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October 17, 2006

On Conspiracies

Christopher M. comments:

And then, you know, there's all the crazy shit that everyone acknowledges actually did happen. My favorite one is Project MKULTRA. If it weren't actually documented, and someone told me that they believed the CIA was conducting mind-control experiments on entirely innocent, unwitting American citizens using LSD, radiation, magic mushrooms, and electroshock therapy...that would have been classic "conspiracy theory" territory. But, well, they did.

I didn't know much about MK-Ultra, but...whoa.

October 17, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

Well, Jose Padilla's lawyers say he was given drugs, probably LSD, maybe PCP, in case anyone believes that we're not regressing as a nation.

http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2006/10/bush-administrations-torture-of-us.html

Posted by: davidmizner | Oct 17, 2006 1:56:39 PM

Try MKNAOMI while you're at it.

Or Stargate:
http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/stargate.htm

We did some really weird shit in the Cold War.

Posted by: Urinated State of America | Oct 17, 2006 2:04:30 PM

I guess the most surprising thing about MKUltra, though, is that it was a failure.* Milgram and the Stanford Prison Experiment showed you could inflect people's behavior, but control - nope.

However, the folk .

A friend went to a hairdresser's she hadn't been to in a while. She was surprised to find that the once-busy salon was empty of customers. She gets her hair washed by the stylist, sits down in the chair to get her hair cut, and as the sharp scissors are about to close on her hair she asks:

"So why's business so slow"

Answer: "Well, ever since the CIA implanted a mind-control chip in my husband's nose, things have really been difficult." Not only did the hairdresser's husband think the CIA was shoving electronics into his skull, he'd got the whole family to buy into his delusion.

My friend manages to control her reaction enough to complete the transaction.

She still goes there. No wait or appointment needed, and I guess the chit-chat is entertaining.

Turns out, there's a whole cottage industry of 'specialists' helping people who think the CIA has nothing better to do than plant silicon in average Joes or Janes. The husband and her kid have all seen 'specialists' to deal with the imagined chips in their heads.

I guess they could wear "Intel inside" stickers.

* Unless they've just programmed us to think that.

Posted by: Urinated State of America | Oct 17, 2006 2:18:15 PM

The Allan Memorial Institute- go in mildly depressed, come out six months later clinically insane. They still haven't resolved all the issues with that and yet they wonder why Canadians are a leetle leery about going along with some American plans. WE remember, Je me souviens.

Posted by: Hawise | Oct 17, 2006 2:22:13 PM

And the moral of the story is, sure violations of peoples' civil rights and the government messing with Americans without a shred of oversight is bad, but if you care about it you're just engaged in divisive partisan politics. High taxes and gun-grabbers are the only types of government intrusion that actually matter.

Doesn't work? Okay, the CIA was run by liberals in those days! Um, a different group of liberals than the ones that actively worked for or personally sympathized with the USSR, though.

Wait, wait, I know: we were at war, so there was nothing wrong with it in the first place. And it actually was vital to the war effort, never mind what all those leftist Congressmen said afterwards. What do they know about mind control? We don't have all the records, so why do you assume the worst about what the projects were?

Forgive the troll parodies, I couldn't resist... all that stuff sounds bizarre and something out of a dystopian SF novel, but really, the only parts of the examples that scare and offend me are the "without the subjects' knowledge or consent," and all the similar details, and the "little scientific sense." The part that's supposed to be really outrageous and unbelievable isn't actually all that bad. Experiments with drugs and mind control*? Attempts to use psychic powers for intelligence-gathering? Ummm... sure, why not?

It reminds me of the factoid (well, maybe I shouldn't assume this is true, but anyways) that somewhere in the Pentagon is a plan for even outlandish or abhorrent military goals like invading Canada. Their job isn't to do that stuff, nor to make the decision about whether or not we will do that stuff, just to have that stuff if the day comes when it is needed. Leave no stone unturned and all that. And as for intelligence agencies and/or government in general wasting valuable resources on this, one might have said the same about the first Moon expedition. It can't be worse than a no-bid contract for some Congressman's brother-in-law's munitions company.

Posted by: Cyrus | Oct 17, 2006 2:52:54 PM

Don't forget the use of LSD and intentional infection of syphillis, both done on black men in the early post-war period.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, PhD, ARNP | Oct 17, 2006 4:21:07 PM

I almost forgot: sterilization of developmentally disabled and American Indian women, without their knowledge or consent. The latter was being done as late as the 1970's, I've been told.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen, PhD, ARNP | Oct 17, 2006 4:22:32 PM

Clearly you didn't listen to enough Rage Against The Machine or Immortal Technique.

Didn't MK Ultra come up in season 5 or 6 of The West Wing?

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Oct 17, 2006 4:25:17 PM

strangely enough i even got michael medved to acknowledge this MKULTRA program on his radio show.

he admitted it was real to deflect my further blows to his lies.

Posted by: christian | Oct 17, 2006 4:29:14 PM

"all that stuff sounds bizarre and something out of a dystopian SF novel, but really, the only parts of the examples that scare and offend me are the "without the subjects' knowledge or consent," and all the similar details, and the "little scientific sense." The part that's supposed to be really outrageous and unbelievable isn't actually all that bad. Experiments with drugs and mind control*?"

There's also the defensive aspect of MKULTRA. You've got military PoWs coming back into from Korea, there's rumors the N.Koreans/Soviets/Chinese have tried brainwashing, and you want to answer the question: does this crap actually work? In which case, you don't want to put returning PoWs back into senior levels of responsibility.

That doesn't justify the, umm, more outlandish stuff that was done, tho.

"Attempts to use psychic powers for intelligence-gathering? Ummm... sure, why not?"

It's certainly cheaper to keep a hippy psychic in crystals and incense that it is to launch a spy satellite.

Posted by: Urinated State of America | Oct 17, 2006 4:53:42 PM

and of course the cia pretty much helped create ken kesey by providing him with lsd under which he came up with "one flew over the cuckoo's nest"

Posted by: christian | Oct 17, 2006 5:24:17 PM

The real point about MK-Ultra and its manifold relatives is this: there were rumors you could dismiss, but there were also witnesses and eventually documentary evidence. That is what happens in real conspiracies: people talk.

Now, there are some underhanded tricks out there about which people don't know, or don't know yet, or where the lawyers have kept a lid on things. Yes, it does happen. In those cases the conspiracy was sufficiently small and disciplined to maintain, and there was enough of a natural-if-unknowing constituency to oppose its discovery for some time. Tuskegee (black men, syphilis) is a good example: relatively few people know, and the US's deep racism prevented anyone believing the witnesses until a leak to the press finally opened that can of worms, decades too late.

Any conspiracy in which hundreds of people have to participate and remain silent (e.g., the 9/11 kerfluffle), however, is facially improbable.

Posted by: wcw | Oct 17, 2006 6:33:03 PM

A real good book on this is The Men Who Stared At Goats, which somehow manages to be simultaneously hilarious and chilling.

Posted by: Brian Cook | Oct 17, 2006 7:11:12 PM

Where do you think "V For Vendetta" came from?

Posted by: GP | Oct 17, 2006 10:07:50 PM

Rebecca Allen: what's this about "intentional infection of syphilis"? I'm not aware of any such documented event (at least in the 20th century - it did happen in the 19th, in Paris). The Tuskegee study didn't give anyone syphilis (just lied to the already-infected patients and neglected them - bad enough of course), and it began way before WW2 too, so maybe you're thinking of something else.

Posted by: Hob | Oct 17, 2006 10:22:55 PM

GP: England. Where did you think?

Hob: what's with the hypertechnical critique? The infmaous Tuskegee experiment continued until the press leak I mentioned -- in 1972. How this predates WW2 puzzles me. It's enough to make a fellow think you're defending it.

Posted by: wcw | Oct 18, 2006 3:19:19 AM

It's enough to make a fellow think you're defending it.

Which fellow?

Posted by: Sanpete | Oct 18, 2006 11:01:39 AM

Where do you think "V For Vendetta" came from?

Actually, V for Vendetta was about bilogical weapons, with an anti-utopian message. It fits well in the same category as 1984 and Brave New World. I am unable to remember the name of the series, but there is a comic book series that is based, in part, on the MKUltra program - as if it had continued and flourished. A very interesting series too, it spans a timeframe of several hundred years and ultimately one comes to understand that with layer upon layer, everyone is being mind controlled - even the controlers of the controlers of the controlers, ad infinium - stretching back to the architects of the whole program, then realizing that they too, were controlled by external forces. I will post a comment with the name if I can remember it. It is a brilliant critique of the whole concept of mind control - and the lack of real control anyone involved in such programs actually could have.

Posted by: DuWayne | Oct 18, 2006 11:35:29 AM

What I find incredibly funny about the MKUltra program is that it actually had the effect of releasing LSD as a recreational drug to the general public. At the height of the program the CIA was giving acid to a lot of odd charecters - including writers and intellectuals. Many of these folks in turn gave it to friends or passed it out at parties. This is how LSD developed such a wide following in the fifties and sixties. Aldous Huxley would likely never have tried mescaline and written The Doors of Perception or Heaven and Hell, had he not been introduced to LSD through the MKUltra program.

Posted by: DuWayne | Oct 18, 2006 11:42:35 AM

This is the problem....only those who lived through it remember it....or parts.
MK-Ultra created the sixties ( of which I actually mean the years 1965-'75)
Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out....three phrases that pushed a large chunk of boomers away from the main.
So, it only demonstrates the incompetency of the CIA and how we should never allow them to have this type of power ever again.
Although I do not personally think you could have stopped LSD from being introduced to the public....it was a drug of its day.

Posted by: marcus | Oct 18, 2006 12:53:45 PM

another MKULTRA connection and information can be found here...
http://indianlakeproject.blogspot.com/

Posted by: John | Oct 18, 2006 8:19:47 PM

Although I do not personally think you could have stopped LSD from being introduced to the public....it was a drug of its day.

No, it would have made it out regardless. Dr. Hofmann himself was quite keen on making it available to the teaming masses. He was also instrumental in sharing it with various academics and intellectuals. The CIA was simply another vehicle for getting it out there, especialy in the states.

Posted by: DuWayne | Oct 18, 2006 8:20:13 PM

"Any conspiracy in which hundreds of people have to participate and remain silent (e.g., the 9/11 kerfluffle), however, is facially improbable."

As Hemmingway said, wouldn't it be pretty to think so? Cointelpro directly involved hundreds of people and was successfully kept secret for decades. No one ever squealed. It was exposed when a bunch of radicals broke into the Miami FBI officials and stole all the files. In reaction to what was published, the Church Committee investigated. The very existence of the NSA and NRO were kept secret for decades.

The interesting thing is that the only reason most people accept MKULTRA as true is that the government and its documents have been forced to admit it. The difference between an historical fact and a loony fantasy utterly paranoid on its face is what the government itself says. We saw this clearly in the 90's Gary Webb said the Contras had been smuggling cocaine into the US and the CIA deliberately overlooked this. The media could not even keep a straight face covering such a blatantly ridiculous suggestion. Elvis! the Illuminati! UFO's! - all got satrically conflated with the story by the mainstream media. Webb was ruined and driven to eventual suicide.

Then the CIA report in response to Webb's story was released very quietly on the day of Clinton's impeachment. Now people quietly acknowledge that Webb was substantially correct. But, like previous Iraqi war boosters, they refuse to re-evaluate their previous position. If you thought the Mercury News story was ridiculous, and now acknowledge that it was substantially correct, you should now be acknowledging that there is something fundamentally wrong with your view of what kinds of theories are ridiculous.

Posted by: Martin Bento | Oct 20, 2006 3:17:50 PM

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