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Four Lights
March 31, 2003 2:35 PM   Subscribe

...implants a device in his body that delivers agonizing pain at the push of a button, and over the course of many days attempts to wear him down through a disturbingly simple process of psychological warfare. He is seated in a chair with four bright lights shining in his face, and the captor attempts through painful coercion to make him say that there are, in fact, five lights. Every time he refuses to say there are five lights, he is drilled with pain. In essence, he is expected to deny the reality described by his own eyes, and surrender the will of his mind to the definition of reality offered by his captor. Four Lights, a thesis [2]
posted by holloway (39 comments total)

 
This post is really very interesting, looking into how such dark psychological experiments can seep from academia into such barometers of mainstream consciousness as

BZZZZZ

OW OW OW I'M SORRY THIS POST SUCKS this post sucks... [sob]...
posted by Pretty_Generic at 2:43 PM on March 31, 2003


I thought we already agreed that on IRC.
posted by holloway at 2:45 PM on March 31, 2003


Shh. THEY don't know that. The readership.

Can I just say, hi everyone! You're all marvellous.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 2:50 PM on March 31, 2003


I remember This from Star Trek. The whole thing made Picard grow whiskers and pass out. It must be rough.
posted by Perigee at 2:51 PM on March 31, 2003


Perigee - that's the first thing I thought of - I'm just a big geek...
posted by jazon at 2:52 PM on March 31, 2003


It's always nice when someone finds an new way to express and old feeling. Nice link.

(And I always liked that Star Trek episode. David Warner rules!)
posted by Cyrano at 2:53 PM on March 31, 2003


"Yup, five lights. Can I go now?"

I think this is only torture for idiots and people who are under magical spells so they can't lie.
posted by kavasa at 2:53 PM on March 31, 2003


kavasa - the thesis tries to point out similar dynamics of forced, arbitrary consensus reality in the real world. What does "can I go now?" mean in that context?
posted by scarabic at 3:00 PM on March 31, 2003


This Truthout.org editorial from October 2002 uses the same Star Trek/Four Lights analogy to talk about Iraq and the economy. A little too coincidental.
posted by waxpancake at 3:00 PM on March 31, 2003


Scarabic - same thing. You quit your job, you don't watch news networks you don't like, whatever. Not too hard, in my experience.
posted by kavasa at 3:03 PM on March 31, 2003


waxy, he linked the link you linked as [2] in the post.
posted by riffola at 3:04 PM on March 31, 2003


Isn't this ripped from 1984? 2+2=5?
posted by zerofoks at 3:05 PM on March 31, 2003


zerofoks - Yeah.. I'm surprised this is being used as a Star Trek reference, since it's clearly Orwellian in origin. Almost straight out of 1984.
posted by Wingy at 3:08 PM on March 31, 2003


Isn't this ripped from 1984? 2+2=5?

The second link mentions this. It's a good read.
posted by frykitty at 3:11 PM on March 31, 2003


Anyways, I don't really get what this post is aiming at. I mean, what's there to discuss? That there's a lot of people who want you to believe in wrong stuff? And force you into it?
posted by zerofoks at 3:12 PM on March 31, 2003


Of course the opposite of this would be Plato and his Cave.
He would argue you shouldn't trust what you see.(as the ultimate reality) Maybe there are five lights.
posted by JohnR at 3:20 PM on March 31, 2003


I think the idea is that we're brainwashed by society to believe things that are patently false.

In the first essay, the five lights are religion, and the pain is ostracism. There are many examples of this kind of mass delusion, often perpetrated intentionally by those in power. Believe what we say, or you'll be shouted down.

On the other hand, I think most folks honestly believe they see only four lights.
posted by frykitty at 3:21 PM on March 31, 2003


There are five lights.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 3:24 PM on March 31, 2003


I think the idea is that we're brainwashed by society to believe things that are patently false.

But that is the normal state of things. Society telling the individual the truth is the exception.

I don't get what's there to discuss...

But maybe that's because I am just seeing three lights. teener neener neeener!
posted by zerofoks at 3:28 PM on March 31, 2003


It's the rats.
posted by konolia at 3:46 PM on March 31, 2003


This is a really interesting parable actually because it can be used by both sides in any really heated dispute. I mean, the 4/5 light thing is an easy lob, simply quantitative. But, when you get to counting protestors [we know there were more than twelve, but less than 50,000] or even more complex issues like whether the economy is doing badly, each side can say NO THERE'S FOUR LIGHTS and think they're right. It's a subtle shift, but you can see it happening, quantity to quality.

The other side can then cry brainwashing, and you're back to sqaure one. It seems to be more of an exercise in claiming the moral high ground than any real eye-opening tool of oppressors or freedom fighters. More to the point, what was it you'd like to discuss holloway, anything in particular?
posted by jessamyn at 3:46 PM on March 31, 2003


I see two dolphins.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:49 PM on March 31, 2003


"Sure, there are five lights. If by 'five' you mean 'four.'"
posted by kaibutsu at 4:04 PM on March 31, 2003


There can't be five lights.
Light bulbs come in packages of four.

There are, however, ten hot dogs and eight buns.
posted by wendell at 4:47 PM on March 31, 2003


I see one big mass of derailment deluxe.
posted by zerofoks at 5:06 PM on March 31, 2003


I see more lights than I can count.
posted by pyramid termite at 5:08 PM on March 31, 2003


I only see one light ... oops, I left my glasses off.
posted by Dillenger69 at 5:32 PM on March 31, 2003


I see dead lights.
posted by balinx at 5:36 PM on March 31, 2003


Reading that essay I had the same thought: change just a few words and it could be a Christian talking about how hard it is to resist the pressures of the secular world. There are various tools (like stories intended to show how important it is to Stand Up For Your Beliefs) that can be used by a wide variety of different meme-complexes to innoculate their carriers against subversion...
posted by davidchess at 5:37 PM on March 31, 2003


2+2=5
posted by shoepal at 5:42 PM on March 31, 2003


I see a thousand points of light.

Oh, wait, wrong Bush regime.
posted by lasthrsman at 5:55 PM on March 31, 2003


Of course the opposite of this would be Plato and his Cave.
He would argue you shouldn't trust what you see.(as the ultimate reality) Maybe there are five lights.


If I am ever captured and interrogated, this will be what I tell my captors.

(I'll follow with a discourse on Platonic forms, and maybe we'll even get into some Socratic dialogue!)
posted by weston at 6:14 PM on March 31, 2003


change just a few words and it could be a Christian talking about how hard it is to resist the pressures of the secular world.

christians themselves preach that you have to have faith that the fifth light exists, even though it's invisible, etc etc. Religious belief is not based on immediate perception, so I don't think this parable would work that way around.

But Jessamyn's right; with many things it could be traded back and forth - it's hard to get a good view of the lights.
posted by mdn at 6:27 PM on March 31, 2003


Just cross your eyes and lose focus a little bit, and you can make some of the lights overlap and count 'em as three or whatever. No problemo.
posted by beth at 6:32 PM on March 31, 2003


I have intelligence, ability, charm, and ambition. I could wrap this town around my finger if I wanted to. But first, I have to answer the question, "How many lights do you see?"

I think he is wrong on this point.

--


Also, I think perhaps two of the lights are placed in very close proximity, and the exact number of seperate light sorces is obscured by the corona.
posted by delmoi at 7:05 PM on March 31, 2003


beth, I see like that all the time. But there are still four lights. Now zap me baby, zap me!
posted by dg at 7:28 PM on March 31, 2003


I've never really thought about what it would be for non-xian to live in a thoroughly xian town. That kind of situation can't really happen in my country (New Zealand). Cheers for the interesting link.
posted by mhjb at 8:33 PM on March 31, 2003


One, two...uh.... Many! There are many lights!
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:31 PM on March 31, 2003


The first link was a powerful, well written, intelligent story. The second link sucked.
posted by MarkO at 10:50 PM on March 31, 2003


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