Amid a crisis in recruitment, the U.S. military has found a new way of convincing a war-weary Generation Z to enlist: thirst traps.
Chief among these attractive young women in uniform posting sexually suggestive content alongside subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) calls to join up is Hailey Lujan. In between the thirst traps and memes, the 21-year-old makes content extolling the fun of Army life to her 731,000 TikTok followers. “Don’t go to college, become a farmer or a soldier instead,” she instructs viewers in a recent video. “Just some advice for the younger people: if you’re not doing school, it’s ok. I dropped out of college. And I’m doing great,” she adds.
If Lujan feels like a psyop (a psychological operation) it is because, technically, she is. Lujan is a psychological operations specialist; one of a small number of Army personnel whose job is to carry out influence and disinfo operations, either on or offline. Thus, she is using her femininity to recruit legions of lustful teens into an institution with an infamous record of sexism and sexual assault against female soldiers.
The United States is a nation addicted to war, spending 229 of its 247 years of existence in some kind of conflict. It controls a network of over 800 military bases spanning the globe, and, according to a Congressional report, has carried out a staggering 251 foreign military interventions since the end of the Cold War in 1991. A new report compiled by the Institute for Policy Studies shows that the U.S. spends more on its military than 144 nations combined.
It is now well-established (if not well-known) that the Department of Defense also fields a giant clandestine army of at least 60,000 people whose job it is to influence public opinion, the majority doing so from their keyboards. A 2021 exposé from Newsweek described the operation as “The largest undercover force the world has ever known,” warned that this troll army was likely breaking both domestic and international law, and explaining that,
These are the cutting-edge cyber fighters and intelligence collectors who assume false personas online, employing ‘nonattribution’ and ‘misattribution’ techniques to hide the who and the where of their online presence while they search for high-value targets and collect what is called ‘publicly accessible information’—or even engage in campaigns to influence and manipulate social media.”