[NetBehaviour] Marching Plague: Germ Warfare and Global Public Health.

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Nov 6 11:54:40 CET 2006

Marching Plague, The sixth Critical Art Ensemble book offers a radical 
reframing of the rhetoric surrounding germ warfare.

Author: Critical Art Ensemble
Publisher: Autonomedia, 2006.

Marching Plague, the long-awaited new book from Critical Art Ensemble, 
examines the scientific evidence and the rhetoric surrounding biological 
warfare, particularly the development of anthrax and other bio-weapons, 
and makes a strong case against the likelihood of such weapons ever 
being used in a terrorist situation. Studying the history and science of 
such weapons, they conclude that for reasons of accuracy and potency, 
biological weapons lack the efficiency required to produce the 
widespread devastation typically associated with bioterrorism.

Why the public urgency around biowarfare, then, and why the channeling 
of enormous resources into research and development of tools to counter 
an imaginary threat? This is the real focus of Marching Plague: the 
deconstruction of an exceedingly complex political economy of fear, 
primarily supporting biowartech development and the militarization of 
the public sphere. The book addresses the following questions:

* Why is bioterrorism a failed military strategy?
* Why is it all but useless to terrorists?
* How have preparedness efforts been detrimental to public health policy?
* What institutions benefit from the cultivation of biofear?
* Why does the diplomatic community fail to confront this problem?

The book concludes with a brief examination of the actual crisis in 
global public health, arguing for the redirection of health research 
away from the military, and promoting a number of strategies for 
civilian-based preparedness and education.

The conditions from which Marching Plague emerged are nothing short of 
bizarre. Originally scheduled to appear in 2004, the manuscript was in 
the possession of Steve Kurtz—one of the text's collective authors—when 
he came under the intense scrutiny of the Justice Department and the FBI 
for suspected biological terror crimes. Made paranoid by their own 
rhetoric, the Feds failed to tell the difference between an art piece 
scheduled for installation at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary 
Art and something more nefarious. Kurtz' house was sealed off, his 
research was taken (including the manuscript and his computers), and his 
colleagues and publisher were subpoenaed, all for some trumped-up 
charges of mail fraud. Two appendices in the book comment on the 
political ramifications of Kurtz' trial, and what it means for the 
culture of dissent in a time of authoritarian political life.


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