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The Empire's Dog Feces: Non-lethal use against OWS protest

The long-term nature of the non-lethal weapons industry in the US needs to be understood now that one of its newer pieces of kit, the LRAD, has been fielded in New York City for the OWS protests. The purpose of the industry has always been to sell to the military and militarized police forces technology for use on unarmed crowds. And the major sales argument for all of it has always been that it puts into the hands of its users technology that is claimed to allow them to do something without hurting the subjects being targeted. In other words, it's always been sold by exploiting military and police force susceptibility to magical thinking.

The LRAD, or long range acoustic device, is a sonic cannon. I posted on it here and here in the last year. And TPM posted a piece on it today, including pix, here.

From one of the blog's previous entires, on the LRAD's deployment on a police armored van:

[A] motorized crowd control system, it generates loud screeching noise with the idea that ear pain makes people run away, was deployed in Pittsburgh where it has been mostly just a nuisance.

It came out of the idea that sound could be used to shatter the ear drums of "terrorists" on airplanes, without killing passengers.

If common sense is telling you that such a thing is fairly dubious, you're not alone. However, that has never impeded the development of such things.

At TPM, the manufacturer of the LRAD defends it as a communications device.

Historically, claims from the non-lethal weapons industry have always been bull----.

Prosaic as well as exotic non-lethal weapons have been pushed for military and police use for well on twenty years, getting an extra shove during the war on terror. And it is no surprise that LRADs would have been sold into the NYPD in the last decade.

The LRAD company's rationalization that the things are for communicating does not stand particularly close scrutiny when considering the nature of the OWS protests.

It is not readily apparent that a beamed highly directional sound cannon, particularly the size shown in TPM photos, would be any good in shouting directions to a large moving crowd determined to go somewhere, a mass not inclined or interested in police instructions or warnings. Which would be expected, anyway.

On the other hand, if you want to spray a crowd with random bursts of irritating noise that hits individuals, perhaps with the aim of instilling some manner of trepidation in them -- well, that's just what a beam-projecting weapon would be able to do.

The LRAD manufacturer concedes to TPM that it only sells to military and police force clients. So much for the handful of feeble humanitarian uses described for them. And it's worth adding that LRADs and similar devices have been shown on American television in shows expressly interested in making entertainment of exhibiting applications in weapons technology. For the US Navy, in addition to the non-lethal role (which is nil), they have also been sold as devices to be used in hailing, which is significantly different than use against a crowd in close quarters.

TPM reprints a bit from the LRAD website:

"LRAD can broadcast in any language with authoritative and highly intelligible communication. LRAD provides military personnel with a powerful, penetrating warning tone that can be followed by clear voice broadcasts in host nation languages to warn and shape the behavior of potential threats."

Note the keyword -- threats.

If you read more details at TPM, there's indication that up very close -- at distances of one meter -- the portable LRAD can be damaging.

It also indirectly speaks to the relative ineffectiveness of the devices, other than as purposeful irritants to a few.

The broadcast, even designed to be directional, dissipates in power geometrically at distance. And it can be fought with barriers and ear plugs.

Right now the LRAD is, at worst, a nuisance. At best, it's a complete waste of money delivered with the delicious irony that if you were a taxpayer any time in the last decade (before losing your job and going to protest), in a general sense you helped pay for it.

However, as civil unrest propagates and grows in the United States, the potential exists for other more threatening "non-lethal" devices to appear in the hands of those the empire dispatches to quash it.

From the standpoint of the private sector businesses that make these things, it's a sell-sell-sell time.

An appropriate musical interlude.

This post was originally published at Dick Destiny blog.

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