Secret US Bio Labs in Ukraine and the Five Stages of Gaslighting
Some of you believe that you know what is happening in Ukraine, and what the U.S. should do about it. You’re clear about there being obvious, maniacal villains and noble, self-effacing heroes. You know which is which, and you know the goal we should fight for, since that’s always the same: Unconditional surrender, and indefinite U.S. occupation. (After World War II, no other resolution to any war is morally viable.)
You discover a sense of fellowship with Americans whose views you reject on so many (maybe all) other issues. You can at least unite on Ukraine. And that feels kind of good, doesn’t it?
You and Bill Gates Are Now BFFs
For once, you and your pastor can join hands with the local abortionist whom you picket, or even (at a distance) with Hillary Clinton and George Soros and Greta Thunberg and Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates and Justin Trudeau, and Antifa and Black Lives Matter, to agree about the Important Priorities. The Really Important Priorities (R.I.P.). Which turn out (who knew?) to be:
- NATO membership, secret biolabs, and U.S. missiles for every country neighboring Russia, to demonstrate the alliance’s peaceful, defensive intent.
- Defending all national borders exactly where they were in the 1950s.
- The sanctity of such borders in some countries (see Ukraine) but not in others (see El Paso). CNN keeps an updated list of which is which.
- International punishment for aggressor nations, except when they’re China. Or the U.S. And finally,
- Cracking down on foreigners for what their faraway governments do (except if they’re non-white or non-Christian).
Don’t Overthink This, M’Kay?
Don’t, for heaven’s sake, pause to wonder about any of this. How exactly do you trust the information and opinions of sources who last month were telling you that masks and vaccinations were absolutely essential to save millions of lives? That Joe Biden was cleanly elected. That Hunter Biden’s laptop was Russian disinformation.
And that COVID came from bat soup and wet markets, and was definitely not the Chinese government’s fault? (In fact, it was the fault of pastors who insisted on holding services after Caesar told them to stop. And truckers who refused a perfectly reasonable command to take experimental gene therapy tested on unborn babies.)
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These are fascist questions. Racist questions. Extremist questions, which if you keep asking them will get you brought in by the Department of Justice for questioning. That’s the only way to keep freedom safe, you see.
Just Stick to the Shibboleths
“Politics stop at the water’s edge,” somebody respectable once told you. You were never quite precise about what that signified. But the tone of voice that was used was solemn enough that you’re prepared to believe it, whatever it means. Because it’s obviously one of those shibboleths which if you get it wrong will bring on a savage punishment. That’s good enough for most of us!
That maxim doesn’t forbid Americans from slandering their president and calling him a traitor who colluded with a foreign government to steal the election. Or basing all that on made-up gossip peddled by his opponent’s campaign to the FBI, to justify its secret warrants and spying. We know that much.
Don’t Repeat Bad Facts. Don’t Even Believe Them
But it does mean that once opinion elites within the respectable spectrum (from Clintonites on the left to NeverTrumpers on the far, far right) have decided on a foreign policy plan (for instance, a war of choice), disagreeing with it is unpatriotic, a sure sign that you’re in the pay of a foreign government.
Or at least their “apologist,” emitting “dog whistles” and “propaganda,” because you secretly approve of that foreign government’s atrocities. (Even mentioning atrocities by the Good People is Very Wrong, just a way of helping the Bad People get away with theirs.) Engage in any of this, and you’re virtually guilty of war crimes yourself, since you counsel “inaction” and “silence.” Which makes you literally Neville Chamberlain in 1938, appeasing literal Hitler.
Not a good look, I think we can all agree.
Gaslighting for Social Justice and Equity
Since we’re celebrating our newfound unanimity, helpfully enforced by social media censorship, threats of “cancellation” and public shaming, let’s examine one of the methods our benevolent masters use to train us. They mean it for our own good, to keep our coats slick and shiny and keep us wagging our fuzzy tails.
A psychologist who was being unhelpfully frank might call this training method “Gaslighting,” but in the interests of unity let’s describe it as something else. I know … Opinion Management! My blood pressure just dropped five points, thanks to those words. Let’s examine it in action, on a recent issue of public concern regarding the war in Ukraine.
Those Imaginary Bioweapons Labs That Sadly Exist
Some people skeptical of the mainstream narrative about that war reported that the U.S. maintained a network of secret biological warfare research labs in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin’s government claimed that they existed, and constituted evidence that the current Ukrainian regime (U.S.-installed in 2014) was not acting like the neutral country it claimed to be, but a U.S. military ally. Which bothered Russia, as a Russian-allied Mexico featuring bio-warfare labs would probably bother Americans.
If you really dug into “alternative” media, you’d find people claiming that these labs were somehow linked to the origins of COVID. Some spun the fantasy that Putin was invading Ukraine to capture these labs and expose it all. (This theory seems to have originated with Q-Anon, and like most such material, to depend heavily on desperate wishful thinking.)
Now let’s examine the Five Stages of Opinion Management as applied to the biolab question. As you read them, think about how they’ve been usefully deployed on other issues. These range widely, as these techniques are industry standard. Look back, and you’ll see that they were used all through the COVID panic, the George Floyd riots, the Hunter Biden laptop, and the exposure of FBI agents as agitators encouraging violence on January 6. And that’s just in recent years.
Stage One: Denial
If you’re an Opinion Manager, and someone makes an inconvenient factual claim that disrupts the official Narrative on an issue, your first move is here. Deny the claim outright. Not angrily or defensively, but rather in a dismissive, contemptuous tone. Aim for a tone that suggests “tinfoil hats” and “anti-Semitic flow charts” pinned up in somebody’s mother’s basement.
Stage Two: Ridicule
The Opinion Managers for the Ukraine narrative deployed this technique quite effectively. A few outliers were making the Q-Anon claim that somehow Ukraine labs might have caused COVID. (Instead of secret, illegally U.S.-funded bioweapons research in Wuhan, China — which only anti-China racist crackpots believed in until we all learned it really happened.) The Managers seized upon this to paint anyone even asserting the labs’ existence as a “fringe” conspiracy theorist.
Stage Three: Fact-Checking
It’s not always easy to suppress an unhelpful fact (like the existence of these bioweapons labs, which the U.S. government has been forced to admit). So make sure to distract the public’s attention by focusing on what isn’t true. Find little errors or slightly exaggerated claims in the statements of your critics, and have teams of sympathetic journalists issue objective, disinterested judgments that your critics’ claims are “mostly false.” That should buy you some time, and cost your opponents credibility. People are busy, and they’ll assume that if a press release has typos in the subject line, it’s likely a tissue of lies. Especially if credentialed journalists are saying so.
Stage Four: Of-Coursing and Old-Newsing
If you reach Stage Four without having squelched the issue, you know the situation has gotten bad. Your denials didn’t wash. Mocking the whistleblowers as crackpots didn’t work. Even your exposure of bad grammar and minor errors on critics’ blogs didn’t convince people. Maybe there’s an avalanche of facts, or a trove of video evidence, floating around on social media that you can’t get scrubbed or censored. Fine. You can still rescue the situation.
At this point you pivot completely. You call a press conference or issue a statement. In it, you adopt a certain Jen Psaki weariness — that of a patient teacher trying to help a slow, sullen child catch up. Yes, of course, the U.S. operated secret bioweapons labs in Ukraine. Nobody ever denied that. It was an obvious policy, which any mainstream, responsible administration would have followed.
In fact, every well-connected person already knew about this. It was only hysterical conspiracy mongers who pretended otherwise. So it’s “old news” at this point, can we please just move on to something fresh and substantive?
Stage Five: Memory-Holing and Retaliating
So you’ve been forced by the sheer weight of irrepressible evidence to admit these unhappy facts. You’ve done your best to shame people into not mentioning them again, since they’re “old news,” or maybe “dog whistles” for “extremists.” Now it’s your job to help the public forget them. Don’t respond to any questions, or release any new details. Never apologize, never explain.
But behind the scenes work hard to track down the identities of whoever blew the whistle, or even reported on the whistleblowers. And try to destroy those people. Get them banned from social media, disinvited from conferences, and if at all possible fired. See if you can link them, however tenuously, to race-baiters or conspiracy theorists. Spare no pains here, and don’t let trivial “ethical” questions distract you. These people are a danger to democracy and progress.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”