Happy MLK Day or Mind Wars

I wrote the following article on MLK day three years ago. It is now relevant to the situation in the US. Reposting with sadness — and hope.

“Yesterday I decided I will not go to the street protest against Putin and his policy, and here is why. As I am writing this, a few brave people in Moscow, those with free will and immune to brainwashing, are arrested or bullied by the criminals that usurped power in 1998.

How did it all happen [in Russia] and why? Here is what I think—and it is also an answer as to why street protest will not change the situation.[in the US.]

Over the last twenty years, a finely tuned elaborate propaganda machine turned the majority of the Russian population into ultra-patriots driven by primeval territorial and tribal instincts and unable to use the universal body of knowledge and history to analyze their present situation and future outcomes on their own.

66% of the population support the slogan “Russia for Russians.”

Putin’s rating as of March 2014 was 80%.

My friends saw a woman praying, on her knees, with a photograph of Putin, bare-chested, icon-like, in her hands during the last visit to St.Petersburg.

Even those who do not support Putin per se express the feelings of the superiority of Russia over other nations, believe in the special destiny of Russian people and its privileged status with God.

The anti-American sentiment is universal. All major cataclysms, from oil prices and the Russian economy crash to Charlie’s assassination in Paris are (very convincingly and passionately) blamed on the United States.

1. “Don’t see and don’t hear” poster. 2. “Shut your trap, chicken. We are against the US politics.” 3. “Banana-Obama. (Banana “Ukraine”). Don’t choke.”

Putin and his KGB apparatus achieved these results by using psychological war strategies as opposed to the outdated and less efficient pure physical oppression, the traditional prison and execution tool, used by Tsars and Communists.

“You can’t shoot everyone” claims a famous Russian slogan. True—but you can gradually brainwash most of them.

Putin and his KGB colleagues invented and utilized the new machine of mass control. It is a hybrid of classical historical models. Genghis Khan’s supposed descent from the god of the sky as the justification for invading neighboring countries and massacres. The Inquisition and Ivan the Terrible’s religious zeal, public trials a la auto-da-fé and promise of salvation and a better life. Hitler’s and Stalin’s nationalistic and xenophobic propaganda and brain-washing conveyor-lines. Tsarist imperial arrogance and oppression on demand. The KGB’s very own atmosphere of terror and paranoia. Modern Western sales and marketing techniques, with their appeal to all senses, neuro-linguistically engineered calls for actions, and psychological manipulation on a subconscious level.

Thus, we are dealing with an anti-utopian society circa 2015. We, 1984, Animal Farm and Clockwork Orange for the literary-inclined, its cyber version. Mind Wars or Pscyho Games for the cinematically prone. I belong to the first category, but could not fail to note the popularity of films with titles like Star Wars, The Hunger Games and The Imitation Game. In the age of video games, everything takes on a tinge of a game, even wars. Especially, mind wars.

What is a successful strategy for fighting a mind war?

Can one win by being out in the street, building barricades 60's style or marching peacefully like Dr. Martin Luther King or Gandhi? Both approaches bring at least the satisfaction of action and being involved, with occasional masochistic pleasures of assuming a martyr role and the joy of being involved with those like-minded. The self-indulgence of revolutionaries is nothing new in this world. It is, indeed, heroic and laudable to fall on the bloodied cobblestones with a banner in one’s hand or being thrown into jail for your convictions. My heart aches for those imprisoned for their beliefs, in Russia and around the world. The moral value is clear; the emotional drive is palpable; the compassion is visceral.

However, we must think in terms of purposefulness and practical results.

In a mind war, the dead, wounded or imprisoned do not change the course of events. They are just photo-shopped off the record, if they are lucky, or proclaimed to be traitors, murderers and child rapists over all channels of national TV-and that would be the only TV existing in the psycho-totalitarian state.

I do have a background in mind wars. During my studies at St. Petersburg State University as an English major, I had to attend the obligatory military course. I took five years of special propaganda. I despised the forced and tedious course but I had to write propaganda materials in order to graduate.

The main principles behind combat propaganda: demoralization of the enemy by using implements and modes both blatant and subtle, and sowing seeds of doubt by distorting reality in a way familiar to the enemy, using his own vocabulary and emotional arsenal.

Peter Pomerantsev, the author of an impressive study on Russia’s weaponization of information, culture, and money, covered the subject in his superb article on Russian Information Wars.

To sum it up:

In the age of psychological and information wars, the mind is the only weapon and the only defense.

Coming to the street with a loudspeaker and shouting is as efficient as shooting feathered arrows and throwing darts into the heart of a nuclear mushroom.

It might feel good but if we care about the fate of the world, we need to turn to books, documentaries, cartoons, films, Art. To education. To thinking passionately.

We need to resist slowly and diligently, with poise and determination, keeping our feelings restrained, keeping our vocabulary precise and acute, using our minds and hearts, not fists, shooting words like bullets—to strip the Mind Monster of its imaginary power and open up the zombie-box that closed over Russia. [and America.]

*In 2017, I added some links, photos and comment in [] and shortened the article, specifically cut the praise of the film Leviathan (still recommend.)

**In 2018, after writing sixteen articles on Russian cyberwar tactics and strategies, I have started to teach free seminars on how it’s done. So far, my co-curator Olga Tomchin and I did six webinars, live seminars and radio shows in SF Bay Area. We are teaching the next one in SF on January 25. You can also like or follow our page on FB to watch videos, listen to podcasts that are coming soon or find out information on seminars in NY, Seattle and LA, coming soon. If you want to help organize a seminar in your area please contact us via this page or email me.

Happy Martin Luther King Day, friends!

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