The NY Times today has a fascinating article on people who believe that they are under constant surveillance by the government—and who comfort one another via Internet sites devoted to this “problem.” The article likens the phenomenon to insular religious groups:
The extent of the community, Dr. Bell said, poses a paradox to the traditional way delusion is defined under the diagnostic guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association, which says that if a belief is held by a person’s “culture or subculture,” it is not a delusion. The exception accounts for rituals of religious faith, for example.
The article thus raises a provocative question: If a delusion is shared by enough other people, and they are communicating with one another and supporting one another in the delusion, is it still a delusion?
The mind-control sites remind some experts of the accounts of those claiming to have been abducted by aliens in the 1970s and ’80s. One person’s story begat another until many insisted they had had virtually identical experiences of being taken onto space ships by silvery sloe-eyed creatures.
Some of those now posting on mind-control sites say they are being remotely “sexually stimulated” by their torturers. Some alien abductees had said similar things.
According to the article, one Republican politician has even entered the act. And he himself sounds a little, well, delusional:
And the users of some sites have found the support of Jim Guest, a Republican state representative in Missouri, who wrote last year to his fellow legislators calling for an investigation into the claims of those who say they are being tortured by mind control.
“I’ve had enough calls, some from credible people — professors — being targeted by nonlethal weapons,” Mr. Guest said in a telephone interview, adding that nothing came of his request for a legislative investigation. “They become psychologically affected by it. They have trouble sleeping at night.”
He added: “I believe there are people who have been targeted by this. With this equipment, you have to test it on somebody to see if it works.”
As the far-right gets ever more worked up over Barack Obama’s presidency, expect this curious sub-culture to grow.
Here is one of their representative websites.