Thinking Against Violence


Natasha Lennard and Brad Evans in The NYT's The Stone:

Natasha Lennard: The premise of your book “Disposable Futures” is that “violence is ubiquitous” in the media today. There seems to be plenty of evidence to support this claim — just look at the home page of this news site for a start. But the media has always been interested in violence — “if it bleeds, it leads” isn’t exactly new. And the notion that there is just more violence in the world today — more violent material for the media to cover — doesn’t seem tenable. So what do you think is specific about the ubiquity of violence today, and the way it is mediated?

Brad Evans: It is certainly right to suggest the connections between violence and media communications have been a recurring feature of human relations. We only need to open the first pages of Aeschylus’ “Oresteia” to witness tales of victory in battle and its communicative strategies — on this occasion the medium of communication was the burning beacon. But there are a number of ways in which violence is different today, in terms of its logics intended, forced witnessing and ubiquitous nature.

We certainly seem to be entering into a new moment, where the encounter with violence (real or imagined) is becoming more ubiquitous and its presence ever felt. Certainly this has something to do with our awareness of global tragedies as technologies redefine our exposure to such catastrophic events. But it also has to do with the raw realities of violence and people’s genuine sense of insecurity, which, even if it is manufactured or illusionary, feels no less real.

One of the key arguments I make throughout my work is that violence has now become the defining organizational principle for contemporary societies. It mediates all social relations. It matters less if we are actual victims of violence. It is the possibility that we could face some form of violent encounter, which shapes the logics of power in liberal societies today. Our political imagination as such has become dominated by multiple potential catastrophes that appear on the horizon. The closing of the entire Los Angeles city school system after a reported terrorist threat yesterday is an unsettling reminder of this. From terror to weather and everything in between, insecurity has become the new normal. We see this played out at global and local levels, as the effective blurring between older notions of homeland/battlefields, friends/enemies and peace/war has led to the widespread militarization of many everyday behaviors — especially in communities of color.

More here.