The above image is an aerial view of a 100’x70′ vinyl banner entitled “Not a Bug Splat,” depicting a Pakistani girl said to have survived a drone attack that took the lives of her parents and either “two siblings” or “a sibling” (the information at Democracy Now! is inconsistent). A product of collaboration between French, American, and Pakistani artists and activists (or activist-artists or artist-activists), the work takes its title from jargon referring to computer-generated bomb damage models.
Our friend b psycho asked for comment, and my twitter response was that “as a political gesture it’s pointed, possibly late” and that “there’s a second order of intention or meaning to it.” I now have some time to expand on the thoughts, if not yet to incorporate them into a theory of The Drones, a project whose urgency has subsided along with the frequency of drone attacks1: thus the “possibly late” part of the reply tweet.
As I’ve argued before, to understand The Drones requires attempting to comprehend the system of systems in which they are located. If the transnational terrorist is a reverse image of the jet-setter, or another expert tourist like the journalist who specializes in terror and anti-terror and anti-anti-terror, all of them leading citizens of a global order that is either still arriving or can never fully arrive, and if the drone assassination campaign is a reciprocal extension of that either way incomplete order, then the portrait of a child visible from high above suggests, at least symbolically, a still further extension, or a further organic network integration. Our dystopian premonition, of a lethal world-spanning sky net, summons a utopian counter-image, of an internationally collaborative co-realization of the shared and equal humanity of drone operator and drone victim.
The sympathy that neither terror nor anti-terror terror has succeeded in erasing prevents us from simply affirming a forced
higher socialization of Waziristan or a part of it as a beneficial consequence of power projection, an end that billions of dollars in counter-insurgent playground construction, medical services, and civil-political consultation and so on and on may have not been noticeably better at bringing nearer. This piece of political concept art cannot by itself be taken as God’s frustration of Mephistopheles – the evil one condemned to achieve good despite himself – but neither is it exactly entirely not-that.