The Pit of Despair

Apart from being the name of the dungeons in The Princess Bride, this is the name of the laboratory equipment used by Harry Harlow in his ground-breaking research on rhesus monkeys in the ’70s (which is, I expect, where the movie got the name from). I just finished watching an interesting special on Harry Harlow on 4 Corners, which informed me about a lot of things I hadn’t known: about the shift away from doing all research on rats; about the beginnings of the proper research into human behaviour, of love; about the rise of the animal rights movement.

Watching the program, I found myself thinking about the birth of research into torture techniques – of imprisoning baby monkeys in solitary confinement for years in the Pit of Despair. For 30-odd years, there has been scientific studies  into what happens when you torment the vulnerable.  Gitmo is simply the pinnacle of that research. It has became much more obvious that the US military understands and plans exactly what happens at there, with the solitary confinement, with the degradation, with the abuse, with the psychological punishment. For the army to then turn around and profess surprise at suicides, and to blame the victim for the effect of the abuse, is morally repugnant and criminal.

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  1. kathy
    kathy at |

    Yes! My thinking went exactly the same way, watching 4 corners. Absolutely insupportable.

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