Drone Surveillance and the American Sci-Fi Romance [Part 2 of 2]

See part one of this two part post here, in which I analyze and examine the recent phenomenon of public opposition to domestic drone surveillance.

While drone enthusiast and industry lobbyist Toscano has maintained that it is a pervasive and misguided fear of “revolutionary change” – as exemplified by drones – that is motivating this widespread opposition to its domestic use, Crump and Stanley offer the much more likely explanation that

there’s something uniquely ominous about a robotic “eye in the sky.” Many privacy invasions are abstract and invisible—data mining, for example, or the profiling of Internet users by online advertisers. Drones, on the other hand, are concrete and real, and the threat requires no explanation.

But as Charlottesville councilman Dave Norris suggests, the threat of drone surveillance is one that has a long-running Big Brother-esque narrative, a leitmotif of sci-fi/dystopian art that spans many decades and countless mediums. And arguably, it is the existence of this social narrative, resurfacing time and time again in our popular culture, that evokes such a strong emotional response to the domestic use of drones. Drones armed with facial recognition technology and the capacity to “see through walls,” seem a more appropriate fit for the Terminator series than they do our immediate reality.

Crump and Stanley also readily acknowledge that drones are merely the “the most visible example of a host of new surveillance technologies that have the potential to fundamentally alter the balance of power between individuals and the state,” implicitly recognizing that the fear of this new found threat is not exactly predicated on a reasonable response to privacy invasion by the state. The fact that whatever technology employed in this increasingly asymmetrical relationship between the state and its citizens is auxiliary to state policies means the focus of vigilant citizens should be on the state, first and foremost. The opening of this discourse about domestic drone surveillance – if properly nurtured by the channels of public debate – could pave the way for a broader discussion about the far more egregious activities of the NSA and NYPD-Wall Street duo.

Another state policy that urgently needs to be reviewed and challenged in the public forum is that of US drone strikes in locations beyond the borders of the US – an issue of even greater importance with regards to our supposed concern for human life and liberty. The “nightmare scenario” that the ACLU warns of is one that already exists in the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as in Yemen and Somalia. The problem is that these victims of US drone surveillance and strikes, lacking any leverage over the US government, have no voice to speak for their unjustifiable suffering and humiliation. In the days following a Times report on how drone pilots suffer from stress disorders at the same rate as combat pilots do, Glenn Greenwald observed

Returning to the discussion of existing and enduring social narratives, it becomes obvious that what is needed is not simply a nurturing of this debate on US drone strikes, but an antidote to the standard narrative that seeks to justify all military actions on the legally-flimsy basis of the Global War on Terror. The world seen through this lens seems threatening and dangerous for reasons beyond our control, a fantasy that is a far cry from the truth. And the inculcation of this perspective has worked its magic, as thanks to the constant fear mongering and misinformation provided by the state and its obsequious media, Americans consider security from terrorists to be their paramount foreign policy concern.

Consider as a thought experiment, if instead of bringing bombs, bullets, and bases to underdeveloped foreign nations, Americans brought food and aid; and the intention and know-how to develop foreign economies without the desire to exploit their markets and eviscerate their domestic industries. Consider if instead of prioritizing a global war on terror, the US mounted a campaign of global aid and development that didn’t seek to sustain a patriarchal and dominating relationship between the donor and the beneficiary. Consider if we cast aside the sociopathic fetters of the imperial mindset and resolved instead to make the world a more equitable and just place. If developing and maintaining the world’s most powerful and extensive military hasn’t provided enough disincentives for potential terrorists, why must we persist in this delusion?

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2 thoughts on “Drone Surveillance and the American Sci-Fi Romance [Part 2 of 2]

  1. Pingback: Visualizing Every Drone Strike in Pakistan | The Drone Fallacy

  2. Pingback: Gallup Poll Confirms the Obvious: Most Americans are Racists | The Drone Fallacy

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