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Mind Control Delusions and the Web 631

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the advertisers-soon-to-monetize-the-voices-in-my-head dept.
biohack writes "An article in the New York Times provides interesting insight into online communities of people who believe that they are subjected to mind control. 'Type "mind control" or "gang stalking" into Google, and Web sites appear that describe cases of persecution, both psychological and physical, related with the same minute details — red and white cars following victims, vandalism of their homes, snickering by those around them.' According to Dr. Vaughan Bell, a British psychologist who has researched the effect of the Internet on mental illness, '[the] extent of the community [...] 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.'"
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Mind Control Delusions and the Web

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:34PM (#25747959) Journal
    I mean, I'm not a huge fan of psychology myself but for the New York Times to file this under Fashion & Style gives me the impression that all the cool kids are joining gang stalking support groups ... makes one wonder what will the next fad be?

    The exception accounts for rituals of religious faith, for example.

    Remember, it's fashionable to be a nutcase, to claim people are out to get you, to believe you're being persecuted & suppressed--just look at Tom Cruise [gawker.com].

    It's been pointed out before but the internet is a very real, very powerful, very double-edged communications tool.

    • by Mesa MIke (1193721) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:38PM (#25748031) Homepage

      Tin foil hats are quite the style these days.

    • by gnick (1211984) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:42PM (#25748071) Homepage

      ... to believe you're being persecuted & suppressed--just look at Tom Cruise [gawker.com].

      Actually, if you look at how Scientology treats its members (especially the really valuable or potentially embarrassing ones), in all likelihood Tom Cruise is being persecuted & suppressed.

      • by 77Punker (673758) <spencr04.highpoint@edu> on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:47PM (#25748149)

        If you look at how people outside Scientology treat the cult's victims (Tom Cruise) like lepers instead of offering an outside world of love and compassion, maybe it does make sense for him to think that the world is out to get him.

        What people in cults need is to feel welcomed into the world outside the cult; otherwise, they'll just get pushed farther into their fantasy world.

        • by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:07PM (#25748521)
          The question is, does Tom Cruise really believe in Scientology, or is he a cynical opportunist? The upper echelons of the organization tend to benefit financially. The truly brainwashed deserve sympathy, but the cult leaders, who benefit from their underlings' credulity, deserve scorn.
          • by 77Punker (673758) <spencr04.highpoint@edu> on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:35PM (#25748979)

            I'm pretty sure the cult preys upon folks in Hollywood because they're loaded with money and are potentially insecure or can be swayed more easily by their emotions because they're artsy people. I believe that some people who have participated in many great films like John Travolta and Tom Cruise are the victims here, not to mention all the other, less profitable victims outside Hollywood. The people doing the scamming do not want to be in the spotlight the way those actors are.

        • by gnick (1211984) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:11PM (#25748579) Homepage

          Well put. Persecuted, exploited, abused, but embraced within the cult and ridiculed, untrusted, and almost unwelcome outside the cult. That's gotta be a helluva way to live.

          With only a pair of sentences, you made me pity Tom Cruise. Thank you.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Raenex (947668)

            Yeah, I feel so sorry for Tom Cruise. Incredibly wealthy and good looking. For all the ridicule he gets, there are 10 times as many people to kiss his ass.

        • by Nursie (632944)

          I'm sorry but I don't consider Tom Cruise to be a victim. He and his other celeb-scientologists are a big part of the problem.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Arthur B. (806360)

            Doesn't mean he's not a victim. Victims are not angels, you can be both a victim and do bad things.

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:12PM (#25748597)

      In some ways it is...
      It is part of Nature vs. Nurture In a world that seems crazy and irrational. The feeling that there are forces out there to to get you and purposely hurt you is easier to accept then a world where most people just don't care about you. That way you feel more important. Hey I must be important if people are trying to kill me. Then when you join these groups just like a any other Cliques you have a sense that you are some how in the majority. Much like on how Slashdot it feels like Linux has about 75% market share in the world. While it still only has about 1%-3%.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lysergic.acid (845423)

      and apparently the articles posted in the Fashion & Style section don't go through any kind of editing or proof-reading process:
      "Some have hundreds of postings, along with links to dozers of similar sties.[sic.]"
      "Mr. Robinson said in an interview that that [sic.] he has been tortured and abused by gang stalkers..."

      in any case, i find the notion of shared delusion very fascinating. as Ronald De Sousa puts it, "When enough people share a delusion, it loses its status as a psychosis and gets religious tax

      • by uglyduckling (103926) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:37PM (#25749013) Homepage

        The distinction is that delusional beliefs are fixed, false beliefs that are causing mental ill-health; in other words they are having a deleterious effect on the person's life. Simply discovering that someone believes something that is false does not imply delusion.

        The classical example is that the belief that the world is flat was not delusional during the dark ages. To believe such a thing now - if that belief were really fixed - would be delusional, presuming that person was of apparently normal intelligence, had a reasonable education etc.. It is arguably possible that someone could just happen to believe such a thing and it have no other effect on their life, but in practice someone who truly held that belief would most likely exhibit other signs of mental illness.

        If someone were 'socialized' with a belief but otherwise of normal intelligence and education, it should be possible to convince them that their belief is false, given reasonable evidence of that - in which case the belief is not fixed, and is therefore not delusional.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by GlL (618007)

          You are making a huge assumption that people are inherently reasonable. People can operate reasonably, but very often we operate irrationally from our "reptilian" brain. When someone's consciousness is being dictated to from the "lower" brain functions, they become rationalizing instead of rational. So no matter how rationally you engage them it won't work. The only way to get folks to change is to engage them emotionally to the point that they feel safe enough to slough off the rationalization engines of t

  • Paranoia (Score:5, Funny)

    by Applekid (993327) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:35PM (#25747967)

    Being paranoid doesn't necessarily mean they aren't really out to get you.

    • It's true! I just read that on the internet!

      • Re:Paranoia (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:41PM (#25748065) Homepage Journal
        "His group of self-described "targeted individuals" met offline in
        Los Angeles last month for their inaugural conference, he said, where they attended a meeting to share stories, including the humiliating experiences of being told they are insane."

        Oh, that explains it all! Just kidding.

        "Subsequent research generally showed that those who believed they had been abducted were not psychotic, but suffering from severe memory and sleep problems, or personal traumas, Dr. Bell said."

        In other words, stay sober as much as possible, get some sleep, and deal with your trauma in a healty manner. It's no accident that certain antipsychotics are also prescribed as sleeping aids. Self-medication with alcohol and other drugs causes blackouts(memory loss) and poor quality of sleep.

        Besides, foil-heads, if you believe that people are ganging up on you to get a rise out of you, just realize that you're still the star of the show! Stop caring, and they will stop buggin'. The only winning move is not to play.
        • Re:Paranoia (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:56PM (#25748359) Journal
          I don't know how anyone can be aware of such times as the Red Scare and McCarthyism, or the modus operatus of groups like the CIA and KGB, and yet believe that this doesn't happen to people. Not to say that everyone who thinks it's happening to them is right, but clearly, it happens to people all the time, sometimes for periods measured in years and decades.

          You know, people with superior hearing hear people who have bad hearing talking about them as they walk down the street all the time? Many if not most people make idle commentary about people passing by when they are bored, and people with bad hearing make false assumptions about how far their voice carries. Happens to me regularly... someone will make a comment about "the guy with the sideburns" to their friend, then I look em in the eyes, and they get a guilty look on their face. Really quite annoying, and I can see how it would drive a more mentally fragile person around the bend...
          • Re:Paranoia (Score:5, Funny)

            by Psmylie (169236) * on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:11PM (#25748583) Homepage

            You know, people with superior hearing hear people who have bad hearing talking about them as they walk down the street all the time? Many if not most people make idle commentary about people passing by when they are bored, and people with bad hearing make false assumptions about how far their voice carries. Happens to me regularly... someone will make a comment about "the guy with the sideburns" to their friend, then I look em in the eyes, and they get a guilty look on their face. Really quite annoying, and I can see how it would drive a more mentally fragile person around the bend...

            My wife thinks she can whisper. She can't. I've finally convinced her to stop trying, when it comes to saying things about other people that she doesn't want them to hear.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by xappax (876447)
            Really? That happens to you regularly? How confident are you that you're not just misinterpreting noisy chatter (as in pareidolia [wikipedia.org]) and glaring at random people? Getting glared at by a stranger would certainly make me have a reaction that might look like guilt.

            I would compare your experiences with people you know, and if they can't relate, consider how likely it is that your hearing is that much better than everyone else's.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by ShieldW0lf (601553)
              Really? That happens to you regularly? How confident are you that you're not just misinterpreting noisy chatter (as in pareidolia) and glaring at random people? Getting glared at by a stranger would certainly make me have a reaction that might look like guilt.

              I would compare your experiences with people you know, and if they can't relate, consider how likely it is that your hearing is that much better than everyone else's.


              I had my hearing professionally tested when I joined the military, it's mandator
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by blueZ3 (744446)

                Really?

                If you're infantry (or were) it seems unlikely that your hearing is still that good. By the time I got out (almost 5 years with some time in the sandbox) I had about a 20% hearing loss in my right ear (eardrum, meet 5.56 round and associated sharp sound) and tinnitus in both.

                But maybe they're not issuing those little orange "don't do squat" earplugs anymore?

          • Re:Paranoia (Score:4, Informative)

            by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:17PM (#25748673) Homepage Journal
            I agree that such tactics have been used in the past and are being used now, and I'm glad to see that there are so many of them forming a support group. A hug with a lot of sympathy and understanding goes a long way to help people face life and dispel their magical thinking [wikipedia.org], or at least to give them more strength to break free from actually being harassed and stalked!

            To use your sideburns example above, you stated that you heard, "The guy with the sideburns" and knew somebody was talking about you. The problem with the paranoiac is that they hear something like "The guy with the sideburns..." and they fill in the blanks with their perception of the world. Sometimes there's no way to tell if the passerby said, "The guy with the sideburns is one cool stud" or if they said, "The guy with the sideburns has funny teeth and tonight we will slash his tires..."
          • Re:Paranoia (Score:4, Insightful)

            by LunaticTippy (872397) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:17PM (#25748679)
            Jeez, get a load of that guy with the sideburns!

            I have known a lot of paranoid people, and lots of times it seems to be confirmation bias and misunderstanding what is and is not commonplace feeding an innate mental imbalance. If you think there is a conspiracy of white cars driven by Asians monitoring your movements and you live in Koreatown, prepare to have your mind blown. If you are afraid of possibly-Arab men with mirrored sunglasses you will notice every single one, reinforcing your fears even while being within normal demographics.

            It really doesn't help that a lot of these people think the medical establishment is part of the conspiracy and meds are part of the problem.
          • Re:Paranoia (Score:5, Interesting)

            by gmack (197796) <gmack&innerfire,net> on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:18PM (#25748689) Homepage Journal

            The problem though is that people see patterns and come to the wrong conclusion. It's the delusion that everything has to do with you.

            See the same person driving behind you a lot? Could it be that that you leave around the same time every day and so does that person? If you think this is happening to you then you should break your patterns and see if their pattern changes as well.

            As an example:
            I had a girl think I was stalking her and confront me about it. Her evidence? Several times when she was praying I was nearby.

            I thought about it for awhile since it's rather disconcerting when someone I wasn't paying any attention to whatsoever is suddenly screaming at me and accusing me of eavesdropping. I realized that I had a favorite seat and so did she. Her favorite seat was several rows behind me. Simple crowd dynamics explained that when she went up to pray I ended up being in the same area.

            She could have tested her suspicions by praying elsewhere and saved me the headache and her the trouble of having her family think she lost her marbles.

          • Re:Paranoia (Score:5, Funny)

            by Joe Snipe (224958) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:47PM (#25749187) Homepage Journal

            someone will make a comment about "the guy with the sideburns" to their friend, then I look em in the eyes

            Have you thought about getting rid of the sideburns? Just sayin...

          • Re:Paranoia (Score:5, Interesting)

            by dontthink (1106407) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @02:02PM (#25749419)

            I don't know how anyone can be aware of such times as the Red Scare and McCarthyism, or the modus operatus of groups like the CIA and KGB, and yet believe that this doesn't happen to people.

            I hadn't heard of it before this story, but the CIA definitely did this kind of stuff heavily back in the 50's and 60's. It was called Project MKULTRA [wikipedia.org]. One of the goals was to create a "Manchurian Candidate" subject through mind control. Ken Kesey (author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) and (supposedly) Ted Kaczynski participated. Interesting stuff, though I'm not in any hurry to find myself a tinfoil hat.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by JayAitch (1277640)

          Stop caring, and they will stop buggin'.

          I have a friend that has severe social anxiety. My brother and I are the only people he feels comfortable hanging out with. In the past I've been an enabler in some ways because I allow him to hang out at my house with the condition none of my other friends are coming. Well at some point I had enough.. I've been inviting others over without telling him in advance (he'd just make some excuse if I told him someone else is coming). One new friend at a time. He got mad at me at first, but he's starting to

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by theaveng (1243528)

            You just described me during middle and high school - although I wasn't quite that extreme. I too was extremely self-conscious and thought my classmates were watching/criticizing my every move. Although it was partly true, I eventually realized what you said: I'm not important. Nobody really cares that I just scratched my nose (for example).

            Now that I'm in my 30s, I've kinda moved to the opposite extreme where I don't care what people think ("If they don't like my clothes, they can close their eyes.").

    • Re:Paranoia (Score:5, Interesting)

      by conureman (748753) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:45PM (#25748125)

      My second ex-wife, (the one the MDs said was Paranoid-Schizophrenic) did actually have some nut-job (who had supervisor access @ the phone company) stalking and spying on her for a while. One of the many semi-surreal things I've seen.

  • Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:41PM (#25748057)

    It's not a delusion if other people also believe it?

    That's not a definition of delusion. It's a political step to avoid annoying religious people. They are no less deluded for it.

    Oh, now a politically-motivated definition doesn't stand up to analysis? Big surprise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zappepcs (820751)

      It's not a delusion if other people also believe it?

      No, it's not. How do you define normal? How do you define abnormal? Generally speaking if 75% of your society believes something, you are abnormal if you do not. In the last few decades we are slowly moving toward believing that the wide range of human conditions are all normal, but different from one another. Normal is getting a make-over, so to speak. Delusion:

      2 a: something that is falsely or delusively believed or propagated b: a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects

      • Re:Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

        by evanbd (210358) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:16PM (#25748669)
        Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go away.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jahudabudy (714731)
          The problem there is, if you disbelieve hard enough, anything will go away, from your perspective. After all, every evidence you have about reality is filtered through your mind; it's all perceived reality. There is lots of research that indicates all sorts of very strange things about how the human brain interacts with reality.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by paulthomas (685756)

            If you disbelieve hard enough, you might go away, barring some external, real intervention. Disbelieve that food exists and that you need it to survive, and it will go away from your perspective because your perspective goes away when you die.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Uh, there's nothing in that definition about everybody else believing it. According to the definition, you're deluded if you persist in believing in something despite indisputable evidence to the contrary. Now, I expect that whoever wrote that didn't really mean "indisputable" in a rigorous sense, but rather something like "overwhelming" or similar. There's actually nothing that's "indisputable."

        The DSM definition of delusion-based disorders likely includes something about how popular the belief is so th

    • Re:Politics (Score:4, Insightful)

      by xant (99438) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:53PM (#25748275) Homepage

      The definition exists because people who are religious are not generally mentally ill. Just deluded. So what we really need to change is the definition of particular mental illnesses that depend on delusions. For example, instead of saying "transubstantiation is not a delusion", we should say "Schizophrenia is characterized by delusions, other than the delusions of religious faith."

    • by sjames (1099)

      It's not a delusion if other people also believe it?

      It's not a Pathological delusion if other people believe it. The alternative is to institutionalize those crazys who think the earth is whirling around the sun.

      We certainly don't want unpopular political ideas to be redefined as pathology to be treated in an institution for example.

      It's a bit hard to define a hard and fast cutoff between a mostly harmless cultural myth and a life damaging delusion, particularly when the belief may not be susceptible to objective proof or disproof.

      If this bothers you too muc

    • I wish I had a mod point for you, that's the most blatantly obvious self-evident truth I can think of, yet an entire scientific discipline just ignores the issue and allows it to perpetuate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      No, the exception is not politically motivated. It's an important factor in determining the nature of a belief.

      A belief can be based on no evidence at all, can even contradict the available evidence, without it being a sign of mental problems. Even the most skeptical people have such beliefs when you look closely enough. They arise because of the nature of our brains (check out http://www.csicop.org/si/9505/belief.html [csicop.org].

      It's when someone clings to a manifestly false belief in the absence of any social sup

  • i'm insane? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:41PM (#25748059) Homepage

    If I hear people snickering behind me, my first instinct IS to assume they are laughing at me. My rational mind then takes over and reminds me this is unlikely; but, still, I assumed this response is either normal for humans or trained as a result of our "kick me" sticky-note pranks as kids. I never realized it meant I was nuts.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:48PM (#25748161)

      [snicker]

    • Re:i'm insane? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Culture20 (968837) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:51PM (#25748235)
      Except that - as a nerd - you grew up in a culture (presumably public school) where 80% of the time, the snickering _was_ about you. You're just exhibiting an old learned response, kind of like a veteran might duck when he hears a car backfire.
      • replying to self as an addendum:
        I do the same thing as GP; but I know someone who really is paranoid/delusional, and when she hears any laughter or whispers, she gets angry and confrontational (to the bewilderment of people who don't know her; then they _do_ start talking about her).
    • by Boronx (228853)

      Understanding that you are mentally ill is the first step on the path to making yourself well.

    • Re:i'm insane? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tom (822) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:56PM (#25748357) Homepage Journal

      It's a mental shortcut. Not too long ago (in evolutionary terms of time) we lived in a hostile environment, where assuming everything that happened was potentially a danger and then later (after a few seconds) realizing it isn't and you can calm down again, is a much better survival strategy then thinking first and deciding that it really is a danger after careful thought, which would cost precious seconds.

  • by VirginMary (123020) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:45PM (#25748123)

    "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.'"

    Reminds me of my favourite quote:
    "When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called religion."
          -- Robert M. Pirsig, author of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

  • by christurkel (520220) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:46PM (#25748129) Homepage Journal
    Why do you think he's never updated his web page? Because he's too busy stalking me.
  • by DocJohn (81319) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:47PM (#25748143) Homepage

    The article is incorrect in one person quoted therein that a delusion is not a delusion if it's commonly held by its culture or subculture. That's not what the definition of delusion says in the manual. It says that one's culture should be taken into account when making the diagnosis, that's all.

    And you're in a logical circular loop if you start saying that a person's disorder is a legitimate "subculture." It is indeed a group, but an entire culture or subculture? I don't think so.

    Read more observations about the article here:

    http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/11/13/shedding-light-on-a-dark-side-of-online-community/ [psychcentral.com]

    • by Alaren (682568) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:17PM (#25748675)

      It says that one's culture should be taken into account when making the diagnosis, that's all.

      Well, sure, but what does that mean?

      In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig talks about a man institutionalized in the United States because he insisted that his ailment was caused by a woman "witching" him. It was eventually discovered that he grew up in an isolated community in Italy (I think--haven't got the book right here) where such belief was quite common. The man wasn't crazy; he was part of a particular culture. Did he have a delusion? Well, if by "delusion" you mean he believed something untrue, then yes, he probably did. But if you mean "delusion" as a term of psychological art... then no. He believed something he was taught to believe by his culture. He wasn't broken in any medical sense. There was nothing to "treat," unless you want to advocate "deprogramming"...

      The reason you have to take one's culture into account in making a diagnosis is because "mental illness" is very difficult to pin down from a physical or chemical perspective. We're getting better at it, slowly, but the medicalization of psychology still lags behind such simple treatments as talking therapy for all but the most extreme disorders. So drawing the line between "subcultures with weird beliefs" and "weird beliefs forming a subculture" is very difficult.

      Assuming all Christians, for example, suffer from a particular delusion (say, "a man rose from the grave"), do they organize because they share a delusion, or do they share a delusion because they organized themselves together to spread that delusion? It's a chicken/egg problem.

      So your dismissal of the interpretation that "a delusion is not a delusion if it's commonly held by its culture or subculture" is premature. It is certainly circular, as you suggest, but while this is a weakness in modern psychology, it is nonetheless normatively true.

      • by flynt (248848) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @02:40PM (#25750095)

        I'm sorry, you seem to know what you're talking about, and can express yourself clearly and effectively, could you please find another web site to post on?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DocJohn (81319)

        In respect to this specific article and claim made, it was suggested that since people belonged to an online group that reinforced their delusions, perhaps they weren't technically delusion after all (according to a definition of "delusion" that appears in an appendix of the DSM-IV, not in the actual text of the diagnostic criteria for delusional disorder or schizophrenia). I find that a spurious claim at best and a warping of the intent of the diagnostic criteria.

        Of course people can and should be diagnose

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:48PM (#25748163)

    If people are leaving garbage in your yard, honking and yelling at your house, following you, tailgating you, etc, etc... did you ever think that maybe it's because you're an asshole?

    And that's the main problem with assholes, they don't even realize that they're assholes. They think people are out to get them all the time for no reason.

    If people are out to get you, maybe there IS a reason.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Reziac (43301) *

      Actually, I know someone like that. He's a classical paranoid (has all but one of the 9 or 10 recognised symptoms, and it only takes 3 to diagnose), he wears his emotions on his sleeve, he wants to be acknowledged by others, and he's quick to take offense for any imagined slight.

      The result is that this encourages "button pushers" and other small-time bullies to pick on him, because it's fun to make him snap and snarl ineffectively.

      And in consequence, he believes that entities like the MTA are "conspiring ag

  • by Bullfish (858648) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:48PM (#25748167)

    They are so much easier to deal with than real-life problems. The delusional one sets the context, and whoever controls the context has the control. And delusional people don't give up their delusions easily. As the old song said, "no wise man has the power, to reason away, what a fool believes"

    And the internet lets them set up a community of people to support their delusions so their delusion gets reinforcement

  • by xilmaril (573709) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:48PM (#25748173)
    The 'parodox' goes away if you are willing to call rituals and religions delusions, which is pretty easy for anyone to do when you consider that at most one of the major religions in the world could possibly be true, since they contradict each other so well. The only thing that properly defines a delusion is that it is an incorrect belief.
  • Internetism (Score:3, Interesting)

    by philspear (1142299) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:49PM (#25748191)

    This really seems like just regular delusion, except now there's the internet. Doesn't make it a whole new ballgame. Delusional people are always finding ways of validating their delusions, that it happens on a message board instead of some guy on the subway, or one of those pseudoscience magazines doesn't make it a special new thing. Sounds a lot like someone trying to sell a book or at least make up a new disease that they're an expert in.

    Hey, I've got a new disease I'm an expert in: people who think aliens are probing them and who regularly visit the facebook group "Aliens are probing me." It's nearly impossible to cure, because there's a facebook group that supports it. Buy my book and find out how you can treat people with it and prevent yourself from getting this terrible affliction.

    • well, it is natrual for all human being to seek to validate the assumptions they make about the world.
      Especially when those assumptions are ambigious. The real question becomes wheather or not the problem is in the data 'belief' or the 'hardware' brain. pshychology assumes that you should not fix the 'data'.

  • by mpapet (761907)

    This kind of thing is much more common than the story suggests. Much like other myths, people connect to and share some illusion or story. Much of which is culturally driven. So there are *shared* stories about black helicopters, red and white cars, virgin births, etc. Another related tidbit, the more repressive a culture, the more things like speaking in tongues is present.

    It's also important to note that one person's "mental illness" is another persons "religious belief" or more generically, faith-bas

    • by Bender0x7D1 (536254) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:40PM (#25749065)

      This kind of thing is much more common than the story suggests. Much like other myths, people connect to and share some illusion or story. Much of which is culturally driven. So there are *shared* stories about black helicopters, red and white cars, virgin births, etc.

      Actually, the black helicopters are real.

      Each year there are several JSOC exercises that simulate things like grabbing high-level officials from hotels. They pick a U.S. city, tell only a few city officials like the mayor and the chief of police, put the "target" in the local Hilton and have the special operations guys go snatch him. They usually do a helicopter extraction from a nearby park. Guess what color those helicopters are... black.

      What do people in and around the area see? They see a black helicopter circling overhead, land in a park, a guy in a suit thrown into the back, the helicopter takes off and the guys on the ground drive off in vans or SUVs. Then, they check the papers the next day and there is nothing about it. So, they start thinking: Conspiracy!

      Now, I don't know if these operations are the basis of the Black Helicopter Conspiracy, but it makes more sense than anything else I've heard. Well, except for the Illuminati being behind it. With those guys, anything is possible.

      • Because most of the city parks that I know of are not very good landing zones for helicopters. Not to mention the wind effects within a city.

        This is the first I've ever heard of such claims.

      • by Reziac (43301) * on Thursday November 13, 2008 @04:14PM (#25751747) Homepage Journal

        I never heard of any such thing (tho I don't doubt it's been worked out as a theoretical exercise) but... I live under one of the flight paths into Edwards AFB. A while back I noticed a correlation between various political crises and a spate of unmarked aircraft (mainly smaller passenger-type jets) coming in for a landing along this flight path. (Otherwise, it's not generally used, except for the larger cargo planes.) And sometimes a clump of these unmarked aircraft arrive without any reported news, which always makes me wonder what's going on that we don't hear about. :)

  • by Silentknyght (1042778) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:54PM (#25748303)
    I have a somewhat crude hypothetical question when considering these types of scenarios: "Are you really THAT important?"

    Are you really important enough such that the government--or less likely, a cadre of independent people--would devote their lives to harassing every tiny bit of your life, with such things as periodically taking down the websites you visit? If you've invented something fabulous, then maybe just maybe... but if you're a janitor--I hate to be rude but--no one's going to waste their life with that.

    It's important to distinguish between "time" and "life." Being harassed by someone you know, or even someone you don't, for their enjoyment for a few days or a couple weeks... that happens. But if you believe that someone's going to do this for years... yeah, you're not that important.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:54PM (#25748311)

    How about this; I'm pagan. Several of my friends are wiccan or american indian (one is both). We bless our houses, some of us see spirits, or hear things, or get feelings about a place, or sense a presence. By your definition, these things are delusions because they're part of our culture. But to most other people, their subjective realities don't include them and so (quite naturally) they think we're nuts. Which brings me to my ultimate point -- the mental health community in general has defined these kinds of things as a disorder if they cause significant impairment in a person's daily life.

    So, this is part of my culture, but by the same token it's quite readily apparent that it causes a negative impact on my ability to deal with the rest of the world, who don't share my beliefs. It doesn't pass a clinical threshold in these cases, but assume they did. Would it change anything? Since just about anything can be defined as "cultural"-- afterall, schizophrenics have a cultural identity too (I'd like to know about the whole pennies thing myself)-- how can you (or anyone in the medical community) abandon the more objective metric of significant impairment for "cultural values"? Does this mean we're throwing out gender identity disorder too, because that's cultural? How about depression -- all those goths, they're not depressed anymore, they're just down with their culture. And people who drink the koolaid -- there was nothing wrong with them, they were just trying to fit in.

    If you ask me, it seems like a cop-out by an establishment that's not sure enough of its foundations to take the initiative and say that some behaviors, even when culturally acceptable, lead to bad results. Because that would be a moral judgement, is that the argument? Just like pharmacists that refuse to dispense birth control and insurance companies that refuse to pay for gender reassignment surgery, etc. Here's a suggestion -- how about the medical community stop trying to pass moral judgements through the back door like this. Your job is to help people, not figure out their culture. Their culture is totally irrelevant -- what IS relevant is if they're in pain, if their life is significantly impacted, and there is a medical treatment or cure available that could help them. THAT is where the focus needs to be, and culture only plays a role insofar as how to reach out to the patient and contextualize what's happening. disclaimer: not a doctor.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @02:14PM (#25749573)

      What I got from reading your post was that you'd really like to be treated for your delusions. That's great! I'm sure if you go to a psychiatrist, tell him you see dead people and it's ruining your life, he'll treat you. No problem.

      The official criteria discussing delusion suggest that the psychiatrist take into account the patient's culture when deciding whether the delusion needs treatment. It's not passing moral judgement, or a cop out, it's an instruction not to blow harmless individual eccentricities out of proportion.

    • by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @02:22PM (#25749697)

      Their culture is totally irrelevant -- what IS relevant is if they're in pain, if their life is significantly impacted, and there is a medical treatment or cure available that could help them. THAT is where the focus needs to be, and culture only plays a role insofar as how to reach out to the patient and contextualize what's happening. disclaimer: not a doctor.

      I'm not a doctor either, but I do know enough to at least comment on this; you, in all your ignorance of the subject, probably shouldn't be.

      Part of the diagnosis for a psychological disorder uses culture as a context because culture sets the stage for what a person is likely to believe (as people are group animals, after all), what a person is likely to fit into their cognitive schema for how the world works. Diagnosing delusional beliefs isn't perfect, and it's certainly not based on what is objectively true because that's both impossible to determine.

      Another dimension IS whether their "condition", if you call it that, is negatively impacting their life, or those around them. That is, personally distressing. You do not fit in with that criteria. You would never be diagnosed by a competent clinician simply because of your Wiccan beliefs because of this fact. You are not impinging on the lives of others, like, say, an antisocial or narcissistic person would, either. You do not fit the criteria for a delusional disorder in this context. Quit your bellyaching.

      As psychological disorders has, in the scheme of things, been only very recently scientifically investigated, it's quite imperfect, especially since there is great difficulty investigating the neurological roots of many mental disorders. For example, schizophrenia, which can include, obviously, delusion and hallucination, is related in some ways to the dopamine neurotransmitter.

      Wiccans always amuse me because they often feel they have a good opinion on something, when in fact they believe in a made-up religion less than a century old. Unlike Wicca, psychology is based on science--sometimes shoddy science, but that's true in all science. Good psychology, unlike Wicca, is NOT made up and so you do not really have a good foundation to be complaining here until you have done at least some cursory reading on clinical psychology and its methodology.

      If you don't like this, you can always cast a spell for the Mother Goddess and perhaps she will use her magickal nature to change things.

      Probably not.

  • by BigHungryJoe (737554) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:55PM (#25748319) Homepage

    I believe that mind control devices are real and are being used by American intelligence and law enforcement.

    How do I know? The Village Voice quoted an FBI official during the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco in 1994 as saying that they were planning to use a device on Koresh that would make him think he was talking to God.

    I've always found the Village Voice to be pretty responsible... I think the official let this slip, and we haven't heard about it since because we weren't supposed to have ever heard about it at all.

  • All about politics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fish_in_the_c (577259) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @12:55PM (#25748333)

    The real problem is psychology is not very scientific.
    They is no real definition of sane or insane. Nor a testable definition of order or disorder ( for that matter).
    The whole science is wish washy and based on subjective judgment as opposed to a first order science that basis it's classification scheme on measurable objective facts.

    For instance, why is it homosexuals were ever classified as a having a disorder? Why is it that they are now classified as not having a disorder. How come no other sexual inclination a person might have , bestiality for instance, has not changed status from being a disorder?

    The reason is simple. Weather or not something is considered a disorder or not is basically voted on ( majority opinion is so scientific after all).

    There is no real definition of a disorder and there is no way of performing concrete test or deterring from data if a given set of symptoms constitute a disorder.

    This is not to say there aren't consolers out there that help people and I'm am limiting myself comments to psychology formal here not to include psychiatry ( medical ) or neuropsychology.

    But the broader psychological community regular engages in what is little more the pseudo-science.

    • by raddan (519638) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:10PM (#25748565)

      But the broader psychological community regular engages in what is little more the pseudo-science.

      So how many psychology classes have you taken? Yeah, I thought so.

      There's a huge difference between an emerging scientific field—where the subject matter is extremely complicated—and pseudoscience. You don't give physicists a bad rap because they once believed in aether, do you?

      There are many people out there doing scientific studies of human behavior. They're working against thousands of years of assumptions, some right, some wrong. It's going to take some time.

  • while the internet gets raves for creating communities out of tiny exotic subcultures that without the internet would have no place to meet or find commonalities, it is interesting that it also unites psychologically damaged people with common ailments

    ailments that without the internet would serve to socially isolate the person, but now serve to create online communities of shared, and reinforcing, and therefore enabling psychological breaks with reality

    psychological diseases like paranoia that are amplifie

  • "Paradox"? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fm6 (162816)

    ...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.

    I don't see the problem. Why is it sane for people to believe in angels, but not sane for people to believe they're being followed by secret agents in red cars? People believe in a lot of silly things. That's not delusion, that just buying into a set of beliefs that don't make sense to outsiders.

    The social norm definition of delusion is perfectly fine. The real problem is that the mental health community insists on treating this as a "diagnosis". This is a concept that makes no sense in describing mental c

  • by rlp (11898) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:11PM (#25748581)

    The internet has allowed dysfunctional individuals to create communities and reinforce their dysfunctional behavior. For instance tech savvy individuals with no life can get together and ...

  • by rs232 (849320) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @01:47PM (#25749185)
    Before the Internet they were being abducted [wikipedia.org] by aliens, before flying saucers [slashdot.org] they were being stalked by television [google.com] news readers, before that they were receiving visitations from angels [wikipedia.org] .. anyone see pattern here ..
  • by Follier (901079) on Thursday November 13, 2008 @10:07PM (#25756297)
    ... that not only are our targets gathered together in a few websites, but they actually post how they feel! I can't tell you how many times we wondered if we were freaking them out or not. I mean... so we replaced the lightbulb in the fridge with a broken one, and then switched it back the next day. But did they even notice?? Or did we nearly break our necks on the fire escape for no f***ing reason?

    These sites make our jobs even more worthwhile. Keep up the good work!

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