Little Boys and Blue Skies

These are very preliminary notes and ideas for my presentation at “Through Post-Atomic Eyes” in Toronto next month: I would really – really – welcome any comments, suggestions or advice.  I don’t usually post presentations in advance, and this is still a long way from the finished version, but in this case I am venturing into (irradiated) fields unknown to me until a few months ago…

CHOMSKY On Western terrorismAt first sight, any comparison between America’s nuclear war capability and its drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen seems fanciful. The scale of investment, the speed and range of the delivery systems, the nature of the targets, the blast radii and precision of the munitions, and the time and space horizons of the effects are so clearly incommensurable. It’s noticeable that the conversation between Noam Chomsky and Andre Vltchek published as On Western Terrorism: from Hiroshima to drone warfare (2013) says virtually nothing about the two terms in its subtitle.

Yet nuclear weapons and drone strikes have both been attended by intense diplomatic, geopolitical and geo-legal manoeuvres, they have both sparked major oppositional campaigns by activist organisations, and they have both had major impacts on popular culture (as the two images below attest).

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President-Strangelove

But there are other coincidences, connections and transformations that also bear close critical examination.

When Paul Tibbets flew the Enola Gay across the blue sky of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 one of his major concerns was to execute a fast, tight 155 degree turn to escape the effects of the blast from ‘Little Boy’.  There is some dispute over the precise escape angle – there’s an exhaustive discussion in the new preface to Paul Nahin‘s Chases and escapes: the mathematics of pursuit and evasion (second edition, 2007) – but the crucial point is the concern for the survival of the aircraft and its crew.

Enola Gay co-pilot [Robert Lewis]'s sketch after briefing of approach and 155 turn by the B-29s weaponeer William Parsons, 4 August 1945

Tibbets successfully made his escape but four years later, when the US Atomic Energy Commission was developing far more powerful bombs, the Air Force became convinced that escape from those blasts would be impossible. And so it implemented Project Brass Ring which was intended to convert B-47 Stratojet bombers into remotely-piloted aircraft capable of delivering atomic bombs without any loss of American lives.  (What follows is taken from Delmer Trester, ‘Thermonuclear weapon delivery by unmanned B-47: Project Brass Ring‘; it was included in A history of the Air Force Atomic Energy Program, 1949-1953, which can be downloaded here; you can obtain a quick overview here).

‘It appeared that the Air Force would need some method to deliver a 10,000-pound package over a distance of 4,000 nautical miles with an accuracy of at least two miles from the center of the target. It was expected the package would produce a lethal area so great that, were it released in a normal manner, the carrier would not survive the explosion effects. Although not mentioned by name, the “package” was a thermonuclear device – the hydrogen or H-bomb…

B-47 Stratojet bomber (USAF)

‘The ultimate objective was to fashion a B-47 carrier with completely automatic operation from take-off to bomb drop… The immediate plan included the director B-47A aircraft as a vital part of the mission. Under direction from the mother aircraft, the missile would take off, climb to altitude and establish cruise speed conditions. While still in friendly territory, the crew aboard the director checked out the missile and committed its instruments to automatically accomplish the remainder of the mission. This was all that was required of the director. The missile, once committed, had no provision for returning to its base… either the B-47 became a true missile and dived toward the target … or a mechanism triggered the bomb free, as in a normal bombing run.’

This was a re-run of Operation Aphrodite, a failed series of experiments carried out in the closing stages of the Second World War in Europe, and – as the images below show – after the war the Air Force had continued to experiment with B-17 aircraft remotely piloted from both ‘director aircraft’ [top image; the director aircraft is top right] and ‘ground control units’ [bottom image].  These operated under the aegis of the Air Force’s Pilotless Aircraft Branch which was created in 1946 in an attempt to establish the service’s proprietary rights over missile development.

B-17 drones

Ground control unit for B-17 drone

But the Brass Ring team soon discovered that their original task had swelled far beyond its original, taxing specifications: in October 1951 they were told that ‘the super-bomb’ would weigh 50,000 lbs. They modified their plans (and planes) accordingly, and after a series of setbacks the first test flight was successful:

‘The automatic take-off, climb and cruise sequence was initiated remotely from a ground control station. The aircraft azimuth, during take-off, was controlled by an auxiliary control station at the end of the runway. Subsequent maneuvers, descent and landing (including remote release of a drag parachute and application of brakes) were accomplished from the ground control station. The test was generally satisfactory; however, there were several aspects – certain level flight conditions, turn characteristics and the suitability of the aircraft as a “bombing platform” – which required further investigation.’

This was part of a larger imaginary in which, as Life had commented in its issue of 20 August 1945, echoing USAAF General Henry H. ‘Hap’ Arnold, ‘robot planes … and atomic bombs will do the work today done by fleets of thousands of piloted bombers.’ (Arnold thought this a mixed blessing, and in an essay ghost-written with William Shockley he noted that nuclear weapons had made destruction ‘too cheap and easy’ – one bomb and one aircraft could replace hundreds of bombs and vast fleets of bombers – and a similar concern is often raised by critics of today’s Predators and Reapers who argue that their remote, often covert operations have lowered the threshold for military violence).

Henry H Hap Arnold.001

Brass Ring was abandoned on 13 March 1953, once the Air Force determined that a manned aircraft could execute the delivery safely (at least, for those on board).  It would be decades before another company closely associated with nuclear research – General Atomics (more here) – supplied the US Air Force with its first MQ-1 Predators.

1994-august

These were originally conceived as unarmed, tactical not strategic platforms, designed to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for conventional strike aircraft. But the concern with American lives became a leitmotif of both programs, and one of the foundations for today’s remote operations is the ability (as the USAF has it) to ‘project power without vulnerability’.

BOYER By the bomb's early lightThe visible effects of bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the Japanese population were the subject of strict censorship – still photographs were never published, while Japanese media and even US military film crews had their documentary footage embargoed – and public attention in the United States was turned more or less immediately towards visualising ‘Hiroshima USA’ (Paul Boyer is particularly good on this; there are also many images and a good discussion here). Even the US Strategic Bombing Survey indulged in the same speculation: ‘What if the target for the bomb had been an American city?’ it asked in its June 1946 report. ‘The casualty rates at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, applied to the massed inhabitants of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, yield a grim conclusion.’ Although the original targets had been Asian cities it was American cities that were designated as future victims.  ‘Physically untouched by the war’ (apart from Pearl Harbor), Boyer wrote,

‘the United States at the moment of victory perceived itself as naked and vulnerable.  Sole possessors and users of a devastating instrument of mass destruction, Americans envisioned themselves not as a potential threat to other peoples, but as potential victims.’

This was the abiding anxiety instilled by the national security state and orchestrated through its military-industrial-media-entertainment complex throughout the post-war decades.  Perhaps the most famous sequence of images – imaginative geographies, I suppose –accompanied an essay by John Lear in Collier’s Magazine in August 1950, ‘Hiroshima USA: Can anything be done about it?‘, showing a series of paintings by Chesley Bonestell and Birney Lettick imagining the effects of a nuclear strike on New York:

Hiroshima USA 11950-aug-6-colliers-p12-sm

Similar sequences, often accompanied by maps, were produced for many other cities (and the simulations continue: see, for example, here).  The images below, from Life on 19 November 1945, come from ‘The 36-Hour War’ (see here for a commentary) that envisaged a nuclear attack on multiple cities across the USA, including Washington DC, from (presumably Soviet) ‘rocket-launching sites [built] quickly and secretly in the jungle’ of equatorial Africa:

1945-Life-36-Hour-War-2

1945-Life-36-Hour-War-1

Schlosser-Command-and-Control-bookAs it happened, American cities did indeed become targets – for the US Air Force.  According to Eric Schlosser, under General Curtis Le May the goal was

to build a Strategic Air Command that could strike the Soviet Union with planes based in the United States and deliver every nuclear weapon at once. SAC bomber crews constantly trained and prepared for that all-out assault. They staged mock attacks on every city in the United States with a population larger than twenty-five thousand, practicing to drop atomic bombs on urban targets in the middle of the night. San Francisco was bombed more than six hundred times within a month.

VANDERBILT Survival CityTests were also conducted at the Nevada Proving Ground, ‘the most nuclear-bombed place on the planet’, to determine the likely effects.  One of the purposes of the Strategic Bombing Survey’s Physical Damage Division had been to document the effects of the bombs on buildings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki – to read them as ‘blueprints for the atomic future‘ – and both Japanese and American medical teams had been sent in shortly after the blasts to record their effects on bodies (from 1947 their work was subsumed under the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission).  It was now imperative bring the two together and to bring their results home.  And so, starting in 1953 with ‘Operation Doorstep’, mannequins were placed inside single-family houses at the Nevada site to calculate the prospects for the survival of what Joseph Masco calls the American ‘nuclearised’ family in the event of a nuclear attack; they subsequently went on public exhibition around the country with the tag line:

‘These mannikins could have been real people; in fact, they could have been you.’

In the Second World War experimental bombing runs had been staged against mock German and Japanese targets at the Dugway Proving Ground but – significantly – the buildings had no occupants: as Tom Vanderbilt wryly remarks, now ‘the inhabitants had been rewritten into the picture’ because the objective was to calibrate the lives of Americans.

Rachele Riley Mannequins

I have borrowed this image from the mesmerising work of artist Rachele Riley, whose project on The evolution of silence centres on Yucca Flat in the Nevada Test Site and raises a series of sharp questions about both the imagery and the soundscape of the nuclear age.

The power of the image – ‘the nuclear sublime’ – was one of the central objectives of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki: ‘the weapon’s devastating power had to be seen to be believed,’ as Kyo Maclear observed, and it had to be seen and believed in Moscow as well as in Tokyo.  Here the visual economies of nuclear attacks are radically different from drone strikes. In the immediate aftermath there was no shortage of atomic ‘views from the air’ –  aerial photographs of the vast cloud towering into the sky and of Hiroshima before and after the bomb.  Here is Life (sic) on 20 August 1945:

LIFE:Hiroshima 1

LIFE:Hiroshima 2LIFE:Hiroshima 3

Yet for the most part, and with some significant exceptions, aerial views are singularly absent from today’s drone wars. To Svea Braeunert (‘Bringing the war home: how visual artists return the drone’s gaze‘) that is all the more remarkable because drone strikes are activated by what video artist Harun Farocki called operative images: but that is also the reason for the difference. Aerial photographs of Hiroshima or Nagasaki reveal a field of destruction in which bodies are conspicuously absent; the resolution level is too coarse to discern the bomb’s victims.

But the video feeds from a Predator or Reaper, for all their imperfections, are designed to identify (and kill) individuals, and their aerial gaze would – if disclosed – reveal the bodies of their victims. That is precisely why the videos are rarely released (and, according to Eyal Weizman, why satellite imagery used by investigators to reconstruct drone strikes is degraded to a resolution level incapable of registering a human body – which remains ‘hidden in the pixels‘ – and why their forensic visual analysis is forced to focus on buildings not bodies).

OMAR FAST %000 Feet is Best

One might expect visual artists to fill in the blank. Yet – a further contrast with Hiroshima – apart from projects like Omar Fast’s ‘5,000 Feet is Best’ (above) and Thomas van Houtryve’s ‘Blue Sky Days’ (below) there have been precious few attempts to imagine drone strikes on American soil.

van HOUTRYVE Blue Sky Days

Perhaps this is because they are so unlikely: at present these remote platforms can only be used in uncontested air space, against people or states who are unable (or in the case of Pakistan, unwilling) to defend themselves. But there has been a protracted debate about such strikes on American citizens (notably the case of Anwar al-Awlaki) and a concerted attempt to focus on the rules followed by the CIA and JSOC in their programs of targeted killing (which has artfully diverted public attention to Washington and away from Waziristan).

There is also a visceral, visible continuity between the two: just as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there has been little public concern over the victims of drone strikes, the vast majority of whom have once again been Asian.

If the targeting process continues to be racialised, it also continues to be bureaucratised. After the Second World War the US Air Force was determined to speed up its targeting cycle, and in 1946 started to compile a computerised database of potential targets in the Soviet Union; this was soon extended to Soviet satellites and Korea, and by 1960 the Bombing Encyclopedia of the World (now called the ‘Basic Encyclopedia’) contained 80,000 Consolidated Target Intelligence Files. These were harvested to plan Strategic Air Command’s nuclear strikes and to calibrate Damage and Contamination Models. One of the analysts responsible for nominating targets later described the process as ‘the bureaucratisation of homicide’. Similar criticisms have been launched against the ‘disposition matrix’ used by the CIA to nominate individuals authorised for targeted killing (see here and here); most of these are in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, though there are other kill lists, including Joint Prioritised Effects Lists compiled by the US military for war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. In both cases the target files are in principle global in reach, and both nuclear strikes and targeted killings (outside established war zones) are judged to be sufficiently serious and ‘sensitive’ to require direct Presidential approval.

Speeding up the targeting cycle has involved more than the pre-emptive identification of targets. In contrast to the fixed targets for nuclear strikes, today’s Predators and Reapers are typically directed against mobile targets virtually impossible to locate in advance. Pursuing these fleeting ‘targets of opportunity’ relies on a rapidly changing and expanding suite of sensors to identify and track individuals in near-real time. In 2004 the Defense Science Board recommended the Pentagon establish ‘a “Manhattan Project”-like program for ID/TTI’ [identification, tagging, tracking and locating], and one year later a Technical Advisor working for the National Security Agency’s Target Reconnaissance and Survey Division posed the following question:

NSA's Little Boy

The onboard sensor suite in the pod has since become ever more effective in intercepting and monitoring electronic communications as part of a vast system of digital data capture, but Predators had already been armed with Hellfire missiles to compress the kill-chain still further, and to many commentators the most radical innovation in later modern war has been the fusion of sensor and shooter in a single platform. The new integrated systems were first trialled – on a Predator flown by test pilots from General Atomics – in February 2000 at Indian Springs Auxiliary Field. The main objective was to hunt and kill Osama bin Laden, and at the request of the Air Force and the CIA a series of tests was carried out.

First, the Air Force wanted to determine whether the Predator could withstand a missile being fired from beneath its insubstantial wings (a ghostly echo of earlier anxieties over the survivability of the Enola Gay and its successors – though plainly much reduced by the absence of any pilot on board).

Second, the CIA wanted to assess the likely effects of a Hellfire strike on the occupants of a single-storey building like those found in rural Afghanistan (nuclear tests had used mannequins and pigs as human surrogates; these used plywood cut-outs and watermelons).

predatorBoth sets of tests were eventually successful (see also here) but, as Richard Whittle shows in consummate detail, a series of legal and diplomatic obstacles remained. In order to secure satellite access over Afghanistan, previous Predator flights to find bin Laden had been flown from a ground control station at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. But using a Predator to kill bin Laden was less straightforward. After protracted debate, US Government lawyers agreed that a Predator armed with a missile would not violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated nuclear and conventional missiles with intermediate ranges but which – unhelpfully for the CIA – defined missiles as ‘unmanned, self-propelled … weapon-delivery vehicles’; the lawyers determined that the Predator was merely a platform and, unlike a cruise missile, had no warhead so that it remained outside the Treaty. But they also insisted that the Status of Forces Agreement with Germany would require Berlin’s consent for the activation of an armed Predator. (The United States stored tactical nuclear warheads at Ramstein until 2005; although the US insisted it retained control over them, in the event of war they were to have been delivered by the Luftwaffe as part of a concerted NATO nuclear strike).

RAMSTEIN English captions

The need to bring Berlin onside (and so potentially compromise the secrecy of the project) was one of the main reasons why the ground control station was relocated to Indian Springs, connected to the satellite link at Ramstein through a fibre-optic cable under the Atlantic:

remote-split-operations-usaf

In fact, since 1952 Indian Springs had been a key portal into the Nevada Test Site – its purpose was to support both US Atomic Energy Commission nuclear testing at the Nevada Proving Grounds and US Air Force operations at the Nellis Air Force Base’s vast Gunnery and Bombing Range – and in June 2005 it morphed into Creech Air Force Base: the main centre from which ‘remote-split’ operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere are flown by USAF pilots. Most of the covert operations are directed by the CIA (some by Joint Special Operations Command), but the Predators and Reapers are used for more than targeted killing; the primary missions are still to provide ISR for conventional strikes and now also close air support for ground troops.

Wfm_area51_map_en

The geographies overlap, coalesce and – even allowing for the differences in scale – conjure up a radically diffuse and dispersed field of military violence.  When Tom Vanderbilt described ‘a war with no clear boundaries, no clear battlefields … a war waged in such secrecy that both records and physical locations are often utterly obscured’ he was talking about nuclear war.  But exactly the same could be said of today’s drone wars, those versions of later modern war in which the body becomes the battle space (‘warheads on foreheads’) and the hunting ground planetary: another dismal iteration of the ‘everywhere war’ (see here and here).

For all these connections and intersections, a key divide is the issue of civilians and casualties. On 9 August 1945 President Truman (below) described Hiroshima as a ‘military base’ selected ‘because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians’.

TRUMAN Hiroshima speech

This was simply untrue, and similar – often no less deceptive – formulations are routinely used to justify US drone strikes and to minimise what is now called ‘collateral damage’. Still, the scale of civilian casualties is clearly different: usually dozens rather than hundreds of thousands.

And yet, there is something irredeemably personal and solitary about the response to death from either cause; parents searching for the bodies of their children in the ruins are as alone in Dhatta Khel as they were in Hiroshima.  When Yukiko Hayashi [her real name is Sachiko Kawamura] describes the anguish of a young woman and her father finding the remains of their family – the poem, ‘Sky of Hiroshima‘, is autobiographical – it is surely not difficult to transpose its pathos to other children in other places:

Daddy squats down, and digs with his hands
Suddenly, his voice weak with exhaustion, he points
I throw the hoe aside
And dig at the spot with my hands
The tiles have grown warm in the sun
And we dig
With a grim and quiet intent

Oh…
Mommy’s bone
Oh…
When I squeezed it
White powder danced in the wind
Mommy’s bone
When I put it in my mouth
Tasted lonely
The unbearable sorrow
Began to rise in my father and I
Left alone
Screaming, and picking up bones
And putting them into the candy box
Where they made a rustle

My little brother was right beside my mommy
Little more than a skeleton
His insides, not burnt out completely
Lay exposed…

NOOR BEHRAM Orphans Dande Darpa Khel 21 August 2009

MASCO Theater of OperationsIn The Theater of Operations Joseph Masco draws a series of distinctions between the US national security state inaugurated by the first atomic bombs and the counter-terror state whose organs have proliferated since 9/11.

He properly (and brilliantly) insists on the affects instilled in the American public by the counter-terror state as vital parts of its purpose, logic and practice – yet he says virtually nothing about the affects induced amongst the vulnerable populations forced to ‘live under drones’ and its other modes of military and paramilitary violence.

In Waziristan no air raid sirens warn local people of a strike, no anti-aircraft systems protect them, and no air-raid shelters are available for them to seek refuge.

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Hence young Zubair Rehman’s (above, top right) heartbreaking admission after a drone killed his grandmother as she tended the fields in Ghundi Kala in North Waziristan (see here and here):

‘I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey.’

Post-atomic eyes

Postcard

I’m speaking at a conference called “Through Post-Atomic Eyes” in Toronto next month.

Through Post-Atomic Eyes brings together an interdisciplinary group of artists and scholars to explore the complex legacy of the atomic age in contemporary art and culture. In what ways do photography and other lens-based art practices shed light on this legacy in the 21st century, and how has atomic culture shaped contemporary intersections of photography, nuclear industries, and military techno-cultures? Join us as we explore some of the most urgent issues of our time, from climate change and the Anthropocene to surveillance culture and the advent of drone warfare, through a post-atomic lens.

Through Post-Atomic Eyes is scheduled to coincide with John O’Brian’s groundbreaking exhibition, Camera Atomica, the first substantial exhibition of nuclear photography to encompass the postwar period from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to the meltdown at Fukushima in 2011. Now on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario (until November 15, 2015).

(John’s exhibition at the AGO follows a successful showing in London late last year: see my post here).

I confess that when I received the Toronto invitation I was at a loss: how was I supposed to view drone warfare through post-atomic eyes?  At first sight, any comparison between America’s nuclear war capability and its drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen seems fanciful. The scale of investment, the speed and range of the delivery systems, the nature of the targets, the blast radii and precision of the munitions, and the time and space horizons of the effects are so clearly incommensurable.  So I dragged my feet, accepting the invitation because the other presenters (see the poster above) include so many people whose work I admire, but not making much progress.

Eventually I realised that the root problem was that, while I had extensive research on genealogies of bombing under my belt, I knew next to nothing about The Bomb.  So, while I’ve been burrowing away in the archives in London for my project on casualty evacuation 1914-2014 and also inching my “Dirty Dancing’ essay into the home straight, I’ve also been reading and reading and reading.  So much wonderful, sobering material out there, some of which surfaced in my recent posts on Hiroshima and the metastases of nuclear weapons since then.

And, as I’ll try to show in detail in my next post, I’ve found a startling series of coincidences, convergences and transformations.  I now have a rough shape for my presentation, which I’m calling “Little Boys and Blue Skies“: a title which, as you’ll soon see, traces an arc from bombing Hiroshima to bombing Waziristan.  Watch this space.

Warning: Graphic Content

Following my last post on ‘The blue sky of Hiroshima’, I’ve received several e-mails from readers wondering at the size of the blast radius from ‘Little Boy’ (15 kilotons) shown on the image from NUKEMAP; there’s another one below, which shows the blast radius from ‘Fat Man’ (21 kilotons) originally detonated over Nagasaki and here projected on to Vancouver (for a critical note on these projections, by the way, see my original post).

Fat Man Vancouver NUKEMAP JPEG

If, like my correspondents, you are surprised at the ‘small’ size of the radii: you are right (though don’t ignore the numbers on the right…). Several years ago Maximilian Bode created this infographic to show the exorbitant increase in the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons since those two bombs were exploded over Japan 70 years ago:

1-nuclear-bomb-power

Many of today’s warheads are much smaller – the missiles carried on Trident, for example, are around 100 kilotons.   But that’s small comfort.  If you want to know how many nuclear warheads there are in the world today, this chart from the Nuclear Notebook produced for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists will give you a rough idea (the interactive version is here):

Nuclear notebook JPEG

And finally Ehsan Rezaie has produced this video for Orbital Mechanics which plots (‘animates’ doesn’t seem the appropriate verb somehow) every nuclear detonation from 1945 on; you can also access this on Vimeo if the embed doesn’t work: search for ‘Trinity’:

Flash photography

d Press Photo-H-Bomb Can Destroy City, New York, March 31 1954

News from John O’Brian of an important exhibition and book.  The exhibition is After the Flash: photography from the atomic archive, which runs from 10 October through 20 December 2014 at WORK gallery, 10A Acton Street in London.

Photography plays a crucial role in shaping public perceptions of the atomic age and its legacy of anxiety. Cameras not only record nuclear events, but also assist in their production—whether as agents of scientific measurement, propaganda or protest. They witness the unseeable on our behalf, giving form to the invisible forces and forbidden sites that haunt popular conceptions of the nuclear world.

After The Flash: Photography from the Atomic Archive explores the intertwined histories of photography and nuclear technologies, and the camera’s role in constructing the public image of atomic energy and ‘the bomb’. The exhibition contrasts the ‘technological sublime’ that dominates much nuclear-themed photography—from mushroom clouds to cooling towers—with representations of personal encounters and experiences, tracing the hazy lines between spectacle and humanitarian documentation. Photographic fragments offer insight into broader nuclear narratives and reveal recurring tensions between invisibility and visibility, and obliteration and transformation.

The exhibition comprises three sections. Cameras and Clouds reflects on the mutual development of photography and nuclear technologies, and the camera’s role in producing abstracted spectacle, social documentary and scientific record. The second section, At Work in the Fields of the Bomb, identifies the physical and ideological structures relating to nuclear applications, demonstrating the seepage of atomic landscapes and themes into existing social, economic and political narratives; this section draws its title from Robert Del Tredici’s landmark 1987 photographic study of the US nuclear weapons industry. Thirdly, The Culture of Contamination explores individual and social engagement with nuclear imagery and issues, ranging from anti-war protest to homemade fallout shelters and pop cultural appropriations. Anxiety finds an outlet in kitsch as the mythologies of nuclear power permeate culture on both official and vernacular levels..

Drawing on the extensive personal ‘atomic archive’ of art historian and curator John O’Brian, After The Flash focuses on North American visual culture in the early decades of the Cold War from the 1940s to the 1960s, coinciding with the emerging ‘golden age’ of photojournalism.

book_coverThe exhibition in turn marks the publication of John’s edited book Camera Atomica, out later this month.  It includes contributions from Julia Bryan-Wilson, Iain Boal and Gene Ray, Douglas Coupland, Blake Fitzpatrick, Susan Schuppli [of Forensic Architecture fame!] and Hiromitsu Toyosaki.

Camera Atomica is co-published by Black Dog Publishing and the Art Gallery of Ontario, and precedes a photographic exhibition at the AGO in 2015.

Theatre of Operations

I am at last back in Vancouver after what seemed at times like a marathon on the road (even though part of it was vacation), and there’s much to catch up on and much to report.

But I’m going to ease myself in gently with news of a forthcoming book by Joseph Masco.  Many readers will know his previous book, The Nuclear Borderlands: the Manhattan Project in post-Cold War New Mexico (Princeton, 2006), a tour de force – appropriately enough – that carried off a string of major prizes. (If you don’t know it, you can get a taste in his ‘Desert modernism’, available as a pdf from Cabinet 13 (2004) here).

MASCO Theater of OperationsHis new book, due out from Duke University Press in November, is The Theater of Operations: National security affect from the Cold War to the war on terror:

How did the most powerful nation on earth come to embrace terror as the organizing principle of its security policy? In The Theater of Operations, Joseph Masco locates the origins of the present-day U.S. counterterrorism apparatus in the Cold War’s “balance of terror.” He shows how, after the attacks of 9/11, the U.S. Global War on Terror mobilized a wide range of affective, conceptual, and institutional resources established during the Cold War to enable a new planetary theater of operations. Tracing how specific aspects of emotional management, existential danger, state secrecy, and threat awareness have evolved as core aspects of the American social contract, he draws on archival, media, and ethnographic resources to offer a new portrait of American national security culture. Undemocratic and unrelenting, this counterterror state prioritizes speculative practices over facts, and ignores everyday forms of violence across climate, capital, and health in an unprecedented effort to anticipate and eliminate terror threats – real, imagined, and emergent.

I’ve commented on the idea of a ‘theatre of war’ on several occasions (see here and here) and in his new book Masco seems to be excavating its performative/manipulative dimensions to explore the constitution of ‘a new, planetary theatre of operations’ – something else to take into account as I race towards completing The everywhere war.  I’m also greatly taken by a genealogy that begins not with 9/11, which is emphatically not the moment when ‘everything changed’, but with the Cold War…

The Theater of Operations has won advance praise from another of my favourite authors, Peter Galison:

“We know that in the Cold War transportation infrastructures boomed, electronic infrastructures had to be hardened. We know about weapons and counter-weapons; we even have learned about the astonishing proliferation of security mechanisms put in place during the War on Terror. What Joseph Masco shows us in The Theater of Operations is an entire affective structure—the management of anxiety, resilience, steadfastness, sacrifice—that is demanded of every citizen. Alert to liquid containers above 2.4 ounces, hypervigilant to abandoned bags, suspicious loitering, or the detonation of a thermonuclear weapon—we learn to live our lives aware of tiny and apocalyptic things. With an anthropologist’s eye long attuned to life in the para-wartime state, Masco is the perfect guide to the theater of our lives in the security state.”

Joseph MascoEvidently not a person to stand still for long, Masco is already at work on a book on environmental crisis: you can dip a toe into the water at the excellent somatosphere (on science, medicine and anthropology) here, or dig out his chapter on ‘Bad weather: the time of planetary crisis’ in Martin Holbraad and Morten Axel Pedersen (eds), Times of security: ethnographies of fear, protest and the future, which came out from Routledge last summer.  The abstract (below), together with a link to an earlier essay on ‘Building the Bunker Society’ (available as a pdf), is here:

How, and when, does it become possible to conceptualize a truly planetary crisis? The Cold War nuclear arms race installed one powerful concept of planetary crisis in American culture. The science enabling the US nuclear arsenal, however, also produced unintended byproducts: notably, a radical new investment in the earth sciences. Cold War nuclear science ultimately produced not only bombs, but also a new understanding of the earth as biosphere. Thus, the image of planetary crisis in the US was increasingly doubled during the Cold War – the immediacy of nuclear threat matched by concerns about rapid environmental change and the cumulative effects of industrial civilization on a fragile biosphere. This paper examines the evolution of (and competition between) two ideas of planetary crisis since 1945: nuclear war and climate change. In doing so, the paper offers an alternative history of the nuclear age and considers the US national security implications of a shift in the definition of planetary crisis from warring states to a warming biosphere.

And while we are on the subject of ‘bad weather’, climate change and national security, the GAO recently released a report on the implications of global climate change for US military infrastructure. You can read a summary review here, which points out that while the Pentagon evidently takes climate change very seriously indeed – there has been a string of seminars, workshops and conferences testifying to that – the die-hards in the Republican Party continue to do everything they can to block even military-sponsored research into climate change.  As Representative David McKinley put it:

Our climate is obviously changing; it has always been changing. With all the unrest around the global [sic], why should Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology? This amendment will ensure we maximize our military might without diverting funds for a politically motivated agenda.

The engorgement of ‘military might’ severed from a ‘politically motivated agenda’: you can’t make this stuff up.  Even for the theatre.

I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

U2 (USAF photograph)

Rummaging around for more people working on militarized vision, I encountered a forum on Military optics and Bodies of difference held at Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender earlier this year, and through that the research of Katherine Chandler, who holds a Townsend Center for the Humanities Dissertation Fellowship in the Department of Rhetoric.  Her dissertation in progress is entitled Drone Flight and Failure: the United States’ Secret Trials, Experiments and Operations in Unmanning, 1936 – 1973, which promises to fill in a crucial gap in conventional genealogies of today’s remote operations.

As you’ll see if you visit her website here, Katherine is an accomplished artist as well as researcher and critic.  You can read her essay on ‘System Failures’, which includes a discussion of Trevor Paglen‘s Drone Vision and Omer Fast‘s 5,000 Feet is the Best, at The New Inquiry (August 2012) here, and find a fuller discussion of Fast’s video situated within what Katherine calls the ‘knowledge politics’ and political ecologies of remote operations on pp. 63-74 of Knowledge politics and intercultural dynamics here.

Here is the abstract for her talk at the forum, Unmanning Politics: Aerial Surveillance 1960-1973:

u2_spy_plane_incident_newspaper_clippingOn May 1, 1960, Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 plane was shot down over the Soviet Union while on a secret reconnaissance mission. The ensuing diplomatic fallout caused the cancellation of the Paris Summit between Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev. Less well known, in April 1960, Robert Schwanhausser, an engineer for Ryan Aeronautical, briefed the United States Air Force on the possibility that its Firebee target drone, used at the time for air defense training, might be re-engineered as an unmanned reconnaissance plane. In the weeks following the Powers incident, the Air Force began wholesale negotiations with Ryan Aeronautical to develop a pilotless spy plane and, on July 8, 1960, the company was given funding to begin the project. Among the noted advantages were: “political risk is minimized due to the absence of a possible prisoner” (“Alternative Reconnaissance System,” 1960). I investigate the resulting Lightning Bugs, flown for three-thousand reconnaissance missions in Southeast Asia between 1964 and 1973. 

Researching how aircraft were unmanned during the Cold War is instructive both in the ways they mimic contemporary unmanned combat aerial vehicles and trouble assumptions about them. I follow how unmanned systems operated within the logics of American Cold War politics and their perceived usefulness geopolitically – crossing borders as spy aircraft, collecting and jamming electronic signals, and gathering battlefield reconnaissance. I ask how conquest, and the ensuing assumptions of empire, colonialism and race, underlie the unmanning of military aircraft, even while these aspects were purposefully, although, unsuccessfully occluded through the idea that technologies could mitigate political risks. Moreover, unmanned reconnaissance projects were cancelled at the end of the Vietnam War and their failure provides clues about what might be left out of visions of aerial control and the ways politics, and human vulnerabilities, persisted in spite of efforts to engineer systems that would suggest otherwise.

The legitimacy of contemporary drone strikes relies on the ability of unmanned aircraft to “see” enemy targets. Yet, as Isabel Stengers has argued, any representation gives value. Looking at the few available images from these early unmanned reconnaissance flights, I move between what is seen and unseen to examine how values, particularly, secrecy and control, are formed through unmanned reconnaissance. Claiming to produce a mechanical, rather than political, view of the territories surveyed, I show how the supposedly apolitical lens of the drone occludes how politics, industry and military come together to privilege certain positions and target others.

Interesting stuff – especially that first paragraph linking ‘un-manning’ to the U-2.  There is a strange irony here, because until this year the US Air Force had in fact favoured its fleet of 33 U-2 (‘Dragon Lady’) aircraft [one of which is shown at the top of the photograph] over the high-altitude Global Hawk [shown at the bottom], so much so that it had asked for permission to cancel its orders for the new Block 30 Global Hawks and place others in storage.

GlobalHawk_USAFAirmanFirstClassBobbyCummings

You may be surprised to discover that the U-2 is still flying, but the airframe has been repeatedly modified and so too has the network in which it is embedded.  One pilot explained:

“The U-2 started out only carrying a wet-film camera. Now, with today’s technology, I’m alone up there, but I may be carrying 40 to 50 Airmen via data link who are back at a (deployable ground station).”

U-2 flying hours in Afghanistan and Iraq (New York Times)It’s important to remember that Predators and Reapers are not the only platforms streaming imagery to the Air Force’s Distributed Common Ground System.  The U-2 was given a new lease of life by the Gulf War in 1991, when nine U-2s flying out of the UAE  provided 50 per cent of all imagery and over 90 per cent of all ground forces targeting imagery.  During the invasion of Iraq in 2003 U-2s flew only 19 percent of the air reconnaissance missions, but they provided more than 60 per cent of the signals intelligence and 88 per cent of battlefield imagery.  The continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq confirmed that the U-2’s original, strategic significance had been eclipsed by its new tactical role.  Chris Pocock explains:

“The U-2 today is more a tactical intelligence gatherer…  It supports ground operations on a daily basis, flying over Afghanistan, flying around Korea, flying in the eastern Mediterranean, doing all those things every day and it’s actually not only providing intelligence that is analyzed for the benefit of those ground troops, but it’s actually in contact with those ground troops in real time.”

And that close contact – akin to the intimacy remote operators in the continental United States claim when they say they are not 7,000 miles but 18 inches from the battlespace, the distance from eye to screen – takes its toll on the U-2 pilots too.  In addition to the extraordinary pressures flying the U-2 imposes on their bodies, one USAF physician insisted that ’emotionally… they’re wrung out from that… When you’re talking to somebody on the radio and there’s gunfire in the background… you’re not taking a nap while that’s happening.’

Writing in the New York Times, Christopher Drew provided a revealing example:

Major Shontz said he was on the radio late last year with an officer as a rocket-propelled grenade exploded. “You could hear his voice talking faster and faster, and he’s telling me that he needs air support,” Major Shontz recalled. He said that a minute after he relayed the message, an A-10 gunship was sent to help.

In fact, that last clause can be generalised; the U-2 has often been deployed in close concert with other platforms, including Predators and Reapers.  Drew again:

The U-2’s altitude [70,000 feet or more], once a defense against antiaircraft missiles, enables it to scoop up signals from insurgent phone conversations that mountains would otherwise block.  As a result, Colonel Brown said, the U-2 is often able to collect information that suggests where to send the Predator and Reaper drones, which take video and also fire missiles. He said the most reliable intelligence comes when the U-2s and the drones are all concentrated over the same area, as is increasingly the case.

Part of the reason for that is that the U-2 has such an advanced imagery system:

Even from 13 miles up its sensors can detect small disturbances in the dirt, providing a new way to find makeshift mines [IEDs] that kill many soldiers.  In the weeks leading up to the [2010] offensive in Marja, military officials said, several of the … U-2s found nearly 150 possible mines in roads and helicopter landing areas, enabling the Marines to blow them up before approaching the town.

Marine officers say they relied on photographs from the U-2’s old film cameras, which take panoramic images at such a high resolution they can see insurgent footpaths, while the U-2’s newer digital cameras beamed back frequent updates on 25 spots where the Marines thought they could be vulnerable.

U-2 preparing for takeoff 'in SW Asia' (USAF/Eric Harris)

For all that,  in the last two years the Air Force’s plan to cut the Global Hawk program was repeatedly over-ridden by Congress, in response to an extraordinary campaign waged by Northrop Grumman, which launched what Mark Thompson called ‘its own ISR – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance – mission over Capitol Hill to decide where to strategically target cash-bombs to keep its plane, and more of them, flying for another day’: you can find a  full report at the Center for Public Integrity here.

The Air Force has now accepted the retirement of Lockheed Martin’s ageing Cold warrior, because (so it says) the cost per flying hour of the Hawk has now fallen below that of the U-2 ($24,000 vs. $32,000).  ‘U2 shot down by budget cuts’, is how PBS put it, while the Robotics Business Review triumphantly announced ‘Here comes automated warfare’.

Even so, cost per flying hour is not the whole story, as Amy Butler explains.  Part of the problem is logistical and, by extension, geopolitical: ‘Global Hawks based in Guam have to transit for hours just to reach North Korea, whereas the U-2, based at Osan air base, South Korea, has a shorter commute’ (details of the Hawk’s global basing can be found here).

A second issue is reliability, which bedevils all major UAVs and makes cost per flying hour a dubious index:

‘Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection is in high demand, and aircraft downtime is extremely worrisome for combatant commanders. In the Pacific, 55% of Global Hawk’s missions were canceled in fiscal 2013; 96% of the U-2’s missions were achieved. The U-2 was also scheduled for nearly three times as many missions. Global Hawk lacks anti-icing equipment and is not able to operate in severe weather.’

Finally, critics continue to complain that the sensors on the U-2 remain superior to those on the Hawk and provide a wider field of view.  According to a report from Eric Beidel,

The Global Hawk carries Raytheon’s Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite, which includes cloud-penetrating radar, a high-resolution electro-optical digital camera and an infrared sensor. But the U-2’s radar can see farther partly because the plane can fly at altitudes over 70,000 feet, about 10,000 feet higher than a Global Hawk. A longer focal length also gives the U-2’s camera an edge, experts said…

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz has said that the drone’s sensors just weren’t cutting it. Further, the U-2 can carry a larger payload, up to 5,000 pounds compared to 3,000 pounds for the Global Hawk.

“Some of the most useful sensors are simply too big for Global Hawk,” said Dave Rockwell, senior electronics analyst at Teal Group Corp. He referred to an optical bar camera on the U-2 that uses wet film similar to an old-fashioned Kodak. “It’s too big to fit on Global Hawk even as a single sensor.”

All of these technical considerations are also political ones, as Katherine’s abstract indicates, and none of them answers the other questions she poses about what can and cannot be seen…

Cloud computing

Just caught up with this: a fine essay over at the Deterritorial Investigations Unit – ‘Instead of building a genealogy of neoliberalism, we must build a cartography of the system’ – called  “The sage speaks of what he sees”: War Games and the New Spirit of Capitalism.

It’s a provocative Deleuzian take on the intersections between systems technology, military violence and the production of code/space, that starts with World War II and tracks on into the present (so in fact it combines genealogy and geography).

Developments in aviation technology, such as the capability for flying at higher altitudes and more complex bomb and weapon systems, led to profound problems in fire-control: in high-speed warfare, it was necessary for gunners to be able to respond immediately to actions in the combat environment and to hit their targets with a greater degree of accuracy. In order to deal with this new machinic vision of warfare (which extends beyond the fire-control issue itself, as larger programs like the Manhattan Project indicate), militaries were quickly investing millions of dollars into scientific research in an effort to find mastery over combat theaters. Through science, the command structures of the military were seeking an orderly control over the environment. 

SAGE

A central part in the narrative is played by the Semi-Automated [sometimes ‘Automatic’] Ground Environment (SAGE – hence in part the title) and its successor projects, including civilian derivatives like SABRE that revolutionised air travel ticketing (and Travelocity).  On that tangled web, see Jordan Crandall on ‘tracking’ here (also here) and here.

As George Valley and Jay Forrester (later of Urban dynamics fame) conceived of SAGE in 1953, the system would consist of

(1) a net of radars and other data sources and (2) digital computers that (a) receive the radar and other information to detect and tract aircraft, (b) process the track data to form a complete air situation, and (c) guide weapons to destroy enemy aircraft.

SAGE_diagram_of_systems

The system was developed at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory (at a greater cost than the Manhattan Project, incidentally), and this is how the Lab summarises SAGE:

 A large network of radars would automatically detect a hostile bomber formation as it approached the U.S. mainland from any direction. The radar detections would be transmitted over telephone lines to the nearest SAGE direction center, where they would be processed by an AN/FSQ-7 computer. The direction center would then send out notification and continuous targeting information to the air bases best situated to carry out interception of the approaching bombers, as well as to a set of surface-to-air missile batteries. The direction center would also send data to and receive data from adjoining centers, and send situational awareness information to the command centers.  As the fighters from the air bases scrambled and became airborne, the direction center would continue to process track data from multiple radars and would transmit updated target positions in order to vector the intercepting aircraft to their targets. After the fighter aircraft intercepted the approaching bombers, they would send raid assessment information back to the direction center to determine whether additional aircraft or missile intercepts were necessary.

The network as envisaged in 1958 is shown below (more details here):

SAGE network plan 1958

FARISH Contours of America's Cold WarThis plainly reaches back to the air defence systems set up by Britain and Germany during the Second World War, but more significantly for my purposes it intersects with the sensor-shooter system that was at the deadly centre of the ‘electronic battlefield’ during the Vietnam war and with a stream of subsequent tactical (rather than purely strategic) developments.  If you want to know more about SAGE and its spiralling military trajectory, I recommend Matt Farish‘s brilliant chapter in The contours of America’s Cold War (Minnesota, 2010), ‘The cybernetic continent: North America as defense laboratory’.

More recently still, there’s Jeremy Packer and Joshua Reeves, ‘Romancing the drone: military desire and anthropophobia from SAGE to swarm’, Canadian Journal of Communication 38 (2013) 309-31.  And, as their title suggests, all of this feeds into my continuing interest in the networks that make today’s drone wars possible, to which I’ll return shortly.

Wandering in the ruins

Love-charm of bombsI’ve noted Lara Feigel‘s wonderful The love-charm of bombs before, and now there’s a short interview with her at the New York Times Arts blog here:

I was originally planning to write an academic study of war literature. But I kept finding that I was reading about the writers’ lives, rather than reading about their books, and especially about their passionate wartime love affairs. Once I had spent time in their archives and read their wartime letters and diaries, I started to think that it’s impossible fully to understand classic novels like Graham Greene’s “The End of the Affair” or Bowen’s “The Heat of the Day” without knowing about their lives, and seeing these books as urgent messages, written to lovers, and written out of an extraordinary time. A lot of parallels and shared experiences were emerging in the research, so it seemed obvious to tell the stories simultaneously, threading them together as in a novel.

Lara explains that, although she was trained as a literary critic and historian,

I enjoyed the challenge of acquiring new kinds of knowledge in researching this book. I read a few military accounts of the war, but I learned a lot of the war news from reading contemporary diaries and newspapers. I wanted only to convey as much as well-informed people knew at the time. After all, my writers weren’t military experts, just people who found themselves living through a complicated and long-drawn-out war.

I know just what she means (and for more on another project in which Lara crosses established boundaries, see this meeting of minds between neuroscientists, artists, philosophers and analysts, which she co-organized with Lisa Apignanesi).  In a similar sort of way I’m a geographer ‘by training’, whatever that might mean, but I’m content with the description largely because it gives me the freedom to pursue ideas and issues wherever they take me, often far beyond the bounds of any recognisable or at any rate nominal ‘geography’ – except that I always remember Dick Chorley‘s frequently repeated injunction when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge: “To ask, ‘Is that Geography?’ is the most un-geographical of questions.”  So I think geography is a discipline in the Foucauldian sense – it works to produce disciplinary subjects through a network of formal institutions (including university departments) and journals, through a canon of texts, and through a systematic series of examinations – but that’s about it.  I don’t think this makes Geography any different from a host of other ‘disciplines’, needless to say: it’s a route of entry into a rich and constantly changing intellectual-practical world, and unlike Richard Hartshorne and others of his ilk I insist that there’s a lot to be said for deviating from the path (or rather Path) and acquiring those ‘new kinds of knowledge’ that Lara talks about.

With that sort of license comes responsibility, too, of course, but that doesn’t mean conformity.  I’ve always liked E.P. Thompson‘s image of himself, working for the first time on early eighteenth- rather than ninteenth-century Britain in Whigs and Hunters – his best book – as a parachutist landing in occupied territory (occupied not least by Jack Plumb), burying his silk under a tree and night after night moving stealthily through the surrounding landscape, gradually coming to know it better and better: but on his own terms.  Perhaps he was channelling his late brother Frank who parachuted into Bulgaria during the Second World War to provide support to the partisans and who was summarily executed for his pains.

PIETTE Imagination at warWhich brings me back to Lara.  Asked to recommend a book about literature during the Second World War, she suggests Adam Piette‘s Imagination at war: British fiction and poetry 1939-1945 (1995): ‘a wonderful account of the oddness of the literary responses to the Second World War.’  D.J. Taylor wasn’t so sure, though I found Adam’s discussion of the war in the desert very helpful in enlarging my own view of those campaigns for ‘The natures of war’.

I know the sequel better, The Literary Cold War, 1945 to Vietnam (2009), which includes an invigorating discussion of Graham Greene‘s The Quiet American amongst many other good things (a novel much on my mind of late).  Adam runs the Cultures of the Cold War network whose website opens with a rapid-fire quotation from E.L. Doctorow:  ‘The bomb first was our weapon. Then it became our diplomacy. Next it became our economy. Now it’s become our culture. We’ve become the people of the bomb.’ Unfortunately, it appears the website then ran out of energy (sic), though there’s a useful Bibliography.

For me, the book I most admire is Patrick Deer‘s Culture in Camouflage: war, empire and modern British literature (2009).  He paints on a larger canvas than Imagination at war – the book covers the period 1914-1945, and there are definite advantages in doing so – and he seems to have read everything and to have thought about it all in depth and detail.  I was first drawn to it by his chapters on the Second World War, but as I re-work “Gabriel’s Map” for what I think, hope and pray will be a second new book (really), provisionally called War material, I’ve plunged back into his earlier accounts of the First World War.  They are brimful of incisive readings and artful insights.

“Gabriel’s Map” is all about the dialectic between the scopic regime constructed through the topographic map, the aerial photograph and the field sketch on the Western Front (‘cartography’) and the sensuous, haptic and thoroughly embodied knowledge of the troops on – and in – the ground (‘corpography’).  Here’s Patrick:  ‘If the emblematic figure for the collapse of vision was No Man’s Land, it was the strategist’s map that came to represent the struggle to recapture oversight, to survey and order the mud, chaos and horror of battle.’ So I’m now thinking much more about the very idea of No Man’s Land and the multiple ways in which soldiers apprehended its gouged terrain.

More on all that very soon, but here I just want to say that Culture in camouflage is gloriously intellectually promiscuous and also a rattling good read.  If you want to explore the idea of ‘war culture’ I’d recommend starting here, and returning to it again and again.  But pack Lara’s book for the journey because she also has much to show us not only about how to travel but also how to write.

In digestion

SHARP Condensing the Cold WarWe’ve been in Mexico for the last two weeks – hence the silence – so there’s lots to catch up on and with.

While I was away Joanne Sharp wrote with news of her experience with CNN…  Reader’s Digest is in trouble, and readers will surely know of Jo’s Condensing the Cold War: Reader’s Digest and American Identity (University of Minnesota Press, 2000).  So CNN asked her for a commentary, which you can find here; here’s the conclusion:

Perhaps the decline of Reader’s Digest’s fortunes was inevitable with the longer-term social and political influences of 60s counterculture, the failure of general interest magazines, the rise of global media targeted at specific niches and the advent of the internet. But of equal importance was the end of the Soviet threat: With the fall of its arch enemy, the Evil Empire, there was no mirror against which it could present an alternative image of America and its historic mission.

As Jo ruefully notes, there is an irony in all this (and not only in being asked to condense her Condensing, if you see what I mean): ‘something that was rushed together between 1 and 4am (in Helsinki – I didn’t even have my notes!) – has reached a far larger audience than anything I’ve spent months sweating over.’  But, as she also notes, some of the online comments would provide material for another essay….