The Military-Industrial- Media-Entertainment Network

Technology in the service of virtue has given rise to a global form of virtual violence: Virtuous War. In the 21st century, the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment-Network (aka The MIME-NET) has become the ‘fifth-dimension’ of U.S. hegemony. Fought in the same manner they are represented through real-time global surveillance, media dissimulation, and network-centric warfare, virtuous war deters, disciplines and destroys the “enemy” at a distance. An all-too-real matrix, MIME-NET, seamlessly merges the production, representation, and execution of war. We learn how to kill but not take responsibility for it; we encounter ‘death’ but not its tragic consequences; we now face not just the confusion but the pixelation of war and game on the same screen.

Professor James Der Derian, of the University of Sydney, takes the viewer on a journey through deserts real and virtual to find the ghosts in the 21st century war-machine.


4 thoughts on “The Military-Industrial- Media-Entertainment Network

  1. Professor James Der Derian in The Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network gives an overview of the new phenomena of virtuous war: “technology in the service of virtue” (Machine 2013). Virtuous war is the use of technology to supposedly create bloodless, humanitarian and hygienic war (Der Derian 2009, 33). It involves the use of long distance weaponry, virtual reality training simulations, satellite imagery and many more technological advancements in conflict. The concept is presented as a facet of MIME-Net (the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network) being the association of these four industries as an evolution from the military-industry complex (Machine 2013, Der Derian 2009, 38). This text discerns Der Derian’s argument regarding virtuous war and whether the argument presented is convincing in the context of other literature in this area. I will conclude with possible improvements on Der Derian’s work.

    Before continuing it is important to note that the message presented in Der Derian’s video was gleaned both from the clip itself as well as the book it is promoting, Virtuous War. The short film is almost a trailer to the book and therefore is more promotional than analytical or argumentative. For clarity, within this text I analyse the contents of the video within the context of the book.

    Der Derian argues in this piece that virtuous war is anything but virtuous. He presents that the use of technology has resulted in a “collective unconsciousness”, whereby actors in conflict are sleepwalking through the human tragedies caused by the introduction of technology(Machine 2013, Der Derian 2009, 35). He focuses predominantly on training simulations, both in the real and virtual world (Machine 2013). He claims that within these simulations, soldiers are learning the how of killing without understanding its tragic consequences (Machine 2013, Der Derian 2009, 34).

    There are a growing number of scholars who support Der Derian’s theory of virtuous war being a cause of concern (Machine 2013, Der Derian 2009, 33, Shaw 2005, 139, Lenoir 2000, 334). That it is having an effect on our perceptions of reality (Machine 2013, Der Derian 2009, 33, Shaw 2005, 139, Lenoir 2000, 334). Prominent psychologist Albert Bandura analysed the effects of disregarding and distorting the results of ones actions had on moral agency (the power to both refrain from inhuman behaviour and to proactively behave humanely) (Bandura 1999, 193). He found that self-censure is affected when individuals can see and hear the suffering they cause (Bandura 1999, 199). Bandura highlights that considering this, the new era of depersonalised, technological warfare has made it easier to cause harm (Bandura 1999, 199). Additional studies have also indicated that external factors (including situational ones such as virtual reality) have an effect on moral agency (Tsang 2002, 25, Darley 1992). It has also been evidence that routinisation of tasks (take for example the ‘point and click’ nature of virtual warfare) can obscure moral standards (Tsang 2002, 29, Kelman and Hamilton 1989). Morality is intrinsically linked with virtue, the Oxford Dictionary defines virtuous as “having or showing high moral standards”. Considering this, Der Derian’s argument that virtuous war lacks virtue is evidenced by these psychological studies that show its effects on morality.

    Although his argument is convincing and the detriments of virtuous war a genuine issue, Der Derian has generalised the implications of technology’s involvement in conflict. Virtual reality (VR), which Der Derian highlighted as a negative aspect of virtuous war (Machine 2013), has been evidenced as an effective treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Gerardi et al. 2008, Reger et al. 2011). Considering the significant numbers of soldiers developing PTSD and the fact that the condition can become chronic, means that an effective treatment is necessary (Gerardi et al. 2008). Additionally, VR (and real-life) simulations have been shown to be a critical training tool (Garofano 2002, 138). Although set in the context of gaming, Robinson and Flanagan both see virtually simulated environments as effective mediums in developing critical problem solving skills (Robinson 2012, 507). Players (or soldiers in a VR training simulation) are immersed in complex, realistic situations in which they are able to step away and critically analyse problems (Robinson 2012, 507). Lastly, technology in warfare has the possibility of making militaries more accountable and virtuous. The Vietnam War is evidence of the positive effects of technology having caused a changed American policies regarding the conflict (Bandura 1999, 199, Rid 2007, 53). Although ‘positive’ is a subjective term, considering Der Derian defining ease of killing as immoral, it seems that the media’s ability to curtail it should be thus categorised.

    Separating the intention of Der Derian’s clip as being a promotional tool for his book, his message of the detriments of virtuous war was not conveyed in the most effective way. Firstly, the film lacked clear structure or presentation of a clear point-of-view, it took several viewings to discern the argument Der Derian was attempting to convey. Secondly, at times the video was chaotic, with several audio and visual elements being presented at once. However, this could possibly have been utilised to reflect the chaotic nature and issue of technology being utilised in war. Lastly, the clip lacked any empirical evidence to support Der Derian’s viewpoint. The evidence presented was all anecdotal which failed to be completely convincing (Garofano 2002, 139).

    Der Derian’s argument that there are stark consequences of virtuous war are clearly supported and sound. Its effects on moral agency affect its supposed virtue and show the detrimental effects of technology in conflict. However, Der Derian has painted a broad-brushstroke of the effects of technological innovation in warfare. Its use in psychological treatment, military training and accountability measures means that technology’s involvement in warfare is far from black and white. To be more convincing Der Derian requires a less chaotic framework and the inclusion of empirical evidence to support his claims.

    Bandura, Albert. 1999. “Moral Disengagement in the Perpetration of Inhumanities.” Personality and Social Psychology Review 3 (3):193-209. doi: 10.1207/s15327957pspr0303_3.
    Darley, John M. 1992. Social Organization for the Production of Evil. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
    Der Derian, James. 2009. Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network. Vol. 2nd. New York: Routledge.
    Garofano, John. 2002. “Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network by James Der Derian.” Political Science Quarterly 117 (1):138-139.
    Gerardi, Maryrose, Barbara Olasov Rothbaum, Kerry Ressler, and Mary Heekin. 2008. “Virtual reality exposure therapy using a virtual Iraq: Case report.” Journal of traumatic stress 21 (2):209-213. doi: 10.1002/jts.20331.
    Kelman, Herbert C., and V. Lee Hamilton. 1989. Crimes of obedience: toward a social psychology of authority and responsibility. New Haven: Yale University Press.
    Lenoir, Tim. 2000. “All but War Is Simulation: The Military-Entertainment Complex.” Configurations 8 (3):289-335. doi: 10.1353/con.2000.0022.
    Machine, The Vision. 2013. The Military-Industrial- Media-Entertainment Network. In The Vision Machine.
    Reger, Greg M., Greg M. Reger, Kevin M. Holloway, Colette Candy, and Barbara O. Rothbaum. 2011. “Effectiveness of virtual reality exposure therapy for active duty soldiers in a military mental health clinic.” Journal of traumatic stress 24 (1):93-96. doi: 10.1002/jts.20574.
    Rid, Thomas. 2007. War and Media Operations: The US Military and the Press from Vietnam to Iraq. Hoboken: Taylor & Francis.
    Robinson, Nick. 2012. “Videogames, Persuasion and the War on Terror: Escaping or Embedding the Military–Entertainment Complex?” Political Studies 60 (3):504-522. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9248.2011.00923.x.
    Shaw, Martin. 2005. The new western way of war: risk-transfer war and its crisis in Iraq. Cambridge: Polity.
    Tsang, Jo-Ann. 2002. “Moral rationalization and the integration of situational factors and psychological processes in immoral behavior.” Review of General Psychology 6 (1):25-50. doi: 10.1037//1089-2680.6.1.25.

  2. POLS3512 Global Media War and Peace
    Critical Blog Post: The Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network
    Professor James Der Derian

    Humanity’s fascination with all things violent and warlike can be seen throughout many cultures and nations stretching back centuries. From the violence and war games of the Roman Colosseum to the North American children’s pastime of ‘cowboys and indians’, it has been humanity’s lust for violence has built warfare as a source of entertainment or idolisation (Bourke 2014:2). However, it is in today’s society, with an ever increasing presence of media on the battlefield, and conversely the increasing presence of military industry within the studios of Hollywood that causes many scholars like Professor James Der Derian (2013) to question the blurring lines between propaganda, entertainment, journalism and the natural development of technology. The central message on Der Derian’s Vision Machine (2013) spotlight on the ‘Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network’ (MIME-net) reasonably conveys the lack of moral accountability that may come to exist within the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment complex, yet fails to address a number of key questions which may have added to the argument. This includes an exploration into the conscious intent of each of the actors within ‘MIME-net’, and the notable silences of the potential benefits of a virtual and media filled warfront. To best understand the Vision Machine post, it must be analysed within the context of Der Derian’s book “The Virtuous War, Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network” (2001). The message argues the synergy perpetuated by MIME-Net fosters a militarised culture within the lives of citizens, as the interlocking of these industries creates virtual conflict, a divide between aggressors and the reality of war, and promotion of the virtues war.

    Technology has always played a large part in the development of war and the modern capacity for conflict, which has reached a point where the aggressors exist within a sanitised battlefield, which denies decision makers the horrors of war, and is argued to ultimately affect judgement (Der Derian 2001:27). This development in technology and virtual conflict culture is due to the symbiotic relationship between military and the entertainment industry following WW1, which has grown exponentially with significant military spending and influence in the sector ultimately to develop a War State (Der Derian,2013:168). Evident in the imagery of the Industry/Military ‘Simcon’ portrayed within the film. Louis Caldera, U.S. Army Secretary Opening of the Institute of Creative Technology 1999, and the Governor of California, Grey Davis, both spoke about this industry partnership revolutionising “ways prepare the American soldier” (Der Derian, 2001:163). Force Transformation DOD Arthur Cebrowski however, acknowledges a possible dissociation with violence through the use of virtual simulation technology, and suggests that the modern use of drones in warfare, is essentially warfare conducted on screens. Nato Supreme Allied commander Europe, General Wesley Clark similarly states that for this reason there is a clear benefit for the military to invest in video games as a training tool. However as a number of scholars have noted it is virtual simulation of warfare that also desensitises civilians to violence on the battlefield, potentially leading undertake a number of actions outside of real conflict norms when enlisted (Clarke, 2012).
    As legitimacy of warfare is seemingly negotiated economically rather than politically, Der Derian argues that it is through it means that a virtuous war is created (Der Derian,2001:6). Therefore, the most essential cog in the MIME-Net machine is that which connects the military to the narrative that plays out on the game controllers and silver screens of the democratic nation. As viewer legitimacy is often confused with authenticity, the entertainment military complex bridged the gap between the warzone and civilian allowing them to assume there place a solider with little questioning (Mantello pp2).

    It is this lack of questioning within virtual simulations that Der Derian finds to be of concern, as in a first person shooter game there is no obligation for the viewer or the gamer to consider their motives. “Humanity is in need of a critical awakening, if we are not to sleep walk through human tragedy,” said Der Derian 2013 in an attempt to illustrate the merging or ‘pixilation’ of war and game, where clean virtual killings are a stark contrast to the reality and brutality of war (Der Derian: 2013). As virtual measures of conflict are widely argued to “Normalise and morally neutralize” warfare (Bourke 2014:2). This is a point reinforced by Mantello and Anderson who also suggests that forms of media such as first person shooter games reinforce “national dichotomies and international conflicts” (Andersen 2014 1pp).

    Der Derhian also discusses the growing influence media presence has on the outcome of conflict. As Theorist of Media, War and Politics, Paul Virillio is quoted within the piece, “Without TV some wars would not even take place,” suggesting the media have the power and influence to even incite civil war in some cases. Military personnel also demonstrated within the piece that they are acutely aware of the potential influence of the media. As 1/25 Marines explained their aims to be accommodating to the press; aware they are a tool for message creation. Taylor within Anderson also speaks of the growing importance for a domestic media focus in international war waged by democratic nations. “Civilians never see the actual war but instead consume or play media engineered stories of conflict – a media war.” (Anderson,2014: 1).

    Der Derian argues that the boom in technology has been the catalyst for the porous boarders of media, entertainment and military, though,he cannot argue that the results are all negative. The clip alone simply conveys the potential threats created by convergence of these industries, however it fails to critically pursue these points further. It is because of this limiting context that a number of arguments can be made against Der Derian’s message within the Vision Machine (2013) spotlight on the ‘Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network’ (MIME Net). Der Derian’s key point which suggests that the military and entertainment industry’s agenda is generally aligned because of mutual investment and research, is one that must be questioned.
    In a purely capitalist society where the gaming and entertainment market is indeed driven by consumption, it is poor analysis to blame the spread of the militarised culture on PR alone.

    Hollywood studios are not forced to work with the DOD, but many choose to do so for self-interested reasons, (Anderson 2014:7). This point does not suggest the entertainment industry has a hidden agenda, instead it suggests military films and games are beneficial, namely the best way to get returns. Der Derian’s assertion fails to consider that perhaps society’s blood lust has played a role in the entertainment industry’s pursuit of militarised content.
    In 2015 ‘American Sniper’, a movie which undoubtably glorified conflict was listed in the top ten highest grossing movies of the year (The Numbers 2015). Star Wars Ep V11, a sci-fi fantasy based on a war, The Avengers, featuring an American solider ‘Captain America’, Iron Man and Avatar a futuristic piece on colonialism, have similarly made the top ten grossing box office releases of all time (The Numbers 2015). Comparably, the video game industry also profits from violence, with one of the world’s most popular video game franchises, the military centric Call of Duty, selling more than 40 million copies in the U.S alone (Yenigun 2013). The blatant alliance between the two industries exist to benefit one another, not only to forge the ‘Virtuous War’ narrative but also clearly benefit the pockets of producers; this is a point which has been overwhelmingly overlooked by Der Derian (Maxwell 2006: 45).

    Der Derian also fails to fully explore the entertainment industry stance and self awareness within this discussion, which is extremely generalised in the wake of a number of notable anti-war campaigns and narratives produced by the entertainment industry.
    The popularity of warfare outside of the agenda driven by the Department of Defence alone, is again reinforced by Hillard who suggests that Hollywood as an industry which is nature is risk adverse, and notes that political films are considered “Box-office poison” which may explain the lack of pursuits in an anti-war direction (Hillard 2009:1). From the early 1960s, responding to structural changes within the film industry and political changes outside, American filmmakers felt more able to defy aspects of the ‘War State’ ideology. The Hollywood left and its pro Marxism and socialist agenda was noted as an organised movement against militarisation; however, these works were generally not seen as major pieces of cinematic work (Mithani, 2007: 5). In more recent times the Iraq War sparked members of the Hollywood community to speak out against the American invasion, these included the Dixie Chicks, Richard Gere and Dustin Hoffman (Zakarin 2013). Following the invasion of Iraq, Director Michael Moore used his 2003 Oscars acceptance speech to protest against the American Government. All points of resistance not addressed by Der Derian in this illustration of the MIME-Net.


    The accountability created by media present within the warzone and benefits of the development of technology was also a point that was silenced. Within the piece Gen Wesley Clark, Nato Supreme Allied commander Europe points out that armies cannot afford to make the mistake of believing their actions will go unnoticed, and without media presence. This statement reinforces the point that increased media can constitute increased accountability. “The idea you can do things in the dark and people won’t see you is done, Chechnya may be the last war fought like that,” Wesley Clark said. International Federation of Journalists concluded that journalists had identified a widespread trend in the undermining of human rights following the September 11 attacks. The rise in communications tech, the ability to capture the warfront on video was seen as a boost for both democracy and accountability (Reljic 2005).


    As Director of Force Transformation DOD, Arthur Cebrowski is quoted in the clip, “Sea space and cyberspace boarder-less domains.” Yet it is cyber space alone that is proving to be to most influential piece of real-estate in emerging conflict zones. Der Derian’s investigation into the militarisation of western culture and the emerging questions surrounding the use of technology and virtual mediums is vital. It is only through the context of “The Virtuous War, Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network” (2013) that the message was clear. Further investigation into what is driving this cultural militarisation must be made, as differentiating between the structured PR campaigns of the DOD and consumer demands is essential.


    Andersen, Robin. Mirrless, Tanner. 2014. Introduction: Media, Technology, and the Culture of Militarism: Watching, Playing and Resisting the War Society. Democratic Communique.26, No. 2. pp 1- 20.

    Bourke, Joanna. 2014. Wounding the world, How military violence and war-play invades our lives. Little Brown Book Group Virago

    Callam, Andrew. 2010. Drone Wars: Armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. International Affairs review. Volume XVIII, No. 3.

    Clarke, Ben. Rouffaer, Christian. Senechaud, Francois. 2012. Beyond the Call of Duty: Why shouldn’t video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers?. International Review of the Red Cross, Volume 94 Number 886.

    Der Derian, James. 2001. Virtuous War: Mapping The Military- Industrial-media-entertainment Network.

    Hillard, Robert. 2009. Hollywood Speaks Out: Pictures that Dared to Protest Real World Issues. Blackwell.

    Mithani, Sam. 2007. The Hollywood Left: Cinematic Art And Activism in the 1930s. University of Southern California.

    Maxwell, Richard. 2006. “Film and Globalization” Communications Media, Globalization and Empire. John Libbey Publishing pp 45.

    Mantello, Peter. 2013. Legitimacy and the virtual battlefield: putting the first-person shooter on the witness stand. Australian Journal of International Affairs.

    Reljic, Dusan. 2005. Media, civil society and the quest for transparency and accountability of the security sector. Paper German Institute for International Security Affairs SWP Berlin.

    Rose, Gillian. Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to the Interpretation of Visual Methods (London: Sage, 2001), pp. 69-100 and 135-186

    The Numbers 2015. Where Data and the Movie Business Meet.
    Annual Movie Chart – 2015

    Yenigun, Sami. 2013. Video Game Violence: Why Do We Like It, And What’s It Doing To Us?. NPR. Accessed:

    Zakarin, Jordan. 2013. How Hollywood Fought Against the Iraq War. The Hollywood Reporter.

  3. The Vision Machine’s article entitled The Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network (MIME-Net) focus on the development of the virtuous war created from the relationship between the virtual reality and the military industry. The development of technology has led to the significant rise of MIME-Net and the global form of virtual violence. The 14-minutes video documentary included in the article randomly depicted interviews with the US military personnel about the processes and the consequences of the virtuous war to the state. The article and the video documentary by James Der Derian seek to question and argue about the two faces of the virtuous war which is the advanced military power provided by the virtual media and the humanitarian exemption from the virtual reality. In the end, the focus of the article was to leave the audiences with the question marks on the consequences of the global rise of the military-entertainment complex.
    In an attempt to set the path towards the relationship between the virtual reality and the military industry, the video started with interconnectivity. The Director of Force Transformation DOD, Arthur Cebrowski emphasized that interconnectivity is as wild and unpredictable as fire which is an ideal way to challenge the perception of the audiences on whether or not the connection between each virtual realities are harmful. Firstly, the director is attempting to provide solid reasons on why the military industry needs to evolve in order to understand the uncertain consequences. The threat that can exist because of the virtual interactivity is more threatening than physical threats because the virtual realities are something that we could not predict nor fight against (Benjamin 2011: 288). Technology has helped humans to transcend time and space thus complicating a war to the extent that we no longer know who the real enemies are. Therefore, MIME-Net is a necessary part of the revolution for the military industry to ensure that the threats are simply just threats. The documentary explained that the excessive network of information has defined new boundaries between the reality and the virtual.
    The tagline of “From images of war to war of images” is a brilliant attempt to solidify the notion of the article on the newly introduced concept of virtuous war. Undeniably the media and technology had played a crucial role in national security to convey their military agenda (Robin and Mirrlees 2014: 4). Next, the video seeks to explain visually word by word of the MIME-Net. It revolts back to instances from warfare for the sake of showing the imperative changes that the MIME-Net has brought to the battlefield such as the advanced military equipment and weaponry. Furthermore, it also shows the positive connectivity between the military with media and entertainment industry that seems to be working in parallel to serves the national interest. The past lessons have taught the US government to take into account the power of media and technology. Since technological development is inevitable, thus the appropriate response that the military industry needs to do is the revolution to intentionally blur the lines between home and battlefield, media and military (Farish and Vitale 2011: 780). The state can secure the public’s interests as well as their interests through the positive portrayal of their military in the mass media. A lot of platforms have existed such as films and video games and the state’s interests transgress beyond delivering and sanitizing information but for training and recruitments of soldiers (Der Derian 2000: 788).
    The argument of the article becomes more convincing when the interviewer ask about the ethical check and balance between the pairs of Hollywood and technological power. Media and technology might be limitless in helping the states but the director went in depth to see the extent of the consequences of this relationship to humans albeit the vast changes it brings to the state. The crucial part that rises from the argument is that the virtual reality actually disconnects people from the humane truth. Films and television production might instill patriotism into the civilians but the portrayal of the conflicts tends to be selected narratives of the war that was chosen by the government to avoid policies from turning into a medium for “technological opinions and pressure” (Janiewski 2011: 682). The state in their effort to cater to their interests very often misled the conflicts of war to be more honorable and reasonable when the physical reality showed the brutal aftermath towards the victims and the soldiers. Video games on the other hand might seem to prepare the players for war-like situations and critically make decisions but it could not physically incorporate the real chaotic environments into their situations (Robinson 2012: 507). The players might be virtually at combat but the truth is that they are not experiencing emotionally and physically what the soldiers had experience every day before, during and after the wars.
    The strongest part of the documentary is when the director went in depth on the argument whether the MIME-Net Revolution is bringing positive outcome by raising the issue of the reality of death. Killings has become more possible and normalized through the pixelated images of the war thus confusions and pixelation of war is shared in virtuous war. However, despite the neglected humanitarian aspect of the war, the evolution of MIME-Net can create positive changes. Globally the world has more negative tolerance towards wars and conflicts because of its close portrayal to the public thus the approval for war usually decline with the rise of the human cost (Gartner, Segura and Wilkening 1997: 670). The public nowadays can weigh the outcome of wars and could no longer afford the physical and emotional cost of war. Especially for democratic countries that considered their security to be a form of public goods that can affect the state’s actions (Caverley 2009: 156). Moreover, what the director failed to include is the method to incorporate the humane aspect of war into the virtuous war. The second half of the video transmits the knowledge of how far can virtuous wars travelled and referring to the Gulf War as one of the crucial example of cyberwar. Wars are no longer unilateral with equal battlefield but had transcend the time and space because of the development of media and technology. Eventually, war will no longer become a physical battle on the ground but rather the on screen battle of technology. The documentary concluded brilliantly on the thin line between machine and men where the boundaries need to be clarified for the benefit of all hence solidifying the argument.
    All in all, the MIME-Net article including the video documentary had challenge the notion of the virtuous war to incorporate a more humane aspect of the reality into the virtual. It summarizes the global revolution of media-entertainment complex thoroughly by relating the effects of the revolution towards the military. The article also addresses the forgotten aspect of this development by incorporating and questioning the consequences of further development of the relationship between military and media. In conclusion, the inevitability of the world’s forward movement will always leave the humans trying to play catch up and millions are left to die thus the only way to obtain perpetual peace is by integrating the human virtues into this fast-paced world.

    Andersen, Robin and Tanner Mirrlees. 2014. ‘Introduction: Media, Technology, and the Culture of Militarism: Watching, Playing and Resisting the War Society’. Democratic Communiqué 26(2): 1-21.
    Banta, Benjamin. 2011. ‘’Virtuous War’ and the Emergence of Jus Post Bellum’. Review of International Studies 37: 277-299.
    Caverley, Jonathan. 2009. ‘The Myth of Military Myopia: Democracy, Small Wars and Vietnam’. International Security 34(3): 119-157.
    Der Derian, James. 2000. ‘Virtuous War/Virtual Theory’. International Affairs 76(4): 771-788.
    Farish, Matthew and Patrick Vitale. 2011. ‘Locating the American Military-Industrial Complex: An Introduction’. Antipode 43(3): 777-782.
    Gartner, Scott, Gary Segura and Michael Wilkening. 1997. ‘All Politics Are Local: Local Losses and Individual Attitudes toward the Vietnam War’. The Journal of Conflict Resolution 41(5): 669-694.
    Janiewski, Dolores. 2011. ‘Eisenhower’s Paradoxical Relationship with the “Military-Industrial Complex”’. Presidential Studies Quarterly 41(4): 667-692.
    Robinson, Nick. 2012. ‘Videogames, Persuasion and the War on Terror: Escaping or Embedding the Military-Entertainment Complex?’. Political Studies 60: 504-522.
    The Vision Machine. 2013. The Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network. Accessed 20 October 2017. Available at

  4. A brief foray back through history demonstrates war has always been mediatised (Kaempf 2013: 586). However, The Vision Machine episode titled ‘The Military-Industrial-Media Entertainment Network’ convincingly demonstrates that current media technologies and partnerships have altered the nature of mediatised war and thus altered the nature of war itself (Machine 2013). As expert Paul Virilio notes in the episode, “(The First Gulf War) was a war that took place on screen more than on soil, that took place more in the artifice of TV much more than the reality of the battleground” (Machine 2013), the social effect of which was more dramatic than any media previously had produced. Professor James Der Derian takes us through a summarised retelling of the evolution of the phenomenon known as the military-industrial-complex into the contemporary military-industrial media entertainment network, henceforth referred to as the ‘MIME-Net’. In doing so, he convincingly argues that the MIME-Net is posing a dangerous challenge to the principles of just war, though this author will highlight flaws in his storytelling methods. This author will additionally argue that Der Derian’s implication that media’s involvement in war is inherently damaging. The following critical text will examine, as scholars such as J.C Herz and James Der Derian did, “(the) collaboration the realm of training simulators and other technologies.” (Quoted in Stahl 2006: 94) in relation to The Vision Machine’s micro-documentary and analyse how effectively the piece conveyed its message.

    The concept at the core of this episode is the potential dangers of the MIME-Net’s growing influences over foreign policy (Machine 2013). Scholarly debate regarding this phenomenon voices concerns which echo President Eisenhower’s famed 1961 departing speech, where he argued for the protection of the public’s civil and democratic rights instead of allowing unelected military and commercial stakeholders to influence foreign policy (Engel 2011). In other words, Eisenhower saw how the world was undergoing a shift; where previously war had been damaging economically, war suddenly became profitable for an entire sector.

    Der Derian’s video begins by pointing out the seismic shift in society brought on by developments in digital communications technology. The opening voice is that of Director of Force Transformation DOD Arthur Cebrowski stating, “The advent of interconnectivity is comparable to the advent of fire.” (Machine 2013). I disagree with my fellow debater Syahirah Elias above who argued Cebrowski was attempting to describe interconnectivity as “wild and unpredictable as fire” (Elias 2016), but rather believe Cerbrowski was highlighting how fundamentally our current communication technologies are shaping our lives today, as drastically as fire reshaped human development hundreds of thousands of years ago. I do not disagree, however, with Elias’ assertion that these technologies are wild and unpredictable. Former President MPAA Jack Valenti reinforces this point later in the video, when he claims, “…we’re on the cusp of the inner edge of a revolutionary advance that will so revise and reshape the way we communicate that it can only be compared with Gutenberg’s invention of movable type and the emergence of television itself.” (Machine 2013).

    Due to this revolutionary shift in the nature of our communications, there has been a mirrored shift in militaries’ communication strategies. This re-thinking of communication strategy emerged in the 1991 First Gulf War, when the Bush administration sought to “…establish a reality for the media rather than having them discover it for themselves” (Mantello 2012: 2), as the media did in Vietnam, much to the chagrin of military officials. In doing so, the military cemented their symbiotic relationship with the media through practices such as embedding (Stahl 2010: 115), maintaining Hollywood links (Der Derian 2009: 166) and sponsoring first-person shooter games (Kaempf 2013; Mantello 2012; Stahl 2010).

    The Vision Machine episode scratches the surface of the true implications of allowing the MIME-Net undue influence over Western foreign affairs, and does not properly consider how non-state armed groups are similarly utilising new communication media to their advantage in the ‘war of images’ (Machine 2013). Der Derian’s voiceover tells the viewer, “In this virtual world, dying and killing became less plausible and all the more possible. The reality of death is disappeared by the images of easy, high-tech victories, low-casualty conflicts and ethical killings. In virtuous war, we now face not only confusion but the pixilation of war and game on the same screen.” (Machine 2013). The concern here, which this author argues, is not comprehensively covered.

    As Clarke, Rouffaer and Sénéchaud discuss, players in first-person shooter games such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honour may find themselves compelled to perform violations of international law and thus will view militaries’ violations of international law as acceptable behaviour (2012: 717). Mantello similarly notes the relationships between the US military and the video games industry which “…(help) bridge discrete war’s legitimacy gap…” (2013: 4), while Bandura’s work observes the associations between moral justification and practices such as “sanitizing language, disregarding or minimizing the injurious effects of one’s actions; and attribution of blame to, and dehumanization of, those who are victimized.” (Bandura 1999: 193). First-person shooter games meet these criteria, and help make The Vision Machine episode’s point that the MIME-Net is ultimately influencing citizens to accept the contemporary (and profitable) ‘War on Terror’.

    One point The Vision Machine’s episode makes well is the successful management of the military’s public relations image. Once again, this outcome is primarily influenced by the practice of embedding journalists and censoring the brutalities of war. As noted by Gerofano, Der Derian’s arguments centre around the ‘sanitation of violence’ and ‘misleads publics and policy makers regarding the reality of war’ (Gerofano 2002: 138). A soldier quoted at the end of the episode exemplifies the changed military attitude which brings benefit to each side (Machine 2013). Miller and Maxwell reinforce that point by quoting Producer William Wanger’s claim that the state needed Hollywood “more than…the H bomb” (2006: 42).

    However, this brings us to another point only alluded to by The Vision Machine’s episode – how substantially each party benefits monetarily from relationships created through the MIME-Net. The video briefly quotes US Army Secretary Louis Cadera in addition to the above soldier to emphasise the current symbiotic relationship between the industries whereby the military gives information for propaganda purposes and in return receives information to “revolutionise” army training (Machine 2013). The episode’s shortfall is its lack of exploration around the significant financial incentives associated with waging war. As Lenoir explores, there is enough evidence to give further thought to how both sides’ interests in cooperation also substantially relies on funding (Lenior 2000: 299).

    One final point to dwell on before concluding this critical analysis of the above episode is a brief disclaimer that our contemporary interconnected world is rapidly advancing, meaning although the episode was produced only in the last four years, the nature of warfare has begun to shift again. Social media, smartphones and drone usage have risen as the key tools of terrorism and anti-terrorism campaigns. A comprehensive account of modern terrorism requires addressing non-state armed groups’ social media strategy and states’ responses to this ever-evolving conflict-media landscape, such as Koerner’s 2016 piece ‘Why ISIS is winning the social media war’ (Koerner, 2016). Of course, the author recognises this was near-impossible to predict for The Vision Machine’s producers, but the author believes this limitation is a worthy one to bear in mind.

    Cebrowski was not wrong when he compared the invention of our current communication technology to the discovery of fire. As scholars from Der Derian (2009) to Kaempf (2013) to Stahl (2006) have demonstrated through their analyses, the seismic shift in the conflict-media landscape has brought on challenges to how the public understands the meaning of war. One of these challenges is the creation of the MIME-Net, the phenomenon bourne from the military-industrial-complex, which possess a unique power to influence foreign policy and global affairs. This is the challenge The Vision Machine’s video poses to its viewers, and despite some minor flaws, presents convincingly.

    Bandura, Albert. 1999. ‘Moral Disengagement in the Perpetration of Inhumanities’. Personality and Social Psychology Review 3(3): 193-209.
    Clarke, Ben, Christian Rouffaer and François Sénéchaud. 2012. ‘Beyond the Call of Duty: why shouldn’t video game players face the same dilemmas as real soldiers?’. International Review of the Red Cross 94(886): 711-737.
    Der Derian, James. 2009. ‘Chapter 7: Virtuous War Goes to Hollywoord’. Virtuous war: Mapping the military-industrial-media-entertainment-network. Routledge; London.
    Engel, Jeffery A. March 2011. ‘Not Yet A Garrison State: Reconsidering Eisenhower’s Military-Industrial Complex.’ Enterprise & Society 12(1): 175-199.
    Garofano, John. 2001. ‘Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment
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    Machine, The Vision. 2013. ‘The Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network’. Accessed 30/5/17 via
    Mantello, Peter. 2013. ‘Legitimacy and the virtual battlefield: putting the first-person shooter on the witness stand.’ Australia Journal of International Affairs.
    Miller, Toby and Richard Maxwell. 2006. ‘Chapter Three: Film and Globalization’. Communications Media, Globalization and Empire. 33-52.
    Stahl, Roger. 2010. ‘Chapter Four: War Games’. Militainment Inc: War, Media and Popular Culture. 91-112.
    Stahl, Roger. 2006. ‘Have You Played the War on Terror?’. Critical Studies in Media Communication 23(2): 112-130.

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