Sunday, September 11, 2011

How Many Americans did the NFL and NASCAR kill this weekend?

How many Americans did the NFL and NASCAR kill this weekend? Now, I understand they didn't pull out a gun and start shooting the people in their stands. But, its also almost a certainty that some of the people in those stands or watching on TV will die within a year or two because of what NASCAR and the NFL did this weekend?

Both NASCAR and NFL are filled, even more than normal, with patriotic displays and salutes to the troops on 9-11 weekend. How many impressionable young boys and girls will see those displays and join the military? How many of those impressionable young people are going to die because of this? How many are going to be maimed for life, and go through the rest of their lives blind, or deaf, or missing limbs? How many are going to be scarred psychologically by going and being part of armies of occupation in foreign lands, and by the acts that are required of such armies? How many are going to come home struggling with PTSD? How many are going to become a part of the record number of suicides by military veterans?

In the American market society, anything that is on television is there to draw eyeballs to advertisements. The business of television is structured in that way. TV stations and networks make their money selling advertisements to people who want to watch whatever drama, comedy, game show or sporting event that is what's listed in the TV listings. The NFL and NASCAR are on TV so that the advertisers can broadcast their messages to the audience that wants to see the game or the race.

In this environment, one major set of advertisers are the recruiting arms of the US military. Huge amounts of money are spent on military recruiting ads broadcast during races or games, or on the primary sponsorship of certain race cars. The purpose of these ads is to recruit young people into the military.

We as a society have decided to ban tobacco ads from television. Because of this, the top NASCAR series changed its name from being the "Winston" cup. The reason we as a society made the decision to ban tobacco ads is because tobacco is a product that when used exactly as directed by the manufacturer, it leads to the ill-health and death of its customers.

Morally, aren't military recruitment ads in the same category? We know as a certainty that certain percentages of the young people of our society who join the military will end up dead, maimed, or psychologically scarred. This happens when these young people do exactly what they are told and trained to do by the military that they join. These are not accidental deaths and injuries that can not be foreseen, nor or they deaths and injuries that were caused only by the negligence of the person who saw the ad, believed the message and bought the product.

Military recruiting ads must be effective or else the military wouldn't spend the money on them. Somewhere, someone probably has some statistics that say how many young people they expect to recruit into the military for every dollar that buys every rating point on TV. And somewhere else, someone knows the stats on how many of the people who join the military come through the experience alive, uninjured, and without psychological scars. As a math and science sort of guy, to me this tells me someone could put these stats together and come up with numbers of how many people are going to die or be maimed or otherwise damaged by each military recruiting ad during a NASCAR or NFL event. Or to compute the number of how many people are going to die each time the Army NASCAR race car goes out on the track. Hopefully the number is better expressed in terms of laps run by the Army NASCAR per dead young American than as numbers of dead young Americans per lap run by the Army NASCAR, but the relationship certainly exists and is very and fatally real.

So, to me there's a deep moral question to businesses like NASCAR and the NFL that accept military recruiting dollars. Or to the TV networks that take the dollars to broadcast military ads during the broadcasts of these events. To me, these businesses are making at least some of their profits by harming the young people of this country.

And that's the other place where military recruiting advertising is very similar to tobacco advertising. Both sets of ads deliberately target the young people our country. Thus, they combine a product that does the most harm to the young with advertising that targets the people most vulnerable to such ads in our society. And, surely the core of any sane and moral civilization has to be in nurturing and protecting our young.

But, the NFL and NASCAR both go much further than the questionable morality of building their businesses on selling advertising for products that harm or kill the fans of their sports. Both have moved beyond the role of merely being the lure that attracts eyeballs to advertisements into the delivering their own messages to the fans of their sports. And both have decided to deliver messages that seemed designed to elect more pro-war politicians to office and to get more young people to join the military. The elaborate 9-11 ceremonies that marked both the NASCAR race and NFL games of this weekend were not purchased advertisements of some outside third party, but were the direct productions of the NFL and NASCAR. Now, its not NASCAR and the NFL selling space to outsiders telling people to go join the military and die, but now its NASCAR and the NFL directly sending out this message on their own. And the message they are sending out will almost certainly kill at least some of their fans. There are young teenagers alive today who saw these elaborate 9-11 ceremonies at these sporting events and who will be influenced into joining the military because of these messages. And some of those young teenagers will die.

Thus, the question in the headline. How many Americans did the NFL and NASCAR kill this weekend?

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