Word The Cat

Word the Cat

sensory weapons

Posted by Chris on September 29, 2009 at 10:26 am  

as many of you may know, the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh last week saw the first deployment of a LRAD (‘long range acoustic device’) in America. this is not the first time it had been used. previous tests/deployments have occurred/are occurring in Prison Camp Bucca, Iraq, off the Somali coast against pirates/fishermen and by the Israeli army to break up a demonstration against the separation wall. Kode9 talks about sonic weapons in relation to fear, the psychological and nervous reactions to sound:

“We all know that a siren, an alert siren, an air raid siren, or your alarm clock, we all know what they mean, but there’s a level at which they just directly get on your nerves, they’re frequencies that are there to get on your nerves and to make you act, to make you alert, and to take action immediately. Because they’ve either woken you up or they’re a signal of danger. So there’s a direct immediacy of sound, getting under your skin, on your nerves, making you respond to danger, in a fight or flight… basically reflexive or autonomic response.” via

he cites Israeli jets systematically breaking the sound barrier by night over Gaza, blitzkrieg (screaming dive bombers over Britain in world war two) and a horn used by Maroons in Jamaica to signal/anticipate an attack on the English. the G20′s LRADevice marks a shift from this through its brutal physicality. the maximum volume is 146db (at a range of 1 metre). the human pain threshold for sound is 120-140db and this volume can permanently damage hearing. here, the sound itself becomes the object of fear rather than the thing it is co-conditioned with. here is some footage from Pittsburgh (be careful, it’s quite loud).

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what is particularly disturbing to me are the forensics of this idea. the police, army or a ship from the other side of the world, whose crew is willing to use it can effectively possess you by breaking down the barrier between an external and internal threat, co-opting your senses and using them against you. it doesn’t stop at sound; the following sensory devices are currently under development or on order (these below and much of this post borrowed from here).

Raytheon Corp.’s Active Denial System, designed for crowd control in combat zones, uses an energy beam to induce an intolerable heating sensation, like a hot iron placed on the skin. It is effective beyond the range of small arms, in excess of 400 meters. Company officials have been advised they could expand the market by selling a smaller, tripod-mounted version for police forces.

The Penn State facility is testing a “Distributed Sound and Light Array Debilitator” a.k.a. the “puke ray.” The colors and rhythm of light are absorbed by the retina and disorient the brain, blinding the victim for several seconds. In conjunction with disturbing sounds it can make the person stumble or feel nauseated. Foreign Policy in Focus reports that the Department of Homeland Security, with $1 million invested for testing the device, hopes to see it “in the hands of thousands of policemen, border agents and National Guardsmen” by 2010.

and the sonic ones in full:

Long Range Acoustic Device or “The Scream,” is a powerful megaphone the size of a satellite dish that can emit sound “50 times greater than the human threshold for pain” at close range, causing permanent hearing damage. The L.A. Times wrote U.S. Marines in Iraq used it in 2004. It can deliver recorded warnings in Arabic and, on command, emit a piercing tone…”[For] most people, even if they plug their ears, [the device] will produce the equivalent of an instant migraine,” says Woody Norris, chairman of American Technology Corp., the San Diego firm that produces the weapon. “It will knock [some people] on their knees.” CBS News reported in 2005 that the Israeli Army first used the device in the field to break up a protest against Israel’s separation wall. “Protesters covered their ears and grabbed their heads, overcome by dizziness and nausea, after the vehicle-mounted device began sending out bursts of audible, but not loud, sound at intervals of about 10 seconds…A military official said the device emits a special frequency that targets the inner ear.”

In “Non-lethal Technologies: An Overview,” Lewer and Davison describe a lengthy catalog of new weaponry including the “Directed Stick Radiator,” a hand-held system based on the same technology as The Scream. “It fires high intensity ‘sonic bullets’ or pulses of sound between 125-150db for a second or two. Such a weapon could, when fully developed, have the capacity to knock people off their feet.”

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