The US aims to launch a new fleet of drones, and Fox News is playing cheerleader for the distribution of drone-induced terror.
In March, Fox News excitedly reported on the next generation of drone technology, the MUX: “The MUX will terrify enemies of the United States, and with good reason. The aircraft won’t be just big and powerful: it will also be ultra-smart. This could be a heavily armed drone that takes off, flies, avoids obstacles, adapts and lands by itself — all without a human piloting it.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
Create an atmosphere that spreads fear and causes panic, following the established logic of every organized terrorist organization, whose aim is to intimidate, humiliate and force groups of people into submission
Fox News has never been shy of using the rhetoric of terror. “Armed to the teeth with an array of powerful, destructive weapons, an incredible thinking drone may soon hit the skies to keep Marines safe.” The thrill of imagining a non-sentient being nevertheless endowed with “teeth” and a brain that permits “incredible thinking” has given wings to the feverish imagination of the journalist who wrote these lines. Not only will the US military produce this intelligent Godzilla of the firmament — a flying terminator — but, using another Hollywood cliché, the journalist promises that it will “hit the skies” (i.e. fly aggressively and everywhere, the skies being plural) with a singular and noble aim: “to keep Marines safe.”
Fox News doesn’t bother to explain how the MUX will keep Marines safe, so we must reconstruct the implicit logic. First, we need to know that it is the US Marine Corps that will be commissioning the creation and production of this weapon. For that terrifyingly “good reason,” we can assume that Marines will feel safer or more secure once it exists because it will take all the risks actual Marines traditionally take in the battlefield. But that doesn’t mean its purpose is to make them safe. Its purpose as initially stated is to terrify others. The terror is what will make not only the Marines, but all Americans feel safe, with the exception of those — an insignificant minority — who understand that terror of any kind usually breeds terror in return.
The Hollywood influenced journalist at one point moves from Terminator-style science fiction to the culture of pseudo-medieval epic movies. “Earlier this month, Marines threw down the gauntlet to the industry to build the MUX.” This adds a bit of Arthurian heroism to Pentagon bureaucracy, suggesting budget requests are the equivalent of a classic chivalric gesture. “To ‘throw down the gauntlet’ is to issue a challenge,” Wikipedia reminds us. According to Merriam-Webster, the expression means to “show that one is ready to fight, argue, or compete with someone.” It’s true that the Pentagon is presumably always competing with social programs — education, health, the environment, infrastructure, foreign aid — to secure its massive budget, but neither Democrats nor Trump Republicans have in recent decades denied it absolute priority over everything else. Perhaps the journalist’s unconscious was making a Freudian pun: “Game of Drones.”
Speaking of games, Business Insider quotes Lieutenant General Jon Davis’ justification of the MUX program: “If we do distributed operations, we’re going to need all the game we can bring.” In case readers are unfamiliar with the notion of “distributed operations,” the Marines have provided some clues to its meaning: “Distributed operations are characterized by the physical dispersion of networked units over an extended battlespace … These operations avoid linear, sequential, and predictable operations.” The concept emerged from the fears associated with George W. Bush’s “global war on terror.”
Tom Engelhardt reminded us in January that this is the first war in history that can be confined neither by space nor by time. It takes place everywhere (it already covers 76 countries) and lasts forever, since no peace treaty is even imaginable. And so to keep it going, it must be structured around distributed operations. In that sense it can be compared to the relationship between Walmart and mom-and-pop shops. The distribution of food and essential goods once took place through people in our communities. Thanks to Walmart and other behemoths of distribution, it takes place through “the physical dispersion of networked units over an extended battlespace” (i.e. marketplace).
But the MUX will do Walmart one better. It will be in a position to take over the entire battlespace (i.e. the growing list of countries that already represent 39% of the world’s nation, according to Engelhardt). And, unlike Walmart, it will have the capacity to take its victims by surprise.
In other words, if their plans come to fruition, the Marines will indeed feel safe while a good portion of the planet will live in a permanent state of terror. Fox News, in the meantime, will continue to vituperate against “the socialistic trend” to distribute the wealth, while applauding the distributed operations of terror by drone.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
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