One of the most popular conspiracy theories on the Internet is the concept of mind control, particularly as practiced by the CIA. Conspiracy theorists have postulated all sorts of mind control technology including the use of drugs, hypnosis, Pavlovian conditioning, electronic implants, repetitive indoctrination, torture and subliminal stimuli.
Nah, far too elaborate and unreliable.
And, as it happens, completely unnecessary.
Effective and reliable mind control is much easier than that. All you have to do is restrict the supply of alternative explanations for things. If people are only equipped with one interpretation of something, your interpretation, they will think your way.
At first sight, this seems to be a fairly mundane insight. It probably is. All the best insights are and it is no less powerful for it.
Think about the Theory of Evolution. Before Darwin, Biblical style creation was the only widespread explanation for the origin of complex life forms. You might have had a problem with Creationism but there was absolutely no other credible way of thinking. Darwin didn't contribute much new data to the world of science, what he did do was to present people with a new way of looking at data they already had. In a very real sense, evolutionary theory made atheism intellectually possible. As it happens, Darwinist Evolution now occupies exactly the same space that Creationism once did and suffers from exactly the same vices, but that's another story.
Organised religion lost control of people's minds purely because an alternative explanation for Life was allowed into the public domain. The obvious lesson being that if you really want to control how a large number of people think then stem the flow of alternative ideas and explanations. No alternatives equals no dissent. There are plenty of examples out there, from the Divine Right of Kings and birth of the French and Soviet revolutions through to the, erm, War on Terror.
Yes, back there again.
A colossal amount of effort has gone into ensuring that only one interpretation of the War on Terror is aired. The one about the ruthless, highly organised network of death-worshipping fundamentalists. Because of the effectiveness of this strategy, every single relevant event that takes place is explained, can only be explained, with reference to this explanatory framework. No matter how lame the supposed terrorist, no matter how thin the evidence, no matter the paucity of convictions when tested by a jury, Tony and George's explanation of what is going on stands firm. It stands firm through the simple virtue of being the ONLY explanation on the table.
I'm not saying this is an easy task. It isn't. Particularly when you have such flaky material to work with. Total dominance of the mainstream media helps (shame about the Internet though) plus there are all sorts of other little tricks you can play:
- Dismiss those that disagree as lunatics (very popular in Stalin's time that one)
- Accuse dissenters of being disrespectful to the dead. The concept of sacred heroes helps a lot here. That's why the poor policeman who got stabbed in Manchester in pursuit of hand cream and apple pips will very probably receive a medal for bravery and why the firemen who died on 9/11 are portrayed as being somehow more brave than firemen who died on any other day. As a general rule, when our leaders start talking about heroes you can be pretty sure that, somewhere along the way, there's a f*ck up underlying that talk
- Keep the pot boiling. Maintain a steady level of background hysteria. Make sure that the notion of Terror is never too far away from the public's mind. A lie repeated often enough starts to sound like the truth. Make sure a big story hits the papers every five or six weeks; dirty bombs in backpacks, plans to topple Big Ben, fruit flavoured cyanide on the Underground. It really doesn't matter how silly the stories are. Momentum is the key objective
Above all, our leaders' greatest friend is the undoubted truth that something horrible might happen one of these days.
There's always the risk of something isn't there? It could be Al Qaeda, if you believe in such fancies, a lone nutcase, or a national intelligence service
Intelligence services? Well, you've got to at least acknowledge the possibility of their involvement. After all, we've been told that Bourgass with his ricin toothbrushes and Reid with his non exploding baseball boots were highly trained Al Qaeda operatives. If that's the case then there's absolutely no way that the same Al Qaeda could be the outfit that executed 9/11 or the Madrid bombings. We're talking Keystone Cops versus The Terminator here.
Anyway, you can never say never. One of these days someone or something is going to blow up and those with a vested interest to do so will say that they told us so all along.
The mature response is to weigh the reality of the threat against the severity of the methods advocated to tackle that threat. If you want to live in a free democracy the price of that freedom is eternal vigilance. The grim bottom line is that you might also have to take some casualties along the way. The Russians had terrorism pretty well controlled under their old regime but is that justification for a return to Stalinism and Stalinist security measures?
And then, finally, there's the question of why? If the War on Terror is being exaggerated or even orchestrated by our own leaders why would they do such a thing?
The answer to that one is a lot hazier. Some commentators have suggested that the War on Terror is merely a continuance of a long series of enemies fabricated by America's rulers to support a system that suits them. Others have theorised that our leaders have turned to fear to control us because there have run out of dreams to sell us.
Personally, I suspect that something new is taking place. Outside of wartime, the level of mass manipulation and erosion of freedoms has never been so overt in America or the UK. We're being prepared for something just that little bit special and that something requires a greatly strengthened military and gradual introduction of a full-on, 21st century police state, sometime around the end of this decade. If you twisted my arm I'd say it was something to with, surprise, surprise, competition for global resources and fear of the East; not the Middle East, the East.
Am I sounding a little bit paranoid here? We'll see won't we, and quite soon.