by Kim Pederson…….
In Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan, the soldiers on Mars, who are training to invade earth because it’s warmer there and has breathable air, are controlled remotely via an antenna implanted in their brains. Even the officers are manipulated, along with thousands of men, by several hundred individuals who comprise the “real commanders,” men with ranks below sergeant sprinkled among the robotic troops. The latter march smartly from place to place, kept in perfect rhythm by the sound of a snare drum resounding in their heads, or as Vonnegut describes it, “rented a tent, tent, tent; rented a tent, tent, tent; rented a tent; rented a tent; rented a tent, tent, tent.”
In BrainDead, the one season sci-fi series on CBS, aliens disguised as ants come to earth and infiltrate the federal government by taking over various politicians and staffers. They do this by crawling into their heads via the ear canal when they are asleep and assuming dominance over part of the brain. Why not all of it, I don’t know. So, while the BrainDead robots had ants instead of antennas in their heads, the effect is much the same. The captive individuals started implementing the ants’ agenda, whatever that may have been, acting more than a little strangely as they did and sometimes having their skulls explode. The series joke was that no one in the outside world really noticed that Washington was “bugged.”
Mind control of humans by creatures from far away and long ago is one of the hoariest of speculative fiction story lines. We humans have also been at it a long while. It used to be called brainwashing (The Manchurian Candidate, Clockwork Orange, or 1984, anyone? Anyone?). Now that we’re cruising along at breakneck speed in the digital age, we have better tools for this than the hoaknosis approach often used in film and fiction (“Do you see the queen of hearts, Raymond?”). Indeed, efforts at mind control are rampant these days. Here are some examples of “modern” present or potential mind-control methods assembled by the Activist Post(“Propaganda for Peace, Love and Liberty”):
- Education (obvious yet insidious)
- Advertising/propaganda (turns our wants into needs)
- Predictive programming (click this link for a list of films that purportedly “suggestify” and “condition” viewers)
- Sports, politics, religion (these teach us to divide and conquer)
- Food, water, air (things added to FWA “alter brain chemistry to create docility and apathy” and fluoride in water lowers IQ per this source)
- Drugs (described as “medical tyranny”)
- Military testing (DARPA, apparently, is working on a “transcranial mind control helmet”)
- Electromagnetic spectrum (cellphone towers are mind-control monsters of the id waiting to be wakened)
- Television, computers, and the flicker rate (watching puts us to sleep while programming takes place)
- Nanobots (brain rewiring made easy)
Cracked offers a less Doomsiratorial but just as thought-provoking exploration of mind control. Take, for instance, the practice known as “priming.” We learn from Cracked that that sea of fragrant flowers we encounter when we step through the door of a grocery store is not accidental. No, “a product that is highly perishable yet fresh will ‘prime’ you into thinking of freshness, and you will carry that ‘freshness’ mindset all the way back to the discount meat counter.” Cracked goes on to describe other mind-bending items like the color of pills, specific wording of concepts, singing in groups, and the “facial expressions” of cars.
While people can certainly go off the deep end when it comes to worrying about someone or something messing with our minds (see the Montauk Project for example, which some consider responsible via “programming” for the actions of Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, Timothy McVeigh, and others of their ilk), attempts at mind control permeate our environment. Friends, teachers, newscasters, politicians, product manufacturers, and, yes, even dogs and cats (especially cats!) all try to warp our thinking and actions in some way or another. There’s no escaping it. There’s no defense against it really, no matter where you might go to try to escape it. North Pole? Think of the aurora borealis particles raining down on your brain matter. South Pole? Same thing. Outer space? More radiation and who knows what dark matter does to us? No wonder headaches, mental and/or physical, psychological and/or sociological, financial and/or political, have become ingrained in our lives.
But wait. All may not be lost. I can think of two ways to ward off all encephalitic encroachments and preserve one’s mind as one’s own. For all things people-related, it’s adopting the Bartleby approach, which involves standing in one place and perpetually pronouncing “I prefer not to.” For cats, “No! Go away!” usually works.
P.S. In case you were wondering, the title is part of a bastardized quote from 1984. The real cite is “nothing was your own except the few centimeters inside your skull.”
*Photo Credit: George Orwell sourced from wikimedia.org, public domain.
Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings.