WaPo wrote about a weapon like this earlier this year in a story about people convinced that the government is beaming voices into their brains. The punchline: The technology to do that exists. Even freakier, potentially, is what StrategyPage has cooking today. Which would be worse? Hearing a disembodied voice no one else could hear and knowing that it meant you were probably mentally ill? Or hearing a disembodied voice that the person standing next to year could also hear and having no explanation whatsoever for it?

Dude:

LRAD is basically a focused beam of sound. Originally, it was designed to emit a very loud sound. Anyone whose head was touched by this beam, heard a painfully loud sound. Anyone standing next to them heard nothing. But those hit by the beam promptly fled, or fell to the ground in pain… LRAD can also broadcast speech for up to 300 meters. The navy planned to use LRAD to warn ships to get out of the way. This was needed in places like the crowded coastal waters of the northern Persian Gulf, where the navy patrols. Many small fishing and cargo boats ply these waters, and it’s often hard to get the attention of the crews. With LRAD, you just aim it at a member of the crew, and have an interpreter “speak” to the sailor. It was noted that the guy on the receiving end was sometimes terrified, even after he realized it was that large American destroyer that was talking to him. This apparently gave the army guys some ideas, for there are now rumors in Iraq of a devilish American weapon that makes people believe they are hearing voices in their heads.

This made more sense when an American advertising firm recently used an LRAD unit to support a media campaign for a new TV show. LRAD was pointed at a sidewalk in Manhattan, below the billboard featuring the new show. LRAD broadcast a female voice providing teaser lines from the show. The effect was startling, and a bit scary for many who passed through the LRAD beam. It appears that some of the troops in Iraq are using “spoken” (as opposed to “screeching”) LRAD to mess with enemy fighters.

Yeah, but how long will that work before they figure it out? Diminishing returns is the problem with all these psychological weapons.

Still an irresistible scenario, though, especially to the atheist sensibility. “Are you there, Muqtada? It’s me, Allah.”