WEAPONIZATION OF LIVENESS: STREAMING DEATH AS A HYBRID MEDIA EVENT OF TERRORIST VIOLENCE
Keywords:hybrid media events, liveness, terrorism, live-streaming, video
This paper offers a critical exploration of the notion of liveness and, in particular, the production of liveness in the context of hybrid media event of terrorist violence. With Christchurch mosque attacks of March, 2019, as the empirical context of study, the paper demonstrates i) how the perpetrator produced liveness through the live streaming of the massacre in digital media; ii) how this material circulated in diverse digital platforms; and iii) what kind of struggles emerged around visibility and erasure by way of removal as carried out by different platforms (e.g. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter). The empirical data collection and analysis is based on a method of digital media ethnography. We posit that live streaming of the Christchurch mosque attacks resulted in the weaponization of liveness (Callahan 2017), accelerating the experience of ‘real time’ witnessing of death on multiple levels. While a relatively small number of people watched the massacre take place in ‘real time’ (en direct), a much larger audience captured the ‘re-enactment’ of liveness through the active circulation and sharing of the video on different platforms. This, the paper argues, shapes the hybrid media events of terrorist violence of today not only as a phenomenon of intensified and accelerated death experienced online, but also as a phenomenon that amplifies the process of disgracing and dishonoring the dignity of human life as unique.