McKenzie Wark on Thu, 10 Feb 2005 13:13:55 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> securing security

Securing Security
[Presented at Transmediale 05]

McKenzie Wark

1. How one forgets. What was the ideology
for which allies supposedly fought in world
war two? Who remembers the four
freedoms? They were these:

      Freedom of religion
      Freedom of speech
      Freedom from want
      Freedom from fear

02.	Only now, in what was formerly the United
States, perhaps the demand could be for
four new freedoms:
	    Freedom from religion
	    Freedom from speeches
    	Freedom to desire
    	Freedom from security

03.	Of these four demands, I will talk only of
the last. What is the basis of security? What
secures security? Its absence. Insecurity
secures the necessity for security. The
threat to security is – oddly enough –
security itself. We have nothing to secure
but security itself.

04.	States act in the name of security – but what
could be more Orwellian? The security state
is an engine of violence. What secures the
state is the production of insecurity.
Preferably of a kind that is manageable.

05.	Insecurity getting out of hand every now
and then is not the worst thing. For the
state, its good for business. As the
American GIs used to say: "death is our
business, and business is good."[1]

06.	What is really threatening to the security
state is the prospect of peace. From this
point of view, the implosion of the Soviet
bloc is a disaster. People really started to
think about dismantling the security
apparatus in the United States. There was
talk of a "peace dividend".

07.	Thankfully, insecurity has returned to the
scene and all is well for the stock holders of
the military entertainment complex. Threats
appear to abound, and their existence
creates the appearance of necessity for the
military apparatus, and the necessity of
appearances for the entertainment

08.	The military entertainment complex is not
quite the same as the former military
industrial complex. Its infrastructure is not
so much mechanical as digital. Everything
we see here at transmediale is in part its

09.	Where did the military entertainment
complex come from? The military industrial
complex produced ever faster, ever more
complex machines for human warfare and
welfare; so fast and so complex that they
called into being whole new problems in
surveillance and logistics, planning and

10.	The military industrial complex struggled to
secure for itself a second nature. It
transformed nature into second nature, into
a world that could act as the object of an
instrument, a ‘standing reserve’. But this act
of transforming the world piecemeal into
object creates a supplementary problem –
the problem of the relationships of these
instruments ton each other.

11.	Work on this problems calls into being,
initially as a supplement, the digital as a
technological effect. Computing meets
communication and simulation. But
eventually, these technologies no longer
supplement the world of the machine; they
control every aspect of it. Thus, not a
military industrial but a military
entertainment complex, not the world as
made over as a second nature but the world
made over as a third nature.

12.	The digital embraces not just logistics and
command, but the fantasy and creation of
threats to security and means to secure. The
work of the military entertainment complex
is two sided. It has its rational, logistical
side; but it also has its romantic, imaginative
side. The latter invents reasons for the
former to exist. Insecurities cannot simply be
taken as given. That’s no way to build a
growth industry! They have to be
fabricated out of whole cloth. Becker: "With
hindsight, whole empires could turn out to
be the product of cultural engineering."[2]

13.	The rise of the military entertainment
complex is the mark of a society in decline.
What was once the United States is no
longer a sovereign state. It has been
cannibalized by its own ruling class. They
are stripping its social fabric bare. They have
allowed its once mighty industrial complex
to crumble. There’s nothing left but to loot
the state, abolish taxes on capital and move
all essential components of the production
process elsewhere.

14.	From now on, what was once the United
States lives on whatever rents it can extract
from an unwilling world. It has only two
exports: guns and information. It has
declared all invention, all creation, to be its
private property. Your culture does not
belong to you. You will have to rent back
your own unconscious.

15.	Unable to compete with others in an open
market, what was once the United States
finds itself reliant on force and the threat of
force to find new ways to expand. Iraq may
be in part about oil, but it is also about the
contracts to rebuild everything destroyed
by the last decade of sanctions and war.

16.	In short, the military entertainment complex
has entered into a vicious cycle. It imagines
threats so that violence may be unleashed
against them, thereby producing the cause
after the fact. Which came first: security or
insecurity? Which came first: the chicken or
the egg? McLuhan: "from the egg’s point of
view, a chicken is just a way to get more
eggs."[3] We might similarly say that from
security’s point of view, insecurity is just a
way to produce more security. Really, its
just a way-station in the self-reproduction of

17.	Yes, I know: the planes that crashed into
the World Trade Center were real. And so
is Osama Bin Laden. But who called him into
being, and why? Perhaps it was the
Pakistani secret police, perhaps it was the
CIA, perhaps it was Saudi Wahabbis. He
was an agent for the subversion of Soviet
control of Afghanistan. But imagined that
this was a threat to American interests and
why? Did the image of insecurity produce
the real security that produced this real
security that has, in turn produced the
image of insecurity on which the security
state now rests? Trying to uncover the real
behind the image here only leads to bad

18.	Debord: "The goal of the integrated
spectacle is to turn revolutionaries into
secret agents and secret agents into
revolutionaries."[4] This prophetic statement
tells us a lot about what transpired around
the year 1989, not least in East Germany. It
may even apply to events in the Ukraine in
2004.[5] It perfectly describes Allawi, Chalabi,
and various other talking heads that now
populate the chat show formerly known as
CNN. The integrated spectacle, or what I
would call the military entertainment
complex is a producer of a continuous, non-
dialectical relation between security and
insecurity. They are essentially the same
concept. Security produces sameness out of

19.	But there is a complication. What security
really fears is the people it claims to secure.
It fears their desire for peace. Security has
to produce insecurity without to secure its
own interior. Harvey: "The evil enemy
without became the prime force through
which to exorcise or tame the devils lurking
within." [6] And so, the Iraqi’s charade,
where, on second thoughts we might
update and amend Debord. The goal of the
military entertainment complex is to turn
mercenaries into patriots and patriots into

20.	The devil lurking within the United States is
if anything a people completely indifferent
to the security state that rules over them.
After the end of the cold war, people began
to question its necessity. That this
questioning was best expressed by Newt
Gingrich (and his successors) is if anything
an index of how compromised the
Democratic Party was by the military
entertainment complex and the manufacture
of insecurity for security’s sake.

21.	I hesitate to call this people and their desire
for peace a ‘multitude’. There is an
abandoning of the thread of class analysis in
Hardt and Negri. The concepts of ‘Empire’
and ‘Multitude’ grow out of, and transform
the anti-imperialist side of critical thinking;
not the anti-capitalist side. Yet what we see
most clearly in the United States is a
sharpening, not a lessening, of what the
Republicans themselves describe as ‘class

22.	The difficulty for thinking through class in
America is that the classes have changed.
The ruling class is itself split. A new ruling
class is being born. Where a capitalist class
depended on a certain stability within the
space of the United States, where it held
costly long term investments in plant and
infrastructure, the new ruling class, what I
call a vectoralist class, has few such
commitments. It rules not by controlling the
material but the immaterial. It controls the
production process through the ownership
of information and the means to realize its

23.	The Owl of Minerva flies at dusk: we talk
now of ‘homeland security’ precisely
because it is disappearing in the most basic
political-economic sense. Its no so much that
one’s job is now in India or China, but that
it could be. The power of the vectoralist
class is a power of logistics, of imagining and
ordering a world of information – a third
nature – which orders a world of things – a
second nature – which orders what was
once a natural world – somewhere.

24.	What is the relation between the rise of the
vectoralist class and the transformation of
the military industrial complex into the
military entertainment complex? It is both
agent and beneficiary. One notices, even
while the United States is using an old
fashioned army to occupy a country that the
so-called ‘revolution in military affairs’ is
proceeding apace. Every ruling class
imagines military power in its own image.
The vectoralist class is no exception. It
imagines warfare as third nature, as a video
game of data management in realtime.

25.	And so: we confront a rising form of
power, based on a new class formation,
which nevertheless is a decadent one. How
is one to confront it? Or perhaps better,
escape it. If the example of Critical Art
Ensemble tells us anything, it is that we
cannot avoid the problem, but that
prudence may be the better part of valor.
Agamben: "In the final analysis the state can
recognize any claim for identity… But what
the state cannot tolerate in any way is that
singularities form a community without
claiming an identity, that human beings co-
belong without a representable condition of
belonging."[7] That perhaps might describe a
strategy for tactical media, in the age of
third nature, under the reign of the military
entertainment complex, animated by the
power of the vectoralist class, under cover
of the ideology of ‘security’.

[1]  Phil Kline, Zippo Songs: Airs of War and Lunacy,
Cataloupe Music, New York, 2004

[2]  Konrad Becker, Tactical Reality Dictionary,
editions selene, Vienna, 2002, p10

[3] Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, MIT
Press, Cambridge MA, 1994, p12

[4] Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the
Spectacle, Verso, London,  1998

[5] CJ Chivers, ‘The Orange Revolution:
Ukraine’s Inner Battle’, New York Times
Multimedia, 9th February 2005.

[6] David Harvey, New Imperialism, Oxford
University Press, 2003, p17

[7] Giorgio Agamben, Means Without End:
Notes on Politics. Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 2000, p87


McKenzie Wark is the author of A Hacker
Manifesto, Harvard University Press, 2004

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