In general, men judge more by sight than by touch. Everyone sees
what is happening but not everyone feels its consequences.

—Niccolò Machiavelli1


Introduction

On March 3, 1991, police pulled over Rodney King and two other passengers in Los Angeles. Most Americans saw how that incident ended. LAPD officers beat King senseless with metal batons. Many will remember that police fractured King's face and legs. How many remember the number of times police fired electric stun weapons at King during the incident? How many can say how much shock passed through his body as he lay on the ground?

From the start, the King incident was about the sudden remarkable visibility of police violence captured, by happenstance, on amateur video. As the Christopher Commission stated, “Whether there even would have been a Los Angeles Police Department investigation without the video is doubtful, since the efforts of King's brother, Paul, to file a complaint were frustrated, and the report of the involved officers was falsified.”2

Even a careful viewer of the amateur video would not see the police using electroshock. Sergeant Stacey Koon tased Rodney King thrice, twice prior to when the video started running and once in the course of the video. To tase means to use a Tommy A. Swift Electric Rifle (T.A.S.E.R). Tasers fire two darts trailed by long wires. Once the darts catch onto the clothing or body, the operator depresses a button, releasing electric charge from the batteries along the wires to the target. Koon's Taser model possessed two dart cartridges. Koon lodged the first pair of darts on King's back and the second on his upper chest. Each discharge delivered short pulses of 50,000 volts, eight to fifteen pulses per second.3

The pain was not trivial. The California Highway Patrol officer said King was “writhing.”4 LAPD officer Timothy Wind stated that King “was shouting incoherently from the pain of the taser.”5 Even Koon, who was nine feet away,

-1-

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Torture and Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xv
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • Torture and Democracy xxv
  • Introduction 1
  • I - Torture and Democracy 33
  • 1: Modern Torture and Its Observers 35
  • 2: Torture and Democracy 45
  • II - Remembering Stalinism and Nazism 65
  • 3: Lights, Heat, and Sweat 69
  • 4: Whips and Water 91
  • 5: Bathtubs 108
  • III - A History of Electric Stealth 121
  • 6: Shock 123
  • 7: Magnetos 144
  • 8: Currents 167
  • 9: Singing the World Electric 190
  • 10: Prods, Tasers, and Stun Guns 225
  • 11: Stun City 239
  • IV - Other Stealth Traditions 259
  • 12: Sticks and Bones 269
  • 13: Water, Sleep, and Spice 279
  • 14: Stress and Duress 294
  • 15: Forced Standing and Other Positions 316
  • 16: Fists and Exercises 334
  • 17: Old and New Restraints 347
  • 18: Noise 360
  • 19: Drugs and Doctors 385
  • V - Politics and Memory 403
  • 20: Supply and Demand for Clean Torture 405
  • 21: Does Torture Work? 446
  • 22: What the Apologists Say 480
  • 23: Why Governments Don't Learn 519
  • 24: The Great Age of Torture in Modern Memory 537
  • A - A List of Clean Tortures 553
  • B - Issues of Method 557
  • C - Organization and Explanations 566
  • D - A Note on Sources for American Torture During the Vietnam War 581
  • Notes 593
  • Selected Bibliography 781
  • Index 819
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