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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

From "A Man Harassed with Sound" to "Philly Coverup"

Someone handed me a flier about this a couple weeks ago:

It may be that she was fired for political reasons, but the rest seems like pure paranoia. Chances are she just had the misfortune that someone who held a grudge was looking on, unbeknownst to her, when she volunteered for the "wrong" candidate, and decided to tell her boss. It's not likely that a conspiracy was stalking her.

This kind of delusion is apparently shared by many, however. A couple years ago someone rose to speak about it during the Q&A portion of the local ACLU annual meeting. He called it "gangstalking" and a Web search revealed there are thousands of sites concerned with it (though many are just reproductions of the same article). None of them seem to provide any solid evidence, however. Indeed, some will claim that the gangstalkers intentionally avoid leaving any hard evidence of their actions, just so other people will think you're crazy!

Many, though not all, of these people seem to have a world-view suggestive of the "kook right." I asked the publisher of The Skeptic's Dictionary if he knew anything about it, but he'd never heard of "gangstalking" and noted the improbability of such an apparently huge conspiracy so successfully hiding itself from the public at large.

The paranoia of the speaker from the floor at the ACLU meeting was suggested by the fact that in the course of his remarks, he asked those running the meeting to get a certain man standing near him to "stop touching me." Note that the publisher of the above site also complains of strange women touching her on public transit, as if it were part of a conspiracy to make her crazy.

This is reminiscent of ads I used to see in the Daily Pennsylvanian back in the Eighties. They would ask if anyone knew about "a man harassed with sound," evidently referring to the ads' author. He claimed that various noises were being produced near his home for the purpose of disturbing him, intentionally leaving no hard evidence so others wouldn't believe him. Now that the Web exists, it's easy for paranoiacs like him to find one another and reinforce each other's delusions.

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