Katy Perry, Military Propaganda and Truth


Have you seen the latest Katy Perry music video “Part of Me”? Remarkable would be an understatement. It’s a poorly kept secret that mainstream pop stars, actors and news media promote the establishment’s vision of society and often glorify the military force, but Katy takes it to a whole new level. Many movies and videos use product placement as a way earn additional income, but this video clearly advocates changing your life and joining the marines – not just buying a new brand of Coke. I have never seen such a blatant advertisement for the military and I wonder how much they paid and what impact it might have.

With an all volunteer military, it is essential for the forces promote themselves as a life altering and epic mission to maintain democracy, freedom and our way of life. Even Canada, which has never boasted of its military power, has moved towards glorification of the armed forces. This started sometime ago, with a drawdown of our United Nations peacekeeping mission efforts over the past two decades and a lack of enthusiasm for risky intervention. Couple that with a Conservative government and celebrations for the war of 1812 and our national perception of the military’s role could be considered confused, at best. This fantastic Walrus article outlines how that happened and what it means for Canada.

The military is smaller in size than ever before and has been struggling to define itself in the post-communist era. Should Canada’s military be primarily peacekeeping (i.e. Bosnia), emergency low-risk interventions (i.e. Libya), hybrid missions (i.e. Afghanistan) or something else? Intervention in a time when a dozen lost soldiers causes national polemic is very challenging. The ever-excellent Munk Debates hosted a discussion on the pros, cons and risks of intervention and interestingly the audience remained pro-intervention despite General Rick Hillier and John Bolton’s objections. However, I would venture that if the audience members were asked to volunteer themselves or send their children for the proposed missions, they would baulk.

People say they want a better world, but far too often refuse to get their hands dirty or make real sacrifice. Running the military, policing the oceans and securing troubled countries is very expensive, challenging and dangerous. It’s clear that the Marines, which Katy is promoting, are not a peacekeeping force. I would hope Katy’s propagandizing of military life would provoke some discussion and debate amongst her youth based audience, I’m not sure it has.

The military is not guts, glory and bullets – as many people tend to believe. The Onion satirical newspaper got it right when they described a “true life” military video game as being 80% hauling equipment and 19% filling out paperwork, and 1% fighting. To better understand what the military really is and isn’t, I highly recommend the PBS mini-series, CarrierIt follows life aboard the USS Nimitz, a US nuclear aircraft carrier that’s home to over 2 700 military personnel. The series follows the lives of sailors at all levels of the ship, from the captain to the toilet cleaners. The show interviews smart sailors for and against the war in Iraq and clearly shows the importance of the military as an escape route from abuse and poverty.

So with all that in mind, what is Canada’s military’s role in the 21st century? Should pop stars promote the military and is anyone ready to truly sacrifice for their country?

Bonus point, guess how many aircraft carriers there are in the world and who has them. 

Published on April 8, 2012