Manipulation of thought and behavior is a part of our accepted daily lives. Each time we lock eyes on a news story, whether on the tube, the screen, the tablet or the old fashioned way, via a newspaper, we are buying into a perspective that may or may not be our own.
We read stuff, and readily accept it as reality, often without ever bothering to source the information or take the time to perform due diligence and research the subject more deeply.
We then pass on some of that information
to others, and the viral effect can now, with
the Internet and cell phones,
travel on a global scale in a matter of minutes.
News media, advertising… and now,
The stories that bombard us on television, radio and even social networking often tend to be depressing, fearful and anxiety provoking… and they spread like wildfire. But we all know that good things happen in the world.
Why then does the media love to focus on
the blood, gore and violence? Because we respond to it, that's
And much of that news involved FEAR...
Predators, lack of food and water, bad weather, other nasty humans… our primitive brain responds to bad news because at one time we needed to know it all.
Who cared about the good stuff when
there was a chance of death around every corner?
Hoffman calls this the Double-Mind of mass media, and we are all guilty of buying out of, and right back into, each of the two minds… the one that repels and the one that accepts.
The use of images to alter our emotions is an age-old way of manipulating behavioral responses, and the media excels at imagery that shocks us, terrifies us, and titillates us.
Many of the news 'outlets' people are getting their news on are satire sites, or blog sites, or websites that allow anyone to post a story without having to prove their points or source their material.
It's become standard business to spread
and take viral the most shoddy reporting, which would never hold up
to journalism standards of old, even without bothering to find out
who funded the story, who owns the website it first appeared on, the
source of the information, and whether or not any other news source
has reported on it.
Who has time to find out if it's true or
not? Besides, if you see it in the media then it 'must' be true,
By then, it's often too late, as the populace has already accepted the information as valid and real.
Even when later presented with facts, it
rarely changes the minds of those already entrenched in the
falsities, especially if those falsities support their ideologies
We would rather spend our time and
energy on these distractions than have to face our own truths.
700,000 unwitting users were basically utilized as guinea pigs in a gigantic social experiment that allowed Facebook to manipulate emotions and emotional responses, without telling anyone it was doing so.
Facebook data scientists set out to see if they could influence the emotional state of site users and prompt them to post more positive or more negative content.
Using an algorithm that automatically omitted certain content that was either positive or negative, Facebook researchers manipulated users for one week, later publishing their data in the March issue (Game-Powered Machine Learning - PNAS 2012 109 (17) 6411-6416; published ahead of print March 28, 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1014748109) of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
But once the secret experiment got out, people screamed about the blatant invasion of privacy and manipulative, deceitful tactics of the experiment, even causing some of the scientists behind the study to apologize for their less than ethical methodology.
Privacy lawyers and organizations came
forward, admonishing Facebook for violating the rights of the users,
who were never told about the research.
Users just didn't know they were being manipulated until this particular study got attention. The forces behind Facebook understood how easy it was to influence the emotions of users with very little work, and all of it under the radar of the users.
Subconsciously, these users were being swayed, even if they weren't consciously aware of anything different on the site during the week of the study.
Also known as 'social engineering', this tactic of politics, religion and corporate consumerism, even education and academia, involves literally engineering the behavior, attitudes and desires of large groups of people.
Real social engineering is done using
specific scientific methods of analysis and decision-making, often
for more academic purposes. But social programming goes on every day
in ways that are not necessarily meant for the greater understanding
One of the pioneers of public propaganda, known as the 'father of public relations', was an Austrian-American nephew of Sigmund Freud, Edward Bernays.
Even though he had a degree in agriculture, he was fascinated by the use of propaganda during wartime, and wondered if the same rules and methods could be applied in peacetime as well.
He dove headfirst into the world of psychology and public relations, linking the two to design his own concepts of public persuasion and what he called,
He used a lot of his famous uncle's theories in his quest to shift public perception and promote specific behaviors, including his own desire to help out big business by treating the mass distribution of ideas the same way a company would treat the mass production of materials.
His 1928 book
Propaganda remains a highly
influential examination of his work documenting the relationship
between what he called an "invisible government, the true ruling
power of the country" and the public that was ruled over, something
Bernays saw as necessary to keep order over the chaotic masses.
All are insidious and are motivated by
the desire to reach, and in some way control the largest
Think of a piece of art that may be very straightforward, at least on the surface, yet changes in the eye of the beholder when surrounded by an ornate frame, opposed to a plain plastic one.
The media and politicians use framing as
a way of getting people to accept a specific party line of thought
surrounding a news story or issue.
Framing can make an extreme concept less
intolerable, and a tolerable concept more extreme, depending on how
it is used.
Look at the whole 'us vs. them' media assault with stories of 'those blacks' or 'immigrants' or 'feminists' or 'the dirty poor' or 'the lazy homeless' or 'those terrorist Muslims' and it's easy to see how countries can be prodded into accepting violence, aggression, intolerance, bigotry, sexism and even war.
By making someone else the threat, the
enemy, the reason behind our problems and the thing to be feared, we
can shrug off our own responsibilities and dysfunctions and blame
the 'other guy'.
By mentioning 'scientific studies' or some vague 'ten doctors out of eleven', an advertiser or news agency can get plenty of people to blindly accept that a new product is worthy of their hard earned dollars, or that such-and-such doesn't really cause cancer.
Giving credit to science, even when it's
false credit, carries a ton of weight with consumers and news
audiences, who are too busy and distracted to actually go and
research the claims themselves to see if they hold water.
It's that second thought that is so critical, but it doesn't happen often, leaving us reeling, wondering how we got collectively duped again and again.
Some of the methods of distraction used by corporations, advertisers, news outlets, politicians and others include:
Words such as 'eat popcorn' and 'drink Coke' were inserted into the frames of a movie, just for a single frame and therefore not even long enough to register consciously, and resulted in an increase of sales afterwards.
Those results were later called a hoax, but the concept stood strong and the age of subliminals was born, with all kinds of studies, including one at Harvard in 1999 looking at the power of flashing words and images over the subconscious, often with intriguing results.
The answer was a definitive yes, and controversial, subliminal imagery has been used in product advertising, politics and even in motion pictures and television shows.
One of the most interesting uses of subliminal imagery occurred in the movie The Exorcist, where an image of a white-faced demon named Captain Howdy flashes on the screen now and then, despite author William Peter Blatty's outrage against the use of the image in his film.
Another involved the 1943 animated Warner Bros. movie Wise Quacking Duck where Daffy Duck spins a shield.
On one frame the words "Buy Bonds"
appear on the shield. In one of the most blatant attempts at
corporate advertising, an episode of "Parks and Recreation" titled
"Community" contained a scene with a Microsoft logo and stickers.
Microsoft just so happened to
sponsor that particular episode to promote its new Bing search site.
An actual United States Patent, 6,506,148, submitted in January of 2003, titled "Nervous System Manipulation by Electromagnetic Fields from Monitors," documents the highly detailed technology available by which, as the Abstract reads,
In other words, the manipulation is no longer just done via a single frame here and there, but by actual modulation of the feed or signal and coming right at you via your home computer, cell phone, or television set… even your DVD player.
And the manipulation occurs at a remote source.
By using constant violence, whether on the news or in entertainment shows, and by exposing certain themes of misogyny, racism, and subjugation, eventually the viewing audience comes to accept it all as normal.
Desensitization is a powerful way to get someone to go along to get along, even if it means going along to his or her own death and destruction.
Break down the inhibitions, expose the
brain to constant images that would otherwise be repellant, and
hammer the spirit with darkness and death and fear… and you have the
perfect consumer, the perfect citizen, numbed to choices and
Jacobson explains how this process
serves to allow the patient, or in this case, the public, to adapt
to situations and ideas that once terrified them, if they are
exposed to them enough.
Ultimately, we can control what we look at and listen to.
We can find better outlets for getting
information, maybe even use our own discernment and source the
material that is presented to us as fact. Our minds can only be
controlled to the extent that we remain numb, unaware and