BEHOLD the FRAGILE and REVERSIBLE PROGRESS
A new work at Artcontext by Andy Deck
“Tunnel passages provided the telegraph with its first practical application. The […] ‘space interval system’, consisted of a division of the entire line into separate ‘blocks’, each served by a telegraph transmitter. This transmitter signaled to the block ahead when the line was clear; the engine-driver then received an optical signal that told him to go ahead. The system relieved the engine-driver from any remaining obligation to exercise his personal powers of perception and judgement on the conditions that prevailed around him and his train: all he needed to do was to follow the signals given by a distant telegraph center.”
The Railway Journey p. 30, Wolfgang Schivelbusch
Governance in this era of consolidated media power has developed into a similarly indirect process of signal interpretation. Politicians make busy sounds while corporate titans sculpt a mediated ‘issue environment’ that contains all ‘realistic’ points of view. The citizenry, the presumed captains of the social ship, become captive passengers of a signal system gone haywire.
For most, understanding of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a matter of interpreting sporadic television news. Since the troop escalation dubbed ‘the surge’ in 2006, though, American television news programs have devoted minimal coverage to both wars. For those curious enough to find information in print media and on the Internet, there are signs that things are not going well. Casualties are again surging in Iraq, up 50% for American soldiers in June 2008 from May 2008. Moreover, June casualties of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan are at an all time high, surpassing even the death toll in Iraq. In addition to the millions of Iraqis killed so far (as estimated by The Lancet and others), there are close to five million refugees who have been forced to leave their homes because of the war. Meanwhile, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Linda Bilmes have conservatively estimated that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq have cost $3 trillion. Despite all these measures, many Americans continue to believe that the wars should be continued rather than ended. Surge Cycle represents this strange signal process by which misery and failure are converted into necessity.