an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

Volume 2, March 2005, ISSN 1552-5112





Securing Security*


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 to each other.


11. Work on this problem 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. It’s 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’.



* [conference paper presented at Transmediale 05]



[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


















an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

Volume 2, March 2005, ISSN 1552-5112