“When it’s more convenient to blame a conspiracy for mind control than to face our political differences, something is very wrong.”
CHRISTOPHER POLK / GETTY IMAGES / WIRED
The internet did not blame Cardi B for her sudden staring into space while she was giving a red carpet interview at 2018 Grammys. According to some web sections, Cardi B’s lapse in concentration was a sign that she was under the CIA’s MK Ultra mind control program. Her strange blank expression was evidence of a glitch in her programming.
MK-Ultra is an internet conspiracy theory. The belief is that celebrities and politicians who act strangely on camera are not only nervous or acting out of character, but also victims of top-secret mind control units within the US government.
This conspiracy theory can also be applied to other sinister acts and is often used in conjunction with other conspiracy theories. There are many Reddit threads that suggest the gunmen responsible for attacks like Sandy Hook and Columbine weren’t terrorists or fanatics, but “MK Ultra puppets” who were being controlled by sinister forces to execute these atrocities.
One of the reasons why the MK-Ultra conspiracy theory seems so compelling to its supporters is because its roots are so grounded in reality. You would probably think I was reading science fiction if I told you that the CIA did brain surgery on six dogs. They placed electric chips in their brains to allow them to be controlled remotely by remote controls. These things were actually done under MK-Ultra. This was true right up to the 1970s.
MK-Ultra, founded in 1953, was considered by CIA director Allen W. Dulles to be a means to study mind control. He wanted to use it against the Soviet Union in order to gain a crucial edge in the Cold War. The CIA was concerned by reports that American prisoners were being turned into communist allies. They believed this to be evidence that they had been manipulated, or even hypnotized during questioning. Millions of dollars were spent by the agency on studies to examine ways to control and influence minds and improve interrogation abilities. Testing with psychedelic drugs like LSD was part of the research.
According to Dr Russell Monroe, a government scientist who spoke to ABC News in 1979 about the CIA’s search for an incapacitating agent. This agent would not incapacitate permanently, but it would not hurt permanently. Mind control was a humanistic method to wage war. But the CIA’s methods were brutal, even if it believed that it was acting in the national interests. One case involved a Kentucky mental health patient who was given LSD for 174 days. According to the New York Times which states that at least one person died, there were 149 mind control experiments conducted by the agency. These tests led to the death of several others, as well as long-term health problems such amnesia.
Jean Steel’s family was compensated by the government. Jean Steel was one of many MK Ultra human guinea-pigs Dr. Ewen Camard experimented with at McGill University’s Allen Memorial Institute building. In 2017, a settlement totalling $100,000 was made. Alison Steel, her daughter, said to the media that her mother was unable to function as a healthy person again after what she did.
MK-Ultra is almost cartoonish and sounds almost like a Bond villain,” Michael Wood (a lecturer at University of Winchester’s Department of Psychology) says. “But its origins are based upon verifiable facts, which gives it an uncomfortable edge.”
Wood credits the 1962 movie The Manchurian Candidate which depicts a soldier who is controlled by mind control to kill a politician for bringing MKUltra out from the shadows and into popular culture folklore. He says that this has been propagated further by the internet and modern-day reference in TV series like Stranger Things (where the scientists who created Eleven with telekinetic abilities are mentioned) and films like the Jesse Eisenberg-starring American Super
Wood says that MK-Ultra has been used in a specific rhetorical way when talking about an inside job. MK-Ultra has demonstrated that the US government does not hesitate to commit horrible acts against its citizens. MK-Ultra can be blamed for any mishap and is a popular online buzzword.
Marie D Jones, a US writer, co-authored the book Mind Wars. A History of Mind Control, Surveillance, and Social Engineering By the Government, Media, and Secret Societies. She believes that humans have always had a desire to control the minds of others. This belief dates back to Ancient Egyptians, who advocated the use of coercive persuasive persuasion. Mind control is a natural part of “human nature,” she said.
Jones spent many months researching the MK-Ultra program through classified CIA documents. She says that MK-Ultra and the LSD tests were at the core of the program. They are about mastering the art to erase the subconscious of a victim, and replace it with a new way for thinking. Jones claims that online conspiracies surrounding MK-Ultra have become problematic, especially those based on video clips like Al Roker staring out into space and Britney Spears stumbles during interviews.
It’s vital that MK-Ultra’s truth is known. However, the fact that it has become so popular in popular culture has made it a problem. It’s gone from intellectually probing its origins to believing in total insanity, such as targeting celebrities and making them do strange things. This takes away the opportunity to study the history of MK Ultra.
What is it that makes MK-Ultra so attractive to online communities? Especially when it comes to trying to understand something bizarre or tragic. Scott Wark, a University of Warwick researcher in meme theory, said that the internet has provided a wealth of alternative information, but also made it possible to access a lot of new things that can be confusing.
He explains, “We live in extremely complex devices that send packets at each other at speeds we cannot comprehend.” “Most of us don’t know how these things work. We don’t know how many systems work together. The world is in flames, finance doesn’t make sense to laypeople, and institutional politics are absurd. The perfect conditions for conspiratorial thinking and MK-Ultra are the proliferation of the unexplainable and polarisation in politics.
Wark believes that conspiracy theories such as MK-Ultra can help us deal with tragic events because they provide a convenient, preformed narrative about institutional agency. This narrative is much easier to grasp since it has so much cultural capital in recent years. He gives an example of Sandy Hook denialists being mainstreamed by controversial pundits like Alex Jones.
He says that MK-Ultra has been packaged in a story that is part of our cultural heritage. These stories are still told in movies, TV shows, comics, and books. As long as governments continue to commit atrocities and injustices, conspiracy theories such as MK-Ultra can translate these on a personal scale. As long as politics is polarized, it will be easy to identify the ‘other side’ as this agency. MK-Ultra is enduring because it tells a story about institutional power we are already primed for to hear: “It was a cover-up.”
Officially, the MK-Ultra Program was a failure. The CIA was embarrassed by its inability to find concrete results and shut it down in 1973. Jones suggests that the reason we continue to talk about it in 2019 is because we still tell outrageous stories about a Roswell-crashing UFO. She says that the internet allows for a free flow of information, which has transformed this fragment of our history into a huge, massive entity.
It’s very similar to how legends, folklore, and myths are cultivated. They have a nugget or truth at their core but are made into something bigger.” She doesn’t think it would surprise if the 1950s mind-control program continues to inspire future generations.
Wark believes that MK-Ultra’s survival is something to be proud of. He says, “Conspiracies enable us to make sense in a world that is already too complex.” “MK-Ultra’s themes of mind control help us to understand human-scale mystery. Otherwise, we have to grapple with abstract concepts–individuality, society, justice, whatever–that are always uncertain themselves. Mind control is much easier to grasp.
“MK-Ultra, however, is the canary for something all to apparent about the past: it’s much easier to blame a conspiracy regarding mind control than to face our political differences.