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Orwell at the Bat : Do Brain Implants Control the Actions of Politicians and, More Important, the Fate of the California Angels ?

December 07, 1986|JACK SMITH

A man named Everett P. Buchan has written to warn me about what he calls "a matter of serious importance."

Mr. Buchan says he has evidence that "a group of highly financed and medically skilled people" is surreptitiously placing electrodes in unsuspecting people to influence their health and their behavior.

According to Mr. Buchan, the tiny electrodes may be introduced into a body through the nose, lodging in the sinus, or in various other unspecified ways. They are activated by a hand-held radio transmitter.

Mr. Buchan says that this method is used to "intimidate and harass" and is a common tool of intelligence agents.

"I feel that this is a critical American problem that abridges all human rights," he says. "The people controlling this medical technology have power greater than nuclear weapons."

My first reaction to Mr. Buchan's warning, naturally, was to assume that he was bananas. We all tend to be subject to paranoid fantasies these days, considering that the world is fraught with so many real technological perils.

Certainly, electronic stimulation of the brain (ESB) is in common use, with both animals and human beings, but whether it can be accomplished without the patient's knowledge or permission, I don't know.

In "The Brain Revolution," Marilyn Ferguson writes: "Yes, an individual could be electronically stimulated to fear, anger or euphoria from a distance. However, the procedure is complicated, not always accurate, and far too tedious and expensive as a method for taking over control of the world."

She also quotes Seymour Kety: "Anyone influential enough to get an entire population to consent to having electrodes placed in its heads would already have achieved his goal without firing a single volt."

So much for electronic control of the masses.

But what about simply controlling a few key individuals? Couldn't that achieve the same result?

What if someone could place an electrode in our President and cause him, by remote control, to push the red button?

To relate this idea to something I understand better than politics, what if someone could control athletes by transmitter, thus causing them to act against their teams' interests, perhaps to change the outcome of a World Series?

If you think back to the recent baseball playoffs, you will find plenty of evidence that some key person got a negative zing just as he was about to make a critical play or decision.

Who can forget the ending to the fifth game between the Angels and the Red Sox? At the top of the ninth inning the Angels are leading 5-2. The Red Sox get a single. Then a strikeout. Then a two-run homer. Then a pop fly. The score is now 5-4. One out to go and the Angels have the pennant won. They are already opening the champagne. Then the manager, Gene Mauch, replaces the pitcher, who is about to pitch to a man who has been hitting him, and puts in a relief pitcher, Gary Lucas. Lucas makes one pitch. He hits the batter, who goes to first base. A new pitcher is brought in. He gets two strikes on the batter. The Angels are one strike away from the pennant. The batter hits a home run. Score: Red Sox 6, Angels 5.

As you will probably never forget, the Angels tied it in the bottom of the ninth, but went on to lose in 11 innings, 7-6. They also lost the next two games and the playoffs.

I do not find it hard to believe that someone had placed an electrode in Mauch's body, and at the crucial moment, whoever was controlling him pushed the button and zapped him. Mauch then removed his best pitcher and put in Lucas. Obviously an electrode had also been planted in Lucas, and when he made his first and only pitch, zap .

Having accepted that explanation for the Angels' improbable collapse, it is easy to blame the same kind of influence for the ending of the sixth game of the World Series between the Red Sox and the Mets. In the middle of the 10th inning the Red Sox are leading 5-3. With two outs in the bottom of the inning the Mets tie it up. With two strikes against him, the batter hits a grounder down the first base line. The first baseman, Bill Buckner, who has had a decent World Series defensively, needs only to field the ball and toss it to the pitcher covering first. Buckner reaches down and the ball goes through between his ankles. A run scores. The

Mets win.

Obviously, Buckner's lapse was too astonishing to be attributed to mere carelessness. It is not impossible that somebody in the stadium pushed a little button and zapped Buckner when he reached for that grounder.

Come to think of it, I've been acting oddly of late myself.

Maybe Mr. Buchan is on to something.

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