EVERY SUNDAY (SERIE) 23:05. - 23:45, Ö1




is a Project by Bernhard Loibner and Tom Sherman aka Nerve Theory




Kunstradio will feature a weekly series of radio miniatures by Nerve Theory throughout 2006. Nerve Theory is the corporate identity of Bernhard Loibner and Tom Sherman.

Nerve Theory’s latest work focuses on the bird flu virus, H5N1, and the hysteria surrounding the inevitable global influenza pandemic. Loibner & Sherman will use the idea of the evolving, mutating H5N1 virus as a launching pad for a series of statements about the world we live in. Imagine a world where artists write and deliver the news. Nerve Theory are not scientists, but they are experts in observing and describing media viruses and a whole spectrum of living, evolving ideas.

Listen for this sound logo: H5N1: there is no privacy at the speed of light…
This logo will mark updates on the journey of the H5N1 virus as it mutates into other kinds of creatures that will violate our privacy and threaten our lives.  Nerve Theory’s H5N1 radio miniatures will pop up from week to week in Kunstradio’s regular programming throughout 2006.

Kunstradio is now infected.  Check your own status.  Tune into Kunstradio.


1. The common flu (Type A) kills two per cent of the people it infects every year, with the elderly and young children being more at risk. The projected avian flu pandemic will likely kill a full spectrum of normally healthy people, with a kill rate of 15 to 20%, but the elderly and very young will again be especially vulnerable. The projected avian flu pandemic will likely kill a full spectrum of normally healthy people, with a kill rate of 15 to 20%, but the elderly and very young will again be especially vulnerable. Initial government solutions are to stockpile quantities of medication sufficient to treat keypersonnel essential to the continuing functioning of societies. Doctors and nurses, garbage collectors, and government officials will be the first to get vaccinations and anti-viral drugs like Tamiflu. At this date artists are not on the list of key personnel essential to the continuing functioning of societies, nor are unemployed youth or housewives.

2. Governments love the idea of a global pandemic, because people turn to governments for protection when a threat looms from beyond a nation’s borders, or worse yet, when the threat is invisible and possibly lurking in the food supply. Governments that have been helpless in efforts to prop up ailing economies and reduce high unemployment, are suddenly key players in the bio-security business. The European Union says it wants to accelerate steps to draft stronger rules against the H5N1 virus, ordering farmers to keep their chickens indoors at all times. Children may grow up without ever seeing a live chicken in the flesh. Government inspectors are seen frequently, prowling around in white plastic bio-security suits, spraying the wheels of automobiles and bikes and people’s shoes with disinfectant. The bird flu is the ultimate political tool for managing people through stress and fear. The enemy is an invisible virus plotting to inhabit a major ingredient in our food supply.

3. People hate all viruses, like they hate sharks and rats and mosquitoes. Everyone blames viruses for everything. Viruses always seem to bring grief, from the common cold to a deadly influenza. Viruses bring us chickenpox and the measles and mumps, and rubella, whooping cough and hepatitis, and polio, and warts and herpes and HIV. Viruses are bad news. When’s the last time you came into contact with a good virus? Most viruses do us no harm and some are even good for us, but people seldom talk about viruses that are beneficial to humans. The Russians are very good at fighting antibiotic resistant bacterial infections with bacteriophages, viruses that kill bacteria. And the Dutch are engineering colour variations in tulips and flowering trees by introducing viral infections to plants. This is called variagation. Our flowers and trees are prettier because of viruses! Of course we don’t know how flowers and trees feel about viruses.

4. If you hate your day job, relief is coming. If you hate some of the people you’re working with, maybe you’ll be lucky and they’ll be eliminated. If you’re tired of going to school, rest assured they’re going to cancel school for a long, long time. All public gatherings will be curtailed. If you’re afraid of flying, you won’t have to worry, as all the planes will be grounded. Trains and buses might continue running, but it’s unlikely. If you don’t own an automobile, you’re probably going to have to walk. Think of the energy the world is going to save. If the bird flu mutates and jumps to humans and begins to spread quickly from person to person, travel is going to drop to a standstill. The world’s consumption of oil is going to plummet. Some of the worst sources of pollution are going to be eliminated. A global pandemic is going to be very good for the environment.

5. Spread the Virus (no script)
(*broadcast on Ö1 Matrix and on air at schwankungen.de)

6. There’s an image of Mozart’s skulll wearing a bright red Indian headdress circulating on the Internet. Austrian authorities say the image is a complete fabrication, stating that there is absolutely no connection between Austria’s beloved Mozart and Montezuma, Mexico’s ancient Aztec emperor. The Internet image shows a human skull wearing a tall headdress made of alternating red and black feathers. Montezuma’s actual headdress is held in Austria’s ethnographic museum in Vienna. It is made up of green, not red feathers. The skull in the Internet image may or may not be that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

7. Mozart lived a very long time ago. 250 years ago there were no jet planes or automobiles or computers, and no Black Death and no bird flu. Fortunately for music lovers, Mozart lived during a time long after the Plague ravaged Europe. The bubonic plague was spread by rats and mice and squirrels. The Plague jumped to humans through fleas that abandoned dead or dying vermin in search of nourishment. The plague had vanished by the time Mozart ruled the piano and harpsichord. If the bird flu was around during Mozart’s time, nobody knew about it. No one had ever seen a virus and animals that got sick and died were simply eaten. Wild game was prized and people were hardly afraid of chickens or ducks or geese in the 18th century. The markets and kitchens were full of dangerous poultry and swine. Historians say Mozart probably died from eating undercooked pork chops. A pork worm probably killed Mozart. Trichinosis Amadeus.

8. Austrian ex-patriot Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, continues to vigorously support the death penalty in the state of California. State-sponsored killing is a kind of political sport in the United States. Death by lethal injection, the gas chamber or electric chair demonstrates just how tough Americans can be when it comes to fighting crime. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Arnie the Terminator has very big muscles when it comes to fighting crime. Schwarzenegger says he is merely exercising the will of the people. State-sponsored killing is the name of the game.

9. The Mexican government in Baja California has declared Arnold Schwarzenegger “persona non grata.” Schwarzenegger has taken a hard line in restricting the rights of undocumented Mexican migrant workers in California and the Mexicans have officially declared that his behaviour is unacceptable and stating that he is unwelcome in Mexico. The United States is building a wall along the Mexican border to slow the flood of Mexicans pouring into California and other states bordering Mexico. The Mexicans hope to use this wall to keep Arnold Schwarzenegger out of Mexico.

10. Virus is Latin for poison. Viruses are like poisons that cover the surfaces of our world. Viruses are in the dust on the floor and on the surfaces of our tables and chairs. Doorknobs and public telephones are full of viruses because infected people touch them. People cough, or the wind blows viruses around and they settle on our skin. We put pens and pencils with viruses into our mouths. Some people pick their noses in private and then shake hands with strangers when they meet. The best defense against viruses is to wash your hands frequently, with soap and hot water, especially when you find yourself meeting a lot of people and they want to shake your hand. I find more and more people are keeping their hands in their pockets when they meet people or say goodbye. Kissing is very dangerous. Kissing and doorknobs and public telephones are probably the worst.

11. Pandemic Podcast (no script)
12. Now the kitty cats are carrying the bird flu. Our beloved feline friends, once left free to roam the neighbourhood, are now under house arrest. The song-birds in the bushes and trees are delighted and sing their songs of good fortune. The song-birds will take their chances with the viruses. Before the bird flu scare, domestic cats were encouraged to hunt the songbirds for sport. They were fed in the home and any wild kill they could manage was gravy. Now house cats must watch the birds from a distance through the windows, like the birds are on television. Of course there are no laws forcing us to keep our cats indoors. We can pay hundreds of Euros to have our cats tested for bird flu. And there are no known cases of bird flu jumping from cats to humans, yet. But it is possible that the purring cat in our lap is a time-bomb of viral infection. Not likely, but possible. And then there are the bird dogs and our children who cuddle and kiss strange animals everyday. We’re told that certain viruses can jump from birds to cats, from animals to people. When we have animals living in our homes, anything can happen.

13. This bird flu hysteria is a celebration of paranoia. Human beings are the most intelligent creatures in the universe. We have the brains to be paranoid. The swans and ducks aren’t worried about the bird flu. They don’t even know what hits them. We, on the other hand, can see death coming across the oceans, on the wings of migratory birds. We worry about microorganisms and the laws of probability. We worry about things that may or may not happen. Remember when we thought that passenger planes would fall from the sky when the clock struck midnight in the year 2000? The Y2K flaw in computer clocks was going to cripple a world grown dependent on computers. The clock struck midnight and nothing happened. This bird flu pandemic seems much more dangerous. There hasn’t been a worldwide influenza pandemic for nearly eighty years. We’re told we’re overdue for a virus that’ll cull millions of humans sometime in the near future. There’s no exact timeline on this potential global disaster. The psychological pandemic has already hit. We are preparing to get wiped out in our minds. Meanwhile a real pandemic is raging in Africa. While we worry about dead ducks and swans and whether our chicken dinners are safe, thirty million Africans are infected with HIV-AIDS and millions are dying every year. We can forget about AIDS because it is synonymous with sex and black women and children in Africa. Instead we worry ourselves sick over dead ducks and swans and pet cats and the unlikely dangers of chicken dinners.

14. Bird on a Wire (no script)
15. Have you noticed that surveillance cameras are watching you in colour video these days? It used to be that video monitors would show they were recording us exclusively in black and white. But now when we enter a store we see ourselves in living colour. Just like we are seeing ourselves in a mirror. I wonder if shoplifters or thieves are more likely to wear blues and greens than warmer colours like reds and yellows or earthy tones? Or maybe criminals still prefer black and white clothing. In this age of surveillance cameras people must think of fashion in different ways. I would hate to think I dress like a criminal. I never go shopping in a ski-mask. I try to remember to remove my sunglasses before I approach a clerk at a cash register. It makes them nervous when they can’t see your eyes. I try to dress normal and act like I have nothing to hide when I go shopping. If it is warm enough I wear short sleeves and show as much skin as possible. This is a particularly good idea if your skin is light. Colour surveillance cameras are actually quite flattering if your skin is light.

16. I’ve started washing my eggs, when they’re still in the shell, before I cook them. I used to like my eggs sunny side up, but now I eat them scrambled and well done. I try to keep chicken and eggs away from other foods at all times. I carry wet-wipes with me so I can wipe down public telephones before I use them. I’m afraid to use public phones and feel much more comfortable using my own private cell phone. Wireless phones aren’t very secure, in terms of what we say. You can pay extra to make sure your messages are scrambled, but most of the time we’re not too concerned about our privacy. Personally I could care less if my phone calls are bugged. I have nothing to hide. My life isn’t full of secrets or intrigue. Talk is cheap and who cares if my phone is tapped. They say computers are sweeping through everyone’s phone conversations to listen for terrorists and other kinds of criminals. Surveillance is serious business these days. I bet terrorists and criminals spend a lot of time cleaning up their language. Bombs and credit card schemes are hidden in talk about viruses and chicken dinners. If they bug my phone they are going to learn that I wash my eggs before I scramble them in a microwave at full power for two minutes and forty-five seconds.

17. A chicken’s natural lifespan. is seven years. If chickens are left to roam in the wild they will peck for grubs and worms and mixed grains. They will bathe in the dust. People claim a free-range chicken tastes much better than a chicken produced in a factory-farm.

Today’s factory-farmed chickens have quite a different lifestyle. Broiler chickens are raised in climate-controlled sheds in a perpetual artificial twilight, in a space equivalent to stuffing a parakeet in a jam jar. Broiler chickens aren’t allowed to stretch their wings or make a nest, or peck for food. Factory-farmed chickens are so stressed they will peck each other’s feathers out and resort to cannibalism if not de-beaked to protect the stock. They are force-fed fatty prepared foods, antibiotics and hormones to quicken the fattening process. Broiler chickens have a lifespan of six weeks. They are slaughtered and frozen and ready for the dinner table in a time-frame designed to maximize profits.

The avian flu can destroy a whole factory-farm full of chickens in 48 hours. The H5N1 virus spreads like wild fire in today’s modern factory-farm. The idea that chickens were once permitted to run free to mix with wild birds is now unthinkable. The market for those tasty free range chickens has completely collapsed. The chicken that runs free is a chicken whose days are numbered.

18. Weekly Report (no script)

19. Someone to watch over me (no script)

20. There are all kinds of surveillance systems. This spring biologists are looking for the H5N1 virus in birds migrating back to Europe from Africa. Doctors in public clinics everywhere are looking for signs of tuberculosis in densely-packed human populations. Diseases are on the move as waves of migration overwhelm borders. Refugees and illegal immigrants pour into cities looking for the democracy and safety of urban space. These migrants must be photographed and fingerprinted. Video surveillance systems, also known as CCTV, are now equipped with facial recognition software. Facial recognition systems, while still too crude to recognize individuals, do serve authorities by indicating the movement and congregation of certain populations. Dark skin or particular body types or certain characteristic modes of dress are observed and registered throughout an elaborate grid of checkpoints. CCTV, although promoted as a deterrent to violent crime, is an important tool for immigration control. Video surveillance collapses the democracy of urban space. Space becomes a commodity—it becomes private property, and only certain people are welcome in particular neighborhoods. Poor people are seldom welcome anywhere. CCTV helps authorities to know the poor. Cheating immigrants may be sopping up welfare Euros. Immigrants may be infected with tuberculosis. Migrating birds returning from a winter in Africa may be packing the H5N1 virus.

21. Surveillance imposes discipline. Constant surveillance produces loyal citizens, productive workers, obedient patients, and docile, useful bodies. Surveillance cameras police public space and track physical movement.
Surveillance looks for anything out of the ordinary. Once identified a deviant person can be helped, segregated, imprisoned or simply drugged.
Surveillance, as an occupation, attracts control freaks and oppressive types who gravitate towards work as police officers and security guards. Welfare caseworkers or school principals thrive on little sadomasochistic thrills provided by rules, rule breakers, and disciplinary action.
Surveillance is a growth industry with a big upside. Everything and everyone needs to be supervised. Earn your keep by stamping out non-conformity. Make sure that the people know their place. Use the latest surveillance technologies to search for and destroy anything out of the ordinary. The presence of non-conformists will signal opportunities for the deployment of the police or psychiatrists or superintendents or other kinds of control freaks and oppressive types. Good citizens have nothing to fear.

22. Have you ever had your brain fingerprinted? Brain fingerprinting is a new kind of lie-detector test. Instead of looking for nervous reactions on the surface of the skin, brain fingerprinting technology looks directly into the mind of a suspect. The FBI and CIA in the United States hope it will become one of the most significant forensic tools since the advent of DNA analysis. Governments all over the world are excited about brain fingerprinting.
Here’s how it works. A criminal suspect or a terrorist is shown pictures of the scene of a crime or a terrorist training site. The suspect’s brain waves are monitored, looking for brain waves of recognition—signs in the suspect’s memory that links the suspect to the scene of a crime or terrorist activity. These brain waves of recognition are called P300 waves. The suspect may deny any involvement, but a real-time analysis of his or her brain waves may conclusively establish prior criminal activity. Previously undetectable memories determine guilt.
Brain fingerprinting technology is already widely used by advertising agencies to determine the effectiveness of television and radio commercials, as well as billboard and magazine advertising. People are offered cash to get them to volunteer to have their mind’s read periodically, to see if advertising campaigns are having their desired effects. Governments are also very interested to see if their public service announcements are sinking in. The ORF and Kunstradio could complement their audience surveys with strategic applications of brain fingerprinting. Have you ever heard my voice before? How concerned are you about the possibility of an avian flu pandemic? Have you ever had your brain fingerprinted?

23. We live in a world of strangers. Because more and more of us choose to live in cities, we find ourselves living in a world of strangers. We find privacy in the city, and loneliness. As we gain autonomy and our sense of individualism grows, it is more and more difficult to convince others that we are trustworthy. There are two ways we can prove our worth, with credentials and through ordeals.
Credentials include credit cards and drivers licenses, and educational certificates. We have identity tags like social security and passport numbers. To supplement our credentials we must submit our physical bodies for measurement and examination. We must establish our reputations through ordeals. Photographs are taken. We are asked to take drug tests for certain jobs, say a hair strand drug test or a simple saliva test. We are asked to place our hands on devices that verify our identity through hand geometry analysis. We are instructed to stare into video cameras for iris scans. These ordeals have become common in many aspects of our personal lives. We live in a world of strangers and it has become increasingly difficult to establish and maintain our reputations.
In this world we still rely on personal, instinctive judgment—the way a person looks and smells, the sound of their voice, and if they can look us in the eye. The way a person moves or responds to our touch still tells us a lot. But our intuitive skills only tell us so much. What kind of music does this stranger like? What are her favourite movies? Does he eat meat? Before we have sex or exchange body fluids we must determine the probability of various kinds of infections. Credentials are important, but ordeals are usually necessary to close the deal.

24. Reality TV is preparing us for a life of zero privacy. Reality programming is giving us a taste of a society based on total surveillance. Today’s reality shows transform our televisions into surveillance monitors. We watch ordinary people trying to convince us they are special. Ordinary people struggle under the weight of our critical observation. The truth is never good enough. When people stretch the truth and get tangled up in their lies, we will celebrate their public exposure and humiliation. We love to watch criminals on the run and innocent people having their hearts broken. We identify with the victims of reality television. We enjoy seeing others get hurt from a safe distance. We love the power we have as we use electronic eyes and ears to stalk and corner ordinary people. People just like us. We accept their confessions. We detest their limitations. The people on reality TV are complete fakes. The only reason these people are on TV is because of low production costs, and the complete alienation of the audience. We hate the people on reality TV just as much as we hate ourselves. Reality programming is a fine example of the degradation of experience through technology. Reality TV is a rehearsal for a life in a society based on total surveillance.

25. Who in the world is watching all these video surveillance systems? Video surveillance systems, commonly referred to as CCTV, are multiplying time and space, generating millions of hours of video recordings. The CCTV industry is composed of private companies contracted by city and state governments and corporations to perform surveillance on our streets, the buildings we work in and especially on those creepy spaces where danger lurks. CCTV operators are professional monitors who observe human behaviour within the scope of these systems. Typically these professional voyeurs are men with poor education. Their wages are low, usually starting at minimum wage. They are expected to work long hours and often are forced to work other jobs to make ends meet. Watching a couple of dozen video screens for ten hours a day is extremely boring and these men often nap or read pornographic magazines for major portions of their shifts. They learn to hate the people they are observing and focus primarily on young men, that segment of society most likely to vandalize property or commit criminal acts. Nine out of ten targeted individuals are men. Four out of ten are teenagers. And there is a fair bit of racism in the CCTV workforce. Women are observed essentially for sexual pleasure. Cameras are tilted and zoomed over women’s bodies as the male gaze is firmed up through state of the art video surveillance technology. High resolution colour video is gathered from great distances in bright daylight or no light at all. If prostitutes are working in parking lots, tapes of sexual acts are made for the amusement of CCTV staff.

26. The security industry is having a field day at the World Cup. The German government, with the help of private corporations from all over the world, is applying state of the art surveillance technologies to manage the crowds attending World Cup 2006. Philips, the Dutch electronics giant, is the official sponsor of this year’s Cup. Philips, and the many other corporations involved in this global football extravaganza, wants us to have a series of exciting, but safe, soccer matches. Security starts with the tickets. Philips manufactured three and a half million tickets with tiny RFID chips embedded in every single ticket. RFID stands for radio frequency identification. These smart tickets have a tiny silicon chip that responds to queries from a radio transceiver. Each ticket is personalized and represents the person who purchased it. To get a ticket for a World Cup match you had to give your name, address, nationality, your birth date, which team you support, your bank details, and your ID or passport number. When you enter a stadium your ticket is checked against your ID or passport. Very little information resides on the ticket’s chip, but the identity check is conducted against a series of computer databases. The Central Sports Intelligence Unit of the German Interior Ministry in Berlin has a database of over 6,000 hooligans already known to police. Germany’s National Information and Cooperation Center is coordinating agencies as diverse as the German Soccer Association and Interpol. Interpol will use its I-24/7 electronic communications system, to check World Cup tickets against its databases of stolen travel documents and photographs of known criminals. You can bet the CIA is also involved as terrorism is always a concern at such major global events. Tickets that trigger suspicion will activate surveillance cameras with facial recognition software. Privacy advocates are concerned that visual databases are being assembled using these smart football tickets to tag personal and financial data to the faces of ordinary citizens. The security industry is having a field day at World Cup 2006. The machines and software reading the tickets are provided by AXCESS, a ticketing technology company based in Salzburg, Austria.

Video surveillance, CCTV, is an extremely competitive, global industry. Costs have to be controlled. Results have to be delivered. The total, global flow of surveillance video is exploding in volume, and the weakest links in this business are the human operators, and the high cost of this labour. A twenty-four camera surveillance installation generates 576 hours of video in a single twenty-four hour day. That’s over 17,000 hours of video per month. Video surveillance installations are fire hoses of moving picture data. Human beings cannot be expected to stay alert under this relentless barrage of video information. Automating the process of observation is the only solution. Algorithmic surveillance, the automated pattern recognition of the input of digital light and heat sensors, is in rapid development and deployment. But someone will still have to watch over these complex, automated systems. A huge, growing workforce of surveillance operators is needed to analyze the video pictures and alert the authorities when suspicious activity is developing. High-speed fiber optic transmission of these video image streams does permit the location of this workforce off-shore. CCTV systems protecting the citizens and property of the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States of America, will be monitored off-shore by security experts in countries like India, Mexico, Slovakia and Turkey. Off-shore analysis and response is the future of CCTV.

28. Privacy is the right to be left alone, or maybe it’s the right to control your own information and self image. People worry about big brother, but the problem is we keep on checking in and depositing personal information with governments, with the banks, and with each other. The average citizen has surrendered much of his or her privacy to obtain credit, an education, good medical care, and many other necessary services. If you want to vote in elections, or be a professional, or a land owner, a business person, a borrower of money, or a driver of motor vehicles, then the rest of us have the right to know who you are. It is impossible to interact actively with society unless you give up your anonymity. In other words, you have to sacrifice your privacy for the things you need.

Privacy can be best understood as protection against certain kinds of risks—risks of injustice through such things as unfair incrimination, risks of loss of control over personal information, and risks of indignity through exposure and embarrassment. Privacy can be thought of as a shield that may serve to protect us from dress codes restricting types of clothing or hairstyles or tattoos and piercings. Privacy may be freedom from an oppressive gaze.

Few people realize that in a computerized society, only criminals, who live under forged identities, enjoy a high degree of privacy. Criminals hide in the shadows of the underworld. The only absolute privacy is in the darkness at the fringes of society. The rest of us, if we’re lucky, have pretty good privacy. Our privacy has to be protected. You never know when you might need it. Our privacy is our right to be left alone.

29. Back in the old days, during the cold war, governments were the main force stimulating innovations in IT, information technology. Now IT development occurs primarily in the private sector. As the cold war ended in the late 1980s, private firms once dependent on contracts with the military applied themselves to domestic surveillance. This was the so-called peace dividend: a blueprint for total information awareness. Domestic security industries continue to grow in all developed countries. The action flows downward from the military to the industrial to the consumer. Get your kid a cell phone with a GPS tag. Implant a RFID chip in your dog, or maybe grandpa, if he’s prone to wandering off. Nanny cams are a must if both parents have careers in domestic security firms. The war on terror has been very good for the new economy. Just a hint of NBC, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, is enough to set off an avalanche of government contracts. The threat of international terrorists has been the driving force in the new economy for some time now. The domestic security industries transform potential terrorist attacks into well paying jobs. Our insecurity is the cost of doing business.

30. Kids (no script)
31. The imagination can’t survive outside the mind. When we are young we live in a bubble. When we get older our heads start to leak, and our imagination spills out and dies. Watch out for brain scans. They’ll go inside and erase your imagination. You can’t hide from a brain scan. They see everything you’re thinking in colours. The red spots are your secrets. The yellow parts are the things you have to do tomorrow. The blue areas are the things you’ve lost because you don’t care anymore.

32. I hate it when people don’t take me seriously because I’m young and inexperienced. If they could see me for who I am, they would realize I know things they’ll never understand. I’m gonna tell everyone, but you’ll miss the point. I’m gonna touch you where I’m not supposed to. You’ll get what’s coming to you. I’ll teach you a lesson because you’re so sure you know it all.

33. I’m afraid of getting old. I’m worried I’ll become obsolete. There are viruses and bacteria everywhere, and there are bombs on planes and on the subway. I’m afraid I’m losing my mind. My short term memory is out like a light. Things go in one ear and out the other. I smell everything. I have no choice. I used to use my nose to smell with, but now I use it to remember things.

34. In our cultures of fear and loathing practically no one is frightened by the singing of birds. We fear the unknown and hate those who dare give us a hard time. Contention and strife are everywhere. Violence is the epitome of free speech. The birds, meanwhile, sing a song of utility and routine. You can hear them in the dark of morning, and as the day collapses into night. Somewhere a bird is singing about flight and feathers and a favourite perch. A bird’s fiercely beautiful song cuts through the darkness like a rocket whose aim is true.

35. Skulls and cross-bones are everywhere these days. Death is celebrated like a Mexican parade that streams across networks, crisscrossing the globe with brightly coloured banners of death. Car horns honk and bands play crazy marches full of soul and sweet remorse. Skulls laugh and bones pound the drums of war. The skies roar with fighter planes and rockets as bombs thunder below. Death dances to rock’n roll. Percussion pulverizes the hushed rhythms of living and breathing as wicked skeletons rip through flesh and blood with knives of hate. The dead seem all too happy to die again and again. Skulls and cross-bones are everywhere these days.

36. Victims The victims of war are up-loading video of their dead loved- ones to the world-wide web.  Digitally equipped victims are transmitting compressed files of horrific loss and outrage for all to see via the Net. We witness bombs destroying houses and killing innocent people direct from ground zero.  See my family get wiped out on YouTube.  The hot underbelly of the latest religious info-war is exploding across the screens of our personal computers.  Beheading videos and the massive shock treatments of improvised explosive devices are pitted against sophisticated satellite-guided smart bombs and the stylish camouflage of legions of well-equipped occupation forces.

37. Health-Issue The bird flu is not merely a health issue.  It is a social, economic, and security concern as well.  Personally, I’m going to do whatever it takes to save my own ass.
If the bird flu jumps to people and starts to spread quickly, widespread panic could lead to discrimination and violence against ethnic and religious minorities.  The weak will be trampled first.  I don’t think of myself on the bottom of the heap, but that’s not for me to decide.
A severe pandemic will result in economic losses in the order of 3.5 trillion Euros, 12% of global GDP, throwing the world into a severe recession.  On the other hand, 30 million new corpses worldwide will thin the ranks of the unemployed.
The combination of panic, economic decline, and a reduced government capacity to maintain order will lead to civil unrest.  Cities will be burning.  Increases in criminal activity, including human trafficking and the black market distribution of anti-viral drugs, must be kept to a minimum.  Good communications will be the key to softening the impact of the next global pandemic.  Governments must tell the truth  
and medical facts must rule the networks.  Voices of reason will ask you to listen to your heartbeat. They’ll say if you’ve still got a pulse, then you should get up and dance.  The consumption of alcoholic beverages and recreational drugs will be encouraged, and rigorous sexual activity will be strongly advised.  Good governments will urge us to party like there’s no tomorrow.


The content of the H5N1 series is derived mostly from an assortment of newspapers, radio broadcasts and Web sources. The episodes dealing with surveillance and insecurity borrow heavily from the following books:

The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America: From Slavery to the War on Terror, Christian Parenti, Basic Books (New York), 2003

Bombs and Bandwidth: The Emerging Relationships Between Information Technology and Security, edited by Robert Latham, The New Press (New York/London), 2003

The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV, by Clive Norris and Gary Armstrong, Berg (Oxford/New York), 1999

The Privacy Card: A Low Cost Strategy to Combat Terrorism, by Joseph W. Eaton, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. (Lanham, Maryland), 2003

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