I have publicly and on this forum very explicitly argued against the strange ‘disappearance’ of black/brown bodies that are the actual targets and victims of our ‘liberal’ state policies of surveillance, entrapment, drone assassinations, renditions and indefinite detention. I recently argued:

“Western visual journalism, and visual artists, have erased the actual victims of the criminal policies of the imperial state. Instead, most all have chosen to produce a large array of projects examining drone attacks, surveillance, detentions and other practices, through the use of digital abstractions, analogous environments, still life work or just simply the fascinating and enticing safety of datagrams and charts. Even a quick look at recent exhibitions focusing on the ‘war on terror’ or wars in general, have invited works that use digital representations of war, or focus on the technologies of war. An extreme case of this deflection are recent projects on drone warfare that not only avoid the actual brown/black bodies that are the targets of deadly drone attacks, but are not even produced anywhere near the geographies and social ecologies where drone attacks continue to happen! Yet, these works have found tremendous popularity, though i remain confused what kinds of conversations or debates they provoke given that the voices of the families of those who have been killed, are not only entirely missing, but people who can raised the difficult questions about the lies and propaganda that are used to justify the killings, are also entirely missing.”

And I have publicly spoken out about this–a recording of one such event can be heard here:

It is with relief to see Nisha Kapoor’s film “Eyes of Aliyah”, which bring us to real people, to real lives destroyed, to real suffering and to real injustices.Not just institutions, or landscapes, or digital avatars and representations, or abstract rendering in safe geographical spaces or theoretical pondering or vacuous moral posturing. (thanks to Arun Kundnani for sharing the video)

This film is part of a larger project that she is heading, and is worth spending time on. You can see more of her initiative

 

If you are speaking out against an injustice, and not merely acting as a dispassionate or collaborative commentator, then it requires that you stand behind those who are suffering and facing the injustice. The fact remains that drones, surveillance, entrapment, renditions and other policies are primarily aimed at Muslims, and those too of the non-White variety. If you can’t face this truth, you aren’t really even working on the issue you claim to be speaking about. For it is the human justice, the human suffering, the indiscriminate practice of violence and criminality against people, that makes the issue interesting in the first place. After all, we are not talking about the local postal service and nice landscapes to reveal its practices. We are talking about war, about murder, about torture, about repression and about centres of power now far outside the purview of our democratic institutions.

We need photojournalists to turn their eyes, their minds, their hearts and their souls to the people who are being killed, imprisoned, humiliated and abused. By avoiding these lives, we are playing into the hands of the oppressive state, and its anti-democratic practices. We are not only mirroring the dictates of the embed programs (do not show any dead, or suffering), and we are facilitating the state’s continued acts of killings and disappearance. And last and not least, we are collaborating in the dehumanising and disappearing of real lives.