A rampant infection is widespread among us. It’s a virus of the mind. It has a couple of recognizable symptoms you may be able to diagnose in yourself. Do you feel exhausted by the news? Are you “sick of it all” and just want to stop caring and take care of yourself? Then you may be coming down with this virus.
This week my attention was drawn to a New York Times' investigation of one of the causes of our condition. You can see the 15-minute dramatic video here: Meet the KGB Spies Who Invented Fake News
What the video talks about is a Soviet project that ended when Mikhail Gorbachev met with Ronald Reagan a year or so before the Berlin Wall came down. In that meeting Gorbachev apologized for a phenomenally successful Soviet disinformation campaign that spread the entirely spurious idea that the worldwide AIDS epidemic was the result of a leak of virus developed by US biological warfare scientists to target African and Gay populations.
In brief, the Soviet secret police (KGB) got an article into a paper in India that first mentioned this lie in 1983. Then after a couple of years they revived the article in the Soviet press, using their own planted story from India as the source, and they invented a pseudo-scientific substantiation of the idea written by two scientists who were a husband and wife team in East Germany. The story then became what we’d now call “viral” spreading through hundreds of newspapers in Africa and from there into mainline media in scores of countries. Americans from coast to coast got word of the idea on the evening of March 30, 1987 when Dan Rather talked about it on the nightly news. US State Department investigators pieced together how the campaign worked, and exposed it, leading at last to Gorbachev’s apology in December 1987. When the Soviet Union collapsed two years later the State Department concluded “problem solved.”
But now we know more.
The AIDS story was not an isolated action. Soviet agents who defected describe a concerted effort with a very extensive purpose: “To change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that despite their abundance of information no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interests of defending themselves, their families, their community, and their country.”
This was a campaign to spread DISINFORMATION.
Disinformation is “deliberately distorted information that is secretly leaked into the communication process in order to deceive and manipulate.” Those defectors have mentioned scores of stories, including the one that the CIA was behind the shooting of JFK.
When the USSR was dismantled, the State Department concluded, “The formidable Soviet … disinformation apparatus which has manipulated world opinion for decades has disintegrated. But many large fragments of their apparatus continue to exist and function, for the most part now under Russian rather than Soviet sponsorship.”
There is not the slightest reason to doubt that this same disinformation program is continuing in this time of radically de-centralized communications media. Nor should we fail to see it has been very effective. The science behind disinformation was pioneered by Pavlov. What we cannot yet know is the exact extent of Soviet involvement in particular stories now that disinformation has thrown us into doubt about everything we hear. It does not matter to the disinformation disseminators whether we accept a story that the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 was an inside job, whether we believe that vaccines cause autism (or where that myth originated), or whether the CIA is hiding what it knows about extra terrestrials. We are now conditioned to bewilderment and fatigue. As the stories grow ever more bizarre we want to just be somewhere else, away from the idiot ranting that the California wildfire is God’s punishment, and that migrants from Honduras are coming to rape our children.
We are almost beyond doubting and disbelieving the news. We are now entering the time when we don’t want news at all.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.