Re: virus: Subliminals

Wade T.Smith (
Tue, 30 Dec 97 17:03:39 -0500

Clipped from the Skeptic's Dictionary, another web resource....

Again, Richard- you are making an extraordinary claim for which there is
no accepted proof- in what way am _I_ the one holding on to anything here?


Now, on to some lesser myths about mind control, such as the notion
that subliminal messages are effective controllers of behavior.
Despite widespread belief in the power of subliminal advertising and
messaging, the evidence of its significant effectiveness is based on
anecdotes and unscientific studies by interested parties. You will
search in vain for the scientific control studies which demonstrate
conclusively to a reasonable person that playing inaudible messages
such as "do not steal" or "put that back" in muzak significantly
reduces employee or customer theft. You will search in vain for the
scientific control studies which demonstrate that tapes with ocean
music and subliminal messages are significantly more effective at
motivating people than tapes with just ocean music. On a related note,
contrary to what you may have been told, you cannot learn Mandarin
Chinese in your sleep by playing tapes through tiny speakers under
your pillow.

The final myth to discredit is related to those already mentioned,
namely, the myth that we understand how the brain works in the
integrated process of perception/consciousness/bodily
movement/thought/action. We know a lot, and what we know strongly
suggests that non-physical models of the mind will not be as robust or
as useful as physical models which identify the mind with the brain
and its interconnectedness to the rest of the body. But even though a
materialist model of the mind might better explain how a person's
basic personality and character can be changed in an instant by a
trauma to a specific part of the brain, no model yet allows us to be
able to begin developing the technology needed to control thoughts and
actions via direct control of neural networks.

The above considerations should make it clear that what many people
consider to be mind control would be best described by some other
terms. The following come to mind: behavior modification, thought
disruption, brain disabling, behavior manipulation, mind-coercion and
electronic harassment. People are not now being turned into zombies by
hypnosis or brain implants. Furthermore, it should be obvious that
given the state of neuroscientific knowledge, the techniques for
effective mind control are likely to be crude, and their mechanisms
imperfectly understood.

If we restrict the term 'mind control' not only to those cases where a
person controls another person's thoughts or actions without their
consent, but also to those cases where this is known to have been done
successfully, our initial list of examples of what people consider to
be mind control will apparently be pared down to just three or four
items: the tactics of religious cult recruiters, the tactics of
husbands who control their wives, the Stockholm syndrome, and the
brainwashing tactics of the Chinese inquisitors of American prisoners
during the Korean war.

I think we can eliminate the cases of wives who are terrorized by
their husbands or boyfriends. Such women are not victims of mind
control, but of fear and violence. Still, there seem to be many cases
where a battered woman genuinely loves her man and genuinely believes
he loves her. She stays beating after beating, not because she fears
what he will do to her if she leaves, but because she doesn't really
want to leave. Perhaps. But perhaps she doesn't leave because she is
completely dependent on her lover/batterer. It is not that she wants
to leave but has nowhere to go. She needs him and stays because she is
completely dependent on him. Now, if a man can reduce a woman to a
state of total dependency, he can control her. But is it true to say
that he has controlled her mind? To what extent, if any, can a
batterer take away the free will of his victim? He can reduce her
choices so that staying with him is the only option she knows. But
what is the likelihood of this happening? It seems more likely that
she will reduce her own choices by rationalizing about his behavior
and convincing herself that things will get better or that they really
aren't that bad. If a man is not using brute force or the fear of
violence to keep a woman around, then if she stays, it may be because
of choices she has made in the past. Each time she was abused, she
chose to stay. He may have used sweet talk to persuade her not to
leave, but at some time in the relationship she was free to reject
him. Otherwise, the relationship is based on fear and violence and
mind control does not enter the picture. So, I would say that a woman
who appears to be under the spell of a batterer is not a victim of
mind control. She is a victim of her own bad choices. This is not to
say that we should not sympathize with her plight or extend aid to her
should she ask. But she is where she is through bad luck and a series
of bad choices, not because of mind control.

That leaves cultists, kidnappers and inquisitors. First, the tactics
of the cults differ substantially from those of kidnappers or
inquisitors. Cults generally do not kidnap or capture their recruits,
and they are not known to use torture as a typical conversion method.
This raises the question of whether or not their victims are
controlled without their consent. I would have to say that some cult
recruits are not truly victims of mind control and are willing members
of their religious communities, just as many recruits into mainstream
religions should not be considered victims of mind control. I would
say that to change a person's basic personality and character, to get
them to behave in contradictory ways to lifelong patterns of behavior,
to get them to alter their basic beliefs and values, would not
necessarily count as mind control. It depends on how actively a person
participates in their own transformation. You and I might think that a
person is out of his mind for joining a religious cult, but their
delusions are no grander than the ones which millions of mainstream
religious believers have chosen to accept.

But some cult recruits seem to be brainwashed and controlled to the
point that they will do great evil to themselves or others at the
behest of their leader, including murder and suicide. These are often
the ones who are in a state of extreme vulnerability when they are
recruited and whose recruiter takes advantage of that vulnerability.
Such recruits may be confused or rootless due to tragic life
circumstances. They may be people who are mentally ill or brain
damaged, emotionally disturbed, greatly depressed, very confused,
traumatized by self-abuse with drugs or abuse at the hands of others,
etc. Such people are very vulnerable to those who would like to
control their thoughts and actions. They are vulnerable because they
do not have much control over their thoughts and actions. They are
like passengers on a rudderless ship on a stormy sea. The cult
recruiter has a rudder and he knows it. He also knows that the
passenger knows he can only reach safety with a rudder. The trick is
to get the passenger to want safety.

The techniques available to manipulate the vulnerable are legion. One
technique is to give them love, 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 of the cult 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 co-operate they'll be condemned.
Fear that they can't make it in this miserable world alone. Make them
paranoid. But love and fear may not be enough, 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 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. And keep the pressure up. 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 that "It was you, Lord, who made me feel
so good." They won't want to give it up. They've never felt so good.
Though they look like they are in Hell to those of us on the outside,
from the inside it looks like Heaven.

But what religion doesn't use guilt and fear to get people to police
their own thoughts? And they are not the only ones. Some therapists
use similar methods to control their patients. You get a person who is
very vulnerable, you get them to think that you are the only one they
can trust, that they can't get better unless they trust you, you give
them hope and you make them think that the realization of their hope
can only be achieved through them, you get them to see their loved
ones and friends as not trusting you the way your therapist does, you
get the patient to believe that a good part of her difficulty is being
caused by those loved ones and friends, you try to drive a wedge
between the patient and those she is most connected to in real life,
you try to own her, to control her. The methods of cult recruiters
aren't much different. The question is, are the cult recruits, the
converts to the faith, the patients willing victims? How would we tell
the difference between a willing victim and an unwilling victim? If we
can't do that, then we can't distinguish any true cases of mind

Cult recruiters and other manipulators are not using mind control
unless they are depriving their victims of their free will. A person
can be said to be deprived of his free will by another only if that
other has introduced a causal agent which is irresistible. How could
we ever demonstrate that a person's behavior is the result of
irresistible commands given by a cult leader? It is not enough to say
that behavior which is irrational proves a person's free will has been
taken from them. Giving away all one's property, devoting all one's
time and powers to satisfying the desires of one's divine leader,
committing suicide or planting poison bombs in subways because ordered
to do so may be irrational, but how can we justify claiming they are
done by zombies? For all we know, the most bizarre, inhumane, and
irrational acts done in the name of the cult or the cult god are done
either freely, knowingly and joyfully or perhaps they are done by
brain damaged or insane people. In either case, such people would not
be victims of mind control.

That leaves for consideration the acts of kidnappers and inquisitors,
the acts of systematic isolation, control of sensory input and
torture. Do these methods allow us to wipe the cortical slate clean
and write our own messages to it? That is, can we delete the old and
implant new patterns of thought and behavior in our victims? Well,
first it should be noted that not everybody who has been kidnapped
comes to feel love or affection for their kidnappers. And very few of
those tortured by the Chinese went over to the other side. It may be
that some kidnapped or captured people are reduced to a state of total
dependency by their tormentors--similar to that of infancy--and begin
to bond with their tormentors much as an infant does with the one who
feeds it, offers solace and comfort to it and even reduces its pain.
There is also the strange fascination most of us have with bullies. We
fear them, even hate them, but often want to join their gang and be
protected by them. I'm not going to try to dig too deeply into the
human psyche here; I'll leave that to others. But it seems to me that
there is not a strong case to be made that people who fall in love
with their kidnappers or who turn against their country under torture,
are victims of mind control. It may be interesting to psychology to
try to discover why some people act as Patricia Hearst did and why
others under similar circumstances would not have become "Tanya." But
I doubt very much that mind control will play much of a role in their
explanation. Likewise for the differences between those who succumbed
to the Chinese brainwashing tactics and those who did not. There may
be a fascinating psychological story there, but I doubt if mind
control will play much of a part in understanding it.

It seems then, that if we define mind control as the control of the
thoughts and actions of another without their consent mind control
exists only in fantasy. Unfortunately, that does not mean that it will
always be thus.

See related articles on channeling, cults, est , hypnosis, mind and

Wade T. Smith | "There ain't nothin' you | shouldn't do to a god." |
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