- Politics and Social Issues
Mind Control: Does it exist?
There are a number of conspiracy theories centred round “Mind Control” the belief that certain people's thoughts and actions are controlled by an external source. Rational discussion of this topic is hampered by a lack of clear definitions, the fact that every community seems to include someone who believes some external agency is planting thoughts in their mind and that the cat is a double agent reporting both to the CIA and to the Ashtar Galactic Command and that some techniques seem to carry the taint of Magick. More compellingly the technologies for mind and body control seem to be more expensive and less reliable than traditional techniques like lies and religion.
What are we talking about?
Here Mind Control will mean controlling people's thoughts and actions by technologies other than the standard ones which include religion, political propaganda, news manipulation and peer pressure. It will not include the definition cited by Wikipedia as being a process in which a group or individual "systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator(s), often to the detriment of the person being manipulated". Nor will it refer to manipulating beliefs with the intention of helping someone.
Mind Control as used here refers to techniques for making people do things they do not wish to do either consciously resisting their own actions, or acting as if “programmed” and possibly unconscious of what they are doing.
Hypnotism started as a “sanitised” form of Mesmerism, purged of the notion of a “magnetic Fluid” transmitted from Mesmerist to patient. Some of the higher phenomena of Hypnotism, no longer reproduced, but documented in the 19th and early 20th centuries included community of sensation whereby the hypnotist's sensations would be felt by the subject, who would not necessarily be in the same room: for example if the hypnotist tasted lemon the subject would grimace and report tasting lemon. There have also been cases where a hypnotist was able to cause a distant subject to fall into a trance or to perform certain actions.
It is sometimes claimed that a hypnotist cannot make anyone do anything against their moral principles. The flaw in this statement is that moral principles may only be skin deep and that perceptions can be modified to accommodate the subjects principles. Thus a soldier may be told a superior officer is an enemy agent and act on a (post) hypnotic suggestion to attack that agent.
In one case a criminal with some experience of hypnotism hypnotised a cell mate and planted post hypnotic suggestions that the subject rob a bank and give the money to the hypnotist. After release the subject robbed a bank, killing someone who resisted. The police only became suspicious when the subject repeatedly insisted his former cellmate had nothing to do with the crime.
It seems therefore that hypnotism can be used to “program” someone to perform acts they do not wish to perform and perhaps then to forget them. It is a long way however from this to the claims of widepread programming of victims as sex slaves and assassins alleged in some conspiracy theories: all of which ignore that fact that sex slaves and assassins are far more cheaply obtained through money or, in the case of sex slaves, by telling them it is God's will they submit to the guru or messiah of the day.
There is the possibility that technological means may be used for Mind Control. When certain parts of the brain are stimulated the body will move involuntarily. This is a long way from the biological externally controlled robot of conspiracy fantasy. There is also ongoing work on mechanical telepathy: technology that can “read thoughts” or “transmit thoughts”. If the technology can “read” minds it can also plant ideas in minds.
Probably every reasonably advance nation has looked at Mind Control technologies. There is stll no world government, which suggests none of them have achieved reliable mind control techniques. There is some information about US efforts in this direction but I have not found anything about what other nations have done in this area.
The US started looking at Mind Control just after WWII and President Ford banned Mind Control research in 1976. Some of the experiments were sadistic, some were just bizarre. One Dr Gottlieb, by all accounts a real life mad scientist ( a chemist by training), oversaw experiments involving hypnotism, drugs, sensory deprivation and other techniques. At least one of his workers was allegedly killed in a way that looked like suicide (The death of Dr David Kelly, in the UK also has suspicious features but that is another story). There is no evidence any programmed agent created by Gottleib's organisation ever killed any one though his organisation has been linked by some to the Kennedy assasination the murder of John Lennon.
It seems clear that, to a limited extent, Mind Control is possible. It would also seem that it is unreliable and not cost effective. Traditional methods are more reliable and cheaper.