by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
One of the key concepts of advertising is “get ’em while they’re young”. Building brand loyalty in a child can make for a lifelong customer. The same adage applies to propaganda. Young minds are impressionable. There was valid psychology behind the Nazi’s formation of the Hitler Youth. Just so, there is valid psychology behind the production of war toys. When you teach children that American military might is always right (as well as hours of fun!) and that violence is not only an acceptable but the preferred method of dispute resolution, they are getting the message. You don’t see a lot of “Ambassador” or “Diplomat” toys. The G.I. Joe toys and plastic Army men of my youth were little more than jingoistic bits of plastic designed to give children the chance to vicariously be a “real American hero” without the trauma psychological and physical that we all eventually learn usually accompanies being an actual war hero in real life.
Back in the day, you could go to the store and buy your children all the war toys you wanted them to have. You still can. The only thing that has changed is the need to go to the store. Now the store comes to you via the Internet. An item currently for sale at Amazon.com carries on this tradition: the Maisto Fresh Metal Tailwinds 1:97 Scale Die Cast United States Military Aircraft – US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator with Display Stand. You read that right. You can buy drone toys for your children or for yourself if you are so inclined.The sale of this toy in the Information Age is a bit different than the transactions of my un-wired childhood. Not only does the Internet bring shopping into the comfort of your home, it also allows unprecedented amounts of news and raw information to be at your disposal to help inform parents and children alike about the world around them. And on commercial web stores sites like Amazon, they allow for instant customer feedback. The feedback this toy is getting at Amazon is quite revealing as an example of propaganda gone wrong – from the government standpoint anyway. We’ll look at some of that sadly hilarious feedback, but first, let us discuss the inappropriateness of a drone toy in and of itself.
Toys that aren’t pure exercises in imagination like building toys such as Lego and Tinkertoy and even simple wooded blocks or art supplies are an abstraction one step removed from reality. They are – even when highly detailed – non-functional representations of the real world one step removed from reality by the very merits of their non-functional, scaled down design and manufacture with cheap materials. However, they do represent an idea in physical form. Communicating an idea and fostering acceptance of it is the heart of what propaganda does. The same can be said of advertising and branding. Old school toys like G.I. Joe and plastic Army men had a single layer of abstraction. This changed somewhat as G.I. Joe evolved into the 80’s and a fantasy/science fiction element was added to the toys, but even then the toys were a single step away from reality as the toys were direct proxies for individual action, i.e. you were the soldier in direct conflict when at play killing “the enemy”. This drone toy makes “play killing” even more distant from reality. Drones proper are an abstraction from the consequences of killing as pilots in Houston use video game-like systems to remotely control robotic assassins from above half a world away. A real distancing from the consequences of killing compounding the already existent layer of make-believe that toys inherently provide. A drone toy is simply a bad idea for that alone. Add to this picture that drones – a topic largely avoided by the mainstream media – are still managing to be both an international and a domestic scandal for their role in not just killing non-combatants as “collateral damage” but for the international diplomatic and public relations backlash they are creating and our government’s willingness to use them in whatever theater they wish whether we are officially at war with a country or not. Not to mention the issue of their desire to use drones domestically as “law enforcement support” and “solely for surveillance” Sure that’s all they’ll be used for, uh huh. Until, of course, it becomes simply more expedient to launch a missile to stop a high speed pursuit. Let’s also consider the sheer inappropriateness of the drone toy as represented by the following comment posted to Amazon by a user named “genevieve”:
this is crazy disturbing.
how am i supposed to explain to my child that these drones represent real murder robots that are currently killing CHILDREN across the globe?
a drone recently attacked a school because they “thought terrorists were hiding there’
BOOM! murdered children everywhere. you wanna know ‘why they hate us?’
drones and murdering robots. and our military has been murdering their families since the 90s.
buying this toy today in history would be like buying an atomic bomb toy right after hiroshima and nagasaki. disrespectful. ignorant.
or more accurately, would be like purchasing a toy torture cell for the toy inmates at guantanamo. these moments in history when our military violates the geneva convention should not be taught as fun to our kids!! our children should learn from these mistakes when they take american history class as adults.”
Which leads us to this toy being an interesting example of propaganda gone wrong at least as far as the adults paying attention are concerned. The comment section for this toy at Amazon is filled with snarky comments with messages similar to the one conveyed by “genevieve” above, but funnier. Here are some samples:
I just have to say that the educational value of this toy is GREAT. I just tell my son: This is what the West is using to kill the Rest. We fly these wonderful planes carrying bombs and we drop them on people we sort of think are terrorists and other people, including other kids (but no worry, only kids who are not white or citizens of countries that matter) and who happen to get in the way. It is a great development, you see, son, because during the Vietnamn war, the West had to have actual people dropping napalm and other things on the enemy and then some of us were upset because we had to face casualties of our own, and some brave men flying those planes were not too happy about killing babies and such, but now we can murder and pillar JUST LIKE IN VIDEO GAMES isn’t it great? No Americans or Brits coming back in coffins, well – not that many anyhow, at least we don’t have to see it on TV, we focus on sending these nifty white drones to do all the killing. So this toy is pedagogical in that sense because it describes this fantastic thing that happens when historical processes such as technology and imperialism sort of mutually reinforce each other!” – by “Rsel”
“My little Jeremy’s birthday is coming up and I just don’t know what to get him! He already has quite an arsenal of toy guns! Since this toy drone is out of stock, I need some suggestions! I was thinking maybe a toy rape kit? That sounds really cool! It would have to have real duct tape and a ski mask, though. Does anyone know where I can get one?
I know rapists aren’t nearly as glamorous as baby killers, but hey, I’m running out of ideas here!
Oh! I just remembered someone mentioned a toy waterboarding kit. Does anyone know where I can find that? Little Jeremy can practice on his friends, so he can grow up to be a good servant of the Nobel Peace Price Killer. After all, killing for pay is an honest job, right?
I’m just soooooo glad they’ve made killing so much nicer! Gosh, now they can just kill, kill, kill, all from the comfort of their gaming chair! I’ll make sure little Jeremy gets lots of violent video gaming practice! Then his adult job will just be another video game! Fun, fun, fun! And he won’t have to deal with blood and guts, or severed baby’s legs, like older generations of soldiers did.
Isn’t the world getting just better and better every day? What a nice planet we are leaving to our children! They can grow up to fight in wars without all that yucky stuff…just slaughter children from afar. They are so lucky!” – by “all love based paths lead to God ‘loveisthekey'”
“Unfortunately this is out of stock right now so I can’t buy it. But that’s all right because what really excites me is when they get the whole set. Eventually we are going to be able to buy the Army’s version, Homeland securities version. There will be different versions for different countries and states. I’m really curious about the design that my local police force will be using. I wonder how long before the toys will come equipped with toy weapons as well? Exciting!” – by “george”
“For month’s I’ve been very lost. I have tried over and over to purchase the United States Military Aircraft – US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator. However, the US Military claims they have the exclusive rights to kill things with this UAV. I have continually been refused the rights of owning one!
A few days ago I came across the 1:97 scale Die Cast United States Military Aircraft – US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator here on Amazon.com; I instantly knew what I needed to do.
I ordered the 1:97 scale Die Cast United States Military Aircraft – US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator, and after a few weeks I received it via mail. I quickly ran to my refrigerator and grabbed my Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz, (also ordered via Amazon.com), and poured the contents onto my 1:97 scale Die Cast United States Military Aircraft – US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator.
Just as I anticipated, it began to grow into a full scale UAV!
Yes! Now I have a fully operational full scale Die Cast United States Military Aircraft – US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator. I’ll admit it does run a little bit heavy. I also had to replace the plastic propeller & wheels, but overall it runs great. Storage is also very simple now that I have a full size display stand as well.
I hate a lot of people and now I can finally take them all out. I HATE THEM ALL!
Thanks again Amazon.com.” – by “teofisto”
“What power luster would not enjoy being able to unilaterally order the deaths of people anywhere in the world?
Which leads me to my qualification: be sure you are a leftist darling of the mainstream media, else you’re not ever going to get away with playing with this toy.” – by “N. Joyce”
“When paired with the official ‘Fast and Furious Playset’ that I got from the White House gift shop, this drone is the funnest toy I or my kids have ever played with.
Now we can recreate little battles between American Border Patrol agents armed with beanbag-shooting guns and Mexican drug cartels armed with the latest firearms provided to them by the U.S. federal government. The drone flies overhead catching it all on video, and the video is then destroyed and its very existence denied by top government officials.” – by “Richard Nightwood”
“Great little toy, but of limited use. Apparently the current state of thought is 1) Killing American citizens without messy trials or meetings with the judge: Good! 2) Using it, even if it’s unarmed, to patrol our southern border and assist our immigration control personnel with enforcing our current laws: Bad! And shame on you, hater, for even thinking about it.” – by “C. Fox”
“When I opened the box, I was initially disappointed. I was expecting it to be, if not life-size, at least large enough to take out a hospital or a baby milk factory. But then I realized this mini-drone has potential right here in my office. There is this co-worker, who shall remain nameless, who babbles incessantly and moreover has atrocious personal hygiene (odor) and a generally slovenly appearance. Using the mini-remote control, I was able to successfully guide the little Maisto RQ-1 Predator from my own cubicle safely over the heads of the lovely Christie and Pamela, who share my disdain for this particular person, into the cubicle of the offending party. I will admit that the report was louder than I would have expected, and I certainly didn’t mean to upset my other co-workers, to say nothing of the custodial staff that evening, who had quite the job of it. But the RQ-1 performed flawlessly, and after a stern talking-to by the HR Director, all hands agreed that I had made the right decision. I also am pleased to report that Christie and Pamela are now looking at me with new eyes. We are going out on a double date this Saturday. Sweet!” – by “george4908”
“I’m an attorney and have found that the law and the constitution just seem to be always getting in the way. I was looking for a solution to help my clients and I thought to myself, ‘President Obama is a lawyer! He uses drones to get around silly laws and the constitution! Duh! I’ll do what he does!’
So I got me one of these drones and it does the trick. I simply lure my client’s nemesis over to my office for a ‘settlement conference.’ As soon as the evil-doer plops down in one of my comfortable chairs, the drone makes its appearance and zaps my client’s problem – dead!
My clients couldn’t be happier. And that makes me happy. And since I don’t have to worry about laws and the constitution anymore, I’ve canceled my subscriptions to Westlaw and Nexis and those other parasitic services.
These drones do the trick. No more water-boarding, no more long hours in the library and putting together cases. One punch of a button! Cool!” – by “Milton”
The vast majority of the comments are of this nature. To be fair though, some few are upset that this revolting toy is being met to snark and criticism:
You guys obviously have no idea what you are talking about! Why don’t you start writing reviews about the actual product and not some half witted made up crap.
My son got this toy for christmas because it is the aircraft that his daddy flies. he loves it. he sleeps with it at night, because he knows that his daddy is helping other mommies and daddies come home safe from war and he is very proud of him. Toy is very durable. it has been buried in the backyard, has taken a bath and almost eaten by the dog and still looks brand new! would definitely recommend this toy.
see, not that hard to write an actual review on the toy itself and not some crazy propaganda that has just popped into your non existent brains and has absolutely no merit!” – by “Disgusted”
So it seems pretty much everyone without a vested interest in drones thinks this is a bad idea. Certainly it seems that people see the toy as propaganda in the pejorative sense despite “Disgusted”‘s objections that disapproving of drone use is being based only on propaganda rather than simply having a conscience, being well informed or having a desire to adhere to Constitutional law. As previously discussed, for propaganda to be maximally effective, it must not be seen as propaganda. When you see the man behind the curtain, the magic goes away. For the adults anyway. An uninformed child growing up with this kind of toy will likely grow up to think drones are perfectly acceptable even for domestic use unless they learn better somewhere along the way. After all, killing and taking people’s human, civil and Constitutional rights is all okay if you get your robot to do the dirty work, isn’t it?
Is this toy propaganda?
What do you think?
~submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
P.S. More to come on the topic of vested interests in a future installment of . . .
The Propaganda Series;
Related articles of interest;