EMA, “Active Shooter”

Sam Lefebvre

Erika M. Anderson, better known as EMA, is a probing, bold thinker and experimentalist whose 2014 full-length, The Future’s Void, stands alongside works by Holly Herndon as some of the most crucial examinations of the digital age in recent memory. And in a new video, “Active Shooter”, EMA trains a cop’s body-camera—a device championed by liberals but one that’s symptomatic of pervasive surveillance—on the subject of mass shootings in America and their underlying social factors.

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“Active Shooter” appropriates body-cam footage from a training exercise conducted by the Mount Pleasant Texas Police Department. It shows participants storming a real middle school. Real teenagers made up as shooting victims appear inert in hallways and classrooms. It’s hard to distinguish between the implied violence of the shooting scenario and the point-of-view image of a cop clutching his or her gun. In the original video, twinkling Lifetime keyboards segue into the sort of orchestral melodrama that reflect cops’ deluded self-image as glorious crusaders. EMA’s score, composed of eroding beats and a sinister guitar riff, isn’t so vainglorious.

“Any kid in America,” goes the refrain, muttered and then screamed, pointing both to the ease with which young people can acquire guns and the pool of potential victims. “Armed good guys are a myth,” begins another verse, followed by a sample of Barack Obama’s exasperated admission that, “Somehow this has become routine.” And finally, EMA concludes, “Angry white boys get uptight, got no right to end a life.”

“There are dozens of these videos online, including ones made by Homeland Security and the LA Sheriff’s department,” EMA writes on her website. “They urge every day Americans to be prepared in all situations in case a mass shooting breaks out… Read more about guns and mass shootings in America via The Washington Post.”

Revisit Liz Pelly’s feature, Music and Mass Surveillance Culture.

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