ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) — A massive expansion of an online community battling what they call “gang-stalking” has occurred in recent years, with the spread of thousands of websites, videos and organized events for followers of the movement. Those who believe “gang stalkers” exist publicly and brazenly express their concerns that there is a systematic form of electronic and physical pursuit of “targeted individuals” being conducted by government and corporate entities.
Videos show purported victims of “gang-stalking” physically approaching and filming U.S. Postal Service employees, electrical company technicians, and people simply walking down the street to implore them to stop gang-stalking them. One viral video poster repeatedly shouts that she “has done nothing wrong,” and that the seemingly dumbfounded “gang-stalkers” should “stop following” her.
Gang-stalking bloggers utilize thousands of likes, shares and video posts describing gang-stalking as “a highly criminal campaign, one directed at a Target Individual, and one that aims to destroy an innocent persons life through covert harassments, malicious slander and carefully crafted and executed psychological attacks.”
By nature of their fears, gang-stalking victims and those in the organized stalking online community are difficult to contact in a face-to-face meeting or via means not behind a computer screen.
The list of terms used to describe “gang-stalking” and the concepts that surround it are numerous and frequent, with comment sections to stories remaining one of the largest hotbeds of such discussion:
The varied vocabulary includes: “Targeted Individual or TI, Electronic Stalking and Mind Control (ESMC), gang stalking, multi-stalking or multiple stalking, organized stalking, revenge stalking, vigilante stalking, group stalking, baiting, brighting, gaslighting (named for the movie ‘Gaslight’), Orwellian surveillance (“1984”) handler, misconduct, noise campaigns, psychotronics, street theater, and swarming.”
Freedom from Covert Harassment and Surveillance, an online organization that ensures other gang-stalking victims that they are “not alone,” describes the gang-stalkers themselves as “perpetrators.”
One website, “Gang Stalking World,” describes people’s “adventures with gang stalking,” with the bloggers adding, “I really didn’t choose this adventure, it chose me about six years or so ago.”
Last year’s National Security Agency leaks from Edward Snowden sparked hundreds of gang-stalking bloggers and websites, touting their accuracy and knowledge of the pervasive government spying all along.
Many websites declare that the Affordable Care Act is among many “lists” being formulated to track targets without their knowledge. “Whistleblowers” and the “outspoken” are among the most targeted characteristics.
“This is used as a means of retaliation, blacklisting, silencing, or controlling members of society. Once on the notification system, warnings about the targets are sent out to every individual the target comes in contact with, thus poisoning their associations, and socially annexing the targeted individual,” according to Gang Stalking World.
East Germany’s Stasi, the Soviet Union’s KGB, and the Nazi’s are commonly referenced as having used these “zersetzung” – German for “decomposition” or “corrosion” tactics to psychologically tear down victims.
In the majority of gang-stalking related media circulating online, at least one large body of government or corporate individuals is accused of targeting and attempting to control the lives of the alleged gang-stalking victims.
“This harassment includes electronic mind/body attacks, street harassment skits, destruction of family and other relationships and destruction of careers,” writes one blogger.
Most descriptions of gang-stalking claim that people are not only physically following them, but also that there are “psycho-electronic” mind control tactics being used.
A 2012 KMIR News report found a group of men who all believed that “corrupt business officials” and “rogue government officials” were sponsoring “synthetic telepathy” and other forms of “electronic harassment” that allowed them voice-to-skull manipulation of the men’s minds.
“How much more can you invade me, than to go into my brain,” Cathedral City resident, Randall Ringger, told KMIR-TV. “It sounds like somebody else is reading the book, except it’s thoughts,” said Palms resident, Kevin Bond.
“We’re not having a group hallucination, this is actually something that is happening,” said Palm Springs resident, Bob Stansfield.
“I started hearing as you’ll hear, hearing voices and what they’ll call voice to skull or microwave hearing,” said Bond, who said he’d found more than 300 people in the local community who had experienced similar electronic harassment.
Benjamin Simon’s Yahoo! Blog post describes his own run-ins with gang-stalkers: “Breaking in and vandalizing your home; Knowing you and your family’s schedule; Placing wiretaps/hidden cameras in your home. They usually have ties to, are protected by, or go easily undetected by any government branch (police, psychiatric hospitals…essentially any organization that’s supposed to help you). They are well organized, and seem to have unending resources (I’ve been followed at/around concerts, events, freelance job positions, many of which I found out about last minute). If you’re being harassed, forget about turning to higher authority to help you- they are usually the ones hurting you.”
Experts have noted a range of paranoid persons who deliberately fake accusations of stalking – someone who enjoys power through manipulation “mobilizing” others around their own lies, specifically to “reinforce a notion of himself as an oppressed victim” by concocting bizarre narratives.
A 2004 UK and Netherlands study estimated that 11.5 percent stalking claims were false, and that 70 percent of false stalking reports were made by people suffering from psychological delusions.
But there are those who truly believe they are being stalked, with such delusions often stemming from past situations where the person did feel targeted or mistreated and has learned to be constantly on the defensive.
“Tendency towards paranoia often originates from a place in which the person had to be hyper-vigilant to protect himself, whether physical or emotionally,” notes clinical social worker Laura Miller, adding that “there is generally a grain of truth at the base of even the wildest delusions.”
The ongoing NSA revelations have given nuggets of truth for wide-ranging theories across the online gang-stalking community.
Miller notes that on the “extreme end” of some of these communities, some sites “do more to sever ties between these people from reality and the grounding relationships in their lives and may serve as a poor substitute to real relating interpersonally.”
“The social isolation that results serves to insulate that person in a cocoon in which others can’t hurt him because he is on the defensive constantly,” explains Miller. “But he also pushes others away with his behavior in such a way that he is often left ostracized and lonely. The cruel irony that the very person who believes so many people are employed full-time to watch his every move is more and more alone as the delusion grows is deeply sad and potentially not unrelated.”
Gang-stalking is far from just an American concept.
In a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, Pathe Mullen and Purcell compared twelve individuals who falsely claimed to be victims of stalking to 100 actual stalking victims.
The study found that false victims “consumed more medical services” than genuine stalking victims, and were “more likely to be embroiled in legal action” as well as reporting their alleged harassment to authorities faster and more frequently than actual stalking victims. Conspiracy theorists frequently describe the use of “psychotronic weapons” among the many mind control techniques.
Psychiatrists and psychologists have at least partially blamed the internet itself for such theories, citing an “extreme community” that encourages delusional thinking – that people in red and white cars are watching them, individuals lurking by their bedside as they sleep, and seemingly complete strangers are actually snickering at them in public, The New York Times describes.
Although the internet has helped many afflicted with mental health problems, psychiatrists suggest a “dark side of social networking,” where the mentally ill can have delusional theories reinforced.
“The views of these belief systems are like a shark that has to be constantly fed,” Dr. Hoffman told The New York Times. “If you don’t feed the delusion, sooner or later it will die out or diminish on its own accord. The key thing is that it needs to be repetitively reinforced.”
Hoffman added that many of his research subjects have mentioned that they have visited mind-control sites that have confirmed their own paranoid suspicions.