Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Modern Day Manchurian Candidate?
A few years ago, I asked my class to imagine what social issue might lead to a modern day civil war. The class pretty much came up with either class warfare (based on a dwindling middle class) or cultural warfare (based on the growing Spanish speaking majority).
The latter has intrigued me since we see so many examples of cultural conflicts based in part on language; the Basque, the Kurds, the Quebecois, and now even the Walloons and Flemish. Language is the perfect tinder since it automatically segregates people into those that speak it and those that can't. Combine the issue of a growing Hispanic population in the US with immigration issues and it seemed like a perfect storm.
Recent events have caused me to wonder if there isn't a more volatile issue that could really lead to an insurrection. And this issue comes with a high level of emotion with pundits on both sides spread across the media. I am of course speaking about gun control resulting from recent mass killings. The subsequent pontificating on both sides is becoming disturbing.
First, let's look at a word that is necessary for this discussion; propaganda. According to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, propaganda is defined as "ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect". No one side is innocent, both pro and anti gun control advocates are trying to spread their ideas while discrediting the other's views.
The propaganda of the pro-gun rights is that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. The problem is this really doesn't address the concerns of the gun-control advocates who want to feel safe and not see children massacred in schools. Access to guns in their minds equals increased violence.
The propaganda of the gun-control side states more legislation does not in fact reduce gun violence as much as it reduces access to guns. Historically legislation has not been successful in controlling behavior. One only need to look at the 21st Amendment (the repeal of prohibition) to see the fallacy of believing behavior can be legislated. Gun control will only reduce access to guns by those who follow the law. It will do nothing to reduce the desire to hurt one's fellow man.
The pro-gun crowd fails to acknowledge the very real fear of increased violent attacks at schools and public areas. Why else the need for concealed carry if not for the same shared realization that the world has become far more dangerous? Pro-gun rights would say that's the problem, they recognize the threat but the gun-control group wants to deny them the best option for defeating violence (the right to bear arms). Being armed does not prevent violence, it merely gives you the means to deal with it when other options are not available.
The gun-rights/gun-control argument is not one that will be solved any time soon and it really isn't my point. Rather, the debate is rapidly becoming one of "I'm right and you're wrong" with no compromised being tolerated. With compromise coming off of the table, escalation is inevitable.
Escalation in turn has me wondering if this is not just the work of our emotions but of external enemies. As I've written about before, the drug war is in part the result of long held feelings by Central and South American countries that they have been exploited by the United States. Realizing that they lacked the military and economic power to threaten the US, the manufacture and smuggling of drugs were supported as a means of destroying the United States from within.
Since 9/11, we have been thrilled with the notion of some mastermind terrorist grouping attacking a major city with a dirty bomb. In reality, there has not been a single document case of a dirty bomb being used. The technical and logistical issues with assembling such a device is far more complex than movies and books make it seem. Furthermore, any device that uses radioactive material can be traced very easily by overhead assets.
Most 21st Century terrorist cells are small, autonomous groups that really can't execute the James Bond like scenario of a dirty bomb. In fact, in "Skyfall" the new "Q" lectured 007 on how he could do far more damage using his laptop than Bond could do with his old-fashioned reliance on bombs and guns.
The best op would be one that you can't trace back to a particular enemy but could lead the destruction of your enemy from within. The increase incidence of mass killings is leading to more calls for the Obama administration to pass gun legislation. In turn this is leading to more divisiveness in the United States and propaganda on both sides has replaced any dispassionate debate. How do we make schools safer? How do we deal with a society that isolates individuals to the point they turn to violence as a means to be heard?
I've been thinking about this past for the last few weeks and then I saw something else that makes me wonder if the mass killings could be part of a psychological warfare on the United States? I followed saw YouTube video that talked about the MK Ultra program. Basically MK Ultra looked to produce Manchurian Candidates, operatives who had no idea they were operatives until they heard a codeword. This is not science fiction or conspiracy theory, this was a strategy of the Cold War that both the US and Soviet Union pursued.
In two of the most recent mass-shooter cases, Aurora and Newton, two lone gunmen committed mass murder with little prior warning as to what they were contemplating. Both were intelligent, introverted outliers. What if they had been manipulated somehow to commit those murders with the intent of disrupting society?
When the Soviets and the United States went looking for candidates, they had to find young people and connect them with psychologists and hypnotists who were trained in how to implement subconscious directions (marketing is a more benign form of the same principles).
In the 21st Century, the Internet provides both the perfect recruiting and training medium. Video games could have subtle behavioral messages in them. Only the right type of personality would respond and could be directed to other internet forums for further behavior modification.
Add to that the huge population of Americans that are taking some type of psychotropic drug (that often have side effects that include tendencies toward violence and suicide) and our enemies don't have to leave their home base to create Manchurian candidates. Our mental health system has already provided them fertile ground.
Far-fetched? At first but when you realize the potential this would give a group like Al Qaeda, it suddenly becomes much more compelling. The US citizens could be at war with each other due to the actions of modern day Manchurian Candidates. And we just might too busy arguing with each other to even notice.