48th Fighter Wing Airmen from RAF Lakenheath speak to local Girlguiding group in Mildenhall. Photo: US Air Force/Christopher S. Sparks 48th Fighter Wing Airmen from RAF Lakenheath speak to local Girlguiding group in Mildenhall. Photo: US Air Force/Christopher S. Sparks

The MoD is attempting to rebrand life in the military in order to recruit vulnerable young people, argues Jago Corry

A recently revealed document from the British army’s “This is Belonging” campaign suggests they are deliberately targeting working class young people within a propaganda initiative to rebrand military life.

Director of programmes, Isabelle Guitard of Child Soldiers International, suggests this new campaign specifically exploits the lack of opportunities and employment prospects in working-class city areas.

With around 490,000 unemployed young people (16-24) living in the UK, the younger generation are struggling to find career paths and prosperity within austerity Britain. The UK, being the only European country to recruit people as young as 16, has been deeply criticised by numerous UN human rights committees, showing that our government puts military expansion over the interest of ordinary people.

The advertisement campaign targets ‘out of home’ methods such as within pubs, sports centres and gyms while specifically labelling all cinema advertisements to show in only non-combat films, an attempt to devolve the violent reality away from young people’s perspectives of military life.

Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville says the aim to attract young people who are ‘money-driven but not good at money management’ means they are “…shamelessly manipulating the vulnerable qualities we see in a number of young people for their own cynical gain.”

The “target audience” section within the revealed document suggests that people of “16-24, primarily C2DE” within northern cities such as Liverpool, Sheffield and Bradford are targeted. The ongoing deindustrialisation of the North has caused a huge lack of opportunities for young people in modern Britain, the army have been exploiting this fact to recruit some of the most susceptible young people in the country.

Similarly, the army has announced a move to sponsor leadership activities within the children’s organisation Girlguiding. Critics of the initiative say this endeavour is a human rights issue whereby children as young as 4 are being exposed to military propaganda.

While already sponsoring a Cub Scouts badge, the MoD has been said to have appeared in at least one major Guides event over last month’s bank holiday, with children being known to have held up posters saying “Army, Be the Best”.

Emma Sangster, co-ordinator of the campaign group Forces Watch says,

The act of enlisting is only the final stage of the recruitment process. The armed forces know that, which is why they have a large and growing programme of youth engagement, with young children as well as teenagers. They don’t like to call it recruitment, but this is what it is. It also serves to promote military institutions and activities among young people more generally.

This is clearly an initiative by the MoD to paint army life as a friendly, opportunity-heavy career path that avoids highlighting the true bloody and dangerous culture of the British army.

Surveys commissioned by the Guides have attempted to statistically justify the demand for young women wanting leadership training. However, this initiative only serves to persuade talented young women to get caught up in unwanted military conflict.

However, these MoD tactics of appealing to minors and vulnerable young people have been ongoing since the coalition government’s strategy to promote a military ethos within schools. 500 cadet forces have been targeted to be set up around schools by 2020. This has been a clear method to promote the normalisation of military life to young children. 

Of course, the British military convincing poor and vulnerable young people to enter the establishment’s conflicts is nothing new. However, there is clearly a growing culture within government power of seeking to repackage military life to recruit talented working-class people for their own violent gain.

Jago Corry

Jago Corry is a socialist activist, writer and undergraduate Politics student. They are presenting their dissertation research on dissolving neoliberal discourses to the 2019 BCUR conference.

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