Sunday, May 20, 2007

Almost As Good As (Not) Being There

BAGNewsNotes argues that videos like the one below -- of U.S. soldiers gleefully capturing American forces blowing up a mosque -- illustrate why military planners are introducing new regulations against posting to YouTube and other video file-sharing sites by uniformed personnel.

At Domestic Tension, Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal has set up an installation where visitors to his website can shoot at him with a paintball gun after taking aim via a webcam. The project is set to last thirty days, while sadistic and depersonalized users shoot at a real live Iraqi in a setting that includes Bilal's bed, desk, and other household furnishings. In an interview Bilal explains some of the project's features, but more complete documentation is available at Bilal's YouTube channel. Like others in what I call the "Documenting the Experiment" genre on YouTube, the artist chronicles his experiences day by day.

For others who want to view more humanized Iraqi subjects in the camera lens in a serial presentation, Hometown Baghdad presents snippets from the lives of college-age Iraqis who must cope with occupation, sectarian violence, and a persistent brain drain in the demoralized country. This YouTube soap opera has also attracted considerable media attention from print news sources.

Update: An odd twist in the military's new policy on the use of social networking sites by the troops involves the son of conservative talk-show host Laura Schlessinger. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, her son Deryk's MySpace page was full of graphic violence and misogynistic imagery that one officer called "repulsive." Deryk's defenders were quick to point to a politically and culturally alien Other, something which has certainly happened before, with sometimes embarrassing consequences.

The Tribune prints the following paranoid explanation from a military spokesman:
"Our enemies are adaptive, technologically sophisticated, and truly understand the importance of the information battlespace," Tallman continued. "Sadly, they will use that space to promulgate and disseminate untrue propaganda."

However, the newspaper followed it's own clues that indicate that
Schlessinger is the likely author: "The Deryk Schlessinger page included nearly a dozen 'friends,' including a number of soldiers in Afghanistan, several of whom were linked back to Schlessinger's page and some of whom had additional photos of, and comments from, Schlessinger on their sites."

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Blogger bob c said...

as revealing as this may be as to the attitudes of those that would play such a game (sickos for sure), it is also very revealing as to the thinking of the artist. Is there a similar game that alows the virtual shooting of unarmed western non-combatants? If there is, it would be interesting to compare usage stats to see which side of this cultural, religous divide is sicker.

12:02 PM  

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