It was the year 735 BC. The kingdom of Judah had already lost most of its territory in the Transjordan to Rezin, the powerful king of the Aramaeans. Sensing weakness, Philistia and Edom had begun to attack from the south and west. Meanwhile, in the northern kingdom of Israel, Pekah and his band of Gileadite soldiers had staged a bloody coup. Pekah was almost certainly a Manchurian candidate whose rise to power was engineered by Aram. Judah’s only consolation was King Jotham, a good king. But for reasons that remain unclear, in 735 BC Jotham was replaced by his son Ahaz. That very same year news reached Judah that Rezin and Pekah were planning to attack Judah and replace Ahaz with a certain Ben-Tobeel from the Transjordan. If successful, Aram would have a client king on the thrones of both Ephraim and Judah. The year 735 BC was a year of conspiracy and fear.
Judah was by no means a weak and indefensible kingdom as some have maintained, but it had little chance of defeating the combined forces of Rezin and Pekah. According to the Kurkh Monolith from a century earlier (c. 850 BC) the combined forces of Aram and Israel at the Battle of Qarqar numbered 3200 chariots, 1200 horsemen, and 30,000 foot soldiers. The battle fought at Qarqar against the Assyrians was at that time the largest land battle ever recorded. It probably ended in a draw which was a good outcome for the western allies. But now these very same forces were massing on Judah’s northern border. The prophet Isaiah captures the mood of the moment: “And the heart of the king and the hearts of the people shook like the trees of the forest before the wind.”
It has sometimes been suggested that Isaiah was a royal scribe. His supreme command of the Hebrew language seems to necessitate some kind of scribal training. But the prophet was most likely an outsider when he was called by God to deliver a message to king Ahaz of Judah. Isaiah addressed the king from outside the walls of the city in the hearing of all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. “Be on guard. Be quiet. Do not be afraid. Don’t let your heart be timid.” Although Rezin and Pekah have devised a plan against you, they will not succeed. It will not happen. It shall not stand!
But Ahaz brushed the prophet off. Isaiah’s message ran counter to the “chirping and muttering” of the necromancers and mediums that surrounded the king. He had already decided to send a messenger to Tiglath Pileser III, the king of Assyria, with enough money to purchase the Assyrian king’s support. However Isaiah was not so easily dismissed. He pressed the matter further by offering to perform a miracle in view of the king and all the people. “Ask for a sign, in the highest of heavens or in the deepest parts of the earth!” But the heart of the young king was already inclined towards evil. He piously declared that he did not wish to put the LORD to the test.
An alliance between Judah and Assyria made a lot of sense in terms of realpolitik. And Ahaz’s policy was successful in the short term. Tiglath Pileser III attacked Aram and the northernmost tribes of Israel which took the pressure off of Ahaz. But the payments to Assyria never ended. In the end Ahaz was forced to strip the temple of its furnishings even as Assyrian “aid” became an unbearable yoke around Judah’s neck.
After Isaiah’s encounter with Ahaz, God spoke to the prophet and commanded him, “do not call conspiracy what this people calls conspiracy, and do not be afraid of what this people fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:12-13 ESV) This is the central theme of Isaiah 7-8. There is an unholy fear that makes us susceptible to manipulation and drives us to take actions we never could have contemplated before.
In his book, Dark Persuasion, Joel Dimsdale cites historical examples of how fear has been used by governments and corporations as a means of gaining power and changing people’s behavior. The following is a brief summary based on several of his lectures which are available here and here. One of the questions the author addresses is why so many U.S. POW’s collaborated with the enemy (as many as 15%) and why 20 POW’s chose to relinquish their citizenship completely and live in China or Russia after the Korean War.
With a death rate of over 30% the prison camps in North Korea where among the worst in modern history. So when American POW’s were transferred from North Korea to Chinese camps they were surprised by the lenient treatment they received. However, it soon became apparent that the Chinese were using the “iron fist in a veiled glove” tactic in order to break the prisoners. They segregated the enlisted men from the officers, fomented distrust by soliciting informants, and interfered with the prisoners mail by ensuring that the only letters filled with bad news from home were delivered to the prisoners. The Chinese were relentless in their demands, many of which were irrational and absurd, and required tokens of participation from the prisoners, no matter how trivial.
Many POW’s became apathetic, and morale plummeted so low that only 13 percent of the men showed much concern for their fellows; informing on another prisoner was common.1Dimsdale 2021, 77
Jolly West summarized the methods employed by the Chinese communists with the acronym DDD:
- Dread – make them afraid
- Debility – inflict suffering
- Dependency – make them dependent on you
There is a fourth D in one of Dimsdale’s slides which I also think is worth taking note of.
- Dissociation – isolate them from their leaders, friends, family, church, and community
A commission was established after the war to investigate the conditions American POW’s faced in the Communist internment camps. One of the doctors called upon to give testimony during the hearing was Charles Mayo. Mayo reported that,
“the Communists were using Pavlov’s conditioned reflex tricks. The prisoners resistance was punished by kicks and slaps to the face…with threats of death. Signs of cooperation on the other hand were rewarded with slight increases in rations, with promises of better treatment soon.
No wonder that some of our prisoners… were brought down to that animal level of response where resistance was associated with death,…and where survival on any term seemed more important than moral principles. If anything is surprising to me, it is that so many of our soldiers—both those who [falsely] confessed and those who did not… somehow continued throughout to act like men.”The Korean War and the Birth of Brainwashing
Mayo makes reference to Ivan Pavlov whose experiments with behavior modification on dogs (and later on humans) were influential in shaping Soviet propaganda. When Lenin visited Pavlov at his Institute of Experimental Medicine, Lenin stayed for over two hours and talked with Pavlov about his discoveries. Lenin wanted to know if, “Pavlov’s experiments could bolster the states efforts to mold the new soviet man…?”
Pavlov: Do you mean you would like to standardize the population of Russia, make them all behave in the same way?
Lenin: Exactly, that is what I want, and you must help us by your studies of human behavior.Pavlov and the Soviets
And what was the mechanism by which the population of Russia could be standardized? The answer Pavlov and Lenin agreed upon was “proper education.”
Lenin: Does this mean hereditary factors can be overcome by proper education?
Pavlov: Under certain circumstances yes, they can be overcome. Conditioned reflexes can abolish natural instinct.
Lenin: That’s fine, excellent, that’s exactly what I wanted to know.Pavlov and the Soviets
Pavlov likened proper education to the “conditioning of reflexes,” a reference to Pavlov’s most famous experiment in which he trained dogs to salivate with the ringing of a bell. To equate education with a purely physiological process such as this reveals something about Pavlov’s pathologically twisted mind. Both Lenin and Stalin generously funded Pavlov’s research and gave him access to psychiatric patients upon which to test his theories. (Note: The above description of conditioned reflexes does not come from Dimsdale’s two lectures. It is probably explained in his book which I hope to read at some point.)
In response to Soviet and Chinese advances in human behavior modification, the CIA set up its own research program. They gave America’s foremost neurologist, Harold Wolff, the task of developing new methods of ‘coercive persuasion’ or what popularly became known as ‘brain washing’. Wolff used covert funding provided by the CIA to found the Human Ecology Program. In one telling exchange, a CIA agent inquired about a potential research program.
White (CIA): What is the possibility of working out a graph indicating the state of panic of the enemy, based upon the varying degree of pressure used?
Harold Wolff: Yours is a very provocative notion and I am sure it could be documented. Warm regards.The Korean War and the Birth of Brainwashing
Warmest regards to you too, Harry… down there.2Harold Wolff collaborated with the CIA to collect information on a wide variety of torture methods, and stated the intention that his research program would: …assemble, collate, analyze and assimilate this information and will then undertake experimental investigations designed to develop new techniques of offensive/defensive intelligence use … Potentially useful secret drugs (and various brain damaging procedures) will be similarly tested in order to ascertain the fundamental effect upon human brain function and upon the subject’s mood … Where any of the studies involve potential harm of the subject, we expect the Agency to make available suitable subjects and a proper place for the performance of the necessary experiments.— Dr. Harold Wolff, Cornell University Medical School (from Wikipedia)
I wonder what graphs are being used today by our health bureaucracies to determine the level of pressure required to induce a “state of panic” that will ensure compliance with the “health” mandates? Media outlets have for more than a year and a half published a constant stream of statistics: cases, hospitalizations, deaths, vaccination rates, variants, etc. The news desk and commentators on our local talk radio station here in southern Alberta, AM 770, have consistently promoted the most extreme measures to combat the pandemic. Dissenting voices such as those of Danielle Smith and Michael Campbell have gone silent.
Our premier, Jason Kenney, has wavered between offering public assurances and panic. On several occasions he warned that without decisive action case numbers would continue to rise and our healthcare system would collapse. What we thought would be a wave, Kenney warned, was about to become a tsunami. He said this even as case numbers were cresting and beginning to decline in other parts of North America. Fear has driven Kenney’s response to this crisis every step of the way. Now his government has imposed truly radical and restrictive policies on Albertans. And every form of persuasive coercion is being brought to bear.
- wildly inaccurate projections (dread)
- terrible reports about new ‘variants’ (dread)
- constant reporting on numbers of dead and hospitalized (dread)
- threat of job loss (debility)
- lock-downs (debility and dissociation)
- exclusion (dissociation)
- mockery (debility)
- forced masking (dissociation)
- silencing of opposition (dissociation)
- generous government programs (dependency)
- restoration of freedoms (dependency)
These measures have proven ineffectual and have come at a staggering cost but that is not the point. What is most concerning is how many in Alberta have embraced these mandates and restrictions. In future years historians studying this period in our history will be presented with a paradox similar to that of the American POW’s who embraced their captors during the Korean War. Did Kenney set out to strip Albertan’s of their freedoms, ruin their institutions and destroy their businesses? No, I don’t believe so. But his policies are responding to fear. And I believe this fear is being driven by those who have much to gain from it. We are all Fauci’s dogs now.
De Tocqueville observed that true and lasting success is never achieved by men grasping and clawing after life as though it were an end in itself.
In ages of faith, the final end of life is placed beyond life. The men of those ages, therefore, naturally and almost involuntarily accustom themselves to fix their gaze for many years on some immovable object toward which they are constantly tending; and they learn by insensible degrees to repress a multitude of petty passing desires in order to be the better able to content that great and lasting desire which possesses them… This explains why religious nations have often achieved such lasting results; for whilst they were thinking only of the other world, they had found out the great secret of success in this.”3Weaver, Ideas have Consequences, pg 108
Pavlov’s reflexive conditioning only works on animals. But Christ has called us to a life of faith. Or in the words of Isaiah to King Ahaz,
If you do not take a stand
you will not be established.