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January 28, 2010
‘Drone porn’ develops a cult following on the internet

As unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have become increasingly central to America’s wars, “drone porn” has taken the internet by storm with captivating aerial images of death and destruction.

The Defense Department actually posts its drone attack footage on YouTube via DVidsHub. Some of the videos have caught the attention of millions, but critics ask whether the videos are newsworthy — or just lowbrow entertainment.

And while the drone strikes have undoubtedly taken out militants in many places that soldiers just can’t go, there is disagreement about whether UAVs are an effective anti-terror deterrent.

The military’s Predators and Reapers routinely strike Iraq, Afghanistan — and increasingly in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. Additionally, the C.I.A. is using drones to hit al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in northwest Pakistan.

The most watched “drone porn” segments are from Iraq. This video of Baghdad has over 1 million views:

Blogger Keith Thomson writes on Alternet about drone porn‘s impact on the news media.

“In researching remotely piloted aircraft, I visited the stretch of Southern Nevada desert that has become to UAVs what Silicon Valley is to the device on which you’re reading this column. In 2007, Creech Air Force Base was made the home of the 432d Air Expeditionary Wing, the first Air Force wing dedicated to unmanned aircraft systems. Its daily missions in Afghanistan and Iraq could provide the military version of a SportsCenter highlight reel.

With an aim of promoting UAVs domestically as well as “enlightening” our enemies, the Defense Department recently began placing the Predator and Reaper mission clips on YouTube. Ranging from relatively detached wide shots of bombings taken by onboard cameras to startlingly graphic close-ups, the so-called “drone porn” has been a smash hit, as it were, tallying over 10 million views.

Perhaps best explaining its popularity are the thousands of YouTube commenters. Some marvel at the new technology and discuss the resulting paradigm shift in warfare. Some raise questions, including whether it’s principled, dignified or otherwise in America’s best interest to post drone prone in the first place. Most comments are along the lines of, “Hell yeah HOOOAH BABY!”

This video shows footage of a drone that destroyed two rocket rails in the Sadr City section of Baghdad:

Now, I don’t want to launch into a “kids these days” diatribe about how the human race is de-evolving into a pack of bloodthirsty, warmongering savages. I don’t believe video games, or violent films, make kids any less human or more prone to attack each other. However, I do blame a disconnection from the consequences of battle for this kind of war fetishism.

The drone footage looks like a video game (admittedly a shitty one), and of course the footage doesn’t show the targets’ lives (if they had a family, what their favorite book is, when they had their first kiss, etc.) The clips don’t even really show their faces. They are anonymous targets. The US military tells us these are The Bad Guys, so they are guilty, and deserve to die. Trials: unnecessary. Evidence: superfluous…

But the drone aspects of war are also clearly appealing to young people. The “point and shoot” video games are all the rage right now, which is partly why drone porn exists. Yet, the moral hazards of such extrajudicial killings are never explored in video games, or drone attacks, and all the usual human safeguards against killing during a ground invasion (namely that you have to look your target in the eye while killing them with your bare hands) are no longer an obstacle. Long ago, hand-to-hand combat gave way to guns, which gave way to better guns, which gave way to human-navigated aerial assault that has now been replaced by robotic drones.

The next video shows an aerial weapons team, also in Sadr City:

Nick Turse, associate editor of TomDispatch.com, writes about drone attacks in AfPak and modern warfare:

What were once unacknowledged, relatively infrequent targeted killings of suspected militants or terrorists in the Bush years have become commonplace under the Obama administration. And since a devastating December 30th suicide attack by a Jordanian double agent on a CIA forward operating base in Afghanistan, unmanned aerial drones have been hunting humans in the Af-Pak war zone at a record pace. In Pakistan, an “unprecedented number” of strikes — which have killed armed guerrillas and civilians alike — have led to more fear, anger, and outrage in the tribal areas, as the CIA, with help from the U.S. Air Force, wages the most public “secret” war of modern times.

In neighboring Afghanistan, unmanned aircraft, for years in short supply and tasked primarily with surveillance missions, have increasingly been used to assassinate suspected militants as part of an aerial surge that has significantly outpaced the highly publicized “surge” of ground forces now underway. And yet, unprecedented as it may be in size and scope, the present ramping up of the drone war is only the opening salvo in a planned 40-year Pentagon surge to create fleets of ultra-advanced, heavily-armed, increasingly autonomous, all-seeing, hypersonic unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

See our Worldfocus map of U.S. drone attacks in northwest Pakistan.

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Comments

6 comments

#6

Snuff movies from a distance, what has this world come to.

#5

Drone food

The Tall One put you in the position of prey to predator, like a chicken to Hawk

After the Tall One surrenders in the name of Goooooober the sky will still be full of fear to all that follow the false profit

#4

Wow, thank you WF.

However, our use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus is even worse.

The UN states DU is genotoxic (carcinogen, mutagen).

#3

Drone attacks are the strongest attempt in the history of air warfare to limit collateral damage by visual confirmation of targets, at enormous financial expenses to America, having regard to the cost of weapons deployed. Some on the left remain vocally unsatisfied as a matter of poorly articulated “principle”. Perhaps we should send these socialists out to talk the real murderers of civilians to death.

#2

The first video should be called: “UAV murders six people sitting around a street corner”. The second video should be called: “US soldiers blow up somebody’s empty backyard with multimillion dollar toy”. The third video should be called: US Forces murder 3 civilians moving a water heater”.

Based on what I’ve seen, most drone attacks look more like mass murder than fighting a war. It’s nearly impossible to tell what the people in them are doing. If the military isn’t covering up their incompetence, they need to release the footage at the original resolution so everyone can see what the drone operator sees. Then we’d really know what they are blowing up and whether the people they are killing are armed or not. Otherwise, it just looks like a criminal conspiracy to kill innocent civilians and commit perjury to cover it up.

#1

Re: Drone attacks: One issue not explored is, what is the process by which the decisions are made to launch one of these drone attacks? What are the protocols? Does the CIA use the same protocols that the Army did in the recent past? Or are they more casual, more reckless?

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