I ’ve always been a history buff. It is very empowering to read stories of men and women doing heroic things to combat evil or injustice. I see myself in these people. Even semi-tragic ones come to mind, and strike a chord; those who ultimately failed in, or did not live to see their quest realized—like Napoleon, Caesar, Joan of Arc, William Wallace, or Nathan Hale. What if just one last thing had fallen into place or betrayal had not sabotaged a noble cause?
Espionage and Intelligence
Central to most great history is the realm of shadows. Spies, espionage, and intelligence are key elements to turning the tide your way. From the aforementioned Nathan Hale, history has been influenced and tilted askew by legendries such as James Armistead Lafayette, an American slave who provided invaluable intel to the United States during the Revolutionary War—or Mata Hari in WWI; Virginia Hall in WWII; Aldrich Ames and Jonathan Pollard, both who spied against the US during the Cold War; the Rosenbergs, Ethel and Julius, who gave the USSR our nuclear secrets; Anna Chapman, the recent Russian femme fatale.
Russian Spy Novel: Mole or No Mole?
My new book, Deep Plant, touches on an element that occupies the gray area between perception and reality. Could a country successfully program and insert sleeper agents into a potential enemy? The beauty of dormant moles is that often they are native to the country being undermined, and will fit in with little or no fear of detection. Simultaneously, since they are sleepers, presumably, they will not even be aware of their installed programming until they are activated—by which time it is too late to neutralize them.
COULD A COUNTRY SUCCESSFULLY PROGRAM AND INSERT SLEEPER AGENTS INTO A POTENTIAL ENEMY?
History is replete with attempts to brainwash people—by various intelligence gathering organizations such as the CIA, MI6, or secret police organizations like the East German Stasi, the Chinese and North Korean Ministries of State Security—with the intent of controlling or causing the victim to inflict damage on another person or country. The concept of brainwashing falls into a category referred to as thought control by psychologists. Methods might include efforts to change the way someone thinks, induce certain behaviors, or in the realm of fiction, make someone do something (usually bad) at a certain time, place, or to someone when the person’s programming is activated.
For the most part, brainwashing has been a dead end. Many scientists, psychiatrists, and psychologists believe the human mind cannot be programmed to do things that run counter to their instinctual value system of right and wrong. Where it does have some impact is through isolating and bombarding someone with a constant stream of propaganda about how bad someone or something is and convincing someone to destroy it. ISIS has been very successful at radicalizing Islamic adherents—usually young, with little to no life experience to counter the propaganda—to commit acts of jihad against others that disagree with their belief system.
Nonetheless, the idea of manipulating others to do one’s will, while remaining anonymous, will continue to be a source of fascination, for scientists and writers alike.