Column by Michael Kleen.

Exclusive to STR

Twenty-five years ago, as the totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union was beginning to face internal crisis, G. Edward Griffin interviewed a Soviet defector and ex-KGB agent named Yuri Bezmenov. Bezmenov explained, in simple terms, the process by which the Soviet Union and the KGB attempted to subvert and topple governments. They called this process “ideological subversion.” Even though the Cold War is over, it is important to understand this process because the KGB was by no means the only organization to engage in it. We encounter one technique of ideological subversion in particular, demoralization, every day in schools and in the media, and the only way to effectively defend against this technique is to be aware of it and to identify and expose those who are actively engaged in promoting it.
According to Bezmenov, ideological subversion was so important to the KGB that most of their resources were allocated to it. “Only about 15 percent of time, money, and manpower is spent on espionage as such,” he explained. “The other 85 percent is a slow process which we call either ideological subversion or ‘active measures.’” Ideological subversion is a long-term process that involves four stages: 1) Demoralization, 2) Destabilization, 3) Crisis, and 4) “Normalization.” In this article, I will focus on the first step of the process, demoralization.
The purpose of demoralization, According to Bezmenov, is to “change the perception of reality of every American to such an extent that despite the abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions in the interest of defending themselves, their families, their community, and their country.” Effectively, demoralization would render a large part of the population vulnerable to Marxist-Leninist ideology and confused as to its real intent. In any conflict, it is just as important to get as many of your opponents to sit on the sidelines as it is to neutralize them on the battlefield. Proper demoralization would ensure that a large percentage of the population would sit on the sidelines of any eventual revolution, or even actively work against their own interests in support of that revolution.
The benefit of demoralization is that the targeted population will not know it is being demoralized, and once demoralization sets in, a certain percentage of that population will actively pursue the goals of the enemy without even being aware of it. This is achieved by using what appear to be perfectly valid means, i.e. promoting the questioning of authority or of long-held assumptions, but which are aimed only in one direction: at the opposing ideology of the agents engaged in the process of ideological subversion. Once demoralized, exposure to true information does not matter anymore because a person who is demoralized is not able to assess true information. According to Bezmenov, “Even if I shower him with authentic information, with authentic truth, with documents and pictures. Even if I take him by force to the Soviet Union and show him a concentration camp, he will refuse to believe it.”
With enough sympathizers in schools and in the media, the minimum time it would take to demoralize a population is 15 to 20 years, because that is the minimum number of years which it requires to educate one generation of students. In relation to the Soviet campaign in the United States, Bezmenov explained, “Marxist-Leninist ideology is being pumped into the heads of at least three generations of American students without being challenged or counterbalanced by the basic values of Americanism… Most of it is done by Americans to Americans, thanks to a lack of moral standards.”
Recent revelations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation demonstrate that educators in the United States were actively involved throughout the 1960s and ‘70s in organizations with ties to communist front groups. Historian Howard Zinn, author of the influential book A People’s History of the United States, was one whose participation in and advocacy for Marxist groups was well documented by the FBI. His FBI file was recently released after his death, showing that, although he denied participation, several reliable informants in the Communist Party USA identified Zinn as a member who attended party meetings as many as five times a week. There are photographs of Zinn teaching a class on “Basic Marxism” at party headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, in 1951.
In light of this information, and what we know about the process of ideological subversion, it should be obvious that Zinn’s A People’s History of the United Stateswas nothing more than a tool to promote demoralization among American students. A People’s History is often lauded as simply an effort to “turn traditional history books on their head,” and to add another voice to the historical narrative. Neither of those goals are necessarily bad, and it is true that Zinn was actively engaged in questioning the fundamental assumptions about the history of the United States, but to what end? Given the history of Zinn’s involvement with the CPUSA, his “leftist, multicultural, anti-imperialist historiography” can be seen for what it truly was.
Legitimate criticism, questioning, and dissent must never be confused as being part of an active demoralization campaign. It is the source of those efforts, and their ultimate aim, that indicates whether or not those efforts are being used to further the process of ideological subversion. Demoralization has only progressed as far as it has because most Americans have either been unwilling or unable to counteract it. To resist, we must spread awareness of how demoralization works. Then, we must develop the habit of investigating, questioning, and determining the motives behind all sources of information. Finally, we must work on strengthening the arguments in favor of our own beliefs. A truly informed and independently-minded public is our best defense against this insidious tactic.
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Michael Kleen's picture
Columns on STR: 36

Michael Kleen is the Editor-in-Chief of Untimely Meditations, publisher of Black Oak Presents, and proprietor of Black Oak Media. He holds a M.A. in History and a M.S. in Education, and is the author of Statism and its Discontents, a collection of columns on the topics of Statism, liberty, and their conflict. His columns have appeared in a variety of publications and websites, including Strike-the-Root.


Paul's picture

I don't know, Michael. Questioning authority never seemed like a bad thing to me. And "A People's History of the United States" was and is an excellent book, particularly because it broke ranks with the "court historians" whose usual role is to sell the message of "Rah rah USA!"

I don't care if Zinn was a communist. The question is, did he have a perspective worth considering? Yes. He brought information to the table that was hidden in the court histories.

Should you take everything he says at face value? Of course not. But EVERY historian has an axe to grind, not just him. And his bias is easily detected, unlike the court historians whose bias is concealed by the surrounding culture.

Keep in mind, questioning what Zinn was, rather than the arguments he made, is the very definition of argumentum ad hominem.

Those guys in the KGB had a theory. Doesn't mean it had anything to do with reality. The demoralization in this country is not for the most part due to KGB action, but to the action of our own governments, grabbing too much power and stealing too much of our money for corrupt and vicious purposes.

tzo's picture

"Then, we must develop the habit of investigating, questioning, and determining the motives behind all sources of information. Finally, we must work on strengthening the arguments in favor of our own beliefs."

I would say that motives and beliefs are fluff. Look to find the truth. Sources are only valuable if they are based in fact. If your beliefs are based on sources, and your sources have, in your opinion, good motives, you have discovered nothing.

Being demoralized by an avalanche of information only works on people who make decisions based on the opinions of others, all of whom have their own motives. Eggs are good for you. Now they're bad. Then good again. Ten articles say this, another ten say that. I give up. No one knows. I'm confused.

Obedience and deference to authority is what schools teach. Don't think for yourself, don't investigate for yourself, don't develop the ability to think critically. Listen to and obey the experts.

In the arena of politics, there is an abundance of unclear terminology and contradictions. But political ideology discussions should all boil down to deciding either that human beings are sovereign or not. The typical political discussion today centers on which type of not-sovereign existence is best. Communist ideology vs socialist ideology vs democratic ideology are all battles to be fought given the axiom that human beings are innately subject to government.

Again, what is the truth of the matter? Every independent and objective investigation of human existence and society should lead to the rejection of the human-as-subject axiom. If it is not patently false, it is at the very least not to be given axiom status.

If schools are dedicated to give historical perspective based on some system of government sovereignty and human subservience, then the pursuit of truth in the area of politics (the organization of violence in society) cannot be the goal. If the truth is that politics is rightly defined by something like the non-aggression principle, then schools will never, ever, discover the truth about how human society may be best organized. It's perspective on history will be necessarily twisted.

Who cares what Howard Zinn thinks? Who cares what historian Joe Rebublic thinks? What is the "proper" way of interpreting history within a statist context (republicanism vs communism) if statism is improper? It's like arguing about if 2 + 2 should equal 5 or 6. Which is the best interpretation? Because obviously the truth of the matter is unimportant.

Why should anyone care if one statist ideology is being subverted by another? If you care, then you give value to one of them and admit your own subservient status. Which is not only a bad idea, it is objectively false. You are guarding the root.

A school should be a place to learn how to learn. Parents must learn to teach their kids how to learn how to learn. A single generation of little philosophers can change the world.

No one was ever demoralized by knowing the truth, only by not knowing how to find it.

Michael Kleen's picture

"Being demoralized by an avalanche of information only works on people who make decisions based on the opinions of others" - That may be true, but you just described 98 percent of the population...

Michael Kleen's picture

Theoretically, I am opposed to most forms of statism, especially in the modern sense. But given my choices in the real world, I would much rather live in a capitalist state than a communist one, thanks

tzo's picture

Well, the goal of striking the root is to subvert all governmental ideologies by remoralizing the populace. Choosing the lesser of two government ideology evils is such a vote-y thing to do.

You can find my arguments against minarchism, which is the type of government I assume you theoretically support, sprinkled throughout this website.

Your choices, Michael, in the real world include making change, and standing for what's right and voicing that position because it is right.

Red scare articles are a bit dated and off-point, but for what it's worth, I could care less if the commie bastards overrun the capitalist pig dogs. Whoever willingly hitches their wagon to a government ideology deserves the Calvin and Hobbes finish to their wagon ride.

tzo's picture

I just received my copy of "Death by Government" a couple of days ago. I haven't dug into it too much yet.

There is no doubt that communism is the fast track to mass death, while democracy is a bit more tempered in that respect and is certainly the lesser of the two evils. I believe the author concludes that the world needs to spread democracy and eliminate communism in order to make the world a better place.

Is it really better to kill 10,000,000 instead of 100,000,000? Do quantities really matter? If so, isn't zero the best? Why not strive for zero? With no government, then government murders would equal zero. The murders that did occur would be attributable to individual human beings, who could then be dealt with.

Yes, the democracy cancer is better than the communism cancer in that it consumes its host more slowly. If that is the best scenario one can envision, then he is missing the obvious.

But the real world requires government to slit throats, it is claimed, just a few million here and there according to democratic ritual, in order for us to get up, have our coffee, and go to work.

Time to change the real world, then. At the very least, it should not be rationalized as being something other than what it is. It should not be justified as better than some worse alternative.

Even communism is better than other types of totalitarian government. So why can't we be just happy with that? That's good enough, isn't it? 100,000,000 is better than 1,000,000,000, right?

Suverans2's picture

G'day tzo,

"Yes, the democracy cancer is better than the communism cancer in that it consumes its host more slowly."

Which gives you a little more time to accomplish this...

"With no government, then government murders would equal zero."

Suverans2's picture

G'day tzo,

Here's the 6-billion-dollar-question, my friend, how many of Earth's inhabitants want "no government"? And, what will you do with all those individuals who don't want " no government", not to mention those who need to be governed (i.e. those individuals who need to be restrained from trespassing on other men's natural rights)?

It is my opinion, that it is an individual decision whether or not to be a member of a political association, and therefore it is just as bad forcing "no government" on those individuals who want a government as it is forcing a government on self-governing individuals who want "no [external] government".

tzo's picture

I wouldn't want to force anything on anyone. Everyone should be free to do as he pleases on his own property or on the property of others who give permission.

Which brings us directly to the nub of the gist, and that is the determination of private property. When individuals own land they put to use and no more, then have at it. Whoever wishes to enslave himself on the private property of a group of consenting adults has my blessing.

In this situation, of course, if he changed his mind and his captors refused to release him, they would then be subject to other human beings coming to the aid and self-defense of the involuntarily-restrained person.

So even though these groups acting on their own private property may call themselves government and claim superhuman rights, they could not exercise those rights against any human being who decided to ignore them. Just because someone is on your private property, that does not give you the right to murder them "because you are a sovereign standing within your own kingdom."

So I still have a hard time using the word "government" within the context of a truly free society. Without the assumption of superhuman sovereignty (government), it all boils down to the fact that human beings are not allowed to aggress against each other, and when this happens it is right and just for other human beings to intervene and prevent or stop that aggression.

If I sign a contract saying I will pay taxes for the rest of my natural life to a "voluntary government," and then I change my mind one year later, the contract is broken—as in it is over. I have stolen nothing from anyone. “Breach of promise” is not a case of theft. I, as well as my property, return to my jurisdiction—I rescind the given authority and reclaim it—independent of whatever "government" I had previously participated in.

This is such a different circumstance than what is understood today when we talk of government that, again, I can't see using that word to describe completely voluntary social interactions. But it's just a word, and so as long as all the caveats are heeded, I can get along with using it as well, I guess. Let's call it "asterisk government," or government*.

Suverans2's picture

G'day Michael Kleen,

"Theoretically, I am opposed to most [?] forms of statism, especially in the modern sense." ~ Michael Kleen

"Theoretically" = in "theory", but not in "practice"; that's the way virtually all anarchists are, it would seem.

    "I believe in anarchy [no ruler]...but it can't really be done."

You want to talk about "demoralization", Michael Kleen, what do you suppose most, if not all, of these same people tell an individual secessionist?

    "Well, you can claim to be an "individual secessionist" if you want, but it can't really be done."

Translation: If my government doesn't legally recognize it, it's not real.

Well, I've got news for "you [figuratively] and the horse [the government] you rode in on", "I am who and what I say I am, not who and not what you and those in your government say I am."

It's ironic, when you think about it, I am a "nonperson", "someone who a government says does not exist". The irony is that I could rewrite that definition from Macmillan Dictionary to read, "someone who anarchists, libertarians and their governments say does not exist", and it would still be accurate.

Sad commentary, really, but we [my natural law wife and I] refuse to be “demoralized” by it.

Suverans2's picture

"Let not any be alarmed, therefore, at the promulgation of the foregoing doctrine. There are many changes yet to be passed through before it can begin to exercise much influence. Probably a long time will elapse before the right to ignore the state will be generally admitted, even in theory. It will be still longer before it receives legislative recognition. And even then there will be plenty of checks upon the premature exercise of it. A sharp experience will sufficiently instruct those who may too soon abandon legal protection. While, in the majority of men, there is such a love of tried arrangements and so great a dread of experiments that they will probably not act upon this right until long after it is safe to do so." ~ Excerpted from The Right to Ignore the State by Herbert Spencer

Suverans2's picture

Thumbs up on your comment, tzo!

"It's like arguing about if 2 + 2 should equal 5 or 6. Which is the best interpretation? Because obviously the truth of the matter is unimportant." ~ tzo

That reminded me of the question asked by Captain J. J. Jones, Lincoln Heights Division of the LAPD, who wanted to have Christine Collins committed to the Los Angeles County General Hospital Psychopathic Ward, because she refused to bow the knee, in the movie Changeling, "A true story", starring Angelina Jolie. (Highly Recommended!)

"Either you know you're lying or you're not capable of knowing if you're lying or telling the truth. So which is it?"

Suverans2's picture

"Define your terms, you will permit me again to say, or we shall never understand one another...” ~ Voltaire

The word "demoralize" was coined by Noah Webster, c. 1793, so let's go to him for its correct definition.

DEMORALIZE, v.t. To corrupt or undermine the morals of ; to destroy or lessen the effect of moral principles on; to render corrupt in morals. ~ Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

MORALS, n. plu. 1. Conduct; behavior; course of life, in regard to good and evil. Ibid.

Now that we have established what the word "demoralize" means, what, or who, would we say has had the greatest influence on "corrupting or undermining the morals" of Americans?

Michael Kleen's picture

I don't think that Bezmenov was using the term "demoralization" in its literal sense, although destroying or lessening the effect of moral principles might be part of the demoralization process. The purpose of demoralization as part of ideological subversion is to make your enemy unsure of his own ideology, of his own system of government, and perhaps even to work against them.

Suverans2's picture

G'day, once again, Michael Kleen,

Yes, that word has been co-opted since Noah created it, it would seem. The original was based on the word "moral", while the new word is apparently based on the word "morale".

Darkcrusade's picture

Hmmm.Reminds me that- The lesser of two evils is still evil. Plus ,history is written by the victors.

Grateful Slave

by Paine's Torch

I am a grateful slave.
My master is a good man.
He gives me food, shelter, work and other things.
All he requires in return is that I obey him.
I am told he has the power to control my life.
I look up to him, and wish that I were so powerful.

My master must understand the world better than I,
because he was chosen by many others for his respected position.
I sometimes complain, but fear I cannot live without his help.
He is a good man.

My master protects my money from theft, before and after he takes half of it.
Before taking his half, he says only he can protect my money.
After taking it, he says it is still mine.
When he spends my money, he says I own the things he has bought.
I don't understand this, but I believe him.
He is a good man.

I need my master for protection, because others would hurt me.
Or, they would take my money and use it for themselves.
My master is better than them:
When my master takes my money, I still own it.
The things he buys are mine.
I cannot sell them, or decide how they are used, but they are mine.
My master tells me so, and I believe him.
He is a good man.

My master provides free education for my children.
He teaches them to respect and obey him and all future masters they will have.
He says they are being taught well; learning things they will need to know in the future.
I believe him.
He is a good man.

My master cares about other masters, who don't have good slaves.
He makes me contribute to their support.
I don't understand why slaves must work for more than one master, but my master says it is necessary.
I believe him.
He is a good man.

Other slaves ask my master for some of my money.
Since he is good to them as he is to me, he agrees.
This means he must take more of my money; but he says this is good for me.
I ask my master why it would not be better to let each of us keep our own money.
He says it is because he knows what is best for each of us.
We believe him.
He is a good man.

My master tells me:
Evil masters in other places are not as good as he; they threaten our comfortable lifestyle and peace.
So, he sends my children to fight the slaves of evil masters.
I mourn their deaths, but my master says it is necessary.
He gives me medals for their sacrifice, and I believe him.
He is a good man.

Good masters sometimes have to kill evil masters, and their slaves.
This is necessary to preserve our way of life; to show others that our version of slavery is the best.
I asked my master:
Why do evil masters' slaves have to be killed, along with their evil master?
He said: "Because they carry out his evil deeds."
"Besides, they could never learn our system; they have been indoctrinated to believe that only their master is good."
My master knows what is best.
He protects me and my children.
He is a good man.

My master lets me vote for a new master, every few years.
I cannot vote to have no master, but he generously lets me choose between two candidates he has selected.
I eagerly wait until election day, since voting allows me to forget that I am a slave.
Until then, my current master tells me what to do.
I accept this.
It has always been so, and I would not change tradition.
My master is a good man.

At the last election, about half the slaves were allowed to vote.
The other half had broken rules set by the master, or were not thought by him to be fit.
Those who break the rules should know better than to disobey!
Those not considered fit should gratefully accept the master chosen for them by others.
It is right, because we have always done it this way.
My master is a good man.

There were two candidates.
One received a majority of the vote - about one-fourth of the slave population.
I asked why the new master can rule over all the slaves, if he only received votes from one-fourth of them?
My master said: "Because some wise masters long ago did it that way."
"Besides, you are the slaves; and we are the master."
I did not understand his answer, but I believed him.
My master knows what is best for me.
He is a good man.

Some slaves have evil masters.
They take more than half of their slaves' money and are chosen by only one-tenth, rather than one-fourth, of their slaves.
My master says they are different from him.
I believe him.
He is a good man.

I asked if I could ever become a master, instead of a slave.
My master said, "Yes, anything is possible."
"But first you must pledge allegiance to your present master, and promise not to abandon the system that made you a slave."
I am encouraged by this possibility.
My master is a good man.

He tells me slaves are the real masters, because they can vote for their masters.
I do not understand this, but I believe him.
He is a good man; who lives for no other purpose than to make his slaves happy.

I asked if I could be neither a master nor a slave.
My master said, "No, you must be one or the other."
"There are not other choices."
I believe him.
He knows best.
He is a good man.

I asked my master how our system is different, from those evil masters.
He said: "In our system, masters work for the slaves."
No longer confused, I am beginning to accept his logic.
Now I see it!
Slaves are in control of their masters, because they can choose new masters every few years.
When the masters appear to control the slaves in between elections, it is all a grand delusion!
In reality, they are carrying out the slaves' desires.
For if this were not so, they would not have been chosen in the last election.
How clear it is to me now!
I shall never doubt the system again.
My master is a good man.

Suverans2's picture

Excellent, Darkcrusade, excellent!!

Here's a link to it, if anyone wants it.

Paul's picture

"The purpose of demoralization as part of ideological subversion is to make your enemy unsure of his own ideology, of his own system of government, and perhaps even to work against them."

Um, with a quibble about the word "enemy", isn't this what anarchists are trying to do? Get people to question their ideology, their system of government, and perhaps even to get them to work against it (by escaping their chains)? Just wondering...

As to leftist history, here's another interesting one that Rob linked to: