Mutually Appreciated Destruction

Mutually Assured Destruction: In 1962, President John F. Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara lays the foundational philosophy for “rational” nuclear deterrence: build as many nukes as possible, so that if the US were ever attacked, it would be able to respond so powerfully as to completely obliterate the Soviet Union. So, if either side knows attacking the other would lead to self-annihilation, no reasonable human would press the launch button. A new era of unwinnable war, of constant and paralyzing fear amongst the populous with its destiny completely beyond its own control – a constant nightmare to be entertained through media, ranging from satiric to jingoistic to cathartic.

 

Mutually Appreciated Destruction: It’s not just the bomb that bears the enforcing, encompassing threat MAD; it’s also the representation of the bomb, its miasmic, constant haunting. The feeling is mutual, then, not just between East and West, but between Camera and Nuke. Only one such bomb ever needed to be mobilized to define a century; the horrific images of energy unleashed on a impossible scale have been in the back of civilizations minds ever since. The infinite tests and resultant Mushroom Clouds only make sense as weaponized images – if a bomb goes off in a desert, will it make a sound? Appreciated, then, not only because the players in this cosmic game of chicken make no sense without the other—but in the sense of recognizing, of seeing: only with the Camera does the Bomb really come into its own. In this program, we begin with Nuke and end with the Drone, not to evoke some glib equivalence of radically historical epochs and means of destruction, but perhaps to explore how the reach and effect of these weapons utilize seeing.

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