We Have Met The Enemy, And It Is Us

Then it was as if an invisible yet intensely heated finger were drawn through the heather between me and the Martians, and all along a curving line beyond the sand pits the dark ground smoked and crackled. Something fell with a crash far away to the left where the road from Woking station opens out on the common. Forthwith the hissing and humming ceased, and the black, domelike object sank slowly out of sight into the pit.
War of the Worlds- HG Wells

So the Pentagon are testing their new heat ray and who better to turn to than 60 Minutes to fall down in awe and help them promote their new toy in an infomercial, sorry, hard hitting piece of journalism. Now an enterprising and questioning reporter might say given the huge death toll of a premeditated war of aggression, the removal of privacy, ‘free speech’ zones and the ending of habeas corpus should we be quite so pleased our friendly military/industrial/congressional thingamabob are perfecting new technology to force compliance upon people through the medium of searing burning pain? Or y’know you could just go- Oh Wow, a heat ray like in Buck Rogers, awesome dude!

CBS 60 Minutes: David Martin Reports On A Non-Lethal Weapon Straight Out Of Buck Rogers

*sigh* The infomercial works so well for the Pentagon because it also pushes the meme US forces deeply regret killing civilians and just wish they had a non lethal way to enforce their will, sorry, help lovely people rejoice in the Beneficence of Uncle Sam. In the fake demo where troops dressed as demonstrators to be zapped with the ray gun the narration suggested they were mimicking the kind of situation to be found in Iraq. Yet the visual presented something a little bit more home grown, not many keffiyeh’s on show, the protesters looked an awful lot like anti-war demonstrators. Yes that’s partly down to the vast wit and utterly hilarious nature of Army humour, but this was a big pre-arranged video shoot for national consumption, so what message was it really putting across?

heatraydemo.jpg

It also sought to promulgate rules of engagement most appropriate for 4GW where civilians and combatants become an amorphous mass to the brave honourable uniformed hero of the Imperial overlords: (Roughly) If someone is coming towards you and you zap them with the heat ray and they do not run away, then one can assume malicious life threatening intent and unleash lethal force on them.

The impulse to run the other way is so strong that anyone who keeps coming has to be considered a threat. “It could be used to read someone’s mind, in effect, because you immediately know what someone’s intention is. If they continue to come at you, then you’re fairly sure they’re not a tourist. They’re probably a terrorist or an adversary who wants to do you harm,” Payton [Sue Payton, an assistant secretary of the Air Force and the Pentagon official in charge of buying the ray gun] explains.

Ready for a crowd being unable to disperse quickly because of the practicalities of masses of people demonstrating? Being panicked trying to run, trampling and often being unable to get out of the way of the heat ray, so you get much longer exposure and then… well you did not run away, nevermind you were trapped by the crowd, suddenly whole swathes of people become liable to lethal force… under the mode of thinking the Pentagon sought to disseminate here.

And as with Tasers, the obligatory demonstration on the journalist. Displaying how someone supposedly representing our concerns within the mediated piece is willing to allow it’s use, who can then give an account we should deem trustworthy because we are invited to identify with the presenter. And if you leave your brain at the door that almost works…except controlled conditions before cameras do not replicate the the situation where it would be used, to be honest the moment someone does one of these -well I tried it and it didn’t kill me!- you know you are dealing with showbiz and not serious enquiry.

And even as the Pentagon’s mouthpiece sought to complain they can’t deploy it because of fears after Abu Grhaib this could be construed as a torture weapon (no, really?) the Marines distaste for non-lethal technology was clear-

“A major came up to me and said that the Marine Corps wasn’t overly thrilled with the whole non-lethal concept. And his idea was, is that the Marine Corps’ idea of force escalation went from M-16 to F-16. How many people we could kill and how fast we could do it.”

Which is why they are a fearsome force of destruction, but hearts & minds, freedom & democracy? Not so much. So back to the question of what it is for? And like those non-lethal Tasers that keep killing people, do we, should we trust those wielding it? An authoritarian personality would shout ‘Yes!’ but a news show?(ht2 Naj)

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