Politics
A guide to LTTE mind manipulation of the south

Techniques of brainwashing and deception

by Foxwatch
Sri Lanka today stands within a stone’s throw of Eelam. Perhaps a de facto Eelam already exists, as many visitors to the north will testify, and as many foreign media have reported. The GOSL’s tragically naive belief that giving in to every wish of the LTTE is the way to wean them away from Eelam has backfired catastrophically. Its fear of refusing any LTTE demand lest it prejudice the peace process has been exploited to the hilt by the LTTE. An astonishing example was the LTTE demand, ten days before the Thailand talks, that since they were having firing practice, the Sri Lanka navy should withdraw its ships ten nautical miles away from the coast!

But it is not only misjudgment that has brought Sri Lanka to its knees. Laying the groundwork for the collective folly of policy-makers and public has been the sustained psychological conditioning, and the deception in the form of code-words and euphemisms, which turned an apparently intelligent people into putty in the hands of the LTTE’s spin doctors.

Operation Brainwash

Decades ago, psychologist Robert H. Thouless published a classic entitled "Straight and Crooked Thinking", highlighting fallacies in reasoning, pitfalls in analogy, and tricks of persuasion. The joint GOSL-LTTE -NGO campaign promoting peace at any cost offers fascinating illustrations of some techniques described by him.

Emotionally Charged Labels

One of the techniques identified by Thouless was the use of words to arouse emotions in an audience. This has been expertly used by the LTTE and the peace lobby by categorizing critics of their path to Eelam as chauvinists, racists, extremists, warmongers, arms merchants, etc. The persistent use of such labels, all conveying disapproval and censure, is sometimes coupled with the categorization of supporters of the path by labels conveying approval, such as moderates, peacemakers, etc.

The result is that many people who consider themselves moderates, and who dislike the racist/chauvinist label, recoil from the views of those who are labeled as "racists," without even examining their merits, some of which may be very relevant to the issue. Instead, they gravitate towards the establishment view, right or wrong, which has approving labels attached to it. This throttles constructive public debate by eliminating dissent.

Consequently we have deprived ourselves of a valuable input into public debate by ignoring the views of smaller parties on such matters as negotiation with the LTTE, military tactics, the implications of devolution, and safeguards to preserve our sovereignty.

The Power of Repetition and Suggestion

Another technique identified by Thouless has been extensively used by the GOSL, LTTE and NGOs. Dealing with tricks of suggestion, he wrote, "...if statements are made again and again in a confident manner, without argument or proof, then their hearers will tend to believe them quite independently of their soundness and of the presence or absence of evidence for their truth. More particularly will his hearers tend to accept the suggestion of a speaker if he has what we may call "prestige" the acknowledged dignity of authority possessed by Cabinet Ministers, bishops,...." Repeated affirmation, a confident delivery, and prestige are the essence of the technique.

Consider for example several statements constantly being made "again and again in a confident manner, without argument or proofs’ and being accepted without question by millions. Some of these are tabulated below, along with some of the comments which could reasonably be made.

Triumph of the Spin Doctors

There is no doubt that many who listen to these statements over and over again "tend to believe them quite independently of their soundness and of the presence or absence of evidence for their truth. " The spin doctors have done their work well, hammering away until their audience accepted the hollow assertions as gospel truth.

Mental Exhaustion

A technique which overlaps with the repetitive assertion uses the tendency of the average citizen, when faced with a matter of great complexity arousing prolific discussions, (such as devolution or peace negotiations) to tire of the argument and accept a ready-made slogan such as "peace package" as a kind of convenient shorthand which, however, ignores the intricacies of the subject. Thouless offered an explanation: "The most finely developed brain reaches at some point the limit of complexity it can grasp. With the majority of men this limit is reached rather early. Long before it is reached, however mental idleness steps in, making us tend to accept mental food well below the limits of our digestion.." We all know people who say they are tired of the debates on the conflict, and skip media analysis of it.

The Power of the Euphemism

The LTTE has made expert use of the euphemism, defined in the OED as "a mild or vague expression substituted for one thought to be too harsh or direct." The LTTE has duped so-called intelligentsia worldwide, from politicians to university dons to the political analysts with its use of relatively innocuous terms for lethal realities.

Their biggest success has been in devising facelifts for Eelam itself. The need arose because the LTTE’s objective has been, and remains, the creation of an independent state of Tamil Eelam carved out of Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern provinces, consisting of about 30% of Sri Lanka and 60% of its coastline. To continually spell this out directly would have invited opposition from the GOSL and the public, and even the LTTE’s foreign friends might have balked at the harsh reality. So the Eelam wolf had to be dressed in sheep’s clothing.

The Many Masks of Eelam

The euphemisms for Eelam took off with the Thimpu demands in July 1985, articulated in a joint statement by the EPRLF, EROS, PLOTE, LTTE, TELO and the TULF. To quote:

"It is our considered view that any meaningful solution to the Tamil national question must be based on the following four cardinal principles:

1. Recognition of the Tamils of Sri Lanka as a nation.

2. Recognition of the existence of an identified homeland for the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

3. Recognition of the right of self-determination of the Tamil nation.

4. Recognition of the right to citizenship and the fundamental rights of all Tamils who look upon the island as their country."

Rejection and Acceptance

These "principles" obviously amount to an independent Tamil state, and were immediately recognised as such. The Sri Lankan delegation at Thimpu, rejected the first three principles ".. for the reason that they constitute a negation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka."

The LTTE kept the Thimpu demands in cold storage for a while, and then, in the course of subsequent discussions with the GOSL, unveiled them as an ostensible viable alternative to Eelam. Incredibly, it was rapturously received by the GOSL as evidence of the LTTE’s changing face!

A Rose by Many Other Names

No doubt encouraged by the GOSL’s obtuseness, the LTTE milked the Thimpu principles to the maximum, and introduced components and variants to further dupe their gullible counterparts. Autonomy, self-determination and homelands were frequently used, in varying combinations. On a more dangerous parallel track, federation or confederation were also slipped in as viable alternatives, although they would have been obvious stepping stones to Eelam.

Peace-Talk Specials

When it comes to peace talks, the LTTE’s has devised a special brand of trickery tailormade for credulous peacemakers. The code words and catchphrases painstakingly built up by the LTTE for years have succeeded time and again in duping the GOSL, the public and the media into complacency and euphoria

The pattern is for the LTTE to first express its desire for peace and its willingness to engage in unconditional peace talks with the GOSL. The call is often made in Parabakaran’s Martyrs Day speeches, and never fails to trigger peace hysteria in the south, encouraged by spin doctors of the LTTE, foreign diplomats and the peace lobby.

Peace Catchphrases

Then come the code-words which the GOSL and public seem to have no time to read. The LTTE add that they do however insist on the creation of a "peaceful" or "cordial" or "conducive" or "congenial" atmosphere, and "conditions of normalcy" for peace negotiations. This seems innocent enough, and the GOSL falls for it every time.

A googly is bowled around this point, in the disguise of the LTTE’s "existential problems." A congenial atmosphere, they explain, includes attending to their existential problems, which require the lifting of "economic blockades," by which they mean the lifting of restrictions imposed on supplies of fuel and batteries, among other things, plus the removal of the ban on fishing. Everything means something else!

The Key

A key to the overall catchphrase can be found in Prabakaran’s Martyrs Day speeches. For example, the speech of November 1999 stated, "By peaceful atmosphere we mean a condition of normalcy characterised by cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of troops occupying Tamil lands and the absence of economic blockades."

When doubts begin to assail the GOSL and the public, and they question this multitude of conditions attached to supposedly unconditional negotiations, the LTTE replies blandly that these are not pre-conditions but pre-requisites! This time round, a deferential GOSL has sought refuge in an euphemism of its own, "confidence-building measures," which sounds better than appeasement.

Deadly Sequence

The result every time is that a ceasefire is declared, and fuel, batteries and cement are supplied to the north and are used for military purposes. The ban on "fishing" is removed, enabling the LTTE to land arms and ammunition unhindered. On the north-east coast. In the current peace fiasco much of this has been completed and all that remains is the withdrawal of the army, the crucial item in the LTTE agenda.

Which brings us to the specific code phrases for evicting the army, such as "relocation of the army" and "demilitarisation of High Security Zones." The GOSL has helpfully agreed at Sattahip to ".. establish promptly a Joint Committee to deal with High Security Zone, with the aim of enabling the return of larger numbers of displaced" persons.. " Watch how the LTTE uses this to try to evict the army.

If the LTTE succeeds, it will be the culmination of their deadly sequence of deception: "unconditional" peace talks - congenial atmosphere - solving existential problems - receiving goods which have military uses - having "fishing" restrictions removed to ship in arms- eviction of the army - de facto Eelam.

Devolution Rides Again

Only de jure Eelam would remain, and that will be heralded by yet another version of the devolution proposals, enshrined in a new constitution. Rejection after mass demonstrations in August 2000 has not daunted its proponents, and it can safely be predicted that the newest version, bristling with time-bombs and minefields, will soon be upon us again and promoted as the final panacea for peace.

The campaign for devolution provides another example of sustained brainwashing, notably through Norwegian-funded campaigns, into believing that devolution is the instant panacea for a peaceful solution. We meet again the device of the emotional label. Why were the devolution proposals termed the devolution package? The word "package" has connotations of pleasurable goodies, an overtone subtly transferred to the proposals themselves, which have been promoted as the certain way to peace.

Shot in the Foot

Interestingly, some of the hoopla about devolution was unexpectedly neutralised by the Professor himself, in an article he wrote in the Daily News supplement of August 19, 1997: "..If the question is whether the armed conflict with the LTTE will come to an end as soon as the proposed system of devolution becomes part of the country’s constitution then the answer of course, is that such an outcome is most unlikely. The process by which ..[cessation of the armed struggle of the LTTE] is achieved may be long and hard. The proposed system of devolution does not claim to offer an instant solution to the ongoing armed conflict between the government and the LTTE.." But that moment of common sense has been submerged in a deluge of brainwashing since.

Elastic Meanings

The devolution debate illustrates another frequent source of confusion which has been exploited by its promoters, i.e., the variable meaning of certain words. The word "devolution" is one such word. It can vary in meaning from devolution of power which is mild to moderate to extensive to extreme. The promotion of "devolution", without qualification, and its acceptance, could therefore be disastrous if the public perception is one of mild or moderate devolution while the reality is extreme devolution. The same confusion arises with two other words - autonomy and self- determination. Without precise definition, they would mean different things to different people.

Thouless wrote: "The habit of using words with one or more meanings not clearly distinguished may lead us into much erroneous thinking. A much worse form of the same disease is that of using a word with no clear meaning but with only a general tendency in some direction. Then we are guilty of vagueness, which is a fault which makes accurate thought and reasonable discussion impossible."

Pushing the Limits’ amid Benign Neglect

A new technique to condition the south into accepting Eelam is being perfected currently. Under an ostensible framework of sovereignty and territorial integrity, which reassures the south, the LTTE is systematically (and illegally) installing the structures of a separate state.

Balasingham declared at Sattahip that the LTTE has a massive administration in the areas under its control, and seeks recognition of it. The LTTE imposes border controls, levies taxes, operates police stations, operates banks, negotiates direct with foreign countries for aid, signs treaties with minorities, violates air traffic control procedures, arrests soldiers, announces it will open a Central Bank of Tamil Eelam, orders our navy to keep out of the way when the LTTE have firing practice, abuses the M0U by attacking army camps, and in general behaves as though it recognises no one’s authority but its own.

The GOSL’s benign neglect of these violations of sovereignty, apart from its constitutional implications, has an insidious effect on the entire population. People are being weaned away from a sovereign Sri Lanka and getting used to the idea that the LTTE can levy taxes, run police stations, flout the writ of the GOSL, and rule the northeast. They are being subtly brainwashed into accepting the concept of Eelam.

Into the Abyss

The consequences of falling prey to propaganda can be catastrophic. The Encyclopedia Britannica, in its reference to Goebbels, states: ".. Goebbels, the leading propagandist of the Nazi party. Mastered, to the point of near perfection, every contemporary device for leading and misleading the public. It was largely due to his extraordinarily persuasive propaganda that the German people followed Hitler into the abyss.. "

The LTTE and their accomplices in the south have achieved equal mastery. It is up to the Sri Lankan people to be smart enough not to follow them into the abyss.


NEWS | DEFENCE | FEATURES | OPINION | BUSINESS | LEISURE | EDITORIAL | CARTOON | SPORTS