Soviet scientist Ivan Pavlov found that it’s possible to condition dogs to have unconscious reflexes to programmed stimuli. In his best-known experiment, he conditioned a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell.
What’s less known about his experiments, however, is they were used by the Soviet Union and by later socialist regimes to train their followers to react to stimuli—brainwashing societies in the same way that a person trains an animal.
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In October 1919, Pavlov was visited by the then-rising Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. According to the memoir “The White Nights” by Dr. Boris Sokoloff, Lenin believed that “by conditioning his reflexes, man can be standardized, can be made to think and act according to the pattern required.”
Lenin declared that in place of individualism, “I want the masses of Russia to follow a Communistic pattern of thinking and reacting,” according to Sokoloff.
The practical use of Pavlov’s findings for socialist tyrants is in causing people to associate rewards or punishments with different triggers. These leaders can then manipulate the triggers by tying them to political agendas. The basic idea is simple: cause people to no longer think rationally, and to, instead, react subconsciously to key issues with set emotions.
This type of agitated emotional memory is now at the heart of propaganda tactics frequently used by legacy news outlets. This includes their full array of “fake news,” methods of “new journalism” to lead people through simulated experiences, and “agitation propaganda” to agitate the public to support certain political agendas.
There are many examples of this—from fake hate crimes such as those from actor Jussie Smollett or against high school student Nick Sandmann, to false accusations like those against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
To frame emotions behind the “family separation” argument that dominated coverage of illegal immigration for a time, legacy news outlets used an image of a crying 2-year-old girl whose mother was bringing her to the United States to illegally immigrate. Time magazine even ran the image on its cover, with an altered image to show her crying and looking at President Donald Trump.
The narrative around the image was false though. It turned out the mother and daughter were never separated at any point, and the mother had kidnapped the girl from her father.
A second tool used to frame emotions on the “family separation” argument was the images of “kids in cages.” The photos of Latin American children in cages went viral, yet these turned out to be from a protest against immigration law.
The main narrative was that “Trump is separating families.” Yet this was also framed falsely. The “family separation policy” was from the Obama administration. And Trump said on April 9 that he won’t renew the Obama policy.
What’s important to remember, however, is that in conditioning people to react to political stimuli, facts don’t matter. What matters is the emotional memory.
These issues are merely tools to agitate people’s emotions. The sly manipulators of the fake news media tie these emotional reactions to symbols of political policy. Thus, the kids in cages become symbols of immigration policy, and the MAGA hats worn by Sandmann and his fellow students become symbols of “white nationalism.”
Symbols of Meaning
Perception isn’t just shaped by logic and information. It’s also shaped by experience and stories that create more deeply rooted feelings. Unconsciously, people interpret reality as a series of symbols that trigger these various emotions, memories, and notions.
In the “cycle of meaning,” which is applied to studies of symbology, it’s believed that people don’t interpret reality directly, but instead through a series of symbols onto which they have attached meaning. It’s also held that a “shaman” can intervene in shaping these perceptions.
A person may see their mother, for example, and experience feelings of love from his or her childhood. The same applies to objects as symbols—if a person were to see a crucifix, for example, and not know the story of Jesus, it would merely be seen as two overlapping lines. Yet a person familiar with the story would interpret it as a symbol of salvation.
These same concepts apply to our perceptions of history and patriotism, family and relations, as well as how we interpret politics and social issues.
And there are many groups that look to subvert these perceptions. The purpose of psychological warfare is to alter the way people interpret reality. The key word there is “interpret.” It doesn’t necessarily need to alter the information itself—just the way the information is perceived.
This method of manipulation is used very openly in military strategies for psychological warfare. Methods of psychological warfare can be found in the Chinese regime’s “Three Warfares” doctrine, in advertising and political messaging taught by Edward Bernays, and in “new journalism” tactics from the 1960s used by legacy news outlets.
We can break psychological warfare down into three main tools: disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda.
Disinformation can take several forms. It can include the creation of a “Potemkin village” or the use of staged events, the creation of false evidence, or the creation of false conclusions based on otherwise true information.
Misinformation is the outright reporting of false information. This can be used strategically to sow chaos and confusion. It can be used, for example, to derail researchers who may otherwise be on the right track. The idea is to make people question what’s real and what isn’t—and to begin doubting true information that may be otherwise difficult to believe.
Propaganda, meanwhile, doesn’t necessarily need to be true or false. Its purpose is to elicit an emotional response.
With today’s socialist movements, and in coverage by legacy news outlets, we can see all these elements at play. Their collective result is that many people are unable to think rationally, and, instead, react to surface issues along set partisan lines.
Many legacy news outlets start first with their “issue.” The reporters use the scientific method by creating a “thesis” of how the news story relates to their issue. Then they interview people with leading questions, cherry-pick data, or sometimes just make things up to frame a story to fit their manufactured narrative.
Just as Pavlov’s dog was taught to associate the reward of food with the sound of a bell, the sad victims of political conditioning are brainwashed through the subversion of their interpretations of symbols. They are conditioned to associate their agitated emotions with targeted political issues.
Joshua Philipp is a senior investigative reporter for The Epoch Times.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
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