Sunday, 12 April 2015

Watching warfare

The 10 April BBC Radio 4 episode of the culture programme Front Row included a feature with the directors of two new films about drone warfare: the feature film Good Kill, directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca), and the documentary Drone, directed by Tonje Hessen Schei. (Listen here, from 20.20.)

Here's Niccol from Front Row:

"It was interesting to see what this kind of warfare would do to someone's psyche. Because if you're a jet pilot, a fighter pilot, normally you would just drop your missile on your target and fly away. Now if you're a drone pilot what you do is you drop your missile and you watch, and you do damage assessment, which is counting the dead. And they can sit over that target and watch their destruction for 24 hours. So that must do something to a human being."

And here's Schei:

"The US Air Force actually has their own sort of video site where you can get access to drone footage. They have these media days where they do promotional videos of the drone programme. Most of our footage is actually from the US Air Force. You can actually also find what they call drone porn or pred porn, where you find all this drone footage that drone pilots themselves have been uploading, often set to music."

The Drone trailer opens with the line "We're the ultimate voyeurs, the ultimate Peeping Toms." "There's always been a connection between the world of war and the world of entertainment", it continues.

I don't know whether this is the site Schei was referring to, but this USAF webpage has a simulator that allows the interested visitor to have an ersatz experience of what it's like to fire a drone missile.

And it's not just the US that wants to give its public a taste of drone warfare: the UK's Ministry of Defence has a Youtube channel, to which it has uploaded what it says is RAF footage of a Reaper drone missile strike on an ISIL vehicle on 11 March 2015. Unlike the US webpage, which is accompanied by pumping music, this UK video is silent and matter-of-fact (warning: although you can't make out any people in the video, it does apparently show the moment at which people die):

Whether these websites and videos are intended to be informative, promotional or otherwise is not made explicit. What people actually take away from them, I don't know.

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