After the latest large-scale killing of Islamist demonstrators in Cairo, it’s hard not to think that the military’s surveillance technology and the characteristic features of that video imagery, is minimizing its propaganda value, particularly with an international audience.
Surely Egypt’s military remains convinced this kind of footage, distributed over state TV, is overwhelmingly damning and prejudicial to the Brotherhood, serving as incontrovertible moral evidence of acts against the state. What I don’t think they appreciate, however, is how the ambiguous nature of the government overthrow,the asymmetrical power differential and, above all, the overwhelmingly one-sided death tallies can serve to taint the imagery as well as the machinations of its procurement.
Views from military helicopters that reduce the conflict to, simultaneously, a macabre, sci-fi but also overly clinical display. The minimization of the opposition so they look more like ants. The reduction of people to x-ray-like apparitions, evocative of the images familiarly produced by those hated airport scanners. The fact these scenes are such “close cousins” to footage of U.S. drone surveillance or strike videos, Israeli clips of surgical Gaza kill strikes, or the Wikileaks video of that infamous aerial attack on civilians and Reuters journalists in Iraq. The circular “key hole”-like views that relate too easily right now to discomfort over (at least imagined) NSA-style tracking capabilities. All together, this is the visual baggage attached to this imagery with each subsequent bloodbath.
(By the way, I’m having a lot of trouble with the semantics of the Egypt reporting. Personally, I don’t like defining the current enemy of the state as simply “pro-Morsi supporters” anymore than I like reducing the actions of the military, with the support of the large-scale secular, Christian and moderate Muslim alliance, to simply a coup.)