From The New Inquiry:
The mediated aesthetics of war have always tread a fine line between the banal and heroic, always used to justify, rightly or wrongly, the slaughter of young and old while always failing to really convey the profound and fleeting moment when a state chooses to end a human life, again and again and again a thousand times over. But just as war is the perennial driver of technological development, so it also remains the laboratory in which technological image production is really tested — the ability of one state or another to push representation to its limit and make you feel safe, happy, good about the flesh that is being torn from limb on your behalf. Propaganda aims to synthesise a community; a community that can protect, exclude, and hence is worth a sacrifice.
The current assault on Gaza is perhaps an early test of social media’s ability to understand and mediate war within, or on the borders of, a Western society. Here we see a newer aesthetic; a hybrid of networked technology, social media theory and a visual regime based around firmly entrenched, conservative branding techniques. We imagined futuristic (that is, contemporary) war to be realised along the lines of our hyperactive young fantasies, but perhaps we should have predicted that War 2.0 would look less like Starship Troopers than the early drafts of a footwear campaign or a coffee franchise loyalty-card scheme.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the Israel Defence Forces are compelled to mobilize new social media strategies both as weapon and representation of war. The IDF’s history in the Occupied Territories has always been one of innovation, shifting topologies of conflict. For many years the IDF has schooled its officer class in continental philosophy, becoming pioneers of what might euphemistically be called “applied radical theory,” as Eyal Weizman explores in his investigation of Israel’s “architecture of occupation,” Hollow Land. As street-to-street combat became impossible for the IDF, they developed tactics of “infestation,” moving through the urban fabric by crashing through buildings, bringing the war from the street into the domestic sphere, “walking through walls.”