Operation Mindfix

Robert Anton Wilson

Written by John Higgs

Wednesday just gone (18th of January) was the birthday of the late great American agnostic Robert Anton Wilson.

His books (and in particular, the Illuminatus! trilogy he co-wrote with Robert Shea) depict a bewildering world of conspiracies, half-truths, lies, fake news, incompetence and our inability to find anything resembling objective truth. Or to put it another way, it describes the world as it is now, ten years after his death.

Wilson was a leading figure in the counterculture project known as Operation Mindfuck. This was a form of western Zen. Seeding our culture with confusion, contradiction and mischief, it was thought, would jolt people out of their illusions. Operation Mindfuck kicked off in the 1970s and has never really stopped.

Operation Mindfuck, like the Discordian religion which embraced it, was typically politically neutral, or at least clear that the ideologies of both the left and right were equally valid targets. However, the ideas behind Operation Mindfuck have since become a tool for those with a lust for political power, most blatantly Putin’s advisor Vladislav Surkov, as explained in this short film by Adam Curtis.

It’s stating the obvious, but the vast majority of us are not enjoying this ‘post-truth’ world. It is not so much that the fake news is disturbing. The real gut-kick is when people confidently proclaim that we should return to the pre-post-truth world, and then think about how to do that, and slowly realise that not only is it impossible but that there was no pre-post-truth world in the first place. Think of Hillsborough, or Iraq’s imaginary WMDs. What has actually changed is that it is no longer possible to comfortably fall for our earlier illusions. As the saying goes, if you want to be certain, buy an encyclopaedia. If you want to be uncertain, buy two encyclopaedias. Our culture has bought a second encyclopaedia.

Boris Johnson's lies

The rise of the Alt-Right, with their use of meme magic, conspiracies and disinformation, led to left-leaning Discordians thinking that Operation Mindfuck had been weaponised against them.


You don’t need me to tell you that this is currently grim as all hell. But if you take the long term, pragmatic view, it could be that the use of Operation Mindfuck techniques in this way are, essentially, a trap.

In his books, and most importantly in his autobiography Cosmic Trigger, Robert Anton Wilson talks about the psychological state where you have no way of making sense of what is happening, where all your maps have run out, and where you have no fixed point with which to orient yourself by. He called this place Chapel Perilous. This is where we are now as a culture.

Cosmic Trigger I

There are only two outcomes from a visit to Chapel Perilous, Wilson tells us: paranoia or agnosticism.

Agnosticism – and here Wilson means not just doubt about God, but doubt about everything - requires an acceptance that you are not the only right-thinking person on the planet, and that it is not true everyone else should agree with you. It requires a recognition that you are statistically just as full of shit as everyone else. There are over 7 billion people on the planet and you will never find someone else who shares your views exactly. Our reality tunnels are all different because they are shaped by our own unique experiences. None of us know what we don’t know. We need all the help we can get, including science and other people’s perspective, in order to get by. The ultimate goal of the agnostic is not to become right, but to become less wrong.

Agnosticism, then, involves humility. It was humility – and an extraordinary act of forgiveness - that rescued Wilson from his own stay in Chapel Perilous. Wilson was ultimately able to make a good life for himself with no need for certainty.

But the alt-right don’t do humility. They like strength, and decisiveness, and have a psychological need for certainty. How will they exit Chapel Perilous with those values? They may have grabbed the ring of power, but are trapped in the postmodern post-truth world, the one place they will never find the certainty and strength they seek. They are like Brer Rabbit and the tar baby. The more they attack, the more stuck they become. They aren’t going anywhere.

It’s no secret that populist far-right movements never end well. There are no examples in history of them being a good idea. How desperate for a fixed, certain ideology would you have to be to hitch your identity and worldview to one? This is clearly a dangerous time. But look again at the alt-right in Chapel Perilous, lashing out in all directions, owning the news cycle as they do. See how their contradictions enrage those around them, who react with great energy, which keeps the system running? Now imagine those people who feed them gradually finding their own way out of Chapel Perilous. See how the non-humble flounder and turn in on themselves when their victims move on and there is no-one else left to fight? They are stuck in postmodern, post-truth quicksand from which they are the only ones who can never escape. Without humility, Chapel Perilous is a nightmare jail for the cruel.

What is the way forward? Readers of Robert Anton Wilson are a useful group to look at here because they have already processed Chapel Perilous and, judging by the ones I’ve met, there is something interesting happening. It is too soon to definitively label and define, but the designer Amoeba has coined the temporarily-useful name Operation Mindfix. As he says, Operation Mindfuck is over for Discordians because it is unnecessary in the post-2016 world. From now on, the ongoing work can be considered part of Operation Mindfix.

All this is happening away from the boxing matches of social media. It needs the coming together of people in the real world, because empathy is rarely found online. There is magical thinking involved, but then, when is there not? It chimes with academic talk about the move from postmodernism to metamodernism, where sincerity and belief are returned to our world not as pillars of identity but as tools for personal use, to be used and discarded as circumstances demand. There are echoes of it in the theatre director Daisy Campbell’s attempt “to create a narrative so utterly complex and so thoroughly self-referential that it becomes to all intents and purposes alive.”

It understands that social media can be used for finding those who chime with us but that there is no point in using it to shout at the different. It comes from a recognition that being a consumer and a critic are not enough, and that we won’t be fulfilled until we step up and contribute in our own individual way. It involves the virtuous circle of people being inspired by people being inspired. It centres of the understanding that meaning exists, but it needs to be self-generated.

It’s the dawning realisation that, by supporting friends and being supported by them, and by taking a leap of faith, every one of us can evolve our own souls.

None of this is a solution to our immediate political problems, of course. Near-future politics will be chaos as technology takes our jobs, walls replace bridges and climate change and population demographics start to bite. Great change is coming and it is going to be messy. No, this is a larger project: the act of evolving into twenty-first century humans.

I have a suspicion that, when we moved from being hierarchical people of the book to networked people of the screen, all this became inevitable. Which is not to say that Operation Mindfuck or the Illuminatus! trilogy were unnecessary. They were, in many ways, a training manual for both understanding this particular point in time, and in getting through it.

So Happy Birthday Bob - and thanks for the toolkit.

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John Higgs is the author of non-fiction books on counter-culture icons Timothy Leary (I Have America Surrounded) and The KLF (KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money), as well as a couple of wonderful 'strange fiction' books (The Brandy of the Damned and The First Church on the Moon). His most recent book is Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the 20th Century, which Alan Moore describes as "an illuminating work of massive insight".

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emlong's picture
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18 September 2007
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"The rise of the Alt-Right, with their use of meme magic, conspiracies and disinformation, led to left-leaning Discordians thinking that Operation Mindfuck had been weaponised against them."

Does the author actually think that the "other side" did not use exactly the same - and might I add as old as the hills - political tactics? This author is pretending naivete to buttress a tendentious idea.

It is kind of astonishing that the author of this article seems not to comprehend that the people allegedly not "deplorables" were themselves just as wrapped up in and conned by a "fixed, certain ideology" - just look at the surreal and relentless demonization of Russia for purely political purposes and to get us in a another shooting war to keep us scared, distracted, and compliant. I would argue that it was even more fixed, certain and hackneyed than the Trumpian one which is why Trump edged them out.

A lot of these hand wringing articles about how we poor folks just can't find our intellectual bearings no mo' sound very contrived to me - they are trying to explain away a shocking political loss by attributing it to some sort of mind virus from Outer Space, but really it's just politics as usual in a time of change. The twist this time is that big money and big power are having a hissy fit over losing out to the plebes however temporary a situation that might be; so we get to hear an ad nauseum coordinated mass media whine about how lost we must be. It preaches to the losing choir quite effectively so far, but a lot of other people have moved on.
*******
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
H. L. Mencken

Charles Pope's picture
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"... there was no pre-post-truth world in the first place."

It only seems like chaos when you don't know the script. My new blog series on the Julio-Claudian Dynasty should demonstrate that the art of ruling by chaos has been around for a very, very long time!

http://www.dailygrail.com/blogs/Charles-...
http://www.dailygrail.com/blogs/Charles-...

emlong's picture
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http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book...

"At first glance, the U.S. decision to escalate the war in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, China's position on North Korea's nuclear program in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and the EU resolution to lift what remained of the arms embargo against Libya in the mid-2000s would appear to share little in common. Yet each of these seemingly unconnected and far-reaching foreign policy decisions resulted at least in part from the exercise of a unique kind of coercion, one predicated on the intentional creation, manipulation, and exploitation of real or threatened mass population movements.
In Weapons of Mass Migration, Kelly M. Greenhill offers the first systematic examination of this widely deployed but largely unrecognized instrument of state influence. She shows both how often this unorthodox brand of coercion has been attempted (more than fifty times in the last half century) and how successful it has been (well over half the time). She also tackles the questions of who employs this policy tool, to what ends, and how and why it ever works. Coercers aim to affect target states' behavior by exploiting the existence of competing political interests and groups, Greenhill argues, and by manipulating the costs or risks imposed on target state populations.
This "coercion by punishment" strategy can be effected in two ways: the first relies on straightforward threats to overwhelm a target's capacity to accommodate a refugee or migrant influx; the second, on a kind of norms-enhanced political blackmail that exploits the existence of legal and normative commitments to those fleeing violence, persecution, or privation. The theory is further illustrated and tested in a variety of case studies from Europe, East Asia, and North America. To help potential targets better respond to—and protect themselves against—this kind of unconventional predation, Weapons of Mass Migration also offers practicable policy recommendations for scholars, government officials, and anyone concerned about the true victims of this kind of coercion—the displaced themselves."

earthling's picture
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Forgive me, we do have some earlier times when this kind of thing happened.

Homo sapiens out of Africa drowned out the Neadenthals, and probably some other groups as well.

The Romans fought the Germanic tribes for centuries, wanting to keep them out of the empire. Eventually the Romans lost that one.

The Arabs took over the remnants of the Western Roman empire, and parts to the east, basically by mass movements of people.

The Han took over China.

The British took North America. The Spanish and Portuguese too the rest of the Americas.

Why would this stop? My sense is that the question is asked backwards, not whey this would start and who is exploiting it. But rather, why does it stop some of the time? WHy do people stay where the are?

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We are the cat.

emlong's picture
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The article was referencing "refugees" as political tools created by political and militaristic means. To wit:

See video

earthling's picture
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certainly the refugees are being used like that.

But the Germanic tribes were refugees that left their homelands. The humans that left Africa probably left adverse climate conditions there. The Europeans that left Europe for North America left abject poverty. The Spanish and Portuguese that went to South America and Central and North America (Mexico is in North America) went for a better deal. All of these were fleeing local adverse conditions. Some more adverse some less adverse to be sure.

And it is not as if all the Syrians and Africans are really desperate refugees. They are leaving a bad place, in the hope of finding a place not as bad. Like normal people.

So why do people sometimes just put up with bad conditions, and other times they leave?

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We are the cat.

emlong's picture
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In the case of Syria, Libya, Sudan, etc. they were forcibly ejected by the
war.

earthling's picture
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not to belabor the point, but being forcibly ejected is not a new thing either.

The germanic tribes were, for the most part, forcibly ejected, by other germanic tribes or by tribesfrom the Asian steppes. They didn't just go conquering for the entertainment value.

Then there was a mass movement of germans out of eastern parts or germany, forcibly ejected by the Red Army, replaced by Russians and Poles, which (the Poles) were themselves forcibly ejected further east.

Then there is the "common sense" factor. Some people leave before they are forcibly ejected. Why wait until you are desperate, when you know that bad things will happen. You can leave in a more organized way. Jewish people did that in the early years of the 3rd Reich, one wishes that more of them would have taken the opportunity. If they had one, that is.

What I don't understand is where the newness is in the stategy of those throwing them out, and those who cooperate with them. It is deplorable, yes. But it isn't new. The study (if I remember right) says that it is new and hence warrants attention. My point is that it warrants attention because it is so old.

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We are the cat.

Charles Pope's picture
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I have concluded that mass migration in ancient times was orchestrated by the royal family. Large groups of people just didn't up and move. They had to have permission (or orders) from their tribal leaders and they had to be led. Members of the royal family typically established tribal chieftain identities to facilitate these moves. One Biblical example of this is the story of Moses and the Exodus.

Such mass migrations could be motivated by climate change or natural disasters, but it was also routinely/regularly used as a preemptive solution to over-population. In other words, it was a "socially acceptable" way of killing off excess people (when war alone couldn't do the job). A traumatized remnant typically survived and resumed life in their "promised land". This phenomenon happened throughout the ancient world, not just in Egypt and Israel. It was one component in the royal tool kit for maintaining control through a type of managed/scripted chaos.

http://www.domainofman.com/cgi-bin/bbs62...
http://www.domainofman.com/cgi-bin/bbs62...

These "Exodus Events" got rid of people at the source location and at the destination. The "Exodus Party" displaced people at their appointed resettlement spots, and this displacement process was not pretty either. For example, the Israelites had to "drive out" the former occupants of the land.

emlong's picture
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Precisely, but the difference between then and now might be characterised as an increased efficiency of "shock and awe" in moving large numbers of people around quickly with modern transportation as we see with the "refugee crisis" blitzkrieg in Europe. There is no pretense of gradual assimilation - huge numbers of people in desperate circumstances from vastly different cultures from far away places can be very suddenly "dumped" into wholly unprepared countries who find themselves quickly overwhelmed, and the thesis of "Weapons of Mass Migration" is that these stressors on the states sometimes have ulterior political motives. In the case of Soros-styled globalism the stressor is intended to force a state into further militarization of its police force as a reaction to social and civil chaos that then encourages a decline in civil liberties under the guise of protection of its citizenry from attack. It is in effect a sort or Trojan Horse tactic with a double payload since the muslim refugees can be expected to harbor "terrorists." Whether or not any muslims actually perpetrate terrorists acts their mere presence can be used to populate false flag attack narratives. The objective is not to outright destroy a country - it is to weaken its institutions that protect civil liberties thus contributing slowly but surely to a more totalitarian "New World Order."

earthling's picture
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Indeed some of the time this stuff was organized and coordinated.

The germanic tribes had leaders, the population didn't just go by themselves. However, the leaders did go with the tribes in those circumstances. The rules staying at home didn't have any benefit.

Some of the tribes (germanic or other) were simply displaced. Someone else took the place where they lived before, they moved away instead of fighting.

Other times, like the Europeans moving in small family units of alone, there was no coordination by leaders. People just left. Similar with Mexicans, other middle Americans. Or with Chinese families. No coordination by anyone.

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We are the cat.

Charles Pope's picture
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I posted a blog on how the major rebel chieftains of Gaul were really Roman magnates (or their surrogates) in disguise. The Battle of Alesia was a publicity stunt for Caesar!

http://www.dailygrail.com/blogs/Charles-...

Other famous barbarians were also well-known Romans/royals who had "gone native" among the various major tribes of their day. Most noteworthy, Attila the Hun was the frustrated Roman Emperor Attalus. The name Attila would not have fooled anyone who was in the know. It wasn't meant to fool the nobility but to intimidate them!

earthling's picture
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The later ones, where Rome lost inconsequential places like, oh, Rome, or, Constantinople, those were staged too?

I have no doubt that the Romans were no strangers to false flag operations. But they did eventually lose to the barbarian hordes. And yes, the lost, they did not stage this part.

But I give you that the Turks were different. I don't know if they were fleeing from someplace, but by the time they took the Eastern Roman empire (1451), they were just conquering.

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We are the cat.

Charles Pope's picture
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The royal family simply favored Constantinople over Rome. There was no horde of any significance that the royal family did not control. They were sometimes used to tip the balance between one royal claimant and another. The crown prince was generally appointed over the most dominant barbarian group to ensure his succession.

As far as the fall of Constantinople, that was a Habsburg royal family affair. It's detailed in my latest book:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M6BC684

Contact me for a complimentary copy!

emlong's picture
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"The royal family wanted everyone (that mattered) to know how all-encompassing their empire was and how clever they were in administering it."

To wit:
http://vigilantcitizen.com/latestnews/we...

Charles Pope's picture
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Sure looks like a vestige of the royal age!