There’s no need to watch that whole video so don’t be turned off by its 37 minute length. The only thing I want to talk about here is the bizarre fact that you’re watching a battle in the Syrian civil war on a GoPro camera mounted to the front of a tank.
Think about that for a second. Just a few years ago this is something that would be unthinkable. Technologically it simply couldn’t have happened but in just the last few years we’ve moved from first person stunt bike riding, surfing, etc to first person war and people seem entirely comfortable with this.
I’d like to argue that the reason people are so comfortable with this, the reason it seems perhaps even mundane is because of this next video. Again, no reason to watch the whole thing.
People in their 20s and even their 30s have seen fake war from a first person perspective for the better part of a decade with games being so visually realistic now that in a matter of years they’ll probably be very difficult to tell from the real thing. My feeling is that this is a kind of ‘new normal’ and while that may seem like an obvious statement I think it’s worth considering that what we seem to have here is life imitating art on the most deadly canvas possible.
Just to try and make my point further, here’s a vid clip of GTA5’s tank combat which looks a lot like the very top video of real war.
I subscribe to a lot of these “war footage” youtube sites because I pay attention to world events and sometimes even write about them here. I’m sure many others subscribe for similar “I want to be informed” types of reasons but there’s also a certain set of people that follow these videos to root for one side or another or simply because they think it’s cool. I’m not criticizing them. I think it’s understandable but it’s also something you could not do prior to existence of tiny HD cameras like the GoPro. And yes, I do have to wonder if this readily available footage makes war seem fun or awesome to people because of how much it looks like the video games they’ve been playing for years.
This kind of footage is already used as propaganda online and it makes me think of how GoPros are being attached to athletes to give an audience a first person perspective of football or soccer, etc. There’s something perverse in that comparison but you probably get my meaning.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a “won’t someone think of the children” piece. But I haven’t seen anyone talk about this specific phenomenon and I believe it’s worth thinking about. Technology in this case is causing cultural change. It is changing how people think about and view warfare and that’s worth noticing.