Brandon explains how his “conservative Christian, pro-country, pro-patriotic, poor, lower middle class” background helped him become a drone operator as he was interested in doing well. He describes the (then) training process involved in becoming a drone operator and its shortcomings.
Brandon graphically describes the two types of people who operate drones – those who enjoy this kind of work, and those who do not, even though they are being given the chance to feel that they are “the tip of the spear, doing what my nation needs for me… There were definitely people who left the drone program early because they couldn’t handle it. Mental breakdowns galore, unnecessary dramas, the pressure got to people. I am one of those people who is masochistic and will endure pain, it probably comes from my athletic background, but after a while I was shaken and subdued into the kind of culture that is there… But when I looked at what we were doing it really hit me that I was becoming somebody who I really didn’t want to be anymore. There is no concept of honour or dignity amongst these people…”
Brandon says that we have opened a Pandora’s box, where we have the ability to kill anyone in the world with little or no data on the person. The people who operate drones, Brandon says, are also part of the problem: “they sit for hours and hours in front of these machines, giving their humanity, watching people live out their lives… but we dehumanize ourselves because we detach ourselves from our own humanity, by not even given the people we call our enemy the chance to be even seen as a human beings…”
Killing people though, is something that all soldiers do. Brandon explains with great emotional detail the difference between being a drone operator and being a ‘live’ soldier in the Middle East for example. He concludes that there is no real code of honour amongst drone operators. “There is no way to be honourable when you are not on the same level as your enemy.” Brandon says that the word ‘assassination’ is a polite way of describing drone killings. “It is more like a predator hunting its prey.” The symbolic nature of the names of drone programs and weapons is not by chance, Brandon says, “…they want to create programs that feel deadly.”
Brandon feels that there will always be people who want this kind of solution because it offers an easy solution, in that algorithms don’t have feelings, but until people realise that “until people say that wow, this is completely unfair, this isn’t making us safe… I don’t think anything is going to change.”
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