Look at almost any modelling group on Facebook, and you will find the same rule: “no politics”. It is a commonly accepted trope in modelling that politics = bad.
Terms of Reference
What do we mean by politics? For once, a dictionary definition may help, especially as there are many forms of “politics”.
- Legal government and lawmaking, from national government to local councils, and the parties that compete for governance.
- The relationships within a group or organization: such as office politics, or group dynamics.
- The Politics of the person: where identity becomes a personal politic, such as feminism, race equality or gender equality.
- Geopolitics: the ways countries relate to each other.
These are common definitions, but at its most basic level, it’s the constant conversation within any group or society, about how people, as individuals, relate to each other within a group.
“Chris, Knock off the Undergrad Waffle, Stick to Modelling”
Don’t worry, I’m getting there…
First, what are we talking about when we say “modelling”? we tend to consider it within the paradigm of making miniature versions of full-sized, real-life, military equipment and personnel. But modelling is far broader than that, it also includes civilian real-world machines and people, fantasy and sci-fi machines, and people (military and non-military) and pretty much any subject you can think of, recreated or artistically referenced, in reduced (or, technically, increased) scale. Don’t worry, this is relevant, I promise.
Why don’t we allow political posts in modelling groups?
The short answer is Admins don’t like spending all day moderating grown men fighting on the internet.
The slightly longer answer is that political discussion is off topic and divides people along political lines. The concern is that a post about politics will bring negativity to a group.
You can make very arguments that discussion of politics as defined by 1 or 2 above, and with some exceptions: 3, have no relevance to modelling (I might disagree, but you can). But in reference to 4, you cannot legitimately say war is non-political.
People on Facebook are fond of quoting Carl von Clauswitz: “history is written by the victor.” He never said it (it is sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill but he didn’t coin it either, best research attributes it to French sources on the death of Robespierre c1855.)
But Clausewitz did have something to say about war and politics:
“24. WAR IS A MERE CONTINUATION OF POLICY BY OTHER MEANS.
We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. All beyond this which is strictly peculiar to War relates merely to the peculiar nature of the means which it uses. That the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with these means, the Art of War in general and the Commander in each particular case may demand, and this claim is truly not a trifling one. But however powerfully this may react on political views in particular cases, still it must always be regarded as only a modification of them; for the political view is the object, War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.”
[Carl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. Col. J.J. Graham. New and Revised edition with Introduction and Notes by Col. F.N. Maude, in Three Volumes (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & C., 1918).]
Clausewitz is of course, correct, War (and by extension, the military) is not separate from politics, it is a geopolitical instrument, either through exerting political will onto others, or in preserving the native chosen politic (self-government) from foreign political will.
Therefore, when we model the military, we model the martial embodiment of political will.
Does that mean modelling a military is an endorsement of the politics of the military depicted?
However, any military model will always be freighted with the politics of the military it represents. There is no escaping this without deleting any context from the model. Thus, to take the politics from a Tiger tank, or an A5M Zero, or a USMC marine on a pacific island, you have to remove all context: nationality, historical period and location. And if you remove these things, you remove any reference to the history of the model.
We must acknowledge that any military model expressly referencing historical events cannot be claimed to be apolitical in nature, even if not in intent.
Historical Military Modelling is one thing, but modelling current conflicts is quite another. I discussed this a while ago with Barry Biediger from the Small Subjects Podcast on my Models from Ukraine pod (https://modelsfromukraine.buzzsprout.com/2035660/13596069-episode-14-combat-giraffes-and-moral-models-with-reskit-and-barry-biediger).
Modelling current conflicts is not like the dry academic historical discussion of the past. This is happening to people right now. This is active politics by other means, being prosecuted as you read this blog. If we choose to model these conflicts, how can we possibly claim that it is apolitical, and deny others from reading the models in a political context? To do so would be absurd.
To be clear, I am not saying that your intent is political, but I am saying that its is, nonetheless, a political model because that is how people will read it, especially (in the internet age) those in countries actively involved in the conflict. The internet is not restricted to your safe, currently pacific, country. To summarise, we can’t claim military modelling is apolitical because the military is not apolitical. We can certainly say we have no political intent in modelling it. When I model a Luftwaffe aircraft it is very definitely not an endorsement of the Third Reich, but I will not try to wear the absurdly facile figleaf that there is nothing political represented in the model.
Is It Art Though?
One of my earliest bogs asked whether modelling was art (https://modelphilosopher.com/is-it-art-though/) Spoiler Alert: No, but it can be.
If we want to argue that modelling is art, then surely it should be subject to the other definitions of art, beyond simply ‘creative expression’. Politics is a big part of art and always has been, from Franceso Goya’s anti-war, anti Napoleon “Disasters of War Series”
(“Por Que” (1863) Franceso Goya)
To Diego Rivera’s activist Murals
(“Pan American Unity,” (1940) Diego Rivera, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Photo: SEBASTIAN HOCHMAN/The Stanford Daily))
To Norman Rockwell’s Civil Rights Era work
artists have always not only accepted politics, but actively engaged in it.
So if modelling is art, like art, why should it be apolitical? Why is there no room for politics in modelling? I’m not saying modellers are in the same category as Goya, Rivera and Rockwell, but I am saying we can express politics in our ‘art’, too.
One modeller embraces it, our good friend Robert Blokker. He has been bold in accepting that modelling can be art an art can be political with is busts ”Real Life Joker” and “The Great Polonium”.
(“Real Life Joker” (2020), Robert Blokker)
(“The Great Polonium” (2022), Robert Blokker)
And I have Robert to thank for inspiring my own new piece “The Criminal”. As I have mentioned before, my education was at art school, and honestly this feels like the closest think I have made to art since I left art school, and it is also modelling.
(“The Criminal” (2024), Chris Meddings)
Robert’s pieces, and my own, have provoked people when we posted them. Most people have been fine with it, either because they agree with them or they accept our right to express ourselves this way, or they just don’t care (never underestimate the power of indifference). But a sizeable minority are made angry by these pieces. Good. If you want this to be art, art can be provocative. Even if you think its just models, why can’t models be provocative?
So, let’s stop this ludicrous fiction that politics can be removed entirely from modelling. You can of course claim you make no deliberate political statement with your model, but you cannot complain if a military model is read in a political context, especially if you chose to model a current conflict.
And should politics be kept out of modelling? This too is facile. Politics is threaded through our every day life, because politics is the dynamics of how we relate to each other, and if you want modelling to be art, you should accept that one way people use art, is to comment on politics.