Months back, Ezekiel73 and I presented on the topic of worldview warfare, aka psychological operations, aka psyops, for the website The Stoa. You can watch our presentation here. In it we detail a series of classic techniques of psychological warfare and provide multiple, concrete, historical versions of each. For example, we explored false flag operations—i.e. dressing up as one’s enemy or using patsies to commit terrorist acts on one’s own population and blaming one’s enemy in order to ratchet up public sentiment for retaliatory attacks of war. Here are some well established historical examples of false flag operations.
Numerous pieces on the site go more into much greater depth on various forms of worldview warfare.
Ezekiel73’s pieces on MK-Ultra and the weaponization of social scientific research are really crucial.
My pieces on the the co-opting of UBIs, the UFO Phenomenon, and 4th industrial technological advancements further the story.
In this piece I want to explore a few other classic psychological techniques we touch on in our presentation: controlled dialectics (aka controlled opposition) and problem-reaction-solution. In our talk we mentioned some well grounded historical examples of those tendencies but to illustrate these methods in this piece I want to point instead to an example from The Star Wars Galaxy: namely Darth Sidious’ (aka Emperor Palpatine) plot to overthrow the Jedi and the Galactic Republic leading to the Galactic Empire.
I’ve already covered my review of the excessive (and God awful) postmodernization of Star Wars in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi (Episodes 7 and 8). In the Star Wars timeline the reflections in this piece grow instead out of the prequel films, Episodes 1-3: The Phantom Menace, Attack of The Clones, and The Return of the Sith.
In practice however so much was happening in those films that this story of Palpatine’s sinister plot (and masterful execution of it) is given some airtime but gets blurred by other factors. The Star Wars animated series The Clone Wars however does a brilliant job (over 7 seasons!) of revealing the intricacies of Palpatine’s controlled opposition and problem-reaction-solution plan. Clone Wars therefore is the main source of the material I’ll be working with here. (Here's a link for what order to watch the show if you do.)*
While of course The Rebel Alliance was ultimately successful in overthrowing The Galactic Empire (Episode 6 Return of The Jedi) and crushing the nascent First Order (Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker), it doesn’t take away from the fact that Palpatine created a galactic-level psyop and pulled it off, destroying the Jedi Order, overthrowing the Republic, and installing himself as Emperor. By studying Palpatine’s psyop we can start to see the same “Sidious”-esque methods being used in our own day.
Before that however first to define our terms.
Problem-reaction-solution (from now on PRS).
In PRS, elites engineer a problem in society. This problem could be endemic poverty and hopelessness in certain areas. The problem could be a false flag attack on its own citizenry. The problem could be the introduction of drugs into neighborhoods to exacerbate social ills (as was the case with the crack, meth, and opioid epidemics). The problem could be a natural disaster which gets exploited towards pre-defined social/political ends: e.g. disaster capitalism.
The key point is those doing the PRS want the problem because the problem will provide them an opening to introduce their own predefined solution. In the reaction phase elites look to control the narrative around the framing of the problem. For example, if the problem is drug-fueled crime, the reaction will be images plastered all over media of addicted, dangerous criminals coming to threaten you and your loved ones. Rather than asking where all the drugs are coming from in the first place or why so many people are in such difficult circumstances such that they’re getting hooked.
The purpose of the reaction phase is guide public collective consciousness in such a way that the public (it would appear) “spontaneously” ends up advocating the very position the elites have wanted from the beginning (i.e. the solution). So in the drug-example, the public calls for greater militarization of police as well as the building of more prisons, the very solution desired from the beginning by those invested in gaining from a militarized and carceral society.
A controlled dialectic by contrast is when two (and only two!) seemingly opposite frames are offered to a situation which hides a true but opaque third option. The dialectic of the two opposing scenarios creates a false binary. For example: junk conspiracies are created as the other in the false binary—either space is just empty space and the space missions stopped in the 1970s because the moon is just a hunk of rock or the moon landing was faked on a Hollywood set and we live stuck in the atmosphere of a flat earth. False controlled dialectic. Third hidden option: there’s covert research into deep space exploration and most likely space colonization and mining.
The key point here is that so long as public conversation is held within the false binary of the dialects, the real situation can be held out of sight (and therefore out of mind).
Controlled opposition is a sub-set or a species of controlled dialects. In controlled opposition, the opposition is actually an agent of the hidden power. Tom O’Neill’s exhaustive research points significantly to the likelihood that Charles Manson was a CIA asset of some sort (Operation Chaos). There’s strong evidence that the Symbionese Liberation Army who were behind the Patty Hearst kidnapping/Stockholm syndrome case, were also intelligence assets. They appeared, on the surface, to be terrorist elements opposed to the mainstream system but in reality were controlled opposition agents. The Mirage Men, which detailed the FBI’s infiltration and co-optation of the world of Ufology would be another example.
Where controlled dialects and problem-reaction-solution (PRS) combine is when the problem in PRS is a controlled opposition group who creates the problem, leading to the mainstream counter-reaction, culminating in the solution engineered and desired all along by the hidden hand.
A Psyop From A Galaxy Far Far Away
Which brings us back to Sheev Palpatine, originally a Senator from Naboo, secretly The Dark Sith Lord Sidious, and later Supreme Chancellor of the Republic and finally Galactic Emperor.
Palpatine during his early political career came to see the deep corruption of the elites across the Galaxy. He sensed the Republic was decaying from within and was ripe for takeover. He was quite accurate in that initial assessment.
With his dual identities as Senator Palpatine by day and Darth Sidious by night he was able to create a dastardly controlled dialectic and through that controlled dialectic start a galactic civil war (problem) which created political instability leading to the populace (reaction) to call for a dictatorship (solution). But that’s getting ahead of ourselves a bit.
First Palpatine, as Senator, proposed trade bills in the Galactic Senate that would impinge on the profits of The Trade Federation (a kind of cartel). Palpatine, as Sidious, convinced the very same Trade Federation, to secretly fund a droid army. In addition, Sidious persuaded The Federation (to whom he promised special economic privileges) to protest the new taxation laws which he, in his day job as a Senator, had helped craft! The Trade Federation was to blockade Palpatine’s home planet of Naboo. (These events are covered in Episode 1: The Phantom Menace).
Here we see already the form of his controlled dialectic. The Trade Federation are the controlled opposition agents—i.e. the patsies. They patsies commit an act of war (against Naboo). Here’s the first of many engineered crises (problems) that Palpatine will initiate.
Palpatine, as Senator, calls for aid to the planet of Naboo (Reaction). He controls both sides of the dialectic. He eventually turns a young Queen Amydala of Naboo—the later wife of Anakin Sykwalker and mother to Luke and Leia Skywalker—to call for the overthrow of the current Supreme Chancellor of the Senate (Chancellor Valorum) and to install Senator Palpatine himself as Supreme Chancellor. Problem - Reaction - Solution. Palpatine manages to keeps his hands clean and yet gets exactly what he wants, the Chancellorship.
After the invasion of Naboo, Palpatine deepened his psyop with a more massive form of controlled opposition and problem reaction solution. Through his Sith apprentice Count Dooku (aka Darth Tyranus), Palpatine manages to engineer the creation of a breakaway series of planets, which became known as The Confederacy of Independent Systems. Confederacy being an obvious reference to the US Southern states breakaway from the Northern Union, leading to the American Civil War. Just so, the Star Wars Universe’s Confederacy leads to a Galactic Civil War. Episode 2: Attack of the Clones concludes with the beginning of the Galactic Cvil War. The animated series Clone Wars takes place between the events of Episodes 2 and 3 (Return of the Sith), when Palpatine rises to full power as Galactic Emperor.
In the Clone Wars series we see Palpatine slowly but surely militarize the republic. Even as they are “winning”, the Republic (and the Jedi) are losing their identity and core values. George Lucas stated that the The Galactic Civil war (The Clone Wars) was based on the Roman Civil Wars that marked the last phase of the Roman Republic and its transition to the Roman Empire.
Palpatine controlled both sides in the war. In theory he could have taken power from a victory of either side since he controlled the Confederacy’s leader (Dooku) while at the same time was Supreme Chancellor of The Republic. Imagine if Jefferson Davis was secretly the apprentice of Abraham Lincoln and Lincoln sought to become an emperor by creating the Confederacy to generate a crisis of a Civil War and using that crisis to install himself as Absolute Monarch, only on a galactic scale!
As the war ravages on, The Jedi—who were originally created to be guardians of the peace in the Republic—become generals of a militarized army and by extension an increasingly militarized society. This hardening of the populace and the Jedi through war is key to Palpatine’s plan. Not only did Palpatine have to legitimize the calls for a dictatorship—by deepening war—he had to delegitimize The Jedi while at the same time using them to further his own ends.
The Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas had years earlier, in secret and against the wishes of the Jedi Council, began the construction of a clone army for The Republic. When Palpatine learns of this he co-opts the plan to his own idea—installing the infamous Order 66 which will eventually have the clones turn on and murder the Jedi. Palpatine’s sinister plot involves using a Jedi’s own action against them to their demise.
Palpatine therefore has two armies at his disposal—the droid army created by his puppets The Trade Federation and the clone army of the Republic.
Later on a faction within the Confederacy sought, through back channels, to open peace negotiations with the Republic. Palpatine, through Dooku, used a false flag terrorist attack (on the power system) to blame the Republic and thereby destroy any hopes for a negotiated settlement. Worse still, in true Confederacy fashion, Sidious then has Dooku ally with slave traders who were back in business amidst the chaos and lawlessness brought on by the ongoing war. Palpatine, by once again playing both sides, is even able to gain control of the banking clan.
The inter-connections to human traffickers, banking cartels, and criminal/terrorist organizations with state power starts to sound less like a galaxy far far away and more like the (not so) hidden hand in our own day.
Palplatine’s final coup is to reveal himself as a Sith Lord to Anakin Skywalker, inviting an attack from the Jedi Council, which plays right into his hands using that attack to justify Order 66 and the execution of the Jedi. His plan entirely hangs on whether he can pull the ultimate psychological operation and switch Anakin (“The Chosen One”) to the Dark Side as Darth Vader. Palpatine uses the threat of death to Padme, Anakin’s love, as a way to lure him in. The same Padme (Queen Amydala) that Palpatine tried to kill numerous times and used for his own political advancement.
Eventually that decision to turn Anakin will come back to haunt (literally) Palpatine, as Vader of course throws Palpatine to his death in order to save his son Luke. Luke, unlike his father, will not turn at the key moment. But at this point in the story, Anakin sides with Palpatine, prevents Palpatine’s death at the hands of Jedi Master Mace Windu, and becomes Vader.
Problem - reaction - solution.
Initiate a galactic civil war (problem), create chaos and through the chaos (reaction) call for a dictatorship to install peace (solution). Within the problem - reaction - solution framework, Palpatine employs a controlled dialectic by controlling both sides of the war, leading to the disintegration of both sides—The Republic and the Confederacy.
In a dialectic, there is often the call for a supposedly “neutral” third term that will subsume the failed qualities of both sides of the dialectic. Palpatine needed The Confederacy in order to highlight the weakness of The Republic to its own citizens (Problem and Reaction), leading them to call for the dissolution of their own Republic and the need for an empire (solution).
Palpatine strangely is the only character to cross all nine Star Wars films (the “nonology”). One of the key reasons I criticized the last 3 films (Episodes 7-9) is that they didn’t have a story to tell which is why they simply rebooted the original trilogy in spectacularly poor fashion.
The original trilogy has Luke as the central hero. But when the prequels (Episodes 1-3) were added it showed that it was Anakin who is the real center of the story. Anakin’s arc of bringing balance to The Force by having lived both the Right Hand (Jedi) and Left Hand (Sith) versions of The Force.
Once that balance was broken in Episode 7, there was no real thread to the movies. As mentioned, Palpatine is the only character to cross the entire arc of the nine films. Which makes Palpatine, weirdly, in a way the central character of the entire Star Wars films. It’s Palpatine’s plots—his plot to overthrow the Republic, create The Empire, and Sidious’ Final Order (Episodes 7-9) that are the connecting thread through all the films. It is Palpatine’s efforts that are the central thread with various rebellions always forming in response to Palpatine’s plans (not the other way around).
As flawed as that might be (and was) in terms of cinema and storytelling, there is something curious about Palpatine and his dominance of the field in the Star Wars Universe. Particularly since his agendas were thought out in intricate detail, emerged slowly and mostly in obscure ways over decades, and involved incredible orchestration. It’s a cautionary tale to take more seriously the reality of say a Network in a galaxy far far closer to home and our own time.
* The Clone Wars spinoff The Bad Batch also fills in some details. In addition, the film Rogue One which takes place during the initial phases of the rebellion covers some of this terrain, as does the just recently completed first season of Kenobi.