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"Star Trek" has a lot to answer for

Last fall, when the Red Sox came back from losing three games to the Yankees and won the American League pennant, Bostonians were understandably excited. Excited enough to turn out and riot. In their attempts to disperse the crowds, Boston police used a variety of new weapons -- including an air-powered gun that fired a pepper-spray ball. Unfortunately for one young co-ed, the officer's shot went high and caught her in the eye. She subsequently died from the injury. Yesterday, the report on the incident was released.

This brought the spotlight on what the ignorant call "non-lethal weapons" and experts call "less lethal weapons." And the discrepancy between the terms is a huge chasm.

We are now entering the third generation that grew up on Hollywood violence. In the world of entertainment, there are phasers set on stun, blows to the head or neck, and mysterious gases that can all safely render a person or persons unconscious almost instantly. And they are all fantasy.

There are no "stun guns." Tasers and the like incapacitate, but as has been shown all too often, can often kill.

There are no safe blows to the head or neck -- they, too, can kill, cripple, or permanently injure. Martial artists speak of being able to kill with a paper clip or a toothpick, not to mention their bare hands -- and do so.

And there are no magic gases. After 9/11, there were a lot of well-intentioned people who suggested all airliners be equipped with "knockout gas" that the pilots could use to quickly and subdue every single person in the passenger compartment in case of an emergency. I heard an anaethesiologist address this one.

Rendering a person unconscious, according to this doctor, is almost as much art as science. It must be carefully calibrated to the individual. And a dosage that will knock out a grown man quickly will most likely kill a child or anyone with a breathing disorder (asthma, bronchitis, and the like). Just imagine the lawsuits and charges when the first airliner lands with three sleeping terrorists, 80 sleeping passengers, seven dead children, and four dead adults.

Hollywood has perpetrated a tremendous fraud on the public. There are no such things as "non-lethal" weapons. Any weapon can and will kill under the right circumstances. And any time anyone uses one of these "less-lethal" weapons, they better be damned ready to accept the possibility that the person they're targeting may die.

I can understand why people want to develop more of these less-lethal weapons. There are very few situations where it would be preferable to kill someone, rather than disable them and take them into custody.

But it just doesn't happen that way in the real world.

Comments (12)

Saw a documentary on the Ch... (Below threshold)

Saw a documentary on the Chechen takeover of that Russian theater a couple of years ago. The Russian security forces used a knockout gas that because they didn't have adequate medical help, ended up killing almost 100 of the 350 hostages.

They drowned in their own vomit.

Care to demonstrate a link ... (Below threshold)

Care to demonstrate a link from "Star Trek" to patent application for the device used in Boston?

It's a bit of a leap on your part and I'd be willing to bet that 'less lethal' is preferable to 'spraying the crowd with bullets' or 'letting the mob kill itself'. Either of the other approach could result in more deaths and liability for the police department.

Also, it's worth remembering that the police officers trained to use the devices employed. Presumably the same thing happened in 'Star Trek' - thre was Star Fleet Academy which explained how to use phasers, what the settings were, and what the rules of engagement were.

Also, if you recall your "Star Trek" you'd note that phasers were rarely used, even on stun setting, and only after other approaches failed (unless the crew was acting in self-defense)

I frequently wondered why neither Kirk or Picard adopted a 'Ok, stun them all, then we'll figure it out' approach to dealing with situations.

Take away 'Star Trek' and its (presumed) impact on engineering design including less than lethal approach to crowd control and you take away other things like cell phones, communicator badges which give location, voice-operated computers, the telemetry used in hospitals, heads-up displays, ergonomic seating, among other innovations.

Would you want to live in a future that didn't include women wearing miniskirts serving on a space ship and the prospect of drinking Saurian Brandy while chatting up undulating greenskin hotties?

Well, maybe you would, -

but I wouldn't ...

This is like the suggestion... (Below threshold)

This is like the suggestions that we use tranquilizer darts on people. I remember reading that in some cases as many as half the animals they're used on in the wild have died, either from dosage or allergic reaction or stress/shock. Sounds good, not that good an idea in fact.

And in further defense of S... (Below threshold)

And in further defense of Star Trek, it was never stated on the show that the 'stun' setting was harmless. In fact in the Next Generation series during the episode with the Pakleds, the engineer is stunned twice within a few hours, at which point the doctor warns the first officer that if he's stunned again he could suffer severe nerve damage.

Yup. Always remember: sho... (Below threshold)

Yup. Always remember: shoot to kill, or don't shoot at all.

As a Star Trek fan you have... (Below threshold)

As a Star Trek fan you have to realize that this is just tv. Star Trek episodes have said over and over again that "the stun" setting on a phaser can be just as lethal as "the kill" setting at close range.

To say that Star Trek, or any other television show has to answer to this and tell the public that "oh, we mean to say this" is ridiculous and a joke at best.

If nothing else, Star Trek has taught mankind to use words and your brain before pulling the trigger. To see otherwise is for someone who is searching for the wrong truths...

"Hollywood has perpetrat... (Below threshold)

"Hollywood has perpetrated a tremendous fraud on the public. There are no such things as "non-lethal" weapons."

Next you will be telling us that there is no such thing as a Vulcan death grip.

Actually, Dodo David, there... (Below threshold)

Actually, Dodo David, there was no "Vulcan Death Grip". Spock frequently rendered people unconscious with a nerve or neck pinch (I forget what it was called, if I ever knew), but I don't remember him killing anybody with it.

I'm going to regret posting this, I know I am.

Laying all that at the foot... (Below threshold)

Laying all that at the foot of "Star Trek" is kind of ridiculous. In my mind the bloodless deaths by semi-automatic weapons in countless PG-13 films and TV shows is far more damaging as far as perception than "phasers set on stun".

If you're going to show someone getting shot, you ought to show the bloody horror/mess/pain that ensues.


Actually, fatman, the pinch... (Below threshold)

Actually, fatman, the pinch has been known by both names. But you are right that the death grip doesn't exist. Many people get that wrong because it sounds much cooler than "nerve pinch." The Death Grip supposedly comes from an episode of the original series called "The Enterprise Incident" where Spock used it as a ruse to fool the Romulans into thinking he had killed Kirk.

On-topic though, to say that Star Trek or any futuristic show (such as "Minority Report") should be held responsible for this misconception is outrageous. The message is simply that these weapons don't exist now but in the future we will be able to perfect our technology to the point where we will not have to be the brutal, bloody civilization we are today. It's a message of hop, not a misleading, calculated lie. If they did the same thing in a movie that was meant to be placed in today's society and misrepresented curent technology, then you may have a case against them. But even then it is the hopeful dreaming of one who wishes for something better.

Star Trek has a lot to answ... (Below threshold)
Jimmy Bing:

Star Trek has a lot to answer for? It's science fiction, dumbass.

I wholeheartedly agree. You... (Below threshold)

I wholeheartedly agree. You wasted time and effort to write a blog this stupid? If you want to criticize a TV show why not start with Elimidate you moron.






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