Pokémon, or Seizures of Mass Destruction

When this Wired article about the US Army’s ultimately rejected, but rather well-developed, proposal to create a seizure gun was published last September, I read it with great interest. This is, after all, some weird shit: as also detailed in a declassified Army document, the idea for a seizure-inducing weapon was inspired by an episode of Pokémon that purportedly caused thousands of Japanese schoolchildren to convulse in front of their TV sets.

(As an academic, I consider it my duty to provide a link to a scholarly examination of this Pokémon phenomenon. Here the authors suggest that the vast majority of reported cases were actually “epidemic hysteria,” only a small number being attributable to photosensitive epilepsy: http://bioteach.ubc.ca/TeachingResources/GeneralScience/PokemonSeizures.pdf.)

I won’t go into the particulars, since they are contained in the above-mentioned texts. I will, however, say that I kind of love that the National Ground Intelligence Center briefly considered seizures a viable weapon with which to cripple the enemy. Giving the pleasure that I derive from mocking him about his American-ess, I also love that my husband, who is, I swear, both liberal and intelligent, instinctively reacted to the idea in such a stereotypically American way: “Wouldn’t it be more effective to just kill people?” After five seconds of reflection, he reached the conclusion that for me, who just happens to be Canadian, went without saying: “Ooooh. This way you don’t have to kill them.” That’s right, baby.


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