3 Even Stranger Things Done in the Name of Science
by Andra Meilă
We all have regrettable things that we would do for money, were we desperate. Mrs. Reader McReadingNow’s momma, for example, does them for free. But what if a guy in a white coat told you that said regrettable thing is also extremely brave and serves humanity on a greater scale? Stanley Milgram (Yale, 1965) would conclude that you’d probably do it, without second thoughts on the ethical consequences of the affair.
There is one particular field which had historically bad ideas, apart from whatever Mrs. Reader McReadingNow’s momma does. Spare the suspense, it’s science.
Today we talk about some psychological or sociological experiments straight out of dystopian futuristic novels (even though most of them happened in the ’60s and somehow involved Stanford University)
1. MK Ultra
For some of us with higher moral values and trust in humanity, the Government is our employee and is supposed to protect us from peril. Only that, sometimes it isn’t, my sweet summer child…
MK Ultra, apart from a totally badass Muse song, was a globally frowned upon extended program conducted by the US Central Intelligence Agency, formerly known as the “CIA mind control program”. It started in 1953 as a Cold War series of experiments, meant to identify and further develop mind-altering substances and other manipulative methods in order to weaken subjects and force confessions, and ended in 1973. Or did it?
Don’t put your tinfoil cap on quite yet. The same agency that recently admitted to spying on people through their webcam went out of its way to fund several universities and penitentiaries, mental institutions, and even brothels throughout the US and Canada to work for them.
In Operation Midnight Climax, they paid prostitutes to lure and slip non-consenting men LSD, while monitoring them and taking notes behind a one-way-mirror.
They are cited to name their endeavor “so called brainwashing”, when in reality all that they were trying to do was reset brain functions, manipulate people to say exactly what they wanted to hear and erase memories. Just like in 1973, they erased all data documenting 10 years of covert activity. Needless to say that it all proved ineffective when people started suing in the ’80s and demanded them to reveal details under the Freedom of Information Act claim. Which of course, they complied. Or did they?
Apart from administering psychoactive substances to unwitting individuals, the CIA also subjected them to sensory deprivation, verbal and sexual abuse (including sexual acts involving children), hypnosis, induced sleep and paralysis, electroshocks, extreme isolation and other forms of torture, in the scope of flexing and exercising their superior authority to the Russians and Chinese.
The purpose? Knowing if they could make Soviet spies spill the beans while severely defect due to drug ingestion. Also, they were afraid their enemies had already developed such chemical weaponry. Paranoid, much? Probably because of all the “material which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness” they made their agents consume.
2. Lauretta Bender’s testing on Children
It wasn’t that long ago that you could call a misbehaving child “autistic” and get away with it. Slap on some fancy glasses, a white coat, a clipboard and a psychiatry degree and you can still call them whatever you want, in fact.
This is exactly what Dr. Lauretta Bender, highly respected neuropsychiatrist, did from 1940 to 1953: diagnosed a bunch of children, some of them orphans, with “autistic schizophrenia” and started administering electroshock therapy to them. She was also experimenting with what she called “treatment endeavors”, drugs provided to her by Sandoz Chemical Co. such as anticonvulsants, amphetamines, and a respiratory stimulant called Metrazol that was reported to cause convulsions. Not the type of caretaker that you would make Mother’s Day cards for, per se.
I guess we could say she went on a bender... Sorry. Lauretta kept publicly praising the results for years, even though she is reported to have said that she was seriously disappointed in them. The effects seemed to make the children even more aggressive and even psychotic.
Some of her colleagues claim to have been shocked and disgusted by her “scandalous” use of electroconvulsive treatment, but none really spoke out to her about it, nor did they call her out on her blatantly racist viewpoints. Dr. Bender reportedly said that “the specific brain impulses” of African-Americans made them able to dance, but incapable of working, due to “prolonged laziness”.
The condition of the children kept worsening: a seven-year-old girl became nearly catatonic after just five electroshock therapy sessions. But some of the unluckier ones, kept receiving even more such treatments. Some of the subjects that she treated grew up to be convicted murderers. But those are the exceptions. Most of them have just been in and out of prison for petty crimes or just crippled by depression and suicidal tendencies.
3. The Aversion Project
Speaking of gross politically incorrectness… Many of us youngsters believe that, after the gruesome crimes against humanity conducted by both the Nazis and Communists during World War II, the world suddenly felt remorseful and started acting accordingly. But what followed was even more hate crimes. A particularly good example of a country so traditionally religious and racially divided, that it still struggles to recover after segregation, is South Africa.
The Aversion Project is only one of the numerous scandalous affairs for which the apartheid era South Africa Defence Forces still hasn’t fully been held responsible for. SADF found a loophole to both compel young men to join the military force as conscripts and ban homosexuality in permanent members. Ergo, they adopted and enforced a dual policy. Regardless, if God forbid! you were to be a conscript and also happened to be a homosexual, you were forced to undergo a human rights violating “therapy”. Mainly because old timey psychiatrists believed having non-heteronormative sexual orientations was a mental illness, and attempting to treat it became a weird trend that they encouraged in the ’70s. Not unlike the mullet.
The typical therapy session would consist of a “doctor”, looking not too much unlike this picture, strapped electrodes to a soldier’s upper arm and made him watch erotic black and white photos of men. They would then stress how important it was for the soldier to fantasize about shown pictures. The electrodes would be run through a dial with current intensity varying from 1 to 10. If the conscript showed any signs of physical arousal, he would be administered a shock and the voltage would keep increasing as the soldier continued to exhibit response. This was supposed to make the youngsters associate lust with the sickening body feeling, the pain and the nausea.
After the first part of the session ended, the person-in-charge would show the soldier a coloured picture of a woman, as a test. Needless to say, it more often than not, failed miserably to stimulate arousal. The ones who weren’t converted successfully (i.e.most people) yielded to the more advanced part of the “therapy”, including injection of hormones, chemical castration, and even sexual realignment procedures. If they still weren’t “cured”, well… They would just be excluded socially and professionally, to the point that they were not trusted with sensitive information and be treated significantly different from their peers. Of course, they had no chance of ever gaining status and be given leadership positions.
The project did not manage to bring any scientific evidence to their claim, but continued until 1973, years after medical officials debunked the myth that homosexuality is a mental condition.
If you’re interested in more conspiracies, the ’70s, wack drug trials and unethical experimentation on children, make sure to check out Stranger Things.
For more terrifying things science has done, check out 9 Real Life Mad Scientists and The 5 Weirdest Drug Experiments Performed on Animals. [sursa: Cracked]
Still want more tortured children? Try our article The 6 Cruelest Science Experiments Ever (Were Done on Kids)