(Russian Reflexive Control Techniques)
The impetus for the following essay was provided by Steve Bannon, his recent trip to Prague and his under-the-radar meeting with Milos Zeman, the wholeheartedly pro-Russian president of the Czech Republic. The writer is the author of The Industry of Lies, a successful Czech non-fiction work on Russian propaganda published in December of 2017. The book’s core precept is that the sum total of the so-called meddling strategies and events surrounding the 2016 US presidential election was devised, tested and perfected in the Czech Republic, during the 2013 Czech presidential election campaign. The author is a political-marketing professional and a recognized authority in the field. In her book she examines uncanny similarities between individual methods and spin tactics the Kremlin had first tested in the Czech Republic and deployed later in the United States. The writer develops and substantiates a central idea that, because of its close social-demographic similarities with the US Southern states, the Czech Republic has been and continues to be a Russian hybrid-war lab and testing ground.
The following essay recalls two scandals that had sowed the seeds of discontent across the Czech national scene and ultimately divided the population into two hostile and irreconcilable camps. The first was the refusal by both President Zeman and Prime Minister Babis to provide safe haven for fifty orphaned Syrian children. The second, a scandal involving repeated use of a derogatory and vulgar term “cunt” during an official radio address by President Zeman.
Needles to say, any similarities in the passion and rage created across the US by the images of immigrant children torn from loving arms of their mothers and the “grab them by the pussy” affair are not coincidental.
It’s the middle of the night, and I can’t stop thinking of the orphans only to have a memory of an uncouth slur uttered by the Czech president Zeman float into the dim of my sleepless night. The infamous “cunt” is now juxtaposed over the little innocents. Every so often a conundrum drops in, uninvited, to pester my night, and it may be well into a tired dawn before my random thoughts coalesce into a cohesive pattern. Do I come across as crass? Odd? What in the name of god, you ask, could poor teary-eyed orphans have in common with some poor female’s cunt? More than you think. Much more indeed. Let me explain.
Attention has become the ultimate currency of our today’s “marketing-driven” society. It is the only real measure of worth of our day and age. True is not important anymore. It’s the attention.
The rise of this one-of-a-kind commodity began shortly after the fall of communism, the heady days when capitalism could hardly wait to flip on the afterburners and pull away from the weak and the angry. In previous decades those huddled massed required much-too- much careful handling lest they’d do something stupid, like turn commie red.
Soon enough consumption emerged as the new deity of modern economics, consumption powered by the demand of households populated by ordinary people. Since then all of us, from penny-pinching thrifts, low-bracket taxpayers, diligent IRA contributors mindful of their children’s future to pretty much everyone without ill-gotten funds and tropical tax haven, have fed the consumption economy beast. That includes even the scant believers in the old-school institution called the State, a throwback concept long since discarded by the richest five percent of the world’s population in lieu of a life outside of the rule of law. The top five, from Putin to Carlos Slim Helú, already own most of this planet anyway. As for myself, I am one of the throwback relics.
What has eventually made attention so extraordinarily valuable in this new-world order is its election potential. Over time the economic structure of the former Eastern Bloc countries has underhandedly shifted from production to business opportunism built on close relationships with politicians (and by the way, that trend has spread like syphilis throughout the West.) The more this type of economics infests the Continent and beyond, the more expensive the election campaigns become and in due course, that much more grows the cost factor of voter attention. The political-advertising market has been perverted into a multibillion-dollar industry for one specific reason alone. It creates billions of dollars worth of business opportunities that can no longer be realized the old-fashioned way, through manufacturing, talent or diligence, but only through a membership in the correct oligarch in-group.
Darwin is back
That is why the Czech prime minister Babis and similar like-minded reckless political entrepreneurs of today usurped positions at the very top of this modern “state-capture” Darwinian food chain. Their business gains no longer come from production and sales, but from subsidies, government orders and a specific type of political insider trading. Obviously, it takes vast amounts of voter attention to get their cronies elected and kept in office. And precisely that is what makes attention more valuable than gold, lithium, coltan and come to think of it, just about anything else.
It was really only a matter of time before Moscow took note and realized that they were holding a cyber key to human attention on the Internet and that its vast reciprocal value would make the Babises of the world bellycrawl in earnest. They’ve added a good dose of Chinese cyber know-how into the mix, from cellphone to sundry network-and-hardware surveillance, then enhanced the lot with a cup of bitters borrowed from the classic 1960s statecraft arsenal: extortion, coercion, bribes.
Then came the cherry on top. It’s called the Reflexive Control concept. A uniquely-Russian creation, it is a set of tactical and operational steps devised by mastermind tacticians to skilfully lead targeted subjects towards predetermined decisions far cry from the ones they would have made otherwise. The concept works like magic in PRODUCING DESIRED REACTIONS AND SUBSEQUENT DESIRED DECISSIONS IN TARGET COUNTRIES.
What is Reflexive Control
While the concept’s definition may be as dry as a Tehran sandlot, once deployed, reflexive control is a production as mind boggling and as brilliantly choreographed as a Bolshoi’s take on a Spanish corrida de toros. Only imagine a reflexive-control tactician cast as a toreador. With a red cape – muleta – draped over one hand, a fierce blade – estoque – covered by its silky folds, he enters the arena and begins a calculated series of moves. Each swoosh of the cape captivates, disorients and distracts the animal from the real danger, the lethal blade of the sword, until in the crescendo of the mortal dance, the toreador delivers a lethal thrust through the heart.
Now let’s ask again what do the orphans and the cunt storylines have in common? They have captured and received our undivided attention. Like the swells of the red silk, they have transfixed, distracted and misled us. We began to lose our footing, moved away from our principles and turned prone to embrace poor choices and worse, poor decisions. The sum total represents a superbly-orchestrated disinformation campaign designed to wind us up to where we can hardly think of anything else. We feel confused, tired, angry, afraid, and lonely. It’s a dangerous place to be. The final thrust is about to come.
To complicate things, our species comes equipped with miscellaneous parts and systems charged with key functions affecting our attention, perception, cognition, awareness, and thought processes. Human paleocortex, neocortex and limbic system represent individual, yet interconnected components of a complex evolutionary package. As the term suggests, neocortex is the one running the latest processor. Unfortunately, a grandfather clause gives the paleocortex and limbic system the ability to switch off the more-advanced functions of the neocortex.
To get us primed for a fight falls to the old paleocortex, especially in scenarios when we perceive our territory or lives as being threatened. In such instances, the more evolved neocortex gets tossed aside as not to impede with our more primitive impulses, a characteristic best mined in narratives involving refugees and skewed towards terror and immigrant crime statistics. No time to think about it, just “build the wall, kill them all”.
The limbic system runs our sexual and social interaction. It makes us coo at babies and feel deep empathy for neglected or abused children. It is also the culprit behind our inability to concentrate when exposed to sexual-content stimuli and our obsessive need to be entertained and have fun. The limbic system shuts off – here we go again -the more evolved neocortex if it dares to suggest that we should think with our head rather than the crotch.
As a result, we tend to turn into less suspicious, more social animals. It just may be that Mother Nature or God, depending on your personal preference, really wants us to stay connected and network, in addition to being fertile and multiply. Needless to say that we, the marketing professionals of the world, love to stimulate this particular feature of our wiring and use it as a persuasive advertising tool. Propaganda deploys it as a warfare weapon aimed to distract us, impede our rational decision-making abilities, to divide and to conquer. Don’t you hear that angry outcry from millions TV rooms while watching these crying toddlers separated from their mom on the screen? Don’t you see the archetype of war, the mother of battles Men vs.Women coming near? Don’t you feel completely out of order while hearing the Czech president pronouncing publicly the word cunt and your president, Americans, the word: pussy? Is this not a certain kind of fascination, you can’t get rid of? No escape, eh?
Divide and Conquer
It’s a given that for as long as we are at each other’s throats, we are easily manipulated. And so, once Russian dissemination trolls completed their propaganda mission, we have as one assumed a predetermined position on either side of the Russian-devised divide. Henceforth, the Czech urbanites, erudites and elites look at the pro-Zeman and pro-Babis demographic and see an enemy, a meat-and-potato billybob, slow on the uptake, quick to lust. But – our fellow citizens from the more vulnerable nether regions are not the belligerent ogres that the Kremlin has misled the rest of us to believe.
The barrage of Russian propaganda aimed their way left them frightened and maybe just a bit bonkers, but they are people just like us, albeit without the subscription to The Washington Post. There really is a very few subhuman monsters hiding amongst us. Most of the hate-inciting and crude drivel allegedly posted on social media by our brethren have in reality been inspired, cobbled up and spread by Russian-run circles of irascible and frustrated wannabes egging each other on. A vast majority of our people is neither malicious nor belligerent, but they have been scared witless. And to boot, they’ve lost the remote and haven’t a clue how to turn that darn paleocortex off.
What’s more, once you run a search and identify the source of the worst and most abusive online posts, you are likely to find one and the same small core group, over and over again. And we, the urban folk, are as afraid of them as if there were thousands upon thousands of them. No wonder that the President Zeman voters, frightened to near death by relentless streams of Russian videos edited to depict nothing but blood, gore and severed heads in Muslim countries, are just as afraid of us, the more liberal population segments. They are convinced that we have gone mad, are set to open our borders to millions of terrorists, and have obviously lost all caution, let alone rhyme or reason.
The innate danger lies along the division line. I am convinced – political correctness be damned – that the better-educated, sophisticated population segment may be better equipped to realize who and why is playing the dirty game. The all important question is whether the other camp can ever come to understand our present danger? Can they ever realize that we have a common and bloodthirsty enemy? Will they see before it’s too late that we are making our final defeat much too easy? And last, but not least: Are we able to resist the temptation go nuclear in that situations of temptation? I mean all of us! Are we?
As for myself, whenever an attention-grabbing headline spreads like wildfire and makes me wince in anger, shame or both, I ask a simple question: “How could my emotional reaction benefit the Russians?” Much too often, the answer is: “Quite a lot.” A nation divided by infused hate past the point of return is a nation without merit, a nation of individuals no longer willing to stand up and defend one’s neighbors against foreign aggression. Hate steals away the ability to work things out and get along. And believe me, to get along is the last thing the Kremlin would ever want us to do.
That’s the stuff Russian nightmares are made of.
Translation by Sylva Koppitz