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Support Our…?

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The American sensibility (engendered by directors like Peter Berg and Michael Bay) is to consider cops, soldiers and blue collar workers to be rough and loving but beatific souls who put us all to shame with their acts of sacrifice, heroism and honour.

It never considers or acknowledges that some of them are probably jerks who cheat on their taxes and spouses, get drunk and abuse their kids, etc – just like some rich people, pimps and corporate executives (the people Hollywood movies portray as evil almost without exception) are good and decent people in real life.

It sounds like a over-privileged gripe, but the reason I don't like it is because it perpetuates beliefs that become ingrained in a culture and inform both socially and politically on our views about the world.

In the Western world today (thanks to the influence of the US and its entertainment) we have a politically correct knee-jerk 'support our first responders' reflex that extends to cops, soldiers and firefighters when professions that are just as socially worthy or economically important like nursing, teaching, caring, the arts and – yes – prostitution are looked down upon by the working middle class after decades of media indoctrination.

Examples abound from any movies where there's a war or a disaster, from Armageddon to World Trade Center, from Patriots Day to American Sniper. Just wait for the box checking; laying in bed with loving spouses who are attractive but not too drop dead gorgeous after the alarm goes off ridiculously early, helping eager kid with project in garage, iconographic blue collar uniform, larrikinesque disdain for authority, I-got-your-back approach to the work, etc.

The real problem with it is that we think it's arisen organically from some sort of spontaneous unconscious hero worship from society, and it might well have done so to some degree. But it's become a promoted paradigm to the extent that you wouldn't dare say anything that contradicts it in polite society, any more than you'd suggest women deserve to earn less money for the same work or that black lives don't matter.

And as Noam Chomsky said, the powers that be are only too happy to latch onto that and make it a catch-all battle cry that covers the political direction the armed forces (in the federal government's case) is sent in. 'Support our troops', as he said, becomes 'support our policies'.

And popular culture, with figureheads like movie directors, do the rest of the marketing semi-consciously. I'm not suggesting Peter Berg or Michael Bay intend to espouse the political position of the US government – as rich liberals they probably disagree with it most vehemently of everyone, and they just want to make exciting action movies with emotional depth and have a bit of a fetish for military hardware and tactics.

But we end up with movies the directors and studio try to claim aren't political, they're just about the men and woman who make the sacrifices for the freedom and safety of others. The problem is that you can't disconnect (for example) the soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan from the fact that they're there fighting for literally no reason – the mission presented to the world about stopping development of weapons of mass destruction turned out to be completely bogus.

We internalise the message to the extent that anyone who carries a badge or wears fatigues is automatically assumed to have the characteristics that would cause them to run towards rather than away from danger, unhesitatingly put their lives on the line for complete strangers, etc etc.

Instead, we know objectively that all those people have done is gone through training regimes that aim to eradicate characteristics we don't associate with soldiers, cops, etc (selfishness, fear), been handed a weapon or a fast car and are expected to follow orders. One US army training program aimed to make computerised training scenarios as close to modern videogames as possible because recruits already have so much experience with it. Moping, lazy kids who lay around all day playing videogames as heroes? There's a jarring disconnect in the popular narrative there.

As a society we throw the words and sentiments that go along with the movement around a bit too freely, and our collective buying in to the knee-jerk 'support our...' mindset just cements that mindset even more firmly into the cultural bedrock of society. They become so unshakable any disagreement with them practically pleads for accusations about communism, hating freedom and any other smear an opponent in politics – or just an argument in the street – wants to dream up.

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