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Bending human will – the coup of the century

For more than a century, different branches of science, particularly psychology, have been developing methods to influence and control human behavior, thought, or sensations. These methods as a whole, as well as their application, are referred to as “mind control”.
Mind control is an attack on human freedom. The methods of restricting freedom differ depending on what is to be controlled and which group of people is targeted.

In many countries around the world, Germany included, both military and civil research institutions and programs have worked on refining mind control since the 1950s.

1 Making opinions

In the age of information that we live in, the mass media is a fixed establishment. The overwhelming majority of people in industrialized countries obtains its information on global events from mass media such as newspapers or television.
Mass media form a platform for one of the oldest mind control techniques: Propaganda. Propaganda does not only exist in totalitarian states; civil democracy is also familiar with propaganda. What exactly does propaganda mean? The goal of propaganda lies in triggering or enhancing human attitudes, emotions, or behaviors in a targeted way as well as steering people’s thinking. While the objectives of propaganda have changed over time, the methods remain the same.

Propaganda in mass media takes advantage of the fact that the world view of a large part of the population corresponds to the media’s view, in which nothing is real which does not appear in the mass media. However, many mass media users are not entirely aware that this media world image only represents an excerpt of world’s actual daily occurrences. This facilitates influencing, because propaganda in mass media approximates the existing need for information and claims to fill information gaps.
The following ten basic principles will help you avoid confusing propaganda with news or information and recognize such a campaign:

(1) Problems are exaggerated or trivialized, unimportant individual aspects are highlighted, or important details obscured through a flood of immaterial information;

(2) one single solution approach is presented as the right one, and all others depicted as irrelevant;

(3) the use of generalizations such as “the politicians”, “our citizens”, “the unions”;

(4) exaggerated evaluations are used, e.g. “according to the strictest scientific standards” or “the most comprehensive reform plans”;

(5) use of polarization and inaccurate simplifications;

(6) extreme individual cases are utilized as arguments;

(7) the impression is created that something is already widespread, e.g., “more and more people support this” or “every tenth citizen”;

(8) words that are neutral in principle are embellished with disreputable touch, e.g. “welfare state” or “early retiree”;

(9) claims are arbitrarily connected and thereby with a false logic; and

(10) emotions are used, e.g., fear, insecurity, or guilt.

Opinion-forming tools: Fear and guilt

The last point deserves to be looked at more closely. Frequently, producing fear or insecurity is based on a universal scheme. Initially, ostensibly concerned questions are asked: Is this or that harmful or dangerous? Experts then answer these questions, although it is often impossible for citizens to recognize whether an expert is a proponent of an untenable outsider position or possesses certain knowledge. Finally, politicians offer solution suggestions that the unsettled or frightened citizen then happily accepts.

Generating guilt follows a similar pattern. Here, one of the simplest standards of justice is utilized: Those who carry the blame for something have made a mistake and are obligated to answer for it. Due to people’s sociality, this blame inevitably gathers significance that goes beyond the – truly or ostensibly – guilty persons. Based on just a few people, it can effect something of a climate of guilt in society or an entire nation. Again, experts or politicians offer solutions.

2 Losing one’s mind in the media wonderland

People are hopelessly exposed to the mass media’s mental stranglehold; advertising and television or propaganda steer their thoughts and actions.
Luckily, this widespread opinion is only semi-true. The mass media do not exert a direct and targeted influence on human behavior. Nearly all corresponding research work of the last 20 years demonstrates this. The mass media do not steer and control people in a targeted way, but can influence their decisions.
The mass media characterize and shape the image people create of the world. News, talk shows, magazine shows, and even entertainment films provide people with the information they use to compile their conception of the world. The more spatially, temporally, or socially distant an event lies, the less people have the option of experiencing something through their own observations. It therefore becomes necessary to obtain information from mass media.

However, depending on the level of interest, a person can fulfil more in-depth information needs through books or own studies. Those who do this and then read about a topic that they now have in-depth knowledge of in the mass media will often be shocked to discover how superficial or even inaccurate these reports are. People who have experienced an event themselves will have a similar reaction when reading about this event in the mass media. The mass media’s influence on our world view also involves providing people with a framework of subjects, problems, people, events, or opinions. With this so-called “agenda setting”, the mass media can influence what people think about, talk about, or read books about. Fortunately, everyone is free to leave this frame of reference and spend time in a self-determined way instead of spending evenings in front of the television in the clutches of broadcasters.

You are being influenced too!

Whether people remain stuck in the mass media’s frame of reference is partly up to them. When evaluating their own mass media interactions, many people succumb to a misconception: While they admit that other people are being influenced by mass media, they deny that they themselves have fallen victim to this influence.
Many people also believe that the mass media mainly influence other people’s world view, but they themselves are immune. This misconception is called the “third person effect” and has been proven in scientific studies. Of course, this effect is not based on any actual differences. It is merely an assumption. But in reality, the degree of influence partly depends on how carefully people select what they read or what they watch on television.

To avoid drowning in a flood of nonsensical or irrelevant information, the following can be considered to help deal with the mass media appropriately: Determine for yourself which information is important to you. Not every offering must be used simply because it is available. Devote your attention to the language of your most-used mass media as well. Does it convey facts or opinions? Which sources are named? The “well-informed circles” or “experts” may not be what they seem. And please always keep in mind:
The mass media do not represent a service to the general public, but primarily aim to make money. They are designed in a way intended to sell well, and not to inform you well.

3 The magic world of television

The average person in Central Europe spends a total of seven years of their life watching electrons dance behind a glass screen. Television is so important that only about 3% of all German citizens do not own a television. Does television present a danger to the other 97%, or are those who refuse to own a television the ones who have failed to evolve? How does television consumption affect people? When answering this question, you should always keep in mind that nearly everything shown on TV serves the purpose of generating revenue. After all, we are living in a capitalist society. Television influences human thought and behavior, but it is not completely clear in what way.

Many media scientists are certain that the content of television programs can strongly influence our world view and perspective. Television only conveys a strongly filtered excerpt of what is really happening in the world. The more time a person spends watching television every day, the more they consider this excerpt to be the complete portrayal of the real world. For example, avid viewers – meaning people who watch more than three hours of television a day – believe that the consumption habits depicted in advertising and also in films correspond with reality. These viewers also think that most people actually behave the way actors do in commercials. Television is therefore considerably more than just a harmless pastime, it fundamentally alters people’s lives, their perspective, their attitudes, and their knowledge of the world.

Tricks for more votes

Television’s particular influence can also be witnessed in people who are filmed for television. A few examples: When politicians are being filmed for television, this should not really influence their behavior. It shouldn’t, but it does: A University of Arkansas study revealed that not only are facial expressions and gestures of politicians staged in every detail for television appearances, but that delegates can also change their voting behavior if the election is being filmed for television. The behavior of guests on morning and afternoon talk shows also gives food for thought. What makes a television appearance so appealing that people basically thirst for making a fool of themselves in front of the camera? At the moment of being filmed, so-called camera consciousness takes over. This refers to a person’s awareness of being watched on television, perhaps by an audience of millions. This consciousness is a particularity of television and requires a television appearance.

Camera consciousness produces a euphoric sensation for talk show guests, and it leads to people’s satisfaction with their television performance after the show, even if this did not meet up to their initial expectations of their performance. In a talk show, camera consciousness brings many guests too far out of their shells. To avoid being labelled as a television loser, they reveal intimate details that are neither necessary for the respective circumstances nor a million-viewers’ business. Talk shows also do not entertain an exchange of opinions with responsible citizens, because only very few guests succeed in breaking through the host’s direction. Instead, talk show guests are made to believe that their public self-exposure has a liberating effect. In truth, it only serves to boost ratings, because ratings mean money. As I already said, we live in a capitalist world.

4 The hidden persuaders

In the summer of 1957, a US weekly magazine published an essay on the use of subliminal advertising. The article stated that movie theaters which faded in messages like “Eat popcorn” or “Drink Coke” several times for fractions of a second during a movie saw an 18% increase in the sale of Coke and even a 57% increase in the sale of popcorn.
Also in 1957, a book titled “The Hidden Persuaders” by Vance Packard was released. In this book, Packard claims that subliminal influencing is widespread. His book caused quite a stir among the American public and ever since, fear of advertising or propaganda via subliminal advertising is prevalent. Rightly so, as I will demonstrate in this section.

Subliminal perception refers to the perception of very short messages or signals that a person does not experience consciously, but that can still influence their thoughts and actions. The messages or signals can be sounds or images as well as writing or language. If such stimuli are mixed into films or music with very low intensity or for an extremely short duration, they constitute a subliminal stimulus. If these stimuli are then perceived unconsciously, they can influence people’s behavior.

This so-called subliminal influence has been verified in many scientific studies. If the results of these studies are combined, they present the following image of the possibilities to influence people through subliminal perception: Subliminal influencing is possible anywhere in the world and with all kinds of people. A large number of behaviors, needs, attitudes, and feelings can be influenced. The effect of subliminal influencing can even be stronger and last longer than consciously perceived influencing. This is partly due to the fact that people do not notice subliminal influencing and therefore cannot defend themselves against it.

“Do not steal. Buy a lot!”

The options for using subliminal perception are quite manifold. In the mid-1980s, a US supermarket chain incorporated subliminal messages such as “Do not steal. buy a lot!” into the background music of their supermarkets. According to the management, this considerably reduced theft. Some scientific studies show how politicians could take advantage of subliminal influencing: For example, fading in the face of a politician during television shows could improve their election chances. Because a politician’s performance is evaluated more positively if their face was subliminally presented beforehand. Simultaneously presenting a politician’s face and an image that conjures up unpleasant emotions can also transfer this negative emotion to the politician. It is therefore possible to assign certain feelings to a politician which may ultimately influence voting behavior. But people are not even aware that their decision was influenced.

Cult drama: The “Voice of God” belonged to the FBI

Today, television provides a medium for subliminal influencing. Since the 1950s, a few cases have actually come to light in the USA and Great Britain in which subliminal messages were mixed into the program on air. In den 1950s, the CIA planned to use subliminal influencing as soon as progress allowed for this (e.g., neurostimulation). This point has now arrived, but the CIA steer clear of reporting on the use of subliminal influencing.
Research on subliminal influencing was also conducted in countries of the former Eastern bloc. According to statements by Igor Smirnov, a member of the Moscow Medical Academy, it does not technically present a problem to persuade people to display all kinds of behavior by means of subliminal manipulation. In 1993, at the invitation of the CIA and the FBI, Smirnov reported on Russian knowledge of subliminal influencing in the USA. As soon as 1994, the FBI implemented this knowledge when besieging the farm of the religious community of Davidians in Waco:
The voice of God which the leader of the Davidians believed he had heard was actually the voice of the FBI.


Image sequences on German TV?

Apparently, attempts at subliminal influencing have also taken place on TV. Off the record, employees in the media industry have reported that, while cutting television shows, they had discovered image sequences that clearly did not belong there. Subliminal influencing on German television? A worrying thought!