The USS Quad Damage

It's a silent scream

If you haven’t been following the Wafaa Bilal “shoot the Iraqi” guy thing, the interview will probably fill some holes, and I mean that in the least pornographic way possible. I think it’s great, but I think the conclusions are a little... convenient. I mean, this is art, not science. It’s supposed to appeal to the heart, not the head. Therefore, when they make conclusions, these conclusions aren’t based on any sort of fact, rather the feeling one gets when they look at the “art”.

As soon as I read the words “human condition”, the markovian bullshit filter in my brain triggers. I read the rest with a marked cynicism. It works, considering his conclusions are: people feel no remorse when they inflict pain or “the internet” is dehumanising.

Some people feel no remorse when they inflict pain. They’re called psychopaths or sociopaths. There are a number of them in society, generally, and the army is well known for trying to recruit them, and for trying to train the rest to be like them (at least no remorse for “the enemy”). At least some of the people shooting this guy are among them, that’s almost a dead cert. In a way it’s similar to how most people show on remorse to killing and eating animals – they’re just trained that way.

And it’s true, the internet is somewhat dehumanising. When you don’t have additional cues to help you understand the trouble someone else goes through, like the sound of someone’s voice or the way they move, then you don’t feel the need to help them, as much. In contrast, this guy’s set up a web-cam so you can see him get hit! When he’s hurt, you gotta feel a little bit bad. I doubt it’s dehumanising. The key thing the dude forgot is the main reason he keeps getting shot:

The website’s got 3 main buttons – left, right, and shoot. There’s exactly one moving target in the room. What else do you expect someone to do? Nothing? What’s going to happen after 30 days if no one shoots him? If you give someone a knife, what do you expect them to do with it? cut stuff. That’s just how it works. When you get a paintball gun and a guy in a room who’s in there voluntarily, then people are going to shoot him — that’s the whole point of the site.

Technology is not what’s dehumanising, it’s the way it’s used. The Wafaa Bilal art project probably has something to teach us, but it should not be used to make gross over-generalisations.