2015: Volume 8, Issue 1, pp. 71-93

The Canadian Armed Forces “YouTube War”: 
A Cross-Border Military-Social Media Complex

Tanner Mirrlees



The goal of this paper is to conceptualize, contextualize, and critically analyze the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) use of YouTube to promote itself, recruit soldiers, and frame its role in the post-9/11 U.S.-led NATO war in Afghanistan. The first section of this paper engages with scholarship on war and the media, the military-industrial-communications complex (MICC), and YouTube War to conceptualize YouTube as a tool and contested battle-space of 21st century new media wars. The second section contextualizes the rise of the CAF’s YouTube channels—Canadian Forces and Canadian Army—with regard to post-9/11 Canadian foreign policy, the growth of the Canadian military publicity state, the creeping militarization of culture, and the CAF’s “social media policy”. The third section conceptualizes the CAF’s two YouTube channels as tools and spaces of its publicity front; then, through a synoptic critical overview of numerous CAF-generated YouTube videos, it shows how the CAF uses YouTube to recruit personnel and frame its role in the war in Afghanistan. The conclusion discusses the characteristics of this cross-border military-social media complex and its contradictions, namely, the spread of pacifist and veteran-generated videos that contest the war in Afghanistan. Overall, the paper offers an initial political-economy of communication of the CAF’s foray into the global battle-space of the Internet and its use of YouTube for publicity.


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