As I turned the corner from Fifth Avenue, I could see it hovering in the middle of the block, an eyeless drone, blind and lethal.
What I really saw was the replica of a reaper drone created by Nick Mottern, being used in a protest in front of the Museum of Modern Art of these weapons that bring death to thousands of people whom the US targets. I hurried along, fearing I was late. It turned out that the installation of this high tech replica required a lot of time.
Drone replica at protest in DC earlier
When he had finished setting up, Nick made it possible for passersby to see themselves on computer monitors in the sights of his model drone, which is equipped with a camera that streamed to the monitors. This is how the real ones work, but the people it targets are often on the other side of the globe, in Pakistan and Afghanistan for example, from the arm chair pilots in Arizona and Nevada and other sites in the US.
Also, Nick’s drone was not far off the earth, so we could easily recognize ourselves, whereas the images that determine when the pilots launch the drones’ lethal weapons are not so close and people are not distinct. The result is many deaths by drone of people who are just going about their lives unsuspectingly.
The event I participated in was organized by the World Can’t Wait and the site was chosen to coincide with the exhibit in the museum of artist Harun Farocki’s Images of War (At A Distance). You can read about it here.
We were on the street handing out flyers about drones and talking with people. As Nick interviewed people who stopped by, a filmmaker shot footage. The rest of us also engaged when we could with people who stopped.
It was Friday afternoon when the Museum of Modern Art offers free entry and huge crowds made it hard to step back and get a really good look at the replica drone and hard to connect the scene of the computer monitors with the overhead drone at first. Even so, we passed out nearly five hundred flyers in the time we were there, and a number of people stopped long enough to get the full picture.
Some of the people I spoke with were, not surprisingly since they had come to the Farocki exhibit, well acquainted with the horrors of drone warfare and the insidious nature of its expansion during the current regime. Often they thanked us for this action. A few people who stopped did not know much about drones and were interested in what we had to say. Some young men had been in military recruiting centers where video war games are offered to the young to entice them to join. I found their attitudes complex and reflected on the subtleties of US corporate media and entertainment in the ubiquitous US propaganda campaigns of the last few decades. I am saving those reflections for a separate post, but note the issue here.
Nick Mottern, the creator of these replicas, told me that he made the first one after writing an article for TruthOut.org “Calling Them Out: War Profiteer Steven R. Loranger” about the CEO of ITT which manufactures the bomb releases for the drones. He decided to protest at Loranger’s house in Connecticut and that a model drone would enhance such an action. One thing led to another, as he conceded to me in talking about the origins of these replicas, and the result is the high tech model that he contributed to our action yesterday.
Nick is a journalist with a great many other skills. It was especially good to have met him and watched him in action as a journalist making the documentary as well.
In speaking with people, Nick said frequently that he wanted to see these weapons banned internationally. Me, too. I also want to see media reporting the truth about them and a more informed public willing to act to stop the wars and crimes and human rights violations of its government.