Eye in the Sky: What a Surveillance Blimp in Amish Country Says About Theocracy and Technocracy – 天空之眼:阿米什国家的监视飞艇对神权政治和技术官僚说了什么

Picture Piece /

By David Birkin

06 Sep 2018

Picture Piece /

Eye in the Sky: What a Surveillance Blimp in Amish Country Says About Theocracy and Technocracy

By David Birkin

6 Sep 2018

On 28 October 2015, a US military surveillance blimp rampaged across rural Pennsylvania after breaking its tether above Maryland 


Eye in the Sky: What a Surveillance Blimp in Amish Country Says About Theocracy and Technocracy - 天空之眼:阿米什国家的监视飞艇对神权政治和技术官僚说了什么

Behind an Amish horse-drawn buggy, an unmanned U.S. Army surveillance blimp which broke loose in Maryland floats through the air about 1,000 feet about the ground, Wednesday Oct. 28 2015. Courtesy: Associated Press; photograph: Jimmy May

The image – taken from the ground by a local aerial photographer, Jimmy May – is of a giant US military surveillance blimp on the loose, floating across rural Pennsylvania after breaking its tether above Maryland on 28 October 2015. In the background, we can see the USD$175 million dirigible in a state of partial deflation, having been shot down by police following a four-hour chase up the Atlantic coastline, escorted by fighter jets while trailing cables that ripped up power lines and plunged communities into darkness. In the foreground, an Amish man rides on, his carthorse spooked by the behemoth overhead.

Deployed in Iraq since 2004, helium-filled aerostats were introduced to Afghanistan in 2007 and still hover over neighbourhoods from Kabul to Helmand, where residents dub them ‘milk fish’. Like a cross between the ‘Stay Puft Marshmallow Man’ and a CIA drone, the ‘Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System’, or JLENS in military parlance, was part of an exorbitant USD$2.7 billion sophisticated radar programme ostensibly designed to defend Washington against a long-range missile attack. Pentagon officials claimed no cameras were onboard; yet it is impossible to verify the blimp’s true purpose since its capabilities remain classified, despite the project being defunded after the crash.

One possible piggybacker was the ‘Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System’, or ARGUS-IS. Named after Argus Panoptes – a multi-eyed mythological Greek giant entrusted with safeguarding the heifer nymph Io from Zeus’s rapacious lust – the surveillance device uses 368 mobile phone cameras to deliver what is termed ‘Wide Area Persistent Stare’ and is an advanced version of the more rudimentary imaging system christened ‘Gorgon Stare’. (Weapons manufacturers have a fondness for mythological, zoological and anthropological nomenclature, with planes and helicopters conforming to honorific and crypto-colonialist naming patterns: from F-15 Eagles and F-16 Falcons to AH-64 Apaches and CH-47 Chinooks.) Although intended for surveilling foreign civilian populations unencumbered by human rights laws, privacy advocates speculate that such surveillance systems may already be deployed domestically.

ARGUS is the brainchild of the US Government’s ‘Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’ (DARPA), whose Orwellian ‘Information Awareness Office’ was defunded by Congress in 2003 owing to fears that it could expand into a mass surveillance system (fears which Edward Snowden confirmed a decade later). Its heraldic symbol, the all-seeing Eye of God, is a persistent theme in US iconography, signifying Divine Providence along with its corresponding imperialist ideology, Manifest Destiny, represented by an incomplete pyramid on the dollar bill.

Providence, from the Latin providentia (pro ‘ahead’ and videre ‘to see’, meaning ‘foresight’ or ‘foreknowledge’), personifies Christian theology’s spiritual melding of pastoralism and miraculous intervention. The concept, as it applies to US history, was perhaps best summed up in George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789 when he spoke of ‘the favorable interpositions of His providence’ over the course of the Revolutionary War. A more recent US Army general captured the sentiment in blunter terms: ‘It’s kind of like having God overhead. And lightening comes down in the form of a Hellfire.’ Hellfire being the missile of choice in drone warfare, second only to its British cousin, the Brimstone — soon to arm variants of the Predator drone (paternalistically rebranded the Protector by the Royal Air Force) as part of a fleet of SkyGuardians, described unironically as ‘Medium Altitude, Long Endurance’ (MALE) remotely piloted vehicles. It’s impossible not to imagine Psalm 23 providing a bucolic soundtrack to this warrior-shepherd’s flock: ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.’

Whatever the ill-fated blimp’s payload, there is a more insidious consequence of this kind of overwatch than the actual threat it poses to people’s privacy or security – and that is its perceived threat. As one military report made clear in its recommendations, the balloons in Afghanistan ‘serve as a great deterrent even if they aren’t operational. INS [insurgents] and LNs [local nationals] alike believe the blimp can see everything and will act differently when it’s up.’ The very presence of an eye in the sky serves as a kind of airborne panopticon, irrespective of its true capabilities. Like the omniscient stare in Jeremy Bentham’s 18th century circular prison, wide-area surveillance offers governments a means to control their populations through sheer apprehension, or what Michel Foucault called a ‘disciplinary’ power mechanism.

Mohammadullah, a resident of Kunar province in Afghanistan, described the sensation of living under a surveillance blimp in an interview with The New York Times: ‘Whenever our female family members walk in the yard during the day, or whenever we want to say “hi” to our wife when we sleep on rooftops, we feel someone is watching us.’ One can imagine the deeper psychological effects on civilian populations subjected to more aggressive forms of surveillance. After a drone attack killed his 67-year-old grandmother and injured his nine-year-old sister in Pakistan, 13-year-old Zubair Ur Rehman testified before the US Congress: ‘Now I prefer cloudy days when the drones don’t fly. When the sky brightens and becomes blue, the drones return and so does the fear.’ The persistent fear caused by these ecclesiastically-themed systems of social control brings to mind the pervasive paranoia characteristic of certain ultra-orthodox Protestant sects. As Elizabeth Proctor remarks in Arthur Miller’s allegorical play about McCarthyism, The Crucible (1953), set among the Puritan community of Massachusetts Bay Colony during the Salem witch trials of 1693: ‘The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you.’ God needs no thunderbolt if His wrath has been sufficiently internalized.

1693 was also the year that a group of Anabaptists in Switzerland, led by a man named Jakob Ammann, broke away from their congregation to form what would become the first Amish community. Among the strict and varying idiosyncrasies of their Ordnung, or ‘order’, notable is the practice of stitching faceless dolls. Like a computer’s camera which can be secretly switched on, the Amish believe that a doll’s eyes are portals to spirits that could possess their children. This, together with the prohibition on idolatry and photography, gives rise to a metaphysical mixed blessing: without faces, there can be no facial recognition.

One of the unexpected outcomes of consumer technology is that, while dystopian literature may have imagined a future in which our privacy is stolen by the state, the reality is that the post-millennial digital generation has surrendered it voluntarily. Our biometric data is made legible every time we unlock a Mac with our fingerprint, or voice activate Amazon’s Alexa, or spit into a tube and mail it to 23andMe. Even facial recognition software, once a bugbear of the Chinese and Russian governments, is now promoted enthusiastically on the new iPhone X. We have willingly given it all away. Like their Amish predecessors who emigrated from Europe to escape persecution by the state, what has driven many in today’s burgeoning neo-Luddite movements to renounce technological conveniences is the realization that such innovations are often developed to control, rather than facilitate, social interactions.

With a didactic complexity more akin to myth than fable, the photograph of a carthorse and a blimp is inscribed with a series of political and ideological binaries: theocratic vs. technocratic; pacifist vs. militarist; agrarian vs. industrial; ascetic vs. consumer; frugal vs. profligate. Yet, when we look at this image, rife as it is with contradiction, what we are also looking at is a study in authoritarianism – theological and technological – and a contest for control, played out in one of the most religiously fundamentalist secular nations on earth, in which the hubris of imperial might is humbled by the Almighty. It is a scene of cosmic comedy: the weaponized whimsy of a military superpower falling flaccid into the field of a peaceable parishioner.

David Birkin

David Birkin is an artist based in New York, USA. His video Charade (2018) was commissioned by the human rights organization Reprieve and was recently screened at the BFI, Southbank as part of Art Night, London, UK. His skywriting project Severe Clear, a collaboration with the American Civil Liberties Union, has been shown at The Mosaic Rooms, London; Casino, Luxembourg; and Benaki Museum, Athens. His work is included in ‘She Sees the Shadows’, at Mostyn, Llandudno, UK, until 4 November.

Picture Piece /

David Birkin
Art & Politics

2018年9月6日大卫·伯金(David Birkin)的《天空中的眼睛》戴维·伯金(David Birkin)于2018年9月6日报道,2015年10月28日,美国一枚军事侦察飞艇在打破马里兰州上空的绳索后,横跨宾夕法尼亚州农村地区疯狂展开。ap_943064221910.jpg Eye in the Sky: What a Surveillance Blimp in Amish Country Says About Theocracy and Technocracy - 天空之眼:阿米什国家的监视飞艇对神权政治和技术官僚说了什么.在阿米什马车后面,一个在马里兰州爆炸的无人驾驶美国陆军侦察飞艇,漂浮在空中大约1000英尺,大约在地面上,2015年10月28日。礼貌:美联社;照片:吉米·梅(Jimmy.)当地航空摄影师吉米·梅(Jimmy.)从地面拍摄的照片,是一个巨大的美国军事侦察飞艇,在10月28日打破马里兰州上空的绳索后,漂浮在宾夕法尼亚州的乡村上空。2015。背景中,我们可以看到,1.75亿美元美元处于部分通货紧缩状态,在大西洋海岸线四小时的追逐之后,在战斗机的护送下,警察击落了它,同时拖曳电缆撕裂了电力线,使社区陷入黑暗。在前景中,一个亚米希人骑着,他的头骨被头顶的庞然大物吓坏了。自2004年在伊拉克部署以来,充氦气球于2007年被引入阿富汗,至今仍盘旋在从喀布尔到赫尔曼德的邻近地区,当地居民称之为“奶鱼”。“联合陆地攻击巡航导弹防御高架网络传感器系统”(JLENS)就像“待命飘浮的棉花糖人”(Stay Puft Marshmallow Man)和中情局无人机之间的一个十字路口,在军事用语中,是一个价值27亿美元的复杂雷达计划的一部分,表面上设计用于保卫华盛顿。反对远程导弹攻击。五角大楼的官员声称机上没有摄像头,但无法证实飞艇的真正用途,因为其能力仍然保密,尽管坠机后项目被取消。一种可能的背光器是“自主实时地面泛在监视成像系统”,或AGUSS-IS。以希腊神话中的多眼巨人阿格斯·潘诺菲斯(Argus Panoptes)命名,阿格斯·潘诺菲斯被委托保护小母牛若虫伊俄免受宙斯贪婪的欲望的侵害。该监视装置使用368台移动电话摄像机来传送被称为“广域持久凝视”的物体,是mo的高级版本。重新初步成像系统命名为“GOLON凝视”。(武器制造商喜欢神话、动物和人类学的命名法,飞机和直升机都符合尊严和隐形殖民主义的命名模式:从F-15鹰和F-16猎鹰到AH-64阿帕奇和CH-47奇努克。)隐私权倡导者推测,未受人权法限制的外国平民可能已经在国内部署了此类监视系统。ARGUS是美国政府“国防高级研究计划署”(DARPA)的创意,其奥威尔的“信息意识办公室”在2003年被国会撤消,原因是担心它可能扩展到大规模的监视系统(爱德华·斯诺登(Edward Snowden)证实,艾卡德后来)。它的标志性符号,全知的上帝之眼,是美国肖像画中一个永恒的主题,象征着神圣的上帝,以及它相应的帝国主义意识形态,宣示命运,由美元钞票上的不完整的金字塔代表。普罗维登斯,来自拉丁文的普罗维登斯(pro'.'和videre'to.',意为“远见”或“先知”),是基督教神学牧民精神融合和神奇干预的化身。这个概念适用于美国历史,也许在乔治·华盛顿1789年的感恩节宣言中得到了最好的概括,当时他谈到“上帝在革命战争中的有利介入”。一位最近的美国陆军将军用更严厉的措辞捕捉到了这种情绪:“这有点像上帝在头顶上。”“地狱火是无人机战中首选的导弹,仅次于它的英国表兄弟,布里斯通——不久将武装捕食者无人机的变种(英国皇家空军父系改名为“保护者”),作为天空舰队的一部分。卫报,形容为“中等高度,长耐力”(男性)远程驾驶车辆。很难想象诗篇23为这群勇士牧羊人提供了田园风格的原声:“是的,虽然我穿过死亡阴影的山谷,但我不会害怕邪恶,因为你与我同在;你的棍棒和手杖会安慰我。”这种监视比它给人们的隐私或安全带来的实际威胁更隐蔽,这就是它感知到的威胁。正如一份军事报告在其建议中明确指出的,在阿富汗的气球“即使没有投入使用,也能起到巨大的威慑作用”。INS(叛乱分子)和LN(当地居民)都相信飞艇能看见一切,当它升起的时候会采取不同的行动。“天空中眼睛的存在就像一种空中全景镜,不管它的真实能力如何。就像杰里米·边沁18世纪圆形监狱里无所不知的目光一样,广域监视为各国政府提供了一种手段,通过纯粹的恐惧或者米歇尔·福柯所谓的“纪律”权力机制来控制其人口。穆罕默德杜拉,阿富汗库纳尔省的居民,在接受《纽约时报》采访时描述了生活在一个监视器下的感觉:“无论何时我们的女性家庭成员白天在院子里散步,或者当我们在r上睡觉时想跟妻子打招呼。”“天哪,我们觉得有人在监视我们。”人们可以想象,受到更激进的监视的平民受到更深的心理影响。在巴基斯坦的一次无人机袭击杀死了他67岁的祖母并伤害了他9岁的妹妹之后,13岁的祖拜尔·乌尔·雷曼在美国国会作证:“现在我更喜欢无人机不飞的阴天。”当天空变亮变蓝时,无人机又回来了,恐惧也随之而来。“由这些以教会为主题的社会控制体系引起的持续恐惧使人想起某些超正统新教派普遍存在的偏执狂特征。正如Elizabeth Proctor在阿瑟·米勒寓言剧《麦卡锡主义》中所说的那样,《坩埚》(1953)在1693塞勒姆女巫审判期间在马萨诸塞湾殖民地的清教徒社区中设置:“裁判官坐在你的心上审判你。”H已经被充分内化了。1693也是瑞士一个名叫Jakob Ammann的人组成的一群再洗礼者脱离他们的会众组成第一个阿米什族人的那一年。在严格的和不同的特质,他们的Ornnon,或“秩序”,值得注意的是缝合无面饰娃娃的做法。就像一台可以秘密开启的电脑摄像头,阿米什人相信玩偶的眼睛是可以拥有孩子的灵魂的门户。这与对偶像崇拜和摄影的禁令一起,产生了一种形而上学的混合祝福:没有脸,就不可能有脸部识别。消费技术的一个意想不到的结果是,尽管反乌托邦文学可能设想了一个未来,我们的隐私被国家窃取,但事实是,后千年的数字一代已经自愿放弃了它。每次我们用指纹打开Mac电脑,或者语音激活亚马逊的Alexa,或者吐到试管里然后邮寄给23andMe,我们的生物特征数据就会变得清晰。甚至脸部识别软件,曾经是中俄两国政府的“虫熊”,现在也在新款iPhone X上热火朝天地推广。我们愿意放弃这一切。就像他们的阿米什前辈从欧洲移民来逃避国家的迫害一样,在当今新兴的新卢德运动中,促使许多人放弃技术便利的原因是认识到这种创新往往是为了控制,而不是促进社会。铝相互作用。由于教导的复杂性更接近于神话而非寓言,一匹马和一辆飞艇的照片上刻着一系列政治和意识形态的二元对立:神权主义与技术主义;和平主义与军国主义;农业与工业;禁欲主义与消费者;节俭与挥霍。然而,当我们看到这个充满矛盾的形象时,我们也看到了对威权主义——神学和技术——的研究,以及对控制的争夺,在地球上最虔诚的原教旨主义世俗国家之一中展开。虔诚的力量被全能的人所羞辱。这是一个宇宙喜剧的场景:一个军事超级大国软弱无力地落入一个和平的教区居民的领地。大卫·伯金:大卫·伯金是美国纽约的一位艺术家。他的视频Charade (2018)是由人权组织Reprieve委托拍摄的,最近在英国伦敦艺术之夜的南岸BFI放映。他与美国公民自由联盟合作的“严酷清晰”天体写作项目在伦敦的马赛克房间、卢森堡的赌场和雅典的贝纳基博物馆展出。他的作品被收录在英国Llandudno Mostyn,直到11月4日。图片/ David Birkin Surve


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