Skip navigation

Once again this week’s readings display the central ambiguities that seem to color all that we have studied. Antithetical possibilities seem to co-exist: we are presented with few consistent answers. This is most fascinating to me in Gregory’s work, “From a View to Kill”. The image of the digital world as navigating a knife-edge of possibilities holds incredible poignancy and importance when we are discussing the realm of war, and thus of life and death.
Gregory demonstrates clearly how the technological iterations of modern warfare can be portrayed in two diametrically opposed lights. Is the use of drones virtuous in its ‘efficiency’, or a-moral in its casualness. On the one hand technological warfare is praised for its abilities to be clear-cut, and in particular this evokes the idea of sight. The military has been enabled to see more clearly, thus conducting their war in a more virtuous way. Yet the flip-side to this praise is the notion that sight is actually clouded, that the introduction of war machinery that is so similar to video games actually creates a distance, a screen, thus increasing blindness. These dichotomous potentialities remind me of Derrida’s description of Plato’s Pharmakon. Is it medicine, or poison? Is the very thing that makes this good, what paves the way to make it bad?
Whether one believes in the first or second view of contemporary forms of militant action, one thing is undeniable: the public, at large, is incredibly cut off. I think this is fundamental to Gregory’s argument, as it feeds his discussion of distance, and the idea that “From a distance I cannot hear you scream”. Gregory is focused in his work on the relationship and spatial configuration between soldiers and targets/civilians, yet I think the public is similarly important. In World War 1, or World War 2, everybody in Europe knew someone who died. War touched people at an intensely intimate, unavoidable way. Of course high numbers of casualties is not something to be revered – far from it – but what we do risk when we lose this immediacy of suffering, is any public awareness of what is going on. The public is so profoundly cut-off from drone attacks, both in terms of what we are told but also in terms of feeling the repercussions of war, that it is difficult to engage them in an awareness of consequences. This is dangerous, and once again shows us how the digital world can create a blind spot that covers undesirable or immoral behavior.