02 March 2008

An Alum takes issue with the counter-recruitment II

For those who haven't seen the version of my critique of counter-recruitment as it was presented in The Earlham Word here it is. I urge everyone to look at the comments post on the on-line version below for the current state of my own thoughts and Mr. Murray's. I hope that Stephanie Scheurich and Mica Whitney will post their thoughts here and further elucidate their position on the comments page. Perhaps I will just have to wait for responses from in The Word.

An Alum takes issue with
“Counter-recruitment” and its heroes
It was with great disappointment (if not great surprise) that the lead story in the February 15th edition of The Earlham Word should be a negative one about the military. Specifically that it should be about that mythical and evil beast, the military recruiter, is even less surprising.
The maligning of military recruiters is one of the older maneuvers of the anti-war movement. It is such a stand-by I suppose that the heroes of Bennett Murray’s article, Stephanie Scheurich and Mica Whitney, are permitted to present the most negative opinions as if they are facts. “Recruiters are allowed to say anything,” for instance slides by Murray with nary even “an according to.” While it is certainly true that recruiters are salespersons for the military one might look deeper into their biases toward the institution than the Michael Moore style of analysis adopted by Murray Bennett, Stephanie Scheurcih and Mica Whitney. In any event recruiters are not “paid to lie” and, as anyone who has visited MEPS (Military Enlistment and Processing Service) will tell you, recruiters can find themselves in quite a lot of trouble for having done so. It isn’t that recruiting isn’t high pressure, or that recruiters aren’t salesmen. It is and they are. The problem with the Murray article and the analysis of Scheurich and Whitney is that it is shallow and at least as biased as they claim recruiters are.
Adding to their credibility woes is the fact that the article rather disingenuously represents the motivations of the Scheurich and Whitney and as such has them talking out of both sides of their mouths. At times “they want to represent the other side” (of what I wonder), and “provide them with information about other scholarship programs…so they can get money for things other than killing people.” In the next paragraph they accuse recruiters of exaggerating and misrepresenting the educational and vocational benefits of the military and engage the in very same exaggerating about AmeriCorps and these “other scholarships.” Later the article tries demonstrate balance by noting that Scheurich “never actually took a stance against enlistment. ‘It’s OK for people to go into the military.” Never mind, I guess, that this is categorically not what the counter-recruiting organizations claim to be about. The AFSC’s Youth and Militarism (www.afsc.org/youthmil/counter-recruitment/default.htm) and the D.C. based Counter-Recruitment (www.counter-recruitment.org) are both openly and simply anti-war. It will not be lost on you that being “OK” with joining the military and being part of the established anti-war movement is either an example of extra-ordinary cognitive dissonance or a calculated obfuscation of the truth. It’s possible Whitney and Scheurich are creating their own counter-recruitment movement but it would be hard to tell since they seem to spout the same bromides.
What is really infuriating about the piece is the level of condescension and hypocrisy exhibited toward the poor by not just Whitney and Scheurich but by the entirety of the counter-recruitment movement. They accuse the military of disproportionately targeting the poor while they themselves cravenly use the poor to garner sympathy for their case and their cause. No one could miss the unstated implication either. Poor people are obviously too stupid to figure out the scam. Their concern for poor of Wayne County couldn’t possibly contain more condescension or shallowness. They naievely toss around ideas like AmeriCorps, and college scholarships as if that will solve the problems of people who may have squandered high school, have no skills or need health insurance and good pay right out of high school. The military appeals to poor people because it trains and pays modestly well while providing a host of benefits. It should be no surprise that recruiters have success with poor people.
The hollow pretense of the anti-war movement’s concern for poor people is itself a deeply depressing joke. The movement is biased enough to force continued poverty on the poor to further its own morally bankrupt pacifism from the comforts of largely middle, and upper middle class digs. It is easy to find military faults from such safe vantages. It is easier still to find fault when looking through the myopic lens of a wooly-headed ideology.
Max Driffill II
Earlham College 2003
(In the interest of full disclosure, I am currently awaiting the results of my physical and have run the enlistment gauntlet that so concerns Scheurich and Whitney. I am against the engagement in Iraq, and for the engagement in Afghanistan. I am not “pro-war.” For a fuller review of my thoughts on this Word piece by Murray Bennett visit www.maxiitheblindwatchmaker.blogspot.com)


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