After reading The Genocidal Mentality I thought about the voices raised against drone warfare weakening within the ever shifting media focus. We observe an increasing normalization of telerobotic surveillance and violence.
The Other becomes less human as observed from afar, like an ant under a magnifying glass. Whole villages are terrorized by living under constant surveillance of drones that can, at any moment, unleash death. For the operator, it is easier to kill the dehumanized Other since the face-to-face element is removed from the emotional equation. The laws of war and debate about morality have not yet caught up to the new technology leaving the use of drones questionable. That is changing as the process (from design to use) becomes normalized within the general population.
Lifton’s work on the “doubling” of the Nazi doctors yields an understanding of how one could spend the day targeting and possibly killing ‘enemies of the state’ and then at five o’clock, when the shift ends, go home to family and friends as any other office worker might do. Just as the Nazi doctors were able to compartmentalize their lives, so can the drone murderers of today, but it is not easy. The Nazi doctors had precedents within their culture, such as the 1904 German Society for Racial Hygiene. Drone operators are dealing with a new technology in unprecedented ways.
Nuclearism and Dronism both carry the inevitability associated with ‘advancing technology’; blind acceptance accompanying scientific advancement. Nuclearism posits a single best means of dealing with national security. Dronism presents a best way to deal with terrorism. The scales are different and there is no Armageddon level of violence in Dronism, at least not yet, although future developments may allow nuclear capable drones. The two ‘isms’ are quite similar, however, in the narrowness of thought and avoidance of logic and reason that prevail in their supporters.
The military recently made a conscious attempt to help normalize drone warfare by introducing recognition, in the form of a pin, to honor operators who have had “especially direct and immediate impact on combat operations.” It is not an easy sell since many combat veterans oppose this “Nintendo Medal.”
Increasingly, drones are used to terrorize and kill. It is only a matter of time before they become an accepted, normalized part of modern life. And more importantly, once normalized they will become, like nuclear bombs, an unspoken, unquestioned element embedded silently in our policy and collective psyche.
Lifton and Markussen, (1991) The Genocidal Mentality, Basic Books