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12 March 2010

USA, CIA, LSD ETC. A 50-year mystery over the 'cursed bread' of Pont-Saint-Esprit, which left residents suffering hallucinations, has been solved after a writer discovered the US had spiked the bread with LSD as part of an experiment.
Terrible, absolutely horrific. Pathologically cruel and arrogant disregard for the lives and well-being of innocents. But I'm not surprised. How many revelations of these and other covert actions on the part of the US government will it take to make people stop pointing and laughing and saying "tinfoil hat" whenever folks suggest a deep & secret government hand in contemporary atrocities and calamities? As though these kinds of unthinkably wanton, horrible practices of the past have somehow miraculously ceased!
posted by flapjax at midnite 12 March | 08:34
It's amazing how many disgusting things the CIA has done.
posted by Miko 12 March | 08:45
I'm scared of all the things they've done that we have no idea about.

posted by Specklet 12 March | 09:48
"EVIL CIA SPIKED FRENCH BREAD WITH LSD!" said a British tabloid, citing a guy with a book about it to sell. Rational eye.
posted by brownpau 12 March | 10:16
CIA has been a notorious bunch of fuckheads for a long time, especially known for obscuring their excesses from oversight under the guise of national security. Referring to these sorts of allegations as acts of the US and its government, while true in a technical sense, is a shorthand that confuses a frequently rogue agency with the systematic pursuit of national policy.

I'm not saying what they might have done wasn't wrong, shameful, and just damn horrifying, but the specifics of many of CIA's creepiest acts are unknown outside of Langley beyond mundane budget headings and snowjobs before closed committees.

And on preview, I was wondering about that diethylamide line; I'm no chemist but that line seemed childishly wrong. It's good to be reminded that new allegations are just that -- allegations -- and we should be cautious accepting stories from any source, with any target, even or especially a target about which we want to believe the worst.
posted by Hugh Janus 12 March | 10:44
What brownpau said.
posted by CitrusFreak12 12 March | 11:25
The comments on brownpau's link are interesting, especially this and this, which take opposite positions. If I worked for the CIA, I'd set up my experiment in such a way that there were plausible alternate explanations. Maybe I'm paranoid, but why were chemical weapons scientists working in the area at the time? And why was Hoffman sent by Sandoz to the town?
posted by Obscure Reference 12 March | 14:09
I learned about the Pont St. Esprit case when I was a child; we had a popular-press book about the event, and I found it absolutely fascinating. As it happens, a few years ago, I had occasion to do some (fairly superficial) revisiting of the facts while working on a research project about ergot poisoning. (Thanks for that link! It links to a PDF I expect to enjoy!)

From my (admittedly limited) knowledge of the associated symptoms and the etiology, it certainly sounds like a fairly straightforward case of ergot poisoning from contaminated rye. For example, the uterine contractions and hemorrhages suffered by some of the town's women: this is an effect consistent with ergot poisoning, and not (so far as I know) with LSD use.
posted by Elsa 12 March | 14:50
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