Written by Dabney B. on Friday, November 9th, 2012
Beep! Beep! Beep! That’s the sound of the hypocrisy-o-meter going off. The DoD is sending mixed messages about the entertainment industry and the role of SEAL members in the public eye.
Remember the controversy surrounding Kathryn Bigelow? She directed a film entitled Zero Dark Thirty, which chronicled the search and assassination of Osama bin Laden. The problem is that the Pentagon gave Bigelow high-level classified information. There’s nothing wrong with giving out information to civilians, necessarily – many Americans would like a little bit more transparency in the US government. It’s just that they only gave the information to Bigelow in order to help the movie, thereby providing preferential treatment to one civilian. The fact that this was all going down right before an election made things even worse.
We’re getting a bit of déjà vu. Seven SEALs, some of whom participated in the bin Laden raid, did some consulting for the Electronic Arts game Medal of Honor: Warfighter. The military later determined that the game included classified information. The big difference between this and the Bigelow case is that the SEALs are in a whole heap of trouble.
The Navy sent letters of reprimand to the SEALs, which is actually a pretty big deal. One senior official told the Chicago Tribune that this disciplinary action “makes it hard for (the SEALs) to continue as SEALs.” Is the DoD being hypocritical with how they distribute classified information, or did they just learn their lesson after the Bigelow leak?
Regardless, this has major implications for the entertainment industry. Video game manufacturers and movie directors still need information about military procedures, but this disciplinary action sets a dangerous precedent. In the future, warfighters might be too nervous to cooperate with members in the entertainment industry under fear that they might accidentally share classified information.
If that happens, then video game manufacturers will need to rely more heavily on military consulting firms for accurate, up-to-date information. Military consulting firms typically won’t have access to classified information, but they’ll still have top-of-the-line experts who can help construct a moving portrayal of modern combat.
Overall, nothing will change much. Video games and movies will continue to show high-octane footage of modern-day combat. The only real difference will be who gets listed under the “special thanks” on the ending credits.
The DoD may be shooting itself in the foot with how they’re handling consulting gigs. In the future, will warfighters risk their careers just to make a few extra bucks on the side with a video game manufacturer? Will giants in the entertainment industry risk bad publicity from a Bigelow-esque uproar when they could just hire a military consulting firm instead? Only time will tell.
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