The Center for an InformedAmerica
Would You Mind If We Fingerprint Your Brain?
By Dave McGowan
February 24, 2001
Nothing is ever done for the good of the people, even when appearances may indicate otherwise. That is one of the inviolate rules of politics that must be applied when attempting to interpret any significant action, event or trend. A corollary to that rule is: any new technology will be used to the detriment - and never the benefit - of the people.
There is a consensus opinion developing though that the routine acceptance of DNA evidence in U.S. courts of law would be an exception to these rules. DNA evidence, we are told, is a way to right egregious miscarriages of justice. Indeed, crusading attorneys like Barry Scheck have built high-profile careers out of freeing the wrongly convicted. It is not likely though that exonerating the innocent is the ultimate goal of the DNA crowd. Emptying out the country's prisons doesn't seem to be real high on the state's priority list.
To the contrary, finding new ways - as well as new reasons - to incarcerate America seems to be the order of the day. The freeing of the falsely convicted makes for a nice way to sell DNA technology to the general public, however. It also makes for a nice way to sell another new technology -- 'Brain Fingerprinting.' In case you haven't heard, Brain Fingerprinting is a way to actually read a suspect's mind and determine whether or not he has committed a crime. No shit.
That is the claim made by the creator and chief proponent of the new technology, anyway. As 60 Minutes reported on December 12th, 2000, allegedly 'civilian' scientist Larry Farwell "says that by analyzing the brain waves of a criminal suspect, he can tell whether or not that individual has committed a crime."
The eminent scientist explained to correspondent Mike Wallace that: "The fundamental difference between an innocent person and a guilty person is that a guilty person has committed a crime" -- an obviously brilliant observation by Harvard's finest. According to Farwell, this means that "the record is stored in his brain. Now we have a way to measure that scientifically." Also according to Farwell: "The brain never lies."
Guilt or innocence, then, can be determined simply by reading the suspect's mind. This ingenious concept has been embraced by, not surprisingly, all the usual suspects. As Wallace noted: "Dr. Farwell's work has been funded by the CIA," and "the FBI is also interested in Brain Fingerprinting and has allowed Dr. Farwell to test his technology at the Bureau's training academy in Quantico, Virginia." Also on board is Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), who "has asked the General Accounting Office to study Farwell's technology to see if it should be federally funded."
Of course, we all know that the CIA and the FBI - not to mention the Republican-led Congress - are uncompromising champions of justice, which is why the doctor is "using a 23-year-old murder case in Iowa to try to prove to a judge that his technology works." As with DNA evidence, the reactionary nature of this technology must be concealed in order to sell its merits to the people. Therefore, when Wallace asked the question of whether the technology will "be used more for exoneration than for nailing a suspect," he received the answer: "I think that's probably going to be where its usefulness is going to be most successful."
On Farwell's web site (http://www.brainwavescience.com), the doctor boldly proclaims his invention to be "a revolutionary new
technology for investigating crimes and exonerating innocent suspects." Closer to the truth though is a statement that Farwell made to a reporter for the Fairfield Ledger: "I like catching the bad guys and bringing them to justice. I think that's a very important thing to do."
Assuming then, purely for the sake of argument of course, that the intentions of the CIA and its erstwhile partners are somewhat less than noble - and that freeing those who have unjustly spent a large portion of their lives behind bars is not the ultimate goal - it is not hard to see where such technology is heading. It is not hard, in fact, to envision a major revision in the American criminal justice system.
The propaganda war to gain popular support has already begun. The primary weapon is, of course, television -- perhaps the most powerful psychological warfare device ever created. In addition to providing a conduit for a non-stop barrage of propaganda, television has had a tremendously corrosive effect on American society.
I am told that prior to the advent of TV, families used to actually communicate with one another from time to time. I've also heard that neighborhoods and communities used to congregate in the evenings to socialize and to enjoy the entertainment provided by local artists and performers. Hard to believe, I know, but many an old-timer swears this to be true.
All of that began to change with the advent of radio and, more significantly, television. At first, of course, only a few could afford the luxury of television, leading to large gatherings at the homes of those fortunate enough to own a set. But before long, nearly every home had one, and community bonds began to break -- with each family retreating to its own home to receive its own personal dose of propaganda.
It wouldn't be long before most homes had multiple TV sets, breaking the family up into even smaller units to receive their evening 'entertainment.' Personal computers and the Internet have further atomized U.S. society, drawing each of us into our own private cyber-world. The ultimate goal is, clearly enough, to devolve society into a brutal, impersonal, every-man-for-himself struggle for survival -- a society devoid of empathy or sympathy.
Of course, it is possible that the destruction of societal bonds was just an unintended and entirely unforeseen consequence of the introduction of the new information media. This interpretation of historical events, however, violates yet another of the inviolate rules of political analysis: almost nothing ever happens by chance, accident or happenstance -- and the consequences of an action are almost always intended. But here I digress.
The point that I was getting to is that - apart from the negative societal impact that the medium itself has had - there is also the inescapable fact that television is a fantastically effective means of conveying propaganda. And make no mistake about it, everything that is beamed at you through your television is propaganda. It should go without saying that this applies to so-called news programming, which is obviously pure propaganda and is recognized as such by most any careful observer.
What is less well understood is that what we refer to as 'entertainment' programming is also largely propaganda, designed to promote a Western view of the world and to create a sort of tunnel-vision that limits our ability to think critically. And why shouldn't that be the case? Such programming is, after all, produced and broadcast by the very same select group of fascist media titans that bring you your news and information.
And, truth be told, much of the current batch of prime time programming is fairly easy to recognize as propaganda. Some of the standouts are the hopelessly romanticized and sanitized view of Washington presented by The West Wing, the openly fascistic 'law-and-order' agenda promoted by The District, and that vision of America as a fully devolved surveillance state that we all know and love as Survivor.
Of particular interest here though are those shows that focus on the legal profession. There are certainly no shortage of such programs gracing America's airwaves these days, the most popular and critically acclaimed of which is probably David Kelley's The Practice. With the recognition that this program - along with countless similar shows - is not merely broadcast for its entertainment value, but as yet another effort by the thought police to shape public opinion, it is instructive to examine what message is being sent out to the viewing public.
The predominate message of The Practice - reinforced on a weekly basis - is that the current adversarial system of jurisprudence is seriously lacking in its ability to dispense justice. The guilt or innocence of the accused is consistently shown to have little or no bearing on the disposition of criminal cases. Defense attorneys routinely win acquittals for clients portrayed as being guilty, and regularly lose cases where their clients are perceived to be innocent.
As Richard Posner - law professor, judge, and probable intelligence asset - has stated: "It has become commonplace that an innocent person has a better chance of acquittal in a European than in an American court, and a guilty person, a better chance of acquittal in an American than in a European court."
It is certainly true that the adversarial system does lead to some egregious miscarriages of justice. These are often due to the extreme corruption of attorneys on both sides of the aisle, as well as various other players within the criminal justice system (the incompetence of various agents of the court sometimes plays a part as well). That's not the way that things play on TV though.
On the small screen, advocates for the state and the accused act with the utmost integrity -- and frequently with a healthy dose of moral outrage. Miscarriages of justice are portrayed as being a natural, and exceedingly common, consequence of the very structure of the American system of criminal justice. The system, in other words, is broken, and the integrity of the actors cannot compensate for that.
But is the system broken? There is no question that the win-at-all-costs mentality engendered by the adversarial system leads to false convictions. But that has always been the case - no more so now than at any other time in the nation's history - and the media, entertainment or otherwise, have never much cared before. Yet if the system is indeed broken now, then it has always been broken.
So why portray it as such now? The answer is, quite simply, because now we have an alternative on the horizon. We now have the ability to scientifically determine innocence or guilt, rendered as a purely objective judgment. DNA testing is claimed to be able to positively identify a person to the exclusion of literally billions of other potential suspects.
Likewise, Brain Fingerprinting is rather preposterously claimed by its inventor to have a "99.99% confidence" level. The argument can then be made: if we can determine a person's guilt to a scientific certainty, why bother with the archaic ritual of a trial? Has that not become an outdated concept? It will surely be argued that adversarial trials are a relic of the past -- a necessary evil to protect the rights of the falsely accused in the days of yore, but entirely unnecessary in an era where technology renders objective decisions.
Barry Scheck himself - hailed by pseudo-progressives for his work with the Innocence Project - publicly suggested in the wake of the Louise Woodward trial that a jury of 'experts' should have been convened to adjudicate such a complicated scientific case. And wasn't that, after all, the message sent to the public by the hideous reporting on the OJ trial? Were we not essentially told that the jury was just too stupid to evaluate the significance of the scientific evidence?
Is this the direction we are headed in the not-too-distant future? Will the convening of 'scientific panels' replace the current juries of our peers? And will this be merely a step towards the elimination of juries altogether, as well as of advocates for the state and the accused? Will justice be dispensed with seeming scientific certainty in the near future? It seems reasonable to assume that this will come to pass.
This won't happen overnight, of course. The restructuring of the criminal justice system will take some time. Every step in the process, of course, will be hailed as a progressive advance. For instance, it will be claimed that no longer will high-dollar lawyers be able to subvert justice for the rich. The playing field will be leveled, with justice no longer for sale; all defendants will be treated equally, with verdicts dependent solely on innocence or guilt. Yeah, right. Nice fairy tale -- but back here on planet Earth, a different reality presents itself.
The most glaring problem with this vision of future justice is that the people who will be analyzing and interpreting the scientific data are the very same people who are currently funding the research -- our good friends at the CIA and various other interwoven intelligence agencies. By fully co-opting all such 'emerging' technology, the national intelligence infrastructure will achieve total control of the dispensation of 'justice.' And that, my friends, is definitely not a good thing.
As Esquire magazine reported in January of 2001: "If you're accused of a crime, the last thing you want to see is an FBI forensic expert testifying for the prosecution. With their aura of independence and integrity, these agents exert a powerful sway over juries. But as the cases of Ralph Plotner and others show, these witnesses are too often the purveyors of contaminated evidence and utter falsehood."
The reality is that adversarial trials, however flawed they may be, are all that stand between you and the unfathomable coercive powers of the state. A good defense attorney and a jury of your peers constitute the best - and only - protection you have from indiscriminate persecution. That is why our current system, warts and all, is infinitely better than the brave new world we are heading towards. But then maybe I'm just paranoid.