Re: I gotta go there -- "gangstalking"
Date: October 05, 2018 04:04AM
United States of Paranoia: They See Gangs of Stalkers
The New York Times/June 10, 2018
By Mike McPhate
Nobody believed him. His family told him to get help. But Timothy Trespas, an out-of-work recording engineer in his early 40s, was sure he was being stalked, and not by just one person, but dozens of them.
He would see the operatives, he said, disguised as ordinary people, lurking around his Midtown Manhattan neighborhood. Sometimes they bumped into him and whispered nonsense into his ear, he said.
“Now you see how it works,” they would say.
At first, Mr. Trespas wondered if it was all in his head. Then he encountered a large community of like-minded people on the internet who call themselves “targeted individuals,” or T.I.s, who described going through precisely the same thing.
The group was organized around the conviction that its members are victims of a sprawling conspiracy to harass thousands of everyday Americans with mind-control weapons and armies of so-called gang stalkers. The goal, as one gang-stalking website put it, is “to destroy every aspect of a targeted individual’s life.”
A growing tribe of troubled minds
Mental health professionals say the narrative has taken hold among a group of people experiencing psychotic symptoms that have troubled the human mind since time immemorial. Except now victims are connecting on the internet, organizing and defying medical explanations for what’s happening to them.
The community, conservatively estimated to exceed 10,000 members, has proliferated since 9/11, cradled by the internet and fed by genuine concerns over government surveillance. A large number appear to have delusional disorder or schizophrenia, psychiatrists say.
Yet, the phenomenon remains virtually unresearched.
For the few specialists who have looked closely, these individuals represent an alarming development in the history of mental illness: thousands of sick people, banded together and demanding recognition on the basis of shared paranoias.
Perhaps their biggest victory came last year, when believers in Richmond, Calif., persuaded the City Council to pass a resolution banning space-based weapons that they believe could be used for mind control. A similar lobbying effort is underway in Tucson.
An ‘echo chamber’ of paranoia
Dr. Lorraine Sheridan, who is co-author of perhaps the only study of gang-stalking, said the community poses a danger that sets it apart from other groups promoting troubling ideas, such as anorexia or suicide. On those topics, the internet abounds with medical information and treatment options.
An internet search for “gang-stalking,” however, turns up page after page of results that regard it as fact. “What’s scary for me is that there are no counter sites that try and convince targeted individuals that they are delusional,” Dr. Sheridan said.
“They end up in a closed ideology echo chamber,” she said.
In instructional tracts online, veterans of the movement explain the ropes to rookies:
• Do not engage with the voices in your head.
• If your relatives tell you you’re imagining things, they could be in on it.
• “Do not visit a psychiatrist.”
The tribe cuts across all classes and professions, and includes lawyers, soldiers, artists and engineers. In Facebook forums and call-in support groups, they commiserate over the skepticism of their loved ones and share stories of black vans that circle the block or co-workers conscripted into the campaign.
They raise money, hold awareness campaigns, host international conferences and fight for their causes in courts and legislatures.
They have self-published dozens of e-books, with titles like “Tortured in America” and “My Life Changed Forever.” In hundreds of YouTube videos they offer testimonials and try to document evidence of their stalking, even confronting unsuspecting strangers.
“They wanted to basically destroy me, and they did,” a young mother in Phoenix says in one video, choking back tears. She lost custody of her daughter and was sent to a behavioral health hospital, says the woman, whose name is being withheld to protect her privacy. “But I am going to fight back for the rest of my life.”
She adds, “And guess what, I’m not crazy.”
Dr. Sheridan’s study, written with Dr. David James, a forensic psychiatrist, examined 128 cases of reported gang-stalking. It found all the subjects were most likely delusional.
“One has to think of the T.I. phenomenon in terms of people with paranoid symptoms who have hit upon the gang-stalking idea as an explanation of what is happening to them,” Dr. James said.
A mishmash of conspiracy theories
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the community is divided over the contours of the conspiracy. Some believe the financial elite is behind it. Others blame aliens, their neighbors, Freemasons or some combination.
The movement’s most prominent voices, however, tend to believe the surveillance is part of a mind-control field test done in preparation for global domination. The military establishment, the theory goes, never gave up on the ambitions of MK Ultra, the C.I.A.’s infamous program to control the mind in the 1950s and ’60s.
A leading proponent of that view is an anesthesiologist from San Antonio named John Hall.
In his 2009 book, “A New Breed: Satellite Terrorism in America,” Dr. Hall gave his own account of being targeted. Agents bleached his water, he wrote, and bombarded him with voices making murderous threats.
The book made a splash because of the messenger: a licensed member of the medical establishment who was telling those who feel targeted that psychiatrists were misleading them. A janitor knows as much about the human mind, he wrote.
Dr. Hall, 51, was invited for an interview on “Coast to Coast AM,” a conspiracy-minded radio show based in California that is said to reach millions of listeners. After that, he said, “I had probably three or 4,000 emails from people saying: ‘It’s happening to me in this state.’ ‘It’s happening to me in Florida.’ ‘It’s happening to me in California.’ ”
The similarities of the cases spoke to a wide-ranging campaign, he said. “If the psychiatrists want to say that this is schizophrenia or delusional disorder, that’s fine,” he said. “But every one of these victims have the same story.”
While Dr. Hall has faced scrutiny from the Texas Medical Board over his mental fitness, he retains his license. Over time, however, many others who identify as gang-stalking victims end up out of work. They are mocked by colleagues, tolerated by family. Friends and spouses fall away.
A pretext for violence
The despair that results has led some to lash out in violence.
Many in the community, for example, are convinced that Aaron Alexis, who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013, was a victim. Mr. Alexis, a former sailor, left behind a document accusing the Navy of attacking his brain with “extremely low frequency” electromagnetic waves. On the side of his shotgun were etched the words “my elf weapon.”
It was unclear when Myron May’s mental distress began, but by the fall of 2014, it had become too much. He quit his job as a prosecutor in New Mexico and traveled to Florida. There, he videotaped a testimonial about how gang-stalking had ruined his life.
Laying out his case, he describes an episode at a gas station where he believed somebody in dark glasses was mimicking his movements. “It was really creepy,” he said. “Everything I did, he did.”
Later in the video, he prays for forgiveness for his future sins. “Father,” he says, “right now I ask that you look down on all the targeted individuals across the globe. Help them to cope with this madness.”
On Nov. 20, 2014, Mr. May walked into a library at Florida State University, where he had graduated in 2005, and shot three people, leaving one paralyzed. He dared the police to kill him, then fired in their direction before being fatally shot, officials said. He was 31.
“As you can see right now,” he says into the camera, “I am totally not crazy.”
The vast majority of people with psychosis never resort to violence. Still, studies suggest that a small number of those experiencing psychotic episodes — especially paranoid thoughts, accompanied by voices making commands — are more likely to act on hostile urges than people without a mental illness.
Many in the T.I. community, as anyone would, have repudiated the shootings by Mr. Alexis and Mr. May. But some also harbor troubling views about their perceived oppressors. They question how people could be so cruel.
Karen Stewart of Tallahassee, Fla., believes large numbers of regular people have been brainwashed by the National Security Agency into thinking that she is a traitor or terrorist. Wherever she goes, she says — to church, to the grocery store, to the doctor’s office — they are there, watching.
It baffles her, she said. But worse, “It makes me angry to see how many people in this country are sociopaths. They are absolute groupthink drones,” she said. “I don’t even consider them human anymore.”
‘A need for meaning’
Susan Clancy, a Harvard-trained psychologist who has researched people who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens, said it could be extremely difficult to dissuade patients who have latched onto beliefs that they think explain their delusions.
“I think it’s a need for meaning and a need to understand your life and the problems you’re having,” she said. “You’re not some meaningless nobody. You’re being followed by the C.I.A.”
In that way, Dr. Clancy said, the behavior shares a trait with religious belief: To abandon it would be life upending.
Paula Trespas, Mr. Trespas’s mother, said she avoided debating with him.
“It wasn’t something that he was making up,” she said. “He really felt the way he felt and experienced what he experienced. I got to the point where I was just finally saying to him: ‘I’m very, very sad that you have to go through this. I wish that there was something that I could do.’ ”
The big hope is that society will wake up to what’s happening and put a stop to it, those who feel targeted say. In some cases, they do seek psychiatric help. In others, the delusions subside. For the rest, the prognosis isn’t good, psychiatrists say. Many contemplate suicide.
Mr. Trespas, now 49, says he went so far as to prepare a rope.
Sitting at a coffee shop in Brooklyn last month, he says the stalking has thankfully quieted down. But he says his harassers have also been seeding his body with Morgellons, a painful, insectlike infestation of the skin that many doctors say is psychosomatic.
He is gaunt, with weary, sad eyes. It’s been eight years since it all began, he says. He can’t hold a job. His friends have drifted away.
The online community has been a crucial support, he says. “But we don’t know exactly what’s happening,” he says. “Maybe we’re believing the wrong thing. I don’t know. That’s why I try to keep my mind open about who and what and why and how.”
One thing he is certain of though, he says: He’s not crazy.
Correction: June 13, 2016
An earlier version of this article misstated the professional title of Susan Clancy, who has researched people who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens. Dr. Clancy is a Harvard-trained psychologist, not a psychiatrist.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/05/2018 04:05AM by rrmoderator.