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Recognizing and Avoiding Mind Control   (Doug K., February 2010)

Propaganda, the most powerful real life method of mind control, is a technique of using information to control people's thoughts and actions. Few people are able to fully recognize it, even fewer are fully aware of how it works. One reason so many people remain ignorant about propaganda is because it has become so omnipresent that it doesn't attract attention.

Like your heartbeat, you should be able to feel it every waking moment without using your hand, but most people simply don't pay attention as long as their heart is beating normally. Same thing with propaganda, as long as nothing seems out of the ordinary nobody is motivated to give thought or attention to what's really going on. Because they're not paying attention before something changes, few people are ever able to realize what's happening when the source of change is outside themselves.

Some elements of propaganda have likely been around longer than civilization. Modern propaganda techniques were first developed about four generations ago and have been continually refined ever since. The most significant improvements of effectiveness were developed between one and two generations ago. Incorporating psychology is what distinguishes modern propaganda, the goal of which is manipulating people without them becoming aware that they're being manipulated.

Edward Bernays (1891-1995), more than anybody else, pioneered the use and development of modern propaganda. What Bernays started has had far more influence over our lives than Edison's light bulb. Most people today believe Edison invented the light bulb because of Bernays . Behind his many ostensible accomplishments, including a corporate takeover of a foreign government, Bernays discovered how to influence the subconscious mind. There's no magic power required to do this. Directly influencing people on a subconscious level only involves recognizing how people truly function, and cognizance of the limits of influence.

Most people don't make decisions by thinking, they decide by feeling. Everybody does this, without exception. Almost everyone will claim they do think to decide but, just like awareness of their heartbeat, they're really not paying attention to what's actually happening. Thinking occurs after the decision is made. A few rare individuals have trained themselves to automatically question the feelings behind every decision and impulse. In everybody else thinking is used to justify or rationalize whatever decision they've already made. Appealing directly to the subconscious mind requires focusing on feeling. If any message to influence motivates either unthinking decision or reaction, it's right on target.

The primary limitation of propaganda is that it is most effective at exaggerating predisposition and exacerbating prejudice. This is not as much of a limitation as it sounds, but propaganda ignoring this will be ineffective. It's also no accident that individualism has long been promoted as an ideal. People are easier to manipulate when they act and think of themselves as individuals, instead of when associating their identity with group membership.

We all have similar basic human needs. This fact suggests group, but those needs are not totally identical. We are all both individuals and group members, but even within a group many people will think and act as individuals. Does a person contribute, or do they primarily use the group for their own purposes? The difference reveals what values that person truly holds.

Individual mind set is promoted by exaggerating minor differences with limited or false choices. Limited choice is seen with most outdoor lighting, which is actually designed to make it harder to see for the purpose of motivating demand for ever more outdoor lighting. Options which do not intentionally impair vision are not readily available or ridiculously over priced to discourage use. Fast food hamburgers, no matter who offers them, are for all practical purposes identical.

Choosing between options with no significant difference is an example of false choice. Once an individual mindset has been established, implanting messages to control that mind is simply a matter of appealing emotionally to that person's sense of self. An example can be seen with shoes. People will readily accept a shoe that supports their self image, and reject a shoe that doesn't fit their style, but they will all buy shoes because of need.

So far this seems innocent, but not all needs are physical like food and shoes. Everybody has psychological needs too, most typically acknowledgement and assurance. Problems occur when propaganda is designed to manipulate people through these needs. If propaganda has emotional appeal that feels good, and the decision to accept it wasn't questioned before acceptance, thinking to rationalize or justify the propaganda occurs, especially if the propagandist provides such supporting arguments.

The result is the propaganda may become "set in stone" because it often feels like the implanted thoughts were the manipulated person's idea all along. Many people mistakenly believe that observing others being manipulated by propaganda, that they themselves are not influenced by, demonstrates some immunity to psychological manipulation. More often than not this is simply a case of the propaganda not "fitting the style" of the person who wasn't influenced by it. When propaganda feels "right" people are often blind to being manipulated themselves, and they'll often mistakenly recognize others manipulated by the same propaganda as assurance supporting the implanted views. This can make people rigidly closed minded toward any ideas or needs which may conflict with what they consider their own. Worse still is the tendency of people under the influence of propaganda to be manipulated into acting against their own interests.

If a propaganda hits a sufficient number of emotional "hot buttons", and becomes effectively "set in stone", most people will then agree to something that they otherwise would not have agreed to. Real life everyday problems caused by propaganda are big and widespread. Yes, we have other ostensibly bigger problems that need to be solved, but it is the effects of propaganda that keep us divided. As long as propaganda encourages people to think and act as individuals, it prevents us from coming together to solve any problems. Because of the way everybody is "hardwired", nobody is immune to the influence of propaganda which is directed at their self perception.

We can do better as a community, and a nation, but we have to start by limiting the influence of propaganda on ourselves. We need to learn recognize propaganda. This is easier to do by observing how others, with a self image different from our own, are influenced by propaganda. We need to be constantly aware of that brief moment of feeling between absorbing information and thinking about it. Doing this takes effort, but the only alternative is to continue being unwittingly manipulated and used for someone else's benefit.

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