Friday, September 02, 2005

Mind control and brainwashing

The Skeptic's Dictionary on mind control and brainwashing:

"The techniques available to manipulate the vulnerable are legion. One technique is to give them the love they feel they do not get elsewhere. Convince them that through you and your community they can find what they're looking for, even if they haven't got a clue that they're looking for anything. Convince them that they need faith in you and that you have faith in them. Convince them that their friends and family outside the group are hindrances to their salvation. Isolate them. Only you can give them what they need. You love them. You alone love them. You would die for them. So why wouldn't they die for you? But, love alone can only get you so far in winning them over. Fear is a great motivator. Fear that if they leave they'll be destroyed. Fear that if they don't cooperate they'll be condemned. Fear that they can't make it in this miserable world alone. The manipulator must make the recruit paranoid.

Love and fear may not be enough, however; so guilt must be used, too. Fill them with so much guilt that they will want to police their own thoughts. Remind them that they are nothing alone, but with you and God (or some Power or Technique) they are Everything. Fill them with contempt for themselves, so that they will want to be egoless, selfless, One with You and Yours. You not only strip them of any sense of self, you convince them that the ideal is be without a self. Keep up the pressure. Be relentless. Humiliate them from time to time. Soon they will consider it their duty to humiliate themselves. Control what they read, hear, see. Repeat the messages for eyes and ears. Gradually get them to make commitments, small ones at first, then work your way up until you own their property, their bodies, their souls. And don't forget to give them drugs, starve them, or have them meditate or dance or chant for hours at a time until they think they've had some sort of mystical experience. Make them think, "It was you, Lord, who made me feel so good." They won't want to give it up. They have never felt so good. Though they look as if they are in Hell to those of us on the outside, from the inside it looks like Heaven.

What religion doesn't use guilt and fear to get people to police their own thoughts? Even some therapists use similar methods to control their patients. They prey on the vulnerable. They demand total loyalty and trust as a price for hope and healing. They often isolate their prey from loved ones and friends. They try to own and control their clients. The methods of recruiters are not much different. Are the recruits, the converts to the faith, and the patients willing victims? How would we tell the difference between a willing victim and an unwilling victim? If we cannot do that, then we can't distinguish any true cases of mind control."

However, as they point out later, free will is an iffy thing.

When does relentless persuasion turn into subtle coercion? When can someone be said to be manipulated by another? If someone cheerfully does something of his own volition, how can we say that he is being brainwashed? Is advertising a form of mind control?

These are not easy questions to answer, for free will is one of those things, like consciousness, that we are still trying to unravel.

Nonetheless, being told to and made to dwell constantly on what one has done wrong instead of what one has done right, being held to an impossible standard which one is still supposed to aspire to, being given contradictory suggestions, being told to have faith even when said faith may be unjustified, and above all being told still that one is loved despite the lack of objective expressions of this love is surely suspect.

A future post on the signs of an abusive relationship will deal with some of this issues at greater length.

Seen as someone's MSN status message: "I am a hypocrite. I am selfish. I am evil. I am a liar. I am stubborn. I dishonour you. GOD!!! Why do you still love me???"


Post a Comment

<< Home