Artist James Bridle conceived of Dronestagram — an Instagram account that shows satellite images of locations where recent military drone strikes occurred — as a way to remind people of the reality of drone warfare.
Though the intent might have been to point out the horrors of drone strikes on real targets — “to make these things more visible and immediate,” as he told BuzzFeed in November — some people view the project as a way to point out successful missions, as indicated by comments like, “America 1 terrorist 0 Love dronestagram,” “Get those sand nigers,” and “Blast away. Terrorists be gone!!!”
When political art is opened up to comments on social media, there’s no controlling the audience reaction — as corporations have learned again and again when their own campaigns backfire on Twitter or Facebook. It can also happen to a well-crafted artistic anti-war statement.
Comments on the image captioned December 24th: two killed and three injured in the town of Rada’a, Southern Yemen. One of the deaths is believed to be Abdel-Raouf Naseeb, who escaped the first recorded drone strike in Yemen, on Nov 3, 2003.
Comments on an image captioned, January 8th: two strikes on the villages of Khasso Khel and Haidar Khel in North Waziristan. Both strikes destroyed buildings and killed 6-8 people. Retired General Stanley McChrystal told Reuters: “What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world. The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”
Comment on image captioned January 3rd: 3-4 killed by a drone strike on a car near Mir Ali, North Waziristan. CNN reports the drone fired first on the vehicle, then on rescuers who went to help those in the car, injuring several more. The death toll is expected to rise, according to local security sources.
Comments on the image captioned December 9th: 3-4 killed by a drone strike in a village north of Muran Shah, 10km from the Afghan border. Reuters reports that one of the casualties was Mohammed Ahmed Almansoor, a midlevel al Qaeda commander. The Pakistani Express Tribune reported that the three others were members of his family.
Comments on image captioned January 6: at 2:30am, a barrage of missiles from up to five unmanned drones killed between eight and eighteen people in the Babar Ghar area of South Waziristan. The target is believed to be a training camp of the Pakistani Taliban. The area is still tense following the drone killing of Mullah Nazir on January 3rd, with hundreds turning out to protest in the city of Wana.