Engineered confusion

Olavo de Carvalho
Laigle’s Forum, March 18th, 2008

The Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) demonstrated that contradictory stimulation is the quickest and most efficient way to break down the psychological defenses of an individual (or handful of individuals), reducing him to a state of devoted credulity in which he will accept as natural and true the most absurd commands and the most incongruous opinions.

This works almost infallibly even when the stimuli are of a purely cognitive order and without a great deal of emotional involvement (contradictory sentences uttered in a camouflaged sequence so as to create subconscious confusion). But it clearly works much better if the subject is subjected to the impact of sufficiently strong contradictory emotions to quickly create a state of intolerable psychological discomfort. This discomfort itself serves as camouflage because the victim does not have time to determine that the contradiction comes from the source and not from within himself, so that guilt and shame are added to the state of distress. The automatic reaction that follows is the desperate search for a new equilibrium pattern, that is, a broader feeling that seems to include, in a dialectic synthesis, the two emotions initially experienced as contradictory and which simultaneously alleviates the feeling of shame that the individual experiences toward the source of stimulus, which at this point he accepts as his critical observer or judge.

If the reader examines the leftist discourse with some attention, he will see that it manages to inspire in the public both fear and compassion at the same time. This duality of feelings is not contradictory in itself when each of the feelings is situated on a different plane, as in the case of a Greek tragedy, where the spectators feel compassion for the hero and fear of the cosmic machinery that oppresses him. However, if the object of fear and compassion is the same, you simply don’t know how to react and enter a state of “cognitive dissonance” (term of the psychologist Leon Festinger), a state of mental atonia that predisposes to passive subservience.

I say fear and compassion, although these are never simple and unequivocal emotions but rather complex emotional webs that trap the victim at the same time, making him incapable of verbally expressing the situation and suffocating him in a murky atmosphere of confusion and impotence.

In revolutionary politics, contradictory stimulation assumes the form of terrorist attacks intended to intimidate a population, accompanied simultaneously by intense sensitization campaigns showing the sufferings of the revolutionaries and the poor population that they nominally represent. The destruction of farms by the Landless Movement is an apt example. The assaulted class is paralyzed between two sets of contradictory feelings – on the one hand, fear and rage, or the impulse to react, to flee or seek protection; on the other hand, extorted compassion, guilt and the impulse to ask forgiveness of the aggressor.

It is no coincidence that the first scientific description of this mechanism was the work of an eminent Russian psychologist. The use of contradictory stimulation was already a tradition in the revolutionary movement when Ivan Pavlov started to investigate the subject precisely during the years in which the Russian Revolution was under preparation. His studies were immediately absorbed by the Communist leadership, which began using them to elevate revolutionary manipulation of the mind to the level of a highly precise, efficient social engineering technique capable of extensive operations with impressive control of the results.

Over the last four decades, with the transition of the revolutionary movement from the old hierarchic structure to the flexible organization in informal “networks” with immense financial support, the use of contradictory stimulation ceased to be the exclusive domain of the Communist Party and spread throughout all sorts of auxiliary organizations – NGOs, media enterprises, international organisms and cultural entities – the revolutionary nature of which was not declared ex-professo , making the tracing of the unified strategy throughout the whole a very complex problem, transcending the horizon of consciousness of the usual entrepreneurial and political leaderships and requiring the intervention of specialized studies. In general, social libertarians and conservatives are formidably under-equipped to cope with the situation. They endeavor to win over the public by logical arguments in favor of democracy and market economy, when the actual battlefield is situated far below this, in an obscure area of irrational emotions controlled by the adversary with all the latest refinements of rationality and science.

In future articles I will illustrate the use of contradictory stimulation by various “social movements”: feminist, gay agenda, abortion, atheist, environmentalist, etc.

Translated by Donald Hank ( )





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