Quite a tongue-twister, eh? Try reading the header out loud ten times in a row without getting saliva on your keyboard. Do try! That will be an excellent way to get started, since here’s what I’m suggesting…
No, wait. Let me rephrase that. Maybe just take these musings as a mere thought experiment. Heck, I think I’ll even kick off with a caveat, à la Sam Harris. So, here goes: It would — obviously — be vile and disgusting if using one’s bodily fluids became a common means of exerting social and political pressure on people in positions of power. But, what if…?
Indeed. Let’s imagine — still in the spirit of Harris — a ticking time bomb scenario. Imagine a mob of Ivy League-schooled, country-clubbing, gang-raping monsters ruling over us, and steering the globe steadily towards a climate holocaust and a hellish neofeudal dystopia. I know, sounds crazy. But wouldn’t most of us — in such an unlikely scenario — be willing to use any means possible and any weapons at our disposal to stop them? You know, just speculatively speaking, wink wink?
Here’s my third Harris-tick: trying to seem erudite by quoting Wikipedia:
Psychological Operations (PSYOP) are operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.
These covert operations can range from charity programs and run-of-the-mill media briefs to so-called “black hat PsyOps” like the notorious Phoenix Program, which “explored the utility of extreme violence for purposes of social control.” For the CIA, the situation in Vietnam was no thought experiment. With the Red Menace advancing, every tool in the kit was utilized: assassination, torture, and rape to name a few. All was fair in love and war — and the People’s Army wasn’t playing fair, either!
But what if…? What if “the people”, in the broadest sense possible, were to undertake PsyOps of their own? Seeing as the intelligence agencies — with their various astroturf fronts and carefully color-branded revolutions — can mimic the methods of “people power”, why shouldn’t the real grass-roots steal a few tricks from them in turn? What if “we the people” — taking our cue from the fine men an women toiling at all those secretive three-letter agencies — also sought to “bring about social change by means of psychological terror”?
Our resources and capabilities may be severely limited, but at least we have — to quote a pioneering psywarrior, Air Force officer Edward Landsdale — “a firm understanding of the socio-cultural beliefs and myths of our target.” Here’s Lansdale’s description of implementing such tactics against the Hukbalahap rebels in the Philippines in the early 50s:
A combat psywar squad was brought in. It planted stories among town residents of an asuang [a shape-shifting, vampire-like spirit in Filipino folklore] living on the hill where the Huks were based. Two nights later, after giving the stories time to make their way up to the hill camp, the psywar squad set up an ambush along the trail used by the Huks. When a Huk patrol came along the trail, the ambushers silently snatched the last man of the patrol, their move unseen in the dark night. They punctured his neck with two holes, vampire-fashion, held the body up by the heels, drained it of blood, and put the corpse back on the trail. When the Huks returned to look for the missing man and found their bloodless comrade, every member of the patrol believed that the asuang had got him and that one of them would be next if they remained on that hill. When daylight came, the whole Huk squadron moved out of the vicinity.
How does our, wink wink, completely hypothetical “target group” differ from the peasants the CIA loves to concentrate its resources on? What might cause similar terror among the ruling classes as the thought of being sucked dry by an evil spirit does among Filipino rebels? Well, for one, there’s the taboo of “civility”, along with the ever growing fear of the boorish mob. So, instead of “exploring the utility of extreme violence”, acts of extreme incivility might suffice, at least for a start.
You don’t need to be an intelligence analyst to notice how genuinely hysterical those within the political and media establishment are getting about acts they feel violate the social norms and boundaries they take for granted. Democrats and the Washington Post editorial board go out of their way to defend Trump’s cabinet members’ right to eat in peace, as if it were one of the most pressing issues of the day, alongside Mexican children in cages and the coming climate apocalypse. Because to them, it is.
Mitch McConnell was recently heckled in a restaurant and even got his doggie bag thrown out the door. This was, naturally, compared to the rise of the Nazis and to the recent assassination attempts on Hillary Clinton and other high-level public figures demonized by Trump. At first glance, this seems like false equivalency reaching the level of total insanity. But as is often the case, there’s a method in the madness. The target group in our (totally hypothetical, remember!) scenario will instinctively perceive any disruption in the social sphere as a threat to the status quo. This is what reactionaries, by definition, do — they react. And the stress level triggered by these incidents in people high up on the food chain doesn’t correlate with the likelihood of any real physical danger, but with the degree of perceived threat to the usual order of things.
Speaking of food chains, it is also worth noting where many of these recent confrontations have happened. A restaurant is a place for breaking bread together as an act of social bonding, and — just as importantly — a place of naturally accepted servitude. In other words, the perfect psybattlefield in the psywar against an elusive enemy.
It is also interesting to note that spitting on someone is legally considered a form of physical assault in many countries — including in the U.S., after a precedent set by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ten years back. Now, what if instead of tossing McConnell’s food out, the heckler had spat in it? What an extreme act of incivility! But would it even constitute a crime? Food tampering laws, with their various clauses pertaining to boogers in sandwiches, differ from state to state, but they tend to involve the distribution of contaminated food to an unwitting victim. (For instance, Governor John Kasich might be none too pleased to find out that, provided the perpetrator doesn’t have a contagious disease, covertly spitting in someone’s food is only a misdemeanor in Ohio.)
In our hypothetical case, would the culprit be responsible for anything more than compensating for the price of McConnell’s cabbage hors d’oeuvres? How would the courts rule? OH WELL, I GUESS WE’LL NEVER FIND OUT. ;-)
Or what if the waitstaff at the Red Hen had, instead of asking Sarah Huckabee Sanders to politely fuck off, brought out her soup and informed her they had just spiked it with some organically sourced amylase enzyme? This is how one would put the “psy” into “PsyOps”: it wouldn’t even make a difference whether they actually did. Remember the vampires? They weren’t real, either. The psywarriors weren’t drinking anyone’s blood, but rather, conjuring an image. The mere suggestion of the act of spitting will cause a physical reaction.
“Psychological feedback” within the designated target group is the ultimate goal of every PsyOp — creating, through various means, an atmosphere of looming terror. What if politicians were afraid to visit their favorite D.C. restaurant for fear of eating a waiter’s phlegm, or of just having to witness someone hawk mucus at their chicken a là kiev? What if every forkful turned into a “what if”?
Let me remind the reader, once more, about all this being a mere thought experiment. And a pretty icky one, at that. Even within our broken political system, surely there must be more constructive, effective, and civilized ways of advocating for change? If we’re upset about, say, the appointment of a perjuring rapist to the Supreme Court, shouldn’t we just don our pussyhats and go out to protest? Well yes, sure… but not too close to the hollowed courthouse grounds, as the SCOTUS itself has recently ruled. That would be rude. Not to mention how severely it might distract the venerable tribunal from its next colossal undertaking: of stripping women of their bodily autonomy, minorities of their voting rights, and workers of their right to organize. After all, the First Amendment shouldn’t mean that any mob of peasants can start screaming within hearing distance of those in power. Civility, people, civility!
[Related articles: Let’s Talk About Violence
Harris on Harris: The Donald Trump Edition]
3 thoughts on “Spit PsyOps Spitballing”
what about drones on this target group? or use drone-powered ants and insects (mavlab.tudelft.nl/festo-bionicant/)? the psychological effect would be “we’re watching… and who are we? you’ll never know…”
of course the first reaction would be to blame the Russians, then any kind of immigrant. then the media would sooth us with “analysis”.