In case you can’t read it, the tag line says “Gotta love them.” From the sounds of things, snipers may not be the easiest of people to love. Which is why they need love more than, say, nurses. Anyway, it’s one thing to celebrate the warrior spirit; quite another to “honor” dispassionate assassination. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for dispassionate assassination where appropriate. But this poster serves no purpose that I can divine, save alienating people who believe that soldiers participating in America’s military excursions in Afghanistan and/or Iraq are victims of an imperialist adventure that reflects our lack of “humanity” and “cultural sensitivity.” Even excepting the piss-poor punctuation and capitalization, it’s a pretty ham-fisted black humor propaganda poster—that lacks the courage of its own convictions . . .

Like any emotionally charged image that preaches to the converted, there’s a lot of covert code-work in play. First, it’s “A CNN reporter.” Americans on the right side of the political spectrum vilify Ted Tuner’s old mob (and my media alma mater) for their left-leaning tendencies. Identifying the reporter as a CNN employee signals the faithful that a pandering pansy, the enemy within, is interviewing the Marine sniper.

[BTW: note the New York Times typeface. Seriously. That’s what it’s called.]

CNN is critical to the set-up; the reporter is a stand-in for liberal intellectuals. Think how different this poster would have been if the text had said “A reporter.” I think it would have been more effective. In that case, all readers could have identified with the reporter. Even those who abhor all violence would have been more receptive to the eventual “education” in what it takes to kill someone from a great distance.

Then we have the word “terrorist.” This, of course, ends the argument before it begins. If someone is a terrorist, they need killing. Other than Quakers and water boarders, who’s going to argue that point? In another sense, the T word deployment means that the argument is lost before it begins. People who don’t bask in America’s military might and disagree with our Afghanistan and Iraq policies will mentally recoil at the polemical use of broad not to say bombastic brush strokes.

Yes, well, what else could you call the sniper’s prey? Enemy combatants? Taliban? Why not? Either term would have been more intellectually honest (for some). It might—might—have helped the message get though to more skeptical readers. Even the most pro-War On Terror types know that not all the people trying to kill our troops have actually carried out terrorist attacks. A distinction without a difference, for sure, but one that could be argued without completely abandoning common sense.

The Marine’s shrug is, I guess, an indication of his sang froid. A sort of a reverse machismo. But it also tells us that either A) he’s never really thought about the moral implications of his work or B) it’s something he’s thought about and dismissed. In which case A) shouldn’t he? and B) that sucks.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t envy that level of clinical detachment. I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to get there, and it’s not pretty. While I’m glad U.S. snipers make that mental journey—or were genetically predisposed to that way of not thinking—I wouldn’t want any of my daughters to go there.

Again, someone has to. And that makes the final message more powerful than its originators intended. In fact, I wonder why the creators put the most important part of the text—“Gotta love them”—in the smallest typeface. Isn’t it funny how the most powerful word in the world resonates so deeply even when its given short shrift?

Touchy feely deconstruction aside, the whole poster would have been better if the text had stopped at “Recoil.” The text at the bottom introduces a third person into the story, diluting the power of narrative intimacy. Besides, who gives a flying f what they think?

It seems that the person who created this image didn’t have enough faith in the straight shit to leave well enough alone. I’d be willing to bet that the tagline was added by someone else after the original originator pressed send. Why? Perhaps it was all too . . . bleak.

Check the image. The sniper has neither cover not concealment. He’s exposed on the literal, emotional and journalistic levels.

He’s alone. No spotter. No cohorts. No enemy combatants. Just a road leading to the sniper, and away. He’s the midpoint between in a Z pattern that leads both from and to no place in particular. He’s stuck in an existential hell, with the devil’s own work to do.

Put that in your high school English class and smoke it. And pray for our sniper’s success—and their souls.

6 Responses to Incendiary Image of the Day: Sniping At Liberals Edition

  1. Inside the package from every order from LaRue Tactical, known as the gurus of high end gear is a bumper sticker: "God Bless our Troops… Especially our Snipers." While it did not make the cut to get any real estate on my rear diffuser, I stuck it on a filing cabinet in my office. I caught myself pondering the meaning on more than one occasion.

  2. You gave me points to ponder in this piece Robert, but I met a young Canadian sniper last summer at a car show, and I truly wished that kid would have bought into the emotional detachment program better. His tour in Afghanistan has had a very profound effect on him. I wish that recoil was all that kid felt about his combat experiences.

  3. I'm a liberal, and I'm not offended. I don't see this as a particularly political statement, and there is a place for snipers in combat.

    But I do find the sentiment about snipers to be interesting. Soldiers have traditionally hated snipers, in large part because the fight doesn't seem fair. (The sniper sees the regular, but the regular soldier may not see the sniper.)

    My guess is that whoever came up with the poster is a wannabe, not someone who has ever had to kill anyone. I've yet to meet anyone who was actually in combat who likes to strut around bragging about it — they have bad memories, and don't really want to talk much about it. I suppose that it's easy to talk a lot of crap when you don't have to do anything.

  4. Yeah, don't get me started on the "sniper" silliness.

    I don't have a degree in dime-store psychology, but I can tell you that every person I knew who obsessed or fantasized about being a "sniper" was someone with really low self esteem. In fact, I find that the quickest way to spot a person faking or embellishing his military record is the utterance of the "s" word. If he claims to have been a "sniper," 99 times out of 100 he's full of shit. Actually, strike that: It's more like 999 times out of 1000.

    Of course, real snipers work in pairs, are generally easygoing and adaptable and have an iron self-discipline, in contrast with the socially maladjusted losers who falsely claim "sniper" status. They also don't brag about their work.

    As someone who served in the armed forces for 23 years, about half of that in elite units (though as a support guy, never as a shooter) I don't get the "sniper" obsession. As PCH stated, the fascination seems most common in people who have never been closer to the military than playing "HALO" with their high school buddies late at night, but it's not unheard of among people who actually served in the military who try to impress friends or girls with tales of their sniper status (which I don't get, either. Are girls really impressed by that? And if so, why?)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *