Radical War Transparency

Quick note on the  interesting distinction that can be made between the secrecy that the Obama Administration gives to its drone strikes, and the current ‘live tweeting’ by the Israeli Defence Force with regard to Gaza.


The Video of Ahmed Jabri being killed by the IDF in an absurdly precise air strike was published on youtube shortly after its success was confirmed. This video started a bit of a social media blitz for the IDFSpokesperson’s social media accounts. The assault on/of Hamas is being chronicled through Twitter and Facebook in a way that previously only taken up by those ‘resisting’ and using tactical media to organize their goals. The IDF’s media are a very interesting shift in war reporting and ‘transparency’ during war time: stylish infographic propaganda and live facts on the ground make for a evolving facet for infowar. Israel is able to engage rhetorical power of floating opposites (and signifiers!) through stories of victimhood of rocket attacks and retribution of airstrikes, while also sharing more general information that continues to shape perceptions as events unfold.

Contrast this approach with America’s telling of its own ongoing drone strike story. Similarly targeted attacks (if ostensibly less precise) are spoken of much less often by the US Army, or CIA, or White House – if at all. And only found in hushed tones in the paper of record. American drone strikes are certainly not advertised on youtube – at least by ‘our side’. This hear no / see no ‘evil’ frame is even imbedded in the social and economic spheres of new media; ever mischievous Josh Begley continues to have his auto-mapping drone strike app rejected at Apple’s appstore gates. What would happen if your iphone received a push notification of each drone strike carried out by USA forces? Well, averaging through the last three years, your phone would buzz every 5 days or so. Each buzz accounting for about 6 reported deaths. Many points, including fading victimhood and a much longer narrative scope, makes America’s ‘transparency’ strategy for drone strikes a different game than the one being explored by the IDF. And there is the issue that it is probably easier to report airstrikes that occur on occupied land. However, the contrasts are quite stark in a world supposedly connected by unstoppable flows of media and all the rest.


cartoon by Christopher Weyant in the Newyorker

UPDATE: Dec 15

Begley’s taken the challenge to ‘live tweet’ a @dronestream memoriam of every known drone strike carried out by the USA form 2002 to present. That is the sound of the last ten years of blackberries a’ buzzing.