Thursday, October 05, 2006

Complete control

This new invention from Raytheon offers some very nasty possibilities of controlling people:
Their findings: "This technology is capable of rapidly heating a person's skin to achieve a pain threshold that has been demonstrated by AFRL human subject testing to be very effective at repelling people, without burning the skin or causing other secondary effects." The device, it adds, "is an alternative to lethal force."

The human testing showed that the beams will penetrate even tiny openings and cracks in any physical barrier, including clothes, walls and shields. It is as though it wraps around corners to affect any piece of exposed body - the fingers or face, say, of those trying to hide.

What is clear is that this weapon ushers in a new era of paralysing weapons for urban warfare and, potentially, a techno-politics of border exclusion and crowd control. Raytheon insists that although pain is produced instantaneously, it will cause no damage, apparently on the assumption that targets will move away at once.

Add this to the widescale CCTV coverage we have in this country, and now a linked speaker system to bark out orders, and you have the possibility of the UK evolving into Airstrip One sometime soon.

Of course, CCTV is far from unpopular given the twin threats of terrorism and street crime, leaving the majority of us as though crushed in a huge vice. Effectively they're all on the same side: intimidation. A battle for the minds and not the hearts.

There are counterbalances to the technological threats:
"Non-lethal weapons are still being reviewed by the medical group ... Basically my point to them was [that] we need to start using that here in the US on Americans. And if we start using that here on Americans ... the first thing they will do is cry out that you have hurt them medically in a way that is pejorative."
The litigious nature of the US public, so often derided over here, could well be beneficial, as soon as someone gets a hit of microwave pain-infliction you can bet Raytheon and the US Govt will be in the dock. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if you have an army of ambulance-chaser lawyers camped out just beyond the range of these devices, clipboard in hand.

The other development that could link the control technologies together would be the new biometric ID cards the government is trying to foist on us. Here again we're safeguarded by their IT development strategy, handing out huge amounts of public money to massive contractors who seldom satisfactorily complete the projects, just think of the hopelessly expensive messes of the NHS Lorenzo system, the Child Protection Agency's hopless start in life and the poor families devastated by having to pay back incorrectly-calculated tax credits, just for starters.

Non-governmental intimidation is far less high-tech, such as the death sentence against Salman Rushdie, the riots over the Danish cartoons by people who'd never seen them, the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the play Sanctuary being forced off stage by Sikhs, attacks and death-threats against anyone named on Redwatch (which, peculiarly, the govt claim to be unable to do anything about) and the twisted logic of the extreme violence of some animal rights protestors. But I guess they don't featherbed high-tech industries.


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