Another sightings post, another episode of Black Mirror. This semester I had the pleasure of reading one of the longest books I’ve ever read, War and Peace for my Russian Studies course. The majority of the book takes place during the Napoleonic War between Russia and France. One of the most prevalent themes in this book was the dehumanization of the enemy in times of war. To speak about this topic, Dr. Denham came to visit our class. One of the most prevalent things in all war novels is the dehumanization of the enemy by the government. From epics to propaganda posters to media hysteria today, dehumanizing the enemy has been one of the most convincing ways to get humans to kill each other. This Black Mirror episode takes dehumanizing the enemy to a whole different level.
The episode starts with a protagonist named Stripe who is an American soldier deployed in Denmark to eradicate mutated humans called “roaches.” He, like all the other soldiers have a neural implant MAAS that enhances senses and processes data via augmented reality…it also gives sex dreams while sleeping. Stripe and his crew are sent to a remote village to hunt for roaches.motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/men-against-fire-review-black-mirror-season-three-episode-five%5B/caption%5D
Above is a picture of what the Stripe viewed the roaches as. After an altercation with a roach, Stripe was flashed by an LED device and the roach escaped. The device causes damage to Stripe’s MAAS implant yet both the doctor and the psychologist clear him for another mission. At another mission he sees his crew killing not roaches but actual humans. He flees with a woman and her child who are technically roaches. The device broke his MAAS implant and allowed him to see the roaches as they are-humans. Roaches are actually the victims of an ethnic cleansing that were believed to be genetically inferior. MAAS alters the soldiers perceptions and views the roaches as ugly zombie like creatures to continue the prejudice and the propaganda of genetically inferior humans. After his crew mates find him and kill the woman, he is sent to military prison. While in prison, the military personnel explain to him what MAAS truly is and playback his consent that has been wiped off his memory and killings of the roaches-now as ordinary humans. He consents to a second memory wipe and is discharged.
What makes this episode interesting and terrifying is that the government and media use the same ploys to encourage to kill. Whenever a horrible atrocity occurs in United States, one of the first questions asked by the media is whether the perpetrator is Muslim. Donald Trump for instance uses awful and sweeping rhetoric that plays into this propaganda. Phrases such as “Islam hates us,” or “Bad Hombres,” and the ever famous “They’re rapists,” dehumanize certain groups of people that allows for war and violence against them. The other interesting part about this episode is the commentary of drone bombings. Technology has improved many parts of our lives, yes, but it also found better and faster ways to kill at a huge rate. MAAS, like drones do not see the enemy as humans but rather as targets to be eliminated without remorse. However, I truly hope humanity has learned it’s lesson from attempted ethnic cleansing of the past and I hope this episode can teach us to use technology for life rather than death.