Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has proposed stripping federal funding from military recruitment programs that operate in middle and high schools.
Ocasio-Cortez introduced the proposal days after pushing a similar amendment that would bar the military from advertising or interacting with people on “Twitch.tv or any video game, esports, or livestreaming platform,” according to The New York Times.
If accepted, Ocasio-Cortez’s amendments would be tacked on to the annual defense spending bill. It remains unclear if her proposals will receive a vote, much less end up in the end product of the defense spending bill.
Ocasio-Cortez is targeting certain forms of military recruitment that she says draws too much from children in low-income communities.
“Whether through recruitment stations in their lunchrooms, or now through e-sports teams, children in low-income communities are persistently targeted for enlistment,” the New York lawmaker said in a statement. The military “can for some provide a rewarding career,” but “low-income Americans are not being given anywhere near the same information or access to trade schools, college or other post graduate opportunities.”
“In many public high schools where military recruiters have a daily presence, there is not even a counselor,” she continued. “As a result, the military stops feeling like a ‘choice’ and starts feeling like the only option for many young, low-income Americans.”
In recent years, the military has stepped up recruitment efforts among young adults in video game communities, such as on the popular online streaming platform Twitch.
“It’s incredibly irresponsible for the Army and the Navy to be recruiting impressionable young people and children via live streaming platforms,” Ocasio-Cortez told Vice. “War is not a game, and the Marine Corps’ decision not to engage in this recruiting tool should be a clear signal to the other branches of the military to cease this practice entirely.”
The Army and Navy have been entangled in a First Amendment controversy after banning talk about U.S. military war crimes from their Twitch channels. The controversy escalated after the military banned activist Jordan Uhl from their channels after Uhl joined the channel to “[remind] viewers of the United States’ history of atrocities around the globe,” Uhl wrote in The Nation after his ban.
“Was I undiplomatic? Sure. But if the military is going to use one of the world’s most popular platforms to recruit kids, then it shouldn’t be able to do so without some pushback. Right now, with the support of Twitch, gamers with the US military are spending hours with children as young as 13, trying to convince them to enlist,” Uhl continued.
“The practices employed on Twitch by military e-sports teams are part of a system by which recruiters target children in unstable and/or disadvantaged situations. Recruiters take advantage of the poor seeking steady income, the vulnerable longing for stability, and the undocumented living in fear because of their citizenship status. Now, at a time when all those factors are magnified by a pandemic that has left half the country out of work and over 30 percent unable to afford their housing payments, conditions are ripe for recruiters to prey on anxious youth,” Uhl said.
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