Newsbud Exclusive- The Buzz About the Bipolar Drone Queen Interview with Andreas Graae

Exploring the Cultural Imagination of Drone Warfare- An Interview with Andreas Graae

If you thought articles about intimacy issues would never grace the newsstand of Newsbud, you were partly right. However, domestic relationship problems may not be the focus in this case. The relationship between the drone voyeur and the target below who is being monitored is known as “voyeuristic intimacy,” a term that drone and geography expert Derek Gregory introduced. The nature of targets being watched while they sleep, play with their children, have sex, get married, and play soccer, is ‘an improved focus in modern war’, increasingly significant to military operations - not only knowing your enemy, but knowing what kind of breakfast they are eating in the morning, an intimacy that goes beyond the battlefield and into the ‘global battlespace’.

Homeland is an American political thriller television series about a female Central Intelligence Agency officer with bipolar disorder named Carrie Mathison. She comes to believe that a U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper, who was held captive by al-Qaeda as a prisoner of war, was “turned” by the enemy and poses a threat to the United States. In Season 4, episode 1, “The Drone Queen”, Carrie authorizes an airstrike on a top terrorist who she suspects is hiding in a farmhouse. The day of the airstrike also happens to be Carrie’s birthday, and her fellow staff members at the CIA have brought her a birthday cake with "The Drone Queen" written with decorative icing. It turns out that the farmhouse strike hit 40 civilians who were attending a wedding, and the target wasn’t there.

This fictional storyline parallels real life examples of civilian casualties caused by drone strikes and airstrikes from other types of aircraft. In one case, “a U.S. drone mistakenly targeted a wedding convoy in Yemen's al-Baitha province after intelligence reports identified the vehicles as carrying al Qaeda militants," CNN reported, citing government sources in Yemen. 14 people were killed and 22 others injured, nine in critical condition. In a similar tragedy, the Deh Bala wedding party airstrike was an attack by U.S. forces on July 6, 2008, in which 47 Afghans were killed. The group was claimed to be escorting a bride to a wedding ceremony in the groom's village in Dih Bala district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. The United States Government denied that civilians were killed in the incident. An investigation by the Afghan Government disagreed and determined that 47 civilians, including the bride, had been killed.

The Wech Baghtu wedding party airstrike resulted in 63 people including 37 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, and 26 insurgents by a U.S. military airstrike on November 3, 2008. The group was celebrating a wedding at a housing complex in the village of Wech Baghtu, a Taliban stronghold in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The Afghan government accused the Taliban of seeking shelter near the wedding party.

The Globe and Mail’s Jessica Leeder and Alex Strick Van Linschoten reported from Afghanistan about the incident:

The sparsely populated mountainous region surrounding the village is a known Taliban stronghold. In the past the area has been a target of various anti-insurgent special operations. Mr. Khan said his village is situated at the foot of a mountain frequented by Taliban insurgents. At the time of the wedding, insurgents on the mountain had attempted to attack troops in the area with an improvised explosive device, [a tribal elder from the district Abdul Hakim Khan] said. Fighting broke out between troops and insurgents after the Taliban began firing from the top of the mountain, which triggered the air strike, he said.

What did people think of the “Drone Queen” episode in particular?

Lesli Linka Glatter, remarked in a trailer about what she thought was an interesting aspect of the show: “The Taliban is always saying, you’ve hit a mosque, you’ve hit an orphanage, and absolutely sometimes that is true. But a lot of the time, it’s not true, so there’s fault on both sides … from everyone’s perspective, they are right.”

Slant Magazine noted in their recap that “The Drone Queen depicts the willful iconoclasts of Homeland dulled by participation in the machinery of war, perhaps as a critique of the ways the United States turned post-9/11 counterterrorism into a perpetual global conflagration, the means and ends of which become more opaque with each passing year.”

In a program called Homeland AfterBuzz TV AfterShow on October 5th, 2014, the three hosts: Nando Velasquez, Lexie Hammesfahr, and Danny Hoyt held a discussed and reflected about the content of the show in their webcast. The following excerpt from the show is a small example of how the popular imagination of drone warfare and how it functions through kill lists and CIA or military protocols may leave an impression on TV watchers, average U.S. citizens who have certain ideas and reactions towards the processes of the war on terror. Follow along with the YouTube video, starting at 9:28.

Nando: ...Sandy has a source, that they’ve gotten some high value targets before, and we see that this target right now is very different. It’s a very different day, as far as we’re concerned because Carrie automatically is not comfortable with the timeframe … when they have to attack … apparently, they have a very limited time window before he escapes, before he leaves, and she’s feeling a lot of pressure. Sandy says “look, you know, we always double confirm these, but my source is solid. We’re good.” So Carrie makes the decision after checking with her sources, checking for Pakistani airspace, checking drones. They end up using F15s instead to actually bomb this remote house. My thoughts - actually it seems cut and dry. It seems on the surface, she’s checked everything out. Do you guys feel the same way about that whole scene?

Lexie: I think if you’re in a time restriction, then there’s only so much you can do before you lose this target who’s so high up on your kill list, so it makes sense to me that she went through what she thought was a full checklist, and made a decision. You don’t have a lot of time to bring a lot of emotions into that, in my opinion.

Danny: Well, I don’t feel like she took any shortcuts, she did what she could with the time that was allotted, and I thought she did what most people would do in that situation. So no, I had no fault in that, I feel like she had legitimate questions but in a timeframe you can’t do everything that you want to necessarily do so she did what was best. She made a judgement call.

Nando: Yeah, I feel not many people would have as many questions as Carrie did and not put as much emphasis into this as she did. We see that eventually this becomes somewhat of a mistake, or I mean, it’s a… I guess you could see both sides of it.

Danny: Even the process that validated it for me, when she’s fully back to 100% operational capacity, back to Carrie with zero mental side issues, at least in that moment.

Nando: At least in that moment, we’ve seen that it is probably not going to have an effect on her later on in this season, what she finds out is that they actually bombed a wedding, and there were forty civilians in there that were all members of [the target’s] family.

Danny: See, at first she looked kind of cold-blooded to it, like when she first saw [character] and he was like, “Well does it bother you?” and she was just kind of like…

Nando: I think she justified it. Just like Sammy did.

Danny: She was able to compartmentalize. That’s part of the job.

Nando: One thing I wanted to say that was also really weird is right after - and we see the shot from the satellite - and all of a sudden, we this this house, bird’s eye view, and then boom. Totally gone. And then the next second later, they bring out a birthday cake, and they say “for she’s a jolly good fellow!” which I thought was such a weird - I guess it’s awesome in a weird way, to see this scene, to see them celebrate a death with a birthday cake.

Danny: Here’s what was interesting to me: The chief, or whoever it was she was talking to, said that they were hijacking off a NATO satellite, and so it was different in that as soon as they were done, they backed off somebody and they were on somebody else’s transmission, it wasn’t like their uplink … it’s like they were on something they shouldn’t have been on, so as soon as they were done, they cut it off, I felt that was easier to remove yourself from that situation and be like, “OK, next” as opposed to winding down and debriefing from a process.

Lexie: But it’s also probably pretty realistic, if you’re over there and it’s your birthday, you might have just done a drone strike but there’s the cake!

Nando: We just killed somebody, let’s have a birthday.

Danny: Later on, Maggie said “Hey, how’s your day?” and [Carrie replies] “Ehhh, I interrogated two suspects…” it was like, that’s the norm.

Lexie: And to them, in the moment, they don’t know right then that it’s a wedding, so all they know is that, hey, they just killed number four on their list, let’s bring in a cake.

Nando: I totally get the whole wedding thing, I just think it’s very weird … the cake says “The Drone Queen” which I think says so much about her character to be called it, because it’s like ‘the ice queen’ - the ‘drone queen’. How much more robotic or … it’s like an insult in a weird way,

Danny: In a backwards way.

Nando: Yeah, but she kind of accepts it, but she is, at that moment, kind of robotic. You have to be after a death like that … but I think that’s a really funny name, “the drone queen” and they keep talking about drones even though they didn’t use drones, to at least do the bombing in this case. So when she celebrates her birthday, we find out that it was a wedding, that they did confirm the kill, they saw it on TV, but obviously the Islamic Taliban is upset and they’re swearing for revenge, and like you said, Sandy and Carrie pretty much have the same theory, it’s like, all those people there - they should’ve known what they were in for.

Danny: That really interested me, the way that Sandy said that, he’s like “well, that was their decision. He endangered them, not us.” I thought that was really interesting, how he pushed it off on them, and she reiterated that later to Quinn, and he said that Sandy said the same thing.

Nando: “He put their lives at risk, not us.” But I think what’s interesting about that too is that technically she had the same issues with Brody, I mean, she was kind of in Brody’s crossfire, she was a casualty of war through Brody, and kind of like in the same way that perhaps this family may know that Hassani is a terrorist, and they know what they’re in for if they’re spending any time with him. Carrie’s spending time with Brody all those past three seasons so I think it was really her mentality - “hey, it happened to me, that’s the way it is.” If you associate yourself with these kind of people.

Lexie: It’s guilt by association. (Source: AfterBuzzTV)

Voyeurism and intimacy as the dominating poles

The Body of War: Drones and Lone Wolves was an international symposium on the changing character and future of war which took place on the 24th and 25th of November 2016 at the Lancaster City Centre in the UK. The first panel, the Drones Imaginaria, featured Andreas Graae as a speaker, who is a researcher, teacher and PhD student from the University of Southern Denmark. His presentation was entitled “The Bipolar Drone Queen: Intimacy and Distance in Showtime’s Homeland”.

Graae’s presentation and forthcoming paper explores the themes of the show in detail, finding that Carrie’s bipolar disorder “mirrors the paranoid political regime she works for; a regime where voyeurism and intimacy become the dominating poles in a manic hunt for more and more information.” Andreas dubs this the ‘bipolar phenomenology’ of the drone, in how this schizophrenia dominates both the individual and political imagination of drone warfare.

Andreas also explains ‘mosaic’ theory which encompasses the function of a drone, and even a drone’s camera, which adds up millions of pixels (or digital images) of surveillance into a recognizable picture of what’s going on on the ground below:

[It] is essentially like the iconomania: constantly adding new images, new threats, and new names to put on the “kill lists”. Thus, paradoxically the mosaic theory contradicts every imagination of a “complete picture” or “master image” ... it is closer to what Jacques Derrida described as “archive fever” – that is, an endless accumulation of additions, appendixes, insertion and notes into an “anarchive”.

He coins his findings into what he calls a ‘bipolar configuration of the drone’ while also suggesting how this bipolar experience of drone operations might be viewed as a mosaic:

A bipolar disorder, even schizophrenia, dominating both the individual and political imagination of drone warfare … Homeland works as a highly significant example of how the individual and the political experience of bipolarity seem to be inextricably linked: Carrie is bipolar, but her manic phases and the fact that she is able to alter between the level of intimacy and the larger picture is exactly what makes her a brilliant spy. In other words, Carrie’s bipolar personality mirrors the paranoid political regime she works for; a regime where voyeurism and intimacy become the dominating poles in a manic hunt for more and more information.

Interview with Andreas Graae

Newsbud: Can you talk about what got you into this line of inquiry with the ‘bipolar drone queen’ and what excites you about it?

AG: What excites me about my research is how the way in which we wage war has changed very radically within the last decade, specifically with how that change, that reconfiguration of warfare, has impacted the cultural imagination of war. I’m in the Department for Cultural Studies so my approach is to historically, but also to culturally, examine how it affects the way we think about war and new technologies. I have a Masters degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Copenhagen. I wrote my master thesis on disaster culture, cultures of disaster, and I was very interested in how we speak about disasters and how disasters are represented in popular culture, how that impacts the way people are dealing with disasters in real life, in politics, and this translates well to this project on drones. The discourses, the metaphors, the kind of common imagination being created in popular culture and on TV shows like Homeland - even some of the more recent movies on drone warfare.

Newsbud: What interests you more: the impact of shows like this on the public imagination, or on the imagination of the drone operators themselves?

AG: What interests me more is the public imagination. I mean, the drone operators are, of course, the ones who really know what it’s about, but yet it’s – at least it used to be – a very secretive and invisible way of waging war, so I see a need for culturally coping with this new unmanned and remote warfare. Since the real facts, and how these things actually function, are so inaccessible to ordinary people, the images and conceptions comes directly from Hollywood and other cultural producers. What interests me is both the common imagination, but also how culture, art and aesthetics are capable of reflecting more deeply into some of the issues – both the historical but also the ethical issues of drones. The precursors to drones in the 20th century took place in the first and second world where soldiers were gradually withdrawn from the battlefield and replaced by more and more advanced machines. Autonomously functioning machines have substituted the soldier. Art, literature, and films have this ability to show the deeper historical narrative of drones, but also to reflect on contemporary news.

Newsbud: Living in Denmark, have you identified that Danish people see drones from a different perspective?

AG: I don’t think there’s something very nation-specific about my approach to drones. Yet, there’s something about Denmark which is, compared to the states, a considerable higher degree of confidence in the authorities here. In that kind of way, maybe we’re more open and optimistic to new technologies. We’re not that anxious or paranoid about how it can be misused for state surveillance. However, I try to keep a more critical perspective in my research, but generally the Nordic/European countries, especially in Scandinavia, are very confident, very trustworthy of authorities not illegally using drones for surveillance.

In the last decades, Danish government has been working on more activist foreign policy, very supportive of the U.S. engagement in wars - a very tiny force, but still morally and symbolically supporting the U.S. led War on Terror. It’s going to be interesting to see how it could change after the new president gets in. It all depends on what kinds of wars Trump will wage and how he will use a weapon like drones.

Newsbud: How did the Drones and Lone Wolves conference go?

AG: It was extremely enriching! There were very inspiring perspectives for me – since it was mainly drones being discussed through a lot of genuinely interdisciplinary approaches from both political theory and from cultural studies, aesthetics and social sciences. In my panel was Peter Lee, who you recently interviewed on the drones imaginarium. Then there was an art historian, Claudette Lauzon, who had these very interesting views on drones from a more post-humanistic perspective. In her presentation, “Drones Gone Wild”, she got into how drones can attain their own lives in this aesthetic imagination, exclusive to art and culture, this way of imagining future war scenarios that includes drones in a much more autonomous, intelligent way.

Newsbud: What’s your favorite part about being an up and coming scholar?

AG: I like that I have lot of time and freedom to do what I find the most interesting and exciting, as well as all the possibilities of going to conferences and sharing ideas, teaching what you’re interested in. At my university, they’re very interested in drones. They have this big research project, and a center for drone studies which is also more technical, with engineers working on tiny robot drones, looking at biomimetics - for instance, how bats navigate with the use of echoes and sounds, trying replicate that for drone technologies. Microdrones, the next generation of small drones, are growing much harder to detect, so there could potentially be this new regime of surveillance from tiny drones. This is also present in some of the newer cultural representations like the movie Eye in the Sky, where they have this tiny drone that can access and infiltrate the terrorists in a much more stealthy way. What I really like about my project is being in the loop, and being a young scholar during a time when these issues are so relevant and there’s so much focus on drones and future warfare.

There are drone artists working on formations, some clips on YouTube show swarms with lights on them, and it looks amazing. There’s also a little something uncanny to them as well. I mean, there seems to be conflicting feelings about drones. On the one hand, there is this sense of techno-fetishism, enthusiastic emotions toward drones. Then there’s also the opposite:  the negative feelings, the paranoia and anxiousness of how they can be misused for surveillance but also for terrorist attacks. The Islamic State have already started using smaller drones for attacks with bombs. I am interested in all these new feelings that are attached to drones, and I want to investigate how they are being represented and given life in the public and cultural discourse.

Newsbud: How did you find out about the Homeland TV series?

AG: It’s actually very popular in Denmark. I know people who had been talking about it, and I started watching it before starting my Ph.D. In the first season, drone warfare is lurking in the background of the plot as the main villain, the terrorist Abu Nazir’s son is being killed in a drone attack, which is his motivation for revenge. But then in the fourth season, drones takes a much more active role with Carrie being the drone queen. And there is all these images shot from the drone’s perspective, with the vertical camera angles. That’s really fascinating to me how some of the newer films and TV series are utilizing the drone’s perspective on a more frequent basis. That’s not exclusive to films that are dealing specifically with drone warfare – It’s also this new camera technology that allows the movie industry to make a ton of use of the drone perspective, which has opened up a new world for lower budget films to get that kind of filmmaking experience and perspective of motion – for instance there was a remake of The Blair Witch Project, shot from a drone.

Newsbud: There is a scene in the show where Carrie makes ‘eye contact’ through the drone camera and surveys a boy on the ground after a drone strike. In a moment of intimacy she is staring into his eyes as he look back into hers. Were you skeptical about it, or did you sit back and enjoy it as a piece of entertainment?

AG: I mostly just enjoyed it because I’m not so much into how realistic it is, but I liked this intensity during that very strong scene – the illusion of a mutual gaze between the boy on the ground and Carrie in the control room. In my paper, I deal with this new intimacy and voyeurism linked to the drone gaze, that you can get so close to the targets of the drones.

But there is also a counter move to that ubiquitous surveillance. In a movie called Body of Lies, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, there’s also this interaction between the people on the ground and the drones. Some terrorists are kidnapping the main character, and then he’s being followed by his allies with a drone. But the cars are driving around making a lot of dust so the drone cannot see anything. You could say that the terrorists use camouflage to outsmart the drones. This also reminds me of the Body of War conference. Here there was a presentation of an artist, Adam Harvey, who created a drone burka. He designed this clothing which you can wear so that it can’t be seen by the infrared drone camera. I see this as a new way of engaging with drone surveillance that both deflect the drone gaze and functions as a form of a counter-stare.

Newsbud: Were you able to speak with any of the presenters about your concept of a bipolar configuration of the drone?

AG: Yes, I got some great inputs to my paper from some of the other participant on how this new intimacy of the drones relates to the psychology of the drone operators.

You were also talking about the psychopathologies the psychology of drone operators, and how there are mental illnesses like PTSD. I don’t know how many of these drone pilots could be diagnosed with bipolar disorder because it’s more like these traumatic stress syndromes are predominantly present in these cases. Carrie’s character also has this dualism which I found useful in the way of describing the dialectics of the drone, I suppose, the voyeuristic, broad overview but also this very detailed ‘zooming in’ on specific things.

Newsbud: What do you think of the CIA?

AG: When talking about cultural imaginations, the CIA is almost like... mythical in a sense. The CIA is portrayed very heavily Hollywood films, so of course there’s this legendary notion of the heroic ‘CIA agent’. But I’m also aware that there’s a specific, very pro-Western way of portraying the War on Terror. The Homeland series has nuances to it for sure – it has this way of describing both the pros and cons of remote/drone war – but it also has the antagonism between Western democracies fighting the barbaric countries. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a certain Western hegemonic way of looking at the drone.

Moreover, there might be a change into how the CIA is being portrayed after 9/11. In the TV series 24, Jack Bauer is also a CIA agent, right? Before 9/11, there were these villains who tortured certain characters in the storyline, but after 9/11, suddenly Jack Bauer was the one who tortured the terrorists in order to avoid an attack or a disaster. I think there’s been this change also from Hollywood and the cultural industry at large that has been more arcane, perhaps, in the common imagination, to take issues used in the fight against terror like drones or torture – because now the heroes are doing it. Now, they can be portrayed by balancing both the bad and good sides, but just the fact that the heroes in these TV series actually use these ethically problematic methods impacts and affects the common imagination of how to wage war and what moral boundaries there might be to certain measures.

Of course, there is also critical cultures that takes a more activist approach towards drones. For instance, on an artist group performs a sort of counter stare to the drone by making this giant poster of a boy looking back at the drone that is flying overhead. There are also criticisms in some of the recent and famous Hollywood movies like Eye in the Sky and Good Kill. However these films do not problematize drones from the victim’s perspective, they’re problematizing the psychological experience of drone operators who often suffer from post-traumatic stress due to their intimate-voyeuristic experience – what I call the bipolar configuration. So, it’s the operators that become the victims and not the actual civilians. In fact, there’s a big potentiality in the cultural industry to put more focus on the actual consequences occurring in the Pakistani regions and how that affects their daily lives.

Newsbud: You mention how there is a “flickering dialectic between voyeurism and intimacy” in the TV-series, which “does play on this obscurity, since it is often unclear when and to what extent Carrie ‘fakes’ the intimacy – or when she is genuinely affected. Such places of indeterminacy do not only drive Carrie as character, but also the narrative motor in Homeland as they characterize the bipolar logic of the drone.”

Is there another narrative motor that the show is missing out on that you think could develop the storyline to make it more effective?

AG: I don’t’ think that Homeland goes that much into artificial intelligence, you know how the targets are being produced from algorithmic pattern recognition. Of course, there are still humans in the loop, but it’s starting to get more machinic in the way targets are being selected. I don’t think Homeland deals with that aspect – instead it’s very much still focused on the personal identification and the individual feelings of the drone operator, or the “drone queen”, Carrie. That could be another position: the dialectic between human and non-human ethics.

In comparison, the recent season of 24 has a fair share of drones – but here, the drones are being hacked by terrorists. In other words, the American state loses control of their own drones, which is, in fact, a very present fear scenario.

Newsbud: The terms “iconomania” and “scopophilia” come up in your paper. You wrote that:  “the two extremes of the bipolar configuration of the drone appear: At the one extreme, a paranoid ‘iconomania’ systemized into a voyeuristic desire for total surveillance – and at the other, a laser focused gaze on the intimate and individual parts of the montage. This is how the affective politic of drone operations works – as an oscillating dialectics between the macro and the micro perspective, between ever-increasing mass surveillance and so-called ‘surgical’ strikes on individuals.”

AG: With iconomania, WJT Mitchell explores how this manic obsession with images or ‘big data’ produces these huge archives and database which is this new way of surveillance: Seeking more information, seeking more data, to get that master image or master picture. Carrie’s obsession with seeing everything and not missing anything also relates to iconomania - she says in the introduction to the show that she once missed something and she won’t let that happen again, and that was 9/11. She’s traumatized by 9/11 because she missed it, so it’s an odd way of saying that 9/11 produced this global paranoia, where the Western societies ought to see everything, ought to increase the surveillance in order to not miss anything.

Scopophilia is more of a psychoanalytical, Freudian concept that has to do with the power of the gaze and the pleasure of looking. You have it in the naming of the drone’s camera technologies, the Gorgon Stare and the Argus system. Both are named after mythological figures which is symbolizing gazing. For instance, the primordial giant Argus has hundreds of eyes, and the Gorgon has this gaze that turns people into stone. Freud writes about the Gorgon and the Medusa myth as this infantile, instinctive fear of seeing the Other, that is the boy looking at his mother and seeing the lack of a penis – and that’s what causes castration anxiety. You can say scopophilia is a curiosity towards seeing the other, but also the anxiety of losing yourself.

Newsbud: Have you been to any countries where drones are used during your research?

AG: Unfortunately, I haven’t been to any regions where drones are being used, but that would indeed be a very interesting study. It would probably be more like cultural anthropology, going there and interviewing the people living under the drones, which has actually already been done. It could be very eye-opening to talk to people who’ve experienced drone surveillance and attacks. In my research, I’m majorly interested in military drones – but I also find the ways that drones are being used for civilian purposes interesting as well. I met a photographer who was using a drone as his way of photographing: this winter he was exhibited in MoMA, New York, where he was presenting his photos of the refugee crisis he shot from a drone when he travelled to Lesbos, Greece. He took pictures from above of refugees and refugee trail up through Europe, documenting how they were treated, how some of them were drowning, and thus he showed how people were suffering from this very distanced, almost alienated, vertical viewpoint. I found this to be such a strong way of depicting a real crisis, and he also had many ethical reflections on that. It was also very intense watching these images of the consequences of war from an alternative drone perspective.

Newsbud: If there is a drone queen, does that mean there’s a drone king?

AG: That might be the president, I guess? The funny thing about this name, and the episode “The Drone Queen”, is that there’s this connection to the insect world, since a drone, of course, means a stingless male bee. The drone has one single purpose, and that is to mate with the queen. The drone queen controls the drones and they’d only have the purpose to serve her which I think touches upon this intrinsic relationship between insects and technology. Also, the sound of the drones, this monotonous buzzing sound is present, which I also find in the scene in the episode with the boy looking up at Carrie and the eye of the drone. At the same time, when looking from Carrie’s perspective in the control room, you can hear the buzzing sound of the drone, from all the monitors. Therefore there is this affinity between insects, natural sounds, and the machine sounds.

Actually, I’m doing a chapter of my dissertation on the relationship between insects and drones. I also came across this media scholar, Jussi Parikka, who wrote a book called Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology. It’s not about drones, but it’s about how technology and insects are related and how insects can be viewed as a medium. I came across another book entitled Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War by Jeffrey A. Lockwood, which is about how, historically, insects have been used in war.

There’s also this German author, Ernst Jünger, who’s very famous for his war diaries from the first world war. In 1957, he wrote a book called The Glass Bees which is a kind of science fiction narrative and it’s ahead of its time in the sense that it very accurately describes how small robot bees are being used in swarms for military surveillance purposes, and for collecting nectar. It’s strangely prescient, being that he foresaw these current technologies in 1957. Also, Jünger had an enormous personal interest in insects: he made these insect diaries from the trenches of the first world war. These diaries contained metaphorical descriptions of balloons and airplanes used during the first world war which he compared with insects. This is why I started my cultural history of drones here – because I was inspired by his observations of machines used in warfare.

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Erik Moshe, Newsbud Analyst, lives in Northern Virginia and is currently studying writing and rhetoric at George Mason University. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 2009-2013.

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  1. Wow. Disconnect.

    There are no pros to drone/remote killing. None. It’s as cowardly and demhumanizing as all war.

    It reminds me of when Roman Polanski was arrested in 2009 on an outstanding warrant for the drugging and raping of a 13 yr old gilrl in 1978. People actually tried to argue mitigation. “Europe has different views on sex, she looked older than 13., etc”. There are no greys areas when it comes to having sex with children. None. That people don’t know that instinctively, is disturbing.

    Murder by drone, is still murder. Getting a machine to do it for you doesn’t remove the stain from your hands.

    What are we doing raising children in a world where we can argue sometimes it’s okay to torture them, drone them or have sex with them?

    The machines won’t take over us. We will become them.

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