The New Drone Order, Part V: Sci-Fi Rhetoric & Militainment

How the U.S. Air Force and Arms Corporations Portray Themselves Through Advertisements

“Advertising is essentially an American achievement, successful to the nth degree. It made us a great commercial nation. It can play a most important part in winning the war. No one doubts that the responsibility for winning the war is upon our armed forces. But the time it will take to win the war rests with the civilian. He who was formerly the consumer must now be the producer. The young men of the nation who used to produce are waging battle. The civilians who are left must provide food, munitions, clothing for the millions of men of our armed forces, and then, if there is anything left, the civilians are to have it.

“There are dire days ahead for us. We civilians are asked to encourage our officials, but no one stops to think that we civilians need all the encouragement from government that we can get. The government can do a great job of building morale, of selling the winning of this war. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are stunned by the war's impact and are not awake to the fact that if each of us does a little, the result is colossal. Yes, there is a tremendous advertising job to be done by government. What a challenge it could be to some clear-thinking, patriotic advertising craftsmen!”

― Leonard Dreyfuss, Public Opinion Quarterly, 1942

“Science fiction as a genre has the benefit of being able to act as parable, to set up a story at a remove so you can make a real-world point without people throwing up a wall in front of it.”

― Joe Haldeman, author of the sci fi novel, The Forever War

Principles: The fine print of consignment

The U.S. military encourages, values, and respects the following traits in individuals who enlist their services for the country: integrity, sacrifice, courage, and vigilance. Universal human values that project strength, honesty, and devotion foster a strong, secure military which can in turn ensure national sovereignty is defended. Since these are universal human values not only reserved for uniformed personnel, ethical guidelines from arms corporations come from a very similar place in terms of the desired package of core characteristics for their staff members.

For instance, Lockheed Martin declares its ethical principles to be, “do what’s right, respect others, perform with excellence.” Corporations who sell weapons to the government try to project similar traits, as they construct the company’s image - and how it’s represented - in favorable, and sometimes immoral ways. The reality of it is, not many organizations’ mission statements are accurate or forthcoming about the exact nature of their operations and aims, their bottom-line and verified conditions. For now, it’s just science fiction. But it can become different once you are out in the operational military forces. A simple one-on-one conversation with a local Army or Marines veteran will inform you how different the real thing is from the sanitized and exaggerated commercials on TV.

America being the consumerist nation that it is, we’re accustomed to being exposed to ads promoting things ‘too good to be true,’ sometimes to an absurd degree. As a result, many have developed a healthy skepticism to combat the impulse to splurge, acquire things we don’t necessarily need. Televised military ads are effective because they contain powerful imagery and emotional content - the government employs highly capable advertising and marketing teams to assist the next generation of volunteers in finding their way gracefully into the domain of the national security apparatus.

The chief aims of ads are: To attract new recruits to the service, to instill pride in current members, and to develop informed public support [of the Air Force]. The U.S. military spends roughly $100 million annually on advertising to promote enlistments. They are getting exceedingly good at it, especially when it comes to appealing to consumers of a digital age. This issue will be explored in detail during this edition of The New Drone Order.

Introducing the ‘veil of science fiction cool’

Nicholas R. Maradin III, a graduate student from the University of Pittsburgh has explored with great detail the way that the Air Force tagline ‘‘It’s not science fiction. It’s what we do every day’’ functioned as a recent example of occultatio, when it was used in a series back in 2009.

The term ‘occultatio’ sounds like a spell Harry Potter might use on his enemies to make them read more esoteric literature. Occultatio is actually a rhetorical strategy of concealment with origins in classical argument. In Maradin’s article, “Militainment and mechatronics: Occultatio and the veil of science fiction cool in United States Air Force advertisements,” he focuses on how the superimposition of science fiction imagery over depictions of Air Force operations frames those missions as near-future sci-fi adventures.

These short advertisements (1, 2, and 3) were developed by GSD&M, a Texas-based advertising agency, who use a marketing strategy that targets “today’s generation of high-quality candidates” who are “digital natives and not traditional military recruits.” In order to secure those candidates, they “create cutting-edge interactive and digital experiences that captivate, challenge and help recruit the youth who will continue to elevate the world’s most technologically advanced military power into the future.” The “young and technologically minded” must be enabled to “get up close and personal with all the future tech and advanced thinking the Air Force has to offer.”

Maradin raises concerns about the ethics of this rhetorical tactic, noting that, “As the concept behind each advertisement depends on its ability to successfully blur the line between reality and fantasy, we can question the extent to which this tactic is ethically suspect, both on the part of the advertising agencies involved and the U.S. Air Force for signing off on the project.” He also describes the association of military technology with sci fi and videogames as having a name: militainment, a term that started being used in 2003 as a way to describe the reframing of the consumption of war as entertainment. It first appeared in the book, Militainment Inc. War Media, and Popular Culture, where the author, Roger Stahl, defined the term as ‘‘state violence translated into an object of pleasurable consumption.”

Maradin explains what “the veil of science fiction cool” is:

In the “Reaper” ad, Air Force operations are made out to have one foot in the world of real-life technology and military operations, and the other in the more speculative, imaginative realm of contemporary science fiction cinema. What makes occultatio so effective in this case is the ability for the Air Force to occupy these two worlds simultaneously, playing the most appealing aspects of each world against each other for maximum effect. The use of visual-verbal occultatio strategies in combination with science fiction imagery is what I term the veil of science fiction cool.

Here, the veil of science fiction cool involves the rhetorical act of repackaging and re-presenting those ‘‘every day,’’ real-life elements within the aesthetic and thematic context of science fiction film and video games. Like a silhouette in sunset, even as the veil hides certain details, it brings certain forms into sharp contrast. In this ad, like others in the ‘‘It’s Not Science Fiction’’ campaign, it is the life-saving power of communications and transport technologies—not their advanced killing potential—that is being showcased. At the same time, the unique ‘‘science fiction’’ qualities of these devices are enhanced through visual embellishment and cinematic framing. As a result, the veil allows for a certain ethics of military technologies to be smuggled in without being directly addressed.

A complete and thorough analysis of silhouettes at sunset is given in Ian Roderick’s article, “Bare life of the virtuous shadow warrior: The use of silhouette in military training advertisements.” Roderick broke down a set of advertisements featuring soldier silhouettes. His research addressed “how the silhouette is adopted as a semiotic resource in order to convey certain specifically desirable qualities of the well-trained soldier through what is essentially a generalized form of representation.”

The images of shadow warriors in a series of ads featured in Training and Simulation Journal (TSJ), a highly specialized trade magazine published by a large commercial publisher of military industry periodicals, was a representation that “heralds the coming of a virtuous/virtual warfighter which applies actualized experience and acumen gained through immersion in virtual environments.”

Roderick explains who the audience is:

The readership for TSJ primarily consists of those who would be involved in the decision-making processes relating to the procurement and contracting for goods and services pertaining to the training of military personnel... The defence contractors that commissioned the silhouette image advertisements represent key corporate members of the military industrial complex.

Analysis of the Air Force’s sci fi ad

Have a look at the advertisement, and consider Maradin’s summary and assessment:

The scene begins with a squad of infantry patrolling a rocky, Mars-like desert landscape. A thunderstorm booms in the distance behind dark, orange-red clouds. One of the soldiers reports into his radio: ‘‘This is Titan one-four. No signs of life.’’ Overhead flies a Reaper remote-control aerial drone—only it isn’t. This aircraft features a stealthy and nondescript black paint job. We see a close-up of its glowing red camera-eye and the frame then switches to a “‘robot’s-eye-view,’’ complete with a schematic terrain overlay, seeking targeting reticule, and various numerical measurements and unit identification symbols. In a cinematic move tracing the path of a telecommunications signal, the camera pulls back, zooming up and outside the planet’s atmosphere and past a large orbiting communications satellite. The view then returns to the surface, now on the other side of the globe at the combat unit’s futuristic base of operations. There, soldiers monitoring the robotic drone’s tactical display on a wall-sized view screen receive visual confirmation of nearby enemy snipers and send a warning to the troops on the ground: ‘‘Titan one-four, hold your position. Unmanned aircraft is identifying enemy sniper.’’ The warning is relayed back to the touch screen armband computer of the commanding soldier on the ground, who directs his troops accordingly. We pan up to the black silhouette of the unmanned aircraft, flying high among clouds.

Suddenly, the veil is lifted like a wave washing left-to right across the frame and both the plane and the surrounding environment return to their Earthly equivalents, displaying the traditional white UAV paint job, Air Force markings, blue skies and organic greenery that lets us know this is our own planet Earth. The words ‘‘It’s not science fiction. It’s what we do every day’’ appear onscreen in prominent lettering. The final shot is a behind-the scenes look at actual Air Force drone pilots at a flight center controlling the unmanned aircraft from a remote cockpit. ‘‘Thanks Reaper One–One, we got it from here,’’ says one of the operators. ‘‘Sensors coming off target,’’ adds another. The scene ends with a voiceover offering the opportunity to ‘‘learn more at Airforce.com.’’ The entire ad comes equipped with a tense, orchestrated soundtrack, providing a dramatic accompaniment to the onscreen Action.

This ad appeals to recruits with the promise of operating sleek, lethal gadgets. It also depicts young men doing the jobs. This portrayal of the younger crowd helps recruits identify with their age group, where they can put themselves in the soldier’s shoes, and imagine what it’ll feel like to be a war hero. The final frame of the ad suggests that drone pilots make just as much of a difference in the events of war and conflict as infantry does.

Two articles that appeared in Wired were critical of this ad campaign, and could be read for further insight:

Air Force’s ‘Not Science Fiction’ Commercial Totally Is

Air Force’s Scare-Mongering Space Ad Shoves Facts Out of the Airlock.”

Camaraderie and inclusion in Lockheed Martin advertisements

In her article, “Marketing militarism in the digital age,” Dr. Susan T. Jackson examined how digital popular culture artifacts (YouTube promos on official corporate channels) could contribute to the normalization of military values in civilian life. She also studied how selective rhetorical direction was used to provide a “sanitized and heroic version of their products, including by obscuring the actual role/effects of the large conventional weapons system they produce, to focus instead on the pride of craftsmanship and community.”

“Within arms industry advertisements,” Jackson explains, “the viewers often are reminded that arms production is a welcome and expected part of the global political economy, especially in terms of local jobs. The understanding amongst [workers] is that they are participating in something special, and that this ‘specialness’ is a benefit that is shared with their families and the communities around them only enhances this understanding. As an employee of Raytheon, one of the world’s largest weapons producers stated, ‘we have strong ethical values toward staff and our customers. You don’t just leave that at the office. You take it home to your family, to your friends, to the community, and it really creates that positive Raytheon brand.’”

Jackson chose 17 arms industry ads and analyzed thousands of words that were spoken or presented on screen, and discovered that many of the companies’ YouTube videos transmitted a sense of inclusion. “The viewer seems to be invited to be a part of the company, of supporting the soldiers and of creating and benefiting from a particular form of national security.”

This sense of inclusion is seen in the many uses of ‘we’ in some examples Jackson provided:

‘We make the visible invisible’
‘We make a difference’
‘We are working closely with the U.S. government’
‘We deliver’

In the U.S. Air Force’s sci fi ad, they also use the word ‘we,’ as if inviting the viewer into their ranks to witness a world out of a Heinlein novel, and contribute to making it a reality by enlisting, by getting away from mundane civilian life to pursue something purposeful. “It’s not science fiction. It’s what we do every day.”

Jackson also notes how the ads use the word ‘you’ to invite inclusion as well. “‘World’ is another example of the inclusion effect,” Jackson wrote, “because it is assumed in most of the videos that there is a common agreement on what threats the ‘world’ faces and how those threats should be countered: invariably the solutions that the company provides. The economy is another aspect of the inclusion idea in that several times the videos mention how the systems are affordable and/or will do great things for the country’s economy.”

Furthermore, Jackson mentions how companies position themselves as world leaders, a simple enough marketing strategy which acts to normalize products and services by leaving out that they are leaders of the military industrial complex.

Maradin also analyzes techno-fetishism and techno-eroticism in his article:

Militainment-style techno-eroticism necessitates that weapons be depicted as objects of aesthetic beauty, often shot as silhouettes against sunset backlighting. In the ‘‘Reaper’’ ad, the black figure of the veiled Reaper is similarly held against the bold, orange backdrop of our imaginary planet, creating a silhouette that emphasizes the drone’s sleek lines and elongated rectangles. There is a stark serenity to the scene as the aircraft appears to hover silently in the center of the frame. This style of imagery is evocative of similar depictions of military weapons in feature films such as Transformers and Iron Man, and situates the Reaper drone firmly into familiar aesthetic territory previously occupied by M1 Abrams tanks and F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighters during the Gulf War.

In terms of how the Air Force targets audiences, in the book Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment, Paul Sackett and Anne Mavor found Air Force ad audiences “to be intrigued with engines, technology, and speed. These are not restless youth; they have self-assurance.”

There is an abundance of scholarship on this subject. In Enlisting Masculinity: The Construction of Gender in US Military Recruiting Advertising during the All-Volunteer Force, Melissa T. Brown notes:

Air Force recruitment has emphasized job training and specifically offered respect and advancement to blue-collar, mechanically inclined young men, reinforcing a working-class masculinity that values skilled labor and economic independence. The Air Force has also made advanced technology a central draw; through association with this technology, the Air Force offers the masculine rewards of mastery, dominance, and control. In recent years, [they’ve] offered recruits not direct physical excitement, as the other services tend to do, but the vicarious thrills of the videogamer, who has extreme experiences through the mediation of technology.

On if recruitment videos address existing conflicts, Brown explained:

For the most part, they have ignored the wars. When they do present combat imagery, it is mainly used to denote a masculine realm of challenge, excitement, and brotherhood and is disconnected from the conflicts at hand. Within the recruiting ads, women’s roles are carefully contained. Even as the wars have expanded their military functions, the depictions of women continue to segregate them from any markers of war, keeping combat male in the military’s self-representations.

In his article, Militarization, Public Pedagogy, and the Biopolitics of Popular Culture, Henry A. Giroux says, “from video games to Hollywood films to children's toys, popular culture is increasingly bombarded with militarized values, symbols, and images.” In an example, he cites how Humvee ads offer “the fantasy of military glamour and machismo masculinity, marketed to suggest that ownership of these military-designed vehicles, first used in Desert Storm, guarantees virility for its owners and promotes a mixture of fear and admiration from everyone else.”

Giroux gets into why military recruitment ads seem to appear in entertainment, using “sophisticated marketing tools.” Giroux also notes, “In light of the militaristic transformation of the country, attitudes toward war play have changed dramatically and can be observed in the huge increase in the sales, marketing, and consumption of military toys, games, videos, and clothing. Corporations recognize that there are big profits to be made at a time when military symbolism is getting a boost from the war in Iraq and from the upsurge in patriotic jingoism.”

Our own analysis of advertisements

Using Maradin’s example of how he analyzed the “It’s not science fiction” ad, we’ll act on his example and look at various ads by arms corporations.

Lockheed Martin - The Next 100 Years

The video begins with a quote from former Lockheed CEO Robert Gross outlined on a dark backdrop: “You look ahead--where the horizons are absolutely unlimited.”  The video transitions to a transparent cylindrical device that appears to be a super advanced version of an hourglass, with the tagline: “The Next 100 Years.” The thin stream of cascading sand in an hourglass is, in this case, a very molecular and ‘blue’ dust, suggesting something nano-scale and state of the art. Triumphant music then starts playing, and a woman’s soothing, artificial intelligence-like voice reminiscent of science fiction movies narrates a poetic introduction to the company and its progress during the last century of business operations.

Transcript:

From a garage in California to the surface of Mars, from bamboo and silk to advanced composites and titanium, from green eyeshades to cloud computing, the story of Lockheed Martin’s first 100 years has been a story of constant innovation: a story that continues to be written by men and women who look forward to the future and ask the big questions.

How can we create a more secure world? And defeat unknown threats from unknown quarters? How can we harness new sources of energy? Support a growing population? And expand our knowledge of the universe?

The answers will be pursued with purpose, creativity, and a relentless commitment to innovation as we go forward into our next 100 years.

The first visuals show two men, Allan and Malcolm Loughead (pronounced “Lockheed”) flying early models of aircraft. The next scene shows a large exploration spacecraft whizzing by like a comet as it’s burning like a fireball in an exotic planet’s atmosphere, before landing comfortably on the surface of Mars. It turns back to an early model plane, which soars through the air above a forest, and then it shows a highly technological material being handled by an employee’s white gloved hands. Another employee is depicted in the next scene, where he is working on the surface of an aircraft’s shiny exterior. Then we see employees working on the inside of a tunnel, chamber, or pipe, standing on or around a cutting-edge construction scaffolding platform. A set of light passes by as we see them, as if a live scan is in progress. Next, it shows an early version of a computer or a typewriter, being operated by a woman who also might be a Lockheed employee.

This then transitions to an image that is supposed to be conveying “cloud computing” yet it resembles the bionic or robotic eye of a sentient intelligence, similar to the Reaper’s eye in the Air Force ad. Computer code suspended in a manner similar to the Matrix: in this case, azure blue, not green, is then shown. The view moves forward and we make contact with the shimmering strands. A fighter jet does a roll. A frigate makes swift headway on a blue ocean, driving through the water. We then see the inside of a white, blue, and black indoor area, possibly the interior of a mechanical silo. A man with glasses appears in the next frame, with light reflecting.

In the next, a holographic looking model of overlapping spheres, something that a computer simulation might produce, while faint bleeping sounds slowly fade out. Then a woman typing in an elaborate looking room, like a ‘robotic castle.’ Mathematical equations flit into existence above her, floating across the screen, like a speech bubble that got punctured and the words just leaked free. Then a middle-aged man, bald, wearing glasses, with his hands in his pockets in a very technological looking hallway (a Lockheed facility might look like this) is seeing the same mathematical equations flow on the glass windows he is observing.

The doors behind him open as the narrator says “look forward to the future” and the slightly dark hallway is filled with bright light. Then we see a spinning atom or a molecule, and a buzzing sound signifying cellular speed and movement as a small particle of light flies and spirals, then the next scene shows how an aircraft is launched out of the ocean in a cinematic arc, with blue, cloudy skies above. A bird in flight - no, rather a plane in flight that looks like a bird in its natural habitat, flies past us over a beautiful green mountainous landscape. Next, a super-advanced jet coasts through the sky; a bed of fluffy white clouds and cerulean blue frame its pleasant flight.

Then we see three different aircraft, black and hostile looking in their flight formation - one fires a red laser into the unknown where we can’t see, as the narrator says “and defeat unknown threats.” Then we see a virtual battlefield - if you’ve ever played Age of Empires, Empire Earth, or Starcraft, then this strategic overview of the battleground will look familiar. It shows futuristic tanks and drones navigating through a lush green forest, showing statistics, clickable controls, and real-time monitoring of assets and unit positions. This is probably the strongest science fiction video game-like scene of the ad. Then we’re transported to a satellite’s view of the Earth, and the glittering stars and bright sun shining behind it. The satellite is using a beam-like device, simulating how we use technology to extract resources from the planet. We see the United States from space, the lights of glowing cities, towns, and metropolises. A bumblebee looking drone aircraft rotates along with it.

In the next scene, we are flown in a swooping dive towards a very futuristic looking platform on the sea, with yellow buoys surrounding it on the blue waters. The sky is blue with a hint of stormclouds and banana-yellow sunlight. Flying directly overhead, it shows separate yet interconnected platforms with vegetation growing on top of it, and two large purple half-spheres. This is referring to a sustainability platform, where food and water can be stored or generated in a controlled environment, in order to “support a growing population” as the voice narrates. “And expand the knowledge of our universe” is then spoken as we are taken back into space, where we see a high-voltage spacecraft patiently gliding through the crimson/dark purple nebulae of deep space. The music is at its height here, similar to a scene in Star Trek in the aftermath of a victorious galactic battle.

A galaxy in full view is shown in the next frame. Then another employee, along with the mathematical equations floating in the air. Now a white room, where a woman is working on a laptop on top of a wooden table. Man in the background is working on a ladder and filling in mathematical boxes. Now back to the robotic looking castle lobby, where a man in a suit appears contemplative and in deep thought. Five TVs are showing different monitoring displays (math equations are floating by again). Other various light patterns and spherical manipulations are shown. Then the logo, company tagline, and the end.

Lockheed Martin: Who We Are

Transcript:

One country
indivisible
from sea to shining sea
Words we all learn
But are they just words?
Or are they something more
A call, perhaps
A call more important today than ever
A call that reminds us that we’re a country greater than the sum of its parts
That we are a people capable of reaching unparalleled heights
That innovation, pride, commitment, is part of us
Part of what we do
Part of our DNA
We
ALL OF US
Are building the world’s most advanced stealth multi-role fighter
It may roll out of a single factory
But it comes from a city of angels
And the shores of the great lakes
From Sundance square to the home of our nation’s capital
We design it
We build it
We test it
Because our country needs it
It’s not an easy prospect
Not a simple process
It has its challenges
Some of those yet unseen
For this country wasn’t forged out of easy or founded on simple
The challenges? We face them head-on…

The F-35 Lightning II
It’s what we do
It’s who we are

The transcript for this video is troubling, in that it confirms much of what scholars have been writing on the subject concerning inclusiveness, the use of the word ‘we,’ and other rhetorical devices such as a company unequivocally ‘supporting the troops.’ When Dr. Jackson weighed in on this video and gave her reaction during an e-mail exchange, she mentioned that: “I think one of the things that stands out to me is how the language insinuates 'we' in other ways. Especially notable, the ad says it is in our DNA (so indisputable and natural and something 'we' share) alongside the listing of the various iconic geographic locations in the US (city of angels, great lakes, Sundance, nation's capital...). In a way, that seems to make the 'we' in 'what we do' to really reach outside of the actual LM employees and bring in the US as a nation.”

‘We’ is a device used repetitively. The ad insinuates that ‘we’ are all weapons manufacturers. ‘We’ share something in common that is profound and fundamental to our way of life. Every single person on American soil can base their identity on the well-being of Lockheed Martin’s finances and sales. The ad speaks of answering our nation’s call, and enlisting in a military service to serve our country. The notion that we, “ALL of us” - are manufacturing F-35’s (spending on the program by being taxpayers, at the very least) is a little troubling. Weapons of war roll out of factories in cities of angels. Should we give up on the F-35 program? No, because being American means dealing with challenges. What we should do is pour more money into the darn thing. Dust yourself off and try again, try again.

The visuals in the beginning seem to suggest that the machinery of modern society revolves around, and is powered by a strong and secure military-industrial defense base, with all of its cogs and gears turning in unison to support the machine.

Lockheed Martin: Second to None

Transcript:

What does it mean to feel secure?
What does it mean to feel protected?
What does it mean to feel safe?
To feel like your family
Your friends
Your home
Your way of life
Will go on?
What does it mean
To know your nation is defended
By the most innovative

The most advanced
The most effective
The most astonishing equipment
In all of history?

What does it mean to know
That, as a nation
You will not be defeated?
It means that the men and women
The technicians
The engineers
The scientists
The designers
The fabricators
The maintainers
The administrative
And business teams
The pilots
Who work here
Come to work
With a rock-solid belief
That what they do matters
That whatever they do
Whatever they make
Whatever they design
Must be better than the day before

That whatever they do

Must be done with integrity
With creativity
With pride
And with a level of skill
That is very simply
Second to None

To live in a world that needs no jet fighters
That needs no weapons
That needs no protection
That needs no relief
Is a wonderful dream

It is not, however, reality

That is why we work every day as a team
United in purpose
Brimming with talent
Alive with innovation
Together
We help families sleep easier
Together
We help nations all over the world
Live more peacefully
Together
We make peace
We make peace through strength
One company. One team.

Lockheed Martin - We’re Engineering A Better Tomorrow

Transcript:

Technology that enables cars to drive themselves
Routine flights to Mars
Fusion reactors that produce limitless energy
To most people, they’re pure science fiction from the world of tomorrow
Like...something out of a movie
But at Lockheed Martin, we live on the cutting edge of physics, material science, technology, and engineering
We obsess over things most people only imagine
We’re at the forefront of the science that makes them real
And they’re available when it matters most

It’s why we’re always thinking about new ways to prevent the unthinkable
And building the most advanced fighter the world has ever seen
It’s how we redefined what a combat ship looks like
Why we are harnessing the tides to generate electricity
And protecting our most valuable resources
And while we don’t know what’s going to change the world next
We’re probably already working on it

Text: “HELPING THE FUTURE ARRIVE”

Lockheed Martin - Innovators

Transcript:

We are the innovators
The ones with the new ideas
Ideas that transform our world
To improve the quality of life for billions
Capturing and storing energy until it’s needed
Providing unmatched protection from threats
through precision targeting and navigation systems
Helping farmers use precision mapping to maximize crop growth
Revolutionizing vertical flight through faster, autonomous and intelligent aircraft
Because we are the visionaries who look at the commonplace
and see solutions never before imagined

At Lockheed Martin, we are in the business of innovation
Where creative thinking has always been a competitive advantage
It’s what we’ve always done
While many were focused on designing better maps,
we were making GPS more accurate and reliable
And while some focused on flying below the radar, we perfected stealth technology
We have a rich legacy of looking beyond the horizon
Soaring into the wild blue, then way beyond
Making amazing discoveries
Adventuring where humans can’t go
Always working to connect the dots
Whether separated by lightyears or a simple molecule
We are ready to address the world’s biggest challenges
Like preserving the planet
Helping customers monitor and analyze our changing climate
And meeting the growing demands for clean and affordable energy
Including technology that converts waste to electricity
We confront the challenge of global security
Building the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft
That tracks without being tracked
Redefining combat ships, ground vehicles and weapons systems
to address the threats of the future
Ensuring information is secure and reliable across the battlespace
And through cyberspace
We are the innovators
Fearless
Relentless
Who support our customer’s missions with fierce loyalty
With a drive to create amazing solutions to difficult challenges
We are the innovators who inspire the next generation to find answers for questions yet to be asked
Because that’s what we do

See the world filled with endless possibilities
Envision the future and then make it a reality
We’re engineering a better tomorrow.

Lockheed Martin - Anything is Possible

The voice of a little girl (perhaps the daughter of a Lockheed employee) is the narrator.

Transcript:

Do you like to dream?
I like to dream.
Like all the great explorers did
Our nation is built on dreams
People don’t decide to become extraordinary,
they decide to do extraordinary things
Proving anything is possible
We can overcome any obstacle
Even when things change
Especially when things change
And times are tough
Sometimes tough times bring out our best
And we’re so capable of amazing things
There is so much still to learn
And so many places still to explore
We need to keep discovering, exploring, to keep asking questions
The answers are out there and I want to find them
Let’s see how far we can go
I like to dream
Don’t you?

Northrop Grumman - Aircraft

Transcript:

At Northrop Grumman, we’ve always built the most advanced aircraft. Even when the world said it couldn’t be done or be invisible. Even when they said, it couldn’t see everything, or endure, or adapt. Well, THIS is what we do. And who knows what we’ll do next?

The use of “this is what we do” is similar to the Air Force’s tagline: “It’s what we do every day.”

Northrop Grumman - Unknown Title

Transcript:

For us, the dream begins like this. Designing, creating, building, then we take off, invisible like the wind, and suddenly the future passes before our eyes. Only it’s not the future - it’s the present. And our dream has become reality. And just wait ‘til you see what’s next.

The bolded text is heavily reminiscent of the Air Force science fiction ad.

Northrop Grumman - Platoon

This one looks like Rainbow Six or Call of Duty: Black Ops gameplay, with soldiers who can turn invisible at will and avoid detection. Very sci-fi, with an action movie score.

Northrop Grumman - Detection

This one looks like something straight out of a videogame.

Northrop Grumman - Sounds

This ad features elements very similar to Lockheed Martin’s videos: American troops, families, the security of the country, innovation, and factory workers.

Northrop Grumman - A World Leading Aerospace and Security Company

This ad features employee interviews, varied musical background, with themes of protecting the country, ethical values of the corporation. Trust and honesty.

Northrop Grumman - We Are Northrop Grumman

This ad uses “we” throughout the commercial.

General Atomics - Predator C Avenger

The beginning of this ad is reminiscent of the movies Air Force One or Titan A.E, and then it turns into an infomercial of sorts with ornate special effects. The company shows off how this new drone can destroy enemy targets and deflect enemy missiles by shooting them with a built in defense system.

Boeing - The Next 100 Years of Flight Starts Here

This ad takes the form of a slideshow of videos with relaxing yet exciting background music. The viewer is taken briefly through a timeline of Boeing’s origins, with black and white footage of factory workers building aircraft, and then transitioning to shots of space stations and rocket launches. We see maintenance/construction workers and scientists, the American flag, and staff members in offices. We catch a glimpse of a successful lift-off, and get to see the satisfied reactions from people at headquarters while people cheer on the sidelines, especially children (the next generation of military recruits, taxpayers, and workers).

American supremacy in space seems to be the message at this point. There’s a theme of inclusion, where the viewer feels like they are a part of the company, and there are science fiction shots of futuristic space ships coasting through space, and multiple crafts landing on Mars.

Boeing - Some Come Here

In this ad, Boeing describes how some people come to the company with the desire to build something smarter, stronger, faster, safer, and greener - something the whole world can share. The use of “we” at the end seals it together nicely, and the music has a hint of African safari-like epicness to it, like an action movie that ends in the jungle.

Boeing - You Just Wait

Transcript:

Welcome to the world, 2116, you can fly across town in minutes, or across the globe in under an hour. Whole communities are living on Mars, and solar satellites provide Earth with unlimited clean power. In less than a century, Boeing took the world from sea planes to space planes, across the universe and beyond. And if you thought that was amazing - you just wait.

Well, for one, it’s using a tiny bit of false advertising. Boeing didn’t take us across the universe, or beyond the universe, for that matter, which would be a high order. This ad is trying to portray a futuristic world spearheaded by Boeing technology. It’s very well made, and resembles a science fiction film.

British Royal Air Force: Careers

Everyday objects are separated from their original function, and like being attracted to a magnet they join together into the sky to form a speeding jet. Very sci-fi.

Other relevant advertisements:

Lockheed Martin - Accelerating Tomorrow

Lockheed Martin - Three Old Men

U.S. Air Force - Aerovac

U.S. Air Force - Predator

U.S. Air Force - Air Force

To see more related video ads, check out this advertisement search page where you can find hundreds from around the world, many of which use a variety of ‘science fiction,’ ‘make a difference,’ ‘prove the naysayers wrong,’ ‘inclusive,’ and ‘challenge yourself’ devices.

Interview with SIPRI’s Dr. Susan T. Jackson

Susan is Principal Investigator of Militarization 2.0: Militarization’s social media footprint through a gender lens, a four-year framework project funded by Vetenskapsrådet (the Swedish Science Research Council). Susan works in Sweden as a researcher at Stockholm University and is an associated senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Her research focuses on militarization and international relations with an emphasis on corporate actors and the conventional arms industry. Prior to joining Stockholm University, she was head of the Arms Production Project at SIPRI and a lecturer and researcher at Malmö University College. She has published on the marketing of militarism, the national security exception (arms industry exceptions in multilateral trade agreements), and the selling of national security through arms industry promotional videos posted on corporate YouTube channels.

BFP: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today via e-mail, Dr. Jackson. In your article, you wrote about how arms industry YouTube videos normalize military values in civilian life, as corporations use language to provide a ‘sanitized and heroic’ version of their products by understating the role/effects of large weapons, and focusing instead on the pride of craftsmanship and community. Could something like that, in an equivalent form, happen in a SIPRI video?

STJ: Social media is used for a variety of reasons, not least to project an image. For me, the difference with the arms companies is that they aren’t selling us a product or service, but they are selling us particular imaginings of sovereignty, foreign policy, international relations. We, the public, can’t buy these weapons. Sales of these large conventional weapons systems are highly regulated and between states. While it is certain that some of the people involved in the purchase of these systems do watch these videos, the intended audience is much broader than that and the messaging is very Hollywood and disingenuous in a way.

BFP: How did you get into this work, and can you tell us a little about SIPRI?

STJ: My basic background is in militarization studies and trying to understand how and why the majority of the world prioritizes the military as the central actor in maintaining sovereignty. I started out by researching sex work around US military bases but couldn’t get the permissions I needed from a foreign government to do overseas fieldwork. I then focused on military spending and examined how the arms industry is privileged in multilateral trade agreements as pivotal in providing for national security and what that privileging might mean for how we construct spending priorities. A few years ago, along with a group of researchers who focus on other industries, I received a grant to extend my militarization and arms production research into social media.

BFP: You view militarization as a process that largely rests on the acceptance of two key notions as common sense: national security is best achieved via military security, and the military is ‘good, natural, and necessary.’ Do you think that it’s in our human nature to wage war, and be downright enamored by all of the cool new siege weapons out there on the market, or is this fascination the result of social engineering?

STJ: I am not sure about whether aggression and fetishizing technology are part of human nature. To be honest, I don’t care so much. To me, people surely are evolved enough to come up with better solutions to international tensions than deterrence through threat (e.g., having massive militaries, nuclear weapons…) and war. That said the reliance on weapons to project and protect sovereignty is reinforced by social constructions of what it means to be a country and what components are required to maintain sovereignty. The dominant discourse (the one that has been accepted as ‘commonsense’) centers on militaries and weapons and these constructions are part of the ‘commonsense’ view that weapons are our safest bet (ironically enough).

BFP: Did anything surprise you about the ‘word cloud’ that appeared most frequently in videos and advertisements?

STJ: I think the most surprising aspect was realizing that the videos almost never say ‘soldier’ but instead use ‘customer’ while showing an image of a soldier. That realization prompted me to do research on the images and sounds in the videos (that article is under review now). I have watched so many of these YouTube videos and read through so much of the companies’ Facebook pages that the words they use to sanitize the effect of these weapons systems wasn’t a surprise once I started going through the data. I expected many of these words since I had been hearing them for a while.

BFP: In your research, you analyzed the tropes and concepts of videos from SIPRI’s Top 100 arms-producing companies. If the average person or someone who is not knowledgeable about research methods were to try out this type of inquiry for themselves, how do you recommend they go about it?

STJ: Right now, short of taking a methods course, I am unsure how the uninitiated would process the messaging in the videos and other online marketing materials these companies produce. There are some entry-level methods textbooks if someone is really interested. Cynthia Enloe and Roger Stahl have some good, accessible work on culture, constructions and militarization. I also am in the initial stages of reviewing possibilities for putting together a toolkit of sorts that can be accessed online in order to help people learn how to be more savvy social media consumers. I really don’t know if that toolkit will be possible, but I am hoping so.

BFP: In a Saab ‘Gripen’ video, you describe how the narrator discussed how a country of strategic value could be overrun at any time and the combat aircraft used by the joint international command is necessary in order to keep everything under control as ‘brother turns against brother.’ In a Lockheed Martin ‘Innovators’ video, it uses the language ‘adventuring where humans can’t go’ and supporting customer’s missions with ‘fierce loyalty.’ In another Lockheed video, ‘Second to None,’ the narrational text said:

“United in purpose.
Brimming with talent
Alive with innovation
Together
We help families sleep easier
Together
We help nations all over the world
Live more peacefully
Together
We make peace
We make peace through strength
One company. One team.”

What’s your reaction to this?

STJ: I am in the process of conducting more research on these videos. My initial reaction to the Lockheed Martin materials is unsurprised. While there are some universal tropes used by companies regardless of headquarter country, there are parts of the messaging that are more specific to how these companies want to brand themselves via the lens of the country with which they most identify. My work on Saab shows a general view of Sweden as having natural ruggedness, keeping the everyday secure so people can forget about being afraid, exhibiting altruism in saving others as part of international collaborations; that sort of thing. I haven’t systematically gone through LM videos to see what kinds of US nationalism are projected but my initial take on some of the LM videos is that of an almost hyper-energy stance, when compared to the more almost calm and reassuring Saab videos. The US companies more generally seem to have a more patriarchal ‘we do this world security thing and the world needs us to’ kind of perspective. I am hoping later this year to have more time to go through the US companies more systematically on a national level to see what kinds of constructions they use in their messaging.

BFP: Do you know of anyone who has done similar analyses of advertisements, such as deep technical or rhetorical readings of marketing techniques in relation to the defense industry, or elsewhere?

STJ: The media studies literature has a good bit on both company-level and nation branding messaging. I am trying to apply some of this literature in the International Relations field. There is some work out there on militaries as well and the use of social media, for example, in recruiting. That work tends to support my work on the intersection between marketing techniques and national identity (a la state sovereignty and so on). The Pop Culture and World Politics book where you found my marketing chapter has a chapter by Rhys Crilley. If I remember, he outlines his approach on military recruitment (though I might be thinking of something else he did; I don’t have the table of contents in front of me just now). There’s another researcher in the UK, Laura Lyddon, who is doing work on the arms industry but she is just finishing up her degree and hoping to publish soon.

BFP: This ‘rollout’ video of the Sikorsky S-97 Raider Helicopter looks more like a Spartan babyshower than the release party for a combat helicopter aircraft. There was even some team-building interaction going on with the crowd. This video was listed at the top of your article. Was it your inspiration for the project?

STJ: That video shocked me, to be honest. It is one of the videos that made me sit back and think about how to analyze the messaging in the videos as both universalizing while at the same time supporting national perceptions. Then at the end the video has the disclosure basically about how none of the information presented was secret. I found the juxtaposition of the forcefulness of the video, the almost corporate bonding or religious revival effect, with how these weapons are protected information so odd in a way. In effect, the disclosure seems to add to the appeal of the excitement of the video and a sense of inclusion of the viewer in something that is privileged.

BFP: Have you ever played a computer or videogame centered on war and killing, or military operations? If so, did working on these subjects change your ‘game-playing’ perspective?

STJ: I don’t play videogames. A colleague of mine in the UK does research on the military videogame industry. You can look up some of his work: Nick Robinson.

# # # #

Erik Moshe, Newsbud Analyst, is an independent writer who resides in Northern Virginia. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 2009-2013. His writings focus on technology, weapons of war, and futurism. He's currently studying Rhetoric at George Mason University.

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Comments

    • Sorry for a bad Link.
      But..
      I Stand by the Book.
      The Simulacra by Philip K Dick (1964) .
      About Sci-Fi.
      Best Regards
      Jens and Bornholm.

      • Hi Jens,

        Thank you for the book recommendation. Regrettably, I was reading ‘Man in the High Castle’ a little bit after high school but for some reason I never finished it. I looked up ‘The Simulacra’ and it sounds like a cool read. The book cover coupled with the “matriarch who rules the world” plotline reminds me of Hillary Clinton: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Simulacra#/media/File:TheSimulacra(1stEd).jpg

        Erik

        • Another interesting aspect of the book, quoted from Wikipedia:

          “Society is stratified into ‘Ges’ (German Geheimnisträger, “bearers of the secret” (the elite)) and ‘Bes’ (German Befehlsträger, “implementers of instruction” (professional and artisanal)) classes, and there is conspicuous consolidation of political and broadcast media power. The Democratic and Republican Parties merged into a single party, the ‘Democrat-Republican Party’ and the ‘United Triadic Network’ presumably resulted from an amalgamation of NBC, CBS and ABC.”

          • Hi Erik Moshe
            I am glad for Your reply.
            I hope You wiil Read it.
            I am born in Europe..
            Perhaps..!
            That is why. I read his books.
            Best Regards
            Jens and Bornholm.

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