TV for those who enjoy massacres
Medium cool for heat ray guns
Analysis In 1991, Bad: Or the Dumbing of America was published. Written by Paul Fussell, a man with experience of war, it pessimistically ran through all that was execrable in the United States with the realisation things were only going to get worse.
Under bad magazines, scorn was reserved for the successful Soldier of Fortune, a magazine aimed at "the mentally ill... for people who fantasise about plunging a trench knife into a foreigner of colour, generally smaller than themselves".
(Don't be too smug. Fussell described The Monthly Royal Review "for people who get an erection when they think of the Queen Mother - or rather her privileges, furniture and jewels...")
Soldier of Fortune still exists along with a host of US supermarket offerings like Shotgun News and an inexhaustible fountain of Guns & Ammo spin-offs. But the new king of weaponry media produced for and by psychotics is the Military Channel's Futureweapons.
If you have the right cable package in the US, it's on about half a dozen times a week.
Futureweapons' mission: Free publicity for world arms developers and the televising of great enthusiasms over the technologies of massacre, as mostly developed by American business in cooperation with the military.
Hosted by ex-Navy SEAL Richard Machowicz, every episode is unintentionally tasteless and crazy, dedicated to the genital stiffening qualities of cluster bombs, super-sized armour-piercing sniper rifles, computerised bounding mine dispensers, machine guns, massive ordnance air blasts and the mercenary army, Blackwater USA. Somewhat curiously, it's produced by Waddell Media of Northern Ireland, also creator of quizzical shows on the correction of disobedient dogs.
Futureweapons shows the beamish face of alleged US supremacy in all things concerned with firepower.
While the mainstream news media has focused on Blackwater USA pumping fire into civilians in Iraq, Futureweapons was devoting most of a recent episode to the magnificence of the company's firing range in North Carolina, its design of Grizzly armored cars, and the amount of lead that special grenade-spouting shotguns and machine guns being developed on its property could put on a target.
For that part of the audience now filling the old SoF segment of those yearning to see someone bayoneted, progress has fulfilled this by showing the host machine-gunning a parked civilian automobile with a dummy behind the wheel while Blackwater employees look approvingly on.
If that is not sufficiently trigger happy, there's kit to be had from Britain, the AS50, made by Accuracy International, pumping heavy slugs through cinder blocks and into head-sized melons. The subtext: If you're hiding behind a wall in Iraq, we can still pop your head like a troublesome zit.
In every other episode, a cameo is reserved for the wizard of limpet mines, Bangalore torpedoes, detonation cord, plastique and shaped charges, Sidney Alford of Alford Technologies.
Euro arms developers have got wind of the opportunity presented by Futureweapons and have wasted no time in getting their PR efforts onto it, presumably to get their wares in front of American buyers. Notable is Bofors of Sweden. Sweden appears to have little need of a chemical and radiologically sealed fully automated artillery piece called the Archer, but there is always the Pentagon or Nigeria, the latter perhaps providing an opportunity to call down a barrage on women who presume to protest at oil terminals.
There is much backslapping between the host and an arms manufacturer over the development of novel explosives for armour-piercing rocket launchers, the better to attack buildings held by insurgents and terrorists. They are said to be superior because the new munitions contain two charges, one to make a small hole in the side of the building, the second to incinerate everything inside. Claimed to be superior in avoiding collateral damage because, hmmm, well, one forgets why upon watching some building being transformed into sticks and plaster in fond slow motion and glorious replay.
As an educational tool for measuring delusion within the Department of Defense and political establishment, Futureweapons delivers. Since it is devoted to the demonstration of potential massive escalations in force as an answer to everything, it mirrors the philosophy of the US military, capable of turning a foreign country into a cauldron of misery while losing and turning the entire citizenry and rest of the world against it with merciless exhibitions of sophisticated mechanised cruelties.
Interestingly, Futureweapons recently rolled out the first appearance on entertainment TV of the Air Force's Active Denial System (ADS), the heat ray-shooting directed energy weapon said to be in great need for non-lethal application in Iraq. Travelling to Moody AFB in Georgia, host Machowicz was put through the usual strapped-down chicken test in which he consented to be shot while standing still.
Since Machowicz was determined, in his words, to be no "pussy", the ADS was much less than impressive, causing him only to grunt and step out of the way. The usual crowd of volunteer soldiers, acting as a crowd instructed only to go sideways or backwards and forbidden to actually attack the machine, as one presumes would happen in real life, was zapped.
Vendors and supervisors were on hand to advise that the ADS was perfectly humanitarian and friendly to life, absolutely not capable of burning your eye because the blink reflex saves one.
The pushers of the ADS are now perfectly aware of its horrendous public relations footprint, one that seriously impedes its progress into the armoury. This has resulted in a small public relations push aimed at giving it a makeover as something life-saving, an impression which would now seem to be out of reach of the US military for perpetuity.
An AP story widely circulated last month tried to drum up support for the ADS in Iraq by airing a few requests for it from generals in Iraq, unanswered because of the entrenched belief the weapon would be viewed as a machine of torture.
A soldier at the US Space Command was said to have insisted, rather laughably, that: "I am convinced that the tragedy at Fallujah would not have occurred if an Active Denial System had been there."
If accurate, this would seem to have entailed putting it into the hands of trusty Blackwater USA, the firm's employees being the ones who were infamously ambushed and lynched.
Associated Press attempted to push the ADS by implying Raytheon, its assembler, was contemplating offering a civilian version to the market and foreign buyers if something wasn't done. The Futureweapons segment on the ADS, in departing from its usual script of crushing retaliatory firepower for the elimination of all presumed bad guys, took time out to help, not particularly persuasively. ®
George Smith is a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological, and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighbourhood hardware stores.