DARPA looking to master propaganda via 'Narrative Networks'

Oct 20, 2011 by Bob Yirka report

(PhysOrg.com) -- Sometimes you just don’t know whether to laugh, cry or be alarmed when hearing about what the boys in secretive back rooms are doing in the name of antiterrorism, or homeland security, or whatever else they wish to call it. This time it seems, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the semi-secret agency charged with coming up with new and cool ways to protect the citizens of the United States from foreign bad guys, wants to hire someone to figure out how vulnerable some people are to “narratives” (oral stories, speeches, propaganda, books, etc. that cause people to think) and then, supplant such messages with “better” messages to head off the path that for such people might lead them to becoming a terrorist.

Called the “Narrative Networks” project, DARPA has released a solicitation for research proposals by those that have both the know-how and the technology to implement such a program, which is divided into two parts. The first part would involve analyzing what happens to people when they hear or see a message. It’s thought that certain messages or images actually cause a change in the brain to accommodate the new ideas.

The second part of the study, quite naturally, would involve developing a means for taking advantage of what is learned in the first part. Or, in other words, to come up with a way to find out who is vulnerable to messaging, and then to blast them with a message that would overwrite any undesirable brain changes that occurred as the result of that person being subjected to “bad” messages, so that they would behave themselves.

At first blush, such a program would appear to be scary as all get out; after all, if our government gets its hands on technology that could reprogram people who have come to feel things the government doesn’t like, it seems like a really good way to control them, including its own population. On second thought though, as reality starts to kick in, it appears that while some research in this area might bear some fruit, it’s highly doubtful that any such program would meet with much success. After all, governments (and other entities) have been trying to figure out how to brainwash people for thousands of years with very little to show for their efforts.

On the other hand, the folks at DARPA seem to think that new advances in technology might have changed the game a little bit. New types of brain scans can, for example, can actually show a brain being changed due to a received message. And new highly sophisticated electronic sensing devices are able to pick up even the slightest nuances in facial expressions. If the two technologies could be brought together, the thinking goes, perhaps people could be scanned without their knowledge and found to be either vulnerable to messaging or already changed in some way by messaging from a suspect source. In such case, they could be targeted for specialized messaging that has been shown through research to be effective in overriding what has occurred in their unknowing noggins.

Each phase is supposed to go for 18 months though there doesn’t appear to be any component of the project that calls for publicly publishing results found or describing product deliveries after completion.

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User comments : 34

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gopher65
1 / 5 (3) Oct 20, 2011
Personally I think that the "narrative" approach to (what I'm sure they would call "heading off reeducation") brainwashing is an excellent path to take. It's non-invasive, doesn't require close contact or injection, and can be easily widely distributed. It's basically a more clever form of subliminal messaging, but not *quite* as sneaky.

All that said, a neat form of brainwashing *is still brainwashing*. I find it hard to believe that the people working on this are dumb enough to think that it would be misused almost immediately upon creation.
knikiy
3 / 5 (2) Oct 20, 2011
I don't know about you, but this misguided approach to security tends to make me distrustful of technology in general. Yes, I know history is written by the victors, but now it is revisionist from the get-go, or perhaps retroactively if we get rid of the backup tapes.
OldBlackCrow
4.4 / 5 (7) Oct 20, 2011
"We have increased your chocolate rations from 5 grams to 3 grams for your enjoyment." 1984

When I was 20 years old and read the book, I honestly didn't think stuff like that would happen in my lifetime ... now, I'm 45 years old and much of it already has. And they even have the audacity to advertise it.
Nerdyguy
1 / 5 (2) Oct 20, 2011
Of course, this tech would only be used on the "bad" guys. Everyone else can relax. *sarcasm*
Gammakozy
2 / 5 (8) Oct 20, 2011
"After all, governments (and other entities) have been trying to figure out how to brainwash people for thousands of years with very little to show for their efforts."

WRONG - It got a totally unqualified community organizer elected as president of the (at the time) most powerful country in the world.
Jeddy_Mctedder
1 / 5 (4) Oct 20, 2011
this remimds me of their attempt at a 'terrorism prediction market'
someone is gonna get fired for this project.

everytime darpa gets away from hard engineering or sometimes even pure science, they waste money and get in trouble.
LVT
2.7 / 5 (7) Oct 20, 2011
want to hear a narrative, just listen to the MSM!
SR71BlackBird
5 / 5 (6) Oct 20, 2011
Just study any religion. They are full of narratives (neatly packaged into a book, usually) and attempt at supplementing the messages of the narratives with a 'better' message, i.e. what would Jesus do? You won't have to do any experiments, clearly this type of brainwashing has worked for thousands of years.
eachus
4.5 / 5 (8) Oct 20, 2011
It is unfortunate, but we already live in a world where people come in two flavors, those who understand math, and those who don't. (I don't know where to draw the line between the groups. But there seems to be a pretty rapid filter around trigonometry. Get past that and there the simple parts of calculus are fairly easy to acquire.)

Where is this going? Economics, physics, chemistry, and statistics, all require this math as a base. The other hard and soft sciences have all reached the point where they can't be understood absent the other sciences.

Without math the individual is left to choose whichever narrative they will believe. Often this choice is made based on a pretty irrational basis. In a sane world, who would care about the economic beliefs of movie stars or fashion models? The math is there. Anyone who wants to can work through the math and verify most of modern economics. If you can't, then what you are taught in church, or temple, or mosque must be true, right?
kaasinees
1.2 / 5 (5) Oct 20, 2011
uhm, most news networks already have a large propaganda machine, Osama and now Qaddafi for example? Taking material out of context to make people believe the Occupy movement is violent? etc. etc. i am sure there are more examples. Heck just compare republican vs democrat.
YawningDog
5 / 5 (2) Oct 20, 2011
"After all, governments (and other entities) have been trying to figure out how to brainwash people for thousands of years with very little to show for their efforts."

I think this statement qualifies as propaganda itself. The first goal is to try to convince people they are not being propagandized.

Propaganda achieved its goal in WWI & WWII in convincing the American public that all Germans were evil and deserved death. And now it convinces the public that Israel is not evil despite using the same methods against their neighbors that Germany did.

Propaganda rules.
hush1
1 / 5 (3) Oct 20, 2011
The answer is total recall. It is not done with hypnosis. Nor with clever word probing from cognitive psychology.

When reading anything the inconsistencies and contradictions nullify the contents to the point of meaninglessness.

So the meaninglessness is stored in 'back-burner' 'mode'.
So what purpose is there to store (remember) gibberish?
It is what led to the nonsense that is valuable.
The 'thinking'(analytic)that uncovers the flaws to the specific nonsense is of value - for all further information - past, present and future.

The gibberish is simply a reference feature to recognize similar gibberish so you don't waste time applying a different analytic to uncover the same inconsistencies and contradictions.

Barring physical damage to the brain it's 'all' there.
The methods to access 'all' ,to put it mildly, have been pathetic. Not even wrong.

Hire me.
Not.
You don't want everyone recalling everything - just a select few. I have a problem with that.
Myno
3 / 5 (4) Oct 20, 2011
What bothers me as much as the intended content of this article, is the evident bias in its reporting. PhysOrg is supposed to deliver the science and engineering... the FACTS... and let the audience draw its own conclusions. Instead, the expressed outrage of the reporter dominates the presentation. PhysOrg should do better, and rely on peer pressure to do the good work of analysis.
hard2grep
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 20, 2011
I hate to say this guys, but this tactic has already been highly successfully deployed for other reasons within the states. It is not even close to being a new thing, except for documented terrorism prevention.
Grizzled
2 / 5 (4) Oct 21, 2011
It is unfortunate, but we already live in a world where people come in two flavors, those who understand math, and those who don't...

Where is this going? Economics...

Anyone who wants to can work through the math and verify most of modern economics...


Absolutely. I don't know where you are from but, in my country we had a tax reform early this year. It never ceases to amaze me how people can't do the simple arithmetics. What the government did was to transfer part of tax burden from the earning part of it (income tax) to spending (VAT/GST or whatever name is used in your country).

They were VERY careful to make sure the change is not only [almost] neutral but, in fact, slightly in favor of the tax payer. Not by much but some.

This can be proven with a calculator and some basic maths. Yet, both myself and the few people who can count are fighting a losing rear-guard action against those who can't balance their own cheque books and think they were ripped off.
COCO
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 21, 2011
put some of that cash and effort into figuring out how to get MSM to reflect true interest in alternative thinking - e.g. their attempt to elect their own President regardless of polls or real interest in helping the country from continiuing its insane passage of war, bailing out of criminals and crushing liberty.
jaydee
5 / 5 (2) Oct 22, 2011
I can't help fantasizing about turning this technology on our errant "Public Servants"....Every time they take a bribe or vote for corporate donors interests instead of the real govt (AKA Us)a little hand would come out of their "Smart" phone and slap them silly, then play a loud admonishment proclaiming "Bad servant,say 3 hail Napolitano's, install a 2nd smart meter on your home, and report for additional vaccinations immediately"...
hush1
2 / 5 (4) Oct 22, 2011
See above two comments.
lol
Otto1882
3.5 / 5 (4) Oct 22, 2011
"...governments (and other entities) have been trying to figure out how to brainwash people for thousands of years with very little to show for their efforts..."

This is one of the most egregiously ignorant and dangerous statements I have ever read on an otherwise respectable site.

I am curious, how can the author, Bob Yirka, make such a profoundly false statement? One with even the most elementary knowledge of history and knows the opposite to be true.

If governments (and other entities) weren't successful at brainwashing how do wars get started? How can populations of different regimes have such radically different perspectives? Hell, how would lay people have such strong opinions regarding AGW?

This author, Bob Yirka, is either incredibly ignorant or is himself an active part of the very propaganda he writes of.
Callippo
1 / 5 (5) Oct 22, 2011
IMO the people are quite resistant/reluctant against propaganda at the moment, when it requires some additional thinking (AWT), whereas they're quite vulnerable against propaganda, if it removes the need of thinking (AGW). I hope, my private insight will help DARPA guys to continue in their research successfully.
Cynical1
1 / 5 (3) Oct 22, 2011
Anyone ever see Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Wintergreen"? Exactly what is being discussed here in this article. And THAT was 20 years ago....
Jotaf
4 / 5 (1) Oct 23, 2011
"After all, governments (and other entities) have been trying to figure out how to brainwash people for thousands of years with very little to show for their efforts."

Of course, you're supposed to think that... *evil laugh*
Objectivist
5 / 5 (2) Oct 23, 2011
Wow, I'm really amazed at the ignorance and laziness of the conspiracy theorists. It's your responsibility to make sure the information you have is correct. It doesn't matter if it came from your neighbor, church, homeopath, politician or school. People around you will trick you from time to time; sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. This is our world. Deal with it. There is no "great conspiracy" and there never will be as it would involve too many people, some of which would eventually leak information; sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally.
Isaacsname
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 23, 2011
Strange....I seem to be getting the urge to buy a handbag for $33.

--------

People, people, people. When I became re-interested in learning science, physics and math a few years ago, which admitedly I have large, but rapidly filling gaps in my understandings, I started to notice that in almost all cases in public forums, whenever anything approaching science comes up for discussion, you can learn proper science by reading the laypeople statements ( which are sometimes not even wrong ), looking up the correct information, which in most cases is the opposite of what is usually bantied around. Incredible ! I've learned a great deal by this method. I honestly am in awe at some of the things people believe. This is frighteneing how easily sophisms and syllogistic fallacies are used to deceive people.

Wait a minute...my lower chakras are starting to tingle....the rupture...it's happening....my frequency is being raised....

..oh no, sorry..my ass fell asleep from sitting too long.
Cynical1
1 / 5 (2) Oct 23, 2011
Sorry. It was Harrison BERGERON. Written in 1961. Where a whole society was dumbed down and made to live in a "perfect", 1950s-ish world. Only Harrison kept getting less susceptable to the "dumbing ray".
So, if Vonnegut wrote a book about it 50 years ago, who's to say it isn't already happening on some level, right now?
Turritopsis
1 / 5 (4) Oct 23, 2011
All information we receive is in the form of rays. Electromagnetic radiation induced. By changing the path energy takes during the thought process (neuron to neuron communication), you change the mental image. This is easily done and is not as mysterious as it sounds. It is quite easy to change a persons thought

Here is the kicker. The only way to permanently alter thought is by continual manipulation, or/, by destroying the neurons permanently which leaves all thoughts impossible other than those allowed (programmed).

If the continual signal is lost, regular logical deduction ensues. The brain resets to normal.

This study is worthless unless their plan is to create permanently disabled brains.

It is easy to temporarily affect thinking but given time a person is able to reason back to reality.

What I'm saying is this: this study is either a waste of taxpayers money, or, it is the most evil plan for population control ever conceived. This is straight out of a madscientists handbook
Jotaf
not rated yet Oct 23, 2011
Turritopsis: That sounds great, but how do you "change the path energy takes during the thought process"? What apparatus allows you to do it? Also, how do you know which neuron to affect? How do you target it specifically? Even worse, how many connections must be affected, and how do you know exactly which way to change which in order to do what you want?

Just ranting here, but damn, you can't just say it's "a simple matter of changing energy paths".
Turritopsis
1 / 5 (3) Oct 23, 2011
Mind control is the ultimate human rights violation. It has been happening for a long time in many forms. Propaganda is the reason people grow up despising socialism. A socialist is not an evil person. Quite the opposite actually. An anti-socialist has his own home in the DSM-4-TR. It is propaganda that has put a differing meaning for the political movement (socialism) and for the human characteristic. They are one and the same.

Any human being that takes an anti-socialistic political stance is a mentally sick individual.
Turritopsis
1 / 5 (3) Oct 23, 2011
Ever see brain surgery where the surgeon electrically excites brain regions asking the lucid patient questions like: what do you smell/taste? what do you see?

It is easy to affect a persons thoughts. Admittedly, it is difficult to generate a preconceived thought within that individual. Nothing a few nights of study can't discover though.
hush1
1 / 5 (2) Oct 23, 2011
Deal with it. - Objectivist


"I did." -
Bradley Manning

joedonbaker
5 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2011
To the individuals above going on about individuals and math skills...you are way off. First of all, economics is quite a bit more complicated than just running the numbers: math is a tool used to analyse data, the choice of which data to analyse being left to the individual economist. Adding two plus two is irrelevant in itself, and without critical thinking your maths are useless.

In short, being good at math is useless without a critical evaluation of the context of the mathematical outcome.
powerup1
1 / 5 (3) Oct 24, 2011
"After all, governments (and other entities) have been trying to figure out how to brainwash people for thousands of years with very little to show for their efforts."

WRONG - It got a totally unqualified community organizer elected as president of the (at the time) most powerful country in the world.


@Gammakozy, would you like some sugar with your tea? :-)

Nerdyguy
1 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2011
I can save DARPA a whole lot of money. No special equipment is needed.

Just take a couple billion people living in awful conditions, poor, uneducated and unlikely to ever be anything more. Next, begin spreading the rumor that all of your problems are really the fault of the Great Satan. Let's say the USA for short. And explain that Allah is certain to expect you to kill as many of these people as possible in order to make it all better.

Works like a charm.
Jotaf
5 / 5 (1) Oct 24, 2011
"Just take a couple hundred million people living in awful conditions, poor, uneducated and unlikely to ever be anything more. Next, begin spreading the rumor that all of your problems are really the fault of the Allah worshipers. Let's say the Muslims for short. And explain that National Security is certain to expect you to kill as many of these people as possible in order to make it all better.

Works like a charm."

-Fixed.