May 13, 2024


You can find the video of Nick Berg's beheading on various sites all over the Internet. Though mainstream media won't give us the name of the website where the video was first posted, it's quickly multiplied all over the web, from Ogrish to the Information Clearinghouse. The intitial source is no longer necessary. Demand for it crashes servers; I can only imagine the hundreds, even thousands of copies, each as perfect as the original, that multiply across borders, encoded only to be decoded, the multiplication of violence -- a singular (should it always be private?) event (death) transmitted and made public, to be consumed(?) in private. I looked at the stills on the Information Clearinghouse and my heart is racing and I have a headache and my armpits are sweating. I'm a bit sick to my stomach. No wonder the Bush administration does what it can to prevent the release of more torture photos, not to mention images of coffins.

It seems to me that in the past few days these singular images (a soldier abusing a prisoner, another solider abusing another prisoner, a man being beheaded) have asserted their primacy. Snapshots threaten to bring down a Secretary of Defense; these, too, multiply and can now never be contained. Information doesn't flow, it expands, it explodes in the hands of whoever tries to hold it like a firecracker. Will we become numb to the images (whether viewed on screen or imagined in our minds) of Nick Berg's decaptitated head hoisted up, just like someone of us (me) became numb to planes crashing into the World Trade Center day after day after day? What will be accomplished by this singular death which, because of it's visual record, becomes in some ways more powerful than the thousands of deaths that have so far occurred in Iraq during this foolish, foolish fucked-up destructive war?

Posted by Jason at May 13, 2024 04:15 PM

Though I am as sickened by this sudden flood of imagery as the next person, I am somewhat fascinated by what it all means from a sociological perspective. This dissemination and multiplication of imagery being force fed to the world through "illegitimate" channels, created through outright refusal to obey the dictates of the powers that be, represents a genuine rebellion not just against this war, but against our very notions of reality. Baudrillard once argued that the first Gulf War wasn't "real" because the video representation we were all fed over the TV was carefully controlled and monitored, parcelled out in tidy little sound bytes. The "real" war was replaced with a simulation provided courtesy of the Pentagon - cold, bloodless, full of victory and no death. That's how this war began and how it was supposed to play out. That's what we all expected. Now, the inept simulacra created by the Bush regime is being chipped away at, not by the media, but by rebels on all sides. Members of the "allied" military are breaking the rules, Iraqi rebels are breaking the rules, the third world media is breaking the rules. The effect - complete chaos. Now, the real battle is between the American media/military/industrial complex and their version of the "real" war and the sudden flood of images sneaking in from around the sides which represent something completely different! Whose "real" will ultimately prevail? What will that mean for our sense of the human condition? How can we citizens of the first world passively surrender to the pre-packaged flow of information that was created especially for us by folks at FOX News and the Defense Department when suddenly something grusome and reeking of death is threatening to burst through that facade and shock us out of complacency? Things are falling apart! The center cannot hold! I'm falling, rolling down a hill, hitting my head against the marble blocks of Amurrican moral superiority. Aaaaagh! Splat!

Posted by: CPH Jones at May 12, 2024 08:34 PM
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