Humans are easily influenced. Humans are extremely suggestible. Humans are easily manipulated. Humans are very controllable. All Humans. Throughout history. Regardless of sex, age, race, nationality, and education level. You dear reader are human, as am I. Thus we are also easily controlled. Not a pleasant realization is it? I would guess for many there is a level of denial. “I know some people are easily manipulated but not me! I’m not easily influenced”. Okay… well for safety sake please assume you are easily controlled. Think about the ramifications of that potential reality. What does that mean at a practical level? How does that play out on a day in day out basis?
Let me give some proof of this Truth, that humans are easily manipulated.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.”
– From Propaganda, by Edward Bernays
These are the first two paragraphs from this famous book, written almost 100 years ago. A book which I have read and would highly recommend. Written when radio was still in its infancy. Meaning this manipulation Bernays is writing about was done primarily through text; newspapers and magazines. Which have since been overshadowed by much more powerful and effective tools of control. Radio, Television, Computer, and VR (virtual reality).
Bernays is considered the father of propaganda. His uncle was Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. In his book Propaganda he gives a real-life example of how to create demand for a product, in this case Pianos, without ever mentioning the product. Which really is profound and disturbing. Because if one can create demand for a product without mentioning it, then one can create demand for an idea, or ideology using the same techniques. But let’s get back to the more easy-to-grasp concept of creating demand for a product.
In the USA alone $218 Billion dollars was spent on Advertising in 2018. I think that bears repeating. $218 BILLION dollars was spent for advertising in the USA in 2018. Which is roughly 1/3 of all Total Advertising dollars spent in the world in 2018. So the USA with 4-5% of the world’s population has 33% of all advertising dollars spent. Do you think $218 Billion dollars was spent because advertising does not work? What is the purpose of advertising? To influence people to buy products. If people were not easily influenced then $218 Billion dollars would not have been spent on advertising in the USA. I could go through your house with you and demonstrate all the products you own because of advertising.
We Are Not Immune
Most people like to think they are impervious or immune to advertising and they think of examples: A single male thinks “that Minivan commercial has no effect on me!”. Of course not, it was not directed at males. It was directed to married females. Most advertising today is created and targeted to very specific groups. Back to the male immune to minivan advertisements…Of course, he forgets about the sports car ads he’s seen that influenced the sports car sitting in his driveway. The ad(s) used sex appeal; women will be attracted to men driving that XYZ sports car! And guess what it worked! He bought the car…, well he went into $40,000 of debt. Found the love of his life or at least one who loved sports cars, and seven years later he’s driving his two daughters in the Minivan he had no desire for but that his wife demanded! But advertising doesn’t influence him. But apparently, it works well on his wife!
It’s good to laugh. Literally, it is good for us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But this is serious. And thus why I identify this as the most important Truth. Humans are easily manipulated. We live in a culture where we are constantly bombarded with manipulative stimuli! Constantly. Television, Internet, Radio, Billboards. That $218 Billion dollars goes everywhere! But that’s just for purchasing products and services.
In the early 1900s, Bernays was using newspapers and magazines to shape public opinion. But today the most effective tool is the screen, which is orders of magnitude more powerful and effective than print. Whether it be at the cinema, the television in the living room, the PC in your office, or your Smartphone. The light emitting screen in and of itself is a hypnotic device. The flickering screen quickly changes the brainwave state of the watcher. It plays on our orienting response, which is basically humans’ survival instinct. “Is that sudden movement a threat?” The flickering screen activates the beta brainwave, reduces the alpha and almost completely stops the gamma brainwaves. What this means practically is that the flickering screens puts people into a receive-only mode, turning off our critical thinking skills (gamma brainwaves). In effect, we are put into a partial hypnotic state. Don’t believe me? Then watch someone’s eyes who is watching a screen. You decide what mental(brain) state they are in.
Note: Even though the screen is a much more effective tool of manipulation than print. Print is still an important tool. Do not underestimate it’s power. To rank in order of effectiveness;
- Computer/Internet (which really is a combination of the first 3)
- VR Headset (with the headset on there are no extraneous distractions)
Okay, so I’m gonna do some simple math here. Not Common Core nonsense math. Humans are easily manipulated + the flickering screen puts humans into a semi-hypnotic state + humans are looking at screens regularly or constantly. Television, smartphone, computer screen, back to smartphone, television… round and round most people go. So if we add these three together we get; humans in modern societies our constantly being manipulated by the media delivered through the flickering screen.
Just to be clear: This constant state of manipulation is not only about advertising. That is only 1/3 of the story. Using the formula that a typical television show has roughly 1 minute of advertising for every 2 minutes of programming. The primary manipulation is through the show itself. The drama, the news, the comedy. These programs are shaping what is and is not. What is cool. What is smart. What is important. What is funny. What is correct. What is truth. What is misinformation.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses…”
This is the first sentence from Bernay’s book Propaganda referenced above. So person(s) are knowingly and with forethought using the media to manipulate our habits (what we do) and our opinions (what we think). That is exactly what is happening.
Manipulation and Control
The primary purpose of the media is not to entertain us, to inform us, or to educate us. The primary purpose of the media is to manipulate and control us. And it is extremely effective in doing so!
This constant state of manipulation became a science in the late 1800s. This science has a name, I’m sure you have heard of it. You can get a degree in it. Psychology. The application of psychology to shape public opinion is called propaganda. But this science of manipulation has all these powerful tools now. Radio, Television, Smartphones, Computers, and VR headsets. And this science includes the sophisticated use of images, sounds, and video to attract and addict the user. There is a whole catalog of known psychological techniques implemented to manipulate us. From the use of specific colors, sounds and unique musical notes, video techniques such as ‘spinning circles’ all coordinated and applied to create a specific emotional response from the user.
Okay, so now maybe some of you are starting to consider the possibility that I, “I” being you the reader, are a victim of this manipulation. It’s not a pleasant realization. Especially if you consider this over your whole life. So not only am I a victim of constant manipulation but have been for over…, in my case 50 years. I could make an argument that our lives have been stolen from us by this manipulation.
Still don’t think you have been manipulated? Oh, certainly others have. You can think of those you know who are easily influenced. But not you…
Who am I? Ever asked that question about yourself before? Who am I? I did. I dove into it. And quickly realized that was not the correct question to ask. The correct question was; Why am I? Why am I the way I am? Why do I believe what I believe? Why do I think what I think?
You are what you consume. What are you consuming? You are what you eat is a literal Truth. But the greater Truth is we are what we consume. What we put in our eyes, in our ears, in our minds shapes who we are. What are you putting in your mind? If you are a regular consumer of media then you are putting in propaganda designed to manipulate and control you.
Man, some of you are really resisting this reality. Maybe you are invulnerable to manipulation?
“You’ll find for example that the experienced hypnotist will tell one that the number of people, the percentage of people who can be hypnotized with the utmost facility (snaps), just like that. is about 20%, and about a corresponding number at the other end of the scale are very, very difficult or almost impossible to hypnotize. But in between lies a large mass of people who can with more or less difficulty be hypnotized, that they can gradually be if you work hard enough at it be got into the hypnotic state,…”
Ultimate Revolution by Aldous Huxley (a speech given at UC Berkeley)
Some people are very difficult to manipulate. But that does not mean you are invulnerable to influence. Especially if you consider that 80% of others around you are in a constant state of manipulation. And just to be safe you should assume you are not in the 20% who are difficult to hypnotize. For the record, I think this range is more like a bell curve. One end is frighteningly easy to hypnotize the other end is impossible to hypnotize. The majority are in the middle. But remember the flickering screen quickly puts the user into a semi-hypnotic state and many people are constantly watching that screen.
My Own Response
I have not regularly watched broadcast Television/Cable/Satellite since the early 2000s. I have not watched television or had a subscription to Hulu, Netflix, etc since 2014. I do not watch modern television shows and few modern movies. I have aggressive ad blocking on my PC. I live in rural Idaho. I see few ads period. But most of the people I interact with are the opposite of me. And I am influenced by them by simply being around them. We all influence each other when we interact. Some have ‘more’ influence. Some deliberately try to influence. We cannot escape this influenced reality.
I want to come back around to the ‘we are what we consume’. Let’s go back in time, to before the printing press. You live in a small village, relatively isolated. You grew up there. Who or what shaped who you are? There was/is no media. What did you consume? The primary influencers are your immediate family. Then extended family. Then the other villagers themselves. But all of these people are known to you. None of them are strangers. The outside influences of your village come from those who travel abroad. But these are few, and don’t have enough time to fundamentally change who you are. Thus who you are has been shaped by the people of the village you live in, but primarily your family.
Now consider modern society. It is the exact opposite. The vast majority of what you consume has come from strangers. Not just strangers but you literally have no idea who they are. What they believe. What morals they have or don’t have. Most people are constantly consuming content created by absolute strangers. So it is not unusual today for people’s primary source of influence to be the screen, the family is secondary or probably tertiary. 10 years ago my daughter and I walked into a local burger joint and there was a family of 4 sitting at a table. All of them were looking at their own smartphones, they were not interacting with each other. I pointed this out to my daughter and said “look at them… that is their family time”. That was 10 years ago.
We are what we consume. And what most of us are consuming is content deliberately designed to manipulate and control us. Well, you say again… “this manipulation only really works on the simple-minded, the uneducated, the dumb. I’m too smart to be manipulated!” There is no such thing. And for a very simple reason. Because most of this manipulation is not targeted at the mind, it is targeted at the heart. To manipulate the emotions. And what is one of the most powerful emotions to play on in order to manipulate someone…?
FEAR! FEAR!! FEAR!!!
Been a great deal of fear in the media over the past few years. I’ll let the reader decide to what ends this fear was/is being used. But fear is but one emotion to play upon to manipulate us; pride, ego, and vanity are others regularly used. But no one is too ‘intelligent’ to be manipulated. In fact, I would argue the more educated a person is the more apt they are to be manipulated. Forgive me. I have confused intelligence and education and they are two very different concepts. Intelligence is the ability to think, to reason, to problem solve. Education is simply indoctrination. And the Education System is also used, just like the media, to manipulate and control the populace.
Okay, so you are finally convinced. You might possibly have been manipulated once by the media… a long time ago. Well, that’s a start. But what do we do? How do we protect ourselves?
Unplug. That’s it. It is that simple… doing it however will be difficult. I’ve known for years that is what “I” need to do. I’ve curtailed and eliminated much of it. As I said earlier I do not watch any modern television shows and few movies. But honestly, that has not been hard. The propaganda and manipulation and social engineering is so egregious and so ‘in your face’ with modern content, it is unappealing to me. But I still watch way too much video. It’s mostly older, television from the 1970s and 1980s but it’s all still influential. Unplugging will be difficult. Screen addiction might be the most powerful addiction there is.
Also please understand that simply by knowing that what you are consuming has been designed to manipulate you does not magically make you immune to its effects. There is evidence to demonstrate that by willingly exposing yourself to said content you are actually more influenced by it.
The greatest Truth to understand is that we as humans are easily manipulated. And thus we must protect ourselves in order to minimize the effects of this organized, coordinated science of manipulation.
Unplug. All of it. Put down the book. Turn off the radio. Pull yourself out of the screen. Connect with people. With nature. With reality.