No, this is not a post about Donald Trump. We note with interest this article about paranoid people who think they’re being stalked (or having their brains scanned, etc.; boldface mine):
Nobody believed him. His family told him to get help. But Timothy Trespas, an out-of-work recording engineer in his early 40s, was sure he was being stalked, and not by just one person, but dozens of them.
He would see the operatives, he said, disguised as ordinary people, lurking around his Midtown Manhattan neighborhood. Sometimes they bumped into him and whispered nonsense into his ear, he said.
“Now you see how it works,” they would say.
At first, Mr. Trespas wondered if it was all in his head. Then he encountered a large community of like-minded people on the internet who call themselves “targeted individuals,” or T.I.s, who described going through precisely the same thing.
The group was organized around the conviction that its members are victims of a sprawling conspiracy to harass thousands of everyday Americans with mind-control weapons and armies of so-called gang stalkers. The goal, as one gang-stalking website put it, is “to destroy every aspect of a targeted individual’s life.”
When I started reading this, I thought of alien abduction–and I’m not the only one:
Susan Clancy, a Harvard-trained psychologist who has researched people who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens, said it could be extremely difficult to dissuade patients who have latched onto beliefs that they think explain their delusions.
“I think it’s a need for meaning and a need to understand your life and the problems you’re having,” she said. “You’re not some meaningless nobody. You’re being followed by the C.I.A.”
In that way, Dr. Clancy said, the behavior shares a trait with religious belief: To abandon it would be life upending.
What these ‘theories’ require is an explanation that is refractory to evidence. Alien abduction really ceased to be part of the culture (admittedly, a surreal part, but a part, nonetheless) once cell phones that could take pictures and videos (along with small video cameras) became commonplace. It’s too easy for someone to discount or disprove your tale. But a sprawling conspiracy is hard to disprove, so it seems to have become the new alien abduction.