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August 20, 2013

Militarization Meets Back-to-School Day

If you follow the visual news wire, you’re intimately aware that photo stories and the contents of “photo packages” are as much based on serendipity and the rituals of the calendar as they are on hard news. In the late days of summer, with the country just as focused on threat levels as ever, what better place to dispatch a photographer for that back-to-school story than a military college?

Visual fashion being as diffuse as it is, this Getty package spans the gamut. I liked the photos above for their quirky art photography vibe, these knobs (see caption) — like extras in a Wes Anderson movie — as little more than laughably-impressionable automatons.

At the same time, I liked these shots for pretty much the opposite reason. Employing a more documentary style, we get a sense of the initiation right of boys lording it over boys, military culture akin to an extended hazing ritual. And, given the caption’s recruiting stats, both treatments hold their own as this academic path appears as popular as ever.

…The only thing is (and maybe you can help me out here), I couldn’t figure out a genre for this one, this photo of the upperclassman uncharacteristically trailing this newbie.

(photos: Richard Ellis/Getty Images. caption 1 – complete: Incoming Citadel freshman, known as knobs, stand in formation as they read while waiting to be issued a uniform at the Military College of South Carolina. The Citadel, which began in 1842, has more than 700 incoming freshmen this year selected from a pool of 2,958 applicants, the largest in the history of the college.) caption 2 – first line: Citadel freshman cadets known as knobs adjust their new uniforms before drills on August 19, 2013 in Charleston, South Carolina. caption 3 and 4,  first line: CHARLESTON, SC – AUGUST 19: An incoming Citadel freshman known as knob stands in formation as an upperclassman issues orders at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina on August 19, 2013 in Charleston, South Carolina. caption 5, beginning of first line: A Citadel upper classman (L) gives an incoming freshman known as a knob orders during matriculation day at The Citadel.)

  • bks3bks

    White power.


    • jonst

      nonsense…just you being a paranoid racist.

  • quax

    The connection between hazing, mimicking primitive primate domination patterns, and military culture is indeed very suggestive. After all we are living on the planet of the apes.

    • LanceThruster

      Or “Lord of the Flies.”

    • jonst

      We’re also living on the planet of the tree sloth….and every time I see a ragamuffin clothes wearing, aspergers disorder lite, fat -pre-diabetic, let somebody else do the fighting and the dying, cause I’m too good, or scared, to do it, can’t look you in the eye teen, glued to some digital device….these kids in the military, with all the baggage that comes with military life, look fairly decent to me. Not flawless…but decent.

  • black_dog_barking

    Last image has me thinking of the new inmate lugging his stuff to his cell, under close supervision. Never put those two institutions in the same basket before, the military and the penal. Probably should have before now.

    • jonst

      Then I doubt, seriously doubt, you have been near, never mind in, both institutions.

  • Scarabus

    Un, Michael… One of those boys doing the lording is a girl … doing the ladying?

    I’m sure that you knew that, and deliberately failed explicitly to mention her sex. Of course you did make a subtle visual comment by having the girl walk in back, as if she were a traditional Japanese wife. You pointy-headed intellectuals are so sneaky! :-)

    Joking aside, don’t drill sergeants sometimes to walk beside or behind recruits, screaming about real or imaginary infractions. It would be kind of intimidating to know someone is behind you, staring, eager to find fault and chastise.

    Obviously I’ve never been to boot camp. My first year of college, freshmen were still supposed to wear beanies for the first week of school, but that’s not nearly the same thing, is it? Does anyone with real experience know?

  • citadeldad

    One of the pictures is of my son who just started at The Citadel on Saturday. The comments you make are good – the first two are like automatons. That is exactly how they are supposed to be the first few days – learning to follow orders. The second set also is true – lording it over others, but for the same reason as above – learning to follow orders. The last photo was a typical scene of the day – the knob being pushed to follow orders, speed up, straighten up, get every aspect perfect, even as they take their box of stuff up to their rooms. Interesting that after 4 years a third or less of these Citadel cadets actually join the military (they use the military academy system at the Citadel, but don’t have to join up after college).

  • quax

    Which brings this to mind:

  • floopmeister

    Given the high rates of rape and abuse in the US military I’d say the dehumanisation starts from day 1.
    I hope my kids never have anything to do with the military. Period.

    And black_dog_barking: talking about the connections between the military and the prison I’d read Foucault. Or Herbert’s ‘Dune’ – there’s a reason the Sardaukar are such good fighters (all recruited from prison planets). The ‘benefits’ of the dehumanisation inherent in both institutions are transferrable skills.

  • quax

    Jonst, I pick my own fights and would not want to give anybody the power to pick it for me. Not too concerned that my kids will feel any other way.

    But at any rate, if Canada was ever unjustly attacked I’d do my part.

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