Barry Eisler

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"Child Prostitute" Is A Horrible Lie

If you follow my political blogging, you know I believe nomenclature is critical (data collection vs bulk surveillance, targeted killings vs assassinations, surge vs escalation, EITs instead of torture, detainees vs prisoners, interventions vs war...and on and on).

This is Andrew Vachss on why "child prostitute" is a horrible, propagandistic lie. Read it--and if you see this kind of terminology online somewhere, forward Vachss's post for the writer's consideration. Most people don't adopt shitty terminology out of malice; they just absorb it thoughtlessly through osmosis, then parrot it until someone corrects them. That's what seems to happen to me, at any rate, and I'm grateful to Vachss for bringing this kind of thing to my attention.
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Friday, September 08, 2017

The Dark Files: Tonight at 10:00

About a year ago, I was invited to co-host The Dark Files, a special the History Channel was planning that would focus on the Montauk legends--allegations about US government experiments on unwitting human subjects, carried out at Camp Hero, a now-abandoned military base on Montauk, Long Island.


It wasn't a topic I knew much about, and I doubted we'd be able to prove or disprove the legends, which range from the completely believable (mind-control experiments like MKUltra) to the way-out-there (time travel and aliens). But I was curious about what it would be like to make a television special, and intrigued by the opportunity to co-host with independent filmmaker Christoper Garentano, writer and director of The Montauk Chronicles, and with investigative reporter Steve Volk, author of Fringeology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable--And Couldn't. Most of all, I was attracted by the opportunity to use the Montauk legends as a vehicle to explore the hidden history of human experimentation in America.

What's that, you say? Human experimentation? In America?

The question itself reveals the problem. Most Americans would have difficulty believing that our own government could behave in ways we exclusively associate with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan's infamous Unit 731. But if we allow ourselves to be seduced by this comforting--and false--belief, we increase the likelihood that our own society could engage in such barbarities in the future, as we have in the past.

Because yes, the US government has allowed syphilis to proceed unchecked in hundreds of poor black men it told were receiving treatment, to see what happens when the disease is untreated. It has subjected prisoners to gruesome dermatological agents and hallucinogens, to study the effects chemical warfare agents. It has fed radioactive material to mentally handicapped children to learn about the impact of nuclear fallout.

And these are just a few examples. There is much, much more.

One of the things I find most disturbing about the history of human experimentation in America is that the experimenters are always the cream of American academia and science--people who doubtless look in the mirror and see only paragons of morality looking back. And their victims are always helpless and marginalized: Prisoners. Children in orphanages. The poorest minorities. The mentally ill.

So the question about Montauk isn't whether human experimentation happened. The question is whether human experimentation also happened there.

If America's dark chapters prove anything, they prove that when no one is looking, the wealthy and powerful will prey on the poor and powerless. These experiments were always conducted in secret, after all. Meaning whatever their own rationalizations, the people who carried them out understood intuitively that the wider society would not approve.

It follows that our best defense against a recrudescence of these horrors is to shine a light on the darker truths of our own history--and our own humanity. I hope The Dark Filespremiering tonight on the History Channel at 10:00 eastern time, will be an important contribution to that effort.
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Friday, September 01, 2017

Satire Can't Keep Up With Reality

When I wrote “It’s Just a Leak” in 2010, I thought it was satire. Alas.




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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

John Rain in Zero Sum!

Hi all, I’m excited to announce that the new John Rain novel—ZERO SUM, is out today! This is another prequel, again set in Tokyo ten years following the events of Graveyard of Memories:
Returning to Tokyo in 1982 after a decade of mercenary work in the Philippines, a young John Rain learns that the killing business is now controlled by Victor, a half-Russian, half-Japanese sociopath who has ruthlessly eliminated all potential challengers. Victor gives Rain a choice: kill a government minister or die a grisly death. But the best route to the minister is through his gorgeous Italian wife, Maria, a route that puts Rain on a collision course not only with Victor but with the shadowy forces behind the Russian’s rise to dominance—and the longings of Rain’s own conflicted heart.
It’s a battle between kingpin and newcomer, master and apprentice, a zero-sum contest that can only end with one man dead and the other the world’s foremost assassin.

I’m already hard at work on the follow-up to Livia Lone, out in January 2018, so alas there wasn’t time to tour for Zero Sum. Just one signing—Thursday, June 29, 7:30 PM at Kepler’s in Menlo Park.

Thanks for all your support over the years, and I hope you enjoy Rain’s latest adventure.
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Monday, January 30, 2017

Predictably, ISIS is cheering Trump's Muslim ban (actually, not just predictably. Predicted). Yes, I know, it's not really a Muslim ban. You don't have to convince me. Convince the people ISIS is recruiting with it.

It's not just that targeting refugees, immigrants, and green card holders based on their religion is capricious and cruel. It's that it's dangerous. Once again, the people wrapping themselves most ostentatiously in the flag of national security are the ones who create the most hazards--to the citizenry and to the republic.

When you're about to do the very thing your enemy most ardently hopes you'll do, it doesn't mean ipso facto your move is dumb. But it ought to give you pause, at least.
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Friday, January 13, 2017

Defense Against Foreign Danger; Instruments of Tyranny at Home

Consider the way tools of national (in)security policy initially deployed abroad inevitably find their way home: bulk surveillance, black sites, torture, police militarization.

Now consider that one of the CIA’s long-practiced core competencies is undermining regimes it deems threatening or otherwise unfavorable.

James Madison said, The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home. Is it possible he was on to something?

Nah, thats crazy. Only Putin could ever interfere with the sanctity of American democracy.
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Friday, November 25, 2016

Another Chance to Get It Right

Anyone who knows the work of novelist Andrew Vachss will recognize his influence on my latest novel, Livia Lone (along with that of his wife, former sex crimes prosecutor Alice Vachss).


I've read most of Vachss's books, but there's one I missed, called Another Chance to Get It Right: A Children's Book for Adults, that was just reissued in a stunning new edition. It's a short read, with gorgeous illustrations, most of them graphic-novel style, and deals with Vachss's signature subject of child protection.


I've been getting a lot of good feedback about Livia Lone, including comparisons to Vachss's work, which is enormously flattering to me. Various people, moved by the story, have asked how they can fight human trafficking and child abuse. Well, unsurprisingly, the best child-protection initiative I’m aware of has been spearheaded by Vachss himself. It’s called The Legislative Drafting Institute for Child Protection, and anyone who wants to help protect children from the sorts of horrors I depict in Livia Lone can do simply by financing the work of the LDICP. I’ve done so myself and hope anyone reading this post will do so, too. For a few mouse clicks and whatever money you can spare, you can help accomplish a lot of good in the world.

Do it now, while it's on your mind. You can think of it as another chance to get it right.
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