Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shock Doctrine: Interview with Naomi Klein

Kasia Anderson
Thu, 26 Jun 2008 00:07 EDT

Naomi Klein
©The Independent

Critics and challengers of Naomi Klein's work had better take a close look at her latest book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," before launching their attacks. This is one writer whose research and documentation are so exhaustive that would-be detractors will not only find her analysis to be dauntingly watertight, even if they don't share her views about the unnatural disasters enabled by free-market capitalism, but they might also discover that some of her source material seems strangely familiar.

That's because she took a page - or several hundred pages, rather - from just the sort of think tanks, government officials, scholars and publications that would seem to oppose her ideas most forcefully. But instead of trying to explain recurring socioeconomic patterns in the wake of various global crises by using a familiar "lefty" lens to justify her claims, Klein looks to the likes of Milton Friedman, the Cato Institute, Henry Kissinger and the Financial Times to bolster her argument about how "disaster capitalism" was cooked up decades ago and how it can explain what happened following Hurricane Katrina, Augusto Pinochet's 1973 Chilean coup, and more recent events like Burma's cyclone and the floods in the American Midwest.

The inner workings and key subscribers of disaster capitalism were exposed when the book first came out last September. Klein called in just before the June 24 paperback release of "The Shock Doctrine" to discuss with Truthdig's Associate Editor Kasia Anderson this scary piece of nonfiction, as well as the resource-rich Shock Doctrine Web site, and how she believes the notion of disaster capitalism is, unfortunately, still relevant at this moment.

Kasia Anderson: So, I have read your book and was very alarmed, and I think it was a nice wake-up call for me. But let's start out by talking a little bit about disaster capitalism, which is the central idea of your book. I was reading your L.A. Times article from earlier this year and you say, "Over the last four years, I have been researching a little-explored area of economic history: the way that crises have paved the way for the march of the right-wing economic revolution across the globe. A crisis hits, panic spreads and the ideologues fill the breach, rapidly reengineering societies in the interests of large corporate players. It's a maneuver I call 'disaster capitalism.' " So that lays the groundwork a little bit.

Now, with all due respect to your keen perception, why do you think this is a "little-explored area of economic history" when you're looking at events that go back as far as five decades?

Naomi Klein: Well, I think largely because this is our contemporary history, and there hasn't been that much looking back at how ... the economic model that has been dominant since Reagan - how it has spread throughout the world, and when there is a look back, the people doing the looking back are the people who imposed the policies in the first place. It's been a victor's history, and it's been a history told by the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, and there have been some important left-wing academics who have begun to provide a counter-history like David Harvey at CUNY University ... a couple of years ago [he] wrote "A Brief History of Neoliberalism," which was really the first alternative history of how these ideas swept the globe.

But, in terms of why the crisis has not been understood by popular audiences before - popular readers before - has to do with the fact that, not that this is a secret, but that it's a tactic that has been discussed exclusively in technocratic circles. So my sources on this are, you know, Washington conferences attended by central bank presidents, think tanks, the International Monetary Fund. And there is a kind of an armor that goes up around how highly technical and specialized the language is around these discussions - it's almost designed to make laypeople's eyes roll back into their heads.

So, I was fortunate to work with some wonderful researchers, graduate students, who were working in these areas of researching World Bank policies, and came across this sort of cache of literature, of technocratic literature, and we found the smoking-gun quotes like John Williamson, who was the man who coined the term the Washington consensus, a very powerful Washington economist, admitting that there had never been a case of a developing world country accepting the Washington consensus without a crisis, and he gave a name for this, he called it "The Crisis Hypothesis." And it turns out that there had been all these studies conducted by think tanks, by academic economists, studying the interrelationship between what they call deep crisis and deep reform. And once again, if you didn't know what you were looking for, you wouldn't necessarily read a paper with that title, you know?

Anderson: Yeah.

Klein: But once I knew what I was looking for, I started to see it all over the place.

Anderson: So, can you briefly walk us through how a seemingly politically unrelated disaster, like a natural disaster, creates the condition for economic shock therapy and how it plays out from there?

Klein: Yeah, I think what this comes out of is a profound understanding that the more radical pieces of the right-wing economic program like privatizing Social Security or privatizing water just don't enjoy popular support, and that creates a problem in a democracy - it doesn't create a problem in a dictatorship, because you can do it anyway in a dictatorship.

Anderson: Right.

Klein: In fact, it was only dictatorships that were willing to impose these policies for the first decade in the '70s. It was Pinochet's Chile, Videla's Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay under military regimes that experimented with Chicago-school economics. It wasn't until the '80s that democratic governments started imposing them. And that's when Milton Friedman wrote this sentence that I quote in the book: "Only a crisis, actual or perceived, produces real change, and when that crisis occurs, the change that occurs depends on the ideas that are lying around."

And I think that phrase, "ideas that are lying around," is really key to understanding how this works. Because it's essentially a mission statement for the Washington think tanks, which Friedman was tremendously instrumental in building and inspiring and supporting. And, you know, what we saw in the '70s and early '80s was an explosion of right-wing think tanks whose mission statement really was to get the ideas ready for when the next crisis hits. And in some cases, what we see from a lot of these think tanks is that they also create atmospheres of crisis.

Just for fun, I would look at the list of papers published by the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute, looking for how many times the word crisis appears in a paper - "the coming crisis in Medicare," "the coming crisis in Social Security" - so, they really specialize in claiming that countries are just doomed unless they follow this set of unwanted reforms.

But, to answer your question about natural disasters, the think tanks are instrumental in having the ideas ready, and the best example to me is Hurricane Katrina ...

Anderson: Yeah.

Klein: ... because the levees broke, and the state - all three levels of government failed - municipal, state, federal. And really, the whole thing was an indictment of this very ideology. Everyone was saying, "Where is the government? Where's the government when you need it?" And maybe this whole idea of vilifying the state wasn't such a great idea after all. And even people like Jonah Goldberg were saying, you know, "Where's big government when you need it?"

And I think a lot of people assumed that Katrina would be a wake-up call, an ideological wake-up call. There was one writer who said it should be for the neocons, the breaking of the levees should be for the neocons what the fall of the Berlin Wall was for Communists. And you know what, it should have been, but it wasn't, and it's for two reasons: One, progressives were tentative and unwilling to really, I think, fill the breach with ideas of our own for how to reconstruct New Orleans in a completely different way, in a much more democratic way, and also to talk about global warming when there was a feeling of, you know, we don't want to be. ... You often heard people say ... "This isn't a time for politics."

Anderson: Right.

Klein: Well, meanwhile, at the Heritage Foundation, two weeks after the levees broke, they had a meeting - and we have the minutes from this meeting, which we can link to. ...

Anderson: On the Documents and Resources section?

Klein: Yeah, yeah - we definitely should link to this one. The heading on the document is. ... Well, first of all, the people who attended the meeting were from a variety of right-wing think tanks, as well as the Republican Study Group - highly placed Republican congresspeople. And they came up with 32 free-market solutions for Hurricane Katrina. And it was everything from give parents school vouchers instead of rebuilding the public schools; mixed-use housing instead of repairing the public housing; drill in ANWR [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] ...; build more oil refineries. I mean, it was just the wish list!

And so what you see there is just, you know, the readiness of the right - aided by these think tanks, funded by multinational corporations and the richest families in the United States - to seize on a crisis that they themselves created with their ideology to push for more of the same. I mean, Katrina was a catastrophe, the flooding of New Orleans was a catastrophe created by heavy weather linked to global warming, because the increase in category 5 hurricanes is directly linked to warming ocean temperatures, and weak infrastructure, which is linked to the systematic neglect of the public sphere as a result of the campaign to destroy the New Deal.

And what is their solution? It's more fossil fuels ... and destroying the public infrastructure altogether. And the fact is much of this has happened. The public housing in New Orleans is being destroyed. The hospitals - the public hospital in New Orleans is still not open, Charity Hospital. The school system ... has been handed over to charter schools.

Anderson: So you would say that think tanks having these ideas lying around is kind of a way of cuing each other with their inside language to potential future opportunities?

Klein: Well, I mean, the ideas are the same no matter what the crisis is. They just get rebranded to meet the crisis, right? So, suddenly privatizing Social Security is an economic stimulus to deal with the recession. And suddenly, you know, school vouchers are part of reconstructing from a hurricane. It's the same ideas. So, it's easy to have them lying around, because you've got the same answers to every problem.

And we're seeing it now with this huge push, led by [Newt] Gingrich, now picked up by Bush and McCain, to deal with the cost of high gas prices by drilling offshore, and they want to drill in ANWR - Gingrich does, and a lot of the right-wing think tanks. So whatever the crisis is, it's an opportunity to just push harder for the same old policies that they haven't been able to get through without a crisis. ... As soon as ... people started to really talk about recession, [Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson started talking about privatizing Social Security - a huge piece of the Bush platform that they could not get through without a crisis.

Anderson: I could see how maybe some followers of Milton Friedman might say you're drumming up conspiracy theories, but it's hard to argue with the evidence that you're presenting here and in your book. So, what do you say, or what might you say, to critics who think you're making connections and seeing deliberate actions on the part of these governments that just aren't there?

Klein: Well, everything in my book is documented. And calling me a conspiracy theorist is just a political strategy. It's not actually an argument - it's a way to not have an argument. It's an argument avoidance strategy. And, you know, I'm really careful not to make any claims that I can't source. And my sources are the right-wing economists themselves, which is what I think drives them most crazy. I mean, one of my most favorite reviews for the book was a negative review in the Financial Times where he says, "The worst thing she does is quote the Financial Times to bolster her argument."

Anderson: Consider the source.

Klein: It's true! I found the Financial Times enormously [helpful]. ... And, you know, I don't quote other "lefty," you know, analysts to support my claims, much as I may enjoy reading their writing. That's not what's supporting this argument. Now, I think there is a real pushback now from the true, you know, hard-core Friedman fanatics, like the Cato Institute has published an attack paper on the book, and ... Reason [magazine] has sort of an unnatural obsession and so on.

But this is really about the Friedman legacy. ... It's not really about my book, because my book really isn't about Milton Friedman. My book talks about where Friedman fit into large historical forces. And I'm very clear in the book that if Milton Friedman hadn't played this role, somebody else would have let the counterrevolution against the New Deal, because it wasn't just his idea - it was a revolt of the elites who were tired of big trade unions, and they were tired of paying high taxes. It was a pushback after many, many victories from the left.

And the University of Chicago, for various reasons, became ground zero for that pushback, for that counterrevolution. And Milton Friedman, because he is a tremendous popularizer, really led the way and played an important historical role, meeting with many political leaders, acting as their adviser.

But this isn't about him. And, for instance, in this Cato Institute background paper, the writer talks a lot about how Milton Friedman only went to Chile once and met with Augusto Pinochet once, you know, that hardly constitutes influence. Well, first of all, I make that clear in my book that he only went there once, but the whole point of those three chapters is that there was a massive program that was started by the U.S. State Department to bring hundreds of Latin American students to the University of Chicago to study.

Anderson: Right, the exchange program.

Klein: Yeah, and then to go back to Chile and take up top positions in Pinochet's government as finance minister, head of the Central Bank. So, this is so much bigger than Friedman, and the response is only focused on Friedman. And it's only focused on redeeming his name. And ... the truth is that the far right doesn't have, or the far economic right, doesn't have a lot of gurus, right ... [they] don't have a lot of heroes like this. There's Reagan ... but intellectual heroes - there really aren't many, right?

Anderson: Right.

Klein: I mean, who - Ayn Rand? It's a thin bunch. And Friedman and his family are really quite obsessed with legacy. In one of his last interviews - I just saw a clip of it on the Cato Institute Web site - he talks about how the real test of his influence is not what people think of him now but what they'll think of him in 25 years. So, there was, you know, a great deal of consciousness about securing a place in history. And when Milton Friedman died in 2006, it seemed that his place was pretty secure, I mean, the obituaries and memorials were just across-the-board hagiography. And that's changing, you know, and that's threatening. And so now there's this pushback that I think is really not about the economic legacy of these policies but much more about a man and his fans and his family wanting to protect their version of the role he played in history.

And what's interesting is that ... the fiercest fight is actually happening right now at the University of Chicago, where it was announced three weeks ago that there's going to be a Milton Friedman Institute - a $200-million Milton Friedman Institute - to carry his legacy forward, and it was launched by Gary Becker, who was one of his students and a real disciple - a true Chicago-school ideologue who still teaches at the school. And what's interesting is that there's been a little bit of a rebellion of academics at the University of Chicago. And more than 100 of these professors, faculty members, have signed a protest letter talking about how it's already so difficult for them ... and these are not economists - they're anthropologists, they're historians, political scientists ... how difficult it is for them to travel in the global South, like in Latin America and Africa, and be associated with the Chicago School of Economics, because it is seen as having done so much damage around the world. This is really unprecedented - the idea that Milton Friedman's name would be seen as a liability at his own alma mater!

And what's striking to me is, when I read the letter, is that, you know, at the height of the Pinochet controversy in the '70s, when Orlando Letelier accused Milton Friedman of being complicit in the human rights abuses and Milton Friedman won the Nobel Prize, there was like a sort of flurry of protests, but only three professors at the time signed their names to this protest letter. So, even at the height of these huge debates about torture, only three people sign their names, but now in 2008, more than 100 faculty members at the University of Chicago are willing to sign their names.

Anderson: Do you think it was out of fear before - or maybe losing their position, at the lower end of the crisis scale?

Klein: Well, I don't know, I think it still would be risky, right?

Anderson: Yeah, sure.

Klein: I mean, especially because this is a $200-million, you know, endowed gift to the university that it's easy to fundraise for precisely because Milton Friedman's policies are so very profitable! And, you know, in this day and age, it's actually really rare for any building to be named after an academic, you know.

Anderson: Mmm-hmm.

Klein: Usually they're named after corporations or donors. So, I mean, it says something about Milton Friedman in a sense that ... I think that it's because he has been such a gift to corporate America that corporate America is willing to give back.

Anderson: In the form of a building.

Klein: Yeah.

Anderson: Now, speaking of more recent events - on your Shock Doctrine Web site I've been following updates and stories about more recent crises and catastrophes, and I thought of you yesterday because I read a headline about President Bush visiting flood-damaged Iowa and saying, "You'll come back better!" from the damage and the floodwaters. So can you talk a little bit about other events that have happened since the release of your book and contextualize them according to your ideas?

Klein: Well, first of all, always be afraid when George Bush says he's going to build back better, because we've heard that line before. What happens after disasters is that - it's not mysterious - what we need to do is look at what the pre-existing agenda was, right?

Anderson: Yeah.

Klein: And what was it that the business lobby in any given area wanted to do but couldn't because of people - because of people being there to defend their interests. And it's a pretty good bet that those ideas will immediately resurface after the crisis hits and when people are least able to organize an effective opposition. The most dramatic example of this is right now in Burma. There was recently a piece in The Washington Post about how the Burmese regime immediately started parceling out the highly fertile land of the Irrawaddy Delta, which was the hardest-hit region by the cyclone, to their cronies, and just essentially treating the disaster ... in the same way the tsunami was treated - as if it cleared the land and was now free to be parceled out. ...

Anderson: To fancy resorts.

Klein: Yeah, or more profitable agribusiness companies and industrial fishing because that area - which is Burma's rice bowl, the most fertile agricultural land - was like the coasts of Sri Lanka, was inhabited by small-scale farmers and fishing people. They were in the way. And it was an immediate shock doctrine move.

The other thing, of course, that generals did was use the disorientation and chaos to push through this constitutional referendum, which would have been, according to Burmese activists - it would've been a focal point for a new wave of protests after the protests had been so brutally repressed last September. But of course, there was no chance of that happening in the midst of the disaster. So that's a pretty classic example of what I write about in the book - a really tragic one.

You know, China is a really interesting example, because, I think. ... One of the things I write about in the book is that the crises are volatile, and they can go either way, and the right has developed this shock doctrine strategy to have their ideas ready and move immediately when a crisis hits precisely because the fear is that the left will move - that it will unleash forces that are quite damaging.

Milton Friedman developed his crisis philosophy in response to watching how progressives responded to the Great Depression. As far as Milton Friedman was concerned, everything went wrong with the response to the Great Depression, because that was what created the New Deal; it was what created all the social programs that his ideological movement has been bent on dismantling for the past half-century.

So, he was well aware that these sort of market shocks can go in progressive directions, and there's many cases of this. One example is Mexico in 1985 where there was an earthquake - terrible earthquake hit Mexico City. But what happened was that the buildings that immediately fell apart, immediately collapsed, were overwhelmingly public housing, housing for poor people. And buildings right next to those public housing buildings - privately owned or government buildings - sustained minimal damage.

So what the earthquake showed was what people suspected already, which was that the government had been cutting corners in building homes for poor people, that they hadn't respected safety codes, that they had probably taken all kinds of bribes along the way. And it launched a democracy movement in Mexico that ultimately unseated the PRI - the 60-year rule of the PRI. And there's a whole analysis in Mexico about how everything started with that earthquake, and there's a book I read while I was researching "The Shock Doctrine" called "Cracking Open Mexico" that talks about the role of the earthquake.

So, if we look at what's happening in [China's] Sichuan province, it's quite striking, because you have this same phenomenon with the schools, where many schools have collapsed - an estimated 10,000 children were killed in the earthquake. And you have all these photographs of a school that just collapsed completely right next to a building that's standing intact. And then you have the rage of the parents, and you have this added factor in China which is that the state told these parents that they could only have one child. That was a state policy. And you have these children who represent the hope for six adults - the grandparents and the parents - and now the state that forced these parents to have one child now appears to not have taken care of that child, neglected that child. And, you know, there's something extremely powerful about the rage of the parent with nothing left to lose. ...

Anderson: I've seen those photos.

Klein: Amazing, right?

Anderson: Yeah.

Klein: So, China could end up being a counter-example to the shock doctrine, where I think the predictable response is what the Chinese government has already said, you know, we're going to build back better, with even bigger factories, you know, and they've been very open about this, and we should expect nothing less. China's economic development model is extraordinarily land-hungry. Any land that is cleared they will obviously redesign, and they will put to the use of their vision of economic development. So, that wouldn't be a surprise if that happened. They pretty much do that anyway.

But what would be really interesting is if this kick-started a democracy movement in China, and I don't think it's out of the question, because China's in a really tough position right now in terms of timing with the Games. We are seeing repression and a locking down of critical coverage of the earthquake in the Chinese press, but I really feel like there's only so much they can do. I mean, the Games are in two months, and I think after the crackdown in Tibet, they're very wary of more backlash.

Anderson: What do you think about what's going to happen in the Midwest? Any prognostications?

Klein: You know, I don't have any yet. What do you think?

Anderson: Well, I think that there will be parts of big cities that might be hard-hit, and that might find themselves restructured differently later. I don't know too much about the city layouts of these places that were affected most, like Cedar Rapids, places like that. So, I'm interested, in kind of a morbid way, unfortunately, to see if something like what's gone on in New Orleans and other places that you describe in your book - if that's going to be the case. ...

Klein: Well, I think that ... what's gonna happen is that it's intersecting with the global food crisis and the fact that the price[s] of crops are at record highs right now, because of scarcity, and the agribusiness companies like Monsanto and Cargill are reporting record profits in the midst of a food crisis. And I think there will be more land grabs; I think that the few small-scale farmers, independent farmers, that are left are probably going to be gobbled up.

Anderson: Are you at all optimistic about a possible regime change in the U.S., if a Democrat in the White House would, in fact, represent this ... ?

Klein: You know, I'm optimistic about the possibility of social movements in the U.S. demanding a change in ideology. I'm optimistic because I've been blown away by the responses I've been getting from the book and just how receptive people are to talking about systems as opposed to just people. And I feel like the electoral campaigns - even though [Barack] Obama's campaign has been inspiring in many ways, it's also been a way of not talking about politics at a moment when we have so many urgent issues calling out for real policy debates. And instead we have been stuck in the political equivalent of "American Idol," right?

So, my optimism is entirely contingent on whether we can build counter-movements of the type that generated the New Deal, because I don't really think it's about the man in power. I think if we look at Obama's economic inclinations, this is not where he's prone to take risks. I think he's prone to take some risks with foreign policy much more than with domestic economic policy.

Anderson: He's been criticized for that.

Klein: Well, look at who he appointed as his chief economic adviser.

Anderson: Well, I think that just about does it for me. We will certainly direct our readers and listeners to your Shock Doctrine Web site to look at all the documents and also all the updates. ...

Klein: Great. I'm so pleased that this is happening. Thank you.

Anderson: Yeah, me too, and thanks so much for your time - I've really enjoyed talking to you.

Klein: My pleasure.

Additional links:

Klein's key resources from her book are archived and updated on The Shock Doctrine Web site.

See how disaster capitalism is still figuring into current events in the news.

Also, check out the extensive collection of Shock Doctrine documents archived on the site.

Watch "The Shock Doctrine" film by Klein and director Alfonso Cuarón:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tortures ' "Bad Apples" Revealed: BUSH & CHENEY

Just as suspected all along, the approval for the torture of the prisoners of the US Military came all the way from the top. More disturbing is the the implication that these activities are the inevitable results of allowing pathologically disturbed individuals access to power. It's not so far from blowing up frogs to water-boarding and electro-shocking human beings.

Remember, these acts are committed in the name of "National Security" ie, YOUR security.

Who's for impeachment now?

Blue Ibis

Juan Cole
Thu, 19 Jun 2008 16:36 EDT

McClatchy and other reporters are abruptly pulling the curtain away from the Bush team's illegal practices in arresting people arbitrarily, declining to offer proof that they were guilty of anything, detaining them indefinitely without trial or charges, and deliberately torturing them to the extent of leaving long-term scars and disabilities. The torture practices originated not with lower-level officers but with Donald Rumsfeld and others in Bush's inner circle, who then later blamed lower-level officials for developing the ideas that Rumsfeld ordered them to develop. Nothing they have done has survived a court challenge where one has been permitted.


Recent reports, taken together, provide a chilling glimpse of a vast torture operation, deliberately planned out by serial torturers in Bush's White House and possibly by the president himself. The program was designed to repeal the Geneva Conventions, which the US and Israel have long found inconvenient, even though they were legislated to prevent further abuses such as those of the Nazis. AP interviews with former detainees show that they were systematically tortured and sometimes permanently injured.

A Senate report details the evidence that Rumsfeld and other high officials were complicit in ordering torture. That is, they are war criminals.

The Bush administration committed clear war crimes at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram, according to Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba. The only question, he says, is whether anyone will be held accountable.

The Underscretary of Defense for Planning, Douglas Feith abruptly pulled out of his testimony on Capitol Hill about torture techniques, apparently because he was afraid to testify in the same session as Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff of Colin Powell. Wilkerson was high enough to hear the real story on a lot of issues and could have shredded Feith's lies into confetti if they testified together.

Medical examinations of former US detainees shows that they were tortured. The full report is here.

CIA counterterrorism lawyer Jonathan Fredson appears to have argued that virtually anything short of lethal force was permitted. He told the Pentagon that torture "is basically subject to perception." He did admit the principle that "If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong."

{Shades of the Inquisition! The same mindset is still with us. Only the name of the "demons" have changed"}

Then there is the McClatchy series, based on extensive interviews with dozens of released former detainees from Guantanamo and Bagram:

Tom Lasseter writes:

"The framework under which detainees were imprisoned for years without charges at Guantanamo and in many cases abused in Afghanistan wasn't the product of American military policy or the fault of a few rogue soldiers. It was largely the work of five White House, Pentagon and Justice Department lawyers who, following the orders of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, reinterpreted or tossed out the U.S. and international laws that govern the treatment of prisoners in wartime, according to former U.S. defense and Bush administration officials."

A lot of Bush's detainees had no connection to international terrorism. Some had even fought the Taliban, been captured, and then were sold to the Americans by the Taliban, who had in the meantime changed turbans and begun pretending to be loyal to Karzai.

At Afghan bases, the US military routinely practiced torture on prisoners.

In fact, the US torture turned some innocent detainees into terrorists, determining them to attack the US on their release.

McClatchy has posted many of the documents on which its series is based.

Aljazeera International interviews McClatchy reporters, who spent a year tracking down and interviewing former detainees.

Part I:

and Part II:

The Public Record wonders why Bush, McCain and the Wall street Journal are rushing to defend torture now. {????}

The tendency of the bureaucracy to experiment on human guinea pigs reached beyond the torture of detainees to mentally distressed Veterans. The Veterans Administration experimented on them with pharmaceuticals, without their knowledge. The VA neglected to tell them the drug they were being fed had serious side effects, including "anxiety, nervousness, tension, depression, thoughts of suicide, and attempted and completed suicide." Oh, yeah, that's what a person who has been through hell in Iraq and has post-traumatic stress really needs.

So all these revelations should be on cable news 24/7, right? Not so much.

As Gen. Taguba says, the fact of the extensive torture is not in doubt. The question is whether the Bushies will get away with it. It is looking as though they will. But there are going to be some European countries where Bush and his cronies would be ill advised to visit.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Passing of a Truly Great Man

The seminal psychological work on deviant personalities Ponerology, has often been cited here. It is so sad to read of his passing. Rest in peace Dr. Lobaczewski, thank you for persevering long enough to bring your hard-won wisdom to a grateful world.

Blue Ibis
********************************************************************8 editors
Mon, 16 Jun 2008 12:54 EDT

Andrzej M. Łobaczewski
Andrzej M. Łobaczewski, November 2005

The editors of were recently informed that, after a long period of illness, Dr. Andrzej M. Łobaczewski passed away in late November of last year. Łobaczewski was the author of Political Ponerology: A science on the nature of evil adjusted for political purposes.

He was born in 1921 and grew up on a rural estate in the piedmont vicinity of Poland. Under the Nazi occupation of Poland he worked on the family farm, was an apiarist, and then a soldier of the Home Army, an underground Polish resistance organization. After the Soviet invasion of Poland, the family estate was confiscated and the Łobaczewski family was driven from their ancient home.

Łobaczewski's desire to learn psychology grew during World War II, and after the war he attended Yagiellonian University in Cracow while working to support himself and his studies. The conditions under Communist rule turned his attention to the matters of psychopathology, especially to the role of psychopathic persons in such a governmental system. As his investigations proceeded, he learned that he was not the first such researcher to follow this line of thinking. As others became aware of his questions, it was made known to him that a similar work was already underway, having been begun by a secret agreement of scientists of the older generation which included Kazimierz Dąbrowski. Łobaczewski joined this effort, but the network of scientific collaborators, and their work, was soon destroyed by the Communist Secret Police. Łobaczewski undertook the task of completing the work and putting it in writing.

Working in a mental hospital, then a general hospital, and finally in the open mental health service, Łobaczewski improved his skills in clinical diagnosis and psychotherapy. Finally, when suspected by the political authorities of knowing too much about the pathological nature of the system, he was forced to burn the manuscript of the collected research only a few minutes ahead of a search by the Communist Secret Police. After this disaster, he painfully assembled a second version of the manuscript which he sent to the Vatican in care of a tourist acting as courier. No word was ever received about the fate of this document. In 1977, the Roman correspondent to Radio Free Europe, to whom Łobaczewski had spoken about the work, denounced him to the Polish authorities. He was forced to emigrate in 1977, and all his papers, books, and research materials were confiscated.

In the USA, his efforts to bring the results of this research were stymied by the activities of communism in the United States both in academia and in the publishing industry. In spite of very difficult opposition, he re-wrote the manuscript - the research into psychopathy and other psychopathologies and how they dominate totalitarian government systems - as best he could from memory in New York in 1984. All attempts to publish this book at this time failed. A small printing of copies for academics was the only result, and these soon faded from view. (SOTT research has uncovered the fact that at least some academics must have read this material - or heard of it - and incorporated the ideas into their own work. Robert Rieber of John Jay College of Criminal Justice being a case in point.)

His health broken, Łobaczewski returned to Poland in 1990. His health was partially restored under the care of old friends in the medical profession, and he became able to work again. He soon published another of his works on topics of psychotherapy and socio-psychology and began to transcribe the manuscript of Political Ponerology that he had written by hand in 1984 into a computer file.

Despite the horrors he witnessed and experienced, including the loss of most of his family, Łobaczewski remained a courageous and gentle soul. His compassion, understanding, and tangible hope for humanity pervade his work, both clinical and written. He saw the condition of our world, and the disease which has plagued humanity for millennia. And yet he also saw the possibility of a better future. His work, Political Ponerology, embodies this hope, as the following words which conclude the book, show. It is up to us to see that his vision is remembered, and that his work was not completed in vain.

A system thus envisaged would be superior to all its predecessors, being based upon an understanding of the laws of nature operating within individuals and societies, with objective knowledge progressively superseding opinions based upon natural [emotional] responses to phenomena. We should call it a "LOGOCRACY".

Due to their properties and conformity to the laws of nature and evolution, logocratic systems could guarantee social and international order on a long-term basis. In keeping with their nature, they would then become transformed into more perfect forms, a vague and faraway vision of which may beckon to us in the present.

The author has survived many dangerous situations and become disappointed with many people and institutions. However, the Great Providence has never disappointed him under the most difficult circumstances. This condition suffices to permit him to promise that elaborating a more detailed draft for such a necessary better system will also be possible. ...

What is of crucial importance is to fully grasp the importance of the science of Ponerology and how many applications it may have for a future of peace and a humane humanity. This science permits the human mind to understand things that have been, for millennia, unintelligible: the genesis of evil. This understanding could very well bring about a turning point in the history of civilization which, I should add, is presently on the point of self-destruction.

Therefore, my request to you is: Be not shocked with the immense size of the task! Take it as a work to be gradually performed and hope that many other people will come to help and thus progress will be assured.

It seems that, in the natural order of things, that those persons who have suffered the most from psychopaths or bearers of other mental anomalies, will be those called to do this work, to accept the burden. If you do, accept also, ladies and gentlemen, your fate with an open heart and humility, and always with a sense of humor. Cherish assistance from the Universal Mind and know that Great Values often grow from Great Suffering.

In 2005, Łobaczewski sent a copy of his manuscript to the editors of and on 19 November 2005, a team of SOTT editors in Eastern Europe conducted our first interview with him in Rzeszow, Poland. What follows is an English translation of that interview. Unfortunately, although he was committed to the task until his last moments, he was unable to complete the volume he had hoped to write before his death.

Q: We are interested in what induced you to start studying evil in general and its genesis?

A: The genesis of evil? Dear Madam, many breakthroughs, particularly in psychology, occur spontaneously. The best experiments begin when someone notices something peculiar and starts to work on it. As far as the genesis of ponerology is concerned, similarly, I never had a specific prior intention; it simply occurred spontaneously in very difficult times. For those were times of Soviet captivity and evil was in abundance. I, personally, experienced a big share [of this evil]. Three times I was imprisoned. So, in our society there was an attitude of wondering what evil was. Also, the relevant science had reached a sufficient level of maturity. Similarly, if there had not been Copernicus, his discovery would have been quickly discovered by another, because mathematics had matured to such a state that it was possible to conduct such calculations. So, I never had such an intention.

Q: Maybe you could tell something about ponerology; who was the first to use this term?

A: I used the term 'ponerology' [to describe the specific subject of our research], but the priests from Tyniec were the first. [Ponerology is the theological study of evil, derived from poneros in New Testament Greek, which implies an inborn evil with a corrupting influence.] Would you like to hear about the history of this research?

Q: Yes, who started it?

A: In this area I have very little [factual] information. For these were very difficult times and this type of research had to be conducted in strict secrecy. If the authorities had caught anybody doing it, they would have been given no court trial. Rather, they would be sent straight to the other world [i.e. execution without trial] or given a softer sentence - expulsion abroad. So, under the circumstances, one applied what we learned from experience: I do not know names of others and I do not ask...

Q: Full conspiracy, in other words.

A: Yes, for even if I were caught and forced to talk, I would not know any names.

Q: So, you were cooperating not knowing precisely with whom.

A: Yes. I received data always titled "children with some defects", without any names. My contact was professor Szuman, who was not [at that time] active in this field anymore, since he was too old. He was already an old man, but he would still take research material from this man or that man and deliver or have it transferred to me.

Q: And where was professor Szuman at that time?

A: At that time in Warsaw, already retired in Warsaw. And...

Q: And where were you then? Already in Rzeszow?

A: No, I was never in Warsaw - only in transit. I was working at that time in Branice, which is near the Czech border. Branice had the biggest psychiatric hospital in Poland. Later I moved to Silesia and worked first in a hospital, next [as an industrial psychologist] in the coal mining industry - which was beneficial, because I conducted mass examinations and was able to extract statistical data - and later I returned to clinical psychology. Wherever I was, it was impossible to avoid some political adventures. They had their eye on me constantly.

In the early sixties there was a congress of psychiatrists in Hungary. There was a debate, naturally, over the official subject of schizophrenia diagnostics. I was not personally there, but a little bit of my paper was presented - part of it - about the fact that I do not believe in these three types of schizophrenia - I consider them three completely separate diseases. So, after the official proceedings, over coffee, old pre-war friends gathered and a discussion was started about what this political system essentially represents. Already there was no doubt that we were dealing with a macrosocial psychopathological phenomenon.

That is what I know. I know that in Poland professor Stefan Blachowski from Poznan, who died in mysterious circumstances, was engaged in this research. And professor Dabrowski, who was rather focused on researching the theoretical foundations. Kazimierz Dabrowski.

Q: But professor Dabrowski did not have problems with publishing his own works...

A: I had... No... I had a publishing blockade.

Q: No, but I speak about professor Dabrowski.

A: No, he also could not publish any works regarding, or even mentioning, this [specific] matter. There is one case of publishing, by some lady, who published a paper about psychopathies in Psychological Review, which somehow miraculously went through. I also published a paper, purely about clinical technicalities, after which the editor of Psychological Review received a vigovor ['a dismissal'] and did not publish my papers anymore. And so it was. We lived in such times.

Q: So, the subject of psychopathy was a taboo during the communist times?

A: This was an absolute taboo. I dedicate one chapter in my book to this subject [chapter VII]. You will read this, you Madam in Polish, and you Sir in English, right?

In fact, I joined this 'club' rather late. My considerations started in other conditions, which I also describe [in chapter I of Ponerology]. I was in Krakow attending mandatory indoctrination lectures. Our new "professor", a typical case of psychopathy proper, was such a glaring example that he simply compelled me to this road. One can consider him a promoter of the research on psychopathy.

Q: The initiator...

A: Yes. So, I was already so advanced in this research that when I received the first contact [with this group of researchers], they wanted me to lead research regarding the differentiation of psychopathy. Obviously, I undertook this research, but I knew what was going on immediately. I did what I could, but the psychiatric hospital was not a good place for this type of research, because one has a different type of patient. And so I found there, actually, the proper route [i.e. the inspirational role of psychopathy], and later, when I had in front of me the mass of people - for example working within mining industry, where I was examining a few, even several people every day - I was already able to make statistical summaries...

Q: How come you went to America?

A: How come? Well, they promised me that either they would put me behind bars for the fourth time or "we shall give you your passport". So, that... I did not know, and nobody in Poland realized, just how much influence the "security apparatus" [Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa (SB) or State Security Service], with the help of Jews, had on Polish emigrants living abroad. Nobody realized this at all.

So, when I found myself in the United States, I became the subject of such persecution that eventually there was nothing I could do and my health collapsed. I ended up in the hospital, in intensive care, and so it was already - or so it seemed to me - the end of my activity. I returned after some time to work, but then I was fired because among my things they found a book about the history of the Jews, which was not anti-Semitic at all. The author sympathized with the Jews, but there were very harsh remarks against the Jews quoted, and these citations were not translated to Polish, but they were in English and in French, etc. So, they found the citations and deemed me to be an anti-Semite and fired me. I became unemployed and received unemployment benefits for nine months and during these nine months I was able to work and write this book.

Q: This was nineteen eighty...?

A: They fired me in '83, and it was already written at the end of '84. At this time I had only a few dollars and I did not know what would happen to me. My phone rang and they called me in to work. It turned out that the person who organized the entire plot was a communist, and somehow I was cleared of the charges. I was not admitted back to the same work, but to a bureau in charge of child care. So, I was slightly closer to psychology and there I worked until the end [of my stay in the United States].

Q: In the introduction to your book we read that it was the third attempt. Can you tell us something on this subject?

A: This was the third attempt at writing the book. I wrote the first in my native country and I learnt through the local Silesians that I was about to have... "Soon there will be a search at your place." So, I took all I had, took it to a boiler house, and I threw it in a stove.

Q: And what year was that?

A: This was '68, I suppose.

Q: So during Gomulka's rule...

A: The second I wrote and sent through some man to the Vatican - to bishop Descura - whom I knew a little. It never made it there.

Q: And in what circumstances did you hand the book over to that courier?

A: I actually handed over the book to the courier in Bulgaria. No, it was not a courier. It was a man from America, you see, supposedly Polish. Later, when I was in America, I managed to reach him by phone and he said something nonsensical, so I realized that he never actually sent the book.

Q: Do you think it could have been an agent, who deliberately took the work from you?

A: Could have been, could have been, could have been... Yes, but it was not him who betrayed me to the authorities. I suspected many people, but the Institute of National Remembrance found the person who betrayed me: the Roman correspondent for Radio Free Europe.

Q: Who would think?

A: For I had talked with him... Well, supposedly a Pole, supposedly from the Free Europe. I chatted with him a little - he denounced everything to the authorities. I learned about it only recently, not even a year ago. The Institute mailed me about it.

Q: Did it do so by itself or were you seeking this information?

A: I requested the Institute to search for it on my behalf.

Q: In other words, one may suppose that the second copy found itself somewhere in America. He brought it to America, and someone... In unexplained circumstances it was handed farther, archived or destroyed?

A: I do not know what happened to that copy. However I suspect what happened to another copy of the book. As it was already after my unemployment period, when I finally had some income, I went to a congress of Polish culture in London. Well, immediately two allegedly famous psychologists sat next to me, one from Canada, the other supposedly from South Africa - some major scholars. But the one from Canada did not know the time difference between Ottawa and London, and I also caught the other on some other contradiction. So finally they stopped pretending and it turned out that these were two Security Service (SB) agents from Krakow. And so I lent my book - I did not give it away - I lent it to a local philosopher. Soon after, it turned out that he did not have it in his possession - they did. It occurred under instructions from the Polish government in London. So, well... and here some strange things started to happen. Mikhail was... Mikhail Gorbachev went to Rome, to the Pope [on 1 December 1989]. And actually throughout the meeting he wanted to find out if the Pope knew about this science. He was asking questions about it... Somehow this report was published, for it was incomprehensible to most, and I received the newspaper with this...

Q: In other words it means that high Soviet authorities were aware...

A: So, the book was forwarded to our "elder brother" [i.e. the Soviet Union] - it has already been translated to Russian - and it played there some role, but what role? Well, I will never know. In the introduction of my book I ask that if readers know anything, to let me know about it. I know nothing more on this subject. And whether the book threw Gorbachev against the wall, well... So, this is the history of the book. And finally I wanted to publish it in America. Mr Zbigniew Brzezinski read it. He was full of enthusiasm both towards the book itself and its translation. He said that the translator had done an excellent job and that he would take care of its publication. And so I believed him in my naivete.

Q: I would personally not believe him so easily...

A: Unfortunately, I believed him. And then some strange difficulties occurred... He started to answer me somewhat negatively. Something was happening. I was writing letters; I have an entire file of correspondence with him. Eventually, only his secretary answered me, and then I reached him and he said, "Pity that it did not work out", in other words...

Q: It did not succeed.

A: ...he strangled the matter, treacherously.

Q: Either he or somebody else behind him.

A: Yes, because he is an "insider" of that entire enormous system. I mean, he is not on the top, he does not belong to the "order", he is merely an "insider", and there are about three hundred of them. [Łobaczewski is possibly referring to the "Committee of 300", the subject of Dr. John Coleman's book Conspirator's Hierarchy.]

Q: And who in your opinion is on the top? What do you mean by the "order"?

A: The "Order"? Well, I cannot know who is there in the "order".

Q: Well, you think something about it, so what is your opinion?

A: I have a certain opinion. Well, this "order" is the center [of the pathocratic 'brotherhood'], which is located in England outside of London... The Trilateral Commission belongs to that center.

Q: And the fact that Mr. Brzezinski was the president of the Trilateral Commission... However, it is only one of the organizations and not necessarily...

A: ...and not necessarily the worst.

Q: ...the one on the very top, yes.

A: Yes, because (for example), the Japanese belong there, who are, so to say, they are taking care of their own interests, and not someone else's.

So, well, eventually I started to get sicker and sicker, I barely managed to work, I was barely carrying on. Finally, I retired there [in the US] and with my miserable pension I returned to my country, sick, so I did not believe that I would... I would not believe back then that I was to live yet another fifteen years. And so I came across old acquaintances, doctors from the hospital where I used to work. And they set about taking care of me intensively, and so somehow I live till this day. This is it, as far as I'm concerned.

Q: So they took care of you rather well. Old friendships did not get rusted.

A: Yes, quite... well, they did not get rusted.

Q: You attribute manifestations of evil in the world to psychopaths. They are in the greater part guilty of evil, but the question is, do you think that there is somewhere a deeper source of the evil?

A: Dear Madam, psychopathological factors - different psychopathological factors, for there are many - constantly and permanently contribute to the genesis of evil. If in this... if one was doing a chemical synthesis, all ingredients must be present. If the pathological factor is missing, then the synthesis of evil ceases to function. If moral weaknesses of man were missing, and man strictly stands on the foundation of rigid morality, the result is the same. If a man is very wise and understands a lot in this subject, then in the same way he resists the evil. In other words, in the synthesis of evil the psychopathological factor is not the main one, but it is the eternal one.

Q: Are you of the opinion that psychopaths themselves are the evil, or is there some other factor?

A: No, one cannot say that only psychopaths are the evil. They are the initiating factor. But not only psychopaths, because Polish psychiatry has for a long time clearly distinguished characteropathy and psychopathy. Characteropathy appears when damage in the brain tissue occurs and such a person possesses defects of character caused by the fact that something in the brain does not work as it should, or there is a tissue loss, as in the case of Stalin (missing tissue in areas 10A and B), and psychopathy is hereditary. In the imposed psychiatry of the Communist era, which lasts in Poland until this day, these concepts are completely mixed, so that one could not... and then it is not possible to properly explain anything with diagnosis. [Various disorders are included in one overarching category like "antisocial personality disorder".] We consider only such a condition being psychopathy, which has a hereditary foundation. Or alternatively something which is a result of some chromosomal anomalies, but the latter ones are rather rare.

Q: So, how does transferring of psychopathy through genetics relate to it?

A: It means that respective forms of psychopathy are transferred in different ways and I personally propose certain hypotheses with respect to inheritance of psychopathy, but very cautious ones. That means that in my experience, I have not seen a case where the mother was entirely normal, the father was a psychopath, and the son was a psychopath, too.

Q: Not this way? So, how?

A: It is inherited via mother, the same as Daltonism or hemophilia. One is inheriting it via the mother. This is the case as far as the essential psychopathy is concerned. Schizoidia is probably inherited autosomally, through non-sex chromosomes, not via chromosomes X and Y, but via certain series of autosomal chromosomes. Therefore, the inheriting process differs. Finally, psychiatrists of the past mention the asthenic psychopathy as the most numerous. It is generally a broad category full of somewhat different conditions, difficult to differentiate, because these are results of fetal deprivation, therefore, it can be hereditary in nature or not. So, researching exactly the biological properties of psychopathy, the genetic properties of psychopathy, is very much needed in order to understand exactly this aspect of genesis of evil.

Q: Well, this genetic anomaly appeared from somewhere...

A: Well, this is already only philosophy. What was earlier, when it was created? Do mutations occur in modern times? Certainly, it happens in modern times that the gene falls out, "checks itself out", and the son of a famous psychopath is a normal person and gravitates towards the world of normal men, and he, let's say, revolts against the party until he finally lands behind bars with others like me.

Q: And can one manage to overcome psychopathy alone, for example, when one is afflicted with it?

A: Dear Madam, well, can one manage to overcome it? No. This is a para-Homo sapiens. He feels otherwise, thinks otherwise and he cannot overcome himself... For example, in case of characteropathy, psychotherapy and the good will of the patient may help a great deal.

Q: Whereas not in the case of psychopathy.

A: In case of characteropathy, the first thing that the psychotherapist does is to make the patient realize that the condition is not hereditary. This immediately helps the patient somewhat. That his children do not inherit the condition, that he did not inherit the condition from his parents...

Q: In other words, it is something one can manage.

A: Yes, and with this it is much easier for him to manage the condition. So...

Q: In other words, somebody afflicted with the psychopathy finds himself essentially in a situation with no exit?

A: Well, this is a story basically without a way out.

Q: And in this case, what do you think, how one should behave towards such psychopaths? Should one fight psychopathy in general, or should one strive to avoid it in their own life, simply staying as far away from a person like this as possible?

A: Well, one should rather keep away from him as far as possible, because psychopathy... the first thing that is claimed, the American sources claim that it occurs three times more rarely among women than among men. In my opinion this is not so. It is inherited equally often. However, there is the second allele, the second chromosome X, which hides the condition to a great degree.

Q: In other words, it is more difficult to diagnose?

A: Yes, it is so that the condition does not manifest itself so much. As a result the woman is more normal, although these psychopathic qualities can be noticed and sensed. So, what is going on here? One may... psychopaths have this dream that they would like to govern. "We want to be the government," they think, and this dream is realized from time to time in the human history and this is a gruesome time. Yes?

Q: So, you consider that this occurs somewhat spontaneously... the striving towards power?

A: Yes, the dream of power occurs among psychopaths in groups, since they recognize each other in the crowd perfectly. A group is formed and within that group the dream of power appears as a rule, almost.

Q: And do you think that psychopaths feel for example threatened in some way, because...

A: They do feel threatened. Not only threatened... It is not only the fact that they are threatened. They are removed, "oppressed" by the society.

Q: That's why they think that they have to rule over this society...

A: They must either fight the society or acquire power, and this is so, exactly because they are "oppressed". And on the other hand they are displaced, because as far as essential psychopathy is concerned, they are incapable of manual work. Technically, they are unable to perform technical works. They chatter a lot, spoil the work, so the foreman says, "Get out of here, I don't need a person like you". They are discriminated against by the society of normal people everywhere, really discriminated, and here one should seek a solution.

Q: Is it a rule that they are so technically incapable?

A: In case of the essential psychopathy, yes, but schizoids, for example, sometimes happen to be technically inclined.

Q: So, to certain degree they must rely on others to survive, because alone...

A: They strive to feed on others. There is a variety of essential psychopathy which takes a slightly lighter form... These individuals are relatively modest and harmless. They only know how to milk various institutions and live without work, because work for them is something onerous, something that gives them a feeling of lower value and lack of resourcefulness.

Comment: Dabrowski points out that a psychopath may feel inferiority, but it is a strictly hierarchical inferiority. This awareness of a 'pecking order' only inspires a desire to somehow surpass the other individual. In the case of work, a psychopath may feel envious of another's position and prestige, but will not actually work to achieve that position. Instead he will brutally manipulate and exploit the work of others in order to achieve domination. Hare and Babiak describe this phenomenon in their book, Snakes In Suits.

Q: I have a question regarding this ability of psychopaths to recognize each other in a crowd, that there is almost a kind of telepathic contact among them.

A: They recognize each other in the crowd very quickly. Now, I would have to ponder a great deal to tell something more specific about how this contact works. In any case, they have a feeling of being different from the world that surrounds them from early childhood.

Q: But do they feel better or worse?

A: Once, of course, they accept themselves then they feel they are better, and those normal people are worse. But initially, they have this feeling of dissimilarity, sometimes feeling inferiority to their environment, and in a remarkably easy manner they recognize each other in the crowd. They immediately are befriended, two psychopaths.

Q: And do you think there is some sort of telepathy among them, perhaps? Are there any forms of non-verbal contact, some gestures, some way of looking, which can suggest... one such person suggests the other that...

A: Yes, they somehow sense one another. I have such an example not so far from here...

Q: So, you noticed something like this, that they have some form of non-verbal communication, which allows them to recognize each other in the crowd.

A: Yes, there is something like this, only it is hard to, if I can put it this way, materially capture this.

Q: Still the effects of this are apparent, that they are able to better recognize one of their kind, and they create these structures, which try...

A: The essential psychopaths always play the role of eminence grise in a group of warriors. So, if there is a group of such, a group of troubled teenagers, a gang of hooligans, then they... the leader is not necessarily an essential psychopath. Instead, he represents some other combination. But behind him there is a group of psychopaths, and this group governs the rest of slightly characteropathic individuals. This is the structure of such groups. I think that modern law is ignorant in regard to this reality and therefore has low effectiveness.

Q: Or one can say otherwise, that the law has been created by psychopaths...

A: No, no, no. The law was created by the normal people, principally, who did not understand psychopaths. It interprets the condition in the moralistic way, not in the biological one. Biologically, this is an inborn deficit and here what I have to emphasize: there is no psychological anomaly which can be considered an "overvalue". These are all always deficits. Something is missing.

Q: Are you able to estimate the scale of the phenomenon?

A: Quantitative?

Q: What is the percentage of psychopathy?

A: Dear Sir, I had a quarrel about it with professor Dabrowski, because he was quoting very much inflated values, whereas I was working with the mass of people, especially in mining industry and therein one could establish how many psychopaths there are without efforts, for they all belonged to the party committee, Sir.

Comment: It should be noted that this was a population of workers, so the ratio of psychopaths would necessarily be low. In other social classes, it might be much higher!

Q: And your own research confirms this?

A: Yes.

Q: ...that they allegedly naturally tend to gather together in such big groups?

A: Yes. So, he was not working in the mines. These normal people worked underground. When I went down, then "Oh! God Bless! God Bless! Mr. Psychologist came down." Then they had me always there... they seated me at the wall by the silt and told me jokes. These miners knew at once that I was their guy. So... well, my estimation was 0.6% essential psychopathy. The number of schizoids is slightly higher, somewhere around 0.8%. When one adds up all other conditions, or cases of combined psychopathic conditions, because Hitler was surely such a combination - he represented not one psychopathy, but a combination of several anomalies -

Q: And the current president of the United States?

A: Well Sir, no. You have gone too far in your conclusions in this matter.

Q: Why?

A: Because I know America very well and their way of thinking. I knocked around there for eleven years. He is not [an essential psychopath]... clinically. No. This is my conviction. This is my perception of his person.

Comment: Note that Lobaczewski formed his opinion based solely on mainstream media reports reaching Poland. Long after this interview was conducted, he was provided with the evidence that George Bush and the Neocons were pathological. It caused him a great deal of distress.

Q: Well, he cannot be probably considered entirely normal...

A: Well, no. Well, my opinion is that he is a typical American. A typical American, who thinks in an American way. He cannot himself... an American cannot imagine that other people, other nations think a bit differently, that there are other cultures, other civilizations, that the Mohammedan civilization is completely different from the European and the Christian one. He, an American is unable to imagine this, because the entire world is built just like America... in their understanding. And he thinks that the Arabs react as if they were Americans. So, this is typical for America. If we considered this as a clinical condition, then it would mean that 80 or 90 percent of Americans are nuts, right?

Q: On the other hand it can be considered as some form of deficit.

A: No, no. Well, a form of deficit is that he is, let's say, less intelligent than his father, that he is less outstanding. His is quite an average mind, but brought up in the climate that his father was a president, and so on, and so forth...

Q: Do you think that there is something that could have been done in the past, that would cause a change in the course of history, so that at least some cases of psychopaths acquiring power did not occur?

A: Well, there was something that could have been done. Certainly it could have been done.

Q: What could have been done?

A: Certainly, something could have been done. It could have been done some good twenty years ago. Or even earlier, since a Hungarian went to America even before me, but I am unable to say anything about what happened then. I only know that there was somebody like this, because the Hungarians told me something on this subject in America. Then Dabrowski went there. Dabrowski had an exceptionally comfortable situation, because he had a doctorate that allowed him the right to practice in America. He did not have to strive; he did not have to validate his diploma. And even despite this they surrounded him with so many persecutions, that he did not manage to do anything and he was never allowed to talk about this subject when contacting Polish institutions. And eventually he moved North to Canada, to Edmonton, where they have frosts of -50 degrees Celsius. [A slight exaggeration. It rarely gets below -30 degrees!] So, he was active there and inspired others. He was also in contact with Cleckley.

Q: Returning to the question, what specifically could have been done, in your opinion?

A: Sir, first of all one should have supplemented the knowledge in regard to these matters scientifically, with detailed studies and then popularized it. Some institution should have been created, which openly states that this person is like this [psychopathic]... and in general a law should have been introduced that only normal people govern and such a law should have been passed by the UN, so, there is something that can be done in this respect.


In late September of 2006, we arranged for Dr. Łobaczewski to spend a week with us here in France. During that time, we conducted another interview that was videotaped and we are working on translation and subtitling the video.

During that week all of us here at QFG HQ got to know Łobaczewski as one of the kindest, gentlest humans we have ever encountered. Andrzej was very tall - almost a giant of a man - and he so much enjoyed our garden, spending many pleasant hours walking about in the Chateau park searching for edible mushrooms that he would present as an offering for the evening meal. Taking him to the airport to return to Poland was one of the hardest things we have ever done. He parted with the intention of returning to spend Christmas with us. Sadly, he wasn't able to because not long after his return, he became ill with a series of illnesses. He was hospitalized for a long period then. He wrote to Laura during that time:

I received today, Sunday 26. November, your mail of 13. Nov. I found this among 180 various mails, majority of them to be deleted. During this time I had no E-mail contact. There is a probability, that my telephone is overheard too.

Thank you for your concern for my eyes! Temporarily my condition does not permit any journey. No sooner I recovered from this strange infection, a new disease appeared - lambliose. The treatment goes right, but it always lasts over six weeks. Now I feel too week even for going to my ophthalmologist here. I hope still, it will gradually improve, making me able to take her advice. My neighbour here has had this operation done here in Rzeszów, and she enjoys good vision. Have please some patience for me. I hope to see you All again.

Please to acknowledge receiving of this news.
Whole-hearted greetings!


Throughout the remainder of the first half of 2007, our communication was mainly via telephone and snail mail because Andrzej's computer somehow would not connect to the internet any longer and no one where he lived could solve the problem for him.

In May or June of 2007, Sylvia Cattori contacted us and wanted to conduct an interview with him, but he was too weak at that point to write more than a few sentences. We discussed the interview with him in several phone calls, and the result is The Trick of the Psychopath's Trade: Make Us Believe that Evil Comes from Others.

We talked to Andrzej on the phone every week or two right up until late October of 2007. We tried to call several times in November, but there was no answer. Finally, we called and the number had been disconnected. Our sott editor in Poland made inquiries through a contact who lived in the same town where Dr. Łobaczewski lived and it was thus we learned that he had passed away after several weeks in the hospital. Right to the end he expected to get better and return to his research, but his organs failed one after the other. At 86 years old, after so much pain and suffering, perhaps he was ready to go, knowing that the torch had been passed. We believe that the work of this noble, incredibly courageous individual - and the man himself - should not be forgotten.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Everyone who's noticed this, raise your hand. If you are over 35, you can remember a time before everything you thought you wanted to know was available 24/7 on screen. When you absorbed information from paper and ink. The medium is not only the message, it shapes the instrument that receives the message. In the case of computers, that's looking a little dicey.

Blue Ibis

Nicholas Carr
Atlantic Monthly
Thu, 12 Jun 2008 21:38 EDT

©Guy Billout

"Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?" So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial »

brain. "Dave, my mind is going," HAL says, forlornly. "I can feel it. I can feel it."

I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I've had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn't going - so far as I can tell - but it's changing. I'm not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I'm reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I'd spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That's rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I'm always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

I think I know what's going on. For more than a decade now, I've been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes. A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I've got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I'm not working, I'm as likely as not to be foraging in the Web's info-thickets - reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link. (Unlike footnotes, to which they're sometimes likened, hyperlinks don't merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.)

For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they've been widely described and duly applauded. "The perfect recall of silicon memory," Wired's Clive Thompson has written, "can be an enormous boon to thinking." But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

I'm not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances - literary types, most of them - many say they're having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon. Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether. "I was a lit major in college, and used to be [a] voracious book reader," he wrote. "What happened?" He speculates on the answer: "What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e. I'm just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?"

Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. "I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print," he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a "staccato" quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. "I can't read War and Peace anymore," he admitted. "I've lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it."

Anecdotes alone don't prove much. And we still await the long-term neurological and psychological experiments that will provide a definitive picture of how Internet use affects cognition. But a recently published study of online research habits, conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think. As part of the five-year research program, the scholars examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites, one operated by the British Library and one by a U.K. educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information. They found that people using the sites exhibited "a form of skimming activity," hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they'd already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would "bounce" out to another site. Sometimes they'd save a long article, but there's no evidence that they ever went back and actually read it. The authors of the study report:

It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of "reading" are emerging as users "power browse" horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.

Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it's a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking - perhaps even a new sense of the self. "We are not only what we read," says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. "We are how we read." Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts "efficiency" and "immediacy" above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become "mere decoders of information." Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.

Reading, explains Wolf, is not an instinctive skill for human beings. It's not etched into our genes the way speech is. We have to teach our minds how to translate the symbolic characters we see into the language we understand. And the media or other technologies we use in learning and practicing the craft of reading play an important part in shaping the neural circuits inside our brains. Experiments demonstrate that readers of ideograms, such as the Chinese, develop a mental circuitry for reading that is very different from the circuitry found in those of us whose written language employs an alphabet. The variations extend across many regions of the brain, including those that govern such essential cognitive functions as memory and the interpretation of visual and auditory stimuli. We can expect as well that the circuits woven by our use of the Net will be different from those woven by our reading of books and other printed works.

Sometime in 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche bought a typewriter - a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, to be precise. His vision was failing, and keeping his eyes focused on a page had become exhausting and painful, often bringing on crushing headaches. He had been forced to curtail his writing, and he feared that he would soon have to give it up. The typewriter rescued him, at least for a time. Once he had mastered touch-typing, he was able to write with his eyes closed, using only the tips of his fingers. Words could once again flow from his mind to the page.

But the machine had a subtler effect on his work. One of Nietzsche's friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing. His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic. "Perhaps you will through this instrument even take to a new idiom," the friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work, his "'thoughts' in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper."

"You are right," Nietzsche replied, "our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." Under the sway of the machine, writes the German media scholar Friedrich A. Kittler, Nietzsche's prose "changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style."

The human brain is almost infinitely malleable. People used to think that our mental meshwork, the dense connections formed among the 100 billion or so neurons inside our skulls, was largely fixed by the time we reached adulthood. But brain researchers have discovered that that's not the case. James Olds, a professor of neuroscience who directs the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University, says that even the adult mind "is very plastic." Nerve cells routinely break old connections and form new ones. "The brain," according to Olds, "has the ability to reprogram itself on the fly, altering the way it functions."

As we use what the sociologist Daniel Bell has called our "intellectual technologies" - the tools that extend our mental rather than our physical capacities - we inevitably begin to take on the qualities of those technologies. The mechanical clock, which came into common use in the 14th century, provides a compelling example. In Technics and Civilization, the historian and cultural critic Lewis Mumford described how the clock "disassociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences." The "abstract framework of divided time" became "the point of reference for both action and thought."

The clock's methodical ticking helped bring into being the scientific mind and the scientific man. But it also took something away. As the late MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum observed in his 1976 book, Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, the conception of the world that emerged from the widespread use of timekeeping instruments "remains an impoverished version of the older one, for it rests on a rejection of those direct experiences that formed the basis for, and indeed constituted, the old reality." In deciding when to eat, to work, to sleep, to rise, we stopped listening to our senses and started obeying the clock.

The process of adapting to new intellectual technologies is reflected in the changing metaphors we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. When the mechanical clock arrived, people began thinking of their brains as operating "like clockwork." Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating "like computers." But the changes, neuroscience tells us, go much deeper than metaphor. Thanks to our brain's plasticity, the adaptation occurs also at a biological level.

The Internet promises to have particularly far-reaching effects on cognition. In a paper published in 1936, the British mathematician Alan Turing proved that a digital computer, which at the time existed only as a theoretical machine, could be programmed to perform the function of any other information-processing device. And that's what we're seeing today. The Internet, an immeasurably powerful computing system, is subsuming most of our other intellectual technologies. It's becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV.

When the Net absorbs a medium, that medium is re-created in the Net's image. It injects the medium's content with hyperlinks, blinking ads, and other digital gewgaws, and it surrounds the content with the content of all the other media it has absorbed. A new e-mail message, for instance, may announce its arrival as we're glancing over the latest headlines at a newspaper's site. The result is to scatter our attention and diffuse our concentration.

The Net's influence doesn't end at the edges of a computer screen, either. As people's minds become attuned to the crazy quilt of Internet media, traditional media have to adapt to the audience's new expectations. Television programs add text crawls and pop-up ads, and magazines and newspapers shorten their articles, introduce capsule summaries, and crowd their pages with easy-to-browse info-snippets. When, in March of this year, The New York Times decided to devote the second and third pages of every edition to article abstracts, its design director, Tom Bodkin, explained that the "shortcuts" would give harried readers a quick "taste" of the day's news, sparing them the "less efficient" method of actually turning the pages and reading the articles. Old media have little choice but to play by the new-media rules.

Never has a communications system played so many roles in our lives - or exerted such broad influence over our thoughts - as the Internet does today. Yet, for all that's been written about the Net, there's been little consideration of how, exactly, it's reprogramming us. The Net's intellectual ethic remains obscure.

About the same time that Nietzsche started using his typewriter, an earnest young man named Frederick Winslow Taylor carried a stopwatch into the Midvale Steel plant in Philadelphia and began a historic series of experiments aimed at improving the efficiency of the plant's machinists. With the approval of Midvale's owners, he recruited a group of factory hands, set them to work on various metalworking machines, and recorded and timed their every movement as well as the operations of the machines. By breaking down every job into a sequence of small, discrete steps and then testing different ways of performing each one, Taylor created a set of precise instructions - an "algorithm," we might say today - for how each worker should work. Midvale's employees grumbled about the strict new regime, claiming that it turned them into little more than automatons, but the factory's productivity soared.

More than a hundred years after the invention of the steam engine, the Industrial Revolution had at last found its philosophy and its philosopher. Taylor's tight industrial choreography - his "system," as he liked to call it - was embraced by manufacturers throughout the country and, in time, around the world. Seeking maximum speed, maximum efficiency, and maximum output, factory owners used time-and-motion studies to organize their work and configure the jobs of their workers. The goal, as Taylor defined it in his celebrated 1911 treatise, The Principles of Scientific Management, was to identify and adopt, for every job, the "one best method" of work and thereby to effect "the gradual substitution of science for rule of thumb throughout the mechanic arts." Once his system was applied to all acts of manual labor, Taylor assured his followers, it would bring about a restructuring not only of industry but of society, creating a utopia of perfect efficiency. "In the past the man has been first," he declared; "in the future the system must be first."

Taylor's system is still very much with us; it remains the ethic of industrial manufacturing. And now, thanks to the growing power that computer engineers and software coders wield over our intellectual lives, Taylor's ethic is beginning to govern the realm of the mind as well. The Internet is a machine designed for the efficient and automated collection, transmission, and manipulation of information, and its legions of programmers are intent on finding the "one best method" - the perfect algorithm - to carry out every mental movement of what we've come to describe as "knowledge work."

Google's headquarters, in Mountain View, California - the Googleplex - is the Internet's high church, and the religion practiced inside its walls is Taylorism. Google, says its chief executive, Eric Schmidt, is "a company that's founded around the science of measurement," and it is striving to "systematize everything" it does. Drawing on the terabytes of behavioral data it collects through its search engine and other sites, it carries out thousands of experiments a day, according to the Harvard Business Review, and it uses the results to refine the algorithms that increasingly control how people find information and extract meaning from it. What Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind.

The company has declared that its mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." It seeks to develop "the perfect search engine," which it defines as something that "understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want." In Google's view, information is a kind of commodity, a utilitarian resource that can be mined and processed with industrial efficiency. The more pieces of information we can "access" and the faster we can extract their gist, the more productive we become as thinkers.

Where does it end? Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the gifted young men who founded Google while pursuing doctoral degrees in computer science at Stanford, speak frequently of their desire to turn their search engine into an artificial intelligence, a HAL-like machine that might be connected directly to our brains. "The ultimate search engine is something as smart as people - or smarter," Page said in a speech a few years back. "For us, working on search is a way to work on artificial intelligence." In a 2004 interview with Newsweek, Brin said, "Certainly if you had all the world's information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you'd be better off." Last year, Page told a convention of scientists that Google is "really trying to build artificial intelligence and to do it on a large scale."

Such an ambition is a natural one, even an admirable one, for a pair of math whizzes with vast quantities of cash at their disposal and a small army of computer scientists in their employ. A fundamentally scientific enterprise, Google is motivated by a desire to use technology, in Eric Schmidt's words, "to solve problems that have never been solved before," and artificial intelligence is the hardest problem out there. Why wouldn't Brin and Page want to be the ones to crack it?

Still, their easy assumption that we'd all "be better off" if our brains were supplemented, or even replaced, by an artificial intelligence is unsettling. It suggests a belief that intelligence is the output of a mechanical process, a series of discrete steps that can be isolated, measured, and optimized. In Google's world, the world we enter when we go online, there's little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive.

The idea that our minds should operate as high-speed data-processing machines is not only built into the workings of the Internet, it is the network's reigning business model as well. The faster we surf across the Web - the more links we click and pages we view - the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to feed us advertisements. Most of the proprietors of the commercial Internet have a financial stake in collecting the crumbs of data we leave behind as we flit from link to link - the more crumbs, the better. The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It's in their economic interest to drive us to distraction.

Maybe I'm just a worrywart. Just as there's a tendency to glorify technological progress, there's a countertendency to expect the worst of every new tool or machine. In Plato's Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue's characters, "cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful." And because they would be able to "receive a quantity of information without proper instruction," they would "be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant." They would be "filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom." Socrates wasn't wrong - the new technology did often have the effects he feared - but he was shortsighted. He couldn't foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge (if not wisdom).

The arrival of Gutenberg's printing press, in the 15th century, set off another round of teeth gnashing. The Italian humanist Hieronimo Squarciafico worried that the easy availability of books would lead to intellectual laziness, making men "less studious" and weakening their minds. Others argued that cheaply printed books and broadsheets would undermine religious authority, demean the work of scholars and scribes, and spread sedition and debauchery. As New York University professor Clay Shirky notes, "Most of the arguments made against the printing press were correct, even prescient." But, again, the doomsayers were unable to imagine the myriad blessings that the printed word would deliver.

So, yes, you should be skeptical of my skepticism. Perhaps those who dismiss critics of the Internet as Luddites or nostalgists will be proved correct, and from our hyperactive, data-stoked minds will spring a golden age of intellectual discovery and universal wisdom. Then again, the Net isn't the alphabet, and although it may replace the printing press, it produces something altogether different. The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author's words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas. Deep reading, as Maryanne Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking.

If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with "content," we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture. In a recent essay, the playwright Richard Foreman eloquently described what's at stake:

I come from a tradition of Western culture, in which the ideal (my ideal) was the complex, dense and "cathedral-like" structure of the highly educated and articulate personality - a man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the West. [But now] I see within us all (myself included) the replacement of complex inner density with a new kind of self - evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the "instantly available."

As we are drained of our "inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance," Foreman concluded, we risk turning into "'pancake people' - spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button."

I'm haunted by that scene in 2001. What makes it so poignant, and so weird, is the computer's emotional response to the disassembly of its mind: its despair as one circuit after another goes dark, its childlike pleading with the astronaut - "I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm afraid" - and its final reversion to what can only be called a state of innocence. HAL's outpouring of feeling contrasts with the emotionlessness that characterizes the human figures in the film, who go about their business with an almost robotic efficiency. Their thoughts and actions feel scripted, as if they're following the steps of an algorithm. In the world of 2001, people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That's the essence of Kubrick's dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.