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UG#530 - Exploiting Human Resources (20th Century Control Hierarchies)

Robin Upton | 19.12.2010 11:25 | Analysis | History | Repression | Sheffield

This week we hear a radio adaptation of Scott Noble's 2 hour video documentary, Human Resources, supplemented by some remarks of John Taylor Gatto on the history of forced schooling. Human Resources charts the rise of social control by large organisations in the 20th century, focusing on the use of behaviourism and eugenics. It tells how the moneyed elite sidelined ethical concerns as they funded increasingly destructive experiments into the manipulation of individuals and populations. Focusing on USA, we see how initial research results such as the Hawthorn Effect and the frustration-aggression hypothesis paved the way for more destructive research such as MK-ULTRA carried out on citizens by the military and the CIA in the name of 'national security'.

530-hour1mix.mp3 - mp3 27M

530-hour2mix.mp3 - mp3 27M

Our first hour starts with John Taylor Gatto recalling how mass compulsion schooling was contemplated towards the end of the 19th century by US industrialists intent on engineering a compliant workforce for use on production lines. This sets the scene for Scott Noble's film, which starts by introducing behaviourism and B.F. Skinner. It tells how sponsorship of Behaviourism was used by the elite to create controlled workplaces and classrooms as means of controlling the great mass of society. It also touches upon the manner in which these crude psychological techniques were applied and refined by advertisers. Noam Chomsky illuminates the parallel between state capitalism and state socialism - they both used hierarchy and confined autonomy to an elite group. He recalls Bakunuin's correct (and much ignored) prediction that one group of the elite would attempt to control the state apparatus for their own ends (USSR), while another, more subtle system would emerge (USA) in which the moneyed elite appeared to be independent of it.

By way of alternatives to the model of hierarchical control, Michael Albert speaks on Parecon, the alternate economic system he co-developed. John Taylor Gatto then explains how the status quo was made to look natural; he unmasks the real hidden agenda of modern schooling:- Confusion, Class position, Indifference, Emotional Dependency, Intellectual Dependency & Provisional Self-Esteem. Alfie Kohn clarifies the pointlessness of standardised tests for educational purposes, while noting their importance for under-girding centralised control by alienating children from independent thinking and damaging their impulse to play and collaborate with others. He revises popular misconceptions of Darwinian evolution by noting that the more challenging a task, the greater the need for cooperation instead of competition. We close the first hours by hearing Howard Zinn note how racism, sexism, homophobia etc. are essentially a divide and conquer technique used by the ruling elite.

The documentary continues in the second hour with a section on serial killers. Elliott Leyton notes that this form of madness is largely misrepresented by the media. Far from being random and incomprehensible, it reflects a self-expression by desperate individuals who are responding to the violence based culture around them. Similarly, 'juvenile delinquency', is not a normal or natural phenomenon, but is culturally conditioned, though its depiction as natural serves those who seek to promote the fearmongers. The film chronicles development and investigation of the frustration-aggression hypothesis, whereby experimental subjects who discern unfairness - whether rats or children - then evidence an increase in aggressive behaviour.

Having broadly outlined the initial behaviourist research, "Human Resources" then tells how the CIA tried to build on them with mind control exercises such as MK-ULTRA. Colin Ross clearly debunks the idea that mind control research by USA agencies was a response to communist experiments. In fact, the western programmes were running before the "brainwashing" stories of the Korean War, whose framing and reporting itself was a spin operation. We hear TV footage of a report into CIA experiments on children, including administration of LSD. Whilst the paper trail for western mind control experiments ends in 1973, Colin Ross is clear that he believes that the experiments continued unabated, and that the Behaviourist mind control techniques were codified in the KUBARK and Human Resource Exploitation Training Manuals of interrogators, which SOA spread to South America, and were applied in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other classified sites.

The film concludes by noting that television has expanded the research field into fear based conditioning beyond its humble beginnings - social control through fear-based social conditioning is now carried out routinely on most populations of the 'developed' world. We conclude with some reflections on the meaning of this sad chapter of 20th century history, ended by John Taylor Gatto who summarises the deleterious effects of mass compulsion schooling.

Thanks to Scott Noble for another great documentary!

Robin Upton
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