The saga of the United States military’s attempts to recruit young people by streaming on Twitch is full of twists and turns. Over the summer, the Army and Navy’s Twitch channels were flooded with messages about America’s copious war crimes, questions that almost always resulted in bans. But since these bans arguably straddled the line of free speech violations, the Navy is asking its streamers to adopt a different tactic when viewers bring up the military’s past atrocities: act like complete fucking babies about it.
In training documents acquired by journalist Micah Loewinger, the Navy details how it wants its streamers to react to questions about the United States military, specifically the common “What’s your favorite U.S. war crime?” question that continues to plague these channels. I never expected the grunts they put in front of a camera to sell kids on conducting imperialism to have meaningful conversations, but I’m still surprised by how whiny and feckless they come off.
One response reads,
“I am here to hang out with people like me who love gaming. If you want to know more about my life in the Navy, I am happy to discuss. But I will not speak on behalf of others.”
They are very much not streaming just to meet and chat with fellow gamers. As with military recruitment at esports and other gaming events, these Twitch streams are all about putting a friendly face on an inherently predatory act, not to mention one that overwhelmingly targets those from poor and minority backgrounds.
“If you have concerns about Navy policies or actions, I suggest you contact the Federal Elected Officials from your state.”
Sorry folks, “I’m just following orders” isn’t going to work here.
“I’m here to play games. I have no interest in engaging in personal attacks.”
Further into the training documents provided by Loewinger, the Twitch streamers are taught to tell viewers that their views are entirely their own and do not represent the Navy as a whole. Weird how as soon as someone brings up, oh I don’t know, the United States massacring civilians in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War or retreating Kuwaitis in the first Gulf War, it becomes a personal attack.
“I understand that some people here oppose the military and have no interest in a Navy career. But for those who are curious about what it’s like to serve, let’s talk.”
Yep, folks oppose the military in the same nonchalant way they dislike pistachio ice cream or prefer blue over red. It’s not that our taxes are disproportionately given to an organization that murders and rapes its way through sovereign nations in our names. Just a simple difference of opinion.
Despite the attempts of politicians like congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to keep the United States military from recruiting on Twitch, it seems like channels from the Army and Navy are here to stay. And as with every carefully planned marketing strategy, it’s obvious these organizations are going to want their propagandists to stay on message rather than dispute viewers. It’s almost as if there’s no arguing that our armed forces are a force for evil in this world. It’s almost as if there’s no defense for their presence on Twitch.
It’s almost as if they plan to continue committing war crimes in perpetuity, hoping that a few streamers shouting, “Poggers!” as they mow down virtual insurgents in Call of Duty can continue to provide grist for the meat grinder.