Catastrophic Events, Mass Traumatization and the Body Politic
By James F. Tracy
July 06, 2013
A long-held desire of the technocratic worldview involves manipulation and control of a national and even international body politic. “This planetary consciousness,” Zbigniew Brzezinski observes, brings into closer view a single indivisible humanity united by the soft tyranny of depersonalized and omnipresent coercion. “The sense of proximity, the immediacy of suffering,” he wrote at the height of the Cold War, “the globally destructive character of modern weapons all help to stimulate an outlook that views mankind as a community.”
In the perceived absence of such a powerful monolithic threat, mass-mediated tragedy and terror increasingly fulfill a similarly unifying purpose and means to conjure and augment broader political projects.
More so than ever the population witnesses major catastrophic events such as the recent mass shootings in Tucson Arizona, Aurora Colorado, and Newtown Connecticut, and the Boston Marathon bombing through the two-dimensional (audio-visual) lens of major news outlets and social media platforms. A less-examined aspect of this development is how United States law enforcement and intelligence agencies operating under the Department of Homeland Security utilize such media to create and promote news of designer tragedies capable of generating a potent emotional response from the citizenry.
Moreover, the vicariously imagined trauma of such events provides a window of public acquiescence wherein government officials may shape popular sentiment and introduce restrictive legislative programs (stricter gun control in the case of Tucson, Aurora and Newtown) or forthright militarized oppression (the rescinding of posse comitatus and Fourth Amendment protections in the case of the Boston Marathon Bombing) that under normal circumstances would be rejected by the citizenry.
In addition to providing the basis for introducing unpopular policies and practices, mediated spectacles and a digitally interconnected population allow for the precise measurement of public sentiment and reaction to such crises, thereby producing information that is essential for the police state’s continued roll out and effective operation. As social scientist Armand Mattelart argues, such interconnectivity brings to fruition the long held ambition among modern social engineers to regiment the population–a pursuit that can be traced at least to the crude practices of phrenology and anthropometry.