Phase I is to map the Narrative Comprehension Network using a set of stimuli designed from the point of view of two different religious cultures.

Phase II will test hypotheses generated in Phase I, adding two additional manipulations of narrative validity and narrative transportation.

Phase III, it investigates possibilities for literally disrupting the activity of the NCN through Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

Ben: Phase III is fairly interesting. I noticed in the documentation it says lets not talk too much about this because who knows if we’ll ever get there. But when you do read what Phase III is it is a little surprising, it’s called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. This is not something that’s science fiction, it’s not something they’ve cooked up. This is a real technique that’s already been used in the past, correct?

Whistleblower: Yes, it started out in the psychiatry field when people were depressed and when you’re depressed certain parts of your brain are not functioning correctly. So they created this technology, which is basically a big magnet, and you put it on their brain and it turns off that part of the brain that’s bad or wrong and it would help them with their depression for several weeks to a month and they’d go back and do it again. So this technology has been around for ten
or fifteen years.

Ben: So it’s very high tech propaganda, what we’re talking about.

Whistleblower: High tech and validated propaganda, yes. So if they’re able to turn off a part of the brain and get rid of that master narrative that will make you not believe in a particular statement, they would have validated this propaganda. So if they turn off portion X, they know that the propaganda is going to work and the individual is going to believe whatever is being told to them.

So why do all this? Because the project is based on the idea that despite the good work of the U.S. in the Middle East, the message of the work is not being received.

“The frequent rejection of US messaging by local populations in the Middle East, despite US insistence on the objective truth of the US message, illustrates the narrative paradigm at work. The well documented ‘say-do gap’ between US messages and US actions is seen by some as contributing to a lack of narrative validity in stories produced by the US. Similarly, stories of US aid do not ring true in a culture wherein Christian foreigners, since the 11th Century, have been invaders and sought to destroy and rule.”

So how to fix this?

Ben: How do you move someone from simply watching a video or seeing a video all the way down that line to behavior? It’s a pretty powerful tool if you’re able to do that.

Whistleblower: Right, so they think that maybe an extremist statements or a video like Al Qaeda puts out will lead to some individuals doing a suicide bombing, for example. So they’re trying to look at this video or the statements and take away a part of your brain that will think that it fits in with your culture or master narrative and that will hopefully lead you to not do these extremist, violent acts.

So what you need to know is that this program boils down to one central idea. If people aren’t reaching the conclusions the U.S. government would like them to reach, there must be a way to force them to accept these narratives.

Remember that the claim is that the U.S. despite giving aid is viewed in the Middle East as invaders. That, according to the program research is the product of embedded narrative, not a result of action.

So the view of the U.S. as invaders in countries where we have standing armies, dozens of military bases, the U.S. paying off drug lords in Afghanistan or regional warlords in Iraq or where we consistently bomb via drone strike in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia or where we fund dictators until those dictators are overthrown and then attempt to fund the rebels, who end up becoming dictators.

All of that has nothing to do with the U.S. view of Muslims in the Middle East because clearly they are missing the fact that the U.S. gives aid.

The next step, control the narrative and if necessary, use magnetic stimulation to force people to accept the view of the U.S. that we desire them to have.

After all, aren’t extremist Muslims dangerous? Extremist Christians? See the problem with the question is who gets to define extremist? Who decides if religious beliefs are inherently dangerous?

And if we believe that government should have the power to control how the extremist thinks… wouldn’t they have the authority to decide how and what we all think?

Sources:
We cannot post the leaked documents from program here because ASU has claimed intellectual
property infringement.

Note: I contacted Arizona State University’s CSC Department requesting an interview about this program.  A spokesperson told me that the University would not comment on the program. That all inquires should be sent to DARPA.

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