I Hate AFN Commercials….

“I left Okinawa in 2007 and the scars of those atrocities still weigh heavily on my mind.”  ~Anonymous quote online about the traumatic effects of extended exposure to AFN


I HATE the Armed Forces Network (AFN).  I have blogged about this before, and it’s one of my most popular blogs in the Far East FlingTeam American Forces Network, F’Yeah.  Notice that I capitalized, italicized, bolded, and underlined that word….  Hate.

And it’s AFN’s fault.

Vaccine for Stupid

It appears, from the actions of our “leadership,” that since we adult servicemembers, dependents, and government contractors can’t be trusted with actual television commercials, and that we as people who are willing to venture into harm’s way can’t safely ride a bike or we wary of snakes, the military has decided for us what we should see and hear while here in Okinawa.  To that end, “they” give you the “Armed Forces Network.”  And escape from AFN’s long reach is impossible:  “they” super-saturate their programmed propaganda across the spectrum of radio and television dials.

Well, maybe not a spectrum; there is only one AM and one FM radio station in English, and AFN cable is like only 8 channels or so.

The good news?  AFN is “commercial-free.”

The bad news?  AFN has replaced slightly entertaining and marginally (if only potentially) informative commercials with extremely annoying disinformation.

A random AFN commercial may be charming or stupidly silly on first exposure, but after hearing/seeing it for the 67th time…this month…they become infuriatingly tedious.  And over time, this tedium builds, in my case, to a level that I can almost characterize as anger.  Ironic when I stop and think about it:  I haven’t heard a commercial about anger management…YET.

To emphasize my point, here are a few radio sets that I’ve heard in the past week while in the car riding to, from and around the bases here.

Set 1:     Identification Theft (it’s on the rise, you know, and you’re NEXT); “Recipes for Disaster” (don’t marinate your meat on the counter, but in the refrigerator and under 40 degrees F; Smoke Alarms (make sure your alarm is up-to-date and batteries are changed)

Set 2:     Military Postal System (sending items in boxes marked toxic, flammable, or radioactive); Smoking Hazards (get this for scare tactics:  erectile dysfunction for men, wrinkles for women – can anyone say, “sexist”?); WIC Overseas (oh, and who can forget, “Don’t Shake a Baby”); Family Readiness & Spouses (coping with deployment and some of the more inane rules of living overseas)

Set 3:     VA Benefits (set to a “best of” collection of sappy made-up songs); Foster Parenting (can you even do that here in Okinawa???); Bullying (it happens all the time, every day, to apparently each of your children); Strokes (the three C’s, which I can’t remember….)

Set 4:     Baby-Sitter Training (they’ll be required to have a personal AED next); Habu Dangers (“very aggressive, extremely dangerous,” and seemingly everywhere waiting for your slightest misstep)

We are all suffering, AFN.

We are all suffering, AFN.

From a quick review of the above NONSENSE, AFN misinformation breaks down into just a few generalized groups:

Supposed Safety:  The simple message underlying all of these “safety” related spots are, frankly, that we are just too stupid to live our lives safely, and that to counteract our impending demise from snakes or dust mites, we must therefore be constantly bombarded of the impending consequences of everything that can remotely be considered a danger.  Terror on public transportation, really?  Maybe if we are on holiday in Gaza….

Public Dis-Service Announcements:  So, the military attempts to make up for, say, the overly-restrictive and insulting liberty policy here  (read my blog about the Epic Leadership Failure), by providing member services, like spousal support.  These are the WORST commercials you can imagine, complete with lame musac-like tunes, and a flat, lifeless announcer that sound so bored that the listener actually would go out of the way to avoid such service.

Self-Serving Advertising:  Yes, the 18th Force Support Squadron is awesome, and we know ALL ABOUT the unit golfing opportunity….  The FM radio station, self-labelled as “JACK FM,” likes to talk about how cool they are by “playing…whatever.”  Yeah, whatever the military censors allow them to play.  C’mon.

Obscure Oddities:  Women and Infant Children (WIC) plays way too many times here.  Besides the audience being quite low for the airtime, it’s downright criminal that so many servicemen and women qualify for such benefits in the first place.  And really, ANF?  How many people are sending packages in the same boxes that they received those explosives in at work?

Here are a few more sets to, taking AFN’s lead, to emphasize and re-emphasize my point:

Set 5:     Terror on Public Transportation (it’s surely going to happen to you if you’re not on-guard); Fire Safety and Being Electrically Responsible (tell the Japanese to wire their homes better); Habu (again); MPS (again); WIC (again); Pay Your Taxes (it’s YOUR responsibility)!!


Set 6:     Asthma (it can kill); Vacuuming the Floor (seriously); Bicycle Helmets (save lives, but somehow we all survived)

Set 7:     WIC (yet again); Touring the island by Air (the one thing on the list that is quasi-interesting and informative); Your ID card (don’t lose it!); Reading & Literacy (uhmm…..); News (AP news, which offers a rather random summary of world news in 40 seconds)….

Why is AFN filling our brains with such nonsense?  ENOUGH ALREADY.

This conga line of bruising sound-bites blankets us here in Okinawa in what ways that can only be making things worse.  Why the leadership can’t see or understand this is one of the basic failures of management overseas.  We are not asking for all the bad news and negativity; hell, AFN doesn’t even have to play commercials in the first place.

Jim Lehrer, in analyzing the effect of the media and its constantly negative reinforcement, coined the phrase “learned helplessness”.  Some people will accept the America Culture of Fear on face-value, at detriment to and in their lives.  At worst, it seems obvious that continual negativity or a negative bias can stimulate depression, even if we all are laughing at the ridiculous paranoia exhibited by AFN.  Like it or not, the service members here are hearing these messages…everyday, over and over.  And if some chose to really concentrate on all the bad communications, they may find themselves worked-up emotionally, resulting in even more unwise decision-making, much like an adolescent does when resenting the overbearing “advice” of their parents.

fear itself & spiders

In general terms, negative media messages outweigh good news at times by as much as 17:1.  The propaganda distributed by AFN is really no different.  Studies have shown that we care and focus relentlessly more about the threat of bad things than we do about the prospect of good things. Our negative brain tripwires are far more sensitive than our positive triggers; the more remote the chances and the more horrific the consequences, the better.  We tend to get more fearful than happy.  And each time we experience fear we our stress hormones get turned on, in a vicious cycle feeding on itself.  AFN simply cannot be good for any of us.

Is there any way to avoid AFN’s monopolistic reach into our psyches?  Yes, but it requires buying Asian satellite TV and playing your iPod through your car radio (I do both).  AFN should realize that they could, instead, focus on the glass being half-full – or at least say the dangerous thunderstorm is filling our collective cup.

What can you do?  Encourage AFN to deliverer a more balanced and multi-dimensional point of view.  It is, quite probable, a losing battle.  Until our leadership wakes up and pays more attention to the critically small details of life overseas, nothing will really change.  AFN is a mega, government-corporation with entrenched GS civilians and military officers who believe in their own silly rhetoric.  The situation is probably even beyond reach of the III MEF Marine Corps General-island; that shouldn’t serve as a pass to you, General Wissler….

Tell me what you think about AFN.  It appears we are not alone:  ANF “haters” appear to have their own FB page:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/I-Hate-AFN-Commercials/211760985324


BTW, the base exchanges here all sell hordes of smokes, booze, and smokeless tobacco….

7 thoughts on “I Hate AFN Commercials….

  1. I really enjoyed those commercials there were some that were funny, informative and yes some were cheesy. My kids still remember lessons from those commercials. I bet the person who complained about them just loves the Extenz commercials force fed down out throats and to our children…

    • Hey The Far Easterner, thanks for the comment and the Far East Flyby! While yes, some of those commercials may be entertaining (although very few even rise to the level of acceptable in my opinion), I find it interesting that it’s your kids that appreciated their content. This actually goes to highlight my point – these “commercials” are repetitive, assume their target audience has an intellect of, on average, 5-8 years old (the military treats their service members today like children in other words….), and like I said, are in their totality harmful to the general morale and psyche of all those on Okinawa. We just got back from a week off-island without radio, and I’ve noted since our return that I am hearing the EXACT same commercials, over and over again, that I heard over two years ago. And most of those commercials are centered on an over-blown and over-emphasized “culture of fear” that we Americans are so good at creating. Bacteria in food are not out to murder us, I promise not to park in front of a fire hydrant, and although it sounds like Habu snakes are waiting in every tree to chomp down on our jugulars, I still some way some how venture outside almost every day without incident! While in 20 years I will no doubt be nostalgic in some regard, I do not expect to lose my overall disdain for AFN. Well, rather, it’s my disdain at the complete absence of consideration by our leadership, when they could drastically cut back on the PSAs if they wanted and provide more music or better quality programs…. No doubt though that your kids are safe. Personally, as the “person who complained,” I would rather have my kids exposed to people having healthy sex lives than to the expected violence of a terrorist attack, anytime, anywhere! I guess in the end it’s all a matter of perspective. Cheers, Kevin!

  2. I absolutely hate AFN commercials they are condescending, and treat everyone like sponge bob idiots. What I practically hate is how they are constantly shoving women down our throats, portraying them as leading the way, tip of the spear edge of the knife when the reality, except in a very few exceptions are the ball and chain around the military leg. The weak link in the chain and a source of unbelievable trouble and waste of time that gives nothing in return to compensate, and of course they do the same with the blacks shoving them down our throats. Their attempts at social engineering is driving us apart not together. What scares me the most is the mongrels’ who put this stuff together and the ones who approve them would do this to the country as a whole if they could get away with it. I for one can not hit the mute button fast enough.

    • Well, John, I’m not sure how exactly to respond to your comment. Yes, I agree that AFN commercials are part and parcel to the “let’s treat everyone like they are 3-year-old children” syndrome the military seems to be under. But, I don’t see the same black and woman issues in AFN commercials that you do. While I do agree that the military is the LAST place that social engineering should be attempted, I do not believe that women or minorities are the weak link in any of our chains. There have been arguments throughout the ages against integration, and slowly, over time, those arguments are proven wrong and invalid time and time again. If you stop and think about it, without women in our modern military, we could not sustain the all-volunteer force (in numbers) that we currently enjoy and have had now without much issue for at least 20 years. What I will say is that what is troublesome to me personally is when race, ethnic background, religion or sex takes precedence over “best qualified.” In a Utopian military, selection, promotion and placement would all occur in a nameless, colorblind manner, based solely on creed and capability alone. In such a setting, everyone could when. For it is only when women and minorities are able to achieve on their own what the machine in some situations gives them that any of us can really hold our heads up high and be proud. I, for one, would never feel right if I ever suspected my appointments or achievements were anything but my own. My focus of this blog entry, however, was meant to be much lighter in reading and maybe more humorous than serious. No one takes the commercials seriously. They only serve to shed light on the massive leadership failures our military suffers specifically here in Okinawa, Japan.

      • islandsking – I did not say blacks are the weak links in with women. I said the commercials are constantly shoving blacks down our throats in the same way they are shoving women down them. I was military before women were put in our combat forces and after. I have seen the comparison and contrast you have not. I was also head detailer for my rating in the navy in Washington and saw first hand the huge negative impact this decision has had on the military and i continue to see it. Women are the weak link in the chain and AFN is constantly trying to portray them as leading the way. You think i am wrong? You know the statistics of D-day for example. 5700 ships, 12,000 aircraft to put 160,000 men on 5 beaches. 85-90 % of those people were drafted in mass off the street given minimal training and sent into combat. Would you look me or anyone else in the eye and say you believe if all those ships and aircraft were manned by women and all those troops were women, not hand picked but randomly taken off the street, all those 110 pound frail, weak, cry baby cupcakes that you have seen all your life, we would have won that battle or any other. You believe that? If that outlook has no impression on you I would have to ask what makes you so smart? None of the great conquerors or leaders of history ever figured out what a great idea this is. Not Caesar, Ghangis Khan, the Vikings, Napoleon, Rommel. Patton, Montgomery, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, nobody figured it out. But the progressives like yourself did. How did you get so smart ? The huge numbers that have to be brought in to get to the very few that are not a burden is horrendous and no company could survive a cost benefit model like this one but the tax payers are forced to foot that bill. Then not to mention the intense sexual tension and competition that can never be weeded out. The military can get on just fine without the women but they cannot without the men to pick up the slack . There is a place for women in the military but not in our combat forces or on our ships but in the support role behind the lines like it was originally envisioned. AFN’s masters know this, that is why they keep shoving them down everyone’s throat and trying to portray a false reality. Hollywood is doing the same constantly showing women as the boss and kicking the crap out of 6 Conan the barbarians at the same time in an endless stream of heroin action flicks.
        With regards to blacks they are just pandering to them. AFN makes sure they are included in every scenario and showing them in the best possible light while the goon is typically the white guy. Not to mention they love showing the white women with black men. Not to mention the never ending pandering months, Black, Native American, Hispanic, Women’s, Homosexual, Asian history/appreciation months. The more attention that is brought to all this garbage is driving people apart not together. The people who put all this propaganda garbage are a bunch of sick bastards that need to be sent to a soviet style gulag for re-education. AFN should just do away with all their commercials and just have neutral, unimposing message boards and knock off the theatrics stupidity.

  3. John, I’ll let your comments stand for what they – and you – are: ignorant, racist, sexist and bigoted. Good luck in life – this one and the next, with this type of attitude.

    • Truth is quite annoying, uncomfortable and sometimes painful is it not? You and the likes of you find solace and comfort in making personal attacks and name calling when you find yourself devoid of any facts or evidence to support your highly emotional and baseless point of view. Not to mention your lack of courage and cowardice.

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