Non-lethal weapons acting via external manipulation of the CNS

Allen L. Barker alb at
Thu Dec 17 07:04:56 EST 1998

The following post got such a string of bizarre and distracting replies that
I'll take that as a compliment and re-post it.

This thread has to do with the so-called non-lethal weapons, which include
microwave and acoustic antipersonnel weapons among other devices.
A common argument for such devices is that they are more humane than lethal
weapons and can make combat and riot control "cleaner."  Below I discuss that
argument and how non-lethal options tend to lower the threshold for applying

> I understand the argument above, and it is one that has often been put forward
> in defense of non-lethal weapons.  In some sense it assumes that everything
> stays the same but that safer weapons are available for carrying out violent
> actions.  What it does not take into account is that non-lethal weapons lower
> the threshold of use for such devices.
> Take a political demonstration as an example.  An administration or regime
> opposed to that demonstration formerly might have had a few options.  The
> police could have opened fire on the demonstrators, used tear gas, or perhaps
> clubbed the demonstrators.  In all these cases it is clear what has happened.
> The press knows it, the police know it, and the demonstrators know it.  So such
> a regime is hesitant to escalate to such tactics for fear of the resulting exposure.
> Now suppose there is another option.  There are secret weapons that can be
> employed to influence the crowd, which will probably not permanently harm anyone.
> Their use can be denied, and they will probably break up the demonstration.  In
> this case there is much more of a temptation to use the technology.  The press,
> if it knows what has happened, will be less likely to report it.  The result is a
> mechanism for a repressive government to better stay in power and to control
> both its citizens and the perceptions of its actions.

Allen L. Barker

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