/splice edit remix - "Land Warrior"
Resisting the Neoliberal Discourse of Technology *
The heavy sounds of construction clang and echo across the
campus. Showers of sparks explode from I-beam edges; hot rivets glow in
winter evening light/illuminate a rising lattice of steel transformed by
strings of worklights into a vector space of intersecting lines and
planes, hung with ice and electricity. The Bill Gates computer center will
be ready by 2000; Bill has donated several million dollars and several
million more in computer equipment in a brilliant bid to ensure that the
future of the infomanagerial class be even more tightly bound up with his
Of course, the virtual class is going to need protection from
the mounting tide of flesh-and-blood resistance to the extension of
neoliberal technofascist control across the globe...and so it is that we
find ourselves, blood capsules inside our mouths, strategically placed
around the room, waiting for the fresh-faced 22 year old Marine with face
paint and 50,000 dollars worth of computerized weaponry to begin his
> WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20
> The Future of the Military
> Location: Littauer 140, Kennedy School, Harvard University
> Land Warrior is the Army's revolutionary program to equip soldiers
> for the digitized battlefield. For the first time, the soldier's
> equipment is being computerized as if he is a complete weapons
> platform.The result: the first integrated soldier fighting system
> for the dismounted infantryman. By harnessing today's technology,
> future soldiers will have unparalleled effectiveness and
> survivability as they are linked into the 21st Century battlefield.
> Come see the 21st Century Land Warrior prototype presentation in
> full battle gear.
After a short introduction by an older Marine Corps officer, in
which an overhead projector was used to display graphics educating us as
to the nature of the threat in the next millennium (a picture of the earth
from space, surrounded by comic book sound-effect jagged edge balloons,
the kind you see in junk mail like yellow starbursts '2nd video free!',
only these contain phrases describing the 'conflict situations 2000:'
'terrorist attack,' 'urban unrest,' 'chinese aggression,' 'defense of US
interests in the Middle East'), the 'Land Warrior' steps forward.
"My infrared night-scope is capable of penetrating nearly any
amount of smoke, fog, rain, or chemical clouds, at night, at a range of
several thousand feet; these images are sent by satellite uplink to be
decoded by a centralized computer system that transmits all necessary
information to commanding officers and identifies enemy forces and issues
directives in the form of on-screen text overlay, pinpointing primary
targets to eliminate unnecessary battlefield time lag!" he barks out. Land
Warrior flips down the scope and a video projector displays what he sees
for the assembled crowd...
He launches into a description of the increasing miniaturization
of the scope technology, with hopeful engineers predicting the
incorporation of night-vision, video feed, and target pinpointing and
identification technologies into contact lense systems by 2005.
> These technologies, these assemblages, though, need to be
> appreciated for what they are: synthetic materials transformed
> into instruments of "the will to virtuality," or of human
> incorporation - even "disappearance" - into cybernetic machinery.
> Cybercultural technologies are agents of physical colonization,
> imperialists of the human sensorium, created, like Frankenstein,
> by our own raw desire. They represent what Virilio calls "the
> third revolution", the impending bodily internalization of science
> and technology. As Virilio recently defined the third revolution:
> By this term I mean that technology is becoming something
> physically assimilable, it is a kind of nourishment for the
> human race, through dynamic inserts, implants and so on. Here,
> I am not talking about implants such as silicon breasts, but
> dynamic implants like additional memory storage. What we see
> here is that science and technology aim for miniaturisation in
> order to invade the human body.
For Land Warrior Weapons PLatform (no longer a soldier but a
machine-soldier), the aim of miniaturization is not only to invade the
body but to enhance the capability of the body to invade. Land Warrior
lifts his immense laser-guided automatic rifle and prepares to recite
another few lines of hype.
I bite down on the blood capsule, warm alcohol taste of thick
fluid filling my mouth as Land Warrior opens his - I stand and scream, red
froth spraying and dripping down my face and arms, twitching spastically i
flop across the table crying 'your laser-guided bullets are murdering the
planet's poor!' collapsing in a smear of dark crimson cutting through the
cheap (expensive!) theatrics of the Marine presentation...
> Certainly, it is possible to characterise the present period of
> self-consciously "spectacular" technological innovation as being
> driven primarily by pan-capitalism's need to arm itself against the
> onset of virtual class warfare. Without doubt, the virtual
> class must, at some stage - and probably with the acquiescence, if
> not the full participation of global technocratic, political and
> military elites - confront living labour, actual communities,
> tangible spaces, material environments, and physical, breathing,
Land Warrior forgets his next line, stutters something about the
many layers of tank armor his intelligent slugs can penetrate...across the
room another person suddenly writhes and drools blood/the military
officers stony faced attempt to continue the demonstration as every five
minutes another member of the audience twitches, screams, and dies...it
becomes more and more difficult for Land Warrior to remember the script,
he's stuttering now and somehow it feels as if his attempt to project
holographic power through his 50,000 dollar suit is collapsing like cheap
small-tent carnival tricks.
> Make no mistake, VR and cyberspace have not simply opened up new
> wealth generating possibilities for the virtual elites. They have
> also opened up new political prospects for those who wish to see
> the spectacular representational systems of crash culture disappear.
> What is important in the interim, then, is to challenge the
> pronouncements of the virtual class wherever they appear and join
> with others in a comprehensive and detailed critique of the
> neoliberal discourse of technology in a variety of fields ranging
> from VR to cyberwarfare and beyond. Further, such challenges
> need to involve a multiplicity of individuals and groups. These
> might range from school kids and students disenchanted with the
> increasing replacement of education by mere technocratic
> information, to disaffected computer industry workers, or simply
> local communities seeking control over their own technological
In a telling moment, the older marine describes what he terms 'a
few bugs' in some of the systems: it seems that the voice recognition
unit, although able to recognize 'a wide variety of accents, from rural
louisiana to brooklyn' in laboratory tests, has been unable to perform
well under battlefield conditions. 'The problem is,' he stresses, 'in a
real battle situation the soldiers are almost always either whispering,
which the unit can't pick up too well, or screaming, which the unit also
can't handle.' He is interrupted by another screaming bleeding death...the
younger marine is looking visibly shaken.
The audience has certainly been snapped out of the spell of
> Virtual politics, therefore, should be founded on defying the
> neoliberal discourse of technology currently being fashioned by the
> virtual class. It is crucial to ensure that the political genealogy
> of technology, of virtual reality, of the reality of virtuality, is
> uncovered by numerous individuals, groups, classes, and new social
> movements. Indeed, without such excavations, the increasingly
> institutionalised neoliberal discourse of technology currently
> being promoted by the virtual class will rapidly become a source
> of immense social power. This is why concrete, corporeal, and
> ideological struggles over the nature and meaning of technology
> are so important in the realm of virtual politics. It is also why
> the specifically neoliberal discourse of the virtual class needs
> to be countered.
Someone dies and calls out "how much do you get for the contract
with Hasbro?" robocop, toy story, tiny soldiers, spinoffs and cartoons, gi
joe - the next generation. look for the franchise, the Disney movie and
the mcDonalds happy meal figurine. When these things begin to emerge, show
up on opening night with fake blood and real bodies. The largest military
budget since the high point of the cold war will be buying 50,000 suits
for fresh-face recruits, hookin 'em up to satellite link and central
computer control, removing the reality of killing the planet's poor by one
more layer of screen display; they're on tour across the nation right now,
so show up and twitch and die bloody simulated death before they show up
and make you... for real.
* This event-scene is written in response to John Armitage's "Resisting the Neoliberal
Discourse of Technology" Article 68, 2 February 99.
Sasha Costanza-Chock (AKA /splice) has been trying to grow
something electro-organic (including experimental musicians, visual
artists, assorted cyborgs, magicians, and freaks, called tone*burst) in the Boston area for
the past couple of years.
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