Basketball and Bimodern War

A short essay entitled "Michael Jordan Mogadishu" from Kroker and Weinstein's Data Trash: the theory of the virtual class (1994). (I am not sure if this journal post contravenes the copyright notice included in the book or not, so I will post the link where you can freely download the book and decide for yourself. Boldface emphasis added.)


The NBA championship game between the Phoenix Suns and the Chicago Bulls is flickering on the screen. It's half-time, and the news announcer suddenly appears to say that the game will be interrupted for a military news burst from the skies over Mogadishu, Somalia. It was the Persian Gulf video all over again: greenish night vision, shadowy C-131 attack planes fading away in the darkness, brilliant phosphorescent explosions of the bombs as they blew away the headquarters of Aidid, a Somalian clan leader. I was prepared for this: the mediascape had signalled my electronic body for days that this was an "uncooperative" clan leader who needed to be punished (he was held responsible by the UN for giving orders to attack the Pakastani contingent). I also knew that after Clinton's passivity on Bosnia, and his shrinking away from Lani Guinier, that the President needed a quick military kill, particularly one that could be done at a safe telematic distance without the direct involvement of American ground troops.

Curiously, as this screenal display of pure war flipped back to the NBA game, the sports announcer said: "And now for the always awkward transition back to basketball." But, of course, this was the true confession which was a lie. My electronic body felt only a deep symmetry between the war scene in Mogadishu and the virtual war on the basketball court in Phoenix. Maybe there was not the slightest disjunction between these two screenal economies because we witnessed two coeval wars: real (Mogadishu) war and virtual (NBA) war. Or was it the reverse? Mogadishu as the virtual war, with its electronic mapping of the geographic coordinates of Aidid's military base and TV headquarters (were they the same?) and its application of the laser weaponry of pure technology to achieve a virtual kill? And was the Suns/Bulls game, with its violent match-up of the god-like Jordan and the super-intense Barkley, complete with a brilliantly arrayed rhetoric of strategy, tactics, and logistics, the real war in the android hearts of the virtual population?

Or something different? Not virtual war versus real war, but the superannuation of war into an indeterminate doubling: bimodern war. In this case, the violent bombing of Mogadishu provided the cycle of primitive energy necessary to sustain the pure technology of NBA championship basketball. And the in-your-electronic-face basketball of Jordan and Barkley provided the tactical clues guiding the American air force as it flipped Mogadishu into the electronic trash-bin of a computer application: total aggressivity, electronic scanning, networked virtual simulation of the target population, and specular publicity. In this case, the night bombing of Mogadishu, under the sign of basketball tactics, issues in the use of AC-130H gunships as the military equivalent of 3-point shots (safe from grasping hands); and the "end-game" of Mogadishu displays all the finesse of a half-court press. Mogadishu as the real virtual sport? Why not? This was a sacrificial scene where an accidental range of victims is selected for purposes of enhancing the internal (telematic) moral cohesion of the home team (US/UN). Michael Jordan Mogadishu, then, as the first and best of all the virtual Air Force Generals. The only question remaining is this: was the disappearance of Mogadishu timed perfectly for the half-time of the NBA game: a final deft touch of bimodern war as the leading edge of promotional culture under the sign of pan-capitalism?


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