Episodes — 25 April 2011
Episode 4: Something’s in the Water

WATCH

DISCUSS

1. How might the practice of forced medication, as in the case of SerennAide in the water supply, be linked to political oppression?

2. How does Tracy Bard discredit opposition to SerennCo’s practices?

3. Why would security agencies and governments be interested in controlling the behavior of the public?

4. Can forced experimentation, such as the mass medication of the public, ever be justified in the name of “national security” or the greater good? Why or why not?

5. Can you identify other instances in which a government undertakes undemocratic measures in the name of protecting democracy, e.g. the PATRIOT Act?

Additional Tips for Educators: Forced experimentation is often carried out on vulnerable populations, like detainees, prisoners, and children. The US government has sanctioned forced experimentation, or unethical human subject experimentation, in the name of national security and well-being. Perhaps the most infamous of these cases is the Tuskegee syphilis study, in which 400 African American males from Georgia were enrolled in a government-funded study on syphilis without receiving treatment for their illness or being told they had it. During the Cold War, the U.S. also pursued unethical research on human subjects in the areas of radiation exposure, biological warfare, and interrogation techniques. In South Africa, the apartheid regime conducted an aggressive campaign targeting gay and lesbian soldiers, subjecting them to forced castration, electroshock therapy, and sex change operations to allegedly ‘cure’ them of their homosexuality.

Forced experiments were often carried out in academic and school settings as well. After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., an elementary educator in Iowa conducted a controversial classroom experiment designed to inspire empathy in a rural all-white community for those who suffer racial discrimination. Forced experimentation frequently occurs in times of conflict; during World War II, Nazi physicians conducted brutal experiments on prisoners, and during the U.S. ‘War on Terror,’ human rights observers have presented evidence that U.S. interrogators have utilized torture on detainees to develop “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

As the federal government’s authority and oversight declined in the 21st century, the ethical standards governing scientific research were diminished as well. After the federal government heavily cut taxes in 2016, government agencies entrusted with regulation and oversight of scientific research were not able to properly monitor and evaluate research on human subjects. Simultaneously, unrest over travel restrictions and a growing fear of foreigners resulted in race riots, lynchings, and other forms of ethnic cleansing in 2027, following the rise of the Namibian Plague. Private biomedical and pharmaceutical research companies such as SerennCo assumed greater prominence in policy debates. In 2028, SerennCo developed SerennAide with government funding, which was used to diminish hostility and aggressive behavior. By 2029, cities all around the country added it to municipal water supplies in an effort to promote greater social stability.

MAKE

With this information, you are in a position to make a difference. Forced experiments subvert the human rights of individuals with dubious claims that the research provides benefits that outweigh its risks and harmful effects. To generate awareness of the coerced and unethical nature of these experiments, you will create “mood” and “performance” tonics using drinking water, food coloring, and clean plastic bottles. Think of it as bringing SerennCo to the present. You will label the bottles with different traits or characteristics. Examples include:

Discipline
Charm
Intelligence
Empathy
Faith
Obedience

Materials Needed:

6 plastic or glass bottles, with all original labels and product information removed; bottles should be identical

One package of food coloring, with at least red, blue, and yellow, so that you can create other colors

Blank adhesive labels

Printer/or for a hand-drawn effect, pens, markers, photos

Prepare:

Label the bottles with one characteristic or trait listed above. Decorate/design the label accordingly, and be sure to add a SerennCo logo, and the URL to the America2049.com home page. Fill the bottle with water. Add food coloring.

Solicit Participants:

You have created an array of “enhancement tonics”—now make them available to the public. Think of creative ways to market your tonics. Possibilities include:

1. Photograph them and create a for sale ad on craigslist. Collect the inquiries and create a mash-up of the responses to your advertising.

2. Go to a public place and set up a sample table. Offer people a shot of “obedience,” or tell them they look like they could use some “faith.” Tell them that you are a SerennCo representative interested in improving society, and are in talks with the water company to supply their community with enhanced water. Write a short summary of your experiences to share with your friends and post to the America2049 Facebook page. Also, consider filming your experiences with the public, and uploading the videos to the America2049 Facebook page.

3. Remember last week’s culture jamming exercise. You could also shopdrop your tonics by placing them in a grocery or pharmacy, and then taking a picture of the display.

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