The explosion of emotions triggered by the recent presidential election caught many off guard. Across the country, friendships have been lost, family members estranged, and hostility has boiled over in many communities.
In our consumer culture we're sold lots of things. Two weeks ago it might have been jeans and a TV, but last week it was fear. And Loathing. People were sold fear and loathing, and now it is ruining friendships, making people miserable, and driving the country apart.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the “why” of this story. The “why” is a mix of competing interests including simple commerce (fear sells), political gain, and creating divisiveness within the population for other purposes.
So, what’s going on?
Sadly, in many cases, I think people have simply been manipulated in traumatic fashion and we're now dealing with the emotional and social repercussions.
What do I mean by that?
In response to another comment on this site from a teacher whose students were expressing severe emotional distress over the Trump win, contributor Dave Fairtex offered these insights (emphasismine):
(…) His students' reaction is NOT about losing an election. It's because these people watch media, and the (Clinton-controlled) media spent the last four months working overtime to program everyone in the country that Trump is a soulless monster come to eat them and their families, roasting their babies on a spit while laughing, and so on.
This emotional programming has been extremely effective. That's why people are rioting now. Not because they aren't good losers, but because they've been successfully emotionally programmed by the Clinton Campaign's media arm (CNN, CNBC, and millions of scary social media posts), who are very good at what they do.
Emotional programming… This is something that we need to discuss because it is very real. It is happening right now and will continue to bombard us. And humans are highly susceptible to it.
Not because they're weak; but because they're unaware of it. If you aren't aware of the tricks and devices used to persuade, lead, and sometime mislead your emotions and actions, then you cannot protect yourself from these efforts.
The Peak Prosperity Value Proposition
Before we dive into the topic of persuasion, subliminal nudging, and emotional manipulation I want to review the value proposition here at PeakProsperity.com.
Why do so many people read our articles? Why do a number of them subscribe to premium content and Insider reports? Because they find valuein them. We’ve heard it said, many times, that our readers value our work Because it makes them feel smarter.
Of course, we don't think we're actually making these folks any more intelligent than they already are. However, we do strive to engage their minds in ways that challenge and expand their perspective.
So how about this instead? What I am going to provide here today, as always, is essential context that will (1) help you see the world in a new and expanded way that will (2) lead you to make different decisions in the future. After all, "smarter" is no good if it doesn’t lead you to be more connected to and alive within the world.
The more context you have, the more intelligent you become.
Knowledge is a bunch of facts. Someone who can list every national capitol through all of history has a lot of knowledge. But possessing a lot of knowledge is not the same thing as being intelligent.
Intelligence comes from connecting ideas and having the context, or framework, into which one can plug one’s accumulated knowledge.
A favorite Leonardo Da Vinci quote of mine is:
“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else”
With this view ‘intelligent’ is not something you are; it is something you become.
Let me also say, right up front, that I'm not going to try to convince you of anything. I will lay out a series of dots that I hope might sway your thinking, because they swayed mine. If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. But you should have a solid argument for why.
Your mental landscape is certainly different from mine. Quite possibly so entirely different that what persuades me has zero impact on you, or even may solidify an entirely opposite view you hold.
That’s entirely fine by me. We can be intelligent in entirely different ways, and that diversity of thinking is really important to the pursuit of truth.
This distinction is pretty much lost on a lot of people at present. And that’s creating a lot of resentment in our society right now.
The Persuasion Continuum
There’s nothing inherently bad with being persuasive. In fact, it’s a great talent to have. We cover this in depth in our weekend seminar series.
While it’s too much to go into here, the art of persuasion that we preach involves being calm, centered and collected. Have your facts at the ready, be free of any emotional charges (such as anger or depression), and approach your audience gently, always ready to back away if you see signs that they're not emotionally ready to listen to you now. Plant seeds in these cases. Be patient.
Pressing or cajoling doesn't change someone's opinion. Nobody has ever been persuaded by being bullied. Or insulted. Or belittled. Or shamed. Or shouted down. They may retreat from the argument, but they're not swayed.
People will listen to hear a new line of thinking when they're ready, and not a moment sooner. Well, as long as you're playing fair and coming through the front door, that is.
Because the human mind has back doors as well, a fact that such techniques as Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), hypnosis, mirroring, and subliminal advertising take advantage of.
Furthermore, when humans are traumatized, their front and back doors are ripped open. In this state, people are open to all kinds of manipulation and implanted suggestions. Trauma programming gives us the Stockholm Syndrome -- where a kidnapping or hostage victim develops feelings of trust or affection towards their captor(s) -- as well as buys years, decades and sometimes a lifetime of silence from sexual assault victims.
Here’s a straightforward diagram for the visually minded folks (like me) out there:
Before we get to harder material around the sort of propaganda and emotional manipulation that has accompanied this election cycle, let’s spend some time on the relatively safe and agreed-upon territory of manipulation in traditional sales and marketing campaigns.
Manipulative Marketing & Subliminal Advertising
If you haven’t noticed, performing a Google search for something like ‘best kiddie swim pools’ will usually cause you to later notice that ads for kids' swim wear begin showing up on your favorite news sites.
This is old news, and creepy as it is, it’s quite effective. If it didn’t work, it wouldn't be used. It’s used because it works great, and it’s getting more sophisticated all the time as the algorithms become better and better at figuring out how to understand someone well enough to divine their shopping preferences.
But all of that is pretty straightforward and overt, at for those paying even mild attention. Most of us know by now that the ads that show up on the internet sites we visit are anything but random. They're meant for us based on our recent on-line searches and behavior.
Subliminal advertising is far more covert than simple ad placement as it is designed to operate sub-liminally meaning 'beneath your conscious awareness'. This is different from operating on the un-conscious level because, generally speaking, you cannot access your unconscious mind. But you can elevate a subliminal message into your conscious frame.
Subliminal things are often right there in front of you, but they're not really noticed unless your attention is drawn to them for other reasons.
There’s a whole subculture of people who like to discover and expose the subliminal messages that are used every day to try and influence people’s purchasing habits. Most often subliminal messages revolve around sex.
Why? Because evoking a connection to sex has proven to be extremely effective at motivating people to action, specifically towards buying your product. Again: it’s used because it works.
Here are a few examples to give you an idea of the trove of examples that your search will find:
And so on. Some of the examples I dared not reproduce for fear of offending folks, as they were so sexually graphic. But for those interested, there’s a big world of subliminal advertising to explore...
The point of subliminal advertising is to link a mass product to consumer’s unconscious desires. While used extensively by corporations to move their products, the initial logic that underlies subliminal advertising, and even advertising more generally, was based on the works of Sigmund Freud and developed into a workable framework for social control and programming by his nephew Edward Bernays.
Here’s a fascinating documentary on how all this came to be (~ 1 hour):
Which brings us to propaganda.
When I write “propaganda” many people will reflexively think of the crude cartoons of WW II that depicted various fascist leaders of enemy countries as evil caricatures.
Once one knows what to look for, the efforts are really not at all difficult to spot. And once elevated to the conscious mind, they lose nearly all of their effectiveness.
What’s important to realize is that the science of propaganda was born a long time ago, and it has not remained fossilized ever since. It's been evolving along with our increasingly sophisticated understanding of the brain and its functions and wiring.
Here’s what the grandfather of propaganda, Freud's nephew Edward Bernays, wrote in chapter 1 of his book Propaganda back in 1928:
The true ruling powers of any country are those who most successfully manipulate the “organized habits and opinions of the masses” as Bernays says. Once you understand the rules for rulers, you know that they can do nothing without keeping those who hold the keys to power on their side. And they in turn can do nothing without the consent and agreement of those below them. And propaganda plays a critical role in securing and maintaining that loyalty and consent.
While generally not talked about in polite company, the art and science of social control has been faithfully advanced and deployed to sell you a lot more than shoes and soda.
The science of social control, especially what the crowds are thinking and doing, while still imperfect, has come a very long way over the past 90 years.
Here’s an example picked up very recently by member mememonkey that I thought fascinating:
While playing a video feed of Ronald Reagan being shot by Hinkley, CNN was displaying text below that reads “TRUMP FACES BACKLASH…” Blunt. Crude. Effective.
Now, by this time it hopefully does not take a genius to see what sort of message is being sold here. What exactly the Reagan assassination attempt has to do with Trump ditching reporters is entirely unclear from the image and text placement. Heck, it’s not even clear once they try and explain it. But the inference is crystal clear: assassination might just be 'fair game' as a form of backlash?
A traumatic event is being used to reinforce a message. That’s a covert-traumatic ploy that’s a proven winner. If it didn’t work, then it wouldn’t be used. But here it is, and you need to be aware that such scripts are running nearly all the time in the marketplace not just of products, but of ideas.
Now this isn’t some tin-foil hat wearing theory. It's the very essence of advertising and propaganda. Once you notice it, you’ll see it everywhere and if you are like me, it will annoy you with its brazen obviousness. “How can this work?” you will wonder.
As greater advances have been made in the fields of social control, cognitive processing, and neurology the ‘tools of the trade’ have become ever more sophisticated.
You need to be aware of the idea that not only are these subtle influences bombarding us all the time, but they are increasingly effective. If you are notaware, then you run the risk of having your ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and emotions essentially provided for you by someone else.
In Part 2: How To Protect Yourself From Persuasion & Propaganda, we explain how once you become aware of the constant ‘programming’ efforts that are being aimed at you on a daily basis, you have the chance to become mindful of these efforts and prevent them from swaying your emotions and decisions (at least, not more than you allow them to).