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Weapon World: An Introduction

A culture of weapons preoccupies the imagination.

Molly Hankwitz

BAD SUBJECTS Issue #87 investigates war, guns, bodies, and mass media—weapons, as part of the human condition. In the post-cinema, post-television, social media, information and war spectacle of today a significant portion of our human subjectivity is bound up with imagining, utilizing, and conceptualizing weaponry of all sorts and description. Our international "selves" (as we pass through airport security checkpoints, for instance, as bodies in transit) are scanned and scrutinized for explosives. And "national identity" is being newly reworked. From the perspective of defense, in the age of gigantic border wall constructions, high-tech gun-toting drones, and the ubiquitous mobile phone, borders are increasingly physically demarcated and policed. Both experiences, the international "self" monitored and approved, and the bordered "self" effectively identified and accounted for, are part of an overall, heightened, perceived bureaucracy of security brought about in the wake of the 911 bombings in New York. We have also become public audience to web cast enemy beheadings and inter-corporate, inter-state, international cyber attacks (see Sony Pictures vs. North Korea) which continue to bring home an ever more weapons-packed geography of crisis.

Since the turn of the century, when the World Trade Center was ambushed live on television, and news spread rapidly across networks, unauthorized surveillance, international policing, military misconduct, and a fistful of expensive (American-lead) "just" wars have generated unparalleled, paralytic mistrust, widespread use of torture by powerful governments, and the destructive theft and occupation of land through ruthless military blight. These states of brutal, lopsided siege upon humanity offer, on the one hand, huge powerful armies and on the other, frequently impoverished, barely defended nations of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people, many brown and black people, in fact, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Gaza, and the Sudan---have been slaughtered, and even more left homeless and landless.

Front-row and center, in the panoptical seating at one's own "home" laptop, or television here in America, watching news is no less disturbing. Police killings of African Americans--Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and many others--speak to a grosser, deeper set of history-laden domestic security abuses, racially motivated use of excessive force, for example, and the pernicious wielding of state control over poor and minority populations to name a few.

It seems what civil societies, and even "global networking" and human rights activism have worked so hard to mediate--raw instinct and the available technology to kill each other--think Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey", when ape first lifts bone to strike ape, as David Cox points out--these recent issues contradict. We have made little progress. 21st century greed, over-consumption, political lies, land and religious conflicts (some two thousand years old my son pointed out), along with the popularization of American "cop", "vigilante", "entrepreneur" (mentalities of white-male control and domination) on movie and television screens haven't exactly been overcome. Speaking directly to the "inner" capitalist, corporate media (as seen on Fox News and CNN) continues to egg on populations, with ever more social connectivity, towards hate and reaction.

From personal handguns and bullet-proof children's backpacks to military drones, we have a problem. The technologically-enabled "global village" once utopian, has given rise, instead, to a dangerously oversimplified monoculture, disproportionately sucking up the wealth, protecting itself with guns and armies, and fusing into an all encompassing God's eye of surveillance. It is from this perception---that we have perhaps gone too far---and that we need to think to find the way out of the bottle, that Issue 87 was conceived.

Within, weapons are defined by some authors by how they manifest in specific regions or merge with memory and personal history. Still others define them with respect to narratives structuring argument in film, television, social media and literature.

Several writers are new to Bad Subjects in this Issue, and we are thanking them especially, but all of our contributors for the excellent work. In Gun Lust in Hollywood, Thomas Powell draws a bead upon the normalization of gun violence and conflations of sex and violence in which Hollywood film and TV engage. In Stupidity as a Weapon of War, Walter Alter reveals the blinding use of stupidity as a pervasive tactic in war.

David Cox offers an history lesson Weapons are Extensions of the Body, ghost warfare and other strategies. Artist Carol Morris depicts the extended body of Putin on his Handcuffed Horse.

In a snowy state that might be called America's Russia, Mike Mosher opens the arsenal of Michi-Gun, Land of A Thousand Contradictions while, 150 miles further, Patrick Powers loads Weapons in Northern Michigan.

In 19 Kids and Shooting: Jessa Duggar, Her Trip to the Gun Range, and Anti-Choice Rhetoric in the Quiverfull Movement, Tamara Watkins gazes upon Duggar's a pretty face for ugly ideology. In Ploughshares to Swords: The Weaponization of the Internet, Patrick Lichty looks at the increasing militarization and weaponization of the Internet.

Molly Hankwitz examines survivalist monoculture in Survivalism and the Closing of the Global Mind: Recent Films of Dominic Gagnon, a French-Canadian videographer.

Colin Scholl gives a disturbing picture (factual? fictional?) of how ad hoc weapons are The Great Equalizer behind prison bars. While the forces of control try to make us think its casualties aren't racialized, Steve Martinot offers An Examination of Some Recent Police Killings, Mike Mosher provides A Modest Proposal About Police Killings, and Joseph Natoli is outraged by Fatal Eruptions on the American Scene around us.

InWhere We Live, Holly Eskew takes us on personal journey into the memory of a young friend's life and death from a gun.

These essays and images, Issue 87 look at the psychological and physical effects of weapons upon populations in American life and around the world. They are a collective nod to the possibility of another world.

Molly Hankwitz, Bad Editor, Issue 87, Jan 2015

Graphic © Tamara Watkins. Many thanks to co-editors Tamara Watkins and Mike Mosher for their patient support and to Tamara for her graphic design.
Copyright © Molly Hankwitz. All rights reserved.