Drones & Cultural Formation

RAZ: Talk about the consequences of the end of a peacetime American president.

ZENKO: Well, you see it in many areas. I mean, you see it in the media this unquestioning recognition that military solutions are sufficient means for U.S. conduct of foreign policy.

RAZ: We’re enablers, essentially.

ZENKO: We’re – I mean, the media is totally enablers, as is the general public. I mean, there are 10 movies currently in production or in theaters about the Navy SEALs. Nothing is more impressive and responsive than U.S. military capabilities – drones, Navy SEALs, cyberoperations. And so when we acknowledge their impressiveness and this sort of gee-whiz factor specifically of drones, you know, people are willing to let this happen.

And I would just say that before 9/11, the U.S. did not do targeted killings, and, in fact, they opposed other countries who did them. And if you would have told people on September 12, 2001 that the U.S. would have conducted 400 targeted killings outside of the battlefield settings, killing something like 3,000-plus people, they would have never believed you. And there seems to be no public debate about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

-Guy Raz interview with Micah Zenko, fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The increased and largely unquestioned use of drones has been one of the most disappointing aspects of the first Obama administration.  There is a lot that could be said about this but it’s Zenko’s point about the media’s role in this destructive technology’s wide acceptance that is especially important.  He points out the important and subtle role Hollywood plays in moving an entire culture from opposing targeted killing to accepting it as normal and impressive technologically.  The administration has had to little convincing about drones because Hollywood has already done this far more affectively than any politician ever could.

In Desiring the Kingdom James K. A. Smith refers to this sort of thing as cultural formation and he, like Zenko, calls out the way media voluntarily inculcates certain nationalistic values among its viewers.  As a result, we Christians “can find ourselves unwittingly becoming disciples of Americanism.”  Could this be why so few Christians on either end of the political spectrum raised targeted killings by drones during the presidential campaign?

(Header photo credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet on Flickr (cc).)

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