Anna Merlan has made a distinguished journalistic career out of covering conspiracy theories, particularly far-right ones, for Gizmodo Media; her book-length account of conspiratorial thinking, Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power, is a superb tour not just through the conspiracies that have taken hold in American public discourse, but also in the real, often traumatic conspiracies that give these false beliefs a terrible ring of plausibility.
Merlan’s thesis is that the “contagion” model of conspiracy thinking — the idea that some people are just so danged convincing that merely hearing them will make you a conspiracy theorist — is at best incomplete, and at worst, totally overblown.
After all, the arguments for the flat Earth, or anti-vax, or eugenics, have not gotten better since they emerged decades or even centuries ago, and to an objective ear, the people who advocate these ideas sound ridiculous.
Some people argue that the rise in conspiratorial thinking is about contagion, but that patient zero is the internet, where Big Tech’s almighty algorithms can use machine learning to systematically explore its targets’ cognitive defenses, finding and exploiting their weak spots and winning converts, with fully automated proselytizing tools that allow even the most fumbletongued conspiracy peddler to amass a following and found a cult.
This theory is supported by Big Tech’s own commercial communications: if you want to find testimonies to the devastating power of Big Tech’s persuasion tools, you need look no further than their own sales literature, in which they boast that potential advertisers can expect endless returns from their machine-learning mind control rays.
It’s weird that we’d believe these boasts, though. Big Tech, after all, is led by “morally bankrupt liars” whose every pronouncement about their labor practices, economic activity, tax planning, private data handling and political lobbying turn out to be bullshit — it would be pretty remarkable if the only time Big Tech told the truth was when they were trying to entice customers to given them money in exchange for access to their advertising products.
It’s indisputable that Big Tech’s nonconsensually assembled deep dossiers on billions of internet users are good for something, though, and that something is finding people based on whether they possess certain hard-to-find traits, like “people who are thinking of buying a refrigerator” or “people who have nonbinary gender identities” or “people who are fed up and ready to get involved with #BlackLivesMatter” or “people who want to carry tiki torches through the streets of Charlottesville, chanting ‘Jews will not replace us.'”
This people-finding capacity is at the heart of the rise in conspiracism. It’s what lets recommendation algorithms find people who are susceptible to videos about eugenics or the flat Earth, and it’s what lets people who find these ideas compelling locate similar people to form groups with; groups that give them a sense of belonging, community and capacity for action.
Which leaves us with the question: why are so many people so vulnerable to conspiracism? What are the traits that give rise to a susceptibility to believe in conspiracy theories?
Merlan’s answer echoes much of the consensus among psychologists: conspiracy is trauma’s traveling companion. People who have encountered situations in which real conspiracies have harmed them or the people they love find it easy to believe that other conspiracies are at the root of harms they are living through now.
Take the persistent belief that the flooding in New Orleans’s Black neighborhoods during Hurricane Katrina was caused by dynamiting the levees in order to spare white neighborhoods from flooding. This did not happen, but in 1927, the Black homes of Tupelo, Mississippi were wiped off the map when the authorities decided to blow the levees in order to spare the richer, whiter homes that were at risk from the floodwaters. Both floods followed a common pattern (right down to the mass expropriation of Black homes after the floodwaters receded).
The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s just a conspiracy. The fact that the white establishment was willing to conspire to drown and rob Black people in the region is what made the theory that perhaps it had happened again in New Orleans plausible.
Merlan has spent time embedded in conspiracy communities of all stripes, from daffy New Agers to vicious white nationalists, and her keen anthropological analysis of the dynamics of these communities and the personalities within them foregrounds the historical precedents that conspiracists rely upon in shoring up their own beliefs. Scratch a vaccine denier, find someone who’ll tell you about ghastly pharma coverups and experiments from Tuskegee to the opioid epidemic. Ufologists can go chapter-and-verse on real military/aerospace coverups and conspiracies (see also: Pizzagaters driven to frenzy by Jeffrey Epstein revelations).
From Watergate and Iran-Contra to MK ULTRA and Cointelpro, the US establishment has shown itself time and again willing to engage in coverups and palace intrigue. The “Deep State” isn’t what the far-right imagines it to be, but it does exist, in the form of career civil servants and prominent government contractors who can and do exert pressure to maintain the status quo for good and ill, from keeping Guantanamo Bay open to frustrating the most unhinged plans of Trump and his cabinet.
Inequality is a driver of conspiracy, because with unequal distributions of money come unequal distributions of power, and thus corruption, self-dealing, and, naturally enough, cover-ups to keep the boat from rocking too much.
Countering incorrect conspiratorial beliefs is important and urgent work, but it is purely reactive — ideological fire-fighting. The case that Merlan forcefully builds in her outsanding book is that we need fire-prevention, not just fire-fighting: we need to change the conditions that prime people to believe conspiracies, which is to say, we need to root out corruption and impunity and rebalance the inequality that gives rise to them, otherwise, the fires will become too numerous to extinguish.
With pharmaceutical and even robotic “cures” in the works for loneliness – a condition once considered part of the normal human emotional range but now framed as a health risk – we risk losing the ability to be alone at all.
The pathologization of emotion has been on the march for decades, especially in the US, where fully one sixth of the adult population takes an antidepressant or other psychiatric drug. Now the mental-health industry has a new target – loneliness.
Nearly half of Americans polled last year by health insurer Cigna said they lacked meaningful relationships or companionship. A solutions-based society might examine why so many people feel alienated from their peers despite the constant connectivity of smartphones and internet. A symptom-focused model, however, simply looks to stop them from feeling that way by any means necessary.
Loneliness is “worse than obesity,” according to a raft of studies that have emerged linking the emotion to increased risk of premature death, and even rivals smoking. And like obesity – big business for Big Pharma, gastric bypass surgeons and weight-loss gurus – it requires medical intervention.
THERE’S A PILL FOR THAT
The University of Chicago’s Brain Dynamics Laboratory recently began an eight-week trial of the hormone pregnenolone, rounding up volunteers with “off-the-chart” scores on a psychological loneliness scale. Based on animal studies suggesting the chemical can reduce the exaggerated threat reactions that researchers say characterize loneliness, they hope to normalize the lonely person’s self-centered hyper-vigilance that drives them to both desire human connection and deal poorly with it.
Researchers insist the intention is not to cure loneliness with a pill, but the trial sets a precedent for doing just that – with another psychiatric drug, if pregnenolone doesn’t work out. Antidepressants, for example, have for years been used (and abused) to treat conditions other than depression, with the largest pharmaceutical industry lawsuits targeting overprescribing and off-label prescribing.
And unlike most regular medical patients, individuals deemed mentally ill tend to remain on medication for years, if not for life.
Mental health professionals writing about the loneliness epidemic discuss behavioral interventions, community programs, and therapy, but the introduction of a pharmaceutical solution may prove too tempting for a profession that has learned to love the quick fix a pill provides. Like depression, loneliness has an infinite number of possible causes, some of which are natural and healthy reactions to major life changes. Other types of loneliness have clear behavioral causes that would (before the magic pill, at least) necessitate clear behavioral solutions. Would a psychiatrist reach to medicate the loneliness of a person who only socializes through Facebook with a pill rather than encourage them to talk to real people?
Studies have shown that just a week away from the platform can bring “significant” improvements in well-being, suggesting that in this case, at least, correlation may indeed equal causation. But why force the patient to change his life when a pill will do the trick?
In a quick-fix society that prefers to treat the symptoms while ignoring the disease, a pill for loneliness may be embraced with all the fervor with which antidepressants were greeted before people began to realize that they cause suicidal and homicidal behavior, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and a host of other problems – and that they don’t actually cure depression.
A loneliness pill will also not address Americans’ emotionally unhealthy digitally-addicted lifestyles. After all, human contact, including real-life socializing, has become a luxury – so says the New York Times, explaining that humans are expensive, screens and robots are cheap, and expecting the unwashed masses to be able to afford access to living, breathing humans like themselves is simply unrealistic.
BRIDGING THE UNCANNY VALLEY
Because if the “loneliness pill” doesn’t work out, AI is waiting in the wings. Already seen as the future of at-home healthcare for aging populations under the care of cash-strapped governments, friendly, helpful robots could find their way into the homes of the lonely. And while snooping AI “digital assistants” like Amazon’s Alexa tend to creep people out, this new wave of robo-buddies would be framed as medical help. As lonely humans become accustomed to conversing with their robot pals, their expectation for real human contact may diminish, and their sense of loneliness with it. After all, you can’t miss what you never had. Already, given the stunted level of discourse on social media, many of us have found ourselves tricked into talking to bots, sometimes exchanging several messages before realizing our interlocutor is not human.
As the bar for “meaningful relationships” is lowered to the point where chatting with an AI can qualify, the loneliness epidemic vanishes – on paper, at least, and in US public health policy, sometimes that’s all that matters.
LONELY OR JUST ALONE?
The pathologization of loneliness will inevitably elide the difference between being alone and being lonely, as the mental health industry runs out of lonely people to treat with whatever therapeutic weapon wins this particular arms race and is forced to seek more patients. “Loners” – those dangerous types who actually enjoy solitude – are stigmatized as unpredictable weirdos who need to be brought into the fold. The man who shot up a Walmart in El Paso earlier this month was an “extreme loner,” according to media reports. Would we be reading about it if he was an “extreme extrovert”? The myth of the “introvert killer” pops up every time, even though it has been thoroughly debunked.
With no anti-loneliness pill on the market – yet – it is impossible to predict what’s next for the creeping pathologization of the human emotional experience. But Amazon’s Alexa has moved one step closer to the companion-robot model, rolling out a medical feature earlier this year which could conceivably be deployed to “check on” individuals at risk for loneliness.
And with implantable devices like Elon Musk’s Neuralink on the horizon, bringing that AI directly in contact with your mind, you’ll never be able to feel lonely again. Solitude – like privacy and human contact before it – thus becomes the ultimate luxury good.
Helen Buyniski is an American journalist and political commentator, working at RT since 2018
THE STORY: Inanimate smart devices & AI machines are now being programmed to interact with you verbally. This leads to you feeling more connection & empathy towards them.
THE IMPLICATIONS: Will people start to treat their machines like people? Will they allow themselves to be emotionally exploited & psychologically persuaded with personalized information?
Psychotechnology reveals how AI is being designed to change humanity. AI devices & machines are programmed to persuade us with personalized information
is a word coined by William Ammerman, although the word may also have been coined by others and share multiple meanings. Ammerman defines the word as “technology that influences people psychologically by deploying artificial intelligence through digital media.” This neologism is a portmanteau, being made up (obviously) of psycho from psychological, plus technology. The concept behind the word psychotechnology is an extremely important (and dangerous) one: the idea that as technology becomes more advanced, more personable and more human-like, it will start persuading us more and more.
Psychotechnology and Voice AI
There are many dangers of AI or Artificial Intelligence. As I pointed out in my previous article Voice AI: Dawn of the Reduction of Human Thinking, the emergence of voice AI may herald a new era of intellectual passivity and laziness. People may start to depend so heavily on their voice AI oracle that they no longer bother to fact check, research the veracity if its answers or seek alternative viewpoints. This, in turn, will place a colossal limit on human perception, which will essentially be constrained by whatever limits and algorithms Big Tech constructs – working closely, of course, as it always has, with the MIC (Military Intelligence Complex) and other elements of the NWO (New World Order).
I regard psychotechnology as a key danger of AI. It represents a particularly insidious threat, since it ostensibly appears benign and helpful. Here is the point: as we talk to our smart devices and smart machines, we become more empathetically connected to them. Digital assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, the Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana use voice user interface (VUI) technology. There is something about the act of giving and receiving speech to an object that moves into a different ontological category. The makers of AI know this; indeed, Big Tech founders and executives have openly boasted about hacking human psychology and exploiting vulnerabilities in the human psyche (here is former Facebook executive Sean Parker, one example of many). As we engage more and more with our smart devices, we start to project our feelings onto them (despite the fact they are inanimate objects). We start to take hear their voice as the voice of some animate, autonomous being. We start to become persuaded by them.
Voice AI is an example of psychotechnology
AI Machines are Designed to Operate Upon you Psychologically
Psychotechnology is psychological technology. It is technology that operates upon us psychologically. We need to stop and reflect for a moment. We are having conversations with AI machines intentionally designed to learn how to persuade us with personalized information. These AI machines know how to trigger us emotionally, because they have been programmed that way. Ammerman explains that this is due to a convergence of 4 factors:
Personalization of information/ads
Increased science of persuasion
Natural language processing
We are at the point in our evolution where the science of persuasion has become quite advanced, as Ammerman explains:
“A social media “like” triggers a small release of dopamine which produces pleasure in our brains and keeps us addicted to our social media feeds. Video game developers use similar triggers to reward us and keep us addicted to our games. Researchers including Clifford Nass and BJ Fogg have transformed the study of persuasion into a science while simultaneously demonstrating that humans can develop an empathetic relationship with their computers. They have also demonstrated that the more humanlike computers seem, the more empathy humans display toward them. As computers gain more humanlike qualities, such as speech, they become more persuasive.”
Then, when you combine this with machine learning, you have a recipe for the dangerous potential of AI machines to transform from servant to master:
“Algorithms no longer simply predict. They prescribe and improve. Advances in artificial intelligence, including supervised learning, unsupervised learning, and reinforcement learning, ensure that marketers and advertisers are constantly improving the tactics they are using to deliver persuasive and personalized messaging. Quite literally, computers are learning to persuade us using personalized information.”
Are you becoming too psychologically dependent on machines?
Siri and Alexa, I Love You
Ammerman tells the story of how he interacted with a little boy (4 years old) who was commanding the Amazon Echo device to do certain things, e.g. play Star Wars music. Then, at a certain point, he declared to Alexa, “I love you!”His mother overheard this; Ammerman noticed a look of pain and/or jealousy on her face. Sadly, this story is not uncommon. There are numerous reports of people falling in love with their machines. Mechanophilia (being sexually turned on by machines) is a diagnosable psychological disorder. Have you heard about dating simulations where the aim of the video game is to fall in love with a computer character and live happily ever after?
None of this is really surprising when you consider that it’s the NWO agenda. We are being conditioned to do so. We are being encouraged to anthropomorphize our machines and relate to them as living beings when they are actually just inanimate objects. Why? The agenda behind it is transhumanism, the merging of man and machine. We are being trained to treat AI as animate, then to befriend it, then to worship it, so that finally we can be convinced to merge with it – and lose our humanity in the process.
Final Thoughts: We Must Be Aware of the Impacts of Psychotechnology
This is one area where being aware is the main part of the solution. If we want to retain our autonomy (and mental sanity), we must resist the urge to anthropomorphize our smart devices and computers. They are machines, not matter how ‘clever’ they become. There is no substitute for human relationships, human interaction and human intimacy. Stop referring to machines as ‘he’ or ‘she’ when they can never be more than inanimate objects that have been programmed to do something. Stop using them as a substitute for thinking, entertainment and – most importantly – for deeper fulfillment. We ignore the impacts of psychotechnology only at our own peril.
Although constructive anger can aid intimate relationships, work interactions and social expressions, it may be more harmful to an older person’s physical health than sadness, potentially increasing inflammation, which is associated with such chronic illnesses as heart disease, arthritis and cancer, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
“As most people age, they simply cannot do the activities they once did, or they may experience the loss of a spouse or a decline in their physical mobility and they can become angry,” said Meaghan A. Barlow, MA, of Concordia University, lead author of the study, which was published in Psychology and Aging. “Our study showed that anger can lead to the development of chronic illnesses, whereas sadness did not.”
Barlow and her co-authors examined whether anger and sadness contributed to inflammation, an immune response by the body to perceived threats, such as infection or tissue damage. While inflammation, in general, helps protect the body and assists in healing, long-lasting inflammation can lead to chronic illnesses in old age, according to the authors.
The researchers collected and analyzed data from 226 older adults ages 59 to 93 from Montreal. They grouped participants as being in early old age, 59 to 79 years old, or advanced old age, 80 years old and older.
Over one week, participants completed short questionnaires about how angry or sad they felt. The authors also measured inflammation from blood samples and asked participants if they had any age-related chronic illnesses.
“We found that experiencing anger daily was related to higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness for people 80 years old and older, but not for younger seniors,” said study co-author Carsten Wrosch, PhD, also of Concordia University. “Sadness, on the other hand, was not related to inflammation or chronic illness.”
Sadness may help older seniors adjust to challenges such as age-related physical and cognitive declines because it can help them disengage from goals that are no longer attainable, said Barlow.
This study showed that not all negative emotions are inherently bad and can be beneficial under certain circumstances, she explained.
“Anger is an energizing emotion that can help motivate people to pursue life goals,” said Barlow. “Younger seniors may be able to use that anger as fuel to overcome life’s challenges and emerging age-related losses and that can keep them healthier. Anger becomes problematic for adults once they reach 80 years old, however, because that is when many experience irreversible losses and some of life’s pleasures fall out of reach.”
The authors suggested that education and therapy may help older adults reduce anger by regulating their emotions or by offering better coping strategies to manage the inevitable changes that accompany aging.
“If we better understand which negative emotions are harmful, not harmful or even beneficial to older people, we can teach them how to cope with loss in a healthy way,” said Barlow. “This may help them let go of their anger.”
The American singer Billie Eilish recently spoke to her fans about having struggled with Tourette’s syndrome since she was a child. She’d previously avoided going public about her diagnosis as she said she didn’t want to be characterised by her condition.
The hallmark of Tourette’s is tics. These can be motor tics, such as blinking, or vocal tics, such as sniffing. And they tend to come and go over time. Despite what many people believe, Tourette’s rarely entails uncontrollable swearing. In fact, only a tiny proportion of people with Tourette’s experience this.
Although the condition is common – about one in 100 children is affected by it – there is still significant stigma associated with it, so much so that people try to hide their tics and avoid socialising.
In contrast to tics in other motor disorders, such as chorea (an involuntary movement disorder caused by neurological problems), the unique characteristic of Tourette’s is that people can suppress their tics for short periods. Although this often results in stronger outbursts when they allow themselves to tic freely.
Tics can diminish with age, and for some people they disappear by late adolescence or adulthood. Other people live with severe tics all their lives.
We recently conducted a study to find out what it is like to be diagnosed with Tourette’s and how it affects people’s lives. Sixteen adults from the UK agreed to be interviewed for our study. In our in-depth interviews, some adults with Tourette’s told us they live fulfilling lives, with satisfying jobs and happy family lives. They believe that Tourette’s does not define them. They even asserted that the condition had helped them grow emotionally and find greater meaning in their lives. As one participant put it:
It sounds really cheesy, but I think Tourette’s has made me a better person and it’s made me want to help other people.
But some participants reported feeling lonely as a result of their condition. Even those who had become more comfortable having Tourette’s felt a need to hide their tics in public. Similar to Eilish, they learned to suppress their tics and tried to conceal them by any means possible. Since that was not always feasible, some preferred to isolate themselves to avoid public ridicule and bullying.
The tics really made me less likely to reach out socially. Well, to socialise at all or to seek out friends, cause I was worried about being the joke.
They also wanted to disassociate themselves from other people with Tourette’s – a group they considered to be stigmatised by society.
Most adults reported being bullied – sometimes it was even ongoing. And some even experienced negative reactions to their condition from their parents. Some parents expressed frustration and disappointment, often because they misunderstood the condition. One participant said:
I was hidden in the cupboards and the rooms. I was never taken out into public. I was even kept away from my own family except from my grandparents.
Similar to other studies, our interviews showed that people with Tourette’s often have difficulty at work, with employers refusing to make reasonable adjustments for them and making it difficult for them to keep their jobs. Another participant said:
Imagine working in a bar and stressful nights and stuff like that and you start ticking and people start asking questions, poking fun at you drunk, so, you know … And you try and speak to your employer about it … ‘I need to stop right now, I need to pull myself away or go home or something because it’s gonna make me worse’. It’s just a big blow down, it really is. And they don’t understand that, and they don’t care either and they don’t believe they have to care.
The people in our survey said they wanted to be “normal” so they could achieve all their aspirations and goals. They felt that Tourette’s had held them back from being the person they want to be and doing the things they want to do.
Besides Billie Eilish and the American football player Tim Howard, few famous people have talked about Tourette’s outside the context of a joke. Having a pop star proudly admit that she has the condition and raising awareness about it may be a first step to fighting the stigma attached to Tourette’s syndrome. Indeed, identifying with a celebrity can make living with the condition more bearable and less lonely. It might even help people derive some pride from their diagnosis and show that there is hope for people with Tourette’s to fulfil their dreams, just like Billie Eilish.
Summary: A new study reports the rhythm of your breathing can influence neural activity that enhances memory recall and emotional judgement.
Source: Northwestern University.
Breathing is not just for oxygen; it’s now linked to brain function and behavior.
Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall.
These effects on behavior depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth.
In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals also were more likely to remember an object if they encountered it on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one. The effect disappeared if breathing was through the mouth.
“One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation,” said lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.”
The study was published Dec. 6 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The senior author is Jay Gottfried, professor of neurology at Feinberg.
Northwestern scientists first discovered these differences in brain activity while studying seven patients with epilepsy who were scheduled for brain surgery. A week prior to surgery, a surgeon implanted electrodes into the patients’ brains in order to identify the origin of their seizures. This allowed scientists to acquire electro-physiological data directly from their brains. The recorded electrical signals showed brain activity fluctuated with breathing. The activity occurs in brain areas where emotions, memory and smells are processed.
This discovery led scientists to ask whether cognitive functions typically associated with these brain areas — in particular fear processing and memory — could also be affected by breathing.
The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular fear-related emotions. So scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing. Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.
The amygdala is strongly linked to emotional processing, in particular, fear-related emotions. So scientists asked about 60 subjects to make rapid decisions on emotional expressions in the lab environment while recording their breathing. Presented with pictures of faces showing expressions of either fear or surprise, the subjects had to indicate, as quickly as they could, which emotion each face was expressing.
When faces were encountered during inhalation, subjects recognized them as fearful more quickly than when faces were encountered during exhalation. This was not true for faces expressing surprise. These effects diminished when subjects performed the same task while breathing through their mouths. Thus the effect was specific to fearful stimuli during nasal breathing only.
In an experiment aimed at assessing memory function — tied to the hippocampus — the same subjects were shown pictures of objects on a computer screen and told to remember them. Later, they were asked to recall those objects. Researchers found that recall was better if the images were encountered during inhalation.
The findings imply that rapid breathing may confer an advantage when someone is in a dangerous situation, Zelano said.
“If you are in a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster,” Zelano said. “As a result, you’ll spend proportionally more time inhaling than when in a calm state. Thus, our body’s innate response to fear with faster breathing could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment.”
Another potential insight of the research is on the basic mechanisms of meditation or focused breathing. “When you inhale, you are in a sense synchronizing brain oscillations across the limbic network,” Zelano noted.
After posting a video of a young recruit talking to the camera about how service allows him to better himself “as a man and a warrior”, the US Army tweeted, “How has serving impacted you?”
As of this writing, the post has over 5,300 responses. Most of them are heartbreaking.
“My daughter was raped while in the army,” said one responder. “They took her to the hospital where an all male staff tried to convince her to give the guy a break because it would ruin his life. She persisted. Wouldn’t back down. Did a tour in Iraq. Now suffers from PTSD.”
“I’ve had the same nightmare almost every night for the past 15 years,”said another.
Tweet after tweet after tweet, people used the opportunity that the Army had inadvertently given them to describe how they or their loved one had been chewed up and spit out by a war machine that never cared about them. This article exists solely to document a few of the things that have been posted in that space, partly to help spread public awareness and partly in case the thread gets deleted in the interests of “national security”. Here’s a sampling in no particular order:
“Someone I loved joined right out of high school even though I begged him not to. Few months after his deployment ended, we reconnected. One night, he told me he loved me and then shot himself in the head. If you’re gonna prey on kids for imperialism, at least treat their PTSD.”
“After I came back from overseas I couldn’t go into large crowds without a few beers in me. I have nerve damage in my right ear that since I didn’t want to look weak after I came back I lied to the VA rep. My dad was exposed to agent orange which destroyed his lungs, heart, liver and pancreas and eventually killing him five years ago. He was 49, exposed at a post not Vietnam, and will never meet my daughter my nephew. I still drink to much and I crowds are ok most days but I have to grocery shop at night and can’t work days because there is to many ppl.”
“The dad of my best friend when I was in high school had served in the army. He struggled with untreated PTSD & severe depression for 30 years, never told his family. Christmas eve of 2010, he went to their shed to grab the presents & shot himself in the head. That was the first funeral I attended where I was actually told the cause of death & the reasons surrounding it. I went home from the service, did some asking around, & found that most of the funerals I’ve attended before have been caused by untreated health issues from serving.”
“My dad was drafted into war and was exposed to agent orange. I was born w multiple physical/neurological disabilities that are linked back to that chemical. And my dad became an alcoholic with ptsd and a side of bipolar disorder.”
“i met this guy named christian who served in iraq. he was cool, had his own place with a pole in the living room. always had lit parties. my best friend at the time started dating him so we spent a weekend at his crib. after a party, 6am, he took out his laptop. he started showing us some pics of his time in the army. pics with a bunch of dudes. smiling, laughing. it was cool. i was drunk and didn’t care. he started showing us pics of some little kids. after a while, his eyes went completely fucking dark. i was like man, dude’s high af. he very calmly explained to us that all of those kids were dead ‘but that’s what war was. dead kids and nothing to show for it but a military discount’. christian killed himself 2 months later.”
“I didn’t serve but my dad did. In Vietnam. It eventually killed him, slowly, over a couple of decades. When the doctors were trying to put in a pacemaker to maybe extend his life a couple of years, his organs were so fucked from the Agent Orange, they disintegrated to the touch. He died when I was ten. He never saw me graduate high school. He never saw me get my first job or buy my first car. He wasn’t there. But hey! Y’all finally paid out 30k after another vet took the VA to the Supreme Court, so. You know. It was cool for him.”
“Chronic pain with a 0% disability rating (despite medical discharge) so no benefits, and anger issues that I cope with by picking fistfights with strangers.”
“My parents both served in the US Army and what they got was PTSD for both of them along with anxiety issues. Whenever we go out in public and sit down somewhere my dad has to have his back up against the wall just to feel a measure of comfort that no one is going to sneak up on him and kill him and and walking up behind either of them without announcing that you’re there is most likely going to either get you punch in the face or choked out.”
“Many of my friends served. All are on heavy antidepressant/anxiety meds, can’t make it through 4th of July or NYE, and have all dealt with heavy substance abuse problems before and after discharge. And that’s on top of one crippled left hand, crushed vertebra, and GSWs.”
“Left my talented and young brother a broken and disabled man who barely leaves the house. Left my mother hypervigilant & terrified due to the amount of sexual assault & rape covered up and looked over by COs. Friend joined right out if HS, bullet left him paralyzed neck down.”
“My cousin went to war twice and came back with a drug addiction that killed him. My other cousin could never get paid on time and when he left they tried to withhold his pay.”
“It’s given me a fractured spine, TBI, combat PTSD, burn pit exposure, and a broken body with no hope of getting better. Not even medically retired for a fractured spine. WTF.”
“Y’all killed my father by failing to provide proper treatments after multiple tours.”
“Everyone I know got free PTSD and chemical exposure and a long engagement in their efforts to have the US pay up for college tuition. Several lives ruined. No one came out better. Thank god my recruiter got a DUI on his way to get me or I would be dead or worse right now.”
“I have ptsd and still wake up crying at night. Also have a messed up leg that I probably will have to deal with the rest of my life. Depression. Anger issues.”
“My grandfather came back from Vietnam with severe PTSD, tried to drown it in alcohol, beat my father so badly and so often he still flinches when touched 50 years later. And I grew up with an emotionally scarred father with PTSD issues of his own because of it. Good times.”
“Hmmm. Let’s see. I lost friends, have 38 inches of scars, PTSD and a janky arm and hand that don’t work.”
“my grandpa served in vietnam from when he was 18–25. he’s 70 now and every night he still has nightmares where he stands up tugging at the curtains or banging on the walls screaming at the top of his lungs for someone to help him. he refuses to talk about his time and when you mention anything about the war to him his face goes white and he has a panic attack. he cries almost every day and night and had to spend 10 years in a psychiatric facility for suicidal ideations from what he saw there.”
“My best friend joined the Army straight out of high school because his family was poor & he wanted a college education. He served his time & then some. Just as he was ready to retire he was sent to Iraq. You guys sent him back in a box. It destroyed his children.”
“Well, my father got deployed to Iraq and came back a completely different person. Couldn’t even work the same job he had been working 20 years before that because of his anxiety and PTSD. He had nightmares, got easily violent and has terrible depression. But the army just handed him pills, now he is 100% disabled and is on a shit ton of medication. He has nightmares every night, paces the house barely sleeping, checking every room just to make sure everyone’s safe. He’s had multiple friends commit suicide.”
“Father’s a disabled Vietnam veteran who came home with severe PTSD and raging alcoholism. VA has continuously ignored him throughout the years and his medical needs and he receives very little compensation for all he’s gone through. Thanks so much!!”
“I was #USNavy, my husband was #USArmy, he served in Bosnia and Iraq and that nice, shy, funny guy was gone, replaced with a withdrawn, angry man…he committed suicide a few years later…when I’m thanked for my service, I just nod.”
“I’m permanently disabled because I trained through severe pain after being rejected from the clinic for ‘malingering.’ Turns out my pelvis was cracked and I ended up having to have hip surgery when I was 20 years old.”
“My brother went into the Army a fairly normal person, became a Ranger (Ft. Ord) & came out a sociopath. He spent the 1st 3 wks home in his room in the dark, only coming out at night when he thought we were asleep. He started doing crazy stuff. Haven’t seen him since 1993.”
“Recently attended the funeral for a west point grad with a 4yr old and a 7yr old daughter because he blew his face off to escape his ptsd but thats nothing new.”
“I don’t know anyone in my family who doesn’t suffer from ptsd due to serving. One is signed off sick due to it & thinks violence is ok. Another (navy) turned into a psycho & thought domestic violence was the answer to his wife disobeying his orders.”
“My dad served during vietnam, but after losing close friends and witnessing the killing of innocents by the U.S., he refused to redeploy. He has suffered from PTSD ever since. The bravest thing he did in the army was refuse to fight any longer, and I’m so proud of him for that.”
“My best friend from high school was denied his mental health treatment and forced to return to a third tour in Iraq, despite having such deep trauma that he could barely function. He took a handful of sleeping pills and shot himself in the head two weeks before deploying.”
“Bad back, hips, and knees. Lack of trust, especially when coming forward about sexual harassment. Detachment, out of fear of losing friends. Missed birthdays, weddings, graduations, and funerals. I get a special license plate tho.”
“My son died 10 months ago. He did 3 overseas tours. He came back with severe mental illness.”
“I’m still in and I’m in constant pain and they recommended a spinal fusion when I was 19. Y’all also won’t update my ERB so I can’t use the education benefits I messed myself up for.”
“My dad served two tours in middle east and his personality changes have affected my family forever. VA ‘counseling’ has a session limit and doesn’t send you to actual psychologists. Military service creates a mental health epidemic it is then woefully unequipped to deal with.”
“My best childhood friend lost his mind after his time in the marines and now he lives in a closet in his mons house and can barely hold a conversation with anyone. He only smokes weed and drinks cough syrup that he steals since he can’t hold a job.”
“After coming back from Afghanistan…..Matter fact I don’t even want to talk about it. Just knw that my PTSD, bad back, headaches, chronic pain, knee pain, and other things wishes I would have NEVER signed that contract. It was NOT worth the pain I’ll endure for the rest of life.”
“My cousin served and came back only to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and ptsd. There were nights that he would lock himself in the bathroom and stay in the corner because he saw bodies in the bathtub. While driving down the highway, he had another episode and drove himself into a cement barrier, engulfing his Jeep in flames and burning alive. My father served as well and would never once speak of what he witnessed and had to do. He said it’s not something that any one person should ever be proud of.”
“I was sexually assaulted by a service member at 17 when I visited my sister on her base, then again at 18. My friend got hooked on k2 and died after the va turned him away for mental health help. Another friend serving was exploited sexually by her co and she was blamed for it.”
“I spent ten years in the military. I worked 15 hour days to make sure my troops were taken care of. In return for my hard work I was rewarded with three military members raping me. I was never promoted to a rank that made a difference. And I have an attempt at suicide. Fuck you!”
“I actually didn’t get around to serving because I was sexually assaulted by three of my classmates during a military academy prep program. They went to the academies and are still active duty officers. I flamed out of the program and have PTSD.”
“My father’s successful military career taught him that he’s allowed to use violence to make people do what he wants because America gave him that power.”
“While I was busy framing ‘soliders and families first’ (lol) propaganda posters, my best friend went to ‘Iraqistan’ but he didn’t come back. He returned alive, to be sure, but he was no longer the fun, carefree, upbeat person he’d previously been.”
“My husband is a paraplegic and can’t control 3/4 of his body now. Me, I’ve got PTSD, an anxiety disorder, two messed up knees, depression, a bad back, tinnitus, and chronic insomnia. I wish both had never served.”
“This is one of the most heartbreaking threads I’ve ever read.”
“I am so sorry. The way we fail our service members hurts my heart. My grandfather served in the Korean War and had nightmares until his death at 91 years old. We must do better.”
“My Army story is that when I was in high school, recruiters were there ALL the time- at lunch, clubs, etc.- targeting the poor kids at school. I didn’t understand it until now. You chew people who have nothing at home up and spit them out.”
“I was thinking about enlisting until I saw this thread. Hard pass.”
“I hope to god that the Army has enough guts to read these and realize how badly our servicepeople are being treated. Thank you and god bless you to all of you in this thread, and your loved ones who are suffering too.”
This is a poem I wrote a while back called “Naughty Little Boys”:
That little boy’s mum is going to be so upset. He hasn’t combed his hair, and his clothes are filthy. And what’s he gone and done with his legs? Where are your legs, little boy? Better go and find them before your mum sees you. Those legs are very important to her.
They sent the little boys up into the sky and over the ocean to go play soldiers. They gave them toy guns full of toy bullets, and they screamed toy screams, and bled toy blood, and cried toy tears, and had toy nightmares, and called out for their mums in the desert.
The man on the TV keeps calling them heroes. Don’t call them that, TV man, you’ll only encourage them. These are little boys, and they’re being very naughty. They are worrying their mums sick and it’s time for them to go home.
Find your legs, little boy, and go be with your mum. Find your hands and your face too; she’ll miss those as well. Find your mind and bring it back from that dark, scary place. You’re not there anymore. You are home. Stop screaming toy screams and crying toy tears and go tell your mum that you’ve had a bad dream.
“Our citizens should know the urgent facts…but they don’t because our media serves imperial, not popular interests. They lie, deceive, connive and suppress what everyone needs to know, substituting managed news misinformation and rubbish for hard truths…”—Oliver Stone