A story the CIA 'forgot' to tell us

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The Independent Culture
Living Dead: You Have Used Me as a Fish for Long Enough (9.30pm BBC2) provides a timely alternative world view to Forrest Gump. It begins with the story of a scientist who was funded by the CIA which, crazy as it sounds, wanted to use psychology to manipulate people's memories. It ends with the Gulf War, waged by a US government which had found a way to alter our memories of an entire war.

Ewen Cameron was a psychologist in the Fifties who believed he could eliminate mental illness by substituting "good" memories for "bad" ones. The CIA became interested and funded Cameron and like-minded scientists in the belief that it could use the techniques to produce programmed assasins. (Such was the Agency's zeal that many believe the CIA to be responsible for many of the popular theories in contemporary psychology.)

The optimism didn't last. When Kennedy was assasinated (by a programmed Soviet assasin?), the CIA was torn apart by internal suspicion and instead began funding artificial intelligence research, which led to the hi- tech weapons systems used against Saddam. It's chilling to watch the now laughable propaganda films from the Fifties attempting to legitimise brutal psychological experiments and only moments later to be watching Norman Schwarzkopf standing at a lectern and demonstrating the technology which won the Gulf War.