The Null Device
Crazy Rulers of the World
I just watched the first part of Crazy Rulers Of The World
, a documentary series by Jon Ronson (author of THEM
, an exposé of conspiracy theorists, political extremists and other fellow travellers). It was very interesting; the programme was about the US military's paranormal research programmes, hatched in the heady collision of the post-Vietnam doldrums and the rise of Californian New Age spirituality. We met Lt. Col. Jim Channon, a wild-haired, wide-eyed hippy shaman-type who wrote the fantastically new-agey (not to mention lavishly illustrated) "First Earth Battalion" report, which envisioned a new US Army trained to sense plant auras and be at one with the universe; into confrontation, they would carry baby lambs, and wear loudspeakers from which emanated indigenous music and words of peace; if things got really heavy, this would change to discordant acid rock. Anyway, Channon's ideas inspired a lot of others to begin various less peaceful project, including the Fort Bragg "Goat Lab", where Special Forces would practice staring at goats and killing them with their psychic energy. One of the practitioners of this (now running a dance studio in the Midwest) claimed to have recently killed a hamster with psychic energy. Apparently he is being brought out of retirement to assist in using psychic energy to interrogate Iraqi insurgents, hopefully preventing another Abu Ghraib incident, or so he claims.
The convincingness of this programme was varied; parts of it, like the chakra-point weapon adapted from Channon's teachings and apparently being used to bloodlessly defeat Iraqi insurgents in hand-to-hand combat, looked like it could work, perhaps along similar principles to acupuncture or pressure-point tactics. The goat-staring and hamster-staring videos, however, seemed rather ambiguous; in both cases, nothing seemed to happen on the screen, though excuses were given (the goat experiment was only aiming for a "level 1" effect of lowering its heart rate, and the hamster could have been interpreted as collapsing and then trying to flee its cage; the experimenter didn't show the video of it dying, in case the Guardian columnist Ronson was a "bleeding-heart liberal").
Anyway, there are two more parts in this programme, not to mention a book titled The Men Who Stare At Goats, which should be interesting.
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