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‘Stranger Things’: The Secret CIA Programs That Inspired Hit Series

Breaking down how the Duffer brothers used real-life government programs like MKUltra and Stargate Project in their hit show

The hit Netflix series Stranger Things was clearly influenced by Steven Spielberg and Stephen King, with a heaping helping of The X-Files and Twin Peaks thrown in for good measure. But some of its creepiest source material comes from the real world. Past the plot points about the Upside-Down and the slime monsters among us are references to government mind-control programs and covert experiments in telepathy that actually took place in the U.S. throughout the 20th century – like MKUltra and Stargate Project.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Matt and Ross Duffer, the brothers behind the show, mentioned some of this inspiration: “We wanted the supernatural element to be grounded in science in some way,” Matt says. “As ridiculous as it is, the monster [in the alternate dimension] doesn’t come from a spiritual domain and it’s not connected to any religion. It made it scarier. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I believe in aliens and alternate dimensions.”

But which elements are more fact than fiction? Here are five examples from the show that had real-life equivalents – some of them freaky enough to make monsters look like an appealing alternative. Obviously spoilers abound, so come back later if you’re not done with the show yet.

Government-Funded Drug Experiments

When Chief Hopper tracks down Terry Ives, the woman who attempted to sue the government for abuse after what happened to her at Hawkins, he and Ives’ sister talk about “Project MKUltra.” Though it sounds like what conspiracy theorists’ wet dreams are made of, MKUltra was a real government program funded by the CIA that went on from the 1950s to the early 1970s. It tested countless subjects at over 80 institutions, many of which were fronts funded by the government and filtered to schools, private hospitals and even a couple jails.

Most of the documents relating to the project were destroyed by the CIA in 1973 because of course they were, but what we know comes from witness testimony, a couple congressional investigations and a cache of 20,000 incorrectly-filed budgetary documents found during a Freedom of Information Act request in 1977. It’s enough to paint a terrifying picture of a wide-ranging government project that sought to capitalize on mind-control techniques that could, theoretically, be used against enemies during the Cold War.

Of particular interest to the government were the drugs that could be used to extract sensitive information, especially LSD. Researchers tried to see if hallucinogens had the power to control minds, erase memories and even work as truth serum. It’s hard to know exactly how far-reaching the experiments were or who knew about them (even some of the researchers involved had no idea they were participating in a government-funded project), but the transcript of the 1977 Select Committee on Intelligence is a fascinating read – and not only for the reference to the MKUltra subproject that studied “magicians’ arts as applied to covert operations.”

Were any of these experiments performed on women who didn’t know they were pregnant? Did those pregnancies then yield psychokinetic children that could be used as secret government weapons? For some reason, that doesn’t appear in the transcript, so let’s rule it a solid “maybe.”

Sensory Deprivation

When not being used to coerce testimony out of suspected terrorists at government black sites, sensory deprivation can be a relaxing and meditative experience probably happening at a spa near you. In Stranger Things, sensory deprivation tanks are used to trigger Eleven’s powers to help her listen in on far-away conversations and sneak up on the monster from the Upside Down. In real life, they mostly trigger hallucinations.

First invented in the 1950s by neuroscientist and dolphin enthusiast John C. Lilly, the isolation tank (like the saltwater kiddie pool seen on the show) was developed as a means of sensory deprivation. Lilly was nice enough to test it on himself first, but sensory deprivation didn’t stay nice for long. While working on a subproject of MKUltra, psychiatrist Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron used a combination of hallucinatory drugs like LSD, electroshock therapy and sensory deprivation on unwitting patients, many of whom came in for things as innocuous as anxiety treatment. Though it’s not clear whether he was using a tank or some other form of sensory deprivation – like earplugs and blindfolds – some of the patients who underwent his experiments ended up permanently comatose. That hasn’t stopped sensory deprivation’s proliferation or use by the government, nor has the long-standing debate over whether it constitutes torture.

Child Test Subjects

There’s no evidence to suggest MKUltra experiments were actually performed on kids, but Cathy O’Brien sure thinks they were. O’Brien has written two books about her experiences in a government-funded program called Project Monarch, which involved testing mind-control techniques on children. According to the project’s truthers (of which there are quite a few), the government’s goal in recruiting children for mind-control experiments was to hopefully create the perfect super-soldier – which sounds a lot like Stranger Things, actually. There are also claims that it involved child sexual abuse and experiments based on the work of Heinrich Himmler during the Third Reich. Again, there is absolutely no evidence that Project Monarch existed but the conspiracy-minded among us still want to believe.

Telepathy Experiments

Sure, Project MKUltra gets the shout-out in Stranger Things, but the tests on Eleven’s abilities actually seem to hearken back to something called Stargate Project. After all, MKUltra was supposedly over by the 1983 setting of the show, but Stargate was just getting warmed up. Funded by the U.S. Army, the project aimed to research paranormal phenomena that could be of use to the military, including but not limited to psychokinesis, mind-reading, and “remote viewings” of events and conversations – like when Eleven listens in on a Russian man’s conversation. The government even hired a psychic headhunter to recruit candidates. The 2004 book-turned-movie The Men Who Stare at Goats is about the Stargate experiments that tested telekinetic ability by having men do just what the title suggests in an attempt to kill the animals with their mind. Eleven is part of a similar experiment at Hawkins Lab when she’s asked to kill a cat by staring it, though that’s much less funny than goats for some reason.

Death Cover-Ups

The government researchers of Hawkins rack up quite a body count in Stranger Things(#JusticeForBarb), but there was a death toll in real-life too. The most famous case of an MKUltra-related death is that of Frank Olson. In 1953, Olson was a biochemist at a lab that was conducting LSD experiments for the government. The government’s account that he knowingly ingested the drug is contest by his family, but either way, a short time after he partook in one experiment, he quit his job in the government, checked into a thirteenth-floor New York City hotel room and fell to his death from the window. The official government report suggests that Olson knew he was taking the LSD and it exacerbated his nascent suicidal tendencies, but his family maintained that he was murdered for knowing too much. They received a $750,000 settlement from the government in 1975. Then, in 1994, his body was exhumed and a coroner noticed head injuries that suggested Olson had been knocked unconscious before his death. The medical examiner thought his injuries were consistent with a homicide and the family sued for wrongful death in 2012, but a judge later dismissed it.

Source www.rollingstone.com

Underworld

The main threat to humanity from Starlink and OneWeb satellites

In just four launches, the private space company SpaceX became the operator of the largest satellite constellation in Earth orbit, and there are plans to increase the number of vehicles by 175 times. This fact makes us wonder what man-made “constellations” are in the near future for mankind. Oddly enough, the primary problem is not a potential nearby space littering, but vulnerability to cybercriminals.

The main goal of projects such as Starlink (SpaceX, USA), OneWeb (United Kingdom), Kuiper (Amazon, USA) is to provide broadband Internet access around the globe. Each orbital constellation will differ in composition and some characteristics of data transmission systems, however, they are all fundamentally similar. These are relatively inexpensive (the order of prices is hundreds of thousands of dollars excluding launch) and small (weighing 100-300 kilograms) spacecraft (SC) operating, in contrast to existing satellite communications systems, in a low circular orbit (200-1200 kilometers) or orbits.

The low cost of each individual spacecraft (and, accordingly, of the entire project as a whole) is determined by the use of industrial components, which are mass-produced, as well as by conveyor assembly of satellites. Moreover, each of these products has its own propulsion system (for changing the orbit and orientation), a solar panel and a unit of several transceivers. Starlink satellites, for example, will completely communicate with each other via a laser beam, but so far the first phase of orbiters (240 pieces) is dispensed with.

In an ideal situation, everything looks great: you buy a budget terminal for yourself (the expected cost is up to a thousand dollars) and you can watch YouTube, read Wikipedia and download torrents absolutely everywhere (of course, only with Linux distributions). However, the devil was hidden in the details – because we do not live in an ideal world. And this was recently told by Phys.org, or rather, one of the authors of the subsidiary project The Conversation. This portal is intended for scientists, university professors and students so that they can express opinions, analyze and post their articles. Each material must be checked by professional journalists and more experienced members of the community.

Having collected a huge amount of information available in open sources, William Akoto came to the conclusion that the main threat to people and organizations using the services of such satellite communication providers are hackers. If Starlink, OneWeb and other projects have achieved at least most of the claimed characteristics, their audience will grow like an avalanche. Such Internet can be very profitable and convenient in the open sea, remote regions, as well as on airplanes and even in large cities at facilities where an alternative communication line cannot be temporarily or permanently drawn.

One of the key advantages of all such “constellations” of satellites in low orbit – low signal delay – may interest several types of very important customers at once. Firstly, these are infrastructure facilities and utilities in cases where data from them must be obtained promptly. Secondly, it’s the military, which will quickly “try out” the ability to control, for example, drones in real time (the signal lag is less than 100 milliseconds), and not as it is now available with a delay of 0.5-4 seconds, or even more. Thirdly, if the signal delays can be reduced to the promised minimum, Starlink and its competitors will become a very likely tool for traders and financial organizations, and this is money, a lot of money.

The problem with all these satellites lies in their main advantage – cheapness. Manufacturing companies save and will save on everything, which means that not the most obvious issue of cybersecurity may “fall under the knife”. If we add to this the electronic components of mass production, which are relatively easy to find and study, it turns out that hackers have all the cards on hand. Attackers are given the opportunity to analyze targets in such detail as it has never been possible for spacecraft.
And the most dangerous thing is the lack of a legislative base and normative acts concerning this issue. Who will be responsible for the overlooked vulnerability due to which hackers broke into several satellites and displaced them from orbit? if the criminals intercepted the traffic with the help of an extraterrestrial data exchange node and received important information, or even access to the country’s infrastructure facilities, how will responsibility be distributed in this case?

The problem with cybersecurity can manifest itself at all stages of the production process of projects such as Starlink and OneWeb. The use of mass electronic components, but not custom-made or in-house, leaves the opportunity for the contractor to add backdoors (“back doors”) to the design. The same goes for software, and almost to a greater extent.
These are not far-fetched situations: in the recent history of mankind there is already at least one confirmed hacker attack on a satellite. In 1999, attackers were able to remotely infiltrate the internal network of the Goddard Space Flight Center and gained access to computers responsible for monitoring the ROSAT X-ray orbital observatory. It is not known whether this happened intentionally or not, but cybercriminals experimented with various commands to the spacecraft and ultimately disabled it.

As a solution, one can propose the introduction of international standards for the creation and management of private satellite constellations and more stringent certification of such projects. Undoubtedly, Starlink, Kuiper and OneWeb are advanced technologies that are almost certainly good. However, along with progress, risks, sometimes serious ones, always keep pace. This is not a reason to abandon a bright future with Internet access from anywhere in the world, but a number of measures must be taken so that it is not overshadowed by the catastrophic consequences of rash decisions.

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CIA spied on the governments of 120 countries for many years using a cryptosystem

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States and West German intelligence have seen secret messages from governments in more than 120 countries with the help of the famous Swiss company Crypto AG, which has earned millions by selling its devices to many states.

According to a joint investigation by The Washington Post and the German broadcaster ZDF , Crypto AG, a Swiss communications encryption firm, secretly worked with the CIA and West German intelligence. For many years, the company sold devices to foreign governments to spy on messages that its users considered encrypted.

Journalists talked about the details of a multi-year agreement that allowed the United States and its allies to gain access to encryption equipment shipped to more than 120 countries in the 21st century. Crypto’s customers were Iran, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Syria and even the Vatican. At the same time, the Soviet Union, and later Russia, as well as China, have never been clients of Crypto. A CIA report said that US intelligence read up to “80-90 percent of the Iranian government’s reports.”

The authorities of the countries using Crypto devices to protect their communications did not know that they were designed specifically so that Western intelligence officers could easily crack codes used by foreign governments to send messages. During the operation, first known as Thesaurus and then Rubicon, the CIA regularly intercepted secret correspondence, with the help of which it informed the American administration about global military operations, hostage crises, killings and bombings.

“It was a reconnaissance coup of the century,” the CIA report said, one of the documents received by The Washington Post and ZDF as part of their investigation. “Foreign governments did not know that they paid good money to the USA and West Germany for the privilege that their most secret messages were read by at least two (and possibly as many as five or six) foreign countries,” the document says.

Crypto AG was founded by a native of Russia Boris Hagelin, who fled to Sweden after the October Revolution of 1917. He arrived in the United States in 1940 and offered the U.S. Army an M-209 encryption machine, which was less complex and voluminous, like the famous Nazi Enigma. The Pentagon became the first customer of the company founded by Hagelin in Switzerland, having purchased 140 such machines for its needs. After Hagelin created a more advanced cryptosystem in 1955, the American authorities, according to journalists, made a deal with him, which ultimately led to the start of Operation Thesaurus. In cars sold to foreign countries, intelligence officers began to place bookmarks that allowed reading information of interest to Western intelligence.

Journalists managed to gain access to the CIA report of 2004, the company itself suspended operations in 2018, since its services, taking into account the rapid growth of closed communication systems and protection technologies, were not in demand.

The Swiss government has officially opened an investigation into Crypto, according to Swissinfo, the International Service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. The general export license for Crypto devices was suspended “until the circumstances of the investigation are clarified.”

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How do the media violate our right to mental independence?

One of the most important human needs in the 21st century is the right to mental independence, because every day our brain undergoes more and more intensive and frequent manipulations in the interests alien to our individuality.

Deafening advertisements and intrusive propaganda represent the most undisguised and shameless aggression against the human mind, which used to be the sacred refuge of the person’s self, and now has turned into a showroom, chaotically filled with political debates, carbonated and alcoholic products, cigarettes, cars, clothes of famous companies , cosmetics, gorgeous beaches, gorgeous women, investment tips, pornography – that is, entertainment and consumerism.

Television not only breaks into our brains, but also disturbs domestic peace, aggressively raining pictures of sex, violence, sadism, perversions, vulgarity and vulgar tearfulness on us, and only rare films and cultural programs are free from this.

On the other hand, our mental abilities are negatively affected by a high level of acoustic and environmental pollution, which fragmentes and weakens our brain, opening it for external influences.

Our mind is cleverly manipulated to get certain goods to buy, or to opt for certain political leaders, popular singers, television programs, social magazines, or ways to invest money.

The creation of artificial needs is an attempt on the right of free choice, carried out with the help of advertising, which quietly penetrates our brain at an unconscious level and forces us to do something that we never really wanted. This is done only for profit.

The gross manipulation of people’s behavior through the media, forcing them to accept what they in their right mind would probably refuse, is a serious violation of ethics.

In democratic countries, citizens are not obliged to meekly agree with what is imposed on them by authoritarian and unethical methods, dutifully tolerate a lack of publicity in judicial decisions, and passively bear the burden of excessive and unknown taxes.

Nevertheless, the whole world is subject to direct or indirect mental manipulations, the purpose of which is to subordinate citizens to someone’s dark interests.

People are convinced by acting on their subconscious:

– Take loans at predatory interest and feel happy to have the “privilege” from year to month to increase the capital of creditors.

– Hate the rich and despise the poor.

– Imitate the absurd patterns of behavior that promote television and film.

– To commit crimes, like movie heroes, reaching sado-masochism.

– Immerse yourself in rampant consumerism.

– Blindly imitate famous artists, musicians, characters of soap operas, vulgar and vulgar.

– Worship false values.

– Follow the implanted bad taste and rude farce.

– Follow herd behavior and become an obedient consumer.

– It is thoughtless to accept any norms under pressure of authority, no matter how contradictory or unfair they may be.

– Passively accept everything that is approved in the media.

You can endlessly give examples of manipulating the minds of people, since we are constantly confronted with this.

The principle of democracy – a government for the people – turns out to be perverted and trampled on, because people’s minds do not belong to them, but to the media and their owners.

The freedom of mental choice is violated at the root. Here is a statement by Karl Popper about the danger that television carries:

“A consequence of the principle of mass culture is that the public is offered programs of an ever worse quality that she likes, as they are seasoned with“ pepper, spices and flavor enhancers, ”such as violence, sex, sensuality … More and more spicy seasonings are added to food, to hide its deteriorating quality. The addition of salt and pepper allows you to swallow the inedible … Many criminals openly admit that it was television that inspired them to commit a crime. The power of television has become so great that it threatens democracy. No democracy can survive without putting an end to the abuse of power by television. Today this abuse is obvious. ”

What does the outstanding philosopher mean when he speaks of the abuse of power by television?

It is a legal (nonetheless immoral) invasion of people’s minds that directs them to violence, vulgarity, consumerism, acceptance of negative values ​​and real grotesque.

Abuses of the media are a form of ideological terrorism against humanity. They should be subject to strict control by the ethics council, which proposes the creation of Popper.

Television pounces on a person like a night robber on a victim, with incredible force invading the minds of children and adults and turning the freedom of choice of ideas into a romantic relic of the past.

Controlling people’s minds has become a great business today. Anyone with enough money can launch an advertising campaign and influence consumer behavior, which, in accordance with the prevailing economic system, is considered highly desirable, as it allows you to increase sales and make a profit.

However, the dilemma remains: how moral are such actions, since we are inclined to consume not only goods, but also values ​​and ideas. People are constantly “brainwashed” in order to direct their behavior into a channel that is beneficial to certain groups.

Even in ancient times, ambitious individuals found that managing someone else’s will can become an inexhaustible source of power. Unfortunately, there is no other way to defend against this kind of capture, except for strict control over your own mind.

The contradiction is that people obey the false and changeable opinion of “Her Majesty the crowd”, which is formed not by a bright mind, but comes, as a rule, from a group of ambitious people who use the crowd as an unconscious tool. Due to their authority, popularity or oratory, they have an undivided influence on the crowd, who are not aware of the true motives of such leaders.

Based on materials: Dario Salas Sommer. 21st Century Morale

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