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This stinks
October 2, 2008 4:43 AM   Subscribe

Imagine the worst, most foul thing you have ever smelled. An overpowering mix of rotting meat, old socks that haven't been washed for weeks - topped off with the pungent waft of an open sewer. Imagine being covered in the stuff as it is liberally sprayed from a water cannon. Then imagine not being able to get rid of the stench for at least three days, no matter how often you try to scrub yourself clean. Introducing Israel's new, non-lethal but highly effective and highly offensive weapon: Skunk.
posted by flapjax at midnite (62 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Well, that would be one way to get my dog...and the rest of the dogs in the neighborhood...to enjoy being around me for days.
posted by rand at 5:12 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ha. I'd be the only one still standing around in the newly dispused crowed, saying: hey, where's everyone going? Because I can't smell a lot of the time, thanks to poorly managed allergies. As a nurse it comes in handy more than not.

I can't believe there's not some home remedy to stop the smell more quickly days after. Give the Hints from Heloise people of the world some time to come up with a white vinagar or baking soda bath / mask to solve that issue sooner.
posted by dog food sugar at 5:14 AM on October 2, 2008


Someone will come up with a way to wash it out. Maybe reverse engineer it and throw it back at police.

Also, wouldn't using this to break up a downtown riot force all downtown businesses to close for as many days as it takes to get rid of the smell? It might be worth getting sprayed if you knew you could interrupt all local activity like that.
posted by pracowity at 5:26 AM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this sounds like one of those cure worse than the disease things. I can see it now: Palestinian protest in the heart of a heavily tourist visited part of Jerusalem, Skunk truck rolls in and sprays protesters, area is effectively removed from the tourist track for months. I'm sure businesses will love it.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:29 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Any activist worth his salt is right now thinking about how to dump a vat of this all over those in power.
posted by Ryvar at 5:32 AM on October 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


Coming soon to a RNC near you!
posted by Mr_Zero at 5:34 AM on October 2, 2008


Hypothesis: This will be of limited efficacy against civil disturbances because it will not deter crust punks.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:43 AM on October 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


Fired from an Oozinator, it becomes "spunk".
posted by Tube at 5:43 AM on October 2, 2008


This already existed, it's called durian.
posted by snofoam at 5:44 AM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Please. If smelling raw sewage was that offensive, no one would live in Jersey.

Besides, I highly doubt it's a great idea to make life more miserable for discontented youths who really don't have a hell of a lot to lose.
posted by jnaps at 6:02 AM on October 2, 2008


It's actually, from a tactical (and environmental) standpoint, a pretty interesting idea, but I don't know how effective it will be. Wouldn't the effects of this stuff be easily counteracted with a gas mask? And anyway, if you're a suicide bomber, a little stank ain't gonna prevent you from carrying out your holy mission.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:03 AM on October 2, 2008


It might be worth getting sprayed if you knew you could interrupt all local activity like that.

Seriously. Instead of suicide squads, Hamas would only need some people who were willing to get skunked repeatedly and they could shut down targeted areas over and over again, disrupt public transportation, and generally make life a constant misery without resorting to killing.
posted by briank at 6:06 AM on October 2, 2008


Well, that would be one way to get my dog...and the rest of the dogs in the neighborhood...to enjoy being around me for days.

Actually very probably not - being skunked actually causes dogs physical pain sometimes, due to the stench.

It occurs to me too that activists who got their hands on this "weapon" could use it against troops and suppression forces just as easily.
posted by kalessin at 6:10 AM on October 2, 2008


Or they could skunk the crowds in a different way and wait for them to wander off.

Or, you know, hold a cheeseburger upwind of them.
posted by mandal at 6:30 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hypothesis: This will be of limited efficacy against civil disturbances because it will not deter crust punks.

hell, this'll be a free shower for some of the crust punks i know
posted by mannequito at 6:30 AM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hamas would only need some people who were willing to get skunked repeatedly

Or they could just buy some hazmat suits.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:42 AM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


If it stinks for 3 days, most likely it's a form of thioacetates that slowly degrade into stinky thiols (that's the magic stink in skunk juice, our noses detect them in tiny quantities- down to parts per billion). If this is the case, then I suspect the hydrogen peroxide / baking soda / dish soap cure for skunk stink will work on this variant. They may be using something else, but the organic nature of the ingredients sure makes me think thiols.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:44 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


This may backfire on the military when they arrest the demonstrators. How do they plan on holding them, and which lucky soldiers get to guard them?
posted by ardgedee at 6:49 AM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


From New Scientist, July 7, 2001, Stench Warfare:
On Monday 16 August 1999, a little after 9 am, staff at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington DC were settling down to work. Then someone in the cafeteria smelt something unfamiliar. It wasn't very strong but it was definitely a bit "off". No one could see where it was coming from and no one could identify the odour. That made it suspicious. Was this a terrorist gas attack?

Someone raised the alarm. The building was quickly evacuated and nine staff from the cafeteria were rushed to hospital. People fled, leaving police, a hazardous-materials team, an advanced life-support unit, doctors, four teams of paramedics and the local fire chief to investigate. They didn't find any chemical weapons. But they did find a bag of rotting onions-they had been peeled and sliced for the salad bar and then forgotten.

The unfamiliar smell had wafted through the air ducts, spreading fear as it went. If people had been able to identify the smell, they wouldn't have panicked. "But when people don't recognise a smell they assume it's a hazard," says psychologist Pam Dalton.
Smells like Washington spirit to me...
posted by cenoxo at 6:54 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've sampled wells at a commercial dock infested with degraded gasoline and fish guts... I'm not so sure that this weapon would work on me anymore.
posted by smackwich at 7:06 AM on October 2, 2008


Rather than spending all that R&D money, they could have just purchased all the garbage left behind at Burning Man and pureed it.
posted by netbros at 7:12 AM on October 2, 2008


do Israelis really need to further humiliate oppressed Palestinians? this is in poor taste (figuratively).
posted by mary8nne at 7:14 AM on October 2, 2008


Didn't Dave Matthew's Band do this already?
posted by JBennett at 7:33 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Splat.
posted by JBennett at 7:35 AM on October 2, 2008


Skunk
posted by kcds at 7:38 AM on October 2, 2008


There's nothing I like more than tromping in to work, firing up the ol' Metafilter, and being driven to gagging by the first thing I read. Thanks, flapjax!
posted by kittyprecious at 7:51 AM on October 2, 2008


I like how in that first link the list of related posts includes topics such as "The Stages of Ending a Relationship" and "How to Pick up a Woman." Curiously, neither article involves dousing one's self or the other party in Skunk.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 7:52 AM on October 2, 2008


This may backfire on the military when they arrest the demonstrators.

You seem to be missing the point (along with people who are talking about suicide bombers) - this is meant to disperse crowds.
posted by Dasein at 7:52 AM on October 2, 2008


"It's totally harmless, you can even drink it," boasted Superintendent Harosh - as though encouraging me to swallow a mouthful.

After you, Superintendent.


For those looking for a magic skunk-smell remover (talking about actual skunks here) - the answer is Massegill douche, the powder that comes in an envelope. No joke, it works.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:11 AM on October 2, 2008


he was shot from close range with at least three rubber-coated steel bullets.

It's good that they are re-thinking their less than lethal technology, because rubber-coated steel bullets sounds like an incredibly stupid effort in that direction.

As to people getting a hold of this formula and using it against the police, I have a feeling that it works something like this: when the police use it on activists, it's 'urban pacification', when activists use it on them, it's 'suspected terrorism' and people get shot.

It's unfortunate and unfair, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's the way it would play out.
posted by quin at 8:12 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


this is meant to disperse crowds

So instead of a gang of angry rock-throwing people, it will be a gang of angry and incredibly stinky people who don't need to throw rocks at their foes, just stand upwind of them.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:16 AM on October 2, 2008


The more you tighten your grip on your sewage-scent spray hose, the more the occupied territories will slip through your fingers
posted by Auden at 8:23 AM on October 2, 2008


It can be assumed that the authorities have an "antidote", a solvent that is specially engineered to dissolve this particular substance.

They are not going to evacuate police headquarters for 3 days just because someone spills some in the supply room, and not going to send an officer home for a week because he got some on him during a quelling.

Likewise a special truck will come by and spray down the market area so people can come back the next day.

As Dasein said, this is for dispersing crowds. It has no other real tactical use.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:25 AM on October 2, 2008


This reminds me of the most recent episode of Prison Break with the Bucket O' Stench torture.

I've really got nothing else to say. I like Prison Break. I wonder if the Israeli army is going to go to dismantle The Company...
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:39 AM on October 2, 2008


this is for dispersing crowds

Thing is, once you're skunked, you're skunked; the stink stays with you wherever you go. Why not just stay put?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:46 AM on October 2, 2008


Doesn't Jeff "Skunk" Baxter work at the Pentagon now? I wonder if he developed this.
posted by emelenjr at 8:46 AM on October 2, 2008


Oh, also: In the 80's there was a He-Man villain named Skunkor. I had the action figure.

It smelled like patchouli.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:48 AM on October 2, 2008



For those looking for a magic skunk-smell remover (talking about actual skunks here) - the answer is Massegill douche, the powder that comes in an envelope. No joke, it works.
posted by Kirth Gerson


Massengill has more 'snicker value', but Nature's Miracle is cheaper.
posted by Herodios at 9:26 AM on October 2, 2008


what are they going to call themselves - the polecat patrol?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:28 AM on October 2, 2008


From what I learned on The Partridge Family wouldn't an easy defense against this weapon just be to carry around a large supply of tomato juice?
posted by The Gooch at 9:29 AM on October 2, 2008


Good to know that our ally is developing new chemical weaponry.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:36 AM on October 2, 2008


[after being 'skunked']... Why not just stay put?

Because from the description, this isn't just thiols, which makes skunks smell, but also diamines, like putrescine and cadaverine which come from rotting flesh. Thiols stink bad and cause eye irritation, diamines, however, make you vomit.

In my experience, mercaptans/thiols are unpleasant enough to clear a room, but no one wants to smell concentrated diamines for long.
posted by bonehead at 9:54 AM on October 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


It can be assumed that the authorities have an "antidote", a solvent that is specially engineered to dissolve this particular substance.

I would not assume such, at least, I've never found a magic solution for cleaning these compounds. The baking soda/hydrogen peroxide/soap (Fenton's reagent) solutions mentioned above are the best thing going and they don't work perfectly.
posted by bonehead at 9:57 AM on October 2, 2008


bonehead: I would just assume (again, that dangerous activity) that it was part of the device's creation.

If these people had any sense, part of the initial design HAD to include a magic solvent.

Otherwise, these people are just idiots. Which may be the case.

I mean, of COURSE it is going to get places you don't want it to. Accidents happen, as well as malfeasance.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:05 AM on October 2, 2008


Whenever I need to know if Israel is doing something right, I check for seething and gnashing on Metafilter.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:23 AM on October 2, 2008


If these people had any sense

At the risk of setting off a shit fit of epic proportions, I must advise you to remember who you're talking about.

Sure, it's more humane than bullets, and probably more effective than tear gas. But antidote or not, it's probably not very sensible for that particular nation to be unveiling a new line of chemical warfare agents.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:26 AM on October 2, 2008


As to people getting a hold of this formula and using it against the police, I have a feeling that it works something like this: when the police use it on activists, it's 'urban pacification', when activists use it on them, it's 'suspected terrorism' and people get shot.

I don't know that I've ever even heard of protesters turning around anything even as non-lethal as a crowd-dispersal water cannon onto police, let alone high-tech police weaponry. It's a big world with a long history so presumably something like that has happened, but I can't see it as much of a concern.

(And since the most heavily-armed protesters intent on starting fights seem to have an secret history of likely being police agent-provocateurs, turning the skunk around is probably not on their agenda either :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 10:32 AM on October 2, 2008


it's probably not very sensible for that particular nation to be unveiling a new line of chemical warfare agents.

Hazmat suits are a powerful image. Giving that imagery to protesters will help their cause. The police get to control and scatter the protest. The protesters get massive publicity and support. It's win-win.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:35 AM on October 2, 2008


Please. If smelling raw sewage was that offensive, no one would live in Jersey.

Hey! South Jersey is quite nice, and the toll roads are frequented by tiny, cigarette-eating deer.
posted by mecran01 at 10:44 AM on October 2, 2008


I refuse to believe that "putrescine" and "cadaverine" are real words.
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:03 PM on October 2, 2008


Wouldn't the effects of this stuff be easily counteracted with a gas mask?

No, not if you mean a standard mask with filters like you can buy at a hardware store. The only thing that works for these kinds of compounds in higher doses are over-pressured mask+tank systems, self-contained breathing apparatuses, like firefighters have.
posted by bonehead at 1:52 PM on October 2, 2008


Holy cow! They started using this in Nilin a few days after I left the area. I received an email from a friend who remained on site with ISM and he was freaking out - apparently everyone thought they were spraying waste water from portable toilets at the protesters. He also said that a few people became violently ill after being hosed with it.
The next week they just sprayed plain blue water, no foul odor.

They do the same thing with the gas - sometimes it's CS gas, sometimes standard tear gas, and sometimes you can hardly smell it at all. I heard a story about a Gaza barricade protest where they fired gas on the protesters and everyone started laughing, "This isn't gas! It smells like mint!" Later that night they tried to claw their skin off.

Either way - I suppose this is much better than a rubber bullet to the head. Of course, back here in the states if you sprayed your neighbor with shit every time he came out of his house to complain about you stealing his land, you'd probably go to jail.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:54 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cadaverine is the smell of the gigantic corpse flower, by the way.
posted by bonehead at 1:55 PM on October 2, 2008


>I refuse to believe that "putrescine" and "cadaverine" are real words.

You will pay dearly for your intransigence. Guards-- cite prior usage!
posted by darth_tedious at 2:06 PM on October 2, 2008


Hey! South Jersey is quite nice, and the toll roads are frequented by tiny, cigarette-eating deer.

Yeah, not all of Jersey smells, but the part that does is quite populated. Savannah (and other cities with paper mills) smells like a pile of poop whenever the wind shifts, and people stay there, too. So I'm just thinking that making impoverished, pissed off people smell bad is probably going to not work out in the long run. It's not like they have anywhere to go.

I'm all for Israel protecting itself. I've been there, and it's a beautiful country and the people were always very kind to me.

I'm also for people being able to protest something without having chemicals tossed on them that will make them vomit. I mean, seriously, Israel? How does removing a healthy form of dissent make Israel safer from suicide bombers?
posted by jnaps at 2:11 PM on October 2, 2008


“It's good that they are re-thinking their less than lethal technology, because rubber-coated steel bullets sounds like an incredibly stupid effort in that direction.”

Yes and no. Here’s the thing - rubber bullets (steel coated) are less lethal in part because most of the internal damage from bullets are done by fragmentation and spalling and so forth and rubber mitigates this to some degree.

But in terms of external contact - bullets hurt you not only because of the kinetic energy (which really, in even a powerful weapon isn’t enough to, say, throw the guy who’s shooting you backwards) but because of how fast they lose/transfer their momentum.

The faster something loses its momentum the more force it produces (speaking loosely here, I know firearms but I’m no physicist). So the shorter the impact time - more damage, penetration, etc.

Rubber mitigates the amount of time the bullet transfers momentum and spreads it out over a longer period. So it’s not like getting hit with a brick vs. getting hit with a brick wrapped around a lemon peel.

With a solid rubber core you get a LOT of bounce, but little energy delivery. Sounds good, but walls don’t absorb much energy either. So you get a lot of ricochet. And, like walls, bone absorbs a lot of energy. So if it hits you in the head at ballistic velocity - even on a bounce - it could kill you.

With a steel core you have something to deliver at least some kinetic energy to the target and less ricochet. So they are - paradoxically - less dangerous.

This apart from the grain loads, and other stuff. And apart from the philosophy of using pain and damage to whomever the targets are on a broad scale.
(I think sabot/rubber baton ammo is ideal for non-lethal situations, but it’s a very limited measure and not for use on a broad scale.
F’rinstance - some guy wants to kill himself, but he’s psychotic and might want to kill you too and he’s got a knife or something. Well, it’s folly to just shoot him. And tasers aren’t that reliable or safe. So you use the less than lethal stuff. Aim for center mass. Knock him out or knock the wind out of him, etc. And cart him off.)

But y’know, why not - talk? Maybe? To them?
If you’ve got masses of people protesting - maybe you’re not doing everything exactly right.
I mean they’re developing, pro-actively, ways to counter *future* protests. So, uh, what’s that say about, y’know, policy?
S’like Costanza laying in wait to use “Jerk store.” Just looking for something to happen.
I think 1/2 these kinds of things are developed with no clear goal in mind.

Yes, it’s for mass protests, crowd control, clearing the streets, etc. etc. - but in support of what goal?

Hey, I could build a multi-barrel repeating machine gun that fires sharpened stair rods, but what the hell am I going to use it for? (Given that there are no mass hoardes of invading vampires).

Even then - why are the vampires invading? What’s their motivation? Can we settle for trade? I mean, they can work all night, they don’t get tired, they don’t need air, they’re immune to disease, radiation, etc. I’m sure we could cut a deal where we give them blood plasma and they do some dirty jobs.

Hell, savings in lives and time and money in the mining industry alone would be a positive boon.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:09 PM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Bones don’t absorb a lot of energy - should be. The flesh underneath - the brain, does)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:11 PM on October 2, 2008


(Gah. You get the idea. I need some Dayquil today)
posted by Smedleyman at 3:12 PM on October 2, 2008


Whenever I need to know if Israel is doing something right, I check for seething and gnashing on Metafilter.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:23 AM on October 2 [+] [!]

Well then, given the fact that there's been very little "seething and gnashing" going on in this particular thread, I suppose we can assume that, for what might be the first time ever, Krrrlson, you are of the opinion that Israel is doing something wrong.

Astounding.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:25 PM on October 2, 2008


This already existed, it's called durian.

... but lots of people love to eat the stuff. Proof positive that stench-based weaponry doesn't work.
posted by thbt at 10:31 AM on October 3, 2008


For accidental spills and street cleanup you'd just use bleach. Great for cleaning everything except people.
posted by ryanrs at 11:08 AM on October 3, 2008


The problem with the rubber-coated steel bullets is that they are supposed to be "skip-fired" along the road surface to impact legs but that certain members of the IDF occasionally miss or even deliberately aim at the head or other body parts. Rubber-coated steel bullets are not rubber bullets or batons and can be just as lethal as regular bullets when fired at the 100-200yd range that most confrontations happen.

I'd rather see the usage of skunk (as in weed) as a method to reduce violence than either rubber-coated bullets or any form of chemical weapon. Get everybody high as a kite, feed them cakes and cookies and then listen to some happy music*.


*not a genuine world-peace solution.
posted by longbaugh at 4:37 AM on October 6, 2008


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