THE SILVER CASE: What Is Uehara Kamui?

Source of this promotional image.

In The Shock Doctrine, a classic if overstated account of the rise of neoliberalism, Naomi Klein begins not with economics or politics but with discussion of Cameron’s MKULTRA experiments. She quotes Cameron’s belief that “(a) our continued sensory input, and (b) our memory” create a sense of self and so, for psychic driving, must be eliminated via electric shock and prolonged periods of sensory deprivation (43). While these secret attempts at brainwashing people in the dark failed at their stated goals, Klein argues they succeeded at another: developing methods of torture that would “shock” prisoners to a pliable state. Deriving confessions and suppressing dissenters with terror are distinct, of course, from “brainwashing” sleeper agents.

Cameron himself openly compared what he was doing to torturing prisoners (44), and the torture techniques CIA agents would use and teach to various far-right dictatorships resemble his depatterning experiments and some other MKULTRA studies. At least one since-declassified CIA handbook, Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation (which you can read in its entirety online) that dates to shortly after the end of MKULTRA, describes several of the methods Cameron used to depattern patients and emphasizes regressing prisoners to a condition of such trauma and disorientation they will be unable to stop themselves from complying with the torturer’s demands. Klein quotes University of Wisconsin historian Alfred W. McCoy calling the Kubark sensory deprivation techniques as “the first real revolution in the cruel science of pain in more than three centuries” (quoted on 49).

Klein next considers the extreme free market hypotheses of the Chicago School of economics, particularly as Milton Friedman advocated them to world leaders. Originally fringe, these ideas would later justify the neoliberal project. To summarize hundreds of pages, Klein takes Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Poland, Russia, Iraq, and many other countries as case studies to argue that neoliberal policies were imposed on previously resistant societies via an analogous form of “shock treatment” that, in several cases, directly involved the use of torture featuring depatterning techniques. She claims other “shocks” have been exploited in “developed” countries to impose these same policies. This is the “shock doctrine” referred to in the title. “[T]he original disaster—the coup, the terrorist attack, the market meltdown, the war, the tsunami, the hurricane—puts the entire population into a state of collective shock. […] Like the terrorized prisoner[, …] shocked societies often give up things they would otherwise fiercely protect” (20).

Chilean soldiers burning books. Source.

The first full neoliberal project was the work of Augusto Pinochet’s government, which took power in the 1973 coup that ended democracy in Chile. The Pinochet government is notorious for mass killings, torture, disappearing artists, and book burnings (the reason Pinochet remains popular among Nazis online). Klein describes Pinochet and his government’s extensive collaboration with businessmen, the CIA, and the “Chicago Boys,” economists eager to test Chicago School ideas, including Sergio de Castro. “The shock of the coup prepared the ground for economic shock therapy; the shock of the torture chamber terrorized anyone thinking of standing in the way of the economic shocks. Out of this live laboratory emerged the first Chicago School state” (87).

Klein emphasizes that the mass torture and murder, as well as a deliberate recession Milton Friedman advised Pinochet to start, are not incidental or unrelated to the upward transfer of wealth in Chile and the destruction of trade unions and leftist culture, to the emergence of what was branded “Chile’s Brave New World of Reaganomics” (164). The torture, executions, and impoverishment were how the neoliberal economic policies were accomplished.