The Socialist - Issue 5 The Socialist - Peace Sells, But Who's Buyin'?

Published on December 5th, 2013 | by Editor

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Peace Sells, But Who’s Buyin’?

by Jen McClellan

Violence is everywhere — from video games, to television, to movies, to comic books, to kid’s cartoons. One doesn’t even need to own a video game console, TV, or even need to be able to read, in order to know this.

Alright, well, if a person lived in some lost corner of the United States with no connection to commercialism, then perhaps they wouldn’t know what I’m talking about. However, for those of us living in or near cities, not only do we know that violence is being fervently advertised and are  aware that explosions and zombies tear your skin off and straight-up single-barrel shot guns are king, but we also know that if you’re going to own a machine gun, you’re going to want one with rapid-fire capabilities.

The community college I go to has vending machines. There’s no cafeteria, but there’s Coke machines. So, one day for lunch I had an energy drink. As I was chugging this green fizzy battery-acid like liquid, I noticed there was a military man slinging a gun on the side of this can.

We are starting to make the connection that the reason violence is seen everywhere is because it is advertised. And it’s really well advertised, too. Here I am on campus, trying to get through a long school day, basically stuck on campus for hours and hours with no alternatives to sustenance other than purchasing this thing that is communicating to some corporation’s marketing department that violence sells.

How often does this happen? How often are people in a location where the only things available for purchase, in one form or another, advocate violence and the perpetuation of its advertising?

And if advertising is so overwhelmingly prevalent, is the feedback that marketers get — that violence sells — actually a valid assumption, or is it merely a result of a capitalist economy? The fact that violence overwhelms the appearance of sex in cartoons is an interesting issue as well. Intimacy and physical contact is taboo, while violence is advocated. This is what we are teaching our kids?

For example, my little sister, who is 8-years-old, watched Regular Show with me. We watched a Tae Kwon Do death episode where the two main characters were punching each other. The entire episode was about who could punch the best. It ended with a huge battle where the characters were about to die, but because they were friends they learned how to work together. But by work together, I mean one character finally decided to let the other one claim he was better at punching. All that a kid, with a short attention span, takes away from that is that it’s cool to play a game to see who is the best at punching.

Joel Bakan’s Childhood Under Siege says, “The crisis addressed in this book … the erosion and sometimes outright destruction of our capacity to protect children from economic activities that might cause them harm — is arguably the most chilling effect of the turn to neoliberalism.”

Prior to reading this, the definition of neoliberalism was fuzzy to me. Neoliberals push for free trade, deregulation, strengthened privatization, and a general reduction in government control of the economy. While a critique of neoliberalism must wait for another article, our lack of a critical response to how well this system is cultivating the acceptance, promotion, and encouragement of violence is troubling.

This is something we definitely want to keep a discourse going on because it’s one of those very obvious and too easily dismissed signs of something bigger at play in our society.

Whatever the intentions of violence’s prevalence in pop culture, and whether or not it is intentionally advertised, are issues open to debate. But the more important questions to ask are, perhaps, does this subliminally infused comfort and familiarity with violence make the majority of Americans more readily quick to say war is okay? Has it already taken us past this point? Has it gone beyond the United States to other countries that love pop culture and the video gaming industry just as much if not more? Has it taken us to the point of saying not only is war okay, but it is also necessary?

As Naomi Klein points out in The Shock Doctrine, “ … in the radical privatization of war and disaster, one problem recurs: the ideology is a shape-shifter, forever changing its name and switching identities.”

Be this the case, I would pose this last question to you, dear reader: How do we best combat the rising appeal of violence?

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Jen McClellan is a student at Moorpark College, Ventura County Local Vice Chair, YPSL Chair, CASU activist, volunteer at Walnut Canyon Elementary School, member of The Socialist Editorial Board, and all around anomaly.

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