No of pages: 304
Other Editions: Hardback
Once upon a time there was the military-industrial complex, which even an American president feared was too powerful. That was in the fifties. Unless you worked for the military or for an arms or aircraft manufacturer it did not really touch your life.
Now there is a network so pervasive that it involves society at every level - technology, science, the media, food companies, clothes, cars and, perhaps especially, the entertainment marketed by computer corporations and Hollywood. This is a complex that is part of our lives in all kinds of hidden and obvious ways - a real-life matrix before our eyes.
The arms manufacturers and their biggest customer, the largest army in the world, want to look cool. Hip street wear and popular video games are modelled on, and sometimes come straight out of, military training programmes. Extreme sports of all kinds, designed to attract young people, receive close attention from an army desperate to draw in recruits. Almost every apparently benign company that shapes the way we communicate or dress or eat - Apple, Reebok, IBM, Mars, Levi’s - has contracts with the new complex. Young people who’ve grown up playing violent computer games make ideal recruits.
Much of Nick Turse’s book, which is full of astonishing facts and connections, is concerned with the delirious reality of America - how the military propagandises and how it burns up unthinkable resources (half a million barrels of oil a day, for example. Its golf courses alone would fill up Austria or Ireland). But the developments he describes are operating in every Western society.
Food companies work to create enhanced energy food to allow ground troops to fight for a week without sleep. Drugs companies work to produce pills that will free troops of guilt and post-traumatic stress. Harmless social websites are being infiltrated by military propaganda. The bizarre projects that Turse reveals at DARPA - the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency - are the stuff of science fiction: rats kitted out with spyware; weaponised bees and sharks; brain-machine interfaces that will allow soldiers to fire deadly weapons by thinking about it; new combat suits modelled on Sigourney Weaver’s exoskeletal outfit in the Alien movies.
It is a weird world that Nick Turse describes. It is, unfortunately, very like our own.
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