DEATH TV: DRONE WARFARE IN CONTEMPORARY POPULAR CULTURE
"Death TV offers a cogent, lively, and urgent contribution to the cultural study of drones and their centrality to twenty-first-century war-making. Adams skilfully weaves together accessible readings of realist cultural texts including films, novels, and television with an analysis of the far-ranging and deadly consequences of 'drone fictions' in an era of permanent war."
Ronak K. Kapadia, author of Insurgent Aesthetics: Security and the Queer Life of the Forever War (Duke University Press, 2019)
"This radical critique of the popular imagery of drones unpacks a unique variety of cultural products and popular media narratives which articulate the contemporary experience of being watched. A ground-breaking analysis of drone stories, this work offers an expansive critique on drone technologies in popular culture, showing how our consumption of drone narratives makes us part of the surveillance society." Susan Flynn, co-editor of Spaces of Surveillance (2017), Surveillance, Race, Culture (2018), and Surveillance, Architecture and Control (2019)
"Alex Adams must be one of the most interesting writers/thinkers out there. Death TV is a wonderfully clear and well-argued take on the ideology of drone fiction and imperialist tropes."
Published by Drone Wars UK in 2021, and available for free download here. Death TV is also available through the Reaching Critical Will Gender and Disarmament Database.
I recorded an audio summary of Death TV, including a short interview with Chris Cole, Director of Drone Wars UK, as episode 2 of Dr Smash's Film Club.
How does our consumption of popular media affect how we see and understand drone warfare? In this compelling new study, critic Alex Adams examines the ways that drone warfare is represented across popular film, literature, and TV in depth, and argues that popular culture is a central political force that predetermines many of our understandings of what drone warfare is and why it is conducted. From 'just-in-time' justice and the politics of 'collateral damage' to the sympathetic portrayal of UAV operators, Death TV shows the ways in which the popular culture we consume accessibly articulates many of the most influential and controversial ideas, themes, and political rhetoric associated with contemporary drone warfare.
Introduction: Drone Stories
One: Just in Time: Imminence, Legality, Morality
Two: Collateral Damage: Civilian Death/Bugsplat
Three: Technophilia: The Glory of the Weapon
Four: Hijack and Blowback: Drones and/as Resistance
Five: Humanization: Sympathetic Representations of Drone Operators
Six: Gender and the Drone: Unmanned Operations, Drone Queens, Genderqueer Machines
Conclusion: Death From Above
"There are, of course, plenty of artworks and pieces of writing that challenge the justification of drone warfare. Death TV draws a conceptual anatomy of the way that popular culture justifies military violence."
From my blog post on the Death TV website, 10/3/2021. PDF
"Even though we understand that fictional stories do not show us reality, very often the novels we read, the movies and TV we watch, and the video games we play can be a major resource that we draw on when forming our understanding of what military drones are, who operates them and what they do. For those of us without specialist knowledge, the images and stories we absorb from popular culture can frame the ways that we think about the politics and ethics of what is at stake in drone warfare: in particular, they tell us who drones kill and why."
Pop Culture Portrays Aerial Bombardment of Middle East as "Business as Usual" an op-ed I wrote that was published by Truthout on 7/3/2021. PDF
"Eye in the Sky frames the moral quandaries of drone warfare in such a way that on the one hand, a Hellfire strike seems to be a simple military necessity and, on the other hand, many of the most important and controversial aspects of drone warfare are left unexplored."
Drone Strikes in Popular Culture: Eye in the Sky, a guest blog post I wrote that was published by Drone Wars on 24/6/2020. PDF