Friday, May 9, 2008

Okay, So Let's Talk MKUltra

Since this has come up in a few of the most recent posts, let's talk about it. Created in the early 1950s and lasting (allegedly) up until about 1973, the CIA's MKUltra program sought to develop new technologies in mind control, hypnosis, behavioral modification, etc.

Some say the narrative begins with Operation Paperclip, the American intelligence community's program to harvest as many Nazi scientists, doctors and engineers as possible (and cynically capitalize on knowledge gleaned from their atrocities-disguised-as-experiments, while also keeping these men out of the hands of the Soviets). Others say it was inspired by POWs from the Korean Conflict, who'd been broken and distorted by the Chinese, Russians and North Koreans.

Here's all you really need to know:

1. It was real.
2. It was still bullshit anyway.

Yes, MKUltra probably killed people via accident or deliberate acts. Yes, it violated people's civil liberties. Yes, it may have poisoned their bodies and minds with chemicals administered without consent. Yes, it was part of a cover-up by Director Richard Helms (who destroyed almost all the files on it). It doesn't mean any of this shit works. It doesn't. Here's why:

1. It Relied on Agents for Science
A lot of time you had field men administering this junk, often doing it in the field, often without any control group, often within social settings where you've got a billion variables going on. Most of what we know about MKUltra was ultra-unscientific. You can put protons in a linear accelerator and fire them at each other, but if you've got the two dudes from Bartles & Jaymes watching the dials, they're going to thank you for your support and tell you something useless. MKUltra was morally and socially disgusting in a society of law and liberty, but it also managed to be an appalling demonstration of Bad Science.

2. It Relied on Belief in Hypnotism
Hynotism is bullshit. If it weren't, you'd see it all the time. Since you don't, what does that tell you? There'd by hypnosis rape cases, hypnosis burglaries, hypnosis-forced-suicides. It wouldn't just be a Vegas show or on the Sci-Fi channel. When a huge wing of your science boils down to "things from the carnival are real!" then you're not learning anything. The only way you can believe that hypnosis as it related to MKUltra meant anything is if you can believe there's a secret society of people who have this ability and who are kept out of public light by the government or hypnotize their way out of detection. Since almost every hypnotist you're ever going to meet is a grifter or a flake, you can either bury your head in conspiracy or wake up to this being another demonstration of BAD SCIENCE.

3. It Relied on Shoddy Psychology
At the time, what we knew about personality disorders and other forms of abnormal psych was about a tenth as much as we know today. Considering we know slightly more than jack about that now, again, NOT something to base all your science on. Unless you like (you guessed it) BAD SCIENCE.

4. It Relied on LSD and MDA for Behavioral Sabotage and Control
Have you ever tried controlling someone on acid? Seriously? Come on. MDA (related to MDMA) was used to make people feel euphoric and blab or lose inhibitions, but like booze and other drugs, it basically worked on people who were the type of people to talk and not on the type of people who didn't. Meaning that it did nothing significant. With acid, they could induce panic in some people, not in others. Again, it's an unpredictable and unproductive effect that usually depends on the person.

In summary, any time your big conspiracy against the American people is being run by guys without training, using Vegas act techniques for their science, going off pop-psych about MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES and powered by LSD, you're going to come up with a bunch of bullshit.

That video LS linked plays right into all this stuff. People believe it counts as science because they want to believe it does, just as much as the CIA did. And to prove it that guy who made the video has a bunch of popular movie clips and pop-psych explanations and then puts in some SPOOOOOOKY images, but it doesn't tell you anything you couldn't dream up after sticking a fork in half your brain.

MKUltra is significant because of what it says about our government — not because of what its results said at all.


L-Scott said...

"In summary, any time your big conspiracy against the American people is being run by guys without training, using Vegas act techniques..."

I would seriously tell my interrogator everything he wanted to know if he was just blasting Steve & Eydie after Steve & Eydie album at me.

Also, who wouldn't give it up immediately if you threatened them with total immersion in between-act blather from old Dean Martin roasts. Just picture yourself. You're a terrorist. You can die for what you believe in, or spend days listening to total fucking hacks like Steve & Eydie and Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. suck each other off for wearing shitty suits and stupid glasses and telling the same disgusting ethnic jokes. Speaking of jokes, was Sammy Davis Jr. ever an A-List anything? Besides being a whore for the Nixon administration? GodDAMN I hate Vegas schlock.

Oh yeah, were you drunk when you wrote this?

George F.K. said...


Didn't Sammy do a killer version of "Mr. Bojangles"? I always liked Nina Simone's better. But yeah, you're right, I was totally lit on this one (and am slightly lit again), and everything about Sammy and Nixon makes me sick. I don't know if Sammy was black and Jewish or just black and a convert, but when you consider how many N-bombs and "kikes" Nixon dropped on his declassified tapes, it makes you wonder if Sammy was cozying up to a viper who promised not to raise his taxes or if he honestly thought Nixon was a good man. I hope it was the latter one, because I really don't want to think of him as selling out both his peoples. It just doesn't seem at all to be in his character. I think he must have been sold a bad bill of goods. Then again, I never read Yes, I Can. Someone clear this up for me. I want to like Sammy.

I forgot where I was going with this, but someone tell me: do Steve and Eydie even exist? I swear they're actually Mike Myers and whomever that SNL girl was who played them. I think they're fictional.