Raytheon's Active Denial System is a certified excrement magnet. Always has been, always will be.
Its slated arrival for Labor Day in a southern California jail has generated quite a bit of bad publicity along with the usual brief corporate news pieces in which a local TV station or paper sends a reporter to be a trial gimp.
The reporter invariably giggles and jumps out of the way as Raytheon technicians or jailers look impishly on. See the wonder that's taken a decade for the US military, in conjunction with an arms developer, to come up with! It's a revolution.
A device designed to control unruly inmates by blasting them with a beam of intense energy that causes a burning sensation is drawing heat from civil rights groups who fear it could cause serious injury and is "tantamount to torture."
What much of the news has missed is that Raytheon has been trying to peddle the pain ray into prisons for years. And it has long had a big influence in the LA Sheriff's Department, where Charles "Sid" Heal presided over a long career as the local point man for bringing ninny applications in cutting edge technology, rays and various gadgets, into the force.
One article, here -- on a flying toy for aerial spying, sums up the nature of the work. Keep in mind, if you've never lived in soCal, we already have a lot of police helicopters. There's no real shortage of air assets.
In 2008, Heal retired but not before indicating to New Yorker magazine that he was interested in a Raytheon consulting offer, based on enthusiasm over the pain ray.
Those who've followed the ADS story know that Heal and, by definition -- the Sheriff's Department, have longed for the pain ray for some time.
If you read the Associated Press piece to its conclusion, you see the now standard assertions -- built up over the years -- that the pain ray can't possibly hurt anybody. Plus it will only be used by people who are trained to exquisite fineness in its use, never afflicted with the cloudy or bad judgment which is usually part of the human condition.
Sure they're intelligence-insulting, but it's the way of the p.r. campaign for the thing.
Many authoritarian Americans are always keen to believe whatever rubbish is presented to them, as long as its couched in magical terms which assure that breakthroughs in technology have made a burning weapon something that doesn't physically burn. It's all in your mind. Or your nerve endings. Or the top layer of your skin.
Whatever, its prisoners the ADS peddlers are talking about and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is part of the sales pitch. They'll be out of sight when shot by the pain ray, which naturally tends to slow down reporters interested in writing about human rights violations.
The pain ray is a weapon for using in cases where people can't shoot back or launch any kind of counterattack. It's critical the target be helpless. Incidentally, like many journalists sent by news agencies for testing.
The ADS -- or AID -- is not a survivable piece of gear and it's why it was peddled to the US military for use against unarmed crowds. The US military brought it back from Afghanistan without firing a shot, for logical reasons. Alert readers will note the change in the thing's acronym, perhaps as much for the sake of evading Googling for bad news on it as much as anything else. It's sort of like trying to rebrand "cockroach" as "ladybug beetle."
Anyway, winning hearts and minds is not the pain ray's strong suit.
Paradoxically, when the Active Denial System was first marketed it was called the Sheriff and part of the idea was that it was great because it wouldn't actually kill people, thus upsetting victims and civilians less.
"Sell the Sheriff to the sheriffs!" was probably on a Raytheon sales memo.
An earlier version of this post was published at Dick Destiny.