It's that time again. [*gong noise*]
Beginning Thursday at precisely 9:45 a.m., Seattle will be sonically harassed and/or visually inspired by the brutal dance of six F/A-18 Hornets, twin-engine supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multirole combat jets originally designed not to perform aerial ballets for half-drunk, sun-dumb Seattleites but rather to dogfight and attack ground targets.
I'm with Schmader and Constant re: my total hatred for the spectacle. Frizzelle's ambivalence is touching, but I'd be more likely to pull a Trent Moorman and prank call the Blue Angels team down in Pensacola, if only to follow up on the question they have yet to answer: "What happens if a pilot has an orgasm at the exact moment they hit the speed of sound?" The people have a right to know, lieutenant.
Along with the sudden blast of an XLERATOR® hand drier and the obnoxious flatulence of revving motorcycles, the Blue Angels' roar-scream falls into a very specific and private category of hatred that I've labeled Loud Noises Outside of My Control. If I'm the one drying my hands with an XLERATOR®—it's fine. If I'm the one flying the F/A-18 Hornet—I'm having a great time. If I'm the one revving my hog—go get some earplugs, you noise baby. But if anybody else is doing any one of those things, I have to fight the urge to start throwing people in noise jail.
However, I have a deeper, less neurotic reason for despising the flyovers. The Blue Angels glorify a brand of military violence that harkens back to a kind of warfare that we're practicing less and less. Trying to invoke nostalgia for a dying form of muscular warfare in order to recruit poor people to sit in a chair in a strip mall in Arizona and bomb pixelated human beings is a deceptive and damaging form of marketing that undermines the sense of honor and strength that the military hopes to communicate via such displays. Kids and parents see the Blue Angels and they think we're still KICKIN' ASS, TOP GUN STYLE. But, as Reuters reported last year, Frank Kendall, the chief weapons buyer for the Pentagon, said that he doesn't even see buying F/A-18 planes after 2018.
The future is constant war enabled by drones, and if we don't listen to Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and literally one thousand academics, it will also include autonomous robots of death. Arguing that such weapons might be worse than nukes, Hawking and crew recently wrote an open letter calling for a ban on AI weapons:
Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce. It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc.
That is the most understated "etc." I've ever seen. The UK's foreign office says they won't ban AI weapons because "international humanitarian law already provides sufficient regulation for this area." That doesn't do much to allay my fears. International humanitarian law also forbids torture and attacking non-military targets, two rules to which the US and the UK haven't exactly adhered for the last several years. And I'm not too sure that the military-industrial complex ever saw an arms race it didn't want to win.
Therefore, this weekend, the skies over Lake Washington should be as blank and blue as they are over Pakistan and Yemen, or they should be swarming with prototypes of autonomous robots outfitted with enough explosives to puncture a human skull. The least they can could do to is choreograph some complex display of exploding robotic locusts: