Mass Intestination!

October 30th, 2007

Heh, the title is from the film ‘Fortress’ which you, of course, must see:

The story of Fortress takes place in drastically overpopulated America of the year 2017, where each woman is allowed only one pregnancy. John Brennick (Christopher Lambert) and his wife Karen (Loryn Locklin) flee to Mexico when she becomes pregnant after the death of their first child. They are captured by border police and sent to the Fortress, a subterranean high-security prison owned by the Men-Tel corporation and operated by “Zed-10,” an omnipotent computer system, and a sadistic, genetically “enhanced” warden (Kurtwood Smith) who has nefarious plans involving Brennick’s wife and unborn child.


In this film, the prisoners are fitted with small, wireless, surgically implanted agony devices that, by voice command, can ‘intestinate’ any prisoner by name. When someone is misbehaving in ‘genpop’ all the warden has to do is say, “intestinate Jones!” and the prisoner Jones will have excruciating pain inflicted upon him in his abdomen. It looks like the effect of a Taser hit, only without the wires.

Which brings us nicely to:

Shock tactics
Hundreds of children no other school wants from the autistic to the merely troubled attend a centre in America where electric shocks are administered for even the smallest misdemeanour. Forced to wear 10lb backpacks with electrodes attached to their skin, they never know when their teachers will deliver this behaviour-modification therapy. Why hasnt the school been closed down?

Jennifer Gonnerman

Rob Santana awoke terrified. Hed had that dream again, the one where silver wires ran under his shirt and into his pants, connecting to electrodes attached to his limbs and torso. Adults armed with surveillance cameras and remote-control activators watched his every move. One press of a button, and there was no telling where the shock would hit his arm or leg or, worse, his stomach. All Rob knew was that the pain would be intense. Every time he woke from this dream, it took him a few moments to remember that he was in his own bed, that there werent electrodes locked to his skin, that he wasnt about to be shocked. It was no mystery to him where this recurring nightmare came from not A Clockwork Orange or 1984, but the years he spent confined in Americas most controversial behaviour-modification institution.

In 1999, when Rob was 13, his parents sent him to the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, in Massachusetts, 20 miles outside Boston. The institution, which calls itself a special-needs school, takes in all kinds of troubled kids autistic, mentally retarded, schizophrenic, bipolar, emotionally disturbed and attempts to change their behaviour with a complex system of rewards and punishments, including painful electric shocks to the torso and limbs. Of the 230 residents, about half are wired to receive shocks. Eight states send students to this institution, with New York providing the most. The price tag for a year there is $220,000; states and school districts pick up the tab.

The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center is the only institution in the US that disciplines students by giving them electric shocks, a form of punishment not inflicted on serial killers or child molesters, or any of more than 2.2m inmates in US jails and prisons. Over its 36-year history, there have been numerous lawsuits and government investigations. Last year, New York-state investigators filed a blistering report that made the place sound like a high-school version of Abu Ghraib. Yet the programme continues to thrive in large part because nobody, except desperate parents and a few legislators, seems to care about what happens to the hundreds of kids who pass through its gates.

In Rob Santanas case, he freely admits he was an out-of-control kid with serious behavioural problems. At birth he was abandoned at the hospital, traces of cocaine, heroin and alcohol in his body. A middle-class couple adopted him when he was 11 months old, but his troubles continued. He started fires; he got kicked out of preschool for opening the back door of a moving school bus; he cut himself with a razor when he was six. His mother took him to specialists, who diagnosed him with a slew of psychiatric problems: attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Rob remained at the Rotenberg Center for about 31/2 years. From the start, he cursed, hollered and fought with employees. Eventually the staff obtained permission from his mother and a court to use electric shock. Rob was forced to wear a backpack containing five 2lb battery-operated devices, each connected to an electrode attached to his skin. I felt humiliated, he says. You have a bunch of wires coming out of your shirt and pants.

Rob remained hooked up to the apparatus 24 hours a day. He wore it while jogging on the treadmill and playing basketball, though it wasnt easy to sink a jump-shot with a 10lb backpack on. At night, he slept with the backpack next to him, under the gaze of a surveillance camera.


And so on.

How long will it be before ordinary schools demand that the students are fitted with some sort of control device? They are already requiring that backpacks be transparent, breaking the arms of students for dropping cake, requiring students to pass through metal detectors to enter, policing the hallways with armed guards, making the schools more like prisons than schools by any definition.

In this age of pain compliance and its widespread use, the answer must be ‘not long’ methinks. It is a logical and small progression from the preceding incremental nastiness that I listed above.

Like it says in that great film THX-1183, “It all happened so slowly that most men failed to realize that anything had happened at all”.

That is what we are seeing every day.

As for ‘Fortress’, lets look at the elements of the plot line one by one:

The story of Fortress takes place in drastically overpopulated America of the year 2017,

Check, that’s coming.

where each woman is allowed only one pregnancy.

Check, that’s coming.

John Brennick (Christopher Lambert) and his wife Karen (Loryn Locklin) flee to Mexico when she becomes pregnant after the death of their first child. They are captured by border police and…

Will there still be a ‘Mexico’ and a border in 2017? Hmmmm!

…sent to the Fortress, a subterranean high-security prison

Check, already here, ‘Supermax’.

owned by the Men-Tel corporation

Check, already here, prisons are now run by corporations as routine.

and operated by Zed-10, an omnipotent computer system

That’s coming, guaranteed.

and a sadistic, genetically enhanced warden (Kurtwood Smith)

Check, save the enhancements.

who has nefarious plans involving Brennicks wife and unborn child.

The state already has this covered, right?

And there you have it.

Is there anyone out there that thinks any of the above either has not happened or is not very much on track to happen?

If there is, I want to be smoking what you are smoking.

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