Articles

The Games Industry as 21st Century Imperialism & Its Cultivation of Fascism

Emil Lundedal Hammar / UiT-The Arctic University of Norway - The videogame industry is emblematic of what John Smith (2016) terms 21st century imperialism, where rich countries and multinational companies profit from ‘super-exploitation’ (Smith 2018) of the so-called Global South via global production chains. These relations of production result in repeated crises that in turn exacerbate violent, reactionary movements usually found in fascist tidings stemming from the inherent crises in capitalism (Traverso 2019; Jong 2020).

Like other mass-cultural forms, videogames are produced within and are enabled by a historical and material global network reliant on global capitalism (Dyer-Witheford and De Peuter 2009; Kirkpatrick 2013: 108). This is achieved via postcolonial access to slave labour extracting conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Sinclair 2015, 2016, 2017; Valentine 2018); the super-exploitation of countries like China, India, Vietnam, and Malaysia (Fuchs 2017, Qiu 2017); the free-trade regulations of the centres of economic power; the precarious working conditions of software developers in North America (Consalvo 2008, O’Donnell 2014, Williams 2013) and in cheaply outsourced countries like Malaysia and Vietnam (Flecker 2016, Thomsen 2018); the exploitation of passion via ‘playbour’ by multibillion-dollar software companies (Dyer- Witheford and De Peuter 2009; Bulut 2020); the dominance of white heterosexual masculinity in game studios and the industry writ large (Srauy 2019; Johnson.

How Counter-Recruiters Take on the U.S. Military

Military recruiters count on economic hardship to lure young people of color to sign up. Counter-recruiters are working hard to thwart their efforts.

Susan from Sustainable Options for Youth (SOY) in Austin Texas High SchoolSep 6, 2022 / Aina Marzia / YES! Media - Year after year, the same foldable table is propped up near the entrance of a high school gym. People with the same uniform but different faces, all eager to tell you about a new “opportunity,” will sit idly at the table. There will be a sign in front of the table and a clipboard on top, ready to jot down any name that will take the bait being offered.

The U.S.’s “all-volunteer military” requires people, and the search for young high schoolers to fill the ranks of the armed forces is always ongoing. Further, the military tends to prioritize recruiting low-income minority kids because, as per Anthony Clark, a U.S. Air Force veteran, “Poverty is the draft.”


Racial and Socioeconomic Discrepancies in Enlistment

From embedding militarism into public schools to setting up shop inside schools, the military will seemingly go to any lengths necessary to get more boots on the ground. Programs like Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), while not directly affiliated with recruiters, attract large enlistments from high schoolers and are introduced to students as early as freshman year. In a report by RAND Corporation in 2017, it is estimated that more than 500,000 students are enrolled in Army training programs. Further, 56% of schools with such programs offered federal reduced or free lunch options, suggesting that they serve students near or below the poverty line.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, around 64% of enlistments are of people from household incomes below $87,000, and 19% are from household incomes below $41,691. Although the CFR classifies such people as “middle income,” many social scientists point out the increasing financial precarity of the American middle class, such as Alissa Quart’s 2018 book Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America. Such research highlights how the middle class is shrinking, making income data unreliable when assessing economic hardship. While there is a common belief that the armed forces are an “all-volunteer military,” the data suggests that low-income students often view the military as an economic opportunity.

Will Student Debt Relief Really Undermine Military Recruitment?

Military recruiters often target low-income youth. Will Biden’s student loan relief plan mean vulnerable youth no longer have to choose between debt and military service?

 

Army recruiters use Navajo heritage to promote military service Photo by Alun Thomas  U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion - PhoenixSeptember 28, 2022 / Frances Nguyen / Next City - Earlier this month, 19 House Republicans, led by Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas), sent a letter to President Biden to raise concerns over the “unintended consequences” that his student loan relief plan would have on the military’s recruitment efforts: “By forgiving such a wide swath of loan borrowers,” the letter read, “you are removing any leverage the Department of Defense maintained as one of the fastest and easiest ways to pay for higher education.”

The plan would forgive up to $10,000 for borrowers of federal student loans who make less than $125,000 per year, and up to $20,000 for recipients of Pell Grants, a financial award for students from families with incomes below $60,000 annually. Under the plan, about 20 million borrowers could have their balances eliminated.

Indeed, one of the many reasons young recruits join the U.S. Armed Forces is to finance their education, particularly among low-income and recruits of color. A 2015 survey from the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University found that 53% of veterans were motivated into military service for educational benefits. The relief plan would undoubtedly impact that side of the sales pitch for military recruitment, but how deeply will it undermine recruiting efforts – and is the crisis of recruitment actually a crisis?

Several counter-recruiters say it’s too soon to know the impact of Biden’s student debt relief plan on their work, in part because they anticipate legal challenges blocking the relief and because the plan doesn’t impact new or future borrowers. But ultimately, they say, the success of recruitment depends on another factor.

“The single biggest predictor of military recruitment is the economy,” Elizabeth Frank, who has been involved in counter-recruitment in Chicago public schools since 2004, says, pointing to what student debt cancellation advocates argue will ultimately be a boost to the economy.

“When the economy is good, recruitment suffers,” says Frank.

Pentagon Admits Lack of Oversight to Stop Junior ROTC Sexual Abuse

dvids - JROTC Drill Video by Airman 1st Class Madison Champine  AFN PacificSept. 21, 2022 / Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Mike Baker / New York Times -  Pentagon officials acknowledged Wednesday that they had inadequately supervised the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps as dozens of military veterans who taught in U.S. high schools were accused of sexually abusing their students.

Speaking before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about military recruitment, the officials said they had begun discussing how to increase oversight of the program after a New York Times article detailed how instructors, who are retired military members, appeared to sexually abuse students at a higher rate than traditional teachers did.

“We completely agree that additional oversight is necessary,” said Stephanie Miller, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, adding that the military branches have been reviewing how to better supervise the program. “We also think that we need to take a hard look at our current background investigation process,” she said.

Responding to questions from Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, a representative of the Air Force was explicit about the branch’s failures in overseeing its instructors.

What I Discovered in the JROTC Curriculum

July-September 2022 / Lauren Reyna Morales / Draft NOtices - In the summer of 2020, I was recruited by the non-profit Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities (Project YANO) to review core textbooks used by the U.S. military in the high school Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program. Project YANO organized a team of 15 reviewers that consisted of individuals with backgrounds in either classroom teaching or education activism, or with special knowledge of subjects that JROTC claims to address in its curriculum (e.g., U.S. and world history, geography, leadership methods, etc.).

In total, eleven Army, Navy, and Marine Corps JROTC texts were reviewed. The reviewers included current and retired teachers, military veterans, and several educators with post baccalaureate credentials. I myself have been a classroom teacher for five years. I’m credentialed to teach English and Social Sciences in the state of California, and I also earned an M.A. in education from the University of Colorado, Denver. I personally reviewed an Army JROTC textbook titled, Leadership Education and Training (LET 3). I was eager to investigate the kind of curriculum JROTC utilizes to influence over 550,000 students at approximately 3,400 high schools. What, I wondered, is the U.S. military teaching to youth in their places of learning?

GOP congressman says student loan forgiveness will hurt military recruitment

August 25, 2022 / Christopher Wilson / Yahoo News - Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., said Thursday that President Biden's student loan forgiveness plan will hurt the U.S. military's ability to recruit.

"Student loan forgiveness undermines one of our military's greatest recruitment tools at a time of dangerously low enlistments," Banks wrote in a tweet as Republicans continue to attack the White House for the announcement that it would be canceling $10,000 in student loan debt for millions of Americans.

Though the White House is limiting forgiveness to those making under $125,000 per year, conservatives have attempted to paint the plan as a handout to the rich. Banks's comment appears to undercut that message, implying that lower-income Americans might no longer see joining the military as a path to a college education that wealthier families can typically afford without volunteering for service.

The US Military’s JROTC Program Is Even Worse Than You Thought

  Army JROTC cadets participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on June 21, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia. (US Army Cadet Command / Flickr)August 23 2022 / Steve Early / Suzanne Gordon / Jacobin - We’ve long known that the US armed forces target poor and working-class students to meet their enlistment goals. But according to a recent report, the military’s JROTC program is also rife with sexual misconduct and outright abuse of young women.

Fifty years ago, no symbol of university complicity with the military angered more students than the on-campus presence of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). The manpower requirements of the Vietnam era could not be met by conscription, draft-driven enlistments, and the graduating classes of military service academies alone. The Department of Defense also needed commissioned officers trained in DOD-funded military science departments at private and state universities.

Anti-ROTC campaigning became a major focus of the campus-based movement against the Vietnam War. Critics demanded everything from stripping ROTC courses of academic credit to, more popularly, kicking the program off campus. Foot-dragging by college trustees, administrators, and faculty members reluctant to cut ties with the military sparked an escalation of protest activity, from peaceful picketing to more aggressive action. ROTC buildings were trashed, bombed, or set on fire — most famously at Kent State University. There, a May 1970 arson attempt triggered a National Guard occupation that led to the fatal shooting of four students (one of them a ROTC cadet) and then the largest student strike in US history.

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