Title: Militainment, Inc.: War, Media, and Popular Culture
Author: Roger Stahl
Publisher: Routledge. New York.
This book gives an interesting account of the presentation of war as entertainment in contemporary American popular culture, and how the American media industry collaborates with the military to present war on our screens. Stahl has labeled this trend ‘militainment’, and argues that this interactive presentation of war is turning people into citizen soldiers. The writer traces the origin of the term ‘militainment’ back to 2003 when it first entered public discourse. Soon after its introduction, WordNet online dictionary documented the term. The dictionary defined the term as “entertainment with military themes in which the Department of Defense is celebrated”.
The depiction of war in an entertainment format makes it far easier to consume. War films, embedded journalistic accounts of battlefields and video games present war in a simplistic manner and hide the sociopolitical, geopolitical and economic complexities of these conflicts from the audience. The genus of ‘militainment’ is that it does not present the point of view of the ‘other’ but simply moulds public opinion in favour of war. Stahl argues “the dominant perspective has been to regard the presentation of war in terms of the ‘spectacle’ that it is, to argue that these discourses tend to function to control public opinion by distancing, distracting, and disengaging citizens from the realities of war.”
Besides the film industry, the book also discusses other media that are turning war into entertainment. The video game industry has a multibillion dollar investment in war games. The virtual reality of these video games turns the player into an active soldier in the battlefield who enjoys killing enemy combatants. Thus, these games have converted people into active participants of war rather than passive viewers.
Stahl is an Assistant Professor of Speech and Communication at the University of Georgia. In 2007 he produced a documentary on this topic under the same title. He has also published a number of articles on the same theme. The book provides crucial inside information to its readers about the relationship between Hollywood and the US military. After the 9/11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and Bush advisor Karl Rove held a meeting with Hollywood kingpins to explore the use of the industry to mobilize people for the ‘War on Terror’.
During the Iraq invasion in 2003, embedded journalism saw a new rise. Reporters and cameramen covered only a "political battle ground” rather than an actual battle ground. Embedded reporting, as many commentators noted, resembled a "reality TV extreme sports challenge of sort”. This style of reporting makes the soldier a focal point.
‘Militainment’ is a powerful tool in the hands of big military complexes, which control public opinion and are able to generate war hysteria among people. This 21st century phenomenon gives birth to more complexities regarding democracy and world peace.
The book is a valuable research document for scholars who are interested in the relationship between media and the military. It also provides a useful framework to study the increasing trends of military control on entertainment and news media in places like Pakistan. The Pakistani ISPR – public relations wing of the Pakistan military – is not only pumping millions of rupees in the production of tele-films (‘Faseel e Jan Say Agay’) and TV serials (‘Khuda Zameen Say Gaya Nahi Hai’), but also songs for popular consumption. The ISPR also arranges coverage and broadcast of war-torn areas; embedded journalism saw a new rise on Pakistani TV screens especially after operation Zarb e Azab. All these multimedia platforms have been used to build a powerful image of the military in the public sphere.