Monday, June 28, 2010 - your one stop Shopping for Porn

"September 11th was a global reaction from all those who no longer knew what to make of this world power and who no longer supported it. In the case of the abuse inflicted on the Iraqis, it is worse yet: power no longer knows what to do with itself and cannot stand itself, unless it engages in self-parody in an inhuman manner. In fact, the Americans have been overtaken by their own power. They do not have the means to control it. And now we are part of this power."

Jean Baudrillard, the French theorist and philosopher, was clearly upset when he wrote this lines in 2004, in an article in Liberation. What had made him upset were the pictures of Abu Ghraib, with Lynndie England holding a naked Iraqi prisoner by a leash.

Baudrillard's essay was called "Pornographie de la guerre", and it became "War Porn" in its English translation; a title Baudrillard probably wouldn't have too much endorsed.

War porn, and here we move away from its philosophical origins, has become a huge media phenomenon on the internet. Soldiers have their mobile phones with them, or any other recording device, and film what they see, what they experience in the field. The movies are then uploaded to the internet, to sites like, where they are watched by millions of viewers, far away from the war zone, in cozy homes in Virginia or California, or elsewhere in the world. "People watching it on their iPhone or on their home computer don't generally do it for the information; they do it because it's entertainment," says P.W. Singer, author of Wired for War, in a Newsweek article. "That's the porn part of it. The soldiers use the word because they know there's something wrong with it."

There is clearly something wrong with it and it is pornographic to the core. It is watching things you couldn't do yourself, it is violent, it is graphic and it is something you don't talk about, or only in circles of anonymous war pornographers. And like in sexual porn, the movies come in degrees of violence, ranging from soft-core montages of rocket-propelled grenades blowing up buildings to hard-core shots of an insurgent taking a bullet to the head.

With war porn, there is no longer a need for embedded journalism - in itself a disputable concept - because the soldiers provide the images themselves, to show their power, to show the humiliation of their enemies, but some also to show the real horrors of war to a public that believes that war is just another video game, another blockbuster movie out of Hollywood.

Soldiers with cameras sending back images from the warfield to people at home: this is also a new military concept called Network Centric Warfare. The goal is to use all modern information technologies available to give commanders a better impression of the battlefield without them actually being present in the killing zone. The networking aims at creating a dominant battlefield knowledge, to lift the fog of war that Clausewitz described as the uncertainty commanders suffer from when they lack information from their enemy and their own people. But better yet: These days you don't even need to send soldiers to the war zone anymore: drones can do the job soldiers are trained for - killing people - just as good.

Will this "war porn network centric warfare" concept work and what will be the effects. Again, let's hear P.W. Singer. For him the new concept can be devastating for the army, the politicians and the public alike. War has become such a clean affair, so even alleged peacemaker Barack Obama can sign up to it. You don't even have to declare war anymore - just send some drones over - you can carry it out without having to deal with some of the consequences of sending your citizens into harm's way. The society's barrier has already dropped, and now you have a technology that takes the barrier to the ground.

And the soldiers too, sitting in their comfortable office chairs in Washington DC, like the war pron consumers in Michigan, have a different experience of war. They are farther away physically but they see more. They go home after some hours of war, to bring their kids to school, to go shopping for the Sunday barbecue. If that is not a dysfunctional, mind-twisting detachment from reality, then what is?

Here's the good news: Soon, the sexual pornographic sites will all unite under one domaine name, xxx. Icann, the international organisation administering the internet, gave the green light for the move just last Friday. Now wait, I got an idea: the war porn sites could join the sexual porn sites and offer their content under xxx as well. The Pentagon could open an xxx channel on YouTube or within their own information systems. Obama could access xxx sites easily and any time from the oval office (Bill Clinton's dream for eight years) and get all the porn he likes. And he could win the xxx price in 2011 and finally give back his Peace Nobel Price to the Five Blind Boys of Oslo. And on American passports, there could be an xxx stamp, giving them special treatment when they travel and a special discount when they purchase the world.

The xxx opens up a can of possibilities with, as Baudrillard put it - much better of course than I ever could - "pornography becoming the ultimate abjection of war, a parody of the war itself, a grotesque infantile reality show, in a desperate simulacrum of power."