Sunday, August 1, 2010

More on the Affectivity of WikiLeaks Afghan War Diary

In today's New York Times, Frank Rich likened the potential effect of the recent WikiLeaks data dump to The Pentagon Papers. He did so not because of the new or shocking nature of the information about the Afghan War, but rather because of what he characterizes as the limited effect of the Pentagon Papers on US policy towards Vietnam. Rich argues that the Pentagon Papers were published after public opinion had turned against the Vietnam war; similarly he contends that the relative indifference to the WikiLeaks release (an indifference that is arguable, I would say) marks the public's indifference to the War in Afghanistan.

While I don't completely agree with Rich's argument, I do think that he may be on to something about the effect of the Afghan War Diary. As I suggested earlier this week, I don't think that there was anything particularly shocking about the content of the WikiLeaks material. More interesting was the way in which its release activated individual and collective circuits of affectivity, particularly of negative affective feeling about the ongoing war. In my previous blog entry I traced out the way in which these leaks fed into the affect of anticipation that marks our current media moment. But what I did not emphasize was the quality of this anticipatory affect--specifically its intensification (in a quotidian fashion) of the negative affect towards the war that has come to predominate among the mediated American public.

Put differently, the significance of WikiLeaks' Afghan War Diary is almost certain to have little or nothing to do with the news it reveals about the current state of the US War in Afghanistan. What it might do, however, is serve as something like an affective tipping point, coalescing the widespread opposition to the war into a collective affective feeling that the war has outlived its usefulness, an affective premediation of the war's impending end.