Oy vey… it’s hard to overstate the number of overwhelming ideological errors floating around this utter piece of rancid tripe masquerading as a ‘think piece’.

Full disclosure on the table: I grew up utterly immersed in the GI Joe world. From 82–87 I was huge consumer of the GI Joe universe, with (conservatively) 200-odd toys & accessories, every issue of the original Marvel comics series, every issue of the Special Missions series, and a significant number of the UK Action Force series, at least 2 full sets of the mid-80s trading cards (which featured still captures of the animated movie), VHS cassettes full of the cartoons and the animated movie, and about 10–15 action figures that I built from the pieces of other action figures I took apart to mix-&-match in new characters. I can still quote TV show moments, 30+ years later. I can still recite plot lines, characters, and scenarios from the comics. I was the target consumer for the GI Joe universe in every possible way.

And yet there was never any doubt that COBRA was always intended as a Soviet proxy stand-in focused on totalitarian control of the West. It was not a back door through which the writers were trying to sneak in some sort of insidious white nationalism.
How can you tell?
I dunno… the Soviet weaponry carried by every member of COBRA? Seriously. They’re all toting around AK47s, Dragunov sniper rifles, etc.
There’s the unquestioned primacy of the leadership structure from COBRA commander on down.
COBRA’s continual attempts to undermine the capitalist economic systems of the US, such as the tainted money storyline of the issues in the mid-teens, are pretty transparent attempts to take down one of the key differences that everyone understood between the West and the Soviets.
The COBRA infiltration of Springfield, America wasn’t some attempt to create a utopian white-power militia enterprise. It was the only way in which the creators could craft a storyline that brought a Soviet threat to US shores without re-staging either Red Dawn or Invasion USA and re-crafting the entire storyline into all-out open warfare.

Now, let’s get a few things clear — my friends & I weren’t working purely from pop culture representations of caricatured Soviets. My father wasn’t just a US Army officer, but a fluent Russian speaker with a Masters’ in Soviet Studies from Georgetown who was a part of the Army’s Foreign Area Officer program, and he spent 3 months as a diplomatic courier moving building supplies for the new US embassy from Helsinki (where they were flown in) by truck to Moscow where the new embassy was being built. And from 82–85, nearly everyone around us on-base was in the same program.

We were living in Germany in the mid-80s, on the front line of the Cold War. We were keenly aware not only of the Soviet threat (KAL 007, Arthur Nicholson) but also the threat of Soviet-sponsored (or at a minimum, Soviet-inspired) terrorist attacks (Frankfurt car bomb; Dozier kidnapping; Rammstein car bomb; Hunt assassination; attempted Oberammergau bomb, while we were living in Garmisch and attending school with the kids from the O’gau base). So the idea that an organization like COBRA would exist as a Soviet proxy, operating within the US population as an underground organization bent of bringing down the Western liberal democracy, and not, as you posit, “men who worry about gold, guns, and God” is hardly the anti-white-power-militia fantasy you impugn it to be. The Soviet proxy threat was a real, everyday fact of life for us, and not some bogeyman cover story for four-color swipes at right-wing Americana.

Your attempts to paste on political and symbolic changes 25 years after the series (“Its symbol is, of course, the snake: just like the Gadsden flag so beloved of libertarians”) is so utterly laughable that it begs the question whether or not you’re self-aware enough to recognize the inherent irony of your abuse of the comic-book shenanigans of ret-con’ing.
Similarly, your post-hoc political paste-up of a “US military is largely a force for progressive causes against the type of people and organisations who might, say, support the Republican Party: gun owners and corporate donors” is so utterly out-of-step with the positioning of GI Joe at the time it was being written that one wonders if the only time you’ve cracked open the comic and TV show storylines is after 25 years of US political polarization, instead of at the time the stories were being written.

The idea that the GI Joes were somehow intended to “warn young Americans and Westerners that the domestic enemy (the real enemy) — represented by Cobra — was the nativist, reactionary, and isolationist stance found among the likes of Patrick Buchanan in the US and Enoch Powell in the UK” is again, applying to political mindset that did not exist at the time to a comic book that was openly cheerleading for US primacy against an obvious Soviet proxy.
This post-hoc application of a broken ideological template does not somehow validate your utterly unsupportable notion that there was “a desire, especially among those who sought a conciliatory line towards the Soviets (Hollywood, the universities, and the liberal media), not to produce what amounted to hate propaganda against the Soviets” given the pop culture landscape that was littered with anti-Soviet storylines (even seen Firefox?).

In the 1980s, during the GI Joe heyday, the massive influx of military spending was driven by a Reagan-era rebuild of the military after the post-Vietnam malaise of the 1970s. The investments in hardware, training, and operations were driven by a foreign-policy-focused Republican administration intent on differentiating their tough anti-Communist stance from the liberal Democrats you think are somehow hive-minding the GI Joe. Your attempts to somehow tie the GI Joe’s into political schism 15+ years in the future from the contemporary stories is just hilarious.
That the GI Joe team somehow represents a leftist, quasi-Socialist, über-progressive, anti-Republican (and by underlying implication: anti-American) hard-left wing of American politics is just so far out of step with the contemporary reality of when it was written, that the readers are, quite frankly, left wondering if you weren’t the frozen-in-ice basis for the lead character in Encino Man, as you clearly don’t seem to have been aware of anything that actually happened in the 1980s.

The factual errors are equally laughable.
The shorthand for “GI Joe”? “GI” is “general issue” and it was the shorthand for the everyday gear that every soldier got from Uncle Sam. It was not, nor ever was, “General Infantry”.
James Bond did face off with the Soviets — most notably in the contemporary-to-the-(re)launch-of-GI Joe movie For Your Eyes Only.
And your assertion that the “Perhaps, in fact, the US military is that” (that=”a sort of Michael Moore account of the world”) ignores the overwhelming statistical evidence of just how far right the US military leans, particularly in their support of the pseudo-Republican currently occupying the White House, but also largely throughout the past 30 years, and especially in the 1980s.

Overall, this is a screed about an ideology grasping for straws in an attempt to blame the ills you see in society on whatever targets of convenience and controversy you can manage to conjure in your pursuit of clickbait headlines. It so utterly fails to account for the contemporary mindsets at the time when the source material was created that educated readers who were present during the 1980s are left wondering whether you were in a coma, or in a monastery in the Himalayas, as it surely seems you were nowhere near a television, newspaper, or (crucially) a comic book during that decade.

Dressing up a failed ideological message in an excess of vocabulary words and white-oppression guilt will certainly appeal to the right-wing grievance industry. But any cursory analysis of the underlying facts will easily demonstrate just how tenuous these attempted connections are.

A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, as we should all strive rather that settle. But when that reach is grasping for more and more straws, the readers are left wondering what the point is.

Dad, husband, game commando, veteran, Army brat, writer, teacher

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store