I hear stories from my grandfather about his generation fighting the Nazis, and I think, “Yes, now there’s an evil I wish I had the moral certainty to confront.” The type of adversary you could be proud to go into battle against without overthinking it. Now? Well, who even knows who we’re fighting against.
That’s why this recruitment effort from the U.S. Army, in collaboration with the forthcoming major motion picture Independence Day: Resurgence, directed by Roland Emmerich, scheduled for a June 24, 2016 release, speaks to me as a generic representative of my particular demographic. I know there’s something out there far more important than all of the petty squabbling you see on the news these days from the right and the left, and of course I’m referring to the menace of horrific alien space bugs and their infamous world-landmark-destroying lasers.
The first time I started to worry about the very real and not at all fictional impending alien invasion was in a commercial for the film Independence Day: Resurgence, in theaters June 24, 2016, titled “United We Survive | Join the ESD.”
“Twenty years ago the world escaped the clutches of extinction,” explains the strident voiceover of a politician, who sounds a little like Hillary Clinton, but never mind. “We must never forget our survival is only possible when we stand together. We have found strength and unity as a planet, and that strength has brought us the power to survive.”
We then learn about the importance of the Earth Space Defense, which is, as far as the spot lets on, a real thing that actually exists.
The commercial closes by encouraging me, a healthy rural or exurban male, to go to enlist at join.ESD.com. A second video features a different man talking about how proud he is of his daughter who, like him, has enlisted to fly jet planes against the alien horde. Like most of you, I have long sought the approval of my father, so this resonated. “Be someone’s hero,” the text of the commercial says in big letters. “Paid for by the U.S. Army,” it says in much smaller letters.
I followed the URL, like the nice people in the commercials said to do, and found a really professional looking portal to interstellar heroism. The introduction read:
SINCE THE WAR OF 1996, THE EARTH SPACE DEFENSE HAS BEEN PREPARING FOR THE NEXT GREAT ALIEN INVASION. WE’RE LOOKING FOR THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST FROM AROUND THE GLOBE TO JOIN THE ESD, AND PROTECT MANKIND. OUR PURPOSE IS SIMPLE: DEFEND EARTH’S INDEPENDENCE AT ALL COSTS.
That purpose does seem pretty simple when you break it down to brass tacks.
And just below that:
Learn more about U.S. Army careersIndependence Day: Resurgence In theaters June 24
I’m also given the opportunity to unlock exclusive content from Independence Day: Resurgence, in theaters June 24, 2016, by granting the Army access to my Facebook page. Done.
I decided to enlist.
I found all sorts of realistic simulations that appealed to me, a healthy exurban or rural male. I’m also exceptionally likely to understand the world through the context of the easily discerned Good v. Evil narrative of most video games, which I play frequently.
Four training missions gave me what I think is a pretty good picture of what it must be like to join the military. In one, I pointed my cursor at a petri dish of alien microbes and clicked on them, earning points along the way.
I only scored 92% in my first effort, but I feel like I could master the task given the hundreds of man hours I put into a typical game.
In another mission I had to crack the code of an alien message.
I have to admit I faired a little worse at this one, pulling in a still somewhat respectable 0%.
Nonetheless, I was informed at the end that:
CRYPTOLOGIC NETWORK WARFARE SPECIALISTS IN THE REAL U.S. ARMY WORK IN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE, CONDUCTING CYBERSECURITY OPERATIONS TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF ACTION IN CYBERSPACE.
Maybe I could be one of those?
When I was asked if I wanted to learn more, a link sent me to this page, with all sorts of information about the job of a cryptologist explained in cool-sounding military jargon. A cartoon avatar named Sgt. Star looked on stoically, but helpfully, as if he really wanted me to perform my best, and offered to answer any questions I might have.
I only had a couple of questions. First:
“Are space bugs real?”
SGT. STAR: Good question. I’m not sure how to answer that. Please try rewording your question. I understand simple questions best.
Hmm. How about this one:
“Is this some propaganda bullshit or what?”
SGT STAR: Watch your language or I’ll have to shut you down.