Music festival puts a smiley face on killing (Updated)

Peace Action-Wisconsin has launched a campaign to get Milwaukee’s Summerfest, which bills itself as the world’s largest music festival, to shut down an Army recruiting exhibit allowing festival-goers as young as 13 to shoot at life-size targets from a real Humvee.  Summerfest’s logo is a big smiley face.

Peace Action says:

This year’s Milwaukee Summerfest (June 26-July 6) features a “Virtual Army Experience Exhibit”  at the north end of the grounds.  The tent contains a real Humvee mounted with 4 machine guns that interacts with a huge screen.  The screen projects the virtual experience of traveling through a town.  You can shoot the machine guns at people on the street as you pass through. The people are generic-looking – could be from anywhere.  You must be at least 13  years old to enter the exhibit and identification is asked.  They take down that information and it will likely be used for recruitment purposes. They also give away a free DVD video game of a similar virtual experience when you leave the tent.

Call the Summerfest office and demand that the exhibit be shut down now.   414-273-2690

Points to make:

War games should NOT be presented as entertainment.  War is NOT a game.  

Summerfest is meant to bring people together for a good time in peace, not to present opportunities to practice shooting people. The exhibit is totally inappropriate and offensive and should be removed immediately.

The person you talk with will fill out a form with your concerns and will ask for your name and phone number.  You do not have to give your phone number but they will want your zip code.

Please act now.  The more calls of complaint they receive the better. (Please remember to be pleasant to the person on the phone – the exhibit is not her fault.)

While that seems unlikely that the exhibit will be shut down, one activist, Kristina Paris,  who called the festival reports some progress already:

I just got through to a person: they reviewed the situation, have upped the age to 18 years with an ID, stopped handing out free DVD’s but are still allowing the virtual killing.  When I asked if a peace and social justice group could be there with an alternative to killing, they said they would be very open to most groups who pay for the booth space.

Michael Mathias at Pundit Nation writes:

I can’t imagine what the management of Summerfest was thinking in allowing this horror show of death and violence onto the grounds, or how it would help their image as a family-friendly event to let anyone set up something in such obvious poor taste.

The fact that participants are invited to stand aboard a Humvee while playing the game is particularly galling. Scores of US soldiers in Iraq have died riding on Humvees that critics have derided as poorly designed and ill equipped. Among them is Cedarburg native Stephen Castner, whose family, aided by US. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, has been searching for conclusive answers about how he died since 2006.

A small battle in the context of the global war?  Perhaps.  Worth waging?  Absolutely.

UPDATE: Veterans for Peace is involved, too, with this message to its Milwaukee chapter members:

The military has a clear and dangerous presence at Milwaukee’s Summerfest (June 26 ? July 6, 2008).  One exhibit is especially offensive: kids as young as 13 years old can aim automatic weapons from atop a humvee at a large screen to virtually kill people.

We do not want to desensitize our youth to the violence of “war,” nor cultivate the twisted  reality that our aggression in the Middle East is “war,” when the truth is that the overwhelmingly casualties are innocent civilians.  The setting for this bloodshed is a residential area with “targets” of uncertain identity moving through the streets.  This aggrandizement of violence and glorification of our illegal invasions abroad is xenophobic, profane, and undermines the basic values we strive to live by in America.

This Army atrocity is located next to a rock stage as it targets youth; while they ask for an ID to prove age 13 or older, they willingly accept a child’s word and collect their name, age, address, etc.; no doubt for future recruitment.

Summerfest representative Dan Minahan barks that the festival is a place to “forget about the war” where one can “enjoy real high entertainment value.”  War is NOT a game, and this exhibit needs to be shut down immediately.


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  1. commercial out for the US Navy.  It hypes all sorts of unmanned flying and robot type vehicles and the high techieness of it all.  Very tasteless and very Orwellian.

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