State Sponsored Terror
Mr. Topper and the SS Distorted, Ugly Reflections
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The source of these methods is military. Military Psychological Operations, commonly known as Psychological Warfare, PSYWAR, are operations aimed to convey selected information to influence the target emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and the behavior of organizations, groups, and individuals. PSYWAR is based on the understanding of the target's motivations, beliefs, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities.
The form of communication chosen for a PSYWAR event heavily depends on the accessibility of the target. Attempting to influence the North Korean public through advertisements in Craigslist.com would probably fail. Using infiltration agents and spreading information out loud would work better, but it is difficult. Originally developed to address external enemies; PSYWAR has been willingly adopted to achieve domestic political goals. Nothing gives states the right to treat its populations as enemies or to attempt to manipulate its opinions. The current situation has undermined the legitimacy of modern states.
The primary weapons of PSYWAR are sight and sound, which can be spread out by face-to-face communication, audio media (radio or loudspeaker), visual media (internet, television, leaflets, newspapers, books, magazines and/or posters) or any combination of them. The weapon is the message and how it affects the recipient. Sometimes, these motivation-influencing methods are used against the population of the applying organization. Consider the use of flags, national anthems, and other symbols aimed to create loyalty to an organization. Our understanding of how this system works is the key to our capability to filter the undesired, manipulative messages out of our minds. People like Yigal Amir and Yitzhak Rabin would have been spared, if this knowledge had been more widespread.
PSYWAR operations can be summarized as conveying message events. Beyond the face value of the message, the people behind these operations want to make clear to the victim that they can listen to and change media content. A clear example I experienced, was when an informant of the authorities working in my church congregation approached me one Sunday and out of the blue began talking about vaccines, a topic I cannot remember touching on for many years; the respective person doesn't use the internet. He explained at length that Bolivians didn't get tuberculosis vaccines and thus this disease was widespread in the country. Shortly after, I went to an internet kiosk and checked my email. The act was unrelated to the preceding chat. All the banners in the pages I opened advertised vaccines of different types; an event I had never witnessed before. Somebody was attempting to show me his power.
The disconnection between the events is also typical of PSYWAR operations: any claim of connection between the facts would be treated by the police as a sign of mental illness; yet, the probability of such a coincidence is infinitesimal. The result of this Big Brother Effect can be isolation and terror. Yet, at first these actions seem purposeless.
Open surveillance is one of the most intimidating options for PSYWAR operations. It must be used in such a way that denouncing it by the victim would be difficult. In any case, denouncing it would be useless since these operations are performed by the secret political police or the army. Yet, for the sake of appearances and publicity, operations are performed so that complaining about them is almost impossible. Even when the victim complains and is believed, the police will not be able to investigate. Once the persecutors notice the visit of the victim to the police station, or intercept a phone call to the police, or see police surveillance protecting the victim, they will refrain from any open harassment and would effectively become invisible. Soon, the complaint would be dismissed and the harassment renewed.
If, for some Machiavellian machination, the security services wish to modify the motivations and convictions of their target for their own benefit, they can use their surveillance capabilities as a tool. Simply, for the sake of the propaganda machine, the perpetrators of an open surveillance can carry messages for the victim to see; the effect is terrorizing, especially if the victim is caught unprepared. This can be used for the creation of what is known in the military as force multipliers. In this discipline, this is achieved by linking symbols and reality; oddly this is also related to the finances of such an operation.
A constant, open surveillance is an expensive affair. How can costs be lowered? Can that be created while creating the opposite impression? Surprisingly, both can be achieved at once. The best way of explaining this strange effect is by giving an example. Creating a linkage between a symbol and the surveillance personnel is the first step. The symbol must be chosen carefully, so that the victim would make the linkage, while at the same time preventing him from complaining openly. Let's take a look at Mr. Topper, a sports company executive under illegal state surveillance. He has been monitored constantly for months but is not aware of that. The security services have decided now to make the surveillance open, since they want to benefit financially from an event that is about to happen in the near future. They could simply park a van in front of his house, pull a couple of antennas out of it and place an obvious video camera at its front window. A large and muscular agent dressed in black, sporting a fancy flashlight and running wildly around the car would be a neat touch. After a couple of days, the message would be understood: "Mr. Topper, we are watching you!"
A more professional approach is cheaper. Let's say Mr. Topper works for "Sporty," a local company specializing in shoes. Let's assume "Nike" holds most of the market, while "Adidas" is a minor player in that city.
One morning, when Mr. Topper leaves his home in the way to his office, he notices a person aiming a camera at him kitty corner from his house. The stranger is forgotten as soon as the lights in the next junction change to green; however, as he crosses the junction a man with an Adidas cap jumps in front of his car; only by a miracle he is not hurt. Later, near the company's parking lot a different man with an Adidas cap photographs him. At the entrance to the company's headquarters, a group of well-dressed people is apparently waiting for something. All of them wear Adidas caps. "This is a remarkable collection of coincidences," thinks the still innocent Mr. Topper.
Next day he sees a man with an Adidas cap and a camera kitty corner from his home and decides to change his route. He learned that from a police documentary. Yet, at the next junction a man with an Adidas cap jumps in front of his car; he holds a hefty camera with a professional zoom. Are they reading his mind? It only looks so, but no, he is simply surrounded by at least two rings of watchers. This is part of a topic sometimes referred to as the Art of Make Believe.
From now on, every morning when Mr. Topper leaves his home and goes to work, he sees a person aiming a camera at him kitty corner from his home. The person changes; some days it is a man, others a woman, sometimes old, others young. However, the person always wears an "Adidas" cap. Soon, Mr. Topper would believe somebody is applying surveillance on him while attempting to frame "Adidas." From now on, "Make Believe" is the name of the game. If the PSYWAR operation had begun with a "Nike" cap, creating the symbol would have been more complicated, since most of the people in that town own a Nike item. The symbol would be diluted by the force of reality. Using "China Sports"—a company unknown in that city—would work faster. However, being an easily identifiable and foreign sign, it would provide a legitimate point of concern.
A few days later, he would suspect any innocent person walking the street while wearing an "Adidas" item. That's the moment a force multiplier had been created. Suddenly, all appearances of the symbol create a link to the surveillance team, even if the appearance is legitimate, and there is no surveillance at the moment. A small surveillance team can in such a way look substantially larger, as if having been multiplied by a factor. The worthless symbol has been transformed into a terror weapon. But more evils await Mr. Topper.
Once a symbol, or a series of them, has been established, interesting options for further lowering costs and raising the effectiveness appear in the form of another force multiplier. Instead of putting human watchers along the supposed daily path of Mr. Topper, graffiti, stickers and all kinds of printed material could be placed along the path. This may seem dangerous, since there would be a trail of proofs of the ongoing harassment. However, if planned carefully by using common enough symbols and alternating positive and negative messages so that a pattern is not created, the tactic is safe enough, cheap and effective. Mr. Topper would see a "Buy Adidas" sticker on a car parked in front of his house. "Adidas Uses Slave Labor" graffiti would appear on the wall of a sports shop near his office. Both were placed by the same people. A pseudo-surveillance ring has been created almost free of charge.
The following step in the attack is expanding the symbol while creating a positive linkage to the former one or two people in the surveillance team that Mr. Topper had learned to recognize. This point is crucial. During the initial period of the open surveillance, a symbol easily recognizable by Mr. Topper should be used; in this case, it would be the above described Adidas. However, if overused, it may give credibility to a formal complaint by Mr. Topper, especially if he took a hundred pictures of people around him with Adidas caps within a week.
From this moment, the surveillance team would begin using new symbols, not necessarily connected to the early ones, next to the old ones or in situations Mr. Topper would recognize (i.e.: The same photographer would switch from an Adidas cap to a Manchester United T-shirt). Diversifying the symbols and using in this stage symbols which are not related to Mr. Topper is crucial for the operation security, otherwise, it could be compromised easily. With the exception of the initial symbol, the later ones are quasi-random and hold no further information beyond the "we are here watching you" or "we knew you would cross this point during the day," though this last message is often false, similar signs were placed all around. The logos, words, or numbers content, mean nothing by itself. Their only point is to create a pattern recognizable by Mr. Topper while creating a reality in which the institutionally organized attack cannot be reported.
The variations on these themes are practically infinite. An enthralling one is the use of a series of symbols, which make the process even more complicated to denouncing it. For example, the watcher photographing Mr. Topper when he leaves his house in the morning would wear a soccer team shirt with the number 20. The next watcher would step by mistake on Mr. Topper, making sure the last would notice his Adidas cap, which has a large number 21 printed on it. A graffiti saying "Vote for Candidate 22" would mysteriously appear on the wall next to Mr. Topper's parking lot. Then, while pointing at a flickering screen, the security guard at the corporation building reception would ask him "Have you seen this?" Mr. Topper would notice that the guard is watching channel 23. A leaflet promoting a business open 24/7 would be handled to him by a well-dressed person standing in the lobby. He has seen each one of this numbers once; however, they have been planted several times each, on the alternative paths he could have taken on his way to the office on that day.
"We must prepare the proposal within 25 days," would his secretary tell him innocently, while expanding the series by one item. By now, Mr. Topper would begin suspecting her of cooperation with his persecutors. This is a superb example of a quite sophisticated manipulation which is easy to design backwards. The security services harassment unit knew there would be a meeting at the office twenty-five days before the relevant proposal submission; obviously the innocent secretary would remind her boss about the event. The actions convince Mr. Topper that he is under surveillance, without giving him a rational reason to complain to the police. Moreover, it has created a hook for the next stage in the harassment. Mr. Topper would begin now to search for other sequences; from now on the security services need not take any action: pseudo-surveillance series would appear elsewhere, though they would be random numbers found by Mr. Topper while touring the street. If unaware of what had just happened to him, the event is terrifying; otherwise, it is just ineffective.
Using such an unsophisticated technique requires nothing but unquestioning foot soldiers; the security services achieve in such a straightforward way several goals:
This technique can be used as a highly efficient precursor to a well targeted message. Imagine that one morning, instead of taking a picture of Mr. Topper, Mr. "Adidas Cap" approaches him and says:
"Ruin the proposal you are preparing and we'll leave you alone." The legitimacy to the request was given by the use of symbols during the early events without the need of showing any credentials.
This expansion of symbols can be done several times, until every member of society holds a recognizable surveillance symbol (that is, in the eyes of Mr. Topper), relating the unsuspecting citizen to the surveillance team. The unaware victim would be terrorized and would easily cross the line to paranoia: institutionally induced paranoia, the wet dream of Soviet politruks, was apparently developed by Western Democracy commissars. However, the collapse of the method is inevitable if the victim is aware of the system, or elucidates it on the go.
"Kill the dog!" Some of the readers are by now shouting silently.
These techniques—and related ones—are not new. They can be traced back to Sir Francis Walsingham. He was Queen Elizabeth I of England's spymaster, and is considered to be the founder of modern intelligence both for espionage and counterintelligence activities. He made use of social networks in order to penetrate organizations as different as the Huguenots in France and the British ports and customs. A good review of his activities was given by Stephen Budiansky in his 2005, Her Majesty's Spymaster:Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage. It may be the last time in history that the spymaster was openly working for his master's financial benefit; afterwards, it was disguised under terms like "national security" and whenever possible presented as a struggle between good and evil.
I spoke about these issues with authorities of the country that gave me political asylum, but later became my torturer and violator. They did not deny my complaint; moreover, the state lawyer told me "you should get used to that," implying these were legal events. However, that's just throwing sand in the eyes of the citizens. As a matter of fact, all these activities are severe violations of the Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."
Mr. Topper's only answer is to flood his persecutors with disinformation. He must learn to avoid what he likes and to enjoy what he dislikes. He must push the persecutors into a land of endless mirrors, where the only thing they see is their distorted, ugly reflections.
This text was adapted from The Cross of Bethlehem II: Back in Bethlehem. The topic is substantially expanded in the book.
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