War and the politics of militarism | TheSpec.com – Hamilton Spectator

A Ukrainian soldier poses next to cars destroyed in Irpin, near Kyiv, last week. In the face of the Russian invasion, militarization is being amplified as a call for more upgraded weapons, Henry A. Giroux writes.

The American public is being fed non-stop images of technologically sophisticated weapons being used in Ukraine — in effect this appears to function as a sort of advertisement for the weapons industry, writes Henry A. Giroux

By Henry A. Giroux

Fri., May 13, 20223 min. read

The drums of militarism are beating louder. The catastrophe of war and outpouring of support for the millions of Ukrainians suffering under the brutal attacks by Russia has been transformed by the mainstream media into a cinematic spectacle used to fan the flames of militarism. The sheer boldness, violence and ruthlessness of Russia’s attack on Ukraine has created a global political crisis accentuated by both a crisis of ideas and a crisis of historical reckoning, at least in the western mainstream media.

Tragic pictures of the agonizing hardships faced by the Ukrainian people too often appear with little or no historical or critical commentary in conventional news outlets and other monopolies of information governed by the spectacle of 24-7 coverage, matched by a lack of historical analysis.

The American public is being fed non-stop images of technologically sophisticated weapons being used in Ukraine — in effect this appears to function as a sort of advertisement for the weapons industry, coupled with the sensational presentation of gratuitous violence.

Images of violence are replayed in the mainstream media over and over again, making violence not only more visible, but also rootless. Susan Sontag’s observation about war coverage, made in a different historical context, is even more relevant today. According to Sontag, the endless images of war and suffering, removed from the context of rigorous historical analysis, represent a contempt for “all that is reflective, critical and pluralistic (and are) linked to forms of rabid masculinity (that) glamorizes death.”

Talking heads in the dominant media landscape churn out cheap binarisms about good and evil, democracy versus authoritarianism. In doing so, they reinforce the mythic narrative that the U.S., a model of liberal innocence, is furthering the global fight for democracy, untainted in its false assertion that fascism is always elsewhere — in this case exclusively in Russia. There is almost no talk about the role of the military-industrial complex, both in its push for war, and how it usually emerges as the only winner. Nor is there any talk about who profits from an embrace of war talk, the spectacularization of war and war itself.

The need for community is now organized around a bristling war fever feeding on militaristic language in mainstream outlets such as The Atlantic, The New Republic, New Yorker, The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal. In all cases, rightful moral outrage over the brutality of Russia’s unlawful invasion morphed quickly into a fog-of-war hysteria demanding more military aid, more punitive sanctions and bolstered by the discourse of unchecked jingoism. The call for peace or a diplomatic solution is barely mentioned.

In the face of the brutal Russian invasion, the concept of militarization is being amplified and put into service as a call for more upgraded weapons. Talk of war, not peace, dominates the mainstream media landscapes both at home and abroad. Such talk also fuels a global arms industry, oil and gas monopolies and the weaponization of language itself. Militarism as a tool of unchecked nationalism and patriotism drives the mainstream and right-wing disimagination machines. Both fuel a global war fever through different degrees of misrepresentation and create what intellectual historian Jackson Lears writing in the London Review of Books calls “an atmosphere poisoned by militarist rants.”

War never escapes the tragedies it produces and is always an outgrowth of the dreams of the powerful — which always guarantees a world draped in suffering and death. Peace is difficult in an age when culture is organized around the interrelated discourse of militarism and state violence. War has become the only mirror in which alleged democratic capitalist and authoritarian societies recognize themselves.

Peace demands a different assertion of collective identity, a different ethical posture and value system that takes seriously Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s admonition that human beings must do everything not to “spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear annihilation.” This is not merely a matter of conscience or resistance, but of survival itself.

Henry A. Giroux is the chaired professor for scholarship in the public interest at McMaster University. His latest book is “Race, Politics, and Pandemic Pedagogy: Education in a Time of Crisis” (Bloomsbury 2021).