It is strange that in this “Information Age” we are more confused than ever.
In the past it was generally believed, and not without reason, that tyranny could only exist if the people were kept illiterate and ignorant of their oppression. To recognize that one is “oppressed”, one must first have an idea of what “freedom” is, and if one has the “privilege” of learning to read, this discovery is inevitable.
If mass education could literate the majority of a population, it was believed that higher ideas, the kind of “dangerous ideas” that Huxley’s hero Moustapha Mond, for example, expresses in Brave New World , would organize quickly to the masses and that a revolution against the authorities would inevitably follow. In other words, knowledge is freedom, and it is impossible to enslave those who learn to “think”.
However, that’s not exactly how it turned out, is it?
The vast majority of us are free to read whatever we want, in terms of once “forbidden” books. We are now totally free to do our own “education” on the very “ideas” which were recognized by tyrants of the past as “antidotes” to a life of slavery. And yet today the majority choose not to.
It is recognized, albeit superficially, that whoever controls the past, controls the present and therefore the future. George Orwell’s 1984 book hammers out this notion as the essential characteristic which allows the Big Brother apparatus to maintain absolute control over the masses, far more than fear or loyalty to the Party cause, and yet, despite the popularity of the book, the majority lack interest in the story.
What does it matter if the past is checked and rewritten to fit the present? As the zealous Big Brother official, O’Brien, tells Winston: “We, the Party, control all records and we control all memories. So we are in control of the past, right? [And so, we are free to rewrite it as we see fit] ”.
Of course we are not in the same situation as Winston we are much better off. We can study and learn about the “past” if we want to, unfortunately this is a choice that many people are indifferent to.
In fact, many people are probably not fully aware that there is currently a battle over how to “control the past” in a way that looks a lot like a form of “memory suppression”.
These “high society” men are used to pulling the strings, they think they are chess champions, but you never really know which side they are playing on.
And so, we find ourselves more and more in the ominous position of a Winston, the 1984 hero of Orwell. In the book, there are three super-states in the world: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia, which in one form or another are constantly at war with each other for 25 years.
In Winston’s case, he only knew Oceania (the British Commonwealth and the United States), he basically doesn’t know anything about Eurasia or Eastasia, except that sometimes Oceania is at war. against Eurasia and sometimes against Eastasia. In fact, even this memory, which the enemy is not always the same, is not something Winston is supposed to remember or recognize. When he ventures into it, he commits a “crime of thought.”
Winston’s experience begs the question: if someone was born in a fascist, totalitarian state, would he know? Of course, the state itself would not describe itself as such. How could you compare your “freedom” to the “oppression” that is supposedly the rule with the enemy, when all you know is what your state chooses to tell you?
How do you know that what shaped your convictions, your beliefs, your fears really belongs to you, and has not been written there by others?
We are all very sensitive to this destabilizing question because, ironically, it is also what has been written in us. That’s what started this whole drive for “mind control”, because you see, we had to be controlled for our “good”.
The war for control of our mind
William Sargant was a British psychiatrist and, one might say, indeed the Father of “mind control” in the West. He had connections with the British Secret Service, which would influence the CIA and the US Army for the MK Ultra program. Sargant was also an advisor for Ewen Cameron’s work on LSD and “the blank page” at McGill University, funded by the CIA.
Sargant explains why he studied and used forms of “mind control” on his patients, who were mostly British soldiers sent off the battlefield during WWII with various forms of “psychosis.” According to him, this was the only way to treat the extreme forms of PTSD.
Another reason was that the Soviets had apparently become “experts” in this area, and for the sake of national security the British in turn had to become experts in self-defense, of course.
The work of Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, made some interesting and disturbing discoveries about four primary forms of temperament in dogs, which were combinations of inhibitions and excitability: “highly excitable”, “balanced” , “Passive” and “unruffled calm”. Pavlov had found that depending on the dog’s temperament, this dictated the most effective form of “conditioning” for “reprogramming his behaviour.” The connection with “human conditioning” had not fallen on deaf ears.
Westerners feared not only that these techniques would be used against their soldiers to elicit uninhibited confessions from the enemy, but also that these soldiers could be sent back to their homelands as assassins and zombie spies.
However, for those at the forefront of mind control research, like William Sargant, it was understood that this was not exactly how mind control worked.
To begin with, the question of “free will” was an obstacle.
Regardless of the duration or degree of electroshock, insulin “therapy”, tranquilizer cocktails, induced comas, sleep deprivation, hunger, etc., it was found that if the subject had a “strong belief” and a “strong belief” in something, it couldn’t just be erased, nor could it be replaced with something arbitrary. The subject had to have the illusion that his “conditioning” was in fact a “choice”. It was an extremely difficult task, and long-term conversions (lasting over months or years) were rare.
However, Sargant saw an opening. It was understood that one could not create a new individual from scratch, but with the right conditioning, which had to lead to physical collapse through abnormal stress (in fact, a “reboot” of the system. nervous), the subjects’ “suggestibility” could be significantly increased.
Sargant wrote in his Battle of the Mind : “Pavlov’s clinical descriptions of the ‘experimental neuroses’ he could induce in dogs turned out, in fact, to have a close correspondence with the war neuroses we were studying here.”
Additionally, Sargant found that a false implanted memory could help induce abnormal stress leading to emotional exhaustion and depression, and increase “suggestibility.” In other words, it was not even necessary to have “real stress”; “imaginary stress” could be just as effective.
Sargant goes on to say in his book: “It is not surprising that the normal person, in general, is much more easily indoctrinated than the abnormal. ‘she adheres to most of her social norms and patterns of behaviour; it means, in fact, that she is responsive to suggestion and has been persuaded to go with the majority on most ordinary or extraordinary occasions. “
Sargant then discusses the phenomenon of the London Blitz, an eight-month period of heavy bombing of London during World War II. During this period, in order to cope and stay “sane”, people quickly got used to the idea that their neighbours could be buried alive in the bombed-out houses around them. Their thought was, “Since I can’t help it, what’s the point of tormenting myself?” “. So it was found that those who did the best were those who accepted the new “environment” and just focused on “survival”, without trying to resist it.
Sargant remarks that this adaptability to a changing environment is part of the survival instinct, and is very strong in the “healthy” and “normal” individual, who can learn to comply with it, and therefore continues to be ” functional ”despite a constantly changing environment.
So it was our deep-rooted survival instinct that had proven to be the key to the suggestibility of our minds. In a way, the best “survivors” were also the most permeable to “brainwashing”.
Sargant quotes the work of Justus Friedrich Karl Hecker, who had studied the medieval phenomenon of the “Dance of St. Vitus”. Hecker observed that increased suggestibility had the capacity to cause a person to “accept reason and folly, good and evil, and to relativize virtue and vice” to the same degree.
And that such a state of mind was similar to the first efforts of the toddler’s mind, “this instinct of imitation, when it exists at its highest degree, is also correlated with a loss of all willpower, which occurs as soon as the impression on the senses is firmly established, producing a state similar to that of small animals when fascinated by a snake.”
Sargant finally admits: “This does not mean that all people can be truly brainwashed by such means. Some only temporarily submit to the demands placed on them, and fight again when the strength of body and soul returns to them. Others are saved because they take refuge in madness. Or the will to resist may give way, but not the intellect itself.”
But he consoles himself, in response to this stubborn resistance, by asserting that “As we mentioned in a previous context, the stake, the gallows, the firing squad, the prison or the insane asylum are generally available to deal with failures.”
The art of double thinking
So, what Sargant discovered, and what Orwell astutely identified, was that the most reliable form of mind control was to be found in the art of “double thinking”. the ability to accept two contradictory thoughts at the same time, without recognizing that they are opposed.
Orwell identifies this phenomenon under two forms of “double thinking”, namely “crimestop” and “blancnoir”. The “crimestop” means the faculty to stop dead, as if by instinct, on the threshold of a dangerous thought.
Orwell further specifies: “It includes the power not to grasp analogies, not to perceive errors of logic, not to understand the simplest arguments and to be annoyed or put off by any train of thought likely to lead in a heretical leadership. Crimestop, in short, is protective stupidity ”.
The “blancnoir” is the act of contradicting proven facts. Applied to the party, it is the desire to say that black is white if the discipline of the party requires it.
As Orwell describes it, “it means the ability to believe that black is white, and more so, to know that black is white, and to forget that one never thought otherwise. It requires continuous alteration of the past Alteration of the past is necessary for two reasons The secondary reason is that the person must be cut off from the past, just as he must be cut off from foreign countries, because it is necessary for him to believe to be better off .The main reason for the alteration of the past is the need to safeguard the appearances of the Party’s infallibility. “
Orwell continues, “The split of intelligence that the Party demands of its members, and which is more easily achieved in an atmosphere of war, is now almost universal, but the higher you go up in your hierarchy, the more marked it becomes. It is precisely in the hard core of the Party that war hysteria and hatred of the enemy are strongest. “
In other words, it is the Party hierarchs who are the most indoctrinated, the most able to submit to “mind control” or “double thinking”, while being convinced that it is the best thing to do.
Orwell describes the ‘double-thinking’ thus: “The process must be conscious, otherwise it would not be performed with sufficient precision, but it must also be unconscious, otherwise it would lead to a feeling of hypocrisy and therefore guilt Telling deliberate lies while sincerely believing it, forget any fact that has become embarrassing, then, when it becomes necessary, pull it out of oblivion just long enough, deny the existence of an objective reality and, at the same time, take into account the reality that is being denied – all of this is essential. Even to use the term double-thinking, it is necessary to exercise a kind of double-thinking. “
Descent into the rabbit hole
What many fail to catch from reading 1984 is that Orwell not only animates the character of Winston, he also animates the character of O’Brien. He is at the same time the member of the Party of the outside turned revolutionary, and the fundamentalist of the Party of the Interior.
He is simultaneously the torturer-programmer and the victim-programmed.
Winston eventually broke down and let go of the one thing that had preserved his humanity, his love and his loyalty to Julia. In the end, it is announced that Oceania is getting closer and closer to winning the war. Winston looks up at a large Big Brother poster and cries tears of joy and relief as he has finally come to love Big Brother.
He became O’Brien.
Orwell’s story is that, tragic, of a pure product of the British Empire. Stationed as a senior police officer in Burma, he had had direct experience of the “programming” techniques used by O’Brien.
I think it’s safe to say that Orwell wanted Big Brother to symbolize the British Empire, the most extensive empire in the history of the world.
Today, NATO plans to go further east. 9,500 US troops are being transferred from Germany to Eastern Europe, near the Russian border, and the Indo-Pacific region, a potential new hot spot between the United States and China.
The rationale for this movement rests on the account of World War II and the Cold War, according to which Russia and China have always been enemies of the “free world” and that Russia and China have never left them. Fascist “ideologies” which have plunged the whole world into conflicts and wars for almost a century.
I leave it to you, dear reader, to complete the rest.