Dissent in 2013: Subversively Reviewing Predator Drones on Amazon.com

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In the online retailer's product-review section, an impromptu challenge to President Obama's kill list and "signature strikes."drone toy amazon.png
When the cultural history of the War on Terrorism is written, scholars may be surprised by the dearth of attention paid to President Obama's drone war in the national press and liberal opinion journals. A tool likely to forever change warfare is scarcely subject to open democratic debate.

But if cultural historians look beyond the mainstream press, additional signs of early dissent will be evident. An obscure example they ought not miss is the Amazon.com page for the online merchant Tailwinds, which sells a number of miniature aircraft, including scale models of F-35s, WWII-era P-38 fighters, and Jayhawk helicopters used by the Coast Guard. For most models, there are no more than three or four customer reviews. Yet nearly 200 people posted noteworthy reviews of one model: the Predator drone.

Raini Pachak loved the product:

This is the best toy ever. Finally, I can pretend that I'm a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize! It's like I'm sitting right there in the White House with my very own kill list!

Defenestrate was unhappy with it:

I thought if I bought this, I could kill random people without facing justice. It doesn't work! It won't kill people, not even brown ones.

Rambone gave a parent's perspective:

My son is very interested in joining the Imperial forces when he grows up. He says he's not sure if he wants to help police the homeland or if he wants to invade foreign countries. So I thought a new Predator drone toy would be a nice gift for him. These drones are used both domestically and internationally, to spy on people and assassinate them at the Emperor's discretion.

He just loves flying his drone around our house, dropping Hellfire missiles on Scruffy, our dog. He kept saying that Scruffy was a terror suspect and needed to be taken out. I asked him if Scruffy should get a trial first, and he quoted Lindsay Graham, Imperial Senator: "Shut up Scruffy, you don't get a trial!" I was so proud. I think I'll buy him some video games that promote martial law for Christmas.

Vanessa Carlisle has a son too (links added):

I bought this for my son and he spent countless, blissful hours simulating massacres of weddings, funerals, and other family gatherings of brown skinned foreigners! He even realized that if he circled the drone back around on the first responders, his effective kill rate soared! Neat-o!

Here's Jerseydeval:

I only wish this toy came with small appendages to scatter about the back yard to make it more life like. Im even thinking about going to a Halloween store and picking up lots of fake blood to scatter around the yard.

But Mohammed Abdul wouldn't buy one for his son:

My son asked for this toy, and I sadly explained that Muslim children, especially brown-skinned boys, were not allowed to have this type of toy. When he asked why, I said this toy is the Great Satan's vengeance on Muslims. My son is very smart for his age, so he replied that he would only play with the toy when his brothers and sisters were home and show them how the Great Satan will kill them if they attend weddings or funerals or plant their gardens in the spring.

Milton says it's been great for his law practice:

I'm an attorney and have found that the law and the constitution just seem to be always getting in the way. I was looking for a solution to help my clients and I thought to myself, "President Obama is a lawyer! He uses drones to get around silly laws and the constitution! Duh! I'll do what he does!" So I got me one of these drones and it does the trick. I simply lure my client's nemesis over to my office for a "settlement conference." As soon as the evil-doer plops down in one of my comfortable chairs, the drone makes its appearance and zaps my client's problem - dead!

My clients couldn't be happier. And that makes me happy. And since I don't have to worry about laws and the constitution anymore, I've canceled my subscriptions to Westlaw and Nexis and those other parasitic services. These drones do the trick. No more water-boarding, no more long hours in the library and putting together cases. One punch of a button! Cool!

Says J.D. Blain:

I really wish they would include at least SOME of the mutilated, burned, shredded bodies of the 147 children that were murdered using this wonderful tool of our benevolent overlords. I know that Obama secretly cries over them JUST as hard as he did for the children killed at Sandy Hook, even though all the drone bombings are by executive order (he didn't really MEAN it, right?).

Nicklause W. Steele uses his drone domestically:

This drone has helped to teach my son how important it is to keep and eye on those neighbors with the Ron Paul stickers on their cars. It's not just goat herders on the other side of the globe we need to keep Big Brothers boot on. Also get the FBI's warrantless magnetic under car tracking device and the water boarding kit. I dare my wife to spout off about the 4th Amendment one more damn time.

Michael Liszewski interpreted the instructions:

This model is a 100% accurate scale model, and you will likely be thrilled that the "for ages 3 and up" disclaimer only applies to those remotely flying the Predator, not its potential victims.

And Hassan suggests it has international appeal:

My uncle bought this toy for me as a Ramadan gift. Amazon was able to ship it to Yemen just in time for Ramadan. I love it a lot! It's a very nice toy to have. I like to play with it before bedtime because it reminds me of the soothing sound of drones flying overhead. Every time I play with it I remember the brave men and women fighting for my freedom! Once my house is rebuilt I want to invite my cousin Jamil over to play drone attack with me.

Interesting, isn't it? Sarcasm-filled rants in the customer review section of an e-commerce site might be the most quintessentially American anti-war protest ever held. Thank goodness it's happening somewhere.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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