Wednesday, November 7, 2007

We'll Bring the Terror, If You Pack the Cameras!

In the beginning of Tom Keenan's lecture, he described the various roles of the camera in the "media event" or "photo opportunity" breifly highlighting the camera as memorist, as archivist, as always there, but, always after the fact. He stressed that the camera presence at least typically, follows the event itself, "Reality comes first." He used the example of the phrase "The Revolution will not be 'something'ed" to illustrate the after-the-fact nature of capturing events. Keenan points out, however, the decrease in lag time to nothing, even less-than nothing between the event and the presence of a camera.
Certain events don't happen, unless there is a camera present. The reality exists for the sake of its distribution and subsequent archiving. One might consider the host of media events that, when strung together across almost two years of television programming, constitute the presidential race, for example. Where I found this scenario most clearly indicated, however, was in one of the videos Keenan played during his talk. The surveillant view of a humvee being blown up seems to reveal the deeper complexities of the nature of events created for the camera when something is staged in reality, not in Hollywood. It is clear that the bomb or mine was set up for an explosion that would be captured and distributed. In this manner, the one explosion takes on the life of many explosions when considered in terms of the positive results this visual destruction of an American military icon would have in boosting Jihad morale, not as a significant tactical victory. Keenan quoted Army Brigadier General John Custer, who called the war in Iraq "...a war of perceptions. They [the Jihad] understand the power of the Internet. They don't have to win in the tactical battlefield. They never will. No platoon has ever been defeated in Afghanistan or Iraq. But, it doesn't matter. It's irrelevant." The battlefield that matters to the Jihad is immaterial and exists on the screen, enabling one humvee explosion to have the same impact as hundreds. I find this so interesting mainly because when events are set up for the camera and in conjunction with the internet these events are given a power that far exceeds the reality of what is being depicted, one must ask the question: What is the limit on turning reality into a fiction? Destruction in life for the sake of the camera is still destruction, but leaves us with no clear form of retaliation. If we consider September 11th in terms of its cinematic qualities, it can be seen, above all, as the most profound media event to take place created by and for terrorists - and all they had to do was pre-production. With our absolute obsession with getting on location - notice how often news networks highlight the use of a helicopter or "we were there first" - the production was taken care of, immediately. It seems that terrorists hoping to simultaneously demoralize our nation and encourage a global network of terrorists can do so easily, as long as they can count on the cameras of the world to point, rush, fly, descend upon and track the nearest and newest atrocity. Keeping the flow of global mediascapes open is perhaps the most essential element in the blockbuster success of terrorist actions. This makes clear an entirely new set of negative implications of our media obsession in so far as it renders the very fiber of our morale vulnerable to attack.

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