Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Days: Sunday Globe SEALed Shut

"Among Navy SEALs, a split over cashing in on the brand" by Nicholas Kulish, Christopher Drew, New York Times  April 02, 2016

In recent months, the Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, Calif., which oversees the elite force, has told its men to lower their profile and tried to rein in public appearances by active-duty members. The Pentagon imposed a rule in September restricting the appearance of service members in video games, movies, and television shows.

Current and former members have widely circulated a pointed critique — titled “Navy SEALs Gone Wild: Publicity, Fame, and the Loss of the Quiet Professional” — that laments the commercialization and warns that it is doing harm.

“The raising of Navy SEALs to celebrity status through media exploitation and publicity stunts has corrupted the culture of the SEAL community by incentivizing narcissistic and profit-oriented behavior,” Lieutenant Forrest S. Crowell, a SEAL, wrote in the critique, his master’s thesis for the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. Partisan politicking and public disclosure of tactics, he added, “erodes military effectiveness, damages national security, and undermines healthy civil-military relations.”

But the pushback has had little sway over former members who are increasingly giving paid speeches, sounding off on politics on Fox News, and stamping the force’s name on hats, backpacks, vitamins, and even a campaign bus. A television show by the Weinstein Co., working with a former SEAL as a consultant, is set to air on the History channel later this year, and a half-dozen books are scheduled to roll off the presses in coming months, adding to the 100-plus published by former SEALs since 2001.

“It’s on a pendulum swing, and that pendulum went past where anybody felt it was necessary, and it went past where people probably would want it to be,” said Greg Geisen, a retired Navy commander and former SEAL spokesman.

Ever since SEAL Team 6 killed Osama bin Laden, the SEALs — who make up less than 5 percent of the nation’s active-duty Special Operations forces — have been catapulted into the spotlight, becoming the closest thing the nation has to living action figures, featured in numerous video games and movies.

They may have been just that, but what remains unmentioned are the mysterious deaths and accidents surrounding the squad. Dead man can not contradict myths.

Far more SEALs have gone public than their more reticent Army counterparts in Delta Force and the Rangers. (The Onion even joked that the Navy formed an elite SEAL book-writing unit to churn out accounts of secret missions.)

Former SEALs have offered accounts of derring-do, being transgender, SEAL-style yoga, dog-training techniques, and even SEAL humor. One author, Matt Bissonnette, earned millions for “No Easy Day,” a firsthand narrative of the bin Laden raid, but had to forfeit the profits for failing to submit it for Pentagon review of classified information.

They then threatened criminal charges to get him to shut up!

Some SEALs, contending that they have every right to benefit from their experiences in the military, say the publicity has done no harm and divulged few if any classified tactics or techniques. Kevin Lacz, a former SEAL whose book “The Last Punisher” is due this summer, said in an interview that readers are captivated by “the mystique and aura of the teams,” and want to hear “stories about SEALs written by SEALs.”

The Naval Special Warfare Command helped create the clamor for tales of SEAL daring. After 19 SEALs and helicopter crewmen were killed during a 2005 mission in Afghanistan, Marcus Luttrell, who lived through it, was given time off to work with a writer on what became the best-seller “Lone Survivor.” It was published in 2007 and released as a feature film in 2013....

Haven't seen it. 

In fact, I don't care much for anything Hollywood puts out these days.


Also see:

Seal spotted in a snowy Charles River
A bewhiskered visitor is spotted at the Charles River Dam
A seal may have made itself at home in the not-so-dirty water
Scheming seal spotted again in Charles River

There was a day when I would have written about such a thing with childish joy, but that was long ago.

UPDATE: Team rescues seals on Cape from cruel deaths