Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Success of the Mindfuck

Room A

In ninety versions of Room A, the suspects are brought alone into different rooms for a physical examination. The exam received by each suspect is brief, painless, and respectful, and the doctor leaves. None of the suspects want to talk, so the cops ask them to clip their nails. Most of them shrug and do it; on a few, the cops are forced to find loose hairs from their clothing.

The suspects' nail trimmings and/or loose hairs are scooped up and poured into a small machine along the wall. A man in a lab coat enters, studies the machine, then shakes his head sadly at the cops. Not enough information to go on. Wearily, the cops ask the suspects again to trim their nails. Most refuse, so the cops have to pluck out a few hairs. Some resist, so they're strapped down, and their nails are trimmed a little bit beyond the whites. Pained, the suspects sit back to wait.

The man in the lab coat enters again. He pours more loose hair and chunks of finger- and toenails into the machine, analyzes the results, then shakes his head. Something's wrong. It's just not getting enough of a reading from this particular patient. He leaves.

Irritated, the two cops in each room talk to each other. Why isn't the machine working? It must be the drain on the power. Won't the suspect just tell them where the kidnapped victim is being hidden? No? You still won't talk? That's not a problem. We can find it out with just a little more nails.

By now, everyone needs to be strapped down. Foreboding. Scary. All that happens, though, is that the cops shave each suspect's head, feeding all the hair into the analysis equipment. The man in the lab coat returns to study the results. Still, still he can't find out from residual DNA matches where the kidnap victim is being stashed! Why isn't the machine reading this thing properly? The new technology is supposed to match up with data collected from different geographical regions, and help narrow the search down. Maybe we just need more samples. It's a big drain on the power.

Out come the hedge clippers. A few toes are cut off. Will this be enough, the cops ask? The man in the lab coat isn't sure. He feeds the toes into the machine. The lights in each suspect's room flicker--this is such a drain on the power! We have to hurry and get more in here to be sure we can find out what we need! The hedge clippers work their way up. The man in the lab coat puts on earphones and begs the cops to keep that person quiet, or he's never going to be able to analyze this properly!

Ultimately, all ninety subjects in the ninety Room As divulged the desired information--many even before a second set of digits had to be removed. But how do those results compare to the control group?

Room B

In ninety versions of Room B, things turned out a lot more boring. The suspects are brought alone into different rooms for interrogation. The cops push them around, threaten them, flatter them, punch and club them. Several suspects fake breaks and offer false information.

Irritated, the cops turn it up a notch. They pull out the hedge clippers. Fingers and toes come off. Like the subject-suspects in Room A, though, the Room B subject-suspects are serious. They are committed, experienced kidnappers. They accept the pain; they become part of it. They focus on the firing of their own neurons; the ebb and flow of their bodies; they force their minds to think about the mechanics of their digits, then limbs being removed. They scream, cry, threaten, and plead, but it takes many long minutes before the first one resorts to his backup story.

They all have a backup story. They took the classes; they watched the movies; they heard tales from older soldiers. They have a backup story ready, and a plausible one. It's meant to buy some time, distract attention, and give them an opportunity to prepare for further torture, or to commit suicide. They give their backup stories, ready themselves for round 2, and then round 2 begins. Chunks of limbs fall away. Just as in the many Room As, arteries are tied to prolong the experience.

The subjects in Room A didn't give their backup stories--they knew it was about DNA analysis, and that their backup stories wouldn't work. They knew that their experience was beyond the level of appeasing a questioner.

Head Games

The best torture doesn't know that it's torture. It pretends to be something else. Torture can be resisted for a little while, with training. It gives out, but it buys time. To make things more efficient, you lie about what you're doing. We all know it. When torture happens, it happens only for the sick pleasure and evil satisfaction of the dungeonmasters.

But we knew that last part, didn't we? The point is not "how to make torture last longer." (Although there is an interesting side note there: when you're the subject, and it's not going to stop, can any of the tricks continue to help you, or do you lose your mind? You do; some form of severance can create a new, more endurable reality.) Instead, look to the example of successful torture to help you understand other charades in life. Other musts; other inevitabilities; other stages; other players.

Room A is useful to information gatherers because there's not a direct challenge. In both Room A and Room B, the same methods were theoretically being used to extract information--pain. However, the pain did not prove to be the controlling factor. Pain is a backdrop. A sense of causes, effects, problem-solving, and inevitability is what motivates behavior. Sensation alone can, when sensation is believed to be inevitable, but the good soldier is prepared for sensation. The higher game, the real game, is in the mind--in the framing of illusionary boundaries, and the deciding of whether or not they will be embraced. Room B is terrible, yes, but it's also boring, and inefficient. Room A, and the pretense of cutting pieces away only to analyze them, continues to be more useful even when Room B becomes far more exotic in its methods. Join me; I'm only trying to solve this problem. Join me; I'm only trying to help you out.

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