October 31, 2004

From New Age to Abu Ghraib: "Perhaps this is the way it happened: in the late 1970s Jim Channon, traumatised from Vietnam, sought solace in the emerging human potential movement of California. He took his ideas back into the army and they struck a chord with the top brass who had never before seen themselves as New Age, but in their post-Vietnam funk it all made sense to them. Then, over the decades that followed, the army, being what it is, recovered its strength and saw that some of the ideas contained within Jim's manual could be used to shatter people rather than heal them. Those are the ideas that live on in the war on terror"

Jon Ronson, author of Them: Adventure with Extremists has a new book coming out called The Men Who Stare at Goats, which is out on Nov. 5th in the UK. The main link is to an extract published in The Guardian. Apparently the U.S. Army thought soldiers could kill goats by staring at them very, very hard.

  • This is very very scary. Honest. I can't imagine what is going on in the minds of some of these soldiers following orders. They're murdering the minds of other young men.
  • the corpses of soldiers who died when the goats stared back are buried in mass graves at area 51.
  • Weird... Wait, when were goats ever our enemy?
  • Wait, when was goatse ever our friend?
  • I died when the goatse stared back at me.
  • Le petit mort, Squid? I hope you wiped up after yourself.
  • Who is this little dead guy you speak of?
  • Remember, whenever you stare into the goatse, the goatse in turn stares into you... Back on topic; that's some seriously frightening stuff but, call me a cynic, I thought that was what the army and CIA have been doing since WWII.
  • One thing that's interesting is that it is a pretty good argument that military research should have public oversight because when it is secret people can do really dumb things. I mean, you'd think that someone would have looked at the stare-at-goats approach to military research and concluded that it was insanely stupid. It's also a good argument that Skeptical Enquirer Magazine should be given free to 16-year olds everywhere. Oh, and little Mort? He's a good guy. Always leaves me with a smile on my face ;)
  • This is another piece of proof that military logic will always find the most destructive use possible for any technology. (Of course, they'll call it "the most effective use." Don't let the warlords fool you.)
  • Remember, whenever you stare into the goatse, the goatse in turn stares into you... But only with one eye... I don't know who called the 20th C. the century of murder, but certainly technology and culture have worked hand in hand to industrialize death. Where wars were once fought hand to hand, we progressed from arrows and cannonball to psychological torture. Maybe we're too smart for our own good.
  • You could argue that increased use of psychological torture has grown out of the rise of humaneness in western military actions. Whereas before a prisoner could expect to be interrogated with hot irons and the like, the military now has to find ways of extracting information that doesn't leave the prisoner with one eye. Not that it's any necessarily better, the church banned blood-letting during interrogations but all that meant was that the Inquisition crushed your bones instead. Still, we've gone from crushing a prisioner's femur to the tune of Leviticus to sticking a banana in their ass to the tune of Metallica, and it only took a few hundred years.
  • the rise of humaneness in western military actions You've got a tough sell on your hands with this one, Spooky.
  • Maybe we're too smart for our own good. *nods*