Percepticide

From: Diana Taylor, Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina's 'Dirty War.' Durham: Duke University Press.

"The triumph of the atrocity was that it forced people to look away--a gesture that undid their sense of personal and communal cohesion even as it seemed to bracket them from their volatile surroundings. Spectacles of violence rendered the population silent, deaf, and blind. This photograph shows not only the overt violence to which people were subjected in public avenues during broad day-light, but it shows the self-blinding of the general population-- 'percepticide.' The woman sitting at the table behind the window of the café is hiding her head in her arms. She cannot or will not witness the events taking place in front of her. The military spectacle made people pull back in fear, denial and tacit complicity from the show of force. Therein lay its power. The military violence could have been relatively invisible, as the term 'disappearance' suggests. The fact that it wasn't indicates that the population as a whole was the intended target, positioned by means of the spectacle. People had to deny what they saw and, by turning away, collude with the violence around them.

They knew people were 'disappearing.' Men in military attire, trucks, and helicopters surrounded the area, closed in on the hunted individuals and "sucked" them off the street, out of a movie theatre, from a classroom, or workplace.And those in the vicinity were forced to notice, however much they pretended not to. Other spectators who have suffered similar violence, Elie Wiesel watching the Nazis exterminate the man who destroyed one of the chimneys at Auschwitz, Rigoberta Menchú watching her brother being tortured and burned alive, have judged this 'watching' to be the most dehumanizing of acts. To see, without being able to do, disempowers absolutely. But seeing, without even admitting that one is seeing, further turns the violence of oneself. Percepticide blinds, maims, kills through the senses."