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Why Do Soldiers YouTube?

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, August 4 2010

To yell out to the world that they exist, in an age when things back home move so quickly that they seem in danger of getting passed by, reports Lisa Taddeo in a great New York Magazine piece:

A few months ago, when the U.S. military was in the midst of discussions about repealing its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, 22-year-old specialist [Codey] Wilson took his JVC camera and filmed some of the guys in his company—a troop of National Guardsmen from Virginia on a city-size base in Iraq—dancing to Ke$ha’s “Blah Blah Blah” in modified uniform. The director himself appears in his full Army vest, a camouflage loincloth hanging between his naked thighs.

Don't attempt to slot that creativity into the narrow constructs of domestic debate:

These kids don’t have politics -- or not the kind you’d recognize back home. They made the video, says Wilson, because they want to be part of the conversation. They watch Lady Gaga videos from their warm blue laptops thousands of miles away, they download current music and post items on Facebook about caches of puppies they find inside of old bunkers. More than anything it says about gays in the military, the message is, Hey, we’re still here.

“The most special thing about the video I made,” says Wilson, “is that for a few days, we kind of became members of society. It was like we actually mattered.”

The online life seems better built to fit them than their lives inside the military:

They get their news from Yahoo and the like. The print magazines they are sent, says Wilson, consist of “every tool-bag muscle magazine and every kind of weapons magazine that exists.” The Army, it seems, does not know who these boys are, not the way that Facebook does, with their macros up in everybody’s engines so they can deliver heat-seeking ads.

You can watch the Ke$ha-Iraq mashup here. Of course, another contributing explanation is that young guys, civilian or soldier, like to take their shirts off and dance around.

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