It’ll come at you on a quiet wind one evening, you laying there drifting on some dream floe, at peace. Suddenly, you’ll hear a disembodied voice croak, “He knows.” You’ll recoil at its strange tenor then let it go. Then, day by day, more of the same comes your way: “We got him;” “That’s it;” “No more lies;” “He’s a maniac;” “We have to get him out of here;” and then, one day, repeated like a mantra, “Take him!”
The voices come from your neighborhood, and their repetition and urgency carve a frequency channel into your brain, so that what once passed by unnoted on a breeze is pre-tuned for your ears. Until one day, after many months, maybe years, a judgment declaration is made and you hear a shrill ancient voice caw, “He’s evil!”
Rapt now, you wonder who the referent is, and then it comes like the shower scene– someone drawls yourname, like an aural pointing finger. Terrified, you look out the window into the dark and there comes a slow accretion of pitchforks and torches gathering on your lawn. Voices hidden within hoods repeat, “You’re evil. Take himmmmm.”
You won’t even see it coming.
By now most everyone paying attention at all knows that President Obama holds Drone Tuesday sessions at the White House with key counter-terrorist advisors at which he shuffles through playing card targets for elimination by his weapon of choice, the soft-spoken, big-stick-toutin’ unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), AKA, the drone.
To date, thousands of foreign “terrorists” have been eliminated this way, including heaps of women and children, mistakenly identified baddies – sometimes whole wedding parties in mid-dance have been sent to Kingdom Comeuppance in a cluster bomb moment of joystick bliss.
Even American citizens have seen their playing cards retired in a flurry of statistical elision. No bubble gum with these playing cards.
Just as many now know of the horrors of Guantanamo, the black hoods, the orange suits, the deprivations, and the waterboards. A lot of Americans know but don’t remark upon the torture regimens and complete lack of due process done in the dark in their names, people held without charges for years, their lives shuffled unilaterally by Executive office hands. James Risen and others have by now detailed the medieval doings of Guantanamo. But this piece is not about drone strikes or waterboarding, per se, but about what they share in common, and what they share with the unnamed stalkee that opens our gambit above: The Disposition Matrix.
At last count there were 1.5 million Americans (and who knows how many globally) who are currently on one Watch List or another, ostensibly for their intrinsic threat to the regime. A million and a half citizens regarded by the government as potential terrorists or their supporters.
It would be impossible, even with an enormous army of watchers, to track all of them without profiling, which acts a database filter during queries. Analysts and psychologists put together these profile streams, not only for jihadists abroad, who will need droning or near-drowning, but also at home for dissidents and free-thinkers.
That’s the Disposition Matrix. It might help to regard it as a kind of astrological chart that keeps track of characteristics, influences, and other data dot connections.
Our “Evil” one above turns out to be a writer. Evil is the local version of “terrorist”. Our writer has crossed too many invisible Rubicons and now must pay. A whole panoply of tools will be put into play to neutralize him. His computer will be cloned through a wireless backdoor program, and “evidence” of moral turpitude will be added to the clone, which at the right time will be called “his” computer. His computer and iPhone will be fitted with keyloggers and rootkits.
He will be surveilled 24/7 using thermal imaging and infrared devices that track not only his movements but his family’s as well. He will be dehumanized and observed like a paramecium, his every movement and expression judged and analyzed.
All of his work will be called into question by innuendo and pettiness and absurd assertions in an effort to discredit. And all of it will happen behind his back so that no defense can be mounted – indeed, so that stalkers remain anonymous. A catalog of the tools involved can be seen in the handbook The Hidden Evil.
Recently I touched upon this paranoid world in my review of Robert Guffey’s Chameleo, which details the disappearance of government invisibility technology from a US military base and the mind-altering and clandestine means they employ to regain their assets. But in a follow-up interview Guffey says such means are just the tip of the iceberg to what is taking place covertly in America and probably the world.
“The Edward Snowden revelations pale in comparison,” he says. In a long essay entitled, “Nation of Stalkers,” Guffey argues that gangstalking is on its way to becoming the primary means for dealing with non-conformists and especially pesky dissidents, particularly if they have loose binds with others. Due process has been suspended; ‘justice’ has been contracted out.
Guffey makes an intriguing allusion to Marshall McLuhan, who, he notes once wrote of the human self in our age: “[since 1946 or 1947]…there [has been] no human life on this planet. Since then human beings have been grown inside programmed media-environments that are essentially like test tubes.
That’s why I say the kids today live mythically.” In a sense, baby-boomers, and beyond, have been tabla rasi stick-figures waiting for digitalization to animate their mythological dispositions. The medium is the message alright.
I found this interesting in relation to another book I reviewed recently, The Internet Is Not the Answer by Andrew Keen, who observes that one important thing the Internet has achieved is to turn most people on the planet into writers.
We spend our days clicking-and-clacking, hunting-and-pecking our way through narratives undreamed of before. We are busy, as McCluhan suggests, and as the Internet giants already know, writing our own mythical selves into databases controlled not by privacy and deep spaces of quietude and blank canvasses between works, but always switched on, interactive and reacting to endless beams of stimulation that actually ends up excluding our authentic selves.
And all of this mythmaking takes place in the Disposition Matrix, which becomes an omnibus of myths, collected and owned by the Googles, Facebooks and Amazons, leeched from by government agents, with all storylines approved or disapproved by corporates with fascist notions of the individual’s place in the narrative of digital being, where all must now reside, or be Watch-Listed and ‘removed’.
And literally, as digital beings, the day is approaching, if not already here, when anonymous global elites and their gangstalking enforcers, like the Homeric gods and their demigod hench-creatures decide who gets to have to have a voice, who gets to shine in the firmament, and, indeed, who lives and who dies.
We are coming to the day when ‘attitude’ and ‘personality type’ will determine where you fit in the hierarchy of social being, and those qualities will be decided upon and judged by myriad gargoyles of pedantry gazing down with fixed stares from the high-flying buttresses of Das Kapital cathedrals.
Oh, dear reader, provide your IP address in the comments section below, and watch how quickly your life can be turned into lugubrious mud by the organ-grinding 1%-er Dr. Phibes.
Perhaps the least popular question of the last dozen or so years has been: Why? Why this War on Terror? Why has it been prosecuted as it has? Why was bin Laden Most Wanted one minute, then of no interest the next? Why has Saudi indifference to the events of 9/11 been not only tolerated but coddled, to the tune of selling them cluster bomb munitions? Why must it be as endless as Bob Dylan’s world touring? Why? Why? Why? Like a siren in the night.
You’d like to think that forensic questions would develop out of such plaintive cries, but instead the response has been reactionary hysteria followed by lame justifications for ceaseless criminal warfare. Philosopher Susan Sontag tried to question the American response following the collapse of the three towers, but was immediately scourged and possibly saved from having the narrative arc of her impressive career St. Joaned by the saving grace of the cancer stake by which she was consumed.
Why? She asked. Revenge, justice, a nation replied.
And then some hippy, all bonged back to the Stoned Out age, asked, long after the revenge was meted and re-upped, why are we still killing distant strangers, man, if justice has been served? And some pouty pundit in pinstripes answered for us all: Just is.
It is what is. Keep feeding your washer those big white pills, because nothing brings out the whiteness better than Oxydol. And if everyone just settles down and minds their own itiswhatitisness, then everything will be just fine.
Just Is has become the new American value, and because America’s an empire now, Just Is is the dominant world value, too.
Just Is is what explains cinematic phenomena like Zero Dark Thirty and, in the past year, The America Sniper. These little 2-hour adrenaline rushes are needed, of course, to perk up a stalled political philosophy and foreign policy that fail to capture the imagination beyond the visceral. When the boys begin to get bored by the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, feed ‘em Hustler magazine, which ironically also features some of the best full monty political coverage in the country.
American Sniper opens up with our hero zeroing in on a young Iraqi boy holding a weapon, making him technically an enemy combatant to the US sighter (but a defender against invasion from the target’s point of view). The sniper Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper, pauses in a moment that suggests that he’s still hung over, rather than piqued by conscience. Nevertheless, the viewer is strummed with the first strokes of manipulation – that the warrior is frozen with the fear of killing a child soldier.
But this is incongruous with the hype for the movie, which suggests a long-range killer not content with his officially acknowledged kill count of 150 but brags that there were at least 50 or so more squashes he squished with his squeeze gun, including some jihadi sniper counterpart, equally tenacious and deadly, until Kyle pops his pumpkin with a ping from a mile out near the film’s end. (Besides, where was the struggle for conscience after Madeleine Albright declared “We think it’s worth it,” and the US proceeded to impose sanctions that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children?)
But this not a movie review. Instead, I’m caught up on the presentation of a long range sniper as hero and the casual acceptance of the theatre of war. The viewer has to accept the premise that Cooper-Kyle, whether entirely a sympathetic character or not, is performing his duty to kill baddies superbly, even if there is some question as to whether they can all be certified baddies given the distance he shoots from, and what he does is necessary, like Harry Callahan up against that Zodiac killer punk. Kyle had no choice: Jihadi Joe just insisted on making his day.
But more importantly, this crazy idea stood up and saluted me with a hut: If the invasion of Iraq was conducted under false pretenses and by intentionally presenting false evidence, which it clearly was, then everything that took place there afterward is war criminality. Kyle might just easily be in the docks for 150 murders. Instead, it’s as though Lt. William Calley were all huff-and-puffed up and celebrated for the snap, crackle and pop of his rice paddy kills at My Lai. Medal of honor stuff. Just Is.
Psychiatry has a term for such compartmentalizing of otherwise alarming and revealing fractures: dissociation. One result of such a state (common in traumatized victims) is a disconnect between cause and effect. It’s like terrorists just showed up one day like Triffids from John Wydham’s sci-fi novel, or like an invasion of the snatchers of hearts and minds, and women and whiskey, where available.
I also see American Sniper through the lens of the early and deeply alarming 21st century trend toward remoting others from our lives, even as the technology we do so tells us we are increasing our proximity to each other. Sniping is up there with droning. Killing from afar, digitally, with the ironically named joystick. There is a tinge of cowardice attached to it, or at least indifference to the humanity at the other end. Watching your buddies get blown up, or looking your enemy in the eyes as you pushed a bayonet through him, was meant to be traumatic, something you never wanted to repeat. War was meant to be a last resort.
When people began asking about the dissociative phenomenon of drone kills in the Just Is war, the Pentagon came back with Just War theory. War being the hell it is, the theory goes, a democratic government has an obligation to minimize the risk to its soldiers, while increasing their lethality to ensure victory. Drones do both. But if a war is not just to begin with, or else is predicated on lies and hyperbolic rhetoric, such humanitarian principles become just one more tool in the torturer’s tradecraft tray. Then they get accepted by default and normalized, until we end up with a Just Shoot policy, such as with the Wikileaks-released Collateral Murder video.
There is more to the remoting trend though. There is a paradox at work here, wherein we have the technologies now to bring us closer together than ever before, instantaneously and powerfully, especially through the digital miracle of the Internet, and yet by some deconstructive paradox we get not new respect for the other and cooperative contiguity but rather a cannibalistic appetite that pulls in the other to consume it like an enemy’s brain, to own it completely.
We see this in the spooky psy-ops, where shrinks are brought in to provide torture techniques for cracking that are tailored to the nut in the vise, and to provide the astrology-like coordinates for the disposition matrix that not only profiles drone kills now but will be used to profile ‘undesirables’ in the future. It is there in the replacement of talk therapy with symptom-centric psychotropics that make the center of the self and social milieu obsolete, atomic, a neurobiological abstract and data dot of meaning. We have become godlike manipulators of electricity.
While the world should be more united than ever through governing policies that respect cultural differences, and work to solve species-level crises that can’t wait, we are instead forced to watch the Empire Game at work – the Empire of the Mind, as Google’s Erich Schmidt originally titled his tome, The New Digital Age.
A long time ago, Arthur C. Clarke wrote a story called “The Nine Billion Names of God” — the last name reached, the world disappears in an epiphany of too much knowing. We may get there with 2 billion names to spare.