Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Paranoia Runs Deep

I can hardly wait to see what the official Map of the Brain will look like. Because judging from the results of the most recent Public Policy Poll, the cartography of many a mind will reveal that the synapses are flashing with shreds of tinfoil along with the usual microbursts of electricity. 

The Truthers, Birthers, Preppers, Sovereign Citizens, Michele Bachmanns and Rick Santorums of the world are not so fringe-y as you might think. (Either that, or the poll is fatally flawed because a fifth of the respondents coincidentally reside in Gooberville, Florida. Or that the people who dreamed up these wacko questions reside in Gooberville, Florida) Some of the findings: 
 Twenty-eight percent of voters believe that a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order. 34% of Republicans and 35% of independents believe in the New World Order threat compared to just 15% of Democrats.

Fifty-eight percent of Republicans agree that climate change  is a conspiracy, while 77% of Democrats disagree.
Twenty percent of Republicans believe that President Obama is the Anti-Christ, compared to 13% of independents and 6% of Democrats who agree.
Twenty-nine percent believe aliens exist, and 21% believe the government is covering up an alien spaceship crash in Roswell, New Mexico.
But there is hope. Only 4% of us believe in shape-shifting lizard people and a mere 5% think that Paul McCartney was killed in a car crash in 1966 and then secretly replaced by a look-alike so the Beatles could continue. Similar segments of the population think the government is controlling them through their TV sets and that the white jet exhaust you see in the sky is actually a chemical the government is spraying to poison people. These poor souls probably had the bad luck to be contacted by this psycho-baiter of a polling company the same day they forgot to take their meds. They probably also believe that the polling people who always call at the dinner hour are annoying evil pod people -- and they would be right.

On the other hand, some of the answers to the questions were way too naive for my taste.  For example, only 15% of respondents believe that pharmaceutical companies would be so psychopathic as to invent diseases in order to sell their drugs. How about that sudden unexplained epidemic of ADHD currently plaguing our nation, necessitating billions of dollars in sales of Ritalin and Adderall?

And while it is probably true, as 86% of us believe, that the CIA never distributed crack cocaine to inner city youth, how about those LSD experiments conducted by the Army and the Public Health Service's infamous syphilis experiment on black men in Tuskegee? There is a history here.

The paradox to be gleaned from the polling is that while we are afraid of nonexistent threats, we tend to scoff at the real deal. We are both too skeptical, and not skeptical enough.

Sometimes, they really are out to get you.


Outsida said...

To follow the train of thought on the previous post about neuroweapons, and considering the topic of this post, it looks as if neuroweapon experiments have already succeeded spectacularly. Americans are totally messed in the head.

From a 2010 article in Wired- Air Force Wants Neuroweapons to Overwhelm Enemy Minds

'It sounds like something a wild-eyed basement-dweller would come up with, after he complained about the fit of his tinfoil hat. But military bureaucrats really are asking scientists to help them “degrade enemy performance” by attacking the brain’s “chemical pathway[s].” Let the conspiracy theories begin.'

And this from a Canadian journal titled Cold War Nonconsensual Experiments: The Threat of Neuroweapons and the Danger it will happen again


During the Cold War, the U.S. government experimented on American citizens without their permission. Although nonconsensual experiments are prohibited under the U. S. Constitution, U.S. law allows for waivers and exemptions of informed consent in U.S. government research. This paper examines how and why all major reform efforts to ban nonconsensual experiments have failed. It examines emerging evidence of secret neuroweapons; neuroscience-based weapons that may be comparable to the atomic bomb and the significant danger of further nonconsensual experiments being carried out today. The paper also reviews the current debate on the persistent allegations that on-going nonconsensual government experiments are happening again and gives recommendations for future reform efforts.

(Americans make great guinea pigs).

Stev-o said...

I recently, in the past year or so tried to read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. I only made it a 1/4 of the way through the book - which is unusual for me. I was sickened by what appeared to be the actions sanctioned by the federal government in the vein of national security.

James F Traynor said...

I don't think the CIA was into distributing cocaine but I suspect it was into pipelining it and messing around with money washing in the days of Casey.

Zee said...


As you say, “There is a history here.”

Documented reasons abound for us not to trust our government, corporations and even institutions like universities, but the bulk of the bovine American public seem to prefer fantastical plots and conspiracies to understanding the many reasons—backed by evidence—that we should be paranoid and trust our government with as little of our well-being as is practicably possible.

I'm surprised that you only cite the U.S. Public “Health” Service's syphilis experiments in Tuskeegee, Alabama, and the U.S. Army's (and CIA's) experiments with hallucinogenic drugs, as examples of the U.S. Government's willingness to experiment on uninformed human subjects—“usually on people who were poor, sick or powerless.”

Most of you are probably familiar with this history, but for those of you who may not be, have a look at the foregoing Wikipedia article, working your way from “Pathogens, Diseases and Biological Warfare Agents” on to “Human Radiation Experiments” (my particular favorite), “Psychological and Torture Experiments,” “Pharmacological Research,” and “Other Experiments.”

You will find the U.S. Government heavily involved in unethical experiments under each of these categories, with U.S. Goverment-paid apparatchiks happily experimenting on their thousands of unwilling human subjects with enthusiasm. Many of these evil, so-called “experiments” took place into the 1970s; in other words, not so very long ago.

My favorite quote from this article, made by one of the so-called “physicians” who participated in experiments in which the effects of irradiation of the testicles of prison inmates were studied, after which the inmates had to be sterilized to "keep from contaminating the general population with radiation-induced mutants," is that “the experiments 'had a little of the Buchenwald touch'. “ Buchenwald in America, indeed.

These experiments were conducted between 1963 and 1973, ending a scant 40 years ago.

This nauseating history, along with the certain knowledge that human nature changes but slowly, persuades me that I want to trust my government, and my fellow man, with as little of my fate as is absolutely necessary.

Please don't mistake this as some sort of Libertarian battle cry for total personal independence and rugged individualism. But it is a heartfelt reminder—backed with evidence— that we need watchmen watching the watchers who already claim to be overseeing the integrity of our government, and most important of all, we need an educated, informed citizenry who will be watching 'em all— not from afar, but up close and personal.

We aren't there yet. Your paranoia should run deep.

Now, I think it's time that I get out my vinyl copy of The White Album and play Revolution 9 backwards whilst I study the cover of Abbey Road with a scanning electron microscope once again.

PS: Steve-O beat me to this topic while I was working on this post, but perhaps you will still find some of it relevant.

Outsida said...

2004 - Washington Post

Study of Pesticides and Children Stirs Protests
Staffers Fear EPA Project Endangers Participants

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 30, 2004

... 'The EPA announced this month that it was launching a two-year investigation, partially funded by the American Chemical Council, of how 60 children in Duval County, Fla., absorb pesticides and other household chemicals. The chemical industry funding initially prompted some environmentalists to question whether the study would be biased, and some rank-and-file agency scientists are now questioning whether the plan will exploit financially strapped families.'

'In exchange for participating for two years in the Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study, which involves infants and children up to age 3, the EPA will give each family using pesticides in their home $970, some children's clothing and a camcorder that parents can keep'...

Pearl said...

More on the history of human medical experimentation, American-style:

Denis Neville said...

Data storage needs of the proposed brain mapping project will require three petabytes of storage capacity to capture the amount of information generated by just one million neurons in a year. There are one million gigabytes in a petabyte. The Large Hadron Collider in Geneva generates about 10 petabytes of data annually. If the brain contains between 85 and 100 billion neurons, that means that the complete brain generates about 300,000 petabytes of data each year.

“I am somewhat exhausted; I wonder how a battery feels when it pours electricity into a non-conductor?” - Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure Of The Dying Detective

Kat said...

What exactly are we supposed to get out of that poll? Am I to believe that anyone who believes Bush deliberately misled us into war with Iraq is a conspiracy theorist? Well, 44% of the respondents did too. That number is way too low (anyway, I won't take any comfort from it because I'm sure most of that 44% would not agree that Obama misled us on Libya.)
As for the invention of diseases, it's not like the CEO of Merck did not state as much years ago: From a review of Selling Sickness

Thirty years ago, Henry Gadsden, the head of Merck, one of the world's largest drug companies, told Fortune magazine that he wanted Merck to be more like chewing gum maker Wrigley's. It had long been his dream to make drugs for healthy people so that Merck could "sell to everyone." Gadsden's dream now drives the marketing machinery of the most profitable industry on earth.

Drug companies are systematically working to widen the very boundaries that define illness, and the markets for medication grow ever larger. Mild problems are redefined as serious illness and common complaints are labeled as medical conditions requiring drug treatments. Runny noses are now allergic rhinitis, PMS has become a psychiatric disorder, and hyperactive children have ADD. When it comes to conditions like high cholesterol or low bone density, being "at risk" is sold as a disease.

Pearl said...

The following information is from the article about unethical human experimentation that I sent Karen which she just put in the comments section. I remember it well and many of the unfortunate people involved spoke up several years ago about the damage that was done to their lives. I guess I was familiar with it since it was reported at various times in the Canadian papers and I wonder if it was in the N.Y. media as well. Echoes of the concentration camp experiments. The doctor involved seemed to be mentally ill himself and was thoroughly discredited for his "work" that destroyed many lives. And all for money I think unless he was convinced that what he was doing made sense. He ruined the brain functions of many of the people he worked on and some of them were still able to speak clearly about what had been done to them. It took a long time to get compensation for what happened to them if at all.

"(1957 - 1964) As part of MKULTRA, the CIA pays McGill University Department of Psychiatry founder Dr. D. Ewen Cameron $69,000 to perform LSD studies and potentially lethal experiments on Canadians being treated for minor disorders like post-partum depression and anxiety at the Allan Memorial Institute, which houses the Psychiatry Department of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. The CIA encourages Dr. Cameron to fully explore his "psychic driving" concept of correcting madness through completely erasing one's memory and rewriting the psyche. These "driving" experiments involve putting human test subjects into drug-, electroshock- and sensory deprivation-induced vegetative states for up to three months, and then playing tape loops of noise or simple repetitive statements for weeks or months in order to "rewrite" the "erased" psyche. Dr. Cameron also gives human test subjects paralytic drugs and electroconvulsive therapy 30 to 40 times, as part of his experiments. Most of Dr. Cameron's test subjects suffer permanent damage as a result of his work (Goliszek, "Donald Ewan Cameron")

Jay - Ottawa said...

Mumbled by seasoned hospital workers to themselves and each other in locker rooms when rethinking their role in a highly-reputed occupation after things go very wrong, sometimes inevitably because the science is long, sometimes avoidably because of serious ethical lapses spawned by arrogance:

The Three Rules for a long life.

Rule 1: Don’t get sick.
Rule 2: If, despite this sound advice, you fall sick, do not see a doctor.
Rule 3: As soon as possible after the doctor admits you to a hospital, escape.

Denis Neville said...

When my wife was diagnosed with a rare cancer, she, like all cancer patients do, reflexively, looked for hope.

"Beware how you take hope away from another human being." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, 19th century Boston physician, poet and essayist

I recommend reading The Emperor of All Maladies, a Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It is a story of the creativeness, unimaginable perseverance, and the lifesaving contributions of great medical researchers and pharmaceutical giants against cancer. Mukherjee uses his experiences as an oncology fellow, working with patients battling all types of cancer, to humanize the story. He shows the impact cancer treatments have on patients and on the doctors administering them.

“This was the tenth month of my "fellowship" in oncology - a two-year immersive medical program to train cancer specialists - and I felt as if I had gravitated to my lowest point. In those ten indescribably poignant and difficult months, dozens of patients in my care had died. I felt as if I was slowly becoming inured to the deaths and the desolation - vaccinated against the constant emotional brunt.”

“But the story of leukemia - the story of cancer - isn't the story of doctors who struggle and survive, moving from institution to another. It is the story of patients who struggle and survive, moving from one embankment of illness to another. Resilience, inventiveness, and survivorship - qualities often ascribed to great physicians - are reflected qualities, emanating first from those who struggle with illness and only then mirrored by those who treat them. If the history of medicine is told through the stories of doctors, it is because their contributions stand in place of the more substantive heroism of their patients.”

“Lucy Willis had observed that folic acid, if administered to nutrient-deprived patients, could restore the normal genesis of blood. Farber wondered whether administering folic acid to children with leukemia might also restore normalcy to their blood. Following that tenuous trail, he obtained some synthetic folic acid, recruited a cohort of leukemic children, and started injecting folic acid into them. In the months that passed, Farber found that folic acid, far from stopping the progression of leukemia, actually accelerated it. In one patient, the white cell count nearly doubled. In another, the leukemia cells exploded into the bloodstream and sent fingerlings of malignant cells to infiltrate the skin. Farber stopped the experiment in a hurry.”

“But in 1960, oncology was not yet ready for this proposal. Not until several years later did it strike the board that had fired Li so hastily that the patients he had treated with the prolonged maintenance strategy would never relapse. This strategy - which cost Min Chiu Li his job - resulted in the first chemotherapeutic cure of cancer in adults.”

Without these dedicated and obsessive “hospital workers,” where would we be now?

Mukherjee's masterly 'biography of cancer' makes for a great story, as well as an important history of scientific progress.

Zee said...

I'd like to go a bit off topic, but still touch on reasons to be paranoid regarding the government.

While I favor some form of “universal background check” for all firearms transfers I have also expressed concern that such a requirement could result in a de facto “gun registration” scheme, to which I would never submit.

Seems that the American Civil Liberties Union shares my concern:

From the article,

'[Chris] Calabrese — a privacy lobbyist — was first careful to note that the ACLU doesn’t strictly oppose universal background checks for gun purchases. “If you’re going to require a background check, we think it should be effective,” ...

“However, we also believe those checks have to be conducted in a way that protects privacy and civil liberties. So, in that regard, we think the current legislation, the current proposal on universal background checks raises two significant concerns,”...

“The first is that it treats the records for private purchases very differently than purchases made through licensed sellers. Under existing law, most information regarding an approved purchase is destroyed within 24 hours when a licensed seller does a [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] check now,” ... “and almost all of it is destroyed within 90 days.”

Calabrese wouldn’t characterize the current legislation’s record-keeping provision as a “national gun registry” — which the White House has denied pursuing — but he did say that such a registry could be “a second step.”

“[U]nfortunately, we have seen in the past that the creation of these types of records leads sometimes to the creation of government databases and collections of personal information on all of us,” Calabrese warned. “That’s not an inevitable result, but we have seen that happen in the past, certainly.”

“As we’ve seen with many large government databases, if you build it, they will come.”

“And existing law also bars the use of those records for other purposes,” Calabrese continued, explaining that the government is supposed to be barred by the Privacy Act from transferring database information between agencies without the consent of the individual citizen.

“We think those are privacy best practices,” Calabrese said. “We think almost all government databases should operate that way.”

“Once you no longer need the information, you should destroy it. Information collected for one purpose shouldn’t be used for another purpose,” he said.

But Calabrese says [the] legislation fails to include those “privacy best practices.”
“Contrast this with what the existing [Reid] legislation says, which is simply that a record has to be kept of a private transfer,” Calabrese highlighted, “and it doesn’t have any of the protections that we have in current law for existing licensees.”

“We think that that kind of record-keeping requirement could result in keeping long-term detailed records of purchases and creation of a new government database.”

“And they come to use databases for all sorts of different purposes,” Calabrese said. “For example, the National Counterterrorism Center recently gave itself the authority to collect all kinds of existing federal databases and performed terrorism related searches regarding those databases. They essentially exempted themselves from a lot of existing Privacy Act protections.”

“So you just worry that you’re going to see searches of the databases and an expansion for purposes that were not intended when the information was collected.”

Reid’s legislation is hauntingly vague about who would physically keep information about American gun purchases, but it’s crystal clear that records will be kept.

“Regulations … shall include a provision requiring a record of transaction of any transfer that occurred between an unlicensed transfer or and unlicensed transferee,” according to the bill.'

If you build it, it will be subverted.

Pearl said...

Denis: Thank you so much for your deeply personal and moving comment about cancer. It is an illness that destroyed the lives of three of my dearest family members. Many years ago when my daughter was a child, she had a friend that she played with on the beach in summertime, a beautiful little girl who became ill with leukemia with no hope of recovery. The parents were devastated as were all of us that knew the family. But since then ( that was about 40 or more years ago), that kind of cancer now has a very high rate of survival for children thanks to the dedication of many medical researchers who have devoted their lives to improving the statistics.

There are many heroes among health workers such as yourself and others in our group for which I am so grateful. I cannot help but think that whenever I read the costs of war, of young healthy humans killing and being killed and the financial burdens involved, what might be accomplished medically if that terrible waste could be transformed into new discoveries and frontiers for improving everyone's chances for healthier and longer lives.

We are on the edge of major discoveries to prevent and cure the illnesses that plague us and bring such sorrow to those of us who are left behind. I also lost two beloved people at an early age which totally changed the direction of our combined futures and I plan to leave part of my estate to a basic research foundation which is working on new and exciting discoveries involving prostate cancer which ended my husband's life. Ideally, nations should use tax funds to support such work instead of relying on private donations so that every citizen is required to contribute their share toward this battle. This is truly a war worth fighting for.

Harivansh Rai said...

As much as a hypochondriac my friends tell me that I am, reading this book did scare me but at the same time it was highly informative. The book gave me goosebumps considering how unaware we are as people.. Hats off to Dr. Siddhartha for making the effort. Devoid of all the sympathy garnering incidents, the book highlights majorly on the suibject which is Cancer. The book I received was in a wonderful condition and hope to read more from the author in the future. Money well spent.