Navy SEALs gone wild: publicity, fame, and the loss of the quiet professional
Crowell, Forrest S.
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Over the past decade, Naval Special Warfare (NSW) has built up significant symbolic capital due to a string of highly politicized and romanticized military operations. The publicity, and the ensuing fame, helped set the conditions for the emergence of a SEAL counterculture characterized by an increasingly commodified and public persona. There has been a shift away from the traditional SEAL Ethos of quiet professionalism to a Market Ethos of commercialization and self-promotion, especially among former SEALs. At the same time, government officials, special interest groups, Hollywood, the publishing industry, and the media writ large have seen the profitability of associating their agendas with the SEAL identity. They are likewise tapping into SEAL fame and offering SEALs an outlet for the commodification of their SEAL affiliation. Such a promotional construct contravenes the dual requirements of security and surprise necessary for the success of SEAL missions. This paper analyzes these trends, and argues that the cultivation of celebrity status has incentivized narcissistic and profit-focused behavior within the SEAL community, which in turn has eroded organizational effectiveness, damaged national security, and undermined healthy civil-military relations. To redress this, all parties must work to reestablish an environment that refrains from promoting special operations for entertainment value, for profit, or for political gain.