Sixty-four years ago this month, six million Americans became unwitting subjects
in an experiment in psychological warfare.
It was the night before Halloween, 1938. At 8 p.m. CST, the Mercury Radio on
the Air began broadcasting Orson Welles' radio adaptation of H. G. Wells' War
of the Worlds. As is now well known, the story was presented as if it were breaking
news, with bulletins so realistic that an estimated one million people believed
the world was actually under attack by Martians. Of that number, thousands succumbed
to outright panic, not waiting to hear Welles' explanation at the end of the
program that it had all been a Halloween prank, but fleeing into the night to
escape the alien invaders.
Later, psychologist Hadley Cantril conducted a study of the effects of the
broadcast and published his findings in a book, The Invasion from Mars: A Study
in the Psychology of Panic. This study explored the power of broadcast media,
particularly as it relates to the suggestibility of human beings under the influence
of fear. Cantril was affiliated with Princeton University's Radio Research Project,
which was funded in 1937 by the Rockefeller Foundation. Also affiliated with
the Project was Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) member and Columbia Broadcasting
System (CBS) executive Frank Stanton, whose network had broadcast the program.
Stanton would later go on to head the news division of CBS, and in time would
become president of the network, as well as chairman of the board of the RAND
Corporation, the influential think tank which has done groundbreaking research
on, among other things, mass brainwashing.
Two years later, with Rockefeller Foundation money, Cantril established the
Office of Public Opinion Research (OPOR), also at Princeton. Among the studies
conducted by the OPOR was an analysis of the effectiveness of "psycho-political
operations" (propaganda, in plain English) of the Office of Strategic Services
(OSS), the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Then, during
World War II, Cantril÷and Rockefeller money÷assisted CFR member
and CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow in setting up the Princeton Listening Center,
the purpose of which was to study Nazi radio propaganda with the object of applying
Nazi techniques to OSS propaganda. Out of this project came a new government
agency, the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service (FBIS). The FBIS eventually
became the United States Information Agency (USIA), which is the propaganda
arm of the National Security Council.
Thus, by the end of the 1940s, the basic research had been done and the propaganda
apparatus of the national security state had been set up--just in time for the
Dawn of Television ...
Experiments conducted by researcher Herbert Krugman reveal that, when a person
watches television, brain activity switches from the left to the right hemisphere.
The left hemisphere is the seat of logical thought. Here, information is broken
down into its component parts and critically analyzed. The right brain, however,
treats incoming data uncritically, processing information in wholes, leading
to emotional, rather than logical, responses. The shift from left to right brain
activity also causes the release of endorphins, the body's own natural opiates--thus,
it is possible to become physically addicted to watching television, a hypothesis
borne out by numerous studies which have shown that very few people are able
to kick the television habit.
This numbing of the brain's cognitive function is compounded by another shift
which occurs in the brain when we watch television. Activity in the higher brain
regions (such as the neo-cortex) is diminished, while activity in the lower
brain regions (such as the limbic system) increases. The latter, commonly referred
to as the reptile brain, is associated with more primitive mental functions,
such as the "fight or flight" response. The reptile brain is unable
to distinguish between reality and the simulated reality of television. To the
reptile brain, if it looks real, it is real. Thus, though we know on a conscious
level it is "only a film," on a conscious level we do not--the heart
beats faster, for instance, while we watch a suspenseful scene. Similarly, we
know the commercial is trying to manipulate us, but on an unconscious level
the commercial nonetheless succeeds in, say, making us feel inadequate until
we buy whatever thing is being advertised--and the effect is all the more powerful
because it is unconscious, operating on the deepest level of human response.
The reptile brain makes it possible for us to survive as biological beings,
but it also leaves us vulnerable to the manipulations of television programmers.
It is not just commercials that manipulate us. On television news as well,
image and sound are as carefully selected and edited to influence human thought
and behavior as in any commercial. The news anchors and reporters themselves
are chosen for their physical attractiveness--a factor which, as numerous psychological
studies have shown, contributes to our perception of a person's trustworthiness.
Under these conditions, then, the viewer easily forgets--if, indeed, the viewer
ever knew in the first place--that the worldview presented on the evening news
is a contrivance of the network owners--owners such as General Electric (NBC)
and Westinghouse (CBS), both major defense contractors. By molding our perception
of the world, they mold our opinions. This distortion of reality is determined
as much by what is left out of the evening news as what is included--as a glance
at Project Censored's yearly list of top 25 censored news stories will reveal.
If it's not on television, it never happened. Out of sight, out of mind.
Under the guise of journalistic objectivity, news programs subtly play on our
emotions--chiefly fear. Network news divisions, for instance, frequently congratulate
themselves on the great service they provide humanity by bringing such spectacles
as the September 11 terror attacks into our living rooms. We have heard this
falsehood so often, we have come to accept it as self-evident truth. However,
the motivation for live coverage of traumatic news events is not altruistic,
but rather to be found in the central focus of Cantril's War of the Worlds research--the
manipulation of the public through fear.
There is another way in which we are manipulated by television news. Human
beings are prone to model the behaviors they see around them, and avoid those
which might invite ridicule or censure, and in the hypnotic state induced by
television, this effect is particularly pronounced. For instance, a lift of
the eyebrow from Peter Jennings tells us precisely what he is thinking--and
by extension what we should think. In this way, opinions not sanctioned by the
corporate media can be made to seem disreputable, while sanctioned opinions
are made to seem the very essence of civilized thought. And should your thinking
stray into unsanctioned territory despite the trusted anchor's example, a poll
can be produced which shows that most persons do not think that way--and you
don't want to be different do you? Thus, the mental wanderer is brought back
into the fold.
This process is also at work in programs ostensibly produced for entertainment.
The "logic" works like this: Archie Bunker is an idiot, Archie Bunker
is against gun control, therefore idiots are against gun control. Never mind
the complexities of the issue. Never mind the fact that the true purpose of
the Second Amendment is not to protect the rights of deer hunters, but to protect
the citizenry against a tyrannical government (an argument you will never hear
voiced on any television program). Monkey see, monkey do--or, in this case,
monkey not do.
Notice, too, the way in which television programs depict conspiracy researchers
or anti-New World Order activists. On situation comedies, they are buffoons.
On dramatic programs, they are dangerous fanatics. This imprints on the mind
of the viewer the attitude that questioning the official line or holding "anti-government"
opinions is crazy, therefore not to be emulated.
Another way in which entertainment programs mold opinion can be found in the
occasional television movie, which "sensitively" deals with some "social"
issue. A bad behavior is spotlighted--"hate" crimes, for instance--in
such a way that it appears to be a far more rampant problem than it may actually
be, so terrible in fact that the "only" cure for it is more laws and
government "protection." Never mind that laws may already exist to
cover these crimes--the law against murder, for instance. Once we have seen
the well-publicized murder of the young gay man Matthew Shepherd dramatized
in not one, but two, television movies in all its heartrending horror, nothing
will do but we pass a law making the very thought behind the crime illegal.
People will also model behaviors from popular entertainment which are not only
dangerous to their health and could land them in jail, but also contribute to
social chaos. While this may seem to be simply a matter of the producers giving
the audience what it wants, or the artist holding a mirror up to society, it
is in fact intended to influence behavior.
Consider the way many films glorify drug abuse. When a popular star playing
a sympathetic character in a mainstream R-rated film uses hard drugs with no
apparent health or legal consequences (John Travolta's use of heroin in Pulp
Fiction, for instance--an R-rated film produced for theatrical release, which
now has found a permanent home on television, via cable and video players),
a certain percentage of people--particularly the impressionable young--will
perceive hard drug use as the epitome of anti-Establishment cool and will model
that behavior, contributing to an increase in drug abuse. And who benefits?
As has been well documented by Gary Webb in his award-winning series for the
San Jose Mercury New, former Los Angeles narcotics detective Michael Ruppert,
and many other researchers and whistleblowers--the CIA is the main purveyor
of hard drugs in this country. The CIA also has its hand in the "prison-industrial
complex." Wackenhut Corporation, the largest owner of private prisons,
has on its board of directors many former CIA employees, and is very likely
a CIA front. Thus, films which glorify drug abuse may be seen as recruitment
ads for the slave labor-based private prison system. Also, the social chaos
and inflated crime rate which result from the contrived drug problem contributes
to the demand from a frightened society for more prisons, more laws, and the
further erosion of civil liberties. This effect is further heightened by television
news segments and documentaries which focus on drug abuse and other crimes,
thus giving the public the misperception that crime is even higher than it really
There is another socially debilitating process at work in what passes for entertainment
on television these days. Over the years, there has been a steady increase in
adult subject matter on programs presented during family viewing hours. For
instance, it is common for today's prime-time situation comedies to make jokes
about such matters as masturbation (Seinfeld once devoted an entire episode
to the topic), or for daytime talk shows such as Jerry Springer's to showcase
such topics as bestiality. Even worse are the "reality" programs currently
in vogue. Each new offering in this genre seems to hit a new low. MTV, for instance,
recently subjected a couple to a Candid Camera-style prank in which, after winning
a trip to Las Vegas, they entered their hotel room to find an actor made up
as a mutilated corpse in the bathtub. Naturally, they were traumatized by the
experience and sued the network. Or, consider a new show on British television
in which contestants compete to see who can infect each other with the most
diseases--venereal diseases included.
It would appear, at the very least, that these programs serve as a shill operation
to strengthen the argument for censorship. There may also be an even darker
motive. These programs contribute to the general coarsening of society we see
all around us--the decline in manners and common human decency and the acceptance
of cruelty for its own sake as a legitimate form of entertainment. Ultimately,
this has the effect of debasing human beings into savages, brutes--the better
to herd them into global slavery.
For the first decade or so after the Dawn of Television, there were only a
handful of channels in each market--one for each of the three major networks
and maybe one or two independents. Later, with the advent of cable and more
channels, the population pie began to be sliced into finer pieces--or "niche
markets." This development has often been described as representing a growing
diversity of choices, but in reality it is a fine-tuning of the process of mass
manipulation, a honing-in on particular segments of the population, not only
to sell them specifically-targeted consumer products but to influence their
thinking in ways advantageous to the globalist agenda.
One of these "target audiences" is that portion of the population
which, after years of blatant government cover-up in areas such as UFOs and
the assassination of John F. Kennedy, maintains a cynicism toward the official
line, despite the best efforts of television programmers to depict conspiracy
research in a negative light. How to reach this vast, disenfranchised target
audience and co-opt their thinking? One way is to put documentaries before them
which mix of fact with disinformation, thereby confusing them. Another is to
take the X Files approach.
The heroes of X Files are investigators in a fictitious paranormal department
of the FBI whose adventures sometimes take them into parapolitical territory.
On the surface this sounds good. However, whatever good X Files might accomplish
by touching on such matters as MK-ULTRA or the JFK assassination is cancelled
out by associating them with bug-eyed aliens and ghosts. Also, on X Files, the
truth is always depicted as "out there" somewhere--in the stars, or
some other dimension, never in brainwashing centers such as the RAND Corporation
or its London counterpart, the Tavistock Institute. This has the effect of obscuring
the truth, making it seem impossibly out-of-reach, and associating reasonable
lines of political inquiry with the fantastic and other-wordly.
Not that there is no connection between the parapolitical and the paranormal.
There is undoubtedly a cover-up at work with regard to UFOs, but if we accept
uncritically the notion that UFOs are anything other than terrestrial in origin,
we are falling headfirst into a carefully-set trap. To its credit, X Files has
dealt with the idea that extraterrestrials might be a clever hoax by the government,
but never decisively. The labyrinthine plots of the show somehow manage to leave
the viewer wondering if perhaps the hoax idea is itself a hoax put out there
to cover up the existence of extraterrestrials. This is hardly helpful to a
true understanding of UFOs and associated phenomena, such as alien abductions
and cattle mutilations.
Extraterrestrials have been a staple of popular entertainment since The War
of the Worlds (both the novel and its radio adaptation). They have been depicted
as invaders and benefactors, but rarely have they been unequivocally depicted
as a hoax. There was an episode of Outer Limits which depicted a group of scientists
staging a mock alien invasion to frighten the world's population into uniting
as one--but, again, such examples are rare. Even in UFO documentaries on the
Discovery Channel, the possibility of a terrestrial origin for the phenomenon
is conspicuous by its lack of mention.
UFO researcher Jacques Vallee, the real-life model for the French scientist
in Stephen Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, attempted to interest
Spielberg in a terrestrial explanation for the phenomenon. In an interview on
Conspire.com, Vallee said, "I argued with him that the subject was even
more interesting if it wasn't extraterrestrials. If it was real, physical, but
not ET. So he said, 'You're probably right, but that's not what the public is
expecting--this is Hollywood and I want to give people something that's close
to what they expect.'"
How convenient that what Spielberg says the people expect is also what the
Pentagon wants them to believe.
In Messengers of Deception, Vallee tracks the history of a wartime British
Intelligence unit devoted to psychological operations. Code-named (interestingly)
the "Martians," it specialized in manufacturing and distributing false
intelligence to confuse the enemy. Among its activities were the creation of
phantom armies with inflatable tanks, simulations of the sounds of military
ships maneuvering in the fog, and forged letters to lovers from phantom soldiers
attached to phantom regiments.
Vallee suggests that deception operations of this kind may have extended beyond
World War II, and that much of the "evidence" for "flying saucers"
is no more real than the inflatable tanks of World War II. He writes: "The
close association of many UFO sightings with advanced military hardware (test
sites like the New Mexico proving grounds, missile silos of the northern plains,
naval construction sites like the major nuclear facility at Pascagoula and the
bizarre love affairs ... between contactee groups, occult sects, and extremist
political factions, are utterly clear signals that we must exercise extreme
Many people find it fantastic that the government would perpetrate such a hoax,
while at the same time having no difficulty entertaining the notion that extraterrestrials
are regularly traveling light years to this planet to kidnap people out of their
beds and subject them to anal probes.
The military routinely puts out disinformation to obscure its activities, and
this has certainly been the case with UFOs. Consider Paul Bennewitz, the UFO
enthusiast who began studying strange lights that would appear nightly over
the Manzano Test Range outside Albuquerque. When the Air Force learned about
his study, ufologist William Moore (by his own admission) was recruited to feed
him forged military documents describing a threat from extraterrestrials. The
effect was to confuse Bennewitz--even making him paranoid enough to be hospitalized--and
discredit his research. Evidently, those strange lights belonged to the Air
Force, which does not like outsiders inquiring into its affairs.
What the Air Force did to Bennewitz, it also does on a mass scale--and popular
entertainment has been complicit in this process. Whether or not the filmmakers
themselves are consciously aware of this agenda does not matter. The notion
that extraterrestrials might visit this planet is so much a part of popular
culture and modern mythology that it hardly needs assistance from the military
to propagate itself.
It has the effect not only of obscuring what is really going on at research
facilities such as Area 51, but of tainting UFO research in general as "kooky"--and
does the job so thoroughly that one need only say "UFO" in the same
breath with "JFK" to discredit research in that area as well. It also
may, in the end, serve the same purpose as depicted in that Outer Limits episode--to
unite the world's population against a perceived common threa