Truth in Media: Government Program to Control Religious Thought? Is the U.S. Government working on a program to…well…program the way you view religion? A whistleblower who has worked on that program says yes and he wants you to know exactly what has been going on. The first step towards truth is to be informed.
If I told you that the Defense Department was using taxpayer dollars to learn how to influence people with religious beliefs in order to control those beliefs, would it really surprise you?
Would you think that I am a tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist?
Would you care if I told you that the program was aimed at controlling fundamentalist Muslims?
How about fundamentalist Christians?
Here’s the backstory. In 2012, Arizona State Universityʼs Center for Strategic Communication or CSC was awarded a $6.1 million dollar research grant by DARPA or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The goal of the project according to ASUʼs website is to “study the neurobiology of narrative comprehension, validate narrative theories and explore the connection between narrative and persuasion.”
A lot of technical talk there, so lets dig into the details.
The CSC program is actually about creating narratives. Using effective communication, largely video, to control the thought process of groups of people. And ultimately to be able to trigger narratives through magnetic stimulation. At its core, the program is focused on how to win the narrative against Muslim extremism. It’s a fairly interesting concept.
According to documents leaked to us, this project integrates insights from three mutually-informing theoretical terrains.
In short, the goal of the program is to combat and change religious narratives because of their role in “extremist behavior.” The whistleblower who revealed this program to us, worked for several years on the program. They asked not to be identified.
Ben: What were you told about the proposal as you began working through it?
Whistleblower: Yeah, I thought that it was benign. They told me it was about trying to figure outwhat parts of the brain are affected by narrative persuasion. Just to figure it out just for academic reasons. So we looked at narrative transportation which is basically how an individual is transported into a narrative, how they understand it…kind of like when you read a good book you get really enthralled with it.
At its core, the program attempts to map the brain to determine which portions of the brain allow you to accept a narrative presented to you. It’s called narrative theory.
Mapping this network will lead to a fuller understanding of the influence narrative has on memory, emotion, theory of mind, identity and persuasion, which in turn influence the decision to engage in political violence or join violent groups or support groups ideologically or financially.
You see, the project is focused on the belief that the reason Muslims in the Middle East are swayed to religious violence is not because of the reality of what is going on around them per se, but because they are believing a local or a regional narrative.
Ben: The local and regional narrative then is that the brain automatically assumes things because of a narrative we’ve been taught since our childhood, is that it?
Whistleblower: Right yeah that’s true. We call those master narratives. So in America we have this “rags to riches” master narrative where if you work really hard you can become successful and make a ton of money. So in the Middle East, they always use the example of the Pharaoh. That’s the master narrative that’s in the Qur’an, where there’s this corrupt leader that, you know, is really bad for society. And they use the example of Sadat who was assassinated. When
the assassin killed him, he said, “I have killed the Pharaoh, I have killed the Pharaoh.” So they assume that he was relying upon this Islamic master narrative to fuel his actions.
So how does the program change this? Again a lot of technical speak here so stay with me. But it’s broken into three phases.