Bad white noise or good white noise

Eva Birch

There are vehicles that can use water like land. I came across – when and how? – a video of the Ultra Heavy-Lift Amphibious [UHAC] on YouTube that made me scared for my life. On either side of the body of the vehicle are two circular chains of paddles, attached to conveyor belts. It looks like an assembly line eating itself. The UHAC moves from the sand onto the water without hesitation, the motor does not differentiate the change in element. Its control over whatever is being used renders everything the same. There are many military videos like this, their deathly energy taking over corners of YouTube.

Other corners, such as the ASMR community, breathe life back. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, that tingling, relaxing feeling you get in your head and shoulders at the hairdresser or optometrist.‘Michele ASMR Belle’ uses the sounds of whispering, matches, candles, a hair dryer, and aluminium foil to trigger this feeling in her audience. The corresponding visual of her makeup, movements and expression creates a sense of intimacy and safety, as she projects an ideal image of a service woman. The only video on her channel that does not feature her face is of waves breaking. Are these the same waves that provide energy for the UHAC? The white noise seems similar. The difference, though, is that Michele creates a relation between herself – even if you can’t see her – and the rhythm of the waves coming and going, whereas the video of UHAC creates a relation between the rhythm of the machine and the invisibility of the soldier behind the camera. Michele is listening to the waves, the soldier is watching the vehicle.

Michele’s other video channel is called ‘Support for victims of narcissism.’ One video bridges both her interests: ‘ASMR: validation for victims of NPD.’ NPD, Narcissistic personality disorder, is classified in the DSM, Diagnostic Statistics Manual, which was originally developed from the Armed Forces’ existing nomenclature for classifying the mental disturbances of their soldiers. There are nine diagnostic criteria listed in the manual for NPD, but basically the narcissist is like the UHAC vehicle, using everything indiscriminately to power himself. Military technologies like the Internet and the DSM, may originate in a narcissistic aim of control, yet people like Michele repurpose them for comfort. The soldier looks at the UHAC and sees his reflection. Michele is like the women he had before her, land being used like water. PTSD, Post-traumatic stress disorder, is another military technology she has inherited. To heal, she hears the sea and finds herself.

I passed the playground in front of the Docklands library. All of the kids were gathered around the mini fountains, the most exiting part of it. The movement of the water drew me in too because it had something I’d lost. Perhaps this was the portal to another world, where energy isn’t taken away so easily? After I passed the mini fountains the water was awaken in me, reverberating my victimhood into something new. It reminded me of ASMR on YouTube.

Eva Birch is a writer and is currently finishing her PhD.