The Golden Age of Social Engineering

From New Dawn 163 (Jul-Aug 2017)

The totalitarian urge is not, historically speaking, a new thing. The eons are etched with the rise and fall of empires, despots and demagogues: numberless battles waged and endless conflicts have been fought for the bodies, hearts and minds of the many.

In the past century alone, obvious examples of the instinct to control mass populations surfaced repeatedly. While it is generally accepted these totalitarian tides ultimately foundered, the extraordinary advances in electronic and computer technologies witnessed in recent decades may have delivered us to the final and fatal shores of potential permanent technocratic enslavement. A penultimate moment in the great swinging pendulum of fragile human freedom. The ‘Golden Age’ of the cyber-yoke.

In previous eras, imperial conquests, resource grabs and the intranational and international slave markets captured bodies and shackled armies of unfortunates into indentured servitude. Over time this trade withered (it could be argued more so due to inherent logistical and economic unsustainability than the more common and more palatable narrative of ‘moral awakening’). It could also be speculated that the instinct to dominate ‘lessers’ never really vanished but remains strategically dormant from time to time. 

We now stand, however, at a precipice where it is no longer necessary nor even desirable to capture bodies for political or economic power: today’s battlefield is for the mind, the technological management of perceptions, the vast yet subtle canvas of technologically-enabled social engineering. For, if the slave cannot see himself as a slave, then he can never truly resist his bondage either.

This new mechanism for permanent mass mental-enslavement has two gargantuan pincers – one overground and one underground. The overground rubric consists of the omniscient media and conditioning biosphere – traditionally formed by a coalition of industrially minted Hollywood-style mass ‘entertainment’ products, the organs of compulsory state ‘education’ and the self-regulating and self-reinforcing ‘news’ media. In recent years ‘digital disruption’ has given rise to the painful yet inevitable displacement of the all-powerful legacy media by the emerging online titans of ‘social media’.

While ostensibly an organic process, it’s instructional to note that the ‘Internet explosion’ has innumerable connections to our intelligence agencies and so-called ‘Deep State’ nexus. Are we witnessing a unique era of hyper-controlled information and opinion?

How the CIA Made Google

In a thorough, detailed, substantive, striking and universally ignored January 2015 Medium magazine piece, journalist and academic Nafeez Ahmed chronicled at length the substantial seed-funding channelled from the CIA/NSA/DARPA locus to Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page while they developed their nascent (and soon omniscient) online Goliath at Stanford University.

According to Ahmed, “the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. Seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, Google was merely the first among a plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority’.” He further claims this clandestine process, “allowed some of the most powerful special interests in corporate America to systematically circumvent democratic accountability and the rule of law to influence government policies, as well as public opinion in the US and around the world. The results have been catastrophic: NSA mass surveillance, a permanent state of global war, and a new initiative to transform the US military into Skynet.”

Perception management was the focus of this project from the outset, as arms of the Pentagon/Deep State octopus mushroomed outward. Marketed as supposedly fresh-faced dot-com innovators, “Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.”

Through a labyrinth of shadowy funding cut-outs like the MITRE Corporation and MDDS, and directed by the equally obscure ‘Highlands Forum’ (a ‘liaison/bridge’ between the Pentagon/CIA/NSA and ‘private’ industry and the major defence contractors), Brin and Page spent years being shepherded by the invisible hand of the secret state. It’s not difficult to hypothesise what the secret state wanted in return – ‘Total Information Awareness’.

According to a career CIA scientific researcher and academic attached to the project, “the last time we met in September 1998, Mr. Brin demonstrated to us his search engine which became Google soon after.” That very same month, Brin and Page officially incorporated the Google company.

In-Q-Tel – Funding New Technologies of Surveillance

Founded in 1999, In-Q-Tel is the CIA venture capital investment arm. Linked numerous times to Google (through rotating board members and executive officers, and even more directly in co-investments and stock connections), the In-Q-Tel website lists, “Information and Communication Technologies,” “Physical and Biological Technologies,” “On-site determination of individual human traits for Intelligence Community purposes,” “Tracking and/or authentication of both individuals and objects,” “Nano-bio Convergence” and “Physiological Intelligence” as areas of activity. A deep domain of mass surveillance and mass conditioning.

According to Lee Fang in The Intercept, April 2016, In-Q-Tel has also invested in “a range of skin care products… a patented technology that removes a thin outer layer of the skin, revealing unique biomarkers that can be used for a variety of diagnostic tests, including DNA collection.” Dr. Kevin O’Connell, a ‘senior solutions architect’ with In-Q-Tel, remarked that, “The DNA contained in microorganisms in a person’s gut or on a person’s skin may contain sequences that indicate a particular geographical origin.” Even skin will be analysed and weaponised.

In-Q-Tel was also a presence at the birth of the now ubiquitous data-mining colossus Facebook, through a number of board member and funding connections (notably Accel Partners and DARPA) that ran into many millions of dollars. It is estimated that today Facebook has at least 1.2 billion daily users – vast swathes of their personal information available to be collated, analysed, actioned and owned in perpetuity. As the Facebook terms of use noted at one point, “by posting Member Content to any part of the Website, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license to use, copy, perform, display, reformat, translate, excerpt and distribute such information and content and to prepare derivative works of, or incorporate into other works, such information and content, and to grant and authorise sub-licenses of the foregoing.”

With economical irony Facebook’s ‘privacy policy’ also declared: “Facebook may also collect information about you from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services, and other users of the Facebook service through the operation of the service… in order to provide you with more useful information and a more personalised experience.”

This is, in effect, a blanket permission to retain, collate, combine, analyse, monetise and weaponise any and all information gleaned through the site and other sources. An open ticket for permanent surveillance.

‘Total Information Awareness’

Indeed, an abortive attempt to launch a doppelgänger omniscient surveillance dragnet first surfaced through the Pentagon’s ‘Information Awareness Office’ in 2002.

‘Total Information Awareness’ was a US programme (commissioned by the IAO) from early 2003 until it was defunded in late 2003 after a public backlash over its admittedly ominous title and logos. Scientific American remarked that the “creepy” Total Information Awareness programme “never really ended,” the New York Times noting that it was “quietly thriving” at the NSA. TIA may have overreached with its draconian branding and sinister sub-Illuminati presentation. An alternate branding, something a little more ‘friendly and funky’, perhaps with an exuberant, geeky figurehead, would probably fly a little better with the public.

The Facebook website was officially launched on 4 February 2004.

Supposed chieftain of the now world-beating Facebook mega-corporation, Mark Zuckerberg, has never really impressed as anything more than the Deep State’s start-up poster-boy.

Zuckerberg in his 2017 ‘Mission Statement’ was clearly prodded to include as many saccharine buzz-words (“civically-engaged,” “inclusive,” “supportive” etc) as possible, while attempting to lamely obscure the manifesto’s barely-subterranean push for censorship, political partisanship and global governance. A high-tech low-calorie caterwaul for the New World Order.

Indeed, it would be laughable were Facebook not the leading global disseminator of ‘news’ and aggregator of pilfered mass personal information. The clouds grow thicker and more sinister again when one considers Facebook’s experiments in ‘emotional contagion’, ‘voter engagement’, ‘shadow-banning’ and regular disappearing of ‘disagreeable opinions’.

An unsubtle crop of ever-more familiar names rotate through positions at the Pentagon, NSA, DARPA, CIA, Google and Facebook (and the institutions and corporations that have invested, developed or greased-wheels between them). Peter Thiel, Anita Jones, Regina Dugan, Gilman Louie, Rob Painter, James Breyer and countless others spin in ever-decreasing circles around the nexus of ‘national security’, high technology and ‘Information Superiority’. As Ahmed pointed out, “many of Google’s most senior executives are affiliated with the Pentagon Highlands Forum, which throughout the period of Google’s growth over the last decade, has surfaced repeatedly as a connecting and convening force. The US intelligence community’s incubation of Google from inception occurred through a combination of direct sponsorship and informal networks of financial influence, themselves closely aligned with Pentagon interests.”

Google bought the ‘Keyhole’ satellite imaging technologies that power Google Earth from In-Q-Tel (the CIA venture capital arm): just one among countless instances of advanced technologies that bounce easily between military and ‘private’ spheres.

Google was also directly and regularly in business with the Pentagon: quietly selling “enhanced versions of Google Earth” (as targeting systems for drone strikes and alike) and “search engines that can be used internally by agencies.” 

A series of 2014 emails surfaced between then NSA Chief General Keith Alexander and Sergey Brin, wherein Gen. Alexander described Google bluntly as a “key member of [the US military’s] Defense Industrial Base.”

Notable also is the number of Goldman Sachs executives and senior partners on that rotating list, marking the financial and banking behemoth, “responsible for creating the billion dollar fortunes of the tech sensations of the 21st century, from Google to Facebook, (as also) intimately linked to the US military intelligence community.”

Going Underground in the Battle for the Mind

The Deep State/Military-Industrial-Entertainment-Complex aims for ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ not simply on the traditional battlefield but now more so in the battle for the mind – a conflict raging across social media, legacy media, new media and essentially all electronic communications. The 2014 Pentagon report ‘A New Information Paradigm? From Genes to “Big Data” and Instagram to Persistent Surveillance… Implications for National Security’ was typical of the vast and incalculably ambitious event horizon where all roads appear to lead to globally co-ordinated social control.

Screenshot from NSA’s online spy toolkit, part of “XKEYSCORE,” a software program that collects “nearly everything a user does on the Internet,” according to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden who leaked the classified programs in 2013.

And it’s here that the Leviathan goes underground. Thanks to alleged whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, William Binney and Wikileaks’ ‘Vault7’ revelations, we now have an inkling as to the mind-boggling reputed surveillance capabilities of largely secret (and wholly unaccountable) agencies like the NSA and Great Britain’s GCHQ. Through a plethora of programmes such as PRISM and XKEYSCORE, it would appear that every electronic communication, every photo, every video, every tweet and phone call, is now collected and available for analysis or use (we also know that Google often directly builds and supplies surveillance technology in partnership with the NSA). The standard media apologist or sweaty politician’s justification for this gargantuan dragnet is ‘terrorism’, an excuse so lame that it does not deserve a serious response. Internal Pentagon communications make the actual target perfectly clear – “the domestic population.”

It’s entertaining to witness unpredictable data-mining upstart Cambridge Analytica crib basic social engineering and election ‘management’ ploys from the NSA/Google playbook – as the organs of controlled media ‘opposition’ like The Guardian look on and meltdown in agonised apoplexy.

We now have the distinction of being the most surveilled populace in all of history. Every tyrant from ages past spins with electro-static envy.

Further Pentagon communications also advocate weaponising “armed non-state groups” and the creation of “pseudo-terrorist groups” for the express purpose of manipulating the opinions and emotional “core” of domestic populations – a glib and bland clarion call for permanent war, propaganda and social conditioning of the highest order.

According to Ahmed’s research, “The Pentagon must also increase its capacity for ‘behavioural modelling and simulation’ to ‘better understand and anticipate the actions of a population’ based on ‘foundation data on populations, human networks, geography, and other economic and social characteristics’.”

Ongoing projects evaluated how “the psychological reaction to narrated events is ‘influenced by how the narrator frames the events, appealing to different values, knowledge, and experiences of the listener’. Narrative framing that ‘targets the sacred values of the listener, including core personal, nationalistic, and/or religious values, is particularly effective at influencing the listener’s interpretation of narrated events’, because such ‘sacred values’ are closely tied with ‘the psychology of identity, emotion, moral decision making, and social cognition’. By applying sacred framing to even mundane issues, such issues ‘can gain properties of sacred values and result in a strong aversion to using conventional reasoning to interpret them’.”

One line of research has been dedicated to “extracting narratives from millions of American, Iranian and Chinese weblogs, and subjecting them to automated discourse analysis to compare them quantitatively across the three languages. The investigators then follow up using behavioural experiments with readers/listeners from different cultures to gauge their reaction to different narratives ‘where each story makes an appeal to a sacred value to explain or justify a morally-questionable behaviour of the author’.”

Surely, only the naive would ask why the Pentagon funds research investigating how to exploit people’s ‘sacred values’ to extinguish their capacity for logical reasoning, and enhance their emotional openness to ‘morally-questionable behaviour’?

A plot, it appears quite clearly, for ultimate and systemic control. The new ‘mental plantation’ of emotional triggers, bewildered dupes, permanent animalised fear and electronic herd instincts. All in service, it would seem, to the digital overlords and the ‘rape-and-pillage’ economics of globalism.

Ideas Ripped from Literary Sources?

It’s possible to see the modern informational and political landscape as inexorably and perversely shaped and even predicted by a triumvirate of influential historic literary sources – H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.

Though largely known today as ‘merely’ a science-fiction writer (War of the Worlds, The Time Machine etc.), Wells was also a prodigious non-fiction writer, theorist, committed socialist and passionate forward-thinker. An entire sub-set of his writings has almost completely vanished from the popular consciousness: extraordinarily insightful, prophetic and relevant books like The New World Order (1940) and The Open Conspiracy (1928), oddly out-of-print for many decades.

In those latter two volumes, Wells clearly advocated for the titular ‘New World Order’, arguing that only a one-world government supported by a vigorous, free and open press (in his view) would be strong enough to resist the inevitable and malignant power of transnational corporations and the financial elite. The Open Conspiracy acknowledged that the general population would have great animus toward such a project, without a concerted campaign of mass propaganda and a subterranean scheme to disable nationhood and democracy through secret trade agreements and labyrinthine international treaties. However well-meaning Wells’ original concepts, they have been inverted to secure a global architecture of control into the hands of the very financial elites and transnational corporations that he sought to blunt.

The most noteworthy political leader to reanimate Wells’ ‘New World Order’ concept and phrase in modern times was US President George Herbert Walker Bush. It’s tempting to see him as some kind of Golem/Homunculus re-combination of ‘Herbert George Wells’ and American imperialist and slaver hero William Walker.

Note also that this project has advanced in part through the perky mass entertainment distractions of Huxley’s ‘feelies’ and the conditioning of his pan-pharmaceutical, soporific ‘soma’. From Orwell’s nightmare dystopia Nineteen Eight-Four we seem to have inherited the perpetual war state, fuelled by a revisionist propaganda atmosphere, waves of perpetually synchronised ersatz ‘terrorist’ attacks, omniscient surveillance and the obligatory Emmanuel Goldstein/Osama Bin Laden/ISIL crew (direct from central casting). Though these authors wrote cautionary tales, those tales have now been weaponised.

No matter what their actual provenance, many foundational documents of ‘conspiracy’ folklore are today eerily prescient about decades-long social engineering projects.

Originally available as a series of three cassette recordings (taped in 1988 and sometimes titled ‘The New Order of Barbarians’), the recollections of Dr. Lawrence Dunegan prove to be haunting and compelling. He described a lecture he ostensibly attended on 20 March 1969 (given by one Dr. Richard Day), wherein a nefarious plan for the complete disablement and infantilisation of civic, democratic society was tabled. Dr. Day invoked a mass campaign of propaganda, brainwashing and social engineering of such scale as to be difficult to comprehend. The vast majority of his outlandish predictions now seem to have come to pass.

Likewise, an anonymously xeroxed samizdat document ‘Silent Weapons For Quiet Wars’ (most likely authored by the intriguing figure of Hartford Van Dyke) mapped human society in a series of pseudo-scientific diagrams and descriptions, specifying suggested positions for economic and cultural ‘shocks’ to render the body politic paralysed and obedient.

Despite this apparently omniscient ‘Manhattan Project’ of sinister synthetic bondage, resistance might yet arise in unpredictable places.

The Rise of the ‘Precariat’

A recently identified substrata or caste of people, the so-called ‘Precariat’ (a neologism: being the presumed combination of ‘precarious’ and ‘proletariat’), draw their numbers from the collapsing middle-class and tend to be ‘over-educated’ and unable (in today’s ‘flexible’ labour market) to find secure employment suitable to their upscale skill-set. They also tend to be smart, disenchanted, disenfranchised, angry, supposedly ‘irrational’ and liable to be unconvinced by mainstream political orthodoxies. In other words – they don’t think (or vote) the way they are supposed to – and some ‘blame’ them for the shock of Brexit and the election of orange-plated iconoclast Donald Trump. Not ‘racists’, nor ‘homophobes’, nor ‘misogynists’: as globalism savages those excluded from the professional-elite-enabling and media/academic classes, the Precariat can only grow in numbers and seething underground rage. 

Sir John Glubb was a professional soldier, diplomat, scholar and writer. His little-known 1978 volume The Fate of Empires lucidly charted the rise and fall of numerous empires past. It’s difficult not to see reflections of our own Golden epoch in its pages: as the Anglo-American empire stumbles through the inevitable downward imperial arc (the ‘Age of Affluence’ followed by the final ‘Age of Decadence’) and violently thrashes to stay afloat – grasping at God-like schemes of complete control (or planet-wide annihilation). 

Both Orwell and Lenin voiced the opinion that humanity’s best hope rested in the hands of an awakened proletariat. Perhaps, if they were alive today, they might shift their allegiances to the Precariat – that educated yet entirely uncomfortable class destined to listless part-time work in unfulfilling service fields (like ‘Uber’) and environmentally inoculated against the prevalent parasitic thought paradigm (and its attendant globally networked, socially engineered zeitgeist).

The scholars and scientists in service of empire have likely studied Glubb, Wells, Huxley, Orwell and alike: synthesising a delightful, gilded menu of utterly fantastical control mechanisms. History, however, tells us that all empires overreach and collapse inwardly from decadence and hubris. But we stand on a knife-edge. Can these ‘science-fiction’ technologies override the inherent cycles of civilisation? Will these inhuman and autocratic sciences prevail and condemn us to an ahistoric future of permanent soul-slavery? Or will those ‘cast-offs’ – the human detritus discarded by the machines of external and internal conquest – vanguard an unlikely resistance?

It’s up to you.

It is better to perish than to live as slaves.
– Sir Winston Churchill

This article was published in New Dawn 163.
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Sir John Glubb, The Fate of Empires, William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh, 1978
H.G. Wells, The New World Order, Secker & Warburg, London, 1940
H.G. Wells, The Open Conspiracy, Victor Gollancz Ltd., London, 1928
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Chatto & Windus, London, 1932
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Secker & Warburg, London, 1949
“How the CIA made Google: Inside the secret network behind mass surveillance, endless war, and Skynet—part 1” by Nafeez Ahmed, me
“How the CIA made Google: Inside the secret network behind mass surveillance, endless war, and Skynet—part 2” by Nafeez Ahmed,
‘CIA’s Venture Capital Arm Is Funding Skin Care Products That Collect DNA’ by Lee Fang,

© New Dawn Magazine and the respective author.
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About the Author

DAVID THRUSSELL is a poet trapped in the body of a hillbilly. Or a hopeless romantic hidden in the twisted frame of a dark electronic musician. Late at night Thrussell fantasises that actually he lives next door to Hieronymous Bosch in Medieval Europe and has hallucinated the whole dreadful modern era while suffering from acute ergot poisoning. We are not entirely convinced that this is not the case. The world knows him (if it knows him at all), as the creator of a seeming multitude of obscure recordings (Snog, Black Lung and Soma among others) and film scores. He has written previously for Wax Poetics, Fortean Times and numerous other publications.

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