to his work as propaganda, and wrote a book titled "Propaganda" in 1928.

So it's not really a stretch to call ALL advertising that comes from his original works propaganda. Branding is part and parcel with the whole affair. Linking brands to ideals was the sole purpose of advertising. Many times, you will see the use of aspirational ideals to link products to lifestyles in this way. It can be a really fun game at parties (or just to keep yourself from buying into the bullshit) to catalog and list all the things that an advertiser is trying to link in to their product ads.

The saddest thing is to meet someone who works in advertising who doesn't know the name Bernays, or anything related to the sociological studies that Bernays himself commissioned in order to be better at eliciting emotional connections between products and consumers. It is also really fun to see someone who really just does not know what the hell they are doing create a commercial. In the 90's, there were a ton of Superbowl ads that were obviously made by people not trained in the art.

The reason a lot of people really hate commercials such as the ones illustrated in the article are because they completely lack any kind of subtlety or finesse. They are emotive bludgeons that pummel the audience with intensely obvious purpose and do not give even the veneer of trying to offer the viewer the ability to distance themselves from the attempted brand/emotional link. They also tend to backfire immensely with large swaths of the audience, and I have a really good inkling that none of these ads were properly focus group tested (yes, focus groups were another invention of Bernays, to a greater degree).

Bernays died very rich and very happy with his contribution to society, which is sad for the rest of us, because his legacy is so poorly understood or well known. He used to appear on David Letterman in the 80's and a lot of people had no idea why he was on or who he was. It's really kind of creepy, honestly.

The saddest part is that propaganda works, and it is here to stay as media becomes more and more a part of everyday life for anyone in a consumer culture (which is spreading, and will continue to spread unchecked, because it makes a lot of people a lot of money).

The Adam Curtis films I mentioned earlier are really very interesting to watch (and take with some skeptical outlook, but for the most part, I can't find too much fault with the sources that he sites and the way in which he links a lot of disparate actors into the chain of cause and effect, though many people have a lot of criticism for them because they do hold a very "left" world view and are not really objective in their portrayal of many of the historical figures that are featured). The Bernays one is called "Century of the Self" and is a 4 part documentary (yes, it is that involved that he had to be broken up in to 4 part to cover everything). The interview with James Buchanan is eye opening and will give a lot of people a new perspective on Buchanan's ideas and actually made me rethink my ideas on representative government and the oddly sensible concern about electing anyone who is a zealot of any stripe (doesn't matter if they are on your team or not, a zealot is not someone you want to give any power to, ever).

It also goes into great detail about how politicians learned to use the methods of advertising and propaganda to get elected. If you understand how it all works, it is so very easy to see why Mitt Romney thought he was going to win (hint, he didn't know enough about reality versus public messaging to really figure out what the 538 polls were accurate and the whole right-wing media machine was deluding itself). Even worse is seeing how much even the people who actually have control of the means of producing and broadcasting propaganda are clueless as to the effective use of the tools they have inherited. You can watch a lot of organizations utterly fail to get a coherent message out because they are like children at the controls of a wrecking ball. It would be funny if it didn't distort society so much.

On preview, I am way too long winded on this subject.
posted by daq at 12:43 PM on February 5 [41 favorites]


It wasn't until after 9/11 that Servicemen and women, and "First Responders" became stand-ins for paid Corporate shills. Every Ball game, Hockey game etc. now honors a returning soldier, or failing to find one convenient enough will grab the nearest veteran and put the spotlight on him/her.
posted by Gungho at 12:45 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Also, THE NFL IS TAX-EXEMPT? How in the name of Almighty Cthulhu did that happen?

It's a non-profit entity that exists to promote the game of football.

I'll have you know I made it all the way to the end of "promote" with a straight face there.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:46 PM on February 5 [12 favorites]


From the movie First Blood (1982)

It's amazing how many people apparently never watched the last 20 minutes of this movie (where John Rambo tearfully falls apart as a reminder of how war mentally and emotionally destroys most veterans), or forget that the antagonists are exactly the kind of people who manipulate patriotism and accusations of anti-Americanism to fit their personal biases. The sequels didn't help this, obviously, but I seem to remember Stallone disavowing them as anything but paychecks.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:52 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


Also, THE NFL IS TAX-EXEMPT? How in the name of Almighty Cthulhu did that happen?

It's a non-profit entity that exists to promote the game of football.


I think the only major professional sports league that hasn't classified itself as a non-profit organization is Major League Baseball, and then only because they don't want to have to reveal the salaries they pay to Bud Selig and the other executives.
posted by Copronymus at 1:01 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


From the Gfor3 link:
In the present, LT Nadd’s girlfriend Shannon Cantwell–who claimed responsibility for connecting the disgusting megabrewery with her man–works for Sen. Shelby of Alabama as a correspondent and deputy press secretary. Both she and Budweiser say he was chosen after she entered him in a contest “after hearing about it through her VFW."
I mean, fuuuuuuuuuck...
posted by RakDaddy at 1:03 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm naive for saying this, but doesn't it kind of make sense for the shell organization of a sports league to be a non-profit? Passing all the profits to the teams seems sensible since you want to have good motivated organizations, plus presumably the teams get taxed? Or are the teams non-profits as well?
posted by selfnoise at 1:03 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


NFL teams are not (federally) tax-exempt but the NFL organization is tax-exempt as a "trade or industry association." Not saying that it's an appropriate classification, as the article discusses, but it's not like they're claiming they are a charity.
posted by muddgirl at 1:05 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


The movie Jacknife (Robert deNiro, Kathy Baker, Ed Harris) is another example of the "messed-up Vietnam Vet returns home can't handle civilian life" theme, but it is rather successful as a series of character portraits as well, and superbly acted as I recall.

And "thanksploitation" is brilliant, covers this kind of exploitation as well as the coercive "thank you for your service" which is seemingly de rigeur in some quarters.
posted by Rumple at 1:08 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Also, THE NFL IS TAX-EXEMPT? How in the name of Almighty Cthulhu did that happen?

'Cause football is a religion, silly.
posted by telstar at 1:09 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


That shit drives me nuts because it's the same stupid absolutism you all are arguing against. If you're saying it didn't happen, give my dad a call. He had a job interview end with the interviewer telling him he'd never be hired because he was a Vietnam vet and "all you people are addicted to heroin". The plural of anecdote isn't data, but skip the back-slapping bs about how it was all invented 5 years ago to discredit the anti-war movement and move on. Please.

I came to say the same thing. My dad tells stories all the time about the cold reception he received when he returned from Vietnam (he was drafted so it's a place where he would have preferred never to have been in the first place.) His stories have been consistent since I was a kid, well before the alleged invention in the '90s that commenters are referring to.
posted by AgentRocket at 1:10 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


From the movie First Blood (1982)

Also, to add on to zombieflanders, it is also amazing how they changed the ending of the movie and how Rambo ended up living, instead of the original ending of the book, where he dies in the end. This led to a) sequels, and b) making the crazy, PTSD suffering, Vietnam Vet who could not/would not reintegrate into civil society into a hero to be emulated, instead of the original view of a broken man, haunted by his experience during war, unable to live in the country he fought for, and killing himself by death by officer as a way of "dying a noble death." It was also a story of how inhumane the "justice" system is to people who are incapable of living by civil societies rules, and how many backwater sheriffs can be just as cruel to their prisoners as the Viet-cong were to their P.O.W.'s.

Every time I talk to someone who idolizes Rambo, it is the movie version they refer to, and not the haunted and broken man from the book, who has become so alien to civilian life that he is essentially a vagrant, whom society has essentially shunned.

And thus, our problems with actually supporting our troops was born out of the complete rewrite of a really great ending to a really horrible story. Instead of Rambo being a proper anti-hero, he became a symbolic hero of war, imbued with fighting prowess and representing this weird notion of rugged individualism fighting corrupt local power. Totally missing the point of the original book, as I said before.
posted by daq at 1:11 PM on February 5 [19 favorites]


Totally missing the point of the original

The 80s were good at that. See also: "Born in the USA."
posted by entropicamericana at 1:13 PM on February 5 [10 favorites]


That Gfor3 link was a hell of a piece of writing, and some good reporting as well. (His math, not so much: $800,000 out of $9 billion is .009%, not .00008%. Not that it changes his point.)
posted by Killick at 1:17 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


the alleged invention in the '90s that commenters are referring to

I can't speak for the others, but the "alleged invention" I was responding to was the one in the "aughts". I am not alleging anything was invented, just offering my experience growing up as a counterpoint to the earlier assertion. I heard these things in the late 80s because that was when I became a sentient being and started forming memories. If they were said before that, it wasn't in my hearing, because I didn't have any.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:18 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I'm both very pissy about standing at attention for God Bless America AND for NOT standing at attention/hand over heart/shut the fuck up/off the cell phone for the Anthem. My kid's in a marching band right now.

I'm a LOT of fun at parties.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:19 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Duffel Blog (satire alert): Heartwarming Steel Reserve Super Bowl Ad Welcomes Soldier Home To Empty House, 40oz Beers
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:23 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


"the NFL gave away .00008% of its revenue to help the veterans it happily trots out to you before each game."

whoa. (and even with Killick's amendment above, .009% is still nothing.)
posted by jillithd at 1:23 PM on February 5


Wondering what kind of propaganda commercials will run in 20 years when the War on Terror has been handed over to robots.
posted by steinsaltz at 1:25 PM on February 5


But then it is ended with "Only 6 more months until college football."

I've never read that blog before so I don't know if that was tongue-in-cheek? From what I understand, the NCAA pretty much uses college athletes for nothing but profit, too.
posted by jillithd at 1:26 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Wondering what kind of propaganda commercials will run in 20 years when the War on Terror has been handed over to robots.

Old Glory Insurance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:27 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


Why is this so surprising to people? It's corporate-sponsored fascism at it's sudsy, beer-swilling best.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 1:27 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Fascism is a word that has a meaning and its meaning is not this.
posted by kiltedtaco at 1:30 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


Well actually the close linkage of government—especially its military aspects— and industry is one of the hallmarks of fascism.
posted by Mister_A at 1:32 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


And to argue with people on both sides of the "spitting on vets did/didn't happen" theme.

It did happen, and there was prejudice against returning vets. But it was not some organized thing. It was individuals acting out poorly rationalized and realized beliefs. Denying that many veterans were/are treated poorly by civilians upon returning from war is just wrong. However, propping it up as a reason to hate anti-war movements or to insulate oneself from the anti-war argument is both specious and ill advised. Neither side is right in their belief that the societal effects of the contentious involvement of the U.S. in proxy wars during the Cold War period can say that any of the effects have a single cause. You also have a lot of other class based differentiations to contend with, as well as a severely limited scope of data presented from the broadcast media of the time. The failure is on the narrative structure presented by everything, with only two sides represented, instead of understanding the whole of society as having many aspects and complex systems of interaction. You also had the very recent and continuing problems with other political and social movements at the same time, with everyone drawing very different and conflicting lines. To only view it as a two sided issue is to do yourself and everyone who went through that time period a great disservice.

The various media broadcasters (both print and television/radio) used a lot of very divisive methods to paint their opposition is very broad generalities and negative associations. And many people do not bother to try and dissect those narratives, and simply accept what they are told if it already fits into their world view. To some, the image of anti-war hippies spitting on returning vets became the focal point of their ire against their particular out-group. While those who identified with the anti-war sentiment threw up immediate refutations and attempted to distance themselves from that image, in the media atmosphere of the time, because it was such a narrow band of information delivery, the zeitgeist was indelibly marked by those partisan narratives and became touchstones for a lot of the culture. You can look at almost every medium of entertainment and see how those real life ideas were repeated and used as emotional triggers to bring the audience along with the narrative of many stories. From the pulp and exploitation movies and books through out the 70's and into the 80's, to the use of those same touchstones in political haymaking (look at many of Ronald Reagan's speeches during his Governorship of California and during his campaigning against Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election), the creation of a two sided argument is easily formed. You have the traditionalist/conservative/conformist worldview versus the individualist/rebellious/under-dog. And the pattern repeats itself for decades.

What's even funnier is that this very same notion is actually present throughout all of recorded history. I am surprised more people don't question why almost every narrative ends up being some strange 2 sided affair, when real life is never so cut and dried. Even in a small group of more than 3 people, the dynamics are so much more complex than just 2 sides, and yet humans tend to just dump everything into one of two categories. With me or against me (neutral being against).

Also, just to throw a fun thing to research for those feeling like looking at the evidence; the War on Terror actually started in the 80's under Reagan. 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut.
posted by daq at 1:32 PM on February 5 [11 favorites]


"... Veterans are on par with the Priceline Negotiator and Sarah MacLachlan’s gut-wrenching narration of starving puppies (seriously, cut that out before I adopt dog #4). They’re all means to end. America feels good. Dollars get spent. The terrorists don’t win."
This is all true and it's a hell of situation, but it is so partly because over the last few decades, as an institution, the armed forces have been turned from a necessary band of citizen-soldiers into a professional class of heroes mostly exempt (as an institution) from criticism. Of course, advertisers want to use heroes to sell things, just like they like to use babies, funny children, and cute animals.

I pretty much agree with everything Fumblerooski writes at Gfor3, but the use of vets to sell stuff is part of larger problem the US has with the status and nature of the armed forces and military action in a democratic society. (As usual, it seems like we don't give returning vets enough of the things they need—health care, jobs, security—and lavish them instead with things they don't need—empty praise, stardom, pedestals.)
posted by octobersurprise at 1:33 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


The dangerous thing, octobersurprise, is not that the soldiers themselves are immune from criticism; it is that the cynical manipulators who order them abroad to kill and die benefit from the halo of infallibility cast by the servicepeople. The decisions that lead to those men and women landing in harm's way (and, at the same time, putting many many other people in harm's way) are also immune from criticism, because if the soldiers are perfect heroes, their cause must be righteous. And so bad policy becomes enshrined in the public religion as "just" war-making.
posted by Mister_A at 1:38 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


I'm glad someone has said this. It's long past time.

Now I need everybody to get on board with stopping the disrespect to the flag before every football game.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:41 PM on February 5


Wait, wait, the NFL is tax-exempt? What the fuck?
posted by inertia at 1:42 PM on February 5


Thank you for your service Chuck.

Now I feel so much better!
posted by vonstadler at 1:43 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Really it is good to hear them speaking against this. The combination of kitsch and militarism is extremely distasteful, for many reasons.
posted by thelonius at 1:43 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


My returned-from-deployment more than once husband just laughs at this kind of circus - let me assure you any big 'welcome home' occasion is not for those who are returning home, it's for the people doing the welcoming.

(We are a crappy family - we just let him get home, give him a hug and help him carry his bags inside).
posted by Megami at 1:44 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Wait, wait, the NFL is tax-exempt? What the fuck?

I think it's a church
posted by thelonius at 1:44 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Again, yes, the NFL as in "the organization that schedules games, organizes the draft, organizes refs, coordinates payments to teams from cable deals, etc. etc." is tax-exempt as an industry association like a Chamber of Commerce. Individual NFL teams, which are NOT owned by the NFL, are not tax-exempt and the money earned by teams from ticket sales, cable deals, etc. is taxed.
posted by muddgirl at 1:45 PM on February 5


To be clear, the league itself, as a company that employs a commissioner, sets league-wide rules, etc. is exempt, but individual teams are not. The polite fiction is that the Cowboys, Steelers and the rest, are each an independently owned and operated business and the entity known as "The NFL" is their trade association, rather than being franchises of a single corporate overlord like your local McDonald's.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:45 PM on February 5


The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam "is a 1998 book by sociologist Jerry Lembcke. The book argues that the common claim that American soldiers were spat upon and insulted by anti-war protesters upon returning home from the Vietnam War is an urban legend intended to discredit the anti-war movement. Lembcke's book argues, further, that posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a socially constructed diagnostic category that disparages the image of Vietnam veterans and provided another way to discredit the many veterans in the anti-war movement. Lembcke writes that this discrediting of the anti-war movement was foreshadowed by Hermann Göring's fostering of the stab in the back myth, after Germany's defeat in Europe in 1918."

Lembcke op-ed: debunking the spitting myth.
posted by Rumple at 1:46 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I'm glossing over the fact that cities/states can and do negotiate lower tax rates for teams, as these deals are highly specific and I don't know all the details.
posted by muddgirl at 1:47 PM on February 5


And that their stadiums are often built on the backs of taxpayers.
posted by misskaz at 1:48 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


I saw that commercial and knew this was coming. Chuck needs to five and dive and find a career doing pr or something cuz the army will never let him live it down.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:48 PM on February 5


And "thanksploitation" is brilliant, covers this kind of exploitation as well as the coercive "thank you for your service" which is seemingly de rigeur in some quarters.

Oh god, yes. I hear this at least once a week, usually multiple times, and I still never have any idea what to say besides look around awkwardly and shuffle my feet.
posted by corb at 1:50 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


My son, rather than thank people for their service, has been known to ask them if they ever shot anyone. Ahh, youth.
posted by Mister_A at 1:53 PM on February 5


I mean, it's kind of a reasonable question.
posted by Mister_A at 1:54 PM on February 5


Rumple: Wait, he's arguing that PTSD was invented to discredit the anti-war movement, and he's supposed to be a credible source?
posted by Grimgrin at 1:56 PM on February 5 [11 favorites]


With VA narcotic prescriptions up a whopping 270%, It's really a shame the commercial doesn't fade to an OxyContin logo. Somebody needs to get on that.
posted by phaedon at 1:57 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


I mean, it's kind of a reasonable question.

Nope.
posted by lalex at 1:58 PM on February 5 [11 favorites]


I hadn't even put my finger on why I felt uncomfortable about the "surprise, your dad is back from Iraq and we're filming your reactions!" videos. It's so intrusive, and those little kids are so overcome and crying hysterically. Why the fuck do we think it's ok to make their emotional moment our entertainment? They're kids. I would have hated the people that did that to me; that's a private moment with a lot of pain mixed into the happiness.

The whole thing is sick, if you think about it. But oh god, most people I know would be so mad if I ruined the emotional hit they're taking off some kid's anguish.
posted by emjaybee at 1:58 PM on February 5 [12 favorites]


I haven't read the book, but it seems from the summary like he's arguing that PTSD as a separate diagnostic category was developed partially for that reason. This is a social model of disease that is often misinterpreted as claiming that people labeled with PTSD are making their symptoms up. That's generally not what's intended. But again, I haven't read the book so I could be wrong. On the face it seems like a strange argument as my understanding was that the anti-war movement did a lot to highlight PTSD as a pervasive phenomenon affecting veterans, so I'd be interesting in what evidence he presents that it was actually intended or used to discredit veterans.
posted by muddgirl at 2:01 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Grimgrin - well that's a wikipedia synopsis so I wouldn't swear it is an accurate reflection of the book, which I haven't read, but which is published by New York University Press, so it has been peer reviewed. I only brought it up because this question of whether returning troops were ever spat upon has been the subject of serious scholarly research. Since the possible urban legend of spitting/hostile returns is a dominant driver of the "we should never blame the troops for the things they did while serving" mentality and indeed throw them a parade, I think it's important in understanding the current environment.

But yeah, obviously PTSD is not exactly a social construct.
posted by Rumple at 2:05 PM on February 5


More from Lembcke


[I snipped the first half out, but he is talking about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars when referring to "the war"]

" Stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans are bogus. Born out of accusations made by the Nixon administration, they were enlivened in popular culture (recall Rambo saying he was spat on by those maggots at the airport) and enhanced in the imaginations of Vietnam-generation men — some veterans, some not. The stories besmirch the reputation of the anti-war movement and help construct an alibi for why we lost the war: had it not been for the betrayal by liberals in Washington and radicals in the street, we could have defeated the Vietnamese. The stories also erase from public memory the image, discomforting to some Americans, of Vietnam veterans who helped end the carnage they had been part of.

The facsimiles of spat-upon veteran stories that are surfacing now confuse the public dialogue surrounding the war. Debate about the war itself and the politics that got us into it is being displaced by the phony issue of who supports the troops. Everyone supports the troops and wishes them a safe and speedy homecoming. It's the mission they have been sent on that is dividing the nation and it is the mission that we have a right and obligation to question.

The "support the troops" symbolism also comes with a hidden agenda, a subtext that is about the anti-war movement. Understandably, the war brings a lot of emotion to the surface and some of that feeling stems from frustration with the economy, a sense of helplessness in the face of large-scale social and technological change, and fear that cherished American values are being lost. For some people, the real war is the war at home and the enemy coalition comes bundled for them in the anti-war movement. The redirection of their legitimate anger about the deteriorating quality of life in America onto peace activists is shortsighted scapegoating that won't solve problems.

The truth is that nobody spat on Vietnam veterans and nobody is spitting on the soldiers today. Attempts to silence opponents of the war with those figments of hostility are dishonest and should, themselves, be banished from our discourse. "
posted by Rumple at 2:10 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


After reading this thread, i'm left thinking that the whole spitting on vietnam vets thing is a lot like the welfare queens thing.

There's just a tiny enough kernel of truth in there that you can't call it bullshit, but it's like 80% fabrication and taking a thing that sort of happened in a couple places not really quite how you're describing and saying it was a pervasive nationwide occurrence to promote a circlejerk and great soundbites on the news.

So, basically a much earlier chapter in the book by the same people who brought us the birther movement an shit, awesome.
posted by emptythought at 2:11 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


See also: "Born in the USA."

God, the drumming in that is amazing. Until then I only knew Max Weinberg from Conan O'Brien, but his work on that song still puts chills down my spine on the rare occasion it comes over on the FM.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:15 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


It did happen, and there was prejudice against returning vets. But it was not some organized thing. It was individuals acting out poorly rationalized and realized beliefs. Denying that many veterans were/are treated poorly by civilians upon returning from war is just wrong.

Right - I'm not saying I believe that it never happened to anyone, ever. I just didn't buy that it happened on the scale that some people, especially the very vocal war hawks in 1990 and 2001, made it out to be. And as you said, not as an organized movement.

And I do remember, as a little kid in the early 1980's, the whole "Vietnam vets are unstable" trope, and PSA's encouraging people to hire veterans. Not a huge surprise in hindsight, since they weren't being given treatment for PTSD.

And, while it's not comparing apples to oranges, I think the fact that the forces that fought in Vietnam included draftees while those who fought in later conflicts were all-volunteer can't be totally ignored. I'm no psychologist, but it seems like even isolated cases of bad treatment would be extra-traumatic for people who hadn't even volunteered to go in the first place - if those isolated incidents had been repeated in 2001 (which I don't think they would have, even without the propaganda campaign), would they even have had the same effect on all-volunteer troops?

The lack of a draft brings up another issue I've sometimes wondered about. We're told that we can hate the wars as much as we like and still support the troops. And I think most people manage to compartmentalize enough to do that. But it's hard to imagine that it never adds to the level of mental and emotional stress of people who choose to go to war any loved ones who don't share their conviction. I mean, it's not smoking or drinking or gambling - it's WAR. Even if neither one of them ever mentions it out loud, it's there, festering. And they both know that there's a good chance they'll be screwed out of adequate resources for recovery if anything bad happens to them.

The dangerous thing, octobersurprise, is not that the soldiers themselves are immune from criticism; it is that the cynical manipulators who order them abroad to kill and die benefit from the halo of infallibility cast by the servicepeople.

Human shields. I have huge respect for the vets who don't put up with that sort of thing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:16 PM on February 5


Hell, it's eroded every time a politician uses one to advance their agenda, too.

This. Who was the first president to bring a local hero to the state of the union address? Off the top of my head I would say Reagan, but I wouldn't put money on it.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:17 PM on February 5


So Chuck Nadd was in the same graduating class as I was. I don't recall ever meeting him, although we probably had some classes together. I was at the National Training Center in Ft. Irwin during the Superbowl, so when I started seeing Facebook updates along the lines of "and now to make things worse, Chuck fucking Nadd" I thought someone had just seen him in person. I was also in Chile when he appeared on Wheel of Fortune so I missed his antics that time. From what I've heard, he's a nice enough guy who is just trying way too hard to be a big deal. So in summary, I know the guy involved yet I do not know him. I don't know what this comment contributes. Hm.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 2:17 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Who was the first president to bring a local hero to the state of the union address?

George Washington.

It was then discontinued by Jefferson in favor of a written report and not reinstated as a speech until Wilson in 1913.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:24 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


I get tired of history rewrites to suit a political point of view. I grew up in a blue collar industrial city in which almost guy of combat age went to Vietnam. We were rich in MIAs, POWs, Vietnam memorial names and PTSD vets.

You know what? It was a fractured time and there were some people who thought of the vets as patriots. But in general the Vietnam vets I knew were viewed with contempt by a lot of people, particularly people who demonstrated or spoke against that very unpopular war. They were thought of as dupes or martial fools. Those guys who are still alive are still pretty damn bitter about the reception they received when they got home.

Whether or not you agree with our current military involvements or the fairly universal respect for veterans these days, it is a very far cry from the atmosphere that greeted the Vietnam vets.
posted by bearwife at 2:25 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


Click here for a tearjerking drone maintenance video brought to you by Leffe Blonde!
posted by Teakettle at 2:26 PM on February 5


The gfor3 article faults (in order): Chuck Nadd, Budweiser, and the NFL.

No critique of the US army?

It would seem to me that the army had an active role in this (e.g. arranging interviews with Nadd). A primetime spot that promotes the idea that young recruits will return to a hero's welcome helps the military's agenda in similarly calculated fashion to that of Nadd, Bud or the NFL.

It could be said that Bud is using the military to sell beer. The military aren't using beer to sell the army. I see that. But when it comes to pre-game flyovers, or enlistment ceremonies during NFL games, it all becomes blurry to me.
posted by Chipeaux at 2:26 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


I hated this. And the doggy horsey love bullshit. I actually have seen the NJOY commercial for e-cigs many times and was not a fan, but during the SB I turned to my wife and said "it's actually kind of... Touching" and some tears shot out. Of course, I am an avid vaper, and the tone of the commercial was much less in your face, you kind of have to think "oh, he doesn't want his friend to fucking die in misery."
posted by lordaych at 2:30 PM on February 5


God, the drumming in that is amazing. Until then I only knew Max Weinberg from Conan O'Brien, but his work on that song still puts chills down my spine on the rare occasion it comes over on the FM.

I blame that song for putting me off the Boss until the late 90s. It was so omnipresent back in the 80s, its fans so obviously missing the point, and the synths so very, very grating. There's some songs I love off that album, but that is not yet one of them. (And yes, Max Weinberg is awesome.)
posted by entropicamericana at 2:31 PM on February 5


The second trend is the NFL’s ever-increasing ability to turn patriotism into profit.

See also: NASCAR.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:32 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


From what I've heard, he's a nice enough guy who is just trying way too hard to be a big deal.

So basically, he's 90 percent of the lieutenants who have ever lieutenanted.
posted by Etrigan at 2:33 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Once at a gas pump a decked out soldier was fueling next to me. I wanted to say "thank you for your service" out of the blue. Never done it. Hate soldier worship, and the escalation of a servant of the state into a hero regardless of the inner person and what they may have done. Who knows. They aren't magical faerie soldiers. But I wanted to, a manic impulse, then I had a whole conservation about it in my head, put myself in his shoes, literally my sarcastic cranky self, and thought I'd be fucking annoyed hearing it all of the time.
posted by lordaych at 2:36 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


But in general the Vietnam vets I knew were viewed with contempt by a lot of people, particularly people who demonstrated or spoke against that very unpopular war.

But there is a wide gulf between this and the assertion that there was widespread spitting upon returning veterans in uniform. That claim was a rewriting of history to suit a political point of view.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:36 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Using entrenched national goodwill towards veterans to sell product is on par with using national sympathy towards victims of diseases to sell product. It's disingenuous and exploitative, and crowds out real ways to help people in need. Breast cancer is used to sell everything from pens to stimulants, for example. It's disgusting.
posted by norm at 2:41 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


No critique of the US army?

Oh, well, everybody hates the Army. Give me a handsome dark-eyed sailor any day. *wolf whistle*

Sorry. Had to break my own tension for a minute there. It was either that or a clip from Follow the Fleet.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:45 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


I think there will be more of a backlash against this kind of marketing as people realize how commodified and fetishized our experiences have become. There's no roomfor critical tthinking when certain narratives seem to demand obedience.
posted by Calzephyr at 2:47 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


But there is a wide gulf between this and the assertion that there was widespread spitting upon returning veterans in uniform. That claim was a rewriting of history to suit a political point of view.

The problem is that Lembecke says, flat-out, as quoted in this thread:
Stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans are bogus.... The truth is that nobody spat on Vietnam veterans...
There are people who say they were spat upon. No, it wasn't the widespread issue that jingoists made it and are exploiting it for even today, but he's saying quite clearly that it never happened, and that anyone who says they were spit on is a liar. I personally am not quite comfortable with his level of certainty.
posted by Etrigan at 2:49 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


The Military Intramural Complex.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:56 PM on February 5


there will be more of a backlash against this kind of marketing as people realize how commodified and fetishized our experiences have become.

While I think that's technically true, I'm not holding my breath for any major backlashes anytime soon. Far too many people love how commodified and fetishized our experiences have become. Hell, far too many people wouldn't even know what a notion like "how commodified and fetishized our experiences have become" even means.
posted by Rykey at 3:00 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


My father who was 101st Airborne in Vietnam in '68-69 has a vest from the 70's that has a patch on it that says: Vietnam: If you weren't there, then shut the fuck up! it's how I learned the word fuck as a child. It's also how I learned to relate to veterans; by treating them as human beings and not as human spectacle.

I don't fully agree with this statement from the gfor3 article linked above but I do think it has power in understanding Anheuser-Bush's folly:

Every time a corporation uses a veteran to shill its goods, the dignity of service is eroded. The military is one of the few truly great institutions in this country–a place where values and work ethic combine to form a fearsome force which can move mountains, topple tyrants, and mend lives both here and abroad. It is not perfect by any stretch, but it’s a damn sight better than most other corners of the American experiment.
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 3:01 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


It also asserts that the prevailing use of the military is to support business interests.
posted by rhizome at 3:13 PM on February 5


People gotta hate; watch out if you drink coke instead.
posted by adamvasco at 3:16 PM on February 5


My son, rather than thank people for their service, has been known to ask them if they ever shot anyone. Ahh, youth.

I don't think your son really understands what he's asking, or he wouldn't be.
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:20 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


NFL teams are not (federally) tax-exempt but the NFL organization is tax-exempt as a "trade or industry association."

They fucking award franchises that result in billions of dollars of profit. How can they possibly be considered merely a trade association?
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:32 PM on February 5


I read the article (wow -- what an outpouring of bile) then clicked in here to see if anyone was drawing the obvious parallels between the A-B ad (yay military!) and the Coca-Cola ad (yay diversity!).

Sure, you can split hairs, but you could also make a strong case for equivalence ("Coca-Cola doesn't give a &*#! about diversity! They're a soulless megacorp that just wants to sell you something that is ultimately very bad for you!").

And man -- that gfor3.com piece is infused with such a kind of arrogance. "Look at all the dumb sheeple, falling for that ad! But not US -- WE'RE too SMART for that! They can't play US for suckers. Listen to us, sheeple! We're pointing out something that you couldn't possibly have noticed and considered for yourselves! Dumb America."

Upthread, someone mentioned Born in the USA. ("I blame that song for putting me off the Boss until the late 90s. It was so omnipresent back in the 80s, its fans so obviously missing the point..."). But Born in the USA is does not have some coded message in it, decipherable only by the smart people. The lyrics are pretty obvious. I certainly understood what they meant, and I liked (i.e., was a "fan" of) the song. Where does one get this kind of certainty that all the other "fans" were "so obviously missing the point"?

- Afghanistan vet
posted by Alaska Jack at 3:33 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Where does one get this kind of certainty that all the other "fans" were "so obviously missing the point"?

Well, if you haven't heard...
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:36 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Born in the USA is does not have some coded message in it... The lyrics are pretty obvious.

I promise you that 99% of the people shouting along to the chorus of "Born in the USA" had no idea what the lyrics to verses were.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:41 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


Mental Wimp -

I have heard. I didn't bring it up because I thought it obvious that the song's use as a campaign song didn't speak to the argument one way or the other.

From your link:

"Many fist-pumping, beer-drinking fans at baseball games all over America have sung along with the tune's catchy chorus, not realizing the true meaning of Springsteen's popular tune. "

That the author asserts it does not make it so. The author is simply engaging in the same kind of presumption exhibited earlier upthread -- that the great unwashed masses aren't nearly as clever as he is, and couldn't possible like the song if they understood what the (plain English) lyrics were about. It doesn't counter my suggestion; it supports it.
posted by Alaska Jack at 3:43 PM on February 5


My brother was attending the Naval Academy when Born in the USA came out and was a huge hit. He complained to me at one point about getting very tired of hearing it played everywhere at the academy, because though he has always been quite the patriot, he thought it was over the top.

So, I made him sit down and really listen to the lyrics. He was suddenly a Boss fan.

A lot of people thought Born in the USA was an anthem to American greatness. Far from it.

Also, thanks for your service, Alaska Jack.
posted by bearwife at 3:43 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


entropicamericana -

Oh, well, never mind then. Your promise is good enough for me.
posted by Alaska Jack at 3:44 PM on February 5


More on the NFL tax situation:
Wondering how an organization charging $2,600 for Super Bowl tickets qualifies for tax exemptions in the first place? It’s a good question. The NFL qualifies as a 501(c)(6), a nonprofit category that includes chambers of commerce, trade groups, real estate boards, and a handful of other sports leagues. The National Basketball Association is a for-profit organization, and Major League Baseball gave up its exempt status in 2007.

When Congress granted an antitrust exemption in 1966 that allowed the NFL to merge with the AFL, lawmakers added “professional football leagues” to the statute to ensure the new league would qualify. So while the NFL’s 32 teams bring in a combined $9.5 billion in annual revenue, the league office calls itself a “trade association promoting interests of its 32 member clubs.” This is a bit like McDonald’s (MCD) calling itself a trade association promoting the interests of its 14,000 U.S. restaurants. The key difference is that the NFL distributes all its revenue back to the teams—after covering expenses such as rent, officiating crews, and Commissioner Roger Goodell’s $30 million salary.
From here.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 3:45 PM on February 5


Thanks bearwife.

I suppose I should add that I don't have any evidence to support what I'M saying, either -- I guess it's possible that, despite the song's obvious lyrics being repeated over and over on the radio, most of the song's fans DIDN'T understand them.

But I also know that it is powerful human temptation to think: Well, I'M smart, but most people? Just a bunch of sheeple. And that tends to color our perception of things.
posted by Alaska Jack at 3:47 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


I have heard. I didn't bring it up because I thought it obvious that the song's use as a campaign song didn't speak to the argument one way or the other.

So you don't think Ronald Reagan using it as a campaign song indicates as misunderstanding of its meaning? I don't know what to tell you, then.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:48 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Oh, well, never mind then. Your promise is good enough for me.

No, no, no, I'm sorry, you're right. Also, everybody in the 1980s knew "Every Breath You Take" was a song written from the POV of an obsessive stalker and "The One I Love" is about casually discarding a lover.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:52 PM on February 5


I just love the name Chuck Nadd - a comic book writer couldn't come up with a better B grade name than Lieutenant Chuck Nadd.
posted by mattoxic at 3:53 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


I love my country, but not enough to drink Budweiser.
posted by Daddy-O at 3:55 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Mental Wimp -

I can think of several rational reasons for choosing that song, other than a hope that the listeners wouldn't understand the plain meaning of the lyrics.

Here's just one, for the sake of example: The lyrics *aren't that bad.* They don't condemn Reagan, for example, or advocate the violent overthrow of America. As with most songs, they can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but certainly one plausible interpretation is that the narrator is a guy who's had some tough breaks, and hasn't been treated well by the system, but still loves and wants to believe in his country. The guys who ran Reagan's campaign (and, for that matter, all or most of the songs "fans") may have thought of the song that way.

Am I insisting that that in fact was what took place? No. But it strikes me as more plausible than the idea that the campaign consultants somehow unwittingly picked a theme song without listening to the lyrics.
posted by Alaska Jack at 4:01 PM on February 5


Springsteen himself has stated that it's about the mostly post-WW2 disconnect between the working class and their government via a commercialized patriotism, something that he specifically (and rightly) dinged Reagan and the 1980s GOP for encouraging amongst both fellow politicians and voters. Which is pretty much what's going on with Budweiser.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:09 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


In other "I can't believe this shit is actually happening" advertising news, Sochi is apparently still going down but TMZ is reporting that Budweiser has pulled its people out of Russia.
posted by phaedon at 4:18 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


The author is simply engaging in the same kind of presumption exhibited earlier upthread -- that the great unwashed masses aren't nearly as clever as he is, and couldn't possible like the song if they understood what the (plain English) lyrics were about.

I'm a Springsteen fan and a veteran, and I assure you that the 90 percent figure is dead accurate. I've personally sat at least half a dozen people down and had them read the lyrics, and every one of them has been surprised at what the song is really saying.

certainly one plausible interpretation is that the narrator is a guy who's had some tough breaks, and hasn't been treated well by the system, but still loves and wants to believe in his country.

From wikipedia:
In Springsteen’s own words, the song "Born in the U.S.A." is about "a working-class man" [in the midst of a] "spiritual crisis, in which man is left lost...It's like he has nothing left to tie him into society anymore. He's isolated from the government. Isolated from his family...to the point where nothing makes sense."
(quote is from an article behind a regwall)

Most of Springsteen's work is about hope. This song is about hope lost.
posted by Etrigan at 4:18 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


zombieflanders -

Fair enough. Although we are getting a bit away from my point, which was simply that I never saw anyone produce any kind of evidence to support the conventional wisdom that most of the song's fans were "so obviously missing the [song's] point." It just seems like kind of a classic case of confirmation bias.
posted by Alaska Jack at 4:18 PM on February 5


Wikipedia article about Born in the USA provides some more info. Full text of George Will's bizarro column.

As someone who often listens to lyrics, I'm often surprised when other people don't. But then, there are songs I've heard dozens of times without paying any attention to the lyrics.
posted by polecat at 4:21 PM on February 5


The lyrics are specifically about somebody who goes to Vietnam as an alternative to facing some kind of trouble. From other information in the song you suspect it's trouble with the law. A buddy or brother (he's sung it both ways) dies at Khe Sanh, uselessly it is implied ("they're still there, he's all gone"), and given what Khe Sanh was, it's hard to argue that it wasn't senseless. He comes home and basically for the next ten years there's no hope or opportunity, and he's in the shadow of the penitentiary, which suggests that he doesn't see any way to live inside the law.

Not really a rah-rah America campaign song if you've actually listened to it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:27 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Fair enough. Although we are getting a bit away from my point, which was simply that I never saw anyone produce any kind of evidence to support the conventional wisdom that most of the song's fans were "so obviously missing the [song's] point." It just seems like kind of a classic case of confirmation bias.

Reagan's people apparently didn't bother to listen to the song before putting it into a speech, which suggests that there was already enough misinterpretation that they either (a) were caught up in it themselves, or (b) were cynical enough to think that the misconception was popular enough that people would go along with it.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:28 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I'm a Springsteen fan and a veteran, and I assure you that the 90 percent figure is dead accurate.

The real question is how many people know that Ho Chi Minh lived and studied in Boston, New York and Paris; wrote multiple letters to Truman pleading for American support; and read the American Declaration of Independence to his own people and used it as the basis of the Vietnamese Constitution. That for years the Americans paid for the French to fight there, and prior to that the Americans actually funded the Viet Minh against the Japanese.

Great, you know the lyrics. Jesus Christ.
posted by phaedon at 4:30 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


I can't speak for what the author of the article does or doesn't know, but I personally know lots of fist-pumping, beer-drinking fans all over America who have sung along with the tune's catchy chorus, not realizing the true meaning of Springsteen's popular tune, because Springsteen's elocution isn't that good, and it's noisy in the crowd, and the chorus is easy to understand without really paying attention because it's the name of the song and the album repeated over and over so that if you didn't catch him mumbling it the first time you probably caught it on the second or third.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:32 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


So you don't think Ronald Reagan using it as a campaign song indicates as misunderstanding of its meaning?

He's maybe not the best barometer for properly understanding things.
posted by Rykey at 4:36 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


This is a very interesting thread. I asked my husband about the Vietnam myth. (He was drafted but didn't serve due to medical exemption) He says absolutely that returning veterans were treated like crap, most especially in comparison to the vets from World War I, II and Korea.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:38 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Much is made of civilian treatment of Vietnam vets in comparison to those of other wars, but from what I hear from my parents' generation they were treated pretty shabbily by the government that sent them over there, as well, which one doesn't hear so much about. This Daily Show segment shocked and disgusted me, and I hope we get a followup report soon.

(When Grandpa got home from WWII, he got all kinds of support from Uncle Sam, even though he didn't even see combat.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:50 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I dislike the Lt.s political leanings, but I feel sorry for him that this incident was foisted on him by his girlfriend and the VFW in conspiracy with his own Battalion commander and higher. According to his post on 6for3.com

Concurrent with being told that I was going to speak to a VFW event, I was told that it would be part of a documentary about troops returning home. The “producer” met me when I got off the plane and told me to take off my rank and my flag.

Let's all remember that he's a 22(3) year old young man who was backed into a corner by his family and officers.

He couldn't very well refuse a private plane ride home (personally approved by his CO) from the Florida State VFW chairman could he?
posted by Megafly at 4:56 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I can think of several rational reasons for choosing that song, other than a hope that the listeners wouldn't understand the plain meaning of the lyrics.

Like I said, I can't help you.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:00 PM on February 5


>From the movie First Blood (1982)
Also, to add on to zombieflanders, it is also amazing how they changed the ending of the movie and how Rambo ended up living, instead of the original ending of the book, where he dies in the end.


The original ending was filmed, or at least a version of it.
posted by mrbill at 5:09 PM on February 5


Sample of one: I wore my uniform to a Xmas party in 1974. Didn't get spit on but it sure was uncomfortable. It's fair to say that "hero-worship" was not part of the cultural landscape at that time.

Every once in a while nowadays someone will thank me for my service. I do a quick read of the person saying it and I generally respond in one of two ways. If I think the person is well-meaning but slightly clueless, I'll let it slide. If I think the person is a chickenhawk (or politically affiliated with the chickenhawk party) I simply say: "I didn't do it for you."
posted by CincyBlues at 6:03 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


Why does every discussion of veterans on this site have to devolve into a discussion of what it was like for people coming home from Vietnam?

An old myth that will never die, it seems.

That shit drives me nuts because it's the same stupid absolutism you all are arguing against. If you're saying it didn't happen, give my dad a call. He had a job interview end with the interviewer telling him he'd never be hired because he was a Vietnam vet and "all you people are addicted to heroin". The plural of anecdote isn't data, but skip the back-slapping bs about how it was all invented 5 years ago to discredit the anti-war movement and move on. Please.
posted by yerfatma at 12:37 PM on February 5 [13 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


AMEN. I was in college in 1979 when some guy, upon hearing my Dad was in the military, said he was a "baby murderer" and "dropped bombs on people".
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 6:08 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I'm a Springsteen fan and a veteran, and I assure you that the 90 percent figure is dead accurate.

The real question is how many people know that Ho Chi Minh lived and studied in Boston, New York and Paris; wrote multiple letters to Truman pleading for American support; and read the American Declaration of Independence to his own people and used it as the basis of the Vietnamese Constitution. That for years the Americans paid for the French to fight there, and prior to that the Americans actually funded the Viet Minh against the Japanese.


Those... those are two very different questions. Both good, but not actually related.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:19 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


An old myth that will never die, it seems.

Like the war crimes of Hanoi Jane.
posted by clarknova at 6:29 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Those... those are two very different questions. Both good, but not actually related.

I dunno, I'm slightly amused by the connection. A deeply misunderstood song, a deeply misunderstood war.

In an effort to tie this back into the original topic, we are after all talking about, decades later, not scaling back, but rather taking this ignorance one step further, and selling beer and football (classicists would call this "bread and circuses") off the back of endless wars, drone strikes, indefinite detention, and the nobility of suppressing terrorist insurgencies. It's a shame they didn't throw in an opening shot of the crumbling Towers to get us really pumped; at this point, this is more a decision made by a creative director or a room full of suits. Too soon? Let's say it without actually saying it. Pax Americana has become the status quo, and Vietnam, that loathsome chapter in American military interventionist history, is now more of a blueprint than anything else.

Commercials like this do nothing to dispel the illusion. Mission accomplished, guys. Brought to you by the King of Beers.
posted by phaedon at 6:48 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


Just to add to the Viet Nam derail. I think what gets lost with it is the parents of the generation that got drafted to Viet Nam were the offspring of a Generation that came home as heroes for conquering Hitler and Japan in World War II. Korea was kind of lost there in the middle, and a transition to how Viet Nam played out. I was fortunate enough to be too young to draft, but I remember well watching on TV as the war played out. I still have the button I picked up in Tower Records in Sacramento that says "I didn't raise my son to be a Soldier". Oh and remember the T-shirt you could buy from an ad in Rolling Stone "Join the Army, Travel the world, meet interesting people, and shoot them." It doesn't have to be spitting or yelling at returning soldiers, but it's also what the culture was like in general towards the Viet Nam war, and the soldiers as the physical representation of the war even though most of them were drafted, or enlisted to get a better, more survivable position in the war. That's in contrast to how the previous generation was treated with parades. Plus, World War II was won. Losers don't get treated like winners. Add to all that all the problems Viet Nam veterans faced when trying to get some recognition for their service as far as benefits. I remember the years it took to get recognition of the health issues Agent Orange caused, and don't even begin to think about mental illness issues.

In 40 years we can talk about how society glorified war at the turn of the century with their advertisements and magnetic ribbons.
posted by Eekacat at 6:49 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


I still have the button I picked up in Tower Records in Sacramento that says "I didn't raise my son to be a Soldier".

"I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier" goes way back -- to before WWI.

" I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier,
I brought him up to be my pride and joy.
Who dares to place a musket on his shoulder,
To shoot some other mother's darling boy?"
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:53 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


I hope this isn't a derail, but is thanking a member of the military for their service really a faux pas? I ask because my job requires me to say it to every military person I speak with (seriously), and while I find it incredibly awkward, the most I can do about it is do my best to be sincere. I just hope I'm not upsetting or offending them.
posted by madelf at 7:32 PM on February 5


I hope this isn't a derail, but is thanking a member of the military for their service really a faux pas?

It's more of an eye-roll kind of thing for many of us. Some people are genuine, and it comes across; I can't be annoyed at a kid who comes up to me at a highway rest stop, even if I'm coming back from a long weekend treading through the woods and I just want a shower and a Pop-Tart.

Some people, though, are clearly doing it so other people see them doing it ("Hey, look at me, I'm not one of those soldier-hating hippies."). And then, there's the bigger issue I have with it: what do I say in response? "You're welcome" makes it sound like I'm taking credit for defending that guy's personal freedoms -- like I've ever given a cold shit about whether some schmuck in an airport slept peaceably in his bed at night, to crib from Orwell.
posted by Etrigan at 8:24 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


Rumple: "Lembcke's book argues, further, that posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a socially constructed diagnostic category that disparages the image of Vietnam veterans and provided another way to discredit the many veterans in the anti-war movement"

Speaking as someone who suffers from non-combat-related PTSD, this is ridiculous.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:08 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Watching the Super Bowl, we were all (drunkenly) mocking the nauseating fake patriotism of it all... AMERICA! FOOTBALL! FUCK YEAH!! It was just so depressingly manufactured and contrived. Servicemembers reading a scripted monologue over a flag waving in the background. Brass-laden patriotic music. Was that a bald eagle? Fade to football. It was so very, very FOX.
posted by xedrik at 9:24 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


There's another great article up at Foreign Policy that talks about how this relates - and how it should relate - to the Army's problematic relationship with alcohol, but it's paywalled, so I didn't want to put it in the main link.

For anyone who doesn't want to subscribe, if you google the url and follow the link from google, you'll be able to access the article.
posted by homunculus at 12:13 AM on February 6


I think it's important to realize that after Vietnam, we abandoned drafting against the citizenry and moved towards having a large standing army. This was a major change in policy, never explicitly declared, and one that really requires volunteerism to at least get people in the door.

People don't volunteer for disreputable things, and so to avoid the draft, you end up with a lot of social support for military service. And honestly, it's very hard, boring, and somewhat dangerous work that you don't really get to quit if you don't like. And you're not paid much. It is service, and by doing so, a lot of people are directly made more free -- if only because they don't get drafted themselves.

Also important to note the military provides major social mobility in a society with less and less of that.
posted by effugas at 1:16 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


xedrik: “Watching the Super Bowl, we were all (drunkenly) mocking the nauseating fake patriotism of it all... AMERICA! FOOTBALL! FUCK YEAH!! It was just so depressingly manufactured and contrived. Servicemembers reading a scripted monologue over a flag waving in the background. Brass-laden patriotic music. Was that a bald eagle? Fade to football. It was so very, very FOX.”
As I noted in some other thread, I think that between the aspects you mention and the O'Reilly interview, Fox fully weaponized the Super Bowl this year.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:36 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Honestly, did some of you people just recently discover television? This shit has been going on for years, with any and all causes under the sun. And don't drink Bud because it's shitty beer, not because they exploit servicemen and women for corporate gain. Geez, almost every big corporation does that. Bud just does it so it appeals to the lowest common denominator, which is who watches the Superbowl.
posted by Kokopuff at 6:24 AM on February 6


The commercial upset me because he is a lieutenant. College boy!

Show some enlisted guys coming home.

4 years of E1-E3 here...
posted by kuanes at 6:30 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I wore my uniform to a Xmas party in 1974. Didn't get spit on but it sure was uncomfortable. It's fair to say that "hero-worship" was not part of the cultural landscape at that time.

There's actually a lot of really interesting stuff concerning how the soldiers returning from Vietnam were treated. You guys are right - the "hippies spit on me" as the sole example is kind of tired - but the truth is actually, as always, much broader than that. There was a wide gulf of resentment between working-class youth who were drafted, and middle-class youth whose parents sent them to college so they wouldn't be drafted - where they often engaged in anti-war campus activism with little awareness of the privileges that allowed them the protection to do that.

There was also a lot of resentment against Vietnam draftees by members of the military and veterans. Vietnam wasn't considered a "Real War" for a while, and they didn't want to allow Vietnam veterans in VFW posts, mostly filled with WWII and Korean war veterans. There was a lot of deep anger at the Vietnam draftees - many of them themselves part of the "hippies" - who were perceived as lowering the character of military service. The Vietnam draftees were known for widespread drug use and anti-war organizing. African-American servicemembers were no longer segregated and "humbly grateful" as racists of the time preferred them to be, but were organizing together. "Search and avoid" missions were common. The soldiers just weren't what other soldiers and veterans thought of as soldiers.

And the Vietnam veterans lost the war - or were perceived to have lost the war. For the first time, America was turning tail and running. It was the first war in living memory to have been lost. And for a long time, people blamed that on the veterans themselves. If only they'd fought harder. If only they hadn't been such a bunch of drug-addled losers.

I hope this isn't a derail, but is thanking a member of the military for their service really a faux pas? I ask because my job requires me to say it to every military person I speak with (seriously), and while I find it incredibly awkward, the most I can do about it is do my best to be sincere.

We can recognize when your job requires you to thank soldiers for their service, and we don't care. It's those people who get really solemn and say "Thank you for your service" randomly that just kind of make me feel awkward. I didn't liberate Dachau, you know? I fought in a really shitty war that had no clear resolution. Most of the time, I feel I don't deserve thanks for shit.
posted by corb at 6:51 AM on February 6 [12 favorites]


I hope this isn't a derail, but is thanking a member of the military for their service really a faux pas?

It's more of an eye-roll kind of thing for many of us.


This is interesting to me because I would assume the same, but I talked to my Dad about it recently and he said it happened to him for the first time only a few years ago in a diner* and he nearly cried at the time. My father is not a man given to tears either.

* He has a First Cav sticker on the back of a green GMC pickup. He also has a yellow lab. When Gran Torino came out, it was suggested he should get royalties since Eastwood's character was clearly based on him (though not in temperament, thankfully).
posted by yerfatma at 7:13 AM on February 6


So how do I bridge the gap between vets not really caring that i respect their time in uniform, with statements that the all-volunteer military means that most Americans are isolated from those who have served?

I recognize that military service can be hard and deployments are ghastly, and I honestly do respect anyone who's signed up and done it. And I understand a wariness among vets about how people will regard them given the unpopularity of the current wars.

So how do I let them know that I respect them, withiut looking like a suck up or a chickenhawk?
posted by wenestvedt at 8:19 AM on February 6


So how do I let them know that I respect them, withiut looking like a suck up or a chickenhawk?

I respect soldiers and vets by treating them like human beings and not symbols. If I meet a serviceman and we strike up a conversation, I might end by acknowledging the sacrifices they signed up for, but thanking strangers out of the blue seems objectifying, to me.
posted by muddgirl at 8:28 AM on February 6 [5 favorites]


I say this with the caveat that of course, there's no way to totally divorce myself from hindsight. I can't reach in and pluck the eyes from the back of my head. But I have done a lot of contemporary reading on the subjects, and I believe that trying to compare WWII and Vietnam really IS, if not apples and oranges, then at least oranges and limes. The only major factor that unites them is that draftees were sent to both.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:41 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


With the endless war we've created what's the point really? thanking me for the less liberty and freedom you have seems so ironic.

but please don't spit on me!
posted by vonstadler at 8:48 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Talk to them without formulas. Don't say "Thank you for your service." Say, "Excuse me. I know that a lot of feelings and thoughts about the war are complex, but I really appreciate that you were willing to be a part of an all-volunteer military. The reason we don't have the draft is because there are still people willing to volunteer to do that hard work." Because that is the one freedom we do grant you - freedom from conscription.

Honestly, the problem with the thanking is more that it's usually bullshit that people think they're supposed to say - not so much the concept of sincere and deserved thanks. I've thanked other veterans of older generations. "Excuse me, sir. I don't mean to take much time, but I noticed you're a WWII vet. Thank you, sir, for what you did. I'm really grateful." Because I am. I am grateful. I am so grateful that Hitler was put down and we closed the death camps. I am grateful that those guys saved the world.
posted by corb at 8:48 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


Well said, corb. Digital dap for you.
posted by CincyBlues at 8:51 AM on February 6


For what it is worth, my thanks to vets in this thread are quite sincere. It is service to all the rest of us, and it is not easy for anyone who does it. So, you know, thanks.

Having said that, I get why getting thanked sometimes makes the eye rolls come on.
posted by bearwife at 9:11 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Kokopuff: "Bud just does it so it appeals to the lowest common denominator, which is who watches the Superbowl."

How would you know? I'll bet you don't even own a television!
posted by Big_B at 9:24 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


And honestly, it's very hard, boring, and somewhat dangerous work that you don't really get to quit if you don't like.

Not to mention that many of the juicy bits have been outsourced to contractors who are paid much, much more for the work.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:34 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


> Certainly it wasn't quacked in unison by millions (and an entire news network)

Well, sure, there wasn't a big partisan network mobilized to do it. But regardless, there was no need for it to be repeated endlessly in the media in the 80s. Pro-military propaganda wasn't focusing on troops, it was busy focusing on how we need vigilance and big guns to take down the threat of the Russians.

I grew up in an area with a lot of military. The "returning vets were spit on," belief, whether meant literally or more figuratively, was absolutely common knowledge in the late 70s and early 80s and it was referenced frequently. It was the answer to why you're not allowed to criticize military policy, why Jane Fonda is anathema, why the retro-60s-hippy-fashion fad in the mid-80s was "inappropriate."

My father is a Vietnam vet. I honestly think that some his memories of being treated with contempt are not accurate; I think that he conflated people angrily protesting the war with anger at American soldiers. But I can understand that it felt unfair to come home from what was a really shitty and painful experience, after being drafted, and have to hear anger about the war from people weren't there. So he defensively sticks to his impression and resents any criticism of it.

Worse, I think that the more recent fever-pitch of loud-and-proud patriotism makes him a bit jealous and this just solidifies the idea that he was mistreated as a returning vet. Heck, if he'd just been calmly thanked and respected for his service back then, it would still seem weaksauce in comparison to the constant blaring SUPPORT THE TROOPS flag-waving that we've seen in recent years.
posted by desuetude at 9:37 AM on February 6


I was fortunate enough to have not been in combat. So there is a part of me that has a civilian-like thankful appreciation for the groundpounders and grunts who did see combat. And I agree with what muddgirl and corb say, the best way to thank someone, if you feel compelled to do it at all, is on a one-to-one basis. My personal caveat is this: most vets I know who saw some serious shit usually don't like to talk about it. I have generally taken the approach that if a vet is going to talk about his or her experience, they will open the door to conversation. So my suggestion would be to let the service member be the gatekeeper of that aspect of the conversation.

Speaking for myself, I think there is an almost schizophrenic aspect to having served in the military during the Vietnam era. I'm guessing that this is also true for some of the folks who have served in the conflicts since then. On one hand, I'm happy and sort of proud of my four years in the Navy. I faced some challenges, learned how to work and discipline myself, and I became another link in my family's long-tradition of performing some service for the country. I was a good sailor. On the other hand, I have often debated myself over the contribution (small as it was) I have made to what I consider to be American imperialism. As much as I might wish to suppress the political implications of my day-to-day behavior, the fact of the matter is that I cannot.

Because I have this internal dialogue with myself, pro and con, which is genuine and real and soul-searching, I find it offensive when some corporate megalith seeks to profit from the heartache that many veterans experience. And to clarify my chickenhawk remark, on a personal level I feel revulsion towards those who profess to be the arbiters of my (conflicted) ideas about patriotism and what a good citizen ought to do--when I know damn well that the individual in question would do everything they could to avoid "joining my club." Lip-service doesn't count, and it really is morally degenerate when that lip service aids and abets the double-whammy of reinforcing a bullshit imperial policy and putting in harm's way or screwing up the personal life of those who are willing to serve.

Sincere thanks are another story, and the heartfelt nature of those shouldn't be scoffed at. But even when thanks are offered, in the back of my mind this niggling question remains: "What have you done to prevent or mitigate the damage the US is currently doing in the world?" Forgive me, I know that is a tad arrogant and I don't really intend for it to sound like that. I just wish for an ever-growing snowball of small actions from all kinds of people that tend to make this world a safer and more peaceful place.

tl;dr: The best way to thank a vet is to keep their kids and grand-kids out of future wars.
posted by CincyBlues at 9:39 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


[There was a long recent post in MeTa about the use of the word schizophrenic. People can go read it, don't turn this thread into a derail about it please.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:54 AM on February 6


Rumple: "well that's a wikipedia synopsis so I wouldn't swear it is an accurate reflection of the book, which I haven't read, but which is published by New York University Press, so it has been peer reviewed. I only brought it up because this question of whether returning troops were ever spat upon has been the subject of serious scholarly research. "

The book being published by a university press does not mean that it has been peer-reviewed. The book very well may contain scholarly research, but it would cite papers that had been published in academic journals, that's what gets peer-reviewed.
posted by desuetude at 9:54 AM on February 6


So I had this list of what to say and not to say to thank a servicemember, but really it boils down to this, at least for me:

Don't make me part of a story you're going to tell your buddies at work.

That's what I really want, is just that you not make me a character in your story. And that's my problem with this ad and those like it. They made a guy who had been to war into a character in a story about a goddamn beer, and fuck them for that.
posted by Etrigan at 10:34 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


My apologies to those who are disturbed by my use of the term "schizophrenic." I've just finished reading the thread jessamyn referenced. I think substituting the phrase "unresolved inner dialectic" would conceptually convey my meaning.
posted by CincyBlues at 10:39 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


“It worth noting that nasty homecoming endured by most vets returning home from Vietnam was itself a pernicious myth created for the purposes of slandering the anti-war movement.

An old myth that will never die, it seems.”

Yeah, all we did was fuck them out of healthcare because Agent Orange wasn’t toxic and PTSD wasn’t a mental illness, refused them jobs because they were crazy, and leave them homeless in the street.
Didn’t spit at them en masse, in an organized, methodical way though, I guess. So there’s that.
I mean, I agree the thing was played up. And all the worse for being ponied around by pro-war ingrates (Limbaugh especially who couldn’t serve because of his ass herpies).

“The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam "is a 1998 book by sociologist Jerry Lembcke”
One book (and a Cracked article) disproves everyone who says they were abused when coming home from Vietnam. ‘Kay.

But I think a lot of people got a nice homecoming from friends and family and people forget that’s who’s paying the price. It’s not “society” who genuinely misses you or actually cares, even enough to really hate you. Like how making love has devolved in 1984. It’s a political act.

“The truth is that nobody spat on Vietnam veterans and nobody is spitting on the soldiers today.”
So…like, I’ve been called a murderer, et.al. - HERE. ON. THIS. WEBLOG. A number of times for being a serviceman. But if I say someone standing in front of a donut shop holding a sign saying “fuck the war” called me a babykiller when I was walking around in uniform on leave from Iraq, I’m a liar. M’mm.

Anthony Swofford wrote about some guys in a bar making fun of him and some other marines because they got drunk and a bit misty eyed over the friends they lost. “Oh, poor widdle jarhead, is your friend dead?” and so forth. It goes on even now.
The problem with being put on a pedestal is that people, sometimes naturally, want to knock you down.

But by the same token I’d rather be actually spat upon than have this shill bullshit.


“The best way to thank a vet is to keep their kids and grand-kids out of future wars.”

This.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:42 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]



The book being published by a university press does not mean that it has been peer-reviewed.


There may well be exceptions and perhaps this is one, but I'd be quite surprised if book manuscripts (single author and/or edited) submitted to NYU Press were not peer reviewed.
Peer review is really far from being perfect, which is a separate topic I guess.
posted by Rumple at 11:03 AM on February 6


Thank you for all those honest replies to my derail; I will think hard on them.

I might explain that I come to my respect out of a lot of reading and listening. It started with a shoddy education in history, but then a family research project in my grandpa's unknown WWII years really ignited my curiosity about the experience of people in wartime. I never served but some family did. I like to listen to people tell their stories, and I don't ask stupid questions, but I understand that years in uniform are not the only years of a person's life.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:14 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Here's NYU Press' site for authors. There's no mention of peer review as a stage in the process in the author manuscript guidelines they give. So while the book may have been peer reviewed, that it has been published through NYU Press does not mean that it necessarily was.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:21 AM on February 6


Here they say "As an academic publisher, the Press utilizes outside peer review as part of the editorial review process of all proposed book projects."

Not sure how proving a negative got through the peer review process, but maybe the book itself isn't quite as certain as its author that such things never happened.
posted by Etrigan at 11:25 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


So how do I let them know that I respect them, withiut looking like a suck up or a chickenhawk?

We ran into a returning US vet in a hotel bar in England and spent the night bs'ing. When he got up to go to the bathroom I grabbed the bar tender (no great trick, it was just us in the bar) and told him, "That guy never sees a bill. Put whatever he's had and whatever he has on my tab." And then never said a thing and just kept drinking. I can't undo what he went through and I can't make him feel better about it, but hopefully he has warm memories of London and maybe still wonders if he walked out on a check.

Locally we have a group for greeting returning service people. No idea how well that goes over, but I keep meaning to join on the off-chance someone gets back with no one there to meet them.
posted by yerfatma at 12:17 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah! I love it when people buy me drinks! One of my fondest memories was of being out with a group of fellow soldiers when we were informed by the waitress that "the gentleman in the corner wanted to say thank you and has covered your bar tab."

Just, uh, be aware that it might be a hefty bar tab, and you might want to buy a solitary round instead.
posted by corb at 12:26 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


The thanking people for their service thing seems, I dunno, weird and (as someone said above) objectifying for me.

People serve in the forces for all sorts of reasons. Some of those reasons are altruistic, some aren't, and I'd be willing to bet that for almost everyone in service there's a big mishmash of reasons.

I haven't served, and for a whole lot of reasons I never will. (Not least that at the end of the day, the forces can put a gun in your hands and tell you to point it at other people, and barring something like the Holocaust I simply categorically refuse to do that). Both my grandfathers did, in WW2 and Korea (Royal Engineers and RCAF), and their service was just something they did because that's what men did then, and it wasn't something much talked about. I don't think less of them for it, and certainly in the case of their WW2 service it is more or less impossible to castigate them for anything.

I can't say I've had lots of dealings with veterans of actual deployments (other than my grandfathers). Maybe I have and I didn't know. But the one small thing I've learned from the few I've spoken with (including my grandfathers) is this: those who have actually fought in war don't want to be thanked for it. They had to put holes in other human beings. It--at least in the case of WW2--was something that needed to be done, and so they did it.

Which I think is where I end up coming down here. I don't like the idea of war or killing people when talking can work. But in many ways, service in the armed forces is a thing that needs to be done, in the same way that garbage needs to be carried away. And who thinks of thanking their garbageman for their service to society?

I'm not saying that servicemembers are just taking out garbage, but in a larger sense they are doing the same thing: a job that not many want to do, for what (ideally) is necessary in a just society.

Support veterans by making sure their sacrifices--of time, of family, of relationships, of personal health and safety--are recompensed by the society demanding said sacrifices. Words, as GRRM says, are wind.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:59 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah! I love it when people buy me drinks

So do I! Oh boy do I ever! And, uh, you know where to find me, people.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:05 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Of course Coca-Cola runs a feel-good ad but it features non-white people speaking different languages, so there was a hate parade.

Jon Stewart Rips ‘Self-Appointed Patriots’ Getting Hot and Bothered About Coke Super Bowl Ad
posted by homunculus at 10:58 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]


People serve in the forces for all sorts of reasons. Some of those reasons are altruistic, some aren't, and I'd be willing to bet that for almost everyone in service there's a big mishmash of reasons.

This rings very true to me. In these terrible times, you've got to have some pretty strong motives for joining up, and I sincerely doubt being thanked by random strangers ranks very high among them.

I can't say I've had lots of dealings with veterans of actual deployments (other than my grandfathers). Maybe I have and I didn't know. But the one small thing I've learned from the few I've spoken with (including my grandfathers) is this: those who have actually fought in war don't want to be thanked for it. They had to put holes in other human beings. It--at least in the case of WW2--was something that needed to be done, and so they did it.

Right; I don't think we'll find many people who'll disagree that our involvement in WWII was necessary and inevitable. There were many who disagreed back then, but even most of them eventually came to see that we had no choice.

That simply hasn't been so clear in other, more recent conflicts. And it hasn't been as clear that we, the people, can trust the people at the top making the decisions when they, as FFFM puts it, "put a gun in your hands and tell you to point it at other people." The Nuremberg defense has never even been crystal-clear in the courtroom; it could never be clear in my mind or in my heart unless the cause was as sure and as desperate as it was in 1941. I could never volunteer to put myself in that position, because just contemplating it would destroy my mental health before the situation ever arose.

Support veterans by making sure their sacrifices--of time, of family, of relationships, of personal health and safety--are recompensed by the society demanding said sacrifices. Words, as GRRM says, are wind.

So much this. Everybody who does a dangerous job deserves the compensation they signed up for, and it's when they don't get THAT that I get upset. The government made promises to my Grandpa when he joined up in 1942, and by and large, they kept it. Whatever my other thoughts and feelings are, I want those promises kept to others, too.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:14 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


If this was really a surprise, what about the multiple video cameras filming he whole thing? How could you have a camera close enough to pick up someone whispering, cut to a reaction from another angle, and not have this all planned out?
posted by Deathalicious at 4:25 PM on February 8


He was told that he was part of a documentary (to explain the cameras), but not that there would be a big parade and suchlike.
posted by Etrigan at 4:38 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Omnivore: Bringing the military and society back together
posted by homunculus at 1:32 PM on February 17


Army Officer Beaten In Super Bowl Commercial Backlash
Heartwarming Steel Reserve Super Bowl Ad Welcomes Soldier Home To Empty House, 40oz Beers
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:46 PM on February 28


The Duffel Blog still steps over the line between funny and mean on a too-regular basis.
posted by Etrigan at 7:12 PM on February 28


Holy shit what is that? Is that the Onion for assholes?
posted by Big_B at 6:34 AM on March 1 [1 favorite]


It's the Onion for military people. A lot of their stuff is quite good, but they tinge a little asshole-y in aggregate.
posted by Etrigan at 8:19 AM on March 1


I think they sound asshole-y sometimes because, being military people themselves, they don't bother to pull their punches. The Duffel Blog is, at least I've found, one of the most biting representations of how soldiers actually are and view themselves. One of my favorites was this commentary on the "Free X for Veterans" promotions on Veterans Day.
posted by corb at 3:19 PM on March 2


There's a line between "not pulling punches" and "being an asshole." That first article tmotat linked to was over on the latter side.
posted by Etrigan at 3:28 PM on March 2


they don't bother to pull their punches

Making jokes about a guy being viciously sodomized in a military where violent sexual crime is up 64 percent since 2006? That's assholish in my book. Or so deeply ironic that I'm not even sure what to think.
posted by jessamyn at 3:41 PM on March 2


Ohio Boy Finds $20 Bill And Gives It To Soldier In Memory of His Father Who Was Killed Serving In Iraq
posted by homunculus at 3:56 PM on March 2


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