Far from being a benign and marginal experiment to enhance interrogation techniques, the CIA’s Operation MK-Ultra that dispensed massive amounts of the psychedelic drug, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), to unsuspecting U.S. citizens, especially college-aged, from 44 college campuses beginning in the early 1950s, constituted a massive political offensive.
It aimed at neutralizing the burgeoning, post-World War II progressive current in the U.S., born of the Roosevelt administration’s social reforms and marching forward toward enormous gains in civil rights and economic justice.
While the Rockefeller Commission Report of 1975 and transcripts of the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee hearings in 1976 confirm the CIA’s hand in the proliferation of LSD in the U.S. population, they stopped short of a sufficiently aggressive examination of the intended purpose behind MK-Ultra.
That was due to the fact that a massive amount of top-secret documentation of the project had been ordered destroyed in 1974 by the then-director of the CIA and because of its highly-incendiary implications for the by-then-already-deeply-impacted social fabric of the nation.
LSD’s effect was, and is, akin to a chemical lobotomy. Its target, in terms of its effect, is frontal lobe mental processes, as was the case with the barbaric practice of actual lobotomies, the widespread practice of which constituted a very dark chapter in American history from the early 1940s to the mid-1950s. In that era, over 20,000 helpless mostly women and children had crowbars run up their nose that chopped away at their gray matter and left them docile, limp and seemingly-soulless.
Easily mass produced and inexpensive, LSD was deemed to be an ideal alternative for rendering passive an entire population.
While the account of the MK-Ultra operation involving Ken Kesey in the current film docudrama, “The Magic Trip,” and in Thomas Wolfe’s 1968 written account, “The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test,” document LSD’s effect on the brain and its popularization in the early 1960s, they do not, again, go to the issue of the intent behind the project.
But if nothing else, the intent can be derived from the result – the enormous social paradigm shift that occurred from the early 1960s through the mid-1970s that left the socially-progressive “War on Poverty” and related initiatives in the dust, substituting for it the Reagan Revolution.
A instructive inflection point for understanding the process was a 1968 TV interview by right wing commentator William F. Buckley with beat poet Allen Ginsberg, a clip of which was included in the film documentary, “The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg” (1993).
Ginsberg started the interview by requesting to read a short poem, which he said he’d written while “tripping” on LSD. He then explained the impressionistic poem’s meaning, which was about the “unity of being.”
In identity with the “great consciousness,” there is no difference between “black and white, square and hippie, police and student, Birchite and individualist faggot,” he asserted (on another occasion he added rich and poor).
Buckley, the knowing right-wing establishment scion, smiled wryly and suggested to Ginsberg, “It’s just that in politics you are a little bit naive.”
But the naivete was not what one might have thought. It had to do with Buckley’s more sophisticated and sinister awareness that what Ginsberg was describing was, in fact, the obliteration of progressive political resistance to the steel boots of the nation’s military, industrial, corporate complex.
Buckley, no doubt familiar with this real purpose of MK-Ultra, smiled at its pathetic, morally castrated puppet Ginsberg, who repeated exactly the desired mantra.
No rich, no poor, no struggle, Ginsberg said. To the erased mind of the LSD user, the fascist John Bircher becomes the soul mate of the “individualist faggot,” and “sex, drugs and rock and roll” are the great unifiers.
MK-Ultra performed a judo move on the progressive movement, taking its momentum and using it against itself by the addition of LSD and other anarcho-hedonistic trappings of the counterculture.
Sorting it out, and undoing it, requires a keen understanding of the role of insidious, radical individualist ideology influencing the agendas of not only the right, but the left, not only the rich, but the poor and the Tea Party.