241 Things

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Studium Generale 1000things lectures, The Hague

241 Things

Heliographer-in-chief Nelson Miles

America 1886

In pursuit of the wily Geronimo and his small band of Chiricahua Apache, General Nelson Miles suffered from a lack of high quality intelligence regarding the movement of hostiles through his geographically complex theater of operations. Chiricahua knowledge of the terrain combined with their high levels of skill in evasion made “hunt and kill” tactics difficult if not impossible to apply, and intelligence gathered by scouts (some of whom were Apache themselves) proved inadequate to the task, or unreliable.

If he was to succeed where General Crook had failed, Miles would need to see and anticipate enemy motion with greater precision and with a perspective as sweeping as the landscape. Thus he set out to establish a regional system of aerial reconnaissance, accomplished by means of the solar-powered heliograph or “sun telegraph”: The signal detachments will be placed upon the highest peaks and prominent lookouts to discover any movements of Indians and to transmit messages between the different camps.

Solar-powered intelligence station circa 1886

Net for catching hostiles

According to a newspaper account written by former signal operator William Niefert:

From the peak in that clear atmosphere we had an interesting view that covered many miles, even beyond the International Border. Nogales 50 miles away, was plainly visible, and away to the eastward one could see a surprisingly distance. The heliograph, or sun-telegraph as it was often spoken of on the frontier, is an instrument for signalling by sunlight reflected from a mirror. Metallic mirrors were originally used, but in service, they were hard to keep bright, and hard to replace if broken in the field. Consequently glass mirrors were adopted and much successful work was accomplished by using this method of signalling. We used two 5-inch mirrors, mounted on heavy wooden posts, that were firmly set between the rocks. Vertical and horizontal tangent screws are attached to the mirrors by which they can be turned to face any desired direction and keep the mirrors in correct position with the suns movement. As the flash increases about 45 times to a mile, it could be read with the naked eye for at least fifty miles.

Equipped with a powerful telescope and field glasses, we made frequent observations of the surrounding country so that any moving body of troops, or other men, as well as any unusual smoke or dust, might be detected and at once reported by flashing to Headquarters. Troops in the field carried portable heliograph sets that were operated by specially trained and detailed soldiers, by this means communicating through the mountain stations with Headquarters.

Headquarters

For all the effort invested, there is little evidence that any of the information gathered and relayed by the heliographs had any direct result on Geronimo’s capture, which was eventually secured by boots on the ground; boots under the command of Lieut. Charles A. Gatewood, a man Geronimo knew and respected as a brave adversary. General Miles traveled to Skeleton Canyon for the official surrender on September 4, 1886.

The most significant lessons of the Apache Wars had more to do with physical fitness and tactical preparation than with theater intelligence. Counterinsurgency concepts such as flexible response, quick reaction with emphasis on mobility, body counts and small unit actions were all conceived and refined during the Apache campaign, from tactical necessities dictated by both the harsh terrain and by the character of the enemy. For aerial reconnaissance to be effective in the context of counterinsurgency, there must be a more rapid and dynamic relationship between intelligence and the delivery of force. The heliograph system of General Miles had far too many dots (and dashes) to connect: from binoculars into code; then from code to mirror communication; then from decoding to command; and then from command to the pursuit force, via the same cumbersome circuitry. Radio would of course eventually significantly reduce these gaps, but the most pure expression of Shock & Awe would not be achieved until intelligence itself became weaponized, in the form of Predator drones.

Sky Mirror, Anish Kapoor

The capture of Geronimo resulted in the removal of most Chiricahua from the desert landscape that provided the basis for their entire culture; they were placed in rail cars and transported to Florida, into an environment so foreign that it may as well have been Madagascar. Exposure to new diseases compounded by the shock of a climate and landscape antithetical to their culture and experience, many of the captive Chiricahua died within the first year. Such dynamic relationships among intelligence, identification, cryptography, rail transport and death would become more fully articulated in years to come.

JUST CALL ME DAD

Benjamin Rush is often referred to as “the father of American psychiatry,” and indeed his portrait still adorns the seal of the American Psychiatric Association. In 1965, the APA placed a bronze plaque by his grave at Christ Church Cemetery in Philadelphia, affirming and consecrating his paternity.

Rush’s seminal opus, Medical Inquiries and Observations, Upon the Diseases of the Mind nowreads like a primer for psychological torture. Suggested punishments for the misbehavior of mentally ill patients include tranquilization through the imposition of physical restraints; food modification or deprivation; cold water treatments; and prolonged shower baths.

“If all these modes of punishment should fail of their intended effects, it will be proper to resort to fear of death.”

Other fears also come in handy, as well as an acute sense of shame, though Rush asserts that because of some neurological process he fails to specify, the patient will have erased all memory of such fears, once returned to mental health. Also, we should note Rush’s deft distancing from the brutal exercise of the whip; clearly he prefers other more refined techniques.

FROM CHAPTER VI, TREATMENTS

In many cases, the line between punishments and treatments is quite flexible within the medical philosophy of Dr. Rush. Thus the tranquilizer performs a highly useful secondary role in facilitating the application of other treatments:

“The tranquilizer [chair] has several advantages over the strait waistcoat or madshirt. It opposes the impetus of the blood towards the brain, it lessens muscular action every where, it reduces the force and frequency of the pulse, it favours the application of cold water and ice to the head, and warm water to the feet, both of which I shall say are excellent remedies in this disease; it enables the physician to feel the pulse and to bleed without any trouble, or altering the erect position of the patient’s body; and lastly, it relieves him, by means of a close stool, half filled with water, over which he constantly sits, from the foetor and filth of his alvine evacuations.”

On the website of the Pennsylvania Hospital, the tranquilizer is described as “doing neither harm nor good.” The statement is made without reference to any supporting documentation or testimonials from patients or doctors:
Though Rush mentions in his book that a fully functioning tranquilizer was used by the hospital at the time of publication (1812), I have been unable to confirm its present existence as a physical object; a copy of an engraving endorsed by Rush as accurate appears on the website for the U.S. National Library of Medicine:
A small scale model of the chair on display at the Mütter Medical Museum, also in Philadelphia, shows a rather different device (purple gloves belong to Mütter curator Anna Dhody):

DISPLAY MODIFICATION

Of particular note is the absence of the “close stool”; and the innovation, apparently devised by the model maker, of the blinders. With this modification in place, the patient can neither move his head nor bear visual witness to anything happening within his environs.

It is possible that the design change was introduced by the model maker simply to make the head structure more durable, yet whatever the explanation, the modification is remarkably prescient in anticipating a key attribute of contemporary psychological torture as developed by the CIA since the 1950s: the merging of corporeal restraint with sensory deprivation and/or perceptual disorientation.

NO TOUCH TORTURE

Interestingly, the two most recent recipients of the APA’s Benjamin Rush award, together with the titles of their lectures, are:

2008

Mark S. Micale, Ph.D., Associate Professor, History of Science and Medicine at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.Psychological Trauma and the Lessons of History.

2011

Andrea Tone, Ph.D., Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Social History of Medicine, McGill University. Spies and Lies: Cold War Psychiatry and the CIA.

Compared to nightsticks, Kalasjnikovs and bats, whips don’t come across as very intimidating. Who ever heard of a war won by an army armed with whips? Or of bank robbers using whips as their method of coercion?

The whip’s power to induce fear is as good as lost in the Western world. Slaves were whipped to death. Children were covered in welts after educational beatings. Now, the whip has become a decorative attribute, a prop. From being an instrument of power, it’s transitioned into a representation of an instrument of power, a symbol.

In other parts of the world, the whip is still used as an instrument of punishment. For example, two Saudi Arabian men were recently convicted to two thousand whiplashes and ten years of imprisonment. They had uploaded a video on which they were dancing on a car naked.

The other day, a smart looking older gentleman lifted his cane towards me and yelled: “Would you like a free slap?” I politely declined his offer. Later I regretted it. Why hadn’t I enquired further? Maybe the gentleman could have provided me with some convincing arguments regarding the free slap. What I know for sure is that I would have interpreted his offer much differently had he offered me a knife wound, or a gunshot wound. I would have been scared, now I was merely surprised.

Why does the whip no longer strike fear into the hearts of Westerners? Has the whip been overtaken by large scaled, advanced weaponry, that in comparison transform the whip into an old fashioned, primitive, and nearly innocent object? Are we so inexperienced with the force of the whip that even our imagination falters?

Erotica thrives on taboo. It comes as no surprise, then, that the whip is a staple item in every sex shop. Like the penis, the whip seems to possess a certain level of autonomy, although both remain dependent on a body in order to come to life and to discharge.

One particularly commanding whip is the metal chain whip, made of two metal rods joined together by metal rods. Because of the many chain links between the rods, it takes endless practice in order to comprehend how movement courses its way through, and furthermore how to use it without injuring yourself.

The chain whip is popular with the Taoist and Buddhist monks of China. Into the air they endlessly crack their formidable whips, breaking through the sound barrier in their search for salvation.

Dutch theatre maker Boukje Schweigman and dancer Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti trained with these fighting monks, and in 2011 made the performance Zweep (Whip.) In a making of the film, Guardia Ferragutti says: “A whip has no master. The master is the whip itself.”

Raymond Talis, author of Michelangelo’s Finger (2010,) explores why humans, in contrast to animals, point using their fingers. According to Talis, we point thanks to our consciousness. We experience ourselves as separate individuals, and thus do not become one with our surroundings. But in our fellow humans, we recognise isolated peers, we can see each other looking. We’re able to guide the gaze of the other by drawing invisible lines using our eyes or our index finger. Is the whip an extension of the index finger, with which we can impose our will onto the bodies of others? Still, no one will ever have complete control over a whip. The first flick of the whip may be under your control, but you’ll never know exactly what path you’ve set into motion. Before you know it, the whip you’ve cracked will rebound and hit you with twice as much power and take you down. The real force of the whip remains impossible to truly fathom.

The “High School Shooter movement” comprises a number of students who at some point decided to shoot their classmates, teacher, and other personnel at their high schools and colleges, before committing suicide. A key element in defining the movement is that all of them have left a significant amount of written, photographed, videotaped, or otherwise recorded material contextualizing and commenting on their actions. This material can take the form of photographs, movies, diary entries, manifestoes, poems, etc. The list of former high school shooters, which is by no means complete, includes Eric Harris (1981-1999) and Dylan Klebold (1981-1999), Jeff Weise (1988-2005), Cho Seung-Hui (1984-2007), Pekka-Eric Auvinen (1989-2007) and Matti Juhani Saari (1986-2008).

Harris and Klebold are generally considered to be the founding members of the movement, killing 13 and injuring 24 on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado USA. This event has sparked a number of artistic reflexes and reflections, such as Michael Moore’s documentary Bowling for Columbine (2002), Dennis Cooper’s novel My Loose Threat (Canongate, 2002), and Gus Van Sant’s movie Elephant (2003) which is stylistically based Alan Clarke’s Elephant (1989), depicting a series of anonymous murders in Northern Ireland.

More recently, writer Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei and artist Jonas Staal have contextualized the High School Shooter movement within the history of (artistic) resistance, arguing for a reading through the work of French Situationist Guy Debord. In the same way that Debord included and refuted all criticism beforehand in his work Réfutation de tous les jugements… (1975), while at the same moment targeting the “society of the spectacle,” the high school shooters claim their actions as fully their own, as an ultimate and inappropriable possibility of resistance.Van Gerven Oei and Staal’s publication Follow Us or Die (Atropos Press, 2009) offers a survey of the writings, movies, and pictures produced by the high school shooters, contextualized within their own work.

Miniscule soldiers on a massive quest.