How the media uses torture techniques to brainwash us

imran shah
Imran Shah is a political blogger. You can follow him on Twitter @ImranShah884


Political blogger Imran Shah explains how the mainstream media uses Western torture techniques to brainwash people into following an Islamophobic agenda.

During the 1960’s the CIA, M16 and other Western intelligence agencies commissioned scientific research into torture techniques. Eager to avoid the political embarrassments of the past (which may have forced them to scale down their own activities), they established a standard set of techniques to replicate the effects of torture without leaving any physical or medical marks (see Ian Cobain’s Cruel Britannia for a  secret history of torture perpetrated by the West).

Scientists Harold Dearden and Professor Donald Hebb and others agreed to take on this research and began experimenting on humans. What came out of that was what’s known as the “5 techniques,” which produced greater psychological trauma more quickly and with better results than other conventional torture methods.

These techniques were infamously used on prisoners in Northern Ireland during the 1970s. And if they were kept secret during the 80s and 90s, they would define the West’s (particularly the US’s) torturing of detainees in the “War on Terror”. The global kidnap and torture programme, thoughtfully named as the “rendition programme”, was littered with examples of just that.

The added PR benefit was that politicians like Donald Rumsfeld could say that such “soft” techniques were nothing in comparison with physical mistreatment. And with these words, there was an air of moral superiority that “we” torture our prisoners “humanely”.

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But the actual effects of torture never really changed. The end result was to break a person’s mental will, make them give up and become more susceptible to the options the torturer was giving them. Whilst previous techniques brutalised the body and inflicted pain, causing the victim to experience mental stress and thus make his mental defences weaker, the 5 techniques’ use of sensory deprivation and stress positions did exactly the same.

The 5 techniques

Firstly, sensory deprivation caused the experience of the human mind to degenerate and as a result the loss of actual cognitive faculties occurred.

This caused mental and emotional distress to an individual, enough for them to want to “get out.” Such techniques were not just confined to hooding and ear-muffing for extended periods of time, but actual cells were designed with walls, windows and wall-paint that would cause sensory deprivation.

stressSecondly, stress positions were used to inflict pain by going against the natural physiology of the human body. The victim was forced to adopt these positions for hours that would get progressively more and more painful over time. If they stopped or they dropped to the floor, the “unspoken 6th technique” was implemented, whereby the victim was beaten and made to do it again.

Effectively, this mean the victim was made to torture themselves. Without the face of an actual torturer, the victim was more likely to turn inwards upon themselves. Consequently, the psychological effect would last inside their cell, where as before the period of not being tortured was a relative relief.

All of this was to cause one thing – complete mental shock. The same scientists also found that during that state of shock, not only would the victim desperately want to get out of the situation, physiologically the brain lost many of its logical facilities and the victims were highly suggestible to believing any reality that was told to them, despite completely rejecting the same suggestions made before torture began.

This ranged from believing that they did awful acts that they had not done to believing their loved ones would be harmed as a consequence of their lack of cooperation.

Mass-scale torture

If almost complete manipulation of an individual’s human mind can be brought about via non-violent means, what is there to stop power structures from doing the same on a mass scale?

The fear-mongering and constant feeling of wanting to “get-out” or make the situation go away would make any normal human being willing to sacrifice what they deem reasonable or easy to do. More crucially, during times of crisis and in that collective state of shock, the public are far more susceptible to having their perceptions shaped, and therefore, being told what is defined as “reasonable”.

It’s no secret that the Western media has gone out of its way to cover or even manufacture stories to create a perception that Muslims are a threat to the West.

Europol consistently reports that “Muslim-based terrorism” only makes up a few percentages of all the terrorist incidents in Europe. The FBI reports similar statistics. Yet the Western media seems to be hell-bent in creating a “crisis” out of these incidents which then act as a breeding ground for Islamophobic and racist narratives. Whether this is done deliberately or not makes no difference; the result is the same.

However, it’s during times of crisis that those hateful narratives come into effect. The media, particularly TV discussion shows, particularly prompt these questions immediately after an incident, forcing the public mind to start asking the questions: Why did they attack us? Why do they hate us? When the shock of crisis time occurs, people are immediately looking around for answers and reasons to adopt.

jihadist-schoolsThe Islamophobic narrative, “Islam is the problem” has already been reinforced by years of background noise Muslim demonisation, whilst the Muslim response, “Islam is peace” does not even make sense as an answer to the above questions.

Consequently, the public has more and more defaulted to the Islamophobic narrative, where even good people think Muslims are not only a real threat but the biggest threat to Europe and the US.

The equivalent is a person bullying you with “facts” as to why something is happening and what a person is like. Even if you were to dismiss them as an angry bigot who is trying to brainwash you, constant techniques to shock and torture your mind, to incite fear, vulnerability and an increasing emotional demand “to make it go away”, will make you more impressionable to their point of view.

Especially if the counter-narrative is not given or makes little sense.

The consequence of this on the non-Muslim population is clear. It has now past the point that even people of colour are showing Islamophobic tendencies, despite being victims of the same techniques only a few decades before.

The impact on the Muslim mind is more direct and vicious. It induces the same feelings of fear, insecurity and, with each crisis, a more pressing feeling of “make it go away”. Again, in the absence of a real alternative counter-narrative, some will start to self-hate.

By labouring, pushing, enforcing and even torturing the public mind when it comes to certain things, mass media is able to shape public opinion at large, prime them for certain calls for action, whilst suppressing others. By forcing society to undergo this collective and highly-manufactured trauma, hate, anger, suspicion and a need to blame someone becomes the main drivers in society.

Today we have a government that has built and is still building increasingly illiberal and draconian policy on just that.

Countering the torture

So what can Muslim activists do?

Until we have built real capability to create news, we will have to be reactive and engage in the “crisis times” that the media dictates. This means, just like Islamophobes, the mainstream media and the rest of the world, we will have to start pushing explanations and narratives on why something is happening.

This may seem distasteful to some to do so, so very early after an event and I have personally heard comments from my real and virtual social circles expressing just that. There have even been some on social media who happily give their own commentary but stop others from doing the same due to “disgust”.

The fact of the matter is, not doing so will only strengthen those who wish to stir society towards greater intolerance and fascism. In fact, it is quite plausible to say, the circumstances have been manufactured to do just that.

Any sense of moral exceptionalism made upon Muslims, either by Muslims or otherwise, only feeds into the Islamophobia Industry’s hands.

People should also be allowed to advocate their views with the softness or firmness as they desire. To criticise others for being at one end of the spectrum or the other will only mean your messages will only resonate with a much smaller contingent of society that only thinks like yourself and is, therefore, detrimental to the cause. Especially given the short space of time in which narratives are set.

As long as there is a diversity in the tones and commentary, optimal reach and recognition is a real possibility. Even more broadly, the only way our equality can be gained is by creating alliances with those communities which have been demonised by the same system.

The demand for justice, whilst very much an core Islamic principle, cannot be simply carried by the Muslim voice.

Imran Shah is writing here in a personal capacity. You can follow him on Twitter @ImranShah884

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