Thursday, October 22, 2009

How to read Keenan: the wave vs. the HR campaign

I have a series of questions for this week's reading/films.

1. Is knowledge irrelevant?
This looks at if the Enlightenment's "mobilizing shame" does not enact change (overexposure)

2. Does evil "acknowledge" itself openly in governments or political political institutions?
While the Serbian forces were the "bad" guys in the Kosovo war (the suppressing of an independent group), I am not sure how the US would "wave" to the camera. Almost all foreign policy actions by the US are justified because they are on the "good" guy's side, and concealment of our actions is necessary only to ensure the bad guys don't spoil our plans (as displayed in "Control Room").

Would we consider the raising of the American flag during the toppling of Sadam's statue, a liberator's faux-pas in the media spectacle planned by the US with, as a half-wave? We caught it on camera knowingly- but were the soliders scared of this knowledge inciting violence or were they shamed?

3. Is this a call for violence?
By using violence and controlling the media, it seems like you can't lose. Colin Powell calls war a political failure, but look at the success of the militant group in "Born in Flames" once they bombed theWTC and took control of the radio waves and TV by force. One can claim that Al-Qaeda bombed the WTC and won the media war at home. Only through violence is either group successful.

4. How can Thomas Keenan write both "Mobilizing Shame" and "Where are human rights?"?

He starts off by talking about the complex relations of human rights within politics, who is using the medium of human rights, and for what purposes, but then poses the following question regarding the Ansar al-Sunna military group:
"What happens when those who... aim to defeat other warriors unconditionally, without mercy- also speak the language of human right?" (68)

I assume he questions how violence and human rights can co-exist for a group. Although the militant group is not a human rights group, we can ask "what if Amnesty International employs a militia to kill those who violate human rights?" And he plays on the odd closeness between states and human right groups, where in the past the two were at odds (imagine the USA military as an enforcer for Amnesty International).

This militant group problematizes what we classically think of as human rights. We assume HRs as a "general pleading" (65) where the "universalization of particulars becomes plausible" (65). There is a local grievance, suffering, and the protection of human rights should apply to a global audience in order to help the particular suffering (no one suffering is less valid than another).

But the militias are playing an odd game of human rights, saying their particular case of suffering deserves attention, but they do not apply their case to a universal audience. They are the Roman plebeians speaking in the public sphere without mimicry- taking up their own cause.

More importantly, to do this speaking, the militant group must control the media and not expose themselves to their support base. This pandering the local without caring too much for a global audience creates a fear of local exposure but a hope for international over-exposure. They took the "rhetorical path" (62) when killingAziz, they did not provide a video tape of hear death, in accordance of Zawahri's calls for no "scenes of slaughter" (61), yet they made sure to release her US issued documentation.

Yet, with the "wave" video from Bosnia, knowledge doesn't play an important role. "With a wave, these policeman announced their comfort with the camera, their knowledge of the actual truth and representation" (446). While the militant group takes pains to define this extremely nuanced defense of what knowledge to put under light and what to hide (who/how to defend and who/how to kill), there is a very different story in front of the camera:
"Here we all know everything and there are no second thoughts, no buts. We know, and hence enact our knowledge, our status, our sense of the complete irrelevance of knowledge. We are the news, information, knowledge, evidence, yes, because we are doing it, making it" (447).

There is a very odd question Keenan approaches, that goes beyond the "politics that hovers between the principles of ethics and the irreversibility of violence." The media demands that the politics either hides violence (the assassination of Aziz, a fear of exposure) or shows the violence (the Serbian looters, a case of over-exposure). The media also demands that we look at ethics in a complex light, where the ethics can be nuanced (a call for particular human rights- better treatment of militia prisoners or that no human rights exist- but still saying killing is OK) or ignored (the needless torching/looting of villages by policeman).

In summary and to the point, how do we work with these two articles together?

A productive sentence to answer this might come from the "Kosovo the First Internet War." "We know more than enough, and yet, somehow, what we know is not finally sufficient" (95).

Media and images, need to be open sites for action, perhaps these are just different ways of acting/performing with media?

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