Terror, media, and technology fetishism

The 26 November terror attacks on/in Mumbai have triggered a fascination with technology. An earlier post (link) examined how the print news media and the security technology industry came together to promote products and services. And security products and services companies have used the raised salience of terrorism to promote their products (link). Technology it seems is necessary to “protect” us from a danger we have no means of predicting — when and how they will attack us. So, what does the media fetishism of security technologies inform us about terrorism and the notion of security. A CNN-IBN television report on security technologies. The reporter begins by saying a few gunmen held Mumbai hostage with “cutting edge technology. It’s time we fight fire with fire”.

The report then goes to great lengths to present to us how the technological marvels have a solution to all our problems. The subtext being, all these products are available for the asking. All we need to do is to acquire them. The central premise of the news segment is to promote security through prevention. It would be foolish to contradict that in an ideal setting. By an ideal setting I refer to conditions where we live in the proverbial castle, surrounded by a wide and deep moat, with endless food supplies, able bodies individuals to ward off attacks and even launch a counter attack. But alas, we don’t live in an ideal world. Technology is merely one of the tools used by “intelligence”, which is then processed for decision making, and action and so on. Thus, the CNN-IBN report misses it by a mile when it fetishises technology for its own end. The question to be asked is — like the newspaper — is there a relationship between news features and advertising?

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