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American Ultra: An MK ULTRA Spectacular

Jay Dyer
21st Century Wire

Pothead Stoners, CIA mind control experiments, super soldiers and that chick from Twilight – it’s either the worst idea ever, or a pretty wild ride. 

I’m forced to say the latter on American Ultra, and it even warrants an analysis. Now, the MK ULTRA aspect is the most obvious, but beyond that, what is the purpose of such a film being made?

“Things don’t mean what you think they mean.” – Mike

Certainly the CIA are not portrayed in a purely positive light, but that is a trend we’ve seen since the 2003 propaganda recruitment film, The Recruit showed us how cute the Agency could be, despite the corruption.  Never forget – never forget 9/11, and never forget that after 9/11 and the recruitment ramp up, despite all the corruption, the gubmint will always weed out the “bad guys.”

So, while the film is almost really good, it seems the Pentagon-Hollywood Complex just plain can’t make a film that doesn’t allow its sherpas as heroes. By that I don’t mean Mike’s character, but the general attitude of the film that the system isn’t broken, it’s just a few bad apples.  American Ultra’s cynical attitude is welcomed and that is part of its redemption from total insanity, but enough of that Peter Travers style “review,” since here we do analysis.

Mike Howell (Jessie Eisenberg) is a stoner trapped in his hometown due to inexplicable panic attacks that occur when he tries to leave.  Planning a trip to Hawaii for his girlfriend Phoebe Larson (Kristen Stewart), he find himself unable to board the plane due to incessant vomiting. 

Mike’s outlet is his creative side, where he pens a homemade comic called The Adventures of Apollo Ape. Milling about his shit job at the Cash ‘N Carry corner gas station, Mike is busy rolling joints when CIA Agent Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) appears spouting strange phrases intended to be trigger words – MK ULTRA trigger words, in fact.

Mike, we learn, was part of an ongoing CIA program specifically identified as MK ULTRA continuing from the 50s into the present, with its latest sub-project involving the recruiting of convicts, psychotics and felons into a rehabilitation method where their memories are erased, new “programming” installed and new identities created.  Upon completing the program, the subjects are placed in new towns where their lives are controlled and monitored directly by handlers.

I have commented often on MK ULTRA in pop culture, and sought to separate fact from fiction in this much-discussed topic.  A few preliminary remarks should be made first before I propose my thesis on this film which is likely not what readers expect. I wrote:

The names associated with the programs are Dr. Ewen Cameron, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, Dr. Jose Delgado, Dr. Jolyon West, Dr. George Estabrooks, and others.  While this itself is easily tracked down in terms of the existence of the programs, what is lesser known are articles like Dr. George Estabrooks’ article from the April 1971 Science Digest, Hypnosis Comes of AgeIncluded in the article are some striking admissions, especially since the OSS, CIA and FBI utilized Estabrooks and his skills.   The article mentions, first of all, Estabrooks’ claim of the use of secret couriers and keywords that function as the triggers in the operative:

“Communication in war is always a headache.  Codes can be broken.  A professional spy may or may not stay bought.  Your own man may have unquestionable loyalty, but his judgment is always open to question.”

The “hypnotic courier,” on the other hand, provides a unique solution.  I was involved in preparing many subjects for this work during World War II.  One successful case involved an Army Service Corps Captain whom we’ll call George Smith.

Captain Smith had undergone months of training.  He was an excellent subject but did not realize it.  I had removed from him, by post-hypnotic suggestion, all recollection of ever having been hypnotized.

The Counter-culture – creation of the CIA itself. Reminiscent of Natural Born Killers.

First I had the Service Corps call the captain to Washington and tell him they needed a report of the mechanical equipment of Division X headquartered in Tokyo.  Smith was ordered to leave by jet next morning, pick up the report and return at once.  Consciously, that was all he knew, and it was the story he gave to his wife and friends.

Then I put him under deep hypnosis, and gave him — orally — a vital message to be delivered directly on his arrival in Japan to a certain colonel — let’s say his name was Brown — of military intelligence.  Outside of myself, Colonel Brown was the only person who could hypnotize Captain Smith.  This is “locking.”  I performed it by saying to the hypnotized Captain:  “Until further orders from me, only Colonel Brown and I can hypnotize you.  We will use a signal phrase ‘the moon is clear.’  Whenever you hear this phrase from Brown or myself you will pass instantly into deep hypnosis.”  When Captain Smith re-awakened, he had no conscious memory or what happened in trance.  All that he was aware of was that he must head for Tokyo to pick up a division report.

On arrival there, Smith reported to Brown, who hypnotized him with the signal phrase.  Under hypnosis, Smith delivered my message and received one to bring back.  Awakened, he was given the division report and returned home by jet.  There I hypnotized him once more with the signal phrase, and he spilled off Brown’s answer that had been dutifully tucked away in his unconscious mind.

The system is virtually foolproof.  As exemplified by this case, the information was “locked” in Smith’s unconscious for retrieval by the only two people who knew the combination.  The subject had no conscious memory of what happened, so could not spill the beans.  No one else could hypnotize him even if they might know the signal phrase.” And:

The connection to MK ULTRA arises in relation to experiments with jc manipulation which I have already highlighted in regard to Dr. Michael Aquino and his infamous essay, “From PSYOP to MindWar: The Psychology of Victory, where the combination of ELF/VLF and various RF manipulation is discussed in detail towards the end.  A Nexus Magazine article “Techniques Used by Governments for Mind Control,” by Sid Taylor outlines the RF experimentation in the MK programs:


This was Dr. Cameron’s ongoing “attempts to establish lasting effects in a patient’s behaviour” using a combination of particularly intensive electroshock, intensive repetition of prearranged verbal signals, partial sensory isolation, and repression of the driving period carried out by inducing continuous sleep for seven to ten days at the end of the treatment period. During research on sensor deprivation, Cameron experimented with the use of Curare, (the deadly poison used by South American Indians to tip their arrow heads), to immobilise his patients.

After one test he noted: “Although the patient was prepared by both prolonged sensory isolation (35 days) and by repeated depatterning, and although she received 101 days of positive driving, no favourable results were obtained.” Patients were regularly treated with hallucinogenic drugs, long periods in the “sleep room”, and testing in the Radio Telemetry Laboratory that was built by Rubinstein under Dr. Cameron’s direction. Here, patients were exposed to a range of RF and electromagnetic signals and monitored for changes in behaviour. It was later stated by other staff members who had worked at the Institute that not one patient sent to the Radio Telemetry Lab showed any signs of improvement afterwards.”

Unknown factoid: Monkeys actually wrote this script.

In my opinion, all of this scant information that we do know is accurate, but what isn’t accurate is the notion the intelligence establishment is using mind controlled patsies everywhere, such as in mass shootings – but more on that at the conclusion.  The intertextual symbolism should be considered.  Firstly, the ape and monkey references are curious.  When we learn Mike is part of a secret assassin program and has been slated for execution, numerous references to monkeys are made.  Mike’s comic, Apollo Ape, and the staged bio-outbreak in their town of Liman, West Virginia.  In my estimation, the monkey themes have a double significance – both to the staged Ebola events of some months ago and the use of monkeys in various governmental experiments, ranging from radiation to television flicker rates to LSD (as shown in the ridiculous Matthew Broderick film Project X.  In other words, the human population is treated as lab monkeys, and in particular the subjects of the various mind control projects of the intelligence apparatus.

As all hell breaks loose, Mike begins to experience flashbacks from his LSD use, after being gassed and discovering his babe Phoebe was actually his handler.  Mike’s world is a completely concocted fiction, and the stylistic flashback scene does recall an intense LSD recollection, where he undergoes a kind of death and rebirth. 

I have highlighted this motif in other spy films and stories, most notably 007, where Bond continually seems to experience a death and rebirth signifying the alchemical alteration in his psyche, a katabasis and the double life of a spy (the old persona dies, and the cover identity comes to life).  Mike thus experiences the same.  It is also worth noting that Phoebe in mythology is the grandmother of Apollo, suggesting that all along Phoebe was Apollo’s (Mike) superior.

American ULTRA promo poster.

The big revelation of the method revelation is thus not the 50-year-old thesis the CIA could program a person with an alternate persona as a courier or possible assassin.

The revelation that is most pertinent in American Ultra is the complete panopticism of the surveillance state and the intelligence apparatchiks, and underneath this bureaucrat class is the generation of the sons and daughters of the baby-boomers and coming millennials, the future generations which are all Mikes and Phoebes.  In other words Mike is every Amerikan kid, subject to the mass projection of mind control and MK ULTRA programming projected, not onto some secret assassin, but the public at large through the coopting and management of the drug counter-culture scene.  The real split in the psyche inducing double mind and schizophrenia is not happening with sexy assassin in the Caucasus region, but in the mass consciousness of the monkey lab test tube known as the United Simian States:

That “schizophrenia” he speaks of is what has been achieved in our day.  Schizophrenia is the dividing and fragmenting of the psyche into disconnected, meaningless “parts,” which have no relation to anything or anyone else.  It is the ultimate atomization and alienation, resulting in an arrested development blob of masses that are unable to even reason about what is in their own best interest.  Modernity’s nihilistic suicide pact is something that is not mere happenstance: it has been engineered on purpose by our so-called “elite,” as Irvin shows. Aldous Huxley famously said:

“But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.  Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience.”

See my lecture on John Mark’s book on MK ULTRA here:

21WIRE contributor and author Jay Dyer is commentator on media, art, philosophy and culture. This article and many others, along with Jay’s podcast archive can be found on his blog Jay’s Analysis.

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