Vaughan Bell of Mind Hacks makes the New York Times today! So finally a picture of the man! He is seated in the garden outside the Department of Psychiatry at the Universidad de Antioquia, where he now works in Medellin, Colombia.
The NYT piece Sharing Their Demons on the Web begins:
For years they lived in solitary terror of the light beams that caused searing headaches, the technology that took control of their minds and bodies. They feared the stalkers, people whose voices shouted from the walls or screamed in their heads, “We found you” and “We want you dead.”
When people who believe such things reported them to the police, doctors or family, they said they were often told they were crazy. Sometimes they were medicated or locked in hospital wards, or fired from jobs and isolated from the outside world.
But when they found one another on the Internet, everything changed. So many others were having the same experiences.
The article goes on to discuss this “extreme” online community that gives peer support a whole new meaning! Mind control, stalking and paranoia become the delusions of the net. “The views of these belief systems are like a shark that has to be constantly fed,” Dr. Hoffman said. “If you don’t feed the delusion, sooner or later it will die out or diminish on its own accord. The key thing is that it needs to be repetitively reinforced.”
On the other hand, Derrick Robinson, a janitor in Cincinnati, says “It was a big relief to find the community. I felt that maybe there were others, but I wasn’t real sure until I did find this community.” Mr Robinson has gone on to become the president of Freedom from Covert Harassment and Surveillance.
Vaughan estimates that there are a small number of these intense sites that are frequented around the Internet. I ran across a similar phenemenon exploring pro Ana websites that support anorexia a couple years back. But Vaughan has published everything! The article ‘Mind Control’ Experiences on the Internet: Implications for the Psychiatric Diagnosis of Delusions (pdf) appeared in Psychopathology (also available here through Scribd).
As expected, Vaughan documents the NY Times article over at Mind Hacks. He described the outcomes of this research in an earlier post on Internet mind control and the diagnosis of delusions. As Vaughan concludes about this research:
This is interesting because the diagnostic criteria for a delusion excludes any belief that is “not one ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture”, whereas these individuals have formed an online community based around their delusional belief, creating a paradox.
7 thoughts on “Demons on the Web”
One of the web-comics I regularly read serendipitously addressed this very phenomenon today…
The problem with this article is that instead of going to the websites and finding out what these people are talking about, you are assuming that they are infact dulsional.
You have not gone to the sites and read the information to find out why they are drawing the conclusions to that they have drawn. 10 years ago before workplace mobbing was exposed, people would have been saying that people thinking that their co-workers were conspiring against them was dulusional, but today we know that workplace mobbing is a reality. The same is true for Gang Stalking, but it’s clearly going to take a lot more awareness to get people to open up their minds and eyes to the reality of what is happening around them.
The article referenced Vaughan Bell, but he confirmed for me that he has never studied Gang Stalking Websites. Will the New York Times Make this correction? It’s doubtful.
After giving the New York Times article a little bit more time to settle there are three points that I wanted to review further.
The first was how the article came to use the term extreme communities. I did read over the Vaughan Bell article where a reference is made to such communities.
According to what Dr Bell wrote in the article it was views considered extreme or unacceptable by the mainstream. Using this definition I wondered if things such as the 9/11 truth movement would be an extreme community? Their views are not considered mainstream. I also wondered who else might fall into this list based on Dr Bell’s definition?
Websites that cover conspiracy topics might well meet his definition of extreme communities. Many of the subject matters covered on websites such as AboveTopSecret dot com would fall into this category. They would be a website of mini patches of extreme communities.
Another factor that I thought should be calculated in when defining a community as an extreme community is the obvious, is the community helpful vs harmful? What kind of purpose do they serve? If I go to a website that has what by some is considered an extreme view that encourages me to kill myself, then that should be considered different than going to a website that expounds none traditional views, but steers the website viewer away from inflicting harm to themselves?
There are lot’s of websites that conform to traditional or more traditional mainstream views that in my opinion are probably fairly harmful to some aspects of society, but we turn a blind eye, because it does pass mainstream muster.
The definition as is, in my opinion is fairly broad, and the references to the term were limited except for references to Dr Bell’s work and the New York Times article.
The other point that I am wondering about is who or what now defines what is mainstream or normal? In today’s society we have so many different variables to consider. At one time spending all your time online might have been considered the actions of lonely desperate people. Now with websites such as Facebook, and much of web 2.0 culture, being online is considered normal, and spending many hours online as long as it’s spent socialising is considered a fairly normal and healthy activity.
According to a report from Mediamark Research in a 30 day period 2.5 million adults participated in online dating. I am sure they find this to be completely normal and mainstream, but I am sure there are patches of society that do not agree with this.
World of WarCraft reached 11 Million monthly Subscribers. Many of them sane individuals who go online to take part in these roleplaying games. For that community, I am sure they consider themselves normal and mainstream, just by their sheer numbers. I am sure there are still many in society who would not however consider going online to roleplay normal, mainstream or even healthy.
Thus what would be considered as abnormal or extreme view offline is often a normal and accepted view online, in many different circles. Eg. 9/11 conspiracy offline, might still be considered anti-government or none traditional, but online they are a fairly regular part of web culture and discussions. When defining mainstream and referencing the Internet, we might have to start finding different ways to do so.
Eg. I just read an article today, that talks about a real life couple getting divorced because he is cheating online with a virtual girlfriend. Traditional definitions are having to be adapted and redefined to accommodate an online culture.
A second woman in Japan was arrested because she killed her online husband. She killed his virtual self. That’s right, she did not kill him, or have any intention of killing the real him, but when his online virtual self divorced her, she got even and killed him. She was arrested for hacking into the computer and other things, and now if she is formally charged, she could face up to 5 years in jail.
It is becoming more and more clear that it is the offline world that is having to adapt to the new online realities and not often the other way around. Therefore what we considered traditional and mainstream yesterday for an offline reality, in many ways is being redefined, and it does not seem as if some offline structures are keeping up to date with this reality.
The third point of concern with the New York Times article is that people were being considered paranoid with simple offline assessments. Are these offline assessments adequate for some of the challenges that people are facing in the modern day world to define Targeted Individuals as paranoid?
Recent research has unearth a great deal of information to show that when people are being termed as paranoid, it might not be the case.
Research is showing that there are in fact networks of individuals being hired by the state in various countries to track and spy on average citizens. The spying includes email and phone taps. Being followed around in public by hired Covert Human Intelligence Sources. Having these same Informants move into the houses around the target when possible. Following them around in vehicle and foot patrols, plus many other forms of intrusive surveillance.
Individuals and Families under these types of surveillance are often not aware, and if they do become aware and go to seek help, they are often written off by the establishment as paranoid, psychotic, or crazy. The modern day reality is that without proper investigations, Freedom Of Information Act requests, and other proper forms of inquiry a true assessment might be impossible to determine. The secondary problem is that many of these investigations are ending up in secret databases, which the public has no access to. F.O.I.A. requests are no longer a sure fire way to determine if an individual is under surveillance.
I think it’s fair and safe to say that before a community is considered extreme many factors should be considered, and the definition itself should factor into consideration what’s considered normal online as well as offline. Assessing if a community or individual is paranoid or psychotic in today’s modern surveillance society should be done with care and caution. It’s been shown time and time again that anti-terror laws are being abused, National Security Letters are being handed out left right and center, with over 30,000 being issued per year, and many groups and individuals are being spied upon and placed on watch lists, unfairly.
In a society as the one described above, it is not only normal to have concerns about surveillance, but when there is a suspicion of such, the job of therapists in the future might not be first subscribing the patient to medication, it might be first asking if they have placed a F.O.I.A. request.
Society might even have to make it a mandatory law for psychiatrist to be notified if a person is under surveillance so that they are not falsely labelled, committed or medicated. This does not happen, the culture and society have changed within the last decade, but the methods used for determining paranoia, psychosis, and mental illness, in regards to the belief that one is under surveillance are still fairly antiquated in many cases, and might not pass muster for the realities of a modern day surveillance society.
Ah, you make some good points. I’m what, six years late to the party? With what ‘we’ know now that we didn’t know then, its the people who think we *aren’t* being spied on, harassed and undermined that seem like the quaint little subculture.
the ‘professional’ that scan this articular web site.
might just be some of
the dumbest people, ever not to be imagine to post an idea about a fact they have never experienced, researched or truly with all tid bits of modern scientific inquiry research and fact zinging not the press on occasion…mostly before 2000.
did ya all miss senator guests comment?
i know i have a habit of scanner through a garbage read, myself.
but seeing as to how i am one of those ‘delusional’ victims and senator stated it is true, us ‘delusion’ victim [stuffed inTO a new wonder science oven of sorts]
are just waiting for you ‘jackass’ germans’
to wake up. read a little a more. and actually find the darpa references to back up senator guest and myself that yes! [tho i dn;t cal the experience ‘mind control’ myself] WE, some of us ARE UNDER psychotronic assault!
including dr bell.
certainly by the way i ramble i must be
d.tenD tO venture intO flights of fancy
how about this for a novel idea,and no need for Novocaine, Prozac or a fuck..
I’M REALLY PISSED OF AT YOU IGNORANT MENTAL TWIRPS\.
Please?! The NY Times is so dim that the concept of harassment in the form of gangstalking is unthinkable and “extreme”?! In a country that has factions that have supported Cointelpro, the KKK, the snitching of war protesters, 1 million listed on the official watch files, incarceration rates of 1 out of 4 black men, embedded cultures of drug selling and mafia, etc.? Who are these buffoons trying to kid? A culture that supports that much graft could sure as hell support the likes of a refashioned Stasi. Good lord, who knew NYTs’ pedigree and sheepskin were that damned stupid? Pathetic…