Popular culture and militarism

In the 21st century, militaries and arms companies have become savvy in their use of media and popular culture to promote their own interests and to normalise the idea that the military use of force is a common sense solution to political and social problems.

The US military regularly works with Hollywood filmmakers, providing equipment for the filmmakers and in return receiving the ability to make editorial edits to their films. Recent documents reveal that the US military has worked on over 800 major movies and more than 1000 TV shows and has made editorial changes to Bond films, the Transformers series, and various superhero films. Similar assistance is provided to computer games developers, and the US army has even made its own computer game, available to play for free online.

Further to this, there are over 2000 US military social media pages on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In the UK, arms companies such as BAE use social media to show off their latest weapons technologies, and the British Military uses over 200 social media accounts including several on Snapchat – an image sharing platform where 23% of users are aged between 13-17 – in order to recruit young people.

All of this sits alongside the military’s daily use of press officers and sponsorship of events such as the Superbowl, the X Games, Armed Forces Day, and this year, for the first time in history, the Edinburgh fringe festival.

All of this points towards the existence of what academics have called the ‘military-industrial-media-entertainment-network’ where popular culture is increasingly in the service of militaries and arms companies. This workshop reflects on this and brings together artists, activists and academics to explore how art and popular culture can be used to counter militarism.

The workshop will begin with a brief talk that provides some context to the contemporary militarisation of popular culture, before handing over to several leading anti-militarist artists who will discuss how they aim to challenge militarism through their own work. After the talks there will be the opportunity to ask questions and discuss how art and popular culture can contribute to overturning militarism.