Sunday, May 15, 2005

psy-ops watch 3.0

(See numbers one and two if you wish.)

Well he hasn't blogged in a while, but Jon Ronson was on Book TV (C-SPAN2) just now reading from The Men Who Stare at Goats. Ronson is also the author of Them: Adventures With Extremists. I imagine the show will be archived here sometime. In response to a question he was saying that he does draw a moral line between the freaky-ass shit being done now and Nazi experiments, despite the obvious similarities, because the roots of our (US) modern-day psy-ops are "big-hearted", "benign" and "trying to do good." To which I replied to myself, "Huh."

It's only the sadists who are the problem, then. (Someone brought up the prospect of The Sociopath Next Door (a book that argues that four in ten people are in fact sociopaths at heart), but Ronson slyly brushed it off with a show of humility and a touching dash of insecurity.) Well I guess that's what it means to aspire to be a best seller. Don't draw any strong conclusions, or fight the flow. To be fair, I liked the guy and his recourse to humor in the face of such subjects as "The Barney Torture" is understandable. I guess I find his project (or more precisely his tone) disappointing for the same reasons that Tom Wolf does not amuse me. At the end of the day the author is content to be a voyeur and spectator, rather than a genuine describer, perhaps, or one with an honest relation toward their own (inherent) investment in a historical moment. (A re-sponse, if you will, which is the opposite of a stiff or calcified pedantics, whether hippy or conservative (the word "democrat" doesn't really purchase as a cultural category—one reason "they" are so easily baited, batted and pegged.)) In the face of unprecedented details of disturbing military trends, tactics and experiments (basically a "casserole" of suddenly, gloriously testable ideas, Ronson claims, remembered in a fit of glee from various think tank meetings in decades past), the author can only hide his cynicism or discomfort with a joke.

Anyone who's read Acid Dreams before the crooked cunt family again took over may sense that the time for such jokes is past. The parallels (not equivalencies) between Guantanamo/Abu Ghraib and Nazi germany (and to a certain degree, Stalinist Russia and Maoist China) are too serious to be swept under the fictional, oriental rug of "human nature." The proper response is not, you know, a coy self-conscious smile and shrug. But then I guess it would be an "anti-American" genre book, doomed to sell only sporadically in pathetic, quaint and crusty hippy towns. (For the civilized among us there's more breaking stuff on Guantanamo torture from the BBC.)

Update: For something approaching the proper indignation over "pulpification" of innocents in the name of freedom (or is that not "cruelty"), see here please.

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