Fetishised Data: Counterterrorism, Drone Warfare, and Pilot Testimony

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Drones now comprise a major part of our culture – primarily as a consequence of the so-called War on Terror and the rise in violent extremism. Yet the available data on what it means to operate a drone (where this can influence wider perceptions on the appropriateness and effectiveness of remote warfare as an act of counterterrorism) is highly contradictory. This article explores a new source of data capable of shedding light on this contested issue: online interviews with current and former pilots discussing their personal experiences. Access to this testimony has the potential to influence cultural understandings of remote warfare, specifically where these stories highlight the severe psychological difficulties pilots can be subject to. In analysing this new data, however, the article questions whether the media typically employed to express pilot testimony comprises an appropriate space in which to publicise and engage with this evidence. It argues that this presentation has caused these personal accounts to become fetishised – to the extent this undermines the cultural, political, and informative value of the data and even reinforces the narratives of remote warfare this testimony frequently seeks to reverse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-110
JournalCritical Studies on Terrorism
Issue number1
Early online date7 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

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