JOHN HANCHAR - CONTENT WAR


DOWNLOAD THE ZINE


From 27 September to 10 November, 2020, Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a war. As I watched the conflict ongoing in real-time, I was struck by the fact that images of the violence were appearing to me principally by way of social media coverage, and that, of these images, the most prolific and unsettling were captured from the cameras affixed to the sight lines of drones used by Azerbaijan. This zine is an attempt to document some of these images and their context in the social media landscape that surrounded the conflict. It is inelegant, incomplete and incomprehensive.

Content warning: this zine deals with themes of violence and war.


There is a column of emoji flags, descending from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Israel, to Turkey. "CONTENT WAR" is written in a red font.On the left side of the page is a thumbnail for a YouTube video. In the thumbnail a trench in Nagorno-Karabakh can be seen from an aerial perspective. The flag of Azerbaijan is visible in the top left corner of the thumbnail. In bright yellow letters the question “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS FOOTAGE?” is superimposed over the still image.   The thumbnail is for a YouTube video titled “Azerbaijan Bayraktar Targets Underground, Nagorno Karabakh.” It was posted by the YouTube channel “Drone Strike” five months before the image was captured and has 78,000 views. The video description says Subscribe, Like, hashtag Azerbaijan_Armenia_Baytaktar.  On the right side of the page in bright red Helvetica is the quote “I’ve seen footage,” attributed to MC Ride. On the left side of the page are three quotes in bright red Helvetica. The first quote reads “The battlefield will be something strange - cyberspace, or the Cleveland water supply, or Wall Street’s banking systems, or YouTube. The mission will be instilling fear, and it will succeed.” This quote is attributed to a 2009 article by David Axe titled How to Win a ‘Fifth-Generation’ War. The second quote reads “It will be an optical, or electro-optical, confrontation; its likely slogan, ‘winning is keeping the target in constant sight.’ This quote is attributed to a 1988 book by Paul Virilio titled War and Cinema. The third and final quote reads “Holy shit, when did this war happen?” It is attributed to an anonymous YouTube comment.   On the right side of the page is a screenshot of a tweet from October 6, 2020, originally from an account named 301_AD, whose name is accompanied by an Armenian flag. The tweet has been retweeted by Anna Khachiyan. The tweet shows a blurry still image of a video. In the image Armenian troops can be seen walking through a forested setting accompanied by the description “Armenian troops singing the famous Armenian war song “Gini Lits” which starts with “they buried the dog Talaat in the soil” (infamous Turkish Armenian Genocide Talaat Pasha whoi was killed by Soghomon Tehlirian in in Berlin, in 1921). The video has 64,700 views and the tweet has 781 retweets and 1,800 likes. Underneath the screenshot of the tweet, in red Helvetica, is the caption “I saw on Twitter that there was a war…”The left side of the page is completely taken up by one large quote in red Helvetica. The quote is titled Email correspondence between YouTuber Conflict Zone and author, from May 12, 2021 at 1:11 PM. The quote reads:   I got most of drone video from Azerbaijani Defence Ministry YouTube Channel.  Second Karabhak War , As far I think It was a Co- ordinated War, Russia didn't prevent Azerbaijan And Turkey from taking Karabakh land as they all want to reopen the economic corridor from which Russia, china , Pakistan , afganistan, Iran , Azerbaijan, Turkey and thh Europe will be linked by railway and Road.   I Was intrested in World affairs politics and Conflicts news so I was  reading articles & following some News channels from there I thought of Creating  own channel , so I launched   "Conflict Zone".  On the right side of the page is a screenshot of a twitter exchange between the official Armenian twitter account and someone named Tarih ve Gelecek who is responding to the official Armenian twitter account.   The original Armenian tweet, from September 27, 2020, reads “Faith & Power!” and is accompanied by a photo of a crucifix-wearing Armenian orthodox priest holding an assault rifle in a mountainous setting. The tweet is accompanied by the hashtags #StopAzerbaijaniAgression #StopAliyev #KarabakhNow #NKpeace #NKstrong #ArtsakhStrong and, in Armenian, #We will win. The tweet has  34,000 likes, 17,800 retweets and 4,900 quote tweets.  Tarih ve Geleek’s tweeted response from the same day reads “Wait, we are coming to take Karabakh!” The tweet is accompanied by an image of armoured personnel carriers flying Turkish and Azerbaijani flags. It has 1,449 likes, 45 retweets and 9 quote tweets. The whole page is dominated by a screenshotted recreation of the official YouTube channel of the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan, whose name is written in the Azerbaijani latin alphabet. The top banner shows a light blue sky with soft white clouds. In the banner’s foreground, from left to right, a flying Azerbaijani flag, the Azerbaijani military’s coat of arms, and four fighter jets performing a fly-by with the aforementioned flag’s colours (red, green and blue) can be seen. The video thumbnails visible below this banner are sorted from most popular down. They are all titled in Azerbaijani. Of the 18 thumbnails, 14 show drone strikes, including the most watched video on the page, which has 632,000 views. The least popular video visible, which also shows a drone strike, has 278,000 views. The left side of the page is titled Baykar Defence Bayraktar. Below the title, the word Bayraktar is translated as “flag-bearer.” Below this, centred on the page, is an image of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan writing something on a Bayraktar drone. In the background of the photo, another drone can be seen, and behind that, an airplane hanger from which two Turkish flag banners are hanging. Below the photo is a quoted meme, depicting an imagined interaction between Russia and Turkey. In it, Russia says: “The Caucuses is mine.” Turkey responds with “Hold my drones.” The meme is attributed to YouTube user uAozzie, and the date given as “one month ago.”  The right side of the page is arranged in an identical format. It is titled Israel Aerospace Industries Harop. A subtitle translates Harop as meaning Harpy. The image here is of an IAI Harop loitering munitions drone on display at an airshow. In the background an Israeli flag can be seen. The quote below, attributed to Edith Hamilton, reads “...the Harpies, frightful flying creatures…”There is a column of text in red Helvetica that takes up the left side of the page. From top to bottom it reads “Video stills of Bayraktar “double-tap” strike from: Azerbaijani Drones Massacred Armenian Soldiers 17-18 Oct. Deadly Bombing Azri Armenia War Posted on YouTube by Conflict Zone on October 18th, 2020. This is followed, also in red Helvetica, by “Combatants can be lawfully targeted at any time, unless they are hors du combat, for instance by being wounded…” attributed to Catherine Harwood, Armed Drones and International Law.  The right side of the page has four YouTube video screenshots in a column accompanied by four captions. In descending order, they read “fig. 1 - Armenian troops dug in” next to an image of a trenchline, “fig. 2 - First strike” with an explosion enveloping the same trench, “fig. 3 - Rescue arrives” in which troops can be seen digging out the wounded from the first attack and, finally, “fig. 4 - Second strike” in which a follow-up strike on the rescuers can be seen. In all four screenshots, the Azerbaijani flag can be seen in the top left corner.A screenshot from a YouTube video takes up the whole page. The video is titled “IAI’s MBT HAROP System.” The video was posted on Aug 3rd, 2014 by the IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) YouTube channel. It has 78, 137 views, 159 likes and 13 dislikes. In the image, the IAI HAROP loitering munitions platform (suicide drone) can be seen, frozen, in the exact instant before it crashes through a target affixed to the back of a boat. Three YouTube video screenshots from the same video can be seen in a column. The video title, which can be seen in the top left, reads “Azerbaijani military continues to use combat drones in Nagorno-Karabakh | September 28th-30th, 2020.” In the bottom left of the video is a caption that reads “Azerbaijani forces using loitering munition (also known as suicide drones or kamikaze drones).” The Azerbaijani flag is in the top left hand corner of each screenshot. The screenshots show the video camera of one of these suicide drones as it flies towards the cab of an Armenian military truck from above. The final image, taken right before impact (and the severing of the drone’s video feed) features a YouTube comment superimposed. The comment, posted on the video by someone named “Panzer Meyer” (a reference to Nazi SS commander and war criminal Kurt “Panzer” Meyer) reads: 6:38 “It Was At This Moment He Knew...He Fucked Up.” The 6:38 timestamp is the precise moment the drone slams into the cab of the truck.On the left side of the page are three images. The first is of a YouTube comment by someone with the username Aze Xeber, posted “6 months ago.” It reads Karabakh is Azerbaijan, followed by the following emojis: three Azerbaijani flags, three turkish flags, three Israeli flags, three Pakistani flags. The comment is captioned “Comment on YouTube video “Azerbaijani military continues to use combat drones in Nagorno-Karabakh | September 29th-30th 2020,” with the following information provided: Video posted on 30 September 2020 and Comment recorded 26 April 2021. The second image is of a cluster of flags on a counter of a store. The flags are Azerbaijani, Turkish and Israeli. The caption reads “Flags of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Israel near Nariman Narimanov station in Baku, Azerbaijan. Taken by Aykan Zayedzadeh on 6 October 2020, 12:15:13.” The third image is the back of a Toyota SUV. Affixed to the glass are three decals - from left to right, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan. The caption reads “Flags of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Pakistan near Nariman Narimanov station in Baku, Azerbaijan. Taken by Aykan Zayedzadeh on 6 October 2020, 13:41:40.”  On the right side of the page is an instagram post from McDonalds.AZ, whose account has an official blue checkmark. In the post, a silhouetted soldier stands atop some rocks, holding an Azerbaijani flag and saluting. In the bottom right hand corner is the McDonalds logo, a yellow M with rounded edges on a red background. In Azerbaijani, the image is captioned “Our flag always flies from the peak!” Underneath the image is the caption, in red Helvetica, “Recreation of since-deleted social media posts by a McDonald’s in Azerbaijan, weighing in on behalf of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”In red Helvetica, there is a quote reading:   From "CBP Releases Video From Predator Drone Deployed Over George Floyd Protests," by Lucas Ropek on 4/19/21 at 2:10PM, published by GIZMODO:  "Shortly after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd last year, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) flew a Predator drone over the city in an effort to surveil the ongoing protests against police brutality occurring there. The drone, which took off from Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota and flew in a holding pattern over protests for approximately 90 minutes, recorded video from a height of 20,000 feet. Now, thanks to a recent Freedom of Information Request, you can watch that video..."  Only you can't watch that video anymore. It has been taken down and seemingly scrubbed from existence. The following screenshot is the only evidence I have that I even watched something. In the following continuation of the quote above, the contents as I remember them are described:  "...Despite the fact that drones of this kind come equipped with a bevy of powerful cameras, the video captured on May 29th doesn’t actually reveal that much. On what was clearly an overcast day, the Predator captured mostly muddy albeit unearthly footage of the heavy cloud formations shrouding the city..."  If winning is keeping the target in constant sight, then what is losing?A screenshot from an unlisted YouTube video takes up the whole page. The video is titled “Air and Marine Operations, Unmanned Aircraft Systems flight over Minneapolis, MN, May 29, 2020.” The video was posted  on Jul 9, 2020, buy the official U.S. Customs and Border Protection YouTube channel. It has 6,635 views, four likes and two dislikes. In the shot, on a grey background, a grainy, black and white image of clouds can be seen.The back cover. A censored instagram quote can be seen, reading “RIP to those hwo died but that’s also a pretty cool video.” It has 195 likes. At the bottom of the page is the “Subverso” zine distro logo. It is the Verso publications logo, mirrored and engraved in bright red, above the word Subverso in the same font as the “You Wouldn’t Steal a Car” PSA.