Behavioural Programming for Generations

All you need to know about Ideological Subversion

Books by state intelligence
Under the influence

Many people are wondering what an earth is happening in the world – even a once seemingly safe post-WWII western idyll has become confusing, duplicitous and at time downright frightening. There are murmurs about the resurrection of the Cold War – outrage at an American President who does not follow the accepted rulebook; and assassinations on the streets of sleepy English towns like Salisbury.

As if this were not enough, there is Brexit – the result of a democratic vote that has bemused and infuriated those for whom the European Union signals peace in our time and a beacon of egalitarianism.

Some feel the unexpected result of the vote was down to the same forces that allegedly rigged the US election – Russian bots and fake news; others suspect that those who voted for Trump and Brexit were misled and did not understand what they were voting for. But how is it that the European Union and politicians like the Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton can win hearts and minds in the first place?

Ideological subversion – influencing the influencers

Ideological subversion was a tactic openly used by Soviet Union to influence an entire nation not overnight, but over generations.

The strategy worked by targeting the public influencers in society – academics, intellectuals, students, public figures like actors and celebrities, the fabulously rich; and, of course, the media. Once you get your message across using these mouthpieces, very slowly, a consensus of opinion – what is right and proper – begins to take hold in society, until everyone is singing happily from the same song sheet and any dissent is seen as exactly that: dissidence (or maybe stupidity or ignorance).

How to win friends and influence a nation

Ex-KGB agent Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov was born into the beating heart of the former Soviet Union in 1939, as the son of a high-ranking army officer. He defected in 1970 after becoming disillusioned with the Soviet regime. Fluent in Indian languages and culture, he also worked for the Soviet press agent Novosti, known as a front for the KGB. He understands ideological subversion because as a KGB agent he was trained in it – and it was a tactic used in both Vietnam and India.

In an online interview with G. Edward Griffin in 1985, Bezmenov explains how the strategy of ideological subversion works – a process that can take at least a generation and involves four distinct stages of manipulating a nation:

  • Demoralisation
  • Destabilisation
  • Crisis
  • Normalisation

“Ideological subversion is the process which is legitimate, overt and open – you can see it with your own eyes. All you have to do – all American mass media has to do – is to unplug their bananas from their ears, open up their eyes, and they can see. There is no mystery. There’s nothing to do with espionage.

“What it basically means is to change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that, despite the abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interests of defending themselves, their families, their community and their country.”

The process is also known as “active measures” – and governments which practise ideological subversion are in it for the long haul.

“It’s a great brainwashing process which goes very slow, and is divided into four basic stages, the first one being demoralisation. It takes from fifteen to twenty years to demoralise a nation. Why that many years? Because this is the minimum number of years which requires to educate one generation of students in the country of your enemy, exposed to the ideology of the enemy.”

With such definitive timescales, it should make it easy to pinpoint in history when the technique to influence an entire nation and change its collective thought patterns first started. Bezmenov is very clear that ideological subversion is not the stuff that James Bond is made of: it is not espionage. Neither is it a Communist or Leftist witch-hunt – in fact, KGB agents were instructed not to bother with trying to turn those of left-wing persuasion, but to aim “higher”:

“Cynical, ego-centric people who can look into your eyes with angelic expression and tell you a lie. These are the most recruitable people, people who lack moral principles, who are either too greedy, or who suffer from self-importance, they feel that they matter a lot.”

How do we know what to think?

Now immediately we might start thinking about one or two world leaders who fit the profile and whose public persona, unpopular views – non-politically correct, nationalistic, or simply cruel policies – are an affront to what we have come to understand as the accepted norms and values of fairness, equality, openness, unity, invisible borders and non-nationalistic, non-protectionist policies.

But if ideological subversion can be used to promote the ideas we may consider anathema – can they not also be used to promote the ideas which we have come to believe are right and proper, that form a consensus among us as to what is acceptable and what is not?

Never before in the UK in recent years has a vote caused such dissension as Brexit – which overturned everything we had come to believe about the state of the nation, only to reveal an underbelly of non pro-European sentiment and nationalistic pride that sits uneasily with half the population after forty years of European unity.

Britain joined the European market in 1972 – and successive generations grew up not knowing anything about pre-EU Britain, except what their grandparents might have told them. Indeed, the recent Brexit vote to leave the EU has frequently been blamed on the elderly.

In the US, the vote for Trump has been blamed on rustbelt communities whose livelihoods were affected by the manufacturing downturn in the States, just as in the UK, miners and steelworkers found their traditional skills no longer wanted.

What was once the backbone of both countries was replaced by an economy dependent on financial service industries – and a lifestyle that grew up around that, starting with the champagne swilling yuppies of the 1980s and ending with a monumental banking crash in 2007/2008, just three decades after the tumultuous Stock Market crash of 1987.

However, the 2008 global banking crash signalled a global division in which it became clear that, whereas bankers and financiers were the “haves” whose livelihoods were protected with bailouts, their customers were often the “have-nots”, losing their homes and often livelihoods as the banking crisis deepened.

Although controls were placed on the markets to prevent another banking crash, it seemed as though, once the worst was over, life in the world of high finance continued pretty much as usual after 2008. Indeed, the high-roller lifestyle has been promoted as desirable by the media – we see celebrities, social media stars, well-heeled academics and the global privileged daily in the news: we follow their lives and thoughts on social media, we now listen to their opinions and perhaps admire and aspire to their lifestyles, even to the point of extending ourselves financially to achieve them.

We literally put our money back into the pockets of those flaunting themselves before us in the media on yachts, in desirable homes and wearing covetable brands, to try and achieve a standard of living beyond our reach, because that is what we are fed through marketing and media channels as the new norm that we should be achieving; rather than saving and spending within our means, as previous generations did. There has been a massive shift towards consumerism within a few generations, with the cost of essentials like housing rocketing far beyond the reach of people on low to middle incomes. Even choosing an energy provider has become like a game of Russian roulette as costs soar.

Getting behind the Left – or getting left behind?

Currently in the UK, we are witnessing before our eyes the rise of left-wing politics again – the issues promoted to and among students, and even schoolchildren, include environmental issues and climate change, anti-Israel sentiments, protests against white colonial history, and general opposition to what is seen as the establishment. The phrase “pale, male and stale” is now bandied about regardless of any equality legislation, because it is deemed an acceptable phrase within the current collective consciousness.

However, to return to former KGB agent Bezmenov, apparently we need have no such notion of the privileged Leftist movement assuming power if ideological subversion is involved:

“They serve purpose only at the stage of destabilisation of a nation. For example, your Leftists in the United States, all these professors, and all these beautiful civil rights defenders, they are instrumental in the process of the subversion. Only to destabilise the nation. When their job is completed, they are not needed any more. They know too much.

“Some of them, when they get disillusioned, when they see that Marxists-Leninists come to power, obviously, they get offended. They think that they will come to power. That will never happen, of course. They will be lined up against the wall and shot. But, they may turn into the most bitter enemies of Marxist-Leninists when they come to power.

“And that’s what happened in Nicaragua. You remember most of these former Marxist-Leninists were either put to prison – or one of them split and now he’s working against Sandinistas.”

Apparently, according to Bezmenov, it also happened in Grenada under the revolutionary, Maurice Bishop, in the 1970s – and in Afghanistan, under Taraki, Amin and Babrak Karmal, “with the help of the KGB”.

It is a rather bleak vision of what might happen once ideological subversion begins to take hold of a nation – the spreading political confusion, opposition and violence in society, until crisis point is reached and civil unrest completes the destabilisation process, before normalisation can begin.

The endgame of ideological subversion

So what does Bezmenov offer for the future of a country in the grip of ideological subversion?

“It’s the same pattern everywhere. The moment they serve their purpose, all the useful idiots are used. Either be executed entirely, all the idealistically minded Marxists, or exiled, or put in prisons like in Cuba. Many former Marxists are in prison.

“So, basically, America is stuck with demoralisation. And unless – even if you start right now, here, this minute, you start educating new generation of Americans – it will still take you fifteen to twenty years to turn the tide of ideological perception of reality back to normalcy and patriotism.”

Bezmenov was speaking in 1985. Is several decades of ideological subversion what it takes to make a nation great again – or did Trump actually upset the planned apple cart when he managed to win the vote?

We may never actually know what is really happening in the world, or even our own nation. But just when we think we know what we think, maybe that is the time to question how we actually came to think it and why. Media outlets have already drawn comparisons between what is currently happening in the US and the process Bezmenov described three decades ago.

In a recent book by former debutante Charlotte Bingham – whose father John was an MI5 agent – it is revealed that, in the 1950s and 1960s, she was set the task by her father of helping to recruit agents from among the acting fraternity.

Her father, John Bingham, was the inspiration for John le Carré’s George Smiley. Le Carré’s real name is David Cornwell and he worked for both MI5 and MI6 in the 1950s and 1960s, before leaving to become an author. His half-sister is the actress Charlotte Cornwell, his half-brother, Rupert, once worked as The Independent newspaper’s Washington bureau chief.

It may be hard to imagine your favourite thespian, musician, social media, soap or reality star knee deep in the murky world of ideological subversion, but next time a celebrity utters words of political wisdom, or backs a politician, perhaps recall the words of Bezmenov for a moment:

“Cynical, ego-centric people who can look into your eyes with angelic expression and tell you a lie. These are the most recruitable people, people who lack moral principles, who are either too greedy, or who suffer from self-importance, they feel that they matter a lot.”

More info
Read G. Edward Griffin’s 1985 interview with Ex-KGB agent Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov here.
Spies and Stars by Charlotte Bingham is published by Bloomsbury and costs £16.99