Laughing Pills

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One of the more bizarre allegations to emerge from the Islamic press:

Resistance fighters have frequently noticed that many of the American aggressor troops are laughing as they storm into districts in al-Fallujah. The Mafkarat al-Islam correspondent personally witnessed this clearly when he was close to the events as US aggressors tried to storm an-Nizal neighborhood in the besieged city on Saturday.

The correspondent wrote that he saw two American soldiers laughing, such as to arouse pity for them, despite all the Resistance gunfire being poured at their position and their comrades dying around them. Both of the Americans were later killed in the battle. The Mafkarat al-Islam correspondent writes that the Resistance learned later from interrogations of captured American Marines that the US military medical service distributes a type of hallucinogenic pill to the troops that prompts laughter and reduces the sense of fear in combat conditions.

Or so declares The Free Arab Voice, subtitled "Your Voice in a World where Zionism, Steel, and Fire have Turned Justice Mute." Your mileage may vary.

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  1. One of the problems that Westerns have in communicating with people from the Arabic and other pre-industrial cultures is our differing degrees in experience in dealing with mass media. It is little exaggeration to say that for many people in the Arabic world the modern media has the same impact as if someone were to send transport 10,000 copies of the Weekly World news back in time to circa 1500 England. They believe just about anything they get told.

    Exactly how much time have you spent in any Arab country?

  2. I think there are a lot of misinformed people in that region of the world, many willfully so. I’m still trying to come to grips with the (Arab) fact that as an American, I’m actually a Jew.

  3. Apparently some of our troops really are laughing at the antics of the insurgents.

  4. Don-
    Is that the best you can do? How very, very sad.

  5. I’m wondering what the readership of that paper is and how seriously they take it. It doesn’t seem any more ridiculous than the WWN or the Enquirer (and plenty “enlightened” Americans believe that crap). Heck, Larouche got $8 mil in campaign donations. This page could be a collection of paranoid conspiracy theories and could be acknowledged as such by the vast majority of Arabs. I sure as hell wouldn’t want people in other countries to associate me with some of the crackpots we have stateside, why should we do the same to Arabs.

    If this was Arab News or the Beirut Star, I’d be more concerned. Remember, most Arabs know their media is crap, so they tend to take things in the paper with a grain of salt (even the truth).

    Shannon, if anything, I think Westerners are more likely to believe what they read in the papers and see on the news because we’ve gotten used to a level of dialog that will, at least in the long run, seperate the wheat from the chaff. It’s like the old Cold War saying. The difference between the Russians and the Americans is that the Russians knew their media was government propaganda.

  6. Mo, Tim, or anyone else who has been somewhere in those parts.

    Is it true that most Arabs know that such stories are crap, as Mo suggests? I have always had the admittedly uninformed impression that it was popular demand for The Truth that results in such stories being printed.

    I would love to find out that I’m just painting with too broad a brush. For the life of me, I can’t find anything in the way of common ground I have with Arab Sentiment (TM) as presented in the western (British and American) press. Are we getting the dictator sanctioned version of popular opinion, or what?

  7. Jason et. al–
    I remember back in the early years of the Clinton administration, Jerry Falwell was selling videos claiming that Clinton and his wife were personally responsible for practically every murder in the state of Arkansas. I remember watching an informercial for these videos; I forget the exact number of Arkansans Clinton allegedly had murdered but it was pretty high. Religious assholes with political agendas are apparently prone to conspiracy theories; it’s not just Muslims.

    And sometimes the truth is more insane than than the wildest conspiracy theory. Try this on for size: “High-ranking military guys in the White House are secretly selling weapons to our arch-enemy, the Ayatollah Khomeini!” Sounds ridiculous, but Ollie North and company actually did that.

    “Diebold electronic voting machines which leave no verifiable trail are owned by a Republican who has promised to do whatever possible to help the President win the next election!” I think this is what first got me labeled as “insane” by some on these postings, but that too turned out to be true.

    I doubt the military is actually handing out hallucinogens to its soldiers, but it IS within the realm of possibility that some Marine who’s been without sleep for three days, taking military-issued amphetamines instead, has been acting in an insane manner.

    Better question concerning this story: “Is it an out-and-out lie, or an exaggeration of the truth?”

  8. [“Diebold electronic voting machines which leave no verifiable trail are owned by a Republican who has promised to do whatever possible to help the President win the next election!” I think this is what first got me labeled as “insane” by some on these postings, but that too turned out to be true.]

    I realized that I made a grammatical error; it could be implied that my insanity, not the Diebold monstrosity, is “what turns out to be true.” Ah, well–Don and his pals can make of this whatever hay they wish; if it makes them happy, or feel more secure in their worldview, then I do not mind! (insert smiley-face emoticon here)

  9. It’s all about you, babe.

  10. Doug-
    Talk to Don, not me, babe.

  11. Tim C,

    “Exactly how much time have you spent in any Arab country?”

    why is that relevant?

    are you trying to ask “how much do you know about them? what is the source of your knowledge?” or is it your opinion that only someone who spent time there can say stuff like that? (is this your diluted chickenhawk theory?)

    I recall a famous 3rd world leader (several years ago), “I would rather tick off 100,000 voters than 1 newspaper” (not verbatim). There is a strong tendency is most parts of the world to believe the news media (print, radio, TV).

    we know our news media is biased, but we still look to it for our news.

  12. Other than having a nice larf, what are we doing to counter bad rumors or create favorable rumors?

    Snopes has a not-very-convincing page about Arkancides.

  13. To add to Zorel’s comment, consider this: with the rise of Photoshop technology, how much longer before damning “photos” are used to mislead folks? Yes, it was always possible to use cameras to distort rather than reflect reality, but consider: someone with a minimal amount of Photoshop knowledge could actually “show” the military giving hallucinogenic drugs to its soldiers!

    Human nature being what it is, even folks who would dismiss the words “The military gives people drugs” might be inclined to believe a photo of it.

  14. speaking of media (bias), this from Rumsfeld:

    “There are two ways, I suppose, one could inform readers of the Geneva Convention stipulation against using places of worship to conduct military attacks. One might be to headline saying that ‘Terrorists Attack Coalition Forces From Mosques’.

    Another might be to say: ‘Mosques Targeted in Fallujah’. That was the Los Angeles Times headline this morning.
    – – – –
    http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2004/tr20040427-secdef0664.html

  15. Lonewacko-
    I’m surprised Snopes wasted its time countering the Clinton-murder stories. Imagine this: you have found proof the the Prez of the USA is abusing his powers and murdering any American citizen he doesn’t like! What do you do?

    A. Send the evidence to every media outlet you can, in hopes of stopping this madman President

    B. Rent infomercial TV space and sell the evidence at $79.95 a pop.

    In a way, it’s too bad Clinton WASN’T murdering his enemies; if he had, we at least would have been spared that fat fuck Falwell ranting about Teletubbies and the gay agenda.

  16. Lonewacko, I think the Marines are counteracting previous propaganda here with action. The paper’s previous reports were probably how craven and cowardly the American troops were. Now that the soldiers have proven to be tenacious, capable, and brave fighters the paper “Free Arab Voice” has to explain away new information that directly contradicts their worldview. The new explanation of course is that they must be on drugs. Yeah that’s the ticket.

  17. Jennifer,
    It already happened and flew across the ‘Net. Remember those ‘photos’ showing Kerry standing right next to Jane Fonda at an anti-Vietnam rally?

    It’s a good thing the American public is so sceptical that only complete idiots believed it…

    zorel,
    Maybe most educated and in touch people recognize media bias. However, most people don’t recognize legit media bias, they just think, “Hey, the media isn’t focusing on what I want it to focus on.” Most people take the news pretty seriously. Otherwise, how do you explain the fear that child abductions are rampant or, from a few years ago, that sharks are going to eat you at the beach. Both of these events are highly unlikely and the former’s rates have been going down for years.

  18. Jason,

    I spend most of my time in Lebanon, and most of that among nominal Christians, so my experience is doubly skewed.

    Without much confidence, I’d agree with what Mo said, that on the whole people have a general idea the news is fucked. However, Mo should understand that the Daily Star has a very tiny readership in Lebanon because it’s in English. I’ve only read Jesse’s excerpt and have never heard of freearabvoice.org, but considering its 1994-style design and the fact it’s registered to one Alfonsos Pagkas in Athens Greece, I’d expect its impact in the Arab world is limited.

    You can refer back to my interview with Ambassador Vincent Battle to get an idea of the variety of biases in Arab media. An-Nahar, for example, has a pretty strongly pro-American outlook, is written in Arabic, and is the oldest and (I think) most popular paper in Lebanon.

    People gravitate toward whatever media they agree with, but in my experience everybody-Shi’ite, Sunni, Christian, Druze, etc.-watches Al-Jazeera.

    I share your inability to find common ground with Arab Sentiment (TM).

  19. A few tangential points:

    The Diebold voting machines are capable of printing receipts and being used securly. The actual deployments everyone was yapping about did not use receipt printers, or very secure IT practices, but that is more a decision of the state and county voting boards or whoever, not a built in proerty of the machines themselves. They were poor machines used even more poorly, but the idea that they are evidence of a corporate plot to steal votes is the result of ignorant, unalloyed tinfoil hat ranting. (Sorry, but tinfoil hat is very applicable here.)

    Secondly, the one time in my life where I was sure I was about to die (while in the passenger seat of a 1983 VM Rabbit, driven by its new 16 year old male owner) my reaction was to laugh hysterically.

    Thridly, I thought the military uses Provigil now to keep its pilots awake, it completly alleviates drowsiness with no (immediate) side effects. It follows that they’d use it for the soldiers too. As Jason Ligon points out, it’s best to have soldiers who are lucid.

  20. Semi-seconding something that Tim said, it doesn’t seem likely to me that The Free Arab Voice has a big following anywhere, except perhaps among devotees of surreal propaganda. The more relevent question is how much of a following there is for Mafkarat al-Islam, the Arabic-language source for the story.

    Me, I’ve (a) spent no time in the Arab world, unless you count certain convenience stores and felafel restaurants, and thus have (b) no idea.

  21. Suppose our troops are popping anti-fear, happy pills. Do you think they have a co-pay? Or are the drugs Canada?s contribution to the War in Iraq?

  22. Jason,
    I’m not sure about the majority knowing that it’s crap. They know that most of their news is crap, but as far as which specific stories are crap, they’ll probably act as most people do and believe the ones that confirm their own biases.

    However, I do not have much of an understanding what the “man on the street” opinion is in those parts, outside the occasional cabbie. The reason for this is that my family and those they associate with out there are generally well off, educated and well traveled (with a history of dissent and some political connections).

    There is a definite distrust of the media there and the state paper is the subject of much ridicule. The opposition is allowed, but limited and a lot of papers exist on the Internet. For Arabic media my dad reads al-Jazeerah, al-Ahram (mostly for soccer scores and highlights) and some miscellaneous Egyptian opposition papers. Al-J is the “trusted” source out there, so belief in conspiracy theories is not non-existent. The problem is both sides are presented through the dictator filter, so Egyptians hear about the US only in ways that Hosni wants and vice versa.

  23. See, they really are just like us. 🙂

  24. Whaa? Everone knows that happy gas makes for effective soldiers, it all makes sense.

    What baffles me is the traction this stuff gets. I can’t help it. Are people that stupid?

  25. Sounds like some one has gotten ahold of Tim Robbins’ “Jacob’s Ladder” and mistaken it for a documentary.

  26. Jennifer has yet another source of information.

  27. You know, while calling them “hallucinigens” is over the top, it’s well known that we provide pilots in combat with amphetamines. Given that history, it’s within the realm of possibility that we’re giving our infantry a little something extra too.

    http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,57434,00.html

    Abuse of amphetamines cause “… according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, serious potential side effects include psychotic behavior, depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggression, violent behavior, confusion, insomnia, auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances and delusions. “.

    But I guess cheap ad-hominem shots at Jennifer are easier than actually thinking.

    (For the record, I don’t think they’ve started giving infantry speed, but the charge isn’t as absurd as presented.)

  28. One of the problems that Westerns have in communicating with people from the Arabic and other pre-industrial cultures is our differing degrees in experience in dealing with mass media. It is little exaggeration to say that for many people in the Arabic world the modern media has the same impact as if someone were to send transport 10,000 copies of the Weekly World news back in time to circa 1500 England. They believe just about anything they get told.

    Many people simply haven’t built up the anti-bullsh*t immune system against outrages claims that Western’s have developed over many generations of being lied to for profit(prophet?). They fall victim not only to political propaganda but for various media based frauds like chain mails, telemarketing scams, email scams etc.

    Westerns often never even try to rebut these ideas because our immune system rejects them automatically. They don’t even show up on our radar. Yet for politically important numbers of people in many populations, they seem very possible.

    It’s a real problem for anybody working in the 3rd world.

  29. Okay.. I’ll bite.. (actually, I’ll smoke it). What is the origin?

  30. “But I guess cheap ad-hominem shots at Jennifer are easier than actually thinking. ”

    Cheap shot? She brings it on herself by her choice of sources.

    Nice ad-hominem attack, by the way.

    “(For the record, I don’t think they’ve started giving infantry speed, but the charge isn’t as absurd as presented.)”

    It actually is absurd. Any drug that effected our troops as described would do more harm than good, and wouldn’t be employed. Our military goes to great lengths to remove the “fog of war”, improve communications, fine tune tactics, etc. Drugged up zombines just don’t fit into our current military doctrine.

    The point isn’t so much that our military wouldn’t use drugs, it’s that the symptoms described are something our military would not accept.

    In the past, alcohol was used by various Western forces, but that was at a time when tactics and equipment were quite different.

  31. “”High-ranking military guys in the White House are secretly selling weapons to our arch-enemy, the Ayatollah Khomeini!” Sounds ridiculous, but Ollie North and company actually did that.”

    Just another example of our government’s support for Saddam.

    Actually, aiding Saddam and aiding the Ayatollah (on and off, with appropriate timing) during their 8 years of self destruction makes good sense. It is always nice when you can help our enemies to self destruct. IIRC, we provided TOWs to Iran. It makes sense in that they would be an antidote to Iraqi tanks–Iran’s technical & mechanical ability being severly degraded post-Shah.

  32. “In a way, it’s too bad Clinton WASN’T murdering his enemies; if he had, we at least would have been spared that fat fuck Falwell ranting about Teletubbies and the gay agenda.”

    I happen to think it’s too bad Clinton failed to take out Bin Laden. But whatever floats your boat.

  33. “I remember there were rumors after the invasion of Panama about some experimental unit American soldiers were using that knocked down walls with concentrated sonic booms, something like that. Never heard of it again until I just thought of it now.”

    IIRC the Germans in WW2 had some sort of “sonic cannon” used in the antiaircraft role.

  34. I think we need to stop drugging our soldiers and start giving drugs to the enemy. They won’t be nearly as scary once they start sitting around, eating pizzas, and listening to Pink Floyd.

  35. I remember there were rumors after the invasion of Panama about some experimental unit American soldiers were using that knocked down walls with concentrated sonic booms, something like that. Never heard of it again until I just thought of it now.

    BTW Mr. Nice Guy, you do know the origin of the word hashish, don’t you?

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