Mind Control 101: Myths of Brainwashing

Mind Control - ur doing it rong

Mind catrol - ur doing it rong akshully

by Luna Flesher

I’ve studied a lot about mind control over the years.  My interest piqued shortly after I left a rigorous and restrictive religion.  I wanted to better understand how I had willingly allowed myself to be controlled, all the while believing and protesting loudly that I was free.

These methods are deceptive and unethical, tricking the mind rather than persuading through honesty and reason. Knowing this, I now have a very unique perspective on American politics.  I can see these techniques used all the time, by politicians, media, and regular people.

This is not owing to a vast conspiracy. It doesn’t take an evil mastermind to notice certain approaches work better to persuade. These methods have always worked and will always continue to work, and so they perpetuate through society.  Some who study memetics might even say they self-replicate.

This post begins a series called “Mind Control 101”, which precedes its non-evil step-twin, “Logical Fallacies 101”.

Please do not use this as a How To!  I address this topic not with the intent that you try to take over the world. In instead wish to make you better able to defend yourself when your mind comes under assault.

Let’s begin with the myths.  The entire subject of brainwashing is “loaded”.  Loading a word is itself, fittingly, a mind control technique that limits thought by giving you preconceived and highly incorrect notions. I’ll start “deprogramming” you by showing where your existing understanding of the topic is probably far from reality.

When I say these words, “Thought Control” or “Brainwashing”, you no doubt envision a wild-haired hypnotist swinging a silver watch, while a stern doctor injects your arm with a strange serum.  In the background, hooded figures chant, and soon your eyes begin to glaze over.  All the while you are helpless to resist because you are strapped to a chair.

This is all complete fantasy.  The great secret is that while being brainwashed you feel in complete control of yourself.  A much more accurate term is “coercive persuasion“, because you are persuaded to want the same thing the manipulator wants, to believe as he wants you to believe.

Those who have been thusly persuaded never know they have been brainwashed.  Conversely if you think you’ve been brainwashed, you probably haven’t been.

So let’s dispel some myths, shall we?

Thought reform does not require physical restraint.

Scientists used to think this, back in the 1950s, when American POWs returned from Korea singing the praises of their captors.  But coercive persuasion in our free society requires a little more skill.  No force is required.  All it takes is listening to someone who is talking.  It also requires that you trust them, at least a little bit.  If they do their job right, you will go willingly.

This picture is totally photoshopped

It does not involve hypnotic disks.

Hypnosis is a broad word that means any varying state of consciousness other than the one you’re probably experiencing now.  Various levels of hypnosis, trance, and meditation are sometimes used by cult groups, but this is never, ever a requirement.

No drugs, truth serums, elixirs, or magical incantations are used in brainwashing.

Other than a few 60’s cults that were using drugs anyway, I’ve never come across any thought reform involving chemicals.  Nor does it have anything to do with Satan.  No demonic possession, summoning of evil spirits, or worshiping pagan gods is required.

Brainwashed people are not glassy-eyed, drooling zombies.

Most actually appear quite normal.  In fact, I would venture to say everyone ends up brainwashed to one degree or another, at some point in their lives. Our brains seem wired to accept manipulation and deception. It seems logical that humankind would have better survived those very dangerous first 100,000 years of pre-history by following a leader without question. Thought control merely capitalizes on those build-in survival skills we are all born with.

There is absolutely no way to know that you’ve been brainwashed.

That’s exactly the point. If you knew you were being controlled, you wouldn’t like it very much, and you wouldn’t stand for it.  The manipulated fully believe they are making their own choices, that they are completely free to act in any way they choose.

A good deal of brainwashing involves setting up trigger thoughts, little tricks and traps that help you deflect any incoming facts, beliefs, thoughts, or feelings that would make you suddenly stop believing the lies you’ve been duped into.  Part of this series is going to be identifying those traps, so you can avoid them in the first place.

(I could say “…and so you can escape if you’re already brainwashed.”  But you see, if I were to accuse you of being controlled, you would immediately become defensive and protest, thinking, “There is no possible way!” That is exactly what I’m talking about.)

There is no “one size fits all” method of mind control.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you can control some of the people all of the time, or all the people some of the time, but you can’t control all the people all the time.  Manipulators throw out a line with some bait to see what bites.  Sometimes it’s you, but usually you will laugh at their crazy ideas.  Everyone is ripe for being manipulated at some point in their lives.  Someone has something to say that will appeal specifically to you. You will always be able to see how other people are being brainwashed, but you won’t necessarily notice when it’s happening to you, because you will like it.

There are a lot of mind control tricks, but not all are required.

There isn’t a checklist that says, “Must meet all 50 requirements to be considered mind control”.  To control, you only need to do what works.

Brainwashing is not total.

It is possible to be partly brainwashed.  You can be brainwashed about certain topics but not others.  You can be brainwashed to the point of doing or believing almost everything the leader wants, but not quite. Victims of mind control can eventually be freed.

This image is actually pretty accurate.  NOT!

A completely staged, totally unrealistic depiction of a typical brainwasher. (Note the evil eyebrows.)

Brainwashers are not creepy, bizarre, crazy, mean-spirited men who ooze evil and darkness from every pore.

Images of cackling, sneering, British-accept-wielding villains were created for the drama of movie fiction, not to reflect reality.

If you’re going to be good at manipulation, you’ve got to be likable. To persuade, you must be charismatic. To convince, you must be, well… convincing. I listened to old recordings of Jim Jones recorded just before the infamous Jonestown kool-aid mass-suicides and he sounded sincere, kind, loving, and wise.

Furthermore, controlling groups or ideologies work best when believers are taught to use brainwashing techniques themselves.  That’s right. In almost every case, the controlled end up controlling.

No one is immune from mind control.

Not even me, not even after all I’ve learned about it. I can build up defenses, but even then I will be susceptible to it at some point.


Now you know what mind control is not, which gives you an advantage over most people.  In the next post I will, in the most basic of terms, describe what it is. Later on, I will delve into the details each technique so you can learn to recognize these methods in the wild.

Published in: on August 29, 2009 at 4:25 am  Comments (11)  
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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Nice article.

    TV is the key really – good article at the link below, but there are many others…


    If we stopped watching TV there would be revolution.

  2. Excellent! The key is that brainwashing doesn’t look extraordinary in any way, otherwise it wouldn’t work.

    http://www.lesswrong.com has some good articles about human biases without them there would be no brainwashing in the first place.

    • That looks like a great site. Thanks for the link!

  3. Luna, you bring up a great point about triggers. These are associated with anchors that have been established over time through repitition or by creating an excited state. Advertisers use them to build strong associations with a brand (hot gal talking to us as she drives her Cadillac at night instead of grandpa loading his golf clubs in the trunk). Politicians are the master of this: Reagan had the USSR, Bush 41 had Iraq, Clinton had himself, Bush 43 had the GWOT, and now Obama has “change” – although we will never see any because no one in Wasington benefits from true change. Each of these leaders created a strong emotional anchor around their theme and used that trigger to say “you must agree with this because it is a part of [insert theme].” “The sleeper must awaken”, but sadly our society remains sedated by malls, pop culture, news as entertainment and addiction to [insert anything] as a general state of being. Very few people have the capacity or training to be solid critical thinkers, and that is why we will always have sheeple.

    • Hi Steve! Thanks so much for reading my blog. :D

      I agree. Part of the goal with this series (and the blog) is to increase critical thinking skills in at least the handful of people who read it. Actually, this one post has garnered hundreds of hits, so that’s a few hundred people who are slightly better critical thinkers. :)

  4. Sing it, sister!

  5. Excellent article. The blog was suggested to me by a friend and I liked it a lot. Thanks :)

  6. […] Control 101: The Overview We have explored what thought reform is not.  But what is it? What force can shut down people’s minds and get them to do things they […]

  7. “I can build up defenses,”

    …but aren’t those defenses just self-inflicted triggers to reinforce your own “self-hypnosis?” It stands to reason that it is inevitable that you be brainwashed by some source, even in and through your attempts to evade it. …just food for thought.

    • Yes, this is something I’ve thought about myself. Again, I don’t see myself as immune to brainwashing. Eventually in this blog, I’ll retell the story I read of a cult researcher who spent a weekend with the Moonies, and afterwards began wondering if they were such bad people after all. (After having seen many lives destroyed by the religion.)

      I think it is possible though, to have some immunity. If you make yourself the ultimate authority, and always question your past assumptions, it goes a long way. Yes, you do eventually have to trust some sources, but when you find yourself trusting certain sources *exclusively*, then there may be a problem.

      Me? I’m unafraid to read material that is counter to my beliefs. Not only read it, but give it consideration, try to understand it, etc. Often I reject it anyway, but usually on the basis of reason, i.e. I can describe my thought processes and back it up with data. I might STILL be wrong (and that source might be right), but I’ve done my due diligence to hear it out.

      I am constantly asking questions and searching for answers. If there is a point of contention, or something I don’t know, or something I think I know but I’m not sure, if it’s important I find myself on the internet, looking at all sides of the issue, looking for facts, and sometimes even coming to my own conclusions that no one else is talking about.

  8. […] Mind Control 101: Myths of Brainwashing by Luna Flesher Lindsey I’ve studied a lot about mind control over the years. My interest piqued shortly after I left a rigorous and restrictive religion. I wanted to better understand how I had willingly allowed myself to be controlled, all the while believing and protesting loudly that I was free. […]

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