The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Psychoanalysis, Photography, Deconstruction

By Elissa Marder | Go to book overview

FIVE
On Psycho-Photography: Shame and Abu Ghraib

“The illiteracy of the future,” someone has said, “will be ignorance not
of reading or writing, but of photography.” But shouldn’t a photographer
who cannot read his own pictures be no less counted as an illiterate?
Won’t inscription become the most important part of the photograph?

—WALTER BENJAMIN, “Little History of Photography”

Although one might want to argue that all politics can be seen as an attempt to manage fear, in the aftermath of 9/11 fear has explicitly dominated prevailing political discourse and dictated U.S. domestic and foreign policies. More specifically, the decision to wage preemptive war in Iraq was justified as a reasonable and defensive response to the fear of a future attack. Since U.S. intelligence ostensibly knew that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and since we knew that Iraq was a breeding ground for Al-Qaeda, and since we knew that Hussein and Al-Qaeda were colluding to plan another surprise attack on U.S. soil, it was imperative, it was argued, to wage war on Hussein there in Iraq now in order to ward off an attack here in the future. In that heady time leading up to the Iraq war, those who refused to acknowledge the fear-provoking evidence or failed to experience the need for fear were dismissed as foolish at best and irresponsible at worst.

According to this logic, a certain understanding of and faith in the truth of “fear” was required in order to conclude that war was imminent,

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