All the right words were there. They just didn't necessarily fit together in any meaningful way. That's what we were taught, at least for that particular tactic.

The result was meant to come off like a droning lecture, enough to put our audiences to sleep. To make them lose focus, losing their concentration in trying to follow thoughts to places that they only imagined existed.

What was important to the confusion was to embed words related to the general idea we were trying to get across. If we wanted our audience to be fearful, we randomly sprinkled our sentences with words evoking threat and danger. None of the sentences had to be logical. All they wanted was for the audience to walk away with a general sense of urgency, like something had to done soon or something terrible would befall them.

Similarly, if we wanted to summon the opposite feeling, we were taught to sprinkle in words associated with peace and comfort. The warmth of a fireplace. At home with a blanket. A nice book we were itching to read.

We were taught to fire these images at our audiences at rates too fast for them to stop and think. Just before they could analyze the meanings of the previous sentences, they would be too busy trying to figure out what we were trying to say with the next batch. They would be left with almost no sense of any coherent message by the end, but they would remember whatever keywords we threw at them.

They might think, "Well, I kind of understand the gist of what they were talking about. Something about security, something something about protection, something something something about the future of our children." If that's what they got out of our speeches, then we would consider that a success.

We were also taught to fire from different directions. One speaker was easier to tune out, but if messages were coming in from all directions, it was hard not to be struck by at least some of the ideas we lobbed at them. Or at least phrases that appeared to be ideas on the surface, but were really just a jumble of emotions and feelings underneath.

Confuse our audiences enough, and we were told that their cognitive centers would shut down in surrender. "I'll just leave it to the smart people to take care of it," they might say. "They seem to know what they're talking about."

The secret, of course, was that none of us knew what we were talking about. We were just making stuff up as we went along. The main purpose was to get our audiences to abdicate decision-making to us. Not because we could make better decisions, but because we wanted to ensure we had a firm grip on the reins of power.

It wasn't just the surrender of decision-making that we were after though. Throw in the right words and combination of images, and we could get our audiences to feel whatever we wanted them to feel. It was a blunt instrument. Not quite as precise as direct orders, but I suppose if combined with other methods, we could make our audiences more compliant with what we wanted them to do. Suggestions backed by emotion tended to be more effective than suggestions alone.

It was our job to set the emotional mood of the population by firing very specific combinations of thoughts and images through it. "You have to tenderize the meat," one of my instructors would say, "you have to soften them up a bit. Then that makes the next step so much easier."

Was it immoral? That wasn't really a question we asked. Maybe it was amoral. Here was a tool passed down through the centuries, used again and again by each generation it was passed down to, and tools are a means to an end. What were the goals we were trying to accomplish? What price were we willing to pay to accomplish those goals? If we train soldiers to destroy the bodies of our enemies, was it so wrong to train them to destroy the minds of our enemies?

I don't have a good answer. It wasn't my job to debate the ethics of the skills we were taught. It was my job to learn them. And to use them as we were ordered to use them. If I refused, they would have just found someone else, and we would be in the same predicament. The names might change, but the conditions of society wouldn't. Sure you might be talking to someone else besides me today, but they'd probably tell you pretty much the same thing. There might be small changes if you change the chef, but if the recipe stays the same, you'd still get pretty much the same thing.

At least we weren't killing people. Yes, maybe that was an excuse we used to rationalize doing what we did, but on the scale of other things we could have been doing, I didn't think it was so bad. Not at the time anyway.

I'm definitely glad I traded in my rifle though. I didn't need more of that on my conscience. I don't think you understand what it's like, when you are forced to live two almost opposite value systems depending on where you were. It's hard to reconcile. So many years of my life spent trying to integrate the contradictions instead of actually enjoying the time we're given. Yet I couldn't leave it behind. I couldn't forget. And it would gnaw at me late in the night when there was nobody to talk to, except the two sides of my mind fighting the other, each trying to claim it was the more righteous one.

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