- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2021

The Army has disabled the ability to comment on a series of YouTube videos that critics have labeled “woke” and soft, with military officials saying the Pentagon’s newest recruitment spots generated a massive amount of negative feedback online.

The series, dubbed “The Calling,” follows the life and path to the military for enlisted men and women across the country. The videos show service members from a variety of backgrounds and tell the story of how they ended up pursuing a career in the Army.

But some critics — including prominent conservative lawmakers such as Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — argue that the ads highlight how the U.S. Armed Forces have rapidly become “emasculated” amid a focus on diversity and political correctness in the ranks, rather than toughness and lethality.

Thousands of YouTube users seem to agree, as the Army earlier this week acknowledged that it has cut off the comments section on the videos.

Laura DeFrancisco, a spokeswoman for the Army Enterprise Marketing Office, said the decision was made after a “significant uptick in negative commentary” in the comments section of the spots.

“Out of respect for our soldiers and their families, we have disabled the comments,” she told the outlet Task & Purpose in a statement.

Pentagon officials have vehemently defended the focus on inclusion and diversity. They’ve argued that it’s vital for U.S. national security to appeal to as wide a swath of Americans as possible and convince them to join the ranks.

One video follows a soldier named Emma and tells her story that “begins in California with a little girl raised by two moms” and continues through her decision to enlist in the military. Another follows a soldier who emigrated to the U.S. from Haiti and later joined the Army.

The content of the videos themselves does not appear particularly controversial, but Mr. Cruz and others have taken aim at their tone, which is far softer than many other military recruitment ads of the past. In fact, some critics even tweeted out a side-by-side comparison of “The Calling” spots next to a Russian military recruitment video, which focuses on men exercising, firing weapons and jumping from military planes.

“Holy crap,” Mr. Cruz said in a Twitter post Thursday that accompanied the two videos.

“Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea,” he said.

But the backlash has sparked a backlash.

VoteVets, a progressive political action committee, sent out a fundraising email Friday that blasted Mr. Cruz‘s tweets and asked for donations to defeat his reelection bid. Mr. Cruz isn’t up for reelection until 2024.

“At the heart of Cruz’s argument is misogyny, plain and simple,” VoteVets said in its email. “VoteVets isn’t going to sit back while Cruz insults women troops and veterans who have bravely served their country in uniform. … We’re fighting back.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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