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552. Difficulty at the beginning (IX)

At some level, you think the Russians can control your mind; and this idea is so pervasive that when Trump was in power it could be used to imply that his victory was down to Russian “mind control”. The first component in this cultural artefact is Russia’s geography: Russia is in the East; and for Westerners the East has cultural associations with mystery and mysticism—with religiosity and miracles. Yogis, fakirs, wonder-workers, the three Wise Men, and, of course, Rasputin all come from the East—Christianity came from the East, and from the 19th century onwards so did Zen and Yoga. When we think about Russia we think about Rasputin’s hypnotic eyes; he was said to exercise unnatural psychic influence on the Tsarina and the Tsar himself. “Look into my eyes, your excellency…”

So Russia is at some level similar to Tibet in the Western mind, a link made explicit in Roerich’s paintings—all suffused with a soft glow, an aura. Yet Rasputin was swept away by the Bolshevik revolution, and during the 20th century Russia was mostly ruled by the most irreligious regime in world history—so why does the “psychic power” link remain? Because, contra Bolshevism, it is almost impossible to destroy a nation’s core—holy Russia, mystic Russia. The Russians never passed through Western Scholasticism, a period marked by intense attention to definitions and logic; consequently, the Russian is always—even in his Marxist materialism—a hazy thinker, his mind makes inferences that surprise the Westerner; he naturally thinks more synchronistically and mystically—even when he is a rationalist.

In the material realm, early 20th-century Russia was home to Pavlov and his dogs. Pavlov was a world-renowned scientist and he was world-renowned for what amounts to “mind control”—and unnatural mind control at that, he could make a dog salivate even when it was not hungry. Pavlov’s science happened to suit the Soviets, since it suggested that an organism could be programmed into behaviour that reactionaries would regard as unnatural. If you can make a dog salivate even when he is not hungry then you can easily abolish private property—given the right reinforcements. At the same time, Marxism itself—with its concept of “false consciousness”—could be said to suggest that the bourgeoisie mentally controls the proletariat and that politics is primarily an exercise in consciousness manipulation.

All these ideas fused with Pavlov and earlier ideas about “mystic Russia” to create the popular view that the Russians were specialists in mind control—not least because, as is easily forgotten, the Soviets made early contributions in cinema. Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin mastered a then-novel medium in order to promote Bolshevik revolution; and Hitler consciously borrowed from Bolshevik propaganda techniques. So by about 1927 all these strands had fused to create the impression that Russians were experts in mental manipulation: in cinema, in psychology, in political theory, and in mysticism.

These notions were further reinforced during the Korean War when the term “brainwash” was coined for a supposedly Pavlovian method whereby wholesome American POWs were converted to Communism. At the same time, McCarthy uncovered Communist infiltration, particularly in Hollywood, and the Communist “front” organisation became widely know (the innocuous organisation Artists for Peace would turn out to be funded from Moscow); films such as The Manchurian Candidate, where Communists mind-controlled agents to carry out assassinations, cemented the image.

Finally, in the 1970s various Soviet parapsychology projects were uncovered, with vague associations between the Soviet rocket designer Tsiolkovsky’s mystical Cosmism and materialistic explanations for what religious people would call siddhis—known in the USSR as “psychotronics”. The notion that there was a “psychic gap”, as with the “missile gap”, took hold in countercultural circles so that by the early 2000s the video game Red Alert 2 featured a prominent Soviet character, “Yuri”, who specialised in telepathic mind control. This is why by 2016, despite Russia’s laughable propaganda efforts, it was plausible for Western propagandists to suggest to the public that Russia oversaw a sophisticated “mind-control network”.

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