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by Sudhama Ranganathan
Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 at 2:07 PM
We do so take our freedoms for granted in our country. They are storied and legendary. Right now, across the world, it is political systems modeled after our own that most often struggle to spring forth (though our government seems to be selective about which of the world's nation's citizens deserve support in their support of liberty and which don't). America's symbol and imagery to the world for so long has been “try and you can have freedom as we do, and we will help you achieve it.” Many of those people seeking more liberties, and a way of life free from oppression feel modeling their governments after our own could help them towards reaching those ends. There has never been a nation with a political philosophy as influential during it's time as ours has.
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The stories of people fighting for their freedoms in other nations and the lengths those nations went to in order to keep people from achieving freedom are almost just as legendary. Dictatorships have come and gone no matter what outside nations backed them, empires have collapsed, kingdoms have given way to transformation or been dissolved entirely and military juntas have been overthrown. As it's happened, stories of cruelty, repression and manipulation have emerged, like special children, reminding us just how precious life and liberty can be.
One of the greatest icons of repression for Americans was for so long the USSR. During the decades through which we endured the Cold War, our nation looked to it as an example of everything evil a nation could be. In movies for example, when there was a trait held up as a lofty ideal of a perfectly free society, communist Russia was almost always referred to directly or indirectly as the antithesis of that. We of course were held up as the closest thing to that ideal goal to aspire to, if not the actual embodiment such themselves, and in some cases were portrayed as surpassing such a goal. We never wanted to be considered anything like the “commies” and to insinuate it was considered slanderous and insulting to our great nation, even more so than comparing us to Al Qaeda or the Taliban today would be.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Empire access to formerly restricted and even classified materials from that regime, opened up in the ways our Freedom of Information laws allow our citizens access to previously restricted information, and through journalists, historians and authors that have pored over documents and interviewed people, we have learned much about the way they kept freedom from people. We have even learned about how they were experimenting with manipulating people to keep them from seeking freedoms, by coaxing them into believing the freedoms they sought were all ready to appear just around the corner without their efforts, all they had to do was stop what they were doing, writing about, singing about, etc.
They even experimented with convincing people labeled dissidents, they had “special powers” and needed to stop their writing, research, art, etc to serve the Soviet Empire with their special powers. They then spread false rumors to their neighbors, family and coworkers they had these special powers and were dangerous. When I say special powers I mean SyFy channel stuff, like ESP, evil laser beams shooting out of the person in question's body, communicating with aliens, etc. Ridiculous, but true.
There was the story of one writer out of the former Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, now the Republic of Moldova, that the KGB targeted for such experimentation. The writer did not call for anything radical or violent, just more freedoms and reforms so people could live in a less restricted environment. He loved the country he lived in, which was the same one he was born in, he wanted nothing more than an open society in which people were free to choose their lives and how they lived them, so long as they did so peaceably.
They decided, in addition to the “special powers” stuff, to attempt to convince him they had a Manchurian Candidate program that selected citizens for leadership and groomed them for it in a way unbeknownst to them. They implied they sent in special members of military intelligence, the KGB and more. They wanted to appeal to his ego, and by doing so, convince him that the stuff of children's fairy tails was true, and that if he only stopped writing, and became less conspicuous in terms of sharing his thoughts and ideas, he could help his country with these unspecified “special powers,” and that as a result, the dreams of a lifetime were just around the corner – not that those were his dreams.
They also recruited certain members of his community to convince him. They first tapped retired soldiers and law enforcement, stirring their sense of patriotism and relying on the fact they would not question what was told them by people in positions of authority instilled in them by their military service. Next, they went on to people that had some influence and power in the community, promising that it was for the good of the community, and that they would no doubt benefit from their participation. Next, they recruited locals to help, promising extra food allowances, help with kids getting into universities, etc, and some did it for a sense of adventure they felt had passed them by in their lives – regardless of what it meant for the person being experimented on.
They even apparently got local television and radio stations to go along, promising more air time to musicians, writers, personalities, etc, that weaved in subtle references to the storyline they had been selling all around the area about the man in question in whatever they were doing. The whole trick was to not only convince him through this never outright lie, but constant subtle insinuation and innuendo, to stop believing what he believed and to stop writing and pursuing what he was. There were times it was so all pervasive and everywhere, he almost forgot, and believed it himself. Never quite enough though.
But, he remembered a few instances that he knew were off the script and leaked the real story. An example of one was at a produce market he went to regularly. Some new hirees had come in, and apparently the talk behind the talk slipped out. All was according to the storyline, when one of the younger, and perhaps more compassionate workers, looked at him straight in the eyes as he walked past her and said, “you're going to have problems the rest of your life.” He never forgot that. It's not the kind of thing you say to a person you believe is about to become a powerful leader someday. That was the real talk. That was the talk behind the talk.
There were other moments of sincerity also. Once when a local television news program was interviewing a KGB analyst, the interviewer began alluding to the man being experimented on, and the analyst slipped by giving his true opinion when he stated, “in all sincerity, since I know the person in question cannot hear me, I truly cannot see that happening. His defecting to our side and our way of thinking will never happen.” It wasn't about a candidate or special powers, it was about dissent and manipulation. The man being experimented on had just come home, and just popped on the TV in time to hear the implied tone in his voice and to see the genuine look of sincerity on the analyst's face. He had come home early from work that day.
These off script moments and many like them reminded him of what was really happening, and what his circumstances truly were. He had come into a situation, where the realization of how perverted and cruelly corrupt the system that took away people's taxes so they could fund taking away their freedoms had become, in this country that purported to be the bastion of harmony and happiness. It's stories like his that can remind us of how precious liberty really is, and how easily everyday folks can be fooled, and suddenly have it taken away before they know it.
To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.
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