Morale: The Torture Will Continue


August 31, 2010: In Afghanistan, an American army officer (colonel Lawrence Sellin) was abruptly transferred back to the United States after he wrote a published article criticizing the extensive use of PowerPoint presentations in his unit. Sellin was on the staff of the International Security Assistance Force’s Joint Command, and they spent a lot of their time preparing PowerPoint presentations. Sellin considers PowerPoint, well, pointless, and a waste of time. But the new commander in Afghanistan, general David Petraeus, loves PowerPoint, and often views two or more PowerPoint slideshows a day. By going public with his disdain for PowerPoint, Sellin incurred the wrath of his boss. Thus the one way ticket home. This was Sellins second, and probably last, tour in Afghanistan.

PowerPoint has been around since the late 1980s, and military commanders quickly fell in love with it. But many officers who had to sit through PowerPoint presentations, shared colonel Sellin's attitude. When the Cold War ended, and Russian officers got a taste of PowerPoint, some commented that the Cold War might have turned out differently if PowerPoint had come along earlier, because it so preoccupied and mesmerized American officers. But PowerPoint persisted, even if American foes considered it a secret weapon against the U.S..

Ten years ago, a U.S. Army study on "what was wrong with the army" came up with a list of twenty items. Number 18 was, "Officers complain that their seniors demand more and more use of PowerPoint presentation software, which most regard as a waste of time." About the same time, the Chief of Staff of the army ordered that any PowerPoint files sent via email be stripped of all their special effects (video and sound). There were too many of these multi-media files being sent, and they were clogging the military Internet connections (which used satellite links to reach many remote areas.)

A few years later, an anonymous (for obvious reasons) American officer observed that, "PowerPoint presentations are a new form of anesthesia and torture. They were even used at the Abu Ghraib Prison." But as long as PowerPoint has high ranking fans, the torture will continue.






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