In the first half, author and adventurer Robert Young Pelton discussed modern warfare and security issues, current areas of turmoil around the globe, and related topics. Regarding the recent military ruling on Bradley Manning, in which he was acquitting of aiding the enemy, but found guilty of lesser charges related to the WikiLeaks documents, Pelton said there was a huge difference between him and Snowden. As a soldier, Manning was under very specific laws and requirements, while Snowden, a civilian contractor was working for a private corporation. Also, the kind of information that Snowden leaked wasn't private communications between diplomats, but rather secret government policies that could be construed as breaking the law, he said. Looking at such things as the IRS' selective targeting of certain groups, and people imprisoned at Gitmo without trials, "all the bits and pieces are in place for an Orwellian society," Pelton remarked.
As we see with Snowden, some 70% of intelligence gathering is done through freelancers and outside companies, he said, adding that we now "outsource" wars calling them "stability operations." For instance, the US hires contractors, typically ex-military, who go into a troubled spot like Mali in North Africa as consultants and train the local military, who the US provides with weapons surreptitiously through a second country to fight a war, he detailed. Egypt seems to be having "Arab springs" every month, and some countries like Syria are in a constant state of turmoil, Pelton noted. He sees al Qaeda as a continuing threat as their organization has grown larger. They are trying out different acts of terrorism, and watching with interest to see which attacks are most effective, he cautioned.
In the latter half, author M.J. Rose spoke about the history of seances and techniques that have been used by the likes of Victor Hugo, Mark Twain, Mary Todd Lincoln and Arthur Conan Doyle to access the souls and spirits of the departed. Seances reached their height of popularity during the Victorian era, with the rise of interest in Spiritualism. Yet, trickery was enormously prevalent during this era, such as the use of a "trumpet" in which people at a seance listened through it and heard the voices of spirits, but it was actually the sitter manipulating their own voice through it, she explained. A lot of trick photography (see example) was used to portray ghosts, spirits and other phenomena, and because the photographic medium was so new, people tended to believe it was authentic.
The Ghost Club was a group started in 1862 in London with the goal of carrying out scientific studies of paranormal activity, and well known members included Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens. They sought to investigate, and in many cases debunk, spiritualists and seances, and the group led to the formation of the Society of Psychical Research some 20 years later. A kind of seance involved "table tapping," a forerunner to the Ouija board, with messages spelled out in taps on a stool. In Paris, the renowned French writer Victor Hugo became obsessed with seances after the death of his daughter. In a two-year period he was involved in some 100 seances, in which not only his daughter came through, but Jesus, Shakespeare, a Martian, and Plato were said to send messages, she recounted. Rose also touched on her interest and study of reincarnation and soul groups.
A photograph of a group gathered at a seance, taken by William Hope (1863-1933) in about 1920. The information accompanying the spirit album states that the table is levitating. In reality, the image of a ghostly arm has been superimposed over the table using a double exposure.
--Collection of National Media Museum
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