The Wall Street Journal ran a short Brendan Minter article showing that, while Hollywood may deny the need for heroic war films, many in the public want them — and the vacuum is being filled on YouTube, of all places:
But Americans haven’t lost their taste for war footage. They’ve just found a better place to see the type of war film they actually enjoy watching. Some of the hottest videos on YouTube are of actual battles that have taken place in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is footage that often hasn’t made its way onto the nightly news or CNN–although some of it has–but it’s largely unadulterated film that shows American soldiers in action, bringing the full weight of American military might to bear against the enemy. And in most of these films, it’s clear who the enemy is.
Some of the are amateur productions and others are professionally produced, such as two films that have drawn about 700,000 viewers each: “Insurgent Snipers vs. U.S. Marines,” put together by the History Channel, and “Iraq Marine Battle Fallujah.” In the latter, U.S. Marines are seen assaulting Fallujah. The film, just 4 1/2 minutes, plays to the tune of Dire Straits’ 1985 hit “Brothers in Arms,” and is a better tribute to the men who fight the nation’s wars that anything Hollywood has put out since John Wayne’s 1968 film “The Green Berets.” Another film, this one billing itself as “Iraq War (The Great Footage Ever!),” was posted in February and has already drawn more than 1.3 million viewers. It runs a little less than 10 minutes and features shots of U.S. military attack aircraft and U.S. Marines in Iraq. The Marines, who fill the final half of the film, are shown kicking in doors, burning photographs of Saddam Hussein, and blasting insurgents with seemingly every weapon in the U.S. arsenal. It’s raw, upfront military aggression targeted at bad guys, interspersed with lighter moments of kicking soccer balls around with Iraqi children and training Iraqi soldiers. It too is compelling video.
Yet another film winning attention–“Battle on Haifa Street, Baghdad, Iraq“–was posted nine months ago and has been seen by more than 1.8 million viewers. In nearly three minutes of combat footage, viewers can watch a battle scene play out where American and Iraqi soldiers attack and appear to kill insurgents in urban Baghdad. Another short film–“U.S. Marines in Iraq Real Footage Warning Graphic“–plays to American rock music, runs just five minutes. It is an adrenaline rush all the way through and has been seen by some 1.1 million people.
Not every online film is pro-war. One, available here, is a 23-minute discussion of whether the Iraq war is illegal under international law. Narrated by a talking cat, it has been seen by more than 600,000 people. It’s anyone’s guess how many of them have actually been swayed by the cat’s arguments.
I promptly went over to watch the recommended footage and then, suddenly, stopped to ask myself if I was no worse than the jihadists who like watching video of beheadings. After all, in both films, the enemy is being killed. I quickly dissuaded myself of that notion, although I don’t know if my justification is real or just a rationalization to give me moral high ground over the opposition. Here’s what I concluded:
The videos we Americans watch are battle footage. Since time immemorial, humans have thrilled to tales of battle. We’re watching combatants go at it, our troops with the advantage of weapons and training, their troops with the advantage of numbers and fanaticism. Both sides have volunteered to be on the field. It’s a fair fight to the death. The jihadist videos, however, are sadistic snuff films in which bound lambs are led to a brutal, deliberate slaughter. That’s not thrilling, it’s horrible.
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