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Mind control

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Mind control is a general term for a number of controversial theories proposing that an individual's thinking, behavior, emotions or decisions can, to a greater or lesser extent, be manipulated arbitrarily by outside sources.

The feasibility of such control and the methods by which it might be attained (either direct or more subtle) are both subject to hot debates among psychologists, neuroscientists, and sociologists. Also the exact definition of mind control and the extent of its influence on the individual are debated.

The different views on the subject do have legal implications. Mind control was an issue, e.g., in the court case of Patty Hearst and also in several court cases regarding New Religious Movements. Also questions of mind control are regarding ethical questions linked to the subject of free will.

The question of mind control has been discussed in conjunction with religion, politics, prisoners of war, totalitarianism, neural cell manipulation, cults, terrorism, torture, parental alienation, and even battered person syndrome.

While mind control remains a controversial subject, the principal possibility of influences on individuals by methods like advertising, media manipulation, propaganda, group dynamics, or peer pressure have been well researched in social psychology and are today undisputed.

Electromagnetic manipulation of neurons, since the discovery that neural cells could be fired by establishing a potential voltage across a neural cell membrane in the 1930s, has been suggested as a technology, as has the use of hypnosis on unsuspecting victims by U.S. Government agents by using a device which is based on the microwave auditory effect (also called the "microwave hearing effect" or "Frey effect"). This type of hypnosis is typically delivered while the person is sleeping and completely unaware that it is happening. The fact that the victim is unaware of it (and therefore cannot stop it from being done) makes it the only method by which hypnosis can be considered actual mind control.

The belief that one is being manipulated or controlled by outside forces is also recognized as one of the hallmarks of paranoid delusional complexes and other psychoses. Typically these delusions are of invasive and complete control by entities as diverse as orbiting government satellites, U.S. Government agents/agencies/organizations, television sets, animals, aliens, or angels and demons. Those who suffer from this delusion may cling to it despite a complete lack of evidence of anything that might be controlling them. Psychiatric therapy with anti-psychotic medication can often end the delusion or at least mitigate its severity, if it is a delusion. In some cases, however, especially in cases of involuntary commitment, the person may view treatment with anti-psychotics as yet another form of mind control. A belief that a person may be under mind control is an indicator of psychosis only when it becomes an obsessive fixation or fixed delusion and they are, in fact, not being improperly controlled or influenced.[1]

Theoretical models and methods

There are several and very different methods which were suggested for achieving mind control. None of these methods have been universally accepted in the science community.

Theology, ideology, and identity

Authors Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad suggest that mind control is embedded in the very fabric of contemporary religious, political, and social power through the unquestioning reliance on false but ubiquitous authoritarian ideas. They show how concepts such as religious 'Truth', 'goodness' versus 'badness', and unconditional love, to name a few, can be used to control and divide people's minds. They also study the authoritarian programming by which so-called 'normal' people, worldwide, fall prey to status quo authoritarian ideas using well-known guru mind control methods as a basis for comparison.

MKULTRA & Hypnosis

The Central Intelligence Agency's MKULTRA program from the early 1950s through 1977, when the program was shut down by the U.S. Senate's Church Hearings, had many successes with the use of hypnosis, including by one CIA MKULTRA project director who used it to force many of the agency's secretaries to, without them realizing what they were doing, take classified documents from inside the offices where they worked and give them to strangers on the streets near where they lived. There was also a series of additional MKULTRA hypnosis tests which the same project director did which 'programmed' (with hypnosis) one of his office's secretaries to, without her knowledge, 'assassinate' another secretary with a gun which the project director had intentionally removed the bullets from for the test. These 'assassination' tests were part of a search for a 'Manchurian Candidate,' or in other words, the means by which assassins could be pre-programmed with hypnosis to kill without knowing what they were doing or remembering anything about it afterward.

Failed attempts: Drugs, physical methods, Silva method

The CIA program MKULTRA made from 1950 tried to achieve mind control through drugs. Drugs used in experiments were LSD or heroin, mescaline, psilocybin, scopolamine, marijuana, alcohol, and sodium pentothal or a combination of barbiturates and amphetamine or ecstasy.

Other theories have been based on the use of antidepressant drugs and mood stabilizers which have a definite effect on mood, through what is believed to be a direct action on the chemistry of the brain. However, most people would not say that this constituted mind control, and people taking these drugs do not feel "controlled".

In the MKULTRA program, radiation and electroshocks were tested, but the radiation and electroshocks apparently did not achieve any sort of mind control.

With intense modern magnets and the technique of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or repetitive TMS (rTMS), researchers have succeeded in transiently suppressing certain thought processes — such as the conjugation of verbs — with fleeting magnetic pulses to specific areas of the brain. The technique has proved a valuable tool for testing hypotheses about the role and interplay between brain regions in particular cognitive activities and psychiatric symptoms such as depression.

Tests with ELF technology are better documented. From the 1950s to the 1970s, both the Soviet Union and the United States carried out several experiments using ELF pulse transmissions to mimic human nerve impulses, in effect implanting certain states of consciousness -- particularly emotions -- by radiation. Scientists found that certain ELF frequencies, when transmitted in pulse mode, could induce emotions in subjects.

Any further going conclusions from these results, belong rather in the field of conspiracy theories than of science. But this, too, begs the question, as it would be quite naive to assume no one has ever conspired to develop technologies useful for controlling others. Rauni-Leena Luukanen-Kilde, e.g, a former Finnish physician and a well-known ufologist and conspiracy theorist, sees many 'schizophrenics' as misdiagnosed victims of mind-control experiments. Physical implants discovered in the cerebral tissue of such 'schizophrenics' have allegedly substantiated such claims.

In the 1960's, José Silva made known the Silva Mind Control Method (later Silva Method) which uses a combination of positive thinking, visualization, meditation, and self-hypnosis and claims that its application can achieve psychic abilities, remote viewing and healing, none of which is empirically proven.

Subliminal advertising

Main article: Subliminal message

Outline: Subliminal advertising is an unproven method of mind control in which messages are relayed to the public by being hidden in broadcasted advertisements, TV/radio shows and movies. Subliminal advertising has been discovered (often by chance) in media around the world, though it is denied. Some common methods include carefully wording a radio advertisement so that something different is heard when the advertisement is played backwards. The theory proposes that the brain registers the hidden message, although the conscious mind does not realize it. Another common technique is to add one frame of video in the middle of a movie or TV show. While it flashes by too quickly to be registered by the "conscious", the eyes still detect it and the image registers in the brain. One of the more serious sides of subliminal advertising is the fact that it is theoretically possible to control people's behaviour. For example, if a drink company were to utilize it, anyone watching or listening to the advertisement may be compelled to purchase that drink for a supposedly unknown reason. It is also claimed it can control political ideology and even tendency to commit crime. Subliminal advertising is the same as subliminal messaging, although the latter is not designed to promote something. It must be noted that the efficacy of of any of these methods has not been proven.

  • James Vicary coined the term "subliminal advertising" .
  • The publication in 1957 of Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders brought the term to the attention of the general public.
  • In 1973 the book Subliminal Seduction claimed that advertising made widespread use of subliminal techniques and could in theory be used as a form of mind control.

Lifton brainwashing model

Psychiatrist Robert Lifton described in his 1961 book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of "Brainwashing" in China eight coercive methods which, he says, are able to change the minds of individuals without their knowledge and were used with this purpose on prisoners of war in Korea and China. [2] These include

  • milieu control (controlled relations with the outer world)
  • mystic manipulation (the group has a higher purpose than the rest)
  • confession (confess past and present sins)
  • self-sanctification through purity (pushing the individual towards a not-attainable perfection)
  • aura of sacred science (beliefs of the group are sacrosanct and perfect)
  • loaded language (new meanings to words, encouraging black-white thinking)
  • doctrine over person (the group is more important than the individual)
  • dispensed existence (insiders are saved, outsiders are doomed)

In his 1999 book Destroying the world to save it: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence and the New Global Terrorism, he concluded, though, that thought reform was possible without violence or physical coercion.

Edgar Schein, who investigated similar programs in China concluded in his book Coercive Persuasion that physical coercion was an important feature of brainwashing.

Margaret Singer's conditions for mind control

Psychologist Margaret Singer, using the work of Lifton, described in her book "Cults in our Midst" six conditions, which would, she says, create an atmosphere where thought reform is possible. [3]. Singer sees no need for physical coercion or violence.

  • controlling a person's time and environment, leaving no time for thought
  • creating a sense of powerlessness, fear and dependency
  • manipulating rewards and punishments to suppress former social behaviour
  • manipulating rewards and punishments to elicit the desired behaviour
  • creating a closed system of logic which makes dissenters feel as if something was wrong with them
  • keeping recruits unaware about any agenda to control or change them

BITE model of Steven Hassan

Psychologist and cult counselor Steven Hassan, using the research of Singer and Lifton and the cognitive dissonance theory of Leon Festinger, describes in his 2000 book Releasing the Bonds the BITE (Behavior, Information, Thought, Emotion) model, which explains mind control as a combination of control over behavior, information, thought and emotions. According to Hassan, the BITE model dispenses with any required environment control, and its effects can be achieved when the control mechanisms create overall dependency and obedience to some leader or cause. [4]

Hassan's critics argue that Steve Hassan uses the term "mind control" (for what they see as essentially a strong form of influence) only to justify the forcible extraction of believers from religious groups. They argue that Hassan does not merely say that fraudulent salesmanship persuaded the believers; he claims that these groups literally take away a victim's freedom of mind. For this reason an involuntary procedure must operate in order to "rescue" a "victim" from a "destructive cult", for "victims" may not realize their victimhood status and may resist rescuing.

Hassan, after taking part in a number of deprogrammings in the late 1970s, distances himself from this practice and the criminal activities associated with that occupation and refers to his method as the "strategic interaction approach" or SIA. He claims that this approach is a goal-oriented, therapeutic course of action that can be initiated and implemented by motivated relatives or friends, in which they learn how to work together to help "awaken" the cult member to the pervasiveness of the group's alleged control over a former member's life, after which the person can leave the cult, regaining a sense of personal power, integrity, and direction.

Mind Control and the Battered Woman Syndrome

A very different explanation of the control some groups have over their members is by associating it to the Battered Woman Syndrome. This has been done by psychologists Teresa Ramirez Boulette, Ph.D. and Susan M. Andersen, Ph.D. (as well as by former Scientologist Robert Vaughn Young).

Evolutionary Psychology approach

Battered Women Syndrome is an example of activating capture-bonding. Capture-bonding is understood in Evolutionary psychology as an evolved response to capture in the last few million years. Cults such as Scientology tap this psychological trait by abusive practices (RPF) that have the same paradoxical effect of bonding victims to the abusers.

In addition, the intense attention rewards cults focus on members has brain effects nearly identical to drug addiction in some people.

Social psychology tactics

A contemporary view of mind control sees it as an intensified and persistent use of well researched social psychology principles like compliance, conformity, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, framing or emotional manipulation.

One of the most notable proponents of this theory is social psychologist Philip Zimbardo, former president of the American Psychological Association:

I conceive of mind control as a phenomena encompassing all the ways in which personal, social and institutional forces are exerted to induce compliance, conformity, belief, attitude, and value change in others. [5]
"Mind control is the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. It is neither magical nor mystical, but a process that involves a set of basic social psychological principles."

In Influence, Science and Practice, social psychology researcher Robert Caildini shows how mind control is possible through the covert exploitation of the unconscious rules that underlie and facilitate healthy human social interactions. He notes the most common social rules that can be used to prey upon the unwary and titles them as follows:

  • "Reciprocation: The Old Give and Take...and Take"
  • "Commitment and Consistency: Hobgoblins of the Mind"
  • "Social Proof: Truths Are Us"
  • "Liking: The Friendly Thief"
  • "Authority: Directed Deference"
  • "Scarcity: The Rule of the Few"

Using these six broad categories, he shows many specific examples of both mild and extreme mind control (both one on one and in groups), notes the conditions under which each social rule is most easily exploited for false ends, and offers suggestions on how to fight these insidious, and often unconscious mind control methods.

Social psychological conditioning by Stahelski

Anthony Stahelski identifies five phases of social psychological conditioning which he calls cult-like conditioning techniques employed by terrorist groups: [Stahelski, 2004]:

  1. Depluralization: stripping away all other group member identities
  2. Self-deindividuation: stripping away each member’s personal identity
  3. Other-deindividuation: stripping away the personal identities of enemies
  4. Dehumanization: identifying enemies as subhuman or nonhuman
  5. Demonization: identifying enemies as evil

Cults and mind control controversies

Several of the above mind control models have been related to religious and non-religious cults (for debates regarding what is a cult, see the article). Among scholars, adherents of NRMs and the pro-cult and anti-cult communities, it is hotly debated, if mind control is applied in any or certain cultic movements.

Scholarly points of view

While in science of religion the majority of scholars reject mind control (e.g., Massimo Introvigne and J. Gordon Melton), it is often accepted in psychology and psychiatry (e.g., Margaret Singer, Michael Langone, and Philip Zimbardo) and in sociology the opinions are divided (e.g., David G. Bromley and Anson Shupe contra, Stephen A. Kent and Benjamin Zablocki pro). While most scholars have either a decided contra or a decided pro opinion, there are few who advocate a moderate point of view.

The renowned medical journal The Lancet as well as "The American Journal of Psychiatry" published favorable reviews of Steven Hassan's 1988 book on mind control. [6] [7]

According to James T. Richardson on his "Brainwashing" Claims and Minority Religions Outside the United States: Cultural Diffusion of a Questionable Concept in the Legal Arena, while heavy on theory, the mind control model is light on evidence:

"The CCM movement has collected some information to support its belief that religious groups successfully employ mind-control techniques. But the data is unreliable. The information typically represents a very small sample size. It is not practical to obtain information before, during and after an individual has been in a NRM. Often, their data is disproportionately obtained from former members of a religious organization who have been convinced during CCM counseling that they have been victims of mind-control." [8]

Dr. James Richardson, a Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies at the University of Nevada, claims that if the NRMs had access to powerful brainwashing techniques, one would expect that NRMs would have high growth rates, while in fact most have not had notable success in recruitment, most adherents participate for only a short time, and that the success in retaining members has been limited. In addition, Thomas Robbins, Eileen Barker, Newton Maloney, Massimo Introvigne, John Hall, Lorne Dawson, Anson Shupe, David G. Bromley, Gordon Melton, Marc Galanter, Saul Levine and other scholars researching NRMs have argued -- and established to the satisfaction of courts and relevant professional associations and scientific communities -- that there exists no scientific theory, generally accepted and based upon methodologically sound research, that supports the brainwashing theories as advanced by the anti-cult movement.

On the other hand, sociologist Benjamin Zablocki sees strong indicators of mind control in some NRMs and demands the concept should be researched without bias:

"I am not personally opposed to the existence of NRMs and still less to the free exercise of religious conscience. I would fight actively against any governmental attempt to limit freedom of religious expression. Nor do I believe it is within the competence of secular scholars such as myself to evaluate or judge the cultural worth of spiritual beliefs or spiritual actions. However, I am convinced, based on more than three decades of studying NRMs through participant-observation and through interviews with both members and ex-members, that these movements have unleashed social and psychological forces of truly awesome power. These forces have wreaked havoc in many lives—in both adults and in children. It is these social and psychological influence processes that the social scientist has both the right and the duty to try to understand, regardless of whether such understanding will ultimately prove helpful or harmful to the cause of religious liberty." (Zablocki, 1997)

Sociologists David Bromley and Anson Shupe consider the idea that "cult"s are brainwashing American youth to be "implausible".[9], on the other hand, the Canadian sociology professor Stephen A. Kent published several articles where he relays practices of NRMs with brainwashing [10], [11]

The American Psychological Association (APA) in 1984 requested Margaret Singer, the main proponent of anti-cult mind control theories, to set up a working group called Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Methods of Persuasion and Control (DIMPAC).

In 1987 the DIMPAC committee submitted its final report to the Board of Social and Ethical Responsibility for Psychology of the APA. On May 11, 1987 the Board rejected the report. In the rejection memo [12] is stated: "Finally, after much consideration, BSERP does not believe that we have sufficient information available to guide us in taking a position on this issue.".

There are two interpretations of this rejection: one side (e.g. Amitrani and di Marzio 2000 and Zablocki 2001) see it as no position on the issue of brainwashing, the other (e.g. Introvigne 1997) sees it as rejecting all brainwashing theories.

In 2002 Dr. Philip Zimbardo who teaches at Stanford University a course "the psychology of mind control", commented on the request by former members of new religious movements (NRMs) to reconsider the APA's position on the possibility of mind control [13]

Recently, there are indications that some members of both parties are willing to start a dialog, e.g. the 2001 book "Misunderstanding Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field" in 2002 the American Family Foundation invited Eileen Barker to its yearly conference and the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions had J. Gordon Melton and Douglas Cowan as conference speakers.

Mind control and exit counseling

Opponents of some new religious movements have accused these of being cults that coerce recruits to join (and members to remain) by using strong influence over members instilled and maintained by manipulation (see also anti-cult movement and Christian countercult movement). Such opponents frequently advocate exit counseling as necessary to free the a cult member from mind control. The practice of coercive deprogramming has practically ceased. (Kent & Szimhart, 2002)

Opponents of exit counseling generally regard it as an even worse violation of personal autonomy than any loss of free will attributable to the recruiting tactics of new religions. These people complain that targets of deprogramming are being deceived, denied due process, and forced to endure more intense manipulation than that encountered during their previous group membership.

Mind control and recruitment rates

Eileen Barker documents that out of 1000 people persuaded by the Moonies [Unification Church] to attend one of their overnight programs in 1979, 90% had no further involvement. Only 8% joined for more than one week and less than 4% remained members in 1981, two years later." [14]

Tyler Hendricks, former president of the Unification Church, estimates approximately 100,000 people "moved into" the Unification Church as full-time members from the 1970s to the 1990s. Membership in the church was 8,600 in 2004 (counting only those who joined as adults, and excluding the children of members). This is an attrition rate of 93%.

Billy Graham, one of the most successful evangelists of the last century had only an average of 1% of the attendants of his evangelizations heed the altar call at all. Follow-up work after evangelizations shows that only 10% of the people responding to an altar call actually do join a church. So successful Christian evangelizations result in a longterm success rate of 0.1% - compared to the 4% of Barker's observation. And these 0.1% do not become fulltime missionaries like in the Unification Church. (Langone, 1993).

Mind control and faith

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published a statement in 1977 related to brainwashing and mind control. In this statement the ACLU opposed certain methods "depriving people of the free exercise of religion". The ACLU also rejected (under certain conditions) the idea that claims of the use of 'brainwashing' or of 'mind control' should overcome the free exercise of religion. [15]

Leon Festinger based his theory of the cognitive dissonance, a component of Hassan's Mind Control model, on his observation that the faith of most members of a UFO cult was unshattered by failed prophecy. [16].

Barrett who is affiliated with CESNUR and Eileen Barker, whom some anti-cult activists consider cult apologists, wrote that logical arguments are irrelevant when trying to persuade some members to leave a movement due to the certainty that they have about their faith, which he sees as not confined to cults, but also occurring in some forms of mainstream religion. He also wrote that some members do not leave the movement even though they realize that things are wrong. See also Leaving a cult.

Counter-cult movement and mind control

In the Christian counter-cult movement there are several voices explaining membership in Christian and non-Christian cults exclusively with a theological regarding spiritual problems and therefore refuting mind control as a factor in cult membership.

In an article by the evangelical Christian writers Bob and Gretchen Passantino, first appearing in Cornerstone magazine, titled Overcoming The Bondage Of Victimization: A Critical Evaluation of Cult Mind Control Theories they challenge the validity of mind control theories and the alleged "victimization" by mind-control, and assert in their conclusion:

[...] the Bogey Man of cult mind control is nothing but a ghost story, good for inducing an adrenaline high and maintaining a crusade, but irrelevant to reality. The reality is that people who have very real spiritual, emotional, and social needs are looking for fulfillment and significance for their lives. Ill-equipped to test the false gospels of this world, they make poor decisions about their religious affiliations. Poor decisions, yes, but decisions for which they are personally responsible nonetheless. As Christians who believe in an absolute standard of truth and religious reality, we cannot ignore the spiritual threat of the cults. We must promote critical thinking, responsible education, biblical apologetics, and Christian evangelism. We must recognize that those who join the cults, while morally responsible, are also spiritually ignorant.[17]

In a rebuttal to the Passantino's article, a protagonist of the counter-cult movement, Paul R. Martin, Ph.D. et al. in his Overcoming the Bondage of Revictimization: A Rational/Empirical Defense of Thought Reform, (first appeared in Cultic Studies Journal 15/2 1998), writes :

"The Passantinos are well known and respected evangelical writers. Consequently, their critique, which is rife with errors and misinterpretations, disturbs us very much and calls for a detailed rebuttal. [...]For us, theological considerations inform our understanding of the sociological and psychological destruction caused by cults, although others hold similar positions without considering theological issues. Cults distort one's perceptions both of natural reality (sociological and psychological) and spiritual reality. In the Christian tradition, the former is supposed to reveal the latter; therefore, those interested in spiritual issues must address both sides in order to minister adequately to former cult members.[18]

Legal issues

Some persons have claimed a "brainwashing defense" for crimes committed while purportedly under mind control. In the cases of Patty Hearst, Steven Fishman and Lee Boyd Malvo the court rejected such defenses.

Also in the court cases against members of Aum Shinrikyo regarding the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system the mind control defense was not a mitigating factor.

Starting from the Fishman case (1990) (where a defendant accused of commercial fraud raised as a defense that he was not fully responsible since he was under the mind control of Scientology) American courts consistently rejected testimonies about mind control and manipulation, stating that these were not part of accepted mainline science according to the Frye Standard (Anthony & Robbins 1992: 5-29). Margaret Singer and her associate Richard Ofshe filed suits against the APA and the American Sociological Association (who had supported APA's 1987 statement) but they lost in 1993 and 1994.

The Frye standard has since been replaced by the Daubert standard and there have been to court cases where testimonies about mind control have been examined according to the Daubert standard.

Some Civil suits where mind control was an issue, were, though, more effective:

In the case of Wollersheim v. Church of Scientology of California the court states church practices had been conducted in a coercive environment and so were not protected by religious freedom guarantees. Wollersheim was finally awarded $8 million in damages. (California appellate court, 2nd district, 7th division, Wollersheim v. Church of Scientology of California, Civ. No. B023193 Cal. Super. (1986)

"During trial, Wollersheim's experts testified Scientology's "auditing" and "disconnect" practices constituted "brainwashing" and "thought reform" akin to what the Chinese and North Koreans practiced on American prisoners of war. A religious practice which takes place in the context of this level of coercion has less religious value than one the recipient engages in voluntarily. Even more significantly, it poses a greater threat to society to have coerced religious practices inflicted on its citizens." "Using its position as religious leader, the 'church' and its agents coerced Wollersheim into continuing auditing even though his sanity was repeatedly threatened by this practice... Thus there is adequate proof the religious practice in this instance caused real harm to the individual and the appellant's outrageous conduct caused that harm... 'Church' practices conducted in a coercive environment are not qualified to be voluntary religious practices entitled to first amendment religious freedom guarantees" [19]

In 1993 the European Court of Human Rights upheld the right of a Greek Jehovah's Witness Minos Kokkinakis, who had been sentenced to prison and a fine for proselytizing, to spread his faith, though the court sought to define what it regarded as acceptable ways of sharing one's faith. However, in a dissenting judgment, two judges argued that Kokkinakis and his wife had applied "unacceptable psychological techniques" akin to brainwashing. KOKKINAKIS v. GREECE (14307/88) [1993] ECHR 20 (25 May 1993) [20]

In addition, both the United States Secret Service (for its use of hypnosis un unwilling victims via the Microwave Auditory Effect) and the Central Intelligence Agency (for its use of brainwashing on an unwilling American victim temporarily residing in a Canadian mental health hospital) have been caught and sued successfully for acts which can be considered 'mind control.'

Mind control against children in Parental Alienation

Stanley Clawar and Brynne Rivlin have claimed in Children Held Hostage: Dealing with Programmed and Brainwashed Children that many forms of mind control are used in Parental alienation by one parent against the other parent using both parents' children as unwitting weapons. This use of mind control is often devastating to children and follows them into adulthood by creating a chronic condition known as Parental Alienation Syndrome. In addition the mind control used in Parental Alienation often permamently damages or destroys the target parent's bonds with his or her children.

Mind control in conspiracy theory

Some discredit these views as possible symptoms of schizophrenia (and sometimes of other forms of psychosis) include the belief that one is subject to external mind control, often by use of some form of technology. Were there any validity to the theories, this would certainly generate fear in any parties who knew of such technology from speaking up.

Principles behind such devices have been proposed. Because of study in the 1930s of the neural cells of the giant squid [21] which are similar to those of humans, but much larger, it is known that establishing a potential energy field across a neuron or neural cell membrane will cause it to fire. Seventy-five years of understanding of this fact lends support that devices could have been devised to affect human mental and bodily processes and functions using external energy sources.

These often involve proposed mind-control technologies such as the use of hypnosis, microwave radiation, or lasers to influence or control thoughts and actions, often by intelligence agencies and by secret societies, which has, so far, only been confirmed about the U.S. Secret Service's use of hypnosis and Central Intelligence Agency's use of brainwashing in past court cases where testimony was conclusive and the agencies lost.

Mind control is a common feature in many conspiracy theories, as it provides a mechanism by which an alleged conspiracy could maintain control over innocent people, prevent knowledge of the conspiracy's actions and, in some cases, prevent the conspiracy theorist's intended audience from believing him.

Of course, naming a theory as a conspiracy theory does not disprove it. Political conspiracies have existed in the past, and certainly will in the future.

The means by which victims are alleged to be controlled varies according to the nature of the theory: theories centering on existing governmental groups usually feature mind control via hypnosis, subliminal messages or other technological means, while theories focusing on non-human entities, extraterrestrials, demons, invisible masters, and organised secret societies such as the Freemasons, Black Dragon Society, or the Illuminati are more likely to involve supernatural or magical means, or particularly fanciful technology such as "mind control satellites". Theories that involve the United States government frequently refer to MKULTRA. Radio waves are frequently claimed to be used for mind control: radio and television broadcast towers, and more recently cell phone towers, are often considered suspect.

J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye was rumored to be a device for FBI/CIA mind control at one time, based on the apparent coincidence of Lee Harvey Oswald and Mark Chapman owning a copy. Seeing as this has always been a popular novel among intelligent and alienated young men, however, this coincidence of ownership is hardly surprising. Nevertheless, there is a large fringe literature on the supposed 'mind control' subtext of 'Catcher in the Rye' [22].

Mind control in fiction and popular culture

Mind control has proven a popular subject in fiction, featuring in books and films such as The Ipcress File, and The Manchurian Candidate, which has the premise that controllers could hypnotize a person into murdering on command while retaining no memory of the killing.

The TV series The Prisoner featured mind control as a recurring plot element.

In the Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange, later adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick, the "Ludovico Technique" is a form of mind control that causes the subject, in this case the thug anti-hero Alex, to feel sickness and pain whenever he has a violent or anti-social impulse.

George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four features a description of mind control, both directly by torture, and indirectly, in the form of pervasive mind control by the use of Newspeak, a constructed language designed to remove the possibility, Sapir-Whorf-wise of articulating or of even thinking subversive thoughts.

In science fiction, fantasy and superhero fiction, mind control often appears as the means whereby a person literally seizes control of the minds of the victims to the point where not only their bodies come under direct control, but also their consciousnesses as well, so that they become puppets or slaves to the controller. Fiction often depicts this process taking place electronically; the trademark equipment of the Batman supervillain The Mad Hatter - headgear designed to put victims under his control when placed in direct physical contact with the head—furnishes one example of this. In addition, characters with powerful telepathic or psychic abilities, like Professor X and Jean Grey of the X-Men, can do the same with mental concentration against a target.

The Jedi mind trick is a prominent plot device in the Star Wars oeuvre.

There has also been a rapidly growing genre known as erotic mind-control, where the controller's motivation is to control victims for the controller's own pleasure, although this is often described as resulting in pleasure for the victims as well. Most such stories are published only online as they are written by amateur writers as a hobby.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy pokes fun at conspiracy theorists' assertions of pervasive mind control. The best known example for the book is the fnord, a word that the populace at large has been programmed since birth to not consciously notice, but to associate with a sense of fear and general unease; it is supposedly inserted into published works on current events, such as magazines and newspapers, but is absent from advertising, leading people to avoid knowledge of the world and to be obedient consumers.

Mind control is also frequently found as an ability in fantasy role-playing games, allowing a player (or non-player character) to take control of another player or character. For example, in the MMORPG World of Warcraft, players of the priest class gain the ability to mind-control other humanoid characters, gaining full control over their actions for a short period. (Due to interface limitations, priests cannot do anything else while controlling a target.) Likewise, priest units in Populous: The Beginning as well as Age of Empires are able to take control of an opponent's units (in fact, this is their primary function in both games).

In Konami's stealhy title "Metal Gear Solid" for the Playstation, Psycho Mantis, a rogue special forces member with powerful telepathic abilities, subtly controls a small army, and on several occasions completely dominates a single persons movements and speech. It is also speculated that he may have had control over the other rogue members.

In "The Matrix", a chemical was injected into Morpheus to make him reveal access codes.

The Yuri Clone in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, as well as some units and defensive structures in the expansion Yuri's Revenge, can mind-control enemy units. In addition, the Psychic Dominator superweapon permanently mind-controls any friendly and/or enemy units in its radius of effect when activated.

The Dark Archon unit in StarCraft has total Mind Control abilities.

In Midway's Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy your character Nick Scryer can perform Mind Control.

See also: mind uploading

Mind control as entertainment

Hypnotism has often been used by stage performers to make volunteers do strange things, such as clucking like a chicken, for the entertainment of audiences. The British psychological illusionist Derren Brown performs more sophisticated mental tricks in his television programmes, Derren Brown: Mind Control.

See also

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
theory of conversion exit tactics
coercive persuasion
love bombing
mind control
personality alteration
religious conversion
thought reform
exit counseling
intervention (counseling)
post-cult trauma


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External links

External links specific to the "Manchurican Candidate" Hypothesis

de:Bewusstseinskontrollefr:manipulation mentale ru:Манипулирование сознанием zh:心靈控制

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Some believers in mind control assert that no one has immunity to mind control: a person could just start talking to a someone on the street, and nearly instantly, he becomes a victim. Other sources believe that such mind control does not exist, and that attempts at mind control cannot subvert free will.

MKULTRA made experiments with barbiturates, LSD, hypnosis, Pavlovian conditioning, repetitive indoctrination, sensory deprivation and subliminal stimuli.

The general consensus sees MKULTRA as a failure, although because most of the MKULTRA records were deliberately destroyed in 1973 by order of then-Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms, it is impossible to have a complete understanding of the more than 150 individually-funded research projects sponsored by MKULTRA and the related CIA programs.

The term "mind control" evolved from theories of brainwashing after these theories had been found not applicable and discredited with regard to cults. (Note that sociologists and other experts often dispute about what constitutes a "cult".)

Some theorists maintain that merely by "milieu control" or censoring all information that might dissuade belief a group of manipulators may take control of the mind of a person who is otherwise free to end his association with the group (see especially Steve Hassan and Flo Conway).

In the anti-cult movement and Christian countercult movement mind control has the meaning of strong influence acquired and maintained by manipulation.

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