Droning on About Drones

Drones, both the military kind and the “civilian” kind, have been a lot in the news lately, so much that one could say — as one of our readers lamented — that we are droning about drones.

I have droned myself about this controversial subject, here and here, including droning about a new medal to be awarded to the pilots of these drones — all with innumerable, droning “Updates.”

But all droning aside, it is a subject that interests and worries many and consumes some.

On the military, or anti-terrorists side, the concerns are of a legal, moral and ethical nature, including what many feel is the non-judicial, indiscriminate killings of these bad actors, the tragic accidental killings of innocents — the so-called “collateral damage” — and the always present “slippery slope.”

Talking about the “slippery slope,” such military use now appears to be slipping away into civilian or commercial applications, where the concerns are mainly related to privacy issues, the “Big Brother” scenario — George Orwell’s “1984,” Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and other “dystopian” (I had to look this one up) nightmares.

Talking about dystopian nightmares — forgive the drone-like repetition — the New York Times has a fascinating “Op-Doc” today about, you guessed it, “Drones for America!

By the way, “Op-Docs” are “short, opinionated documentaries, produced with creative latitude by independent filmmakers and artists,” published periodically at the Times. (To learn more about these interesting Op-Docs and to perhaps submit one yourself, please click here).

But back to “Drones for America!”

There is no doubt as to where the author of this Op-Doc, Drew Christie, stands on the issue of drones, both for military and civilian-commercial purposes.

On their military use, and answering the rhetorical, “How will flying drones affect the psychology of those living under them?” Christie says:

For clues we can look to Pakistan, where the United States has killed thousands in drone strikes. Some Pakistani children reportedly have trouble studying and have dropped out of school because of the fear of drones buzzing overhead; some adults are afraid to gather publicly or attend weddings and funerals.

Reflecting on “domestic drones,” which, the author suspects, “will eventually have a similar effect: allowing the state to dominate the public through pervasive eyes in the sky,” he ponders:

How will these machines be regulated? Will they be weaponized? Will the National Rifle Association insist on the right of every American to have a drone to protect his or her family and home? None of this has been decided yet, but American lawmakers are pushing for drones to be in the skies over your head very soon. (Members of the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus — also known as the drone caucus — in the House of Representatives have received $8 million in contributions over the last four years from drone manufacturers.) How will flying drones affect the psychology of those living under them?

When Christie was developing his animated Op-Doc, he had in mind the adoption of drones by the Seattle Police Department — a program now abandoned — and, in addition to the two previously mentioned dystopian novels, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 1924 novel “We.”

I highly recommend that you watch Christies’ delightful yet frightening animated satire where a former K.G.B. agent gleefully “welcomes a future in which Americans live under the watchful eyes of drones.”

Drew Christie is an animator, filmmaker and illustrator who lives in Seattle. His previous Op-Docs are “Hi! I’m a Nutria,” “Allergy to Originality” and “A Thanksgiving Eel.”

Image: www.shutterstock.com

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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