The most important thing to understand about manipulation tactics is that if you don't understand it and your leaders do they will be able to manipulate you to do what is in their own best interest at your expense. Even if you do understand these tactics others may not and if special interests manipulate them then their votes may be under the influence of the special interests and this may influence you; therefore it will be in your best interest if these manipulation tactics are taught to the public to strengthen our democracy.
As long as tyrants understand these manipulation tactics and the public doesn’t then there will never be a true democracy.
The most effective way to manipulate the public is to withhold education from them and if necessary do what it takes to make sure they don’t get an education on their own. This is why it has often been considered a crime to educate slaves. This is why we need education reform or a nonviolent educational revolution. In order to ensure that education reform isn’t just another form of indoctrinating the public it is important for this to include education about the tactics that have been used to manipulate the public in the past.
A large percentage of the information the public obtains is from advertising or it is financed by advertising money. Corporations have done an enormous amount of advertising research to understand what the most effective way to sell their products to the public. Basically what this means is they are studying the public like guinea pigs. This may not seem like the general perception of research subjects but the trial and error method is there which is the most important ingredient of research. They try to promote their products one way and if it doesn’t work they do something different. They are trying to do what it takes to maximize profits. This means trying to convince the public they need stuff and they should pay for it. They also want to convince the public they are getting a good deal without actually giving it to them. In order to maximize profits it helps to keep prices high hence the tried and true tactic of marking up to mark down.
Just about everything the advertising industry does is intended to create the appearance of honesty and increase the profits of corporations at the same time. In many cases even though the ads are clearly unreliable by repeating them over and over again it makes them seem acceptable to those who aren’t on their guard.
For example the ads telling the public they are “covered, totally covered, completely covered” are flawed in a simple basic manner; the more the insurance companies spend on the commercial the less money they have for medical coverage. By repeating it over and over again and not having any other alternative available from the Mass Media the consumers either go for the ad or a similar one that isn’t any better. Many people doubt that they are influenced by advertising yet if they weren’t then the enormous amount of money spent on advertising would be a total waste. Either the advertising is very effective or the corporations are run by an enormous amount of incompetent people. The fact that the Mass Media is financed solely by advertising dollars mainly from the most powerful corporations also creates a conflict of interests since they are also the leading watch dogs that report on the wrong doing of corporations.
If the public understood how much they were being effected by advertising and how much it is influencing the news content they might take a second look at the way public TV should be financed and create boards to at least provide recommended guidelines or perhaps more influence over the programming content. The Mass Media is controlled by a very small amount of people and by repeating things over and over again they have an enormous influence on what the public thinks about if not what the position of many members of the public is. In many cases they do have a disproportionate amount of influence over the political positions of the less educated people simply by drowning out the points of view of those that disagree with the mass media. They also do a very effective job at manipulating the emotions of the public and keeping them distracted from the most important issues. Without a high profile alternative media with influence from sincere academics, civil rights advocates and members of the public we will never have a true democracy.
The major political parties have been doing an enormous amount political research on how to win elections. This is similar to corporate advertising only for political reasons. This means that when they do their polling and other form of research they are studying ways to manipulate the public like guinea pigs also. They do this by using an enormous amount of propaganda to manipulate the prejudices and emotions of the public. They are often trying to do everything they can to keep the public distracted from the important issues by flooding the airways with discussion about the most trivial issues that have little or no effect on important policies. The most common distraction they use is sex scandals which are repeated over and over again. They also spend a lot of time manipulating the prejudices of the public. This keep the public distracted and prevents them from understanding many if any of the most important issues when they go to the polls. If the public doesn’t know what the politicians are doing they can get away with anything. Then with the scandals come out they often come up with sham token solution.
In many cases the politicians have created regulation systems that are supposed to protect the public from corruptions on many issues including environmental protection. This is just one example and the same tactic they use for this can be seen in other examples like tobacco legislation, auto safety, health care malpractice etc. In the case of environmental protection they created the EPA to regulate environmental pollution then the same elected politicians who have been involved with the corporations that are polluting the environment appoint people to run the agency. In some cases the polluters have even been consulted about who is going to regulate them. There have been times where nongovernmental organizations have uncovered wrong doing by the corporations and found that the EPA has been reluctant to do anything. This is an example where corruption caused by corporations causes the government to be inefficient then the same corporations that caused the inefficiency in the first place using indirect tactics accuse the government of being inefficient and say this is a good reason to let the free market rule.
One of the most common tactics the ruling class has used in the past is divide and rule. By playing different races, nationalities or sexes against each other they can maintain their own power as long as the lower classes are fighting amongst themselves. This is a tactic that has been used successfully for thousands of years going back to the roman time when they Romans often allied themselves with different tribes to fight against other tribes. Then they would take on the loyal tribe as client states with a lower status. These client states would often turn out to be the enemy at later times but by maintaining discipline and being more organized the Romans managed to remain on the top for hundreds of years. When the Roman Empire finally did collapse it was because they couldn’t stop the divisions from within not without. This raises a major problem with divide and rule it could eventually turn on those who use it if they don’t learn how to get along better. This tactic continued to be used by the English, Spanish, Dutch and French empires as well as many other regimes. Both the Spanish and the English and later the USA used this tactic to virtually wipe out the Native Americans. They set one tribe against another allying themselves with one then turning on the tribe that was their former ally. They repeated this until there was an almost complete genocide.
Divide and rule tactics were also used to set white indentured servants against black slaves. When white indentured servants and black slaves were first brought in to work for the property owners in the 1600’s they were unfamiliar with each other and they got along. Prejudices had not yet developed. This made sense from the point of view of the masters since they would be less productive if they were fighting amongst themselves. But then what happened is that they joined forces at times to rebel against their masters. At this time there were laws passed to begin segregation and then they gave some benefits to the whites to put them above the blacks. Demagoguery was also used and prejudice became institutionalized. A more effective method of handling the situation from the point of view of modern human right activists would be to teach them about their cultural differences and to provide more education but this isn’t what the ruling class of the time wanted. This prejudice became o strong that the majority of the poor whites fought and died to protect the right of the rich whites to own slaves. At first they chased down escaped slaves for the property owners then the poor whites took the front lines for the rich during the civil war. After the civil war the same ruling class kept the majority of the land that was returned to them by Andrew Johnson. The divide and rule tactics continued for over a hundred year until the civil rights slowed it down but didn’t eliminate them.
Divide and rule tactics have also been routine against the labor organizations. By controlling the financial systems the ruling class has often used their power to coerce concessions from the poor who lacked the education and resources to find any other alternative. Prior to the rise of industrialism the poor had good hunting and farming skills that they could use as long as they had the land to hunt or farm but after industrialization the ownership of property prevented the poor from doing this and they were dependent on a system they couldn’t control or completely understand without education and money. Once the upper classes had dominance over the most powerful institutions the poor had few options except to unionize and create bargaining power. This was routinely met with attempts to break up the unions or bring in labor from other part of the country or even the world. The ruling class has routinely hired one race or nationality to replace another when there were strikes and the unions often struck out against the scabs instead of the rich because the rich had guards to protect them and they were often not near the unions. Examples of this include when there were Chinese or Irish imported to do work and they often were attacked by the unions. In many cases the ruling class would prefer to spend more money to bring in cab labor or hire security than to allow the workers to have higher wages. This was an enormously inefficient way of running the economy. If not for the work stoppages and destruction caused by these tactics there would have been much more money available to split up. This often seems as George Orwell put it like seeking power for the sake of power.
Divide and rule tactics continue to be used to day in many way including the immigration laws that make it illegal for aliens to work and the free trade laws that make it easier to trade but do little or nothing to protect the rights of workers around the world or to protect the environment. Globalization as it is currently being practiced is just another divide and rule tactic designed to erode democracy and the civil right of the majority for the benefit of the rich. If it continues unchecked it could lead to so much unrest that we could wind up in a downward spiral of war and environmental destruction that could destroy our culture as we know it.
When leaders use divide and rule tactics they rarely if ever do it in a clear manner. This is almost always done using more complex tactics and it is up for those that are being manipulated to recognize it and stop it.
In many cases the ruling class uses tokenism or allowing some people to climb the class system as long as they don’t do more to stick up for the lower classes they leave behind. This is a variation of divide and rule tactics and it is done in several different ways. One way this is done is when they hire police national guards or detective agencies to break up strikes. In order to obtain the loyalty of the people they hire they have to give them some incentive to risk their lives to put down violent strikes this presumably involves paying the guards more than the workers. Another example of this could be when the corporations deal with union leaders or civil rights leaders behind closed doors and they come to an agreement that may not be ion the best interest of the majority but one way or another the living standard of the leaders of the protesters is improved and further protest is averted. In this case there may be leaders pretending to do the best they can for the majority but they wind up giving them more lip service than actual solutions. In order to address this discussion should be held out in the open.
Peer pressure is often used to convince people to conform. This is often done with encouragement from a leader or demagogue that is most popular among the group. This can be averted if people are taught to tolerate different points of view from an early age and they learn to discuss the details of any given belief or customs. In many cases peer pressure is often used to unify a group when a conflict arises against another group. When this happens peer pressure is often at its worst. This often involves the your with us or against us attitude and it may mean that anyone who criticizes the leader of the group may be ostracized. This could happen even if there is legitimate criticism that involves looking at the situation from the point of view of the opposition. This often means that it is difficult if not impossible to come to a compromise that ends any given rivalry, dispute or war.
War and war propaganda is often used to manipulate the public and convince them to fight for the best interest of the leaders often at a much bigger expense to the majority than the leaders. In many cases members of the upper classes are often involved in war profiteering that enables them to make more money during war than in peace time even while the majority is making much bigger sacrifices. War is routinely used to provide an excuse for secrecy so that the public doesn’t know what the government is doing or why. In many cases in the past the wars have been started on false pretences and these weren’t exposed until after the war was over. In fact if you look close enough at past wars it becomes clear that this happens far more often than not. The vast majority of the lives lost routinely involve the lower classes and the vast majority of the benefits if any routinely go to the upper classes. The upper classes routinely control the information that is given to the lower classes and pray on their hatred. War propaganda is often used to demonize the enemy and when a small percentage of the public look into the details of some of these claims they are often portrayed as traitors. The true traitors are the ones who are misleading the public but unless the public learns how to control their emotions they rarely ever see this.
Philanthropist is often used to convince the majority of the public that the rich are looking out for their best interest since they give to charities. Imagine if someone robbed you and beat you up then they gave you back a small fraction of what they stole from you. Would you consider them benevolent? If it is done in such a straight forward way then of course you wouldn’t which is why the rich don’t do this in a straight forward way. They set up a very complex system and maintain control over the press so that the philanthropist is highlighted and the atrocities are given very little attention. For example many of the major corporations that run the most powerful institutions have been around for a long time and were involved in the labor movement during the nineteenth century. They often used troops to beat down strikers and even killed them and they benefited from huge give aways like the large amount of land that was given to the railroads. These are rarely mentioned in the press today and are almost forgotten by most people today. There are other more sophisticated ways they still use to manipulate the system but they don’t get as much attention as the helping hand they sometimes promote from organizations like the Carnegie institution, the Ford foundation or Rhode scholars. In some cases corporations actually spend more money on advertising their charitable contributions than they do giving to charity. The biggest example of this is the tobacco companies. In many cases these contributions come with strings attached that are not well publicized if at all. They may often be tacit conditions that are unspoken. An example of this could be the large amount of money given to public television from major corporations. They are unlikely to receive these contributions if they are going to investigate the corporations.
Single issue voters are often manipulated very easy by many politicians. They can simply repeat over and over again that they stand up for the right position of that single issue then they can get large voting blocs as a base and they don’t have to tell them much if anything about any of the other issues that affect the public. In many cases they don’t even stick up for that single issue as well as they claim. The most common example of this is often the abortion issue. This is an issue that many groups get very emotional and fail to think rationally about. The pro life point of view focuses solely on abortion and often ignores many other issues that cause much more death than the abortion issue. The people that support the pro-life position on the abortion issue often ignore the environment safety issues war and many other issues that have a major impact on preserving life and the quality of life. There is a similar narrow mindedness on other single issue subjects like guns etc.
Control of major institutions that influence large parts of life, by a minority is a common way of manipulating the majority. Ten thousand years ago there were no major institutions that had major impacts on the culture of the human race. People lived in tribes and supported themselves by hunting and later on farming. That way of life is no longer available for many people in the world. Large institutions have evolved that control many of the most important aspects of life and these are often run by a small group of people behind closed doors and the public has little or no understanding about how they operate. Unless these are run in an honest open manner the public can’t understand how to influence them or how they influence the public. If the biggest and most powerful institutions are able to conduct their activities in secret there can never be a true democracy. The leaders of these institutions will be able to know about the public and how they can influence them but the public won’t be able to know what the institutions are doing.
Some of the most influential institutions are often influenced by each other and they influence the public indirectly. One of the biggest examples is religion. Religious institutions often receive money from major corporations or other business institutions and they often stand up for the best interests of those institutions. In one cases in the nineteenth century a major corporation attempted to require church attendance in Dover NH. Religions have often preached more about responsibility to the poor and looked the other way at the wrong doing of the rich. In one famous case there was a common lecture by a religious leader, Russell Conwell, called "Acres of Diamonds". In this he preached that the reason the rich obtained their wealth was because they were honest and the poor were not. He preached a sense of honesty that accepted without question the propaganda that the rich put out that told the poor how important it was to live up to their responsibilities but looked the other way at the rich. This was even more common hundreds of years ago when the Catholic Church approved kings and supported their regimes even when they were turning the population at large into virtual slaves. This type of activity continues today often in more subtle ways; however they aren’t always so subtle. In some cases they are clear if you look in the right places like televangelists who manipulate the public and bilk them out of large contributions.
Another example where major institutions have been manipulated by corporate interests as well as religious interests has been education. Throughout most of history education was controlled solely by the church. They taught the public only what the leaders thought the public needed to know in order to function. This started with worship of God and believing what they were told without question. During the industrial age this wouldn’t work due to the fact that religion didn’t acknowledge the principles used by many new forms of technology. In the nineteenth century public education was initiated by corporations because they found that uneducated people couldn’t handle the new technology. This was often limited solely to what the public needed to become more effective workers in factories. In some cases when education wasn’t necessary to conduct a job the public didn’t receive it at all. This included children who often had to work in factories for long hours and often died very young due to bad work conditions. These children were treated like virtual slaves who received no more than they needed to become more productive workers and if they were injured or died they and their families were abandoned without any compensation.
Influence by religions, corporations and politicians still has a major impact on education today. There is a common argument that school should deal with reading, writing, arithmetic and perhaps a few other subjects like science and social subject only. This is supposed to prevent teachers from having an unreasonable influence on children or perhaps to indoctrinate them with their own political views. What this essentially does is prevent well intended teachers from teaching many students how to avoid manipulation tactics. Once these conservatives prevent teachers from informing the students about these tactics then it is much easier for politicians to manipulate the public with propaganda. What these politicians are essentially saying is don’t warn them so we can preserve the current political system. One way or another the most powerful college institutions are also being influenced. The cost of tuition is constantly going up even when technology is helping to cut expenses. Computer technology has made it much easier to share technology inexpensively but instead of doing this they are inventing more technology to help prevent infringement on copyright laws which are clearly excessive. Copy right laws are in some cases even being applied to lectures so that they can’t be taped and shown to those that don’t pay tuition. Colleges seem to be more concerned with making high profits and controlling education than with the best interest of the majority of the public. This is why we need education reform.
All these manipulation tactics are much more effective if they are used on uneducated people. The most effective way to strengthen democracy and prevent massive fraud is to set up an education system that educates everyone in the most effective way possible regardless of whether or not they can afford it. Education isn’t a natural right; nature doesn’t set up an education system, but it is in the best interest of the majority of the human race to make it a man made right by setting up institutions that are controlled by an educated public.
First posted on Tripod on 01/12/10
to read about "Acres of Diamonds" see:
To read more about fallacies or indoctrination tactics see the following sites including another page of mine; this also includes at least one page that has been written by an authority, Sharon Presley, whom I have been skeptical of the past about some issues; however I think the material she has written on these pages is quite good and the disagreement that some authors of manipulation tactics have is one more reason to check the principles and decide for yourself which source is more credible. I explained my disagreements with Sharon Presley in more detail in a blog about Corruption or Bias in the American Psychological Association:
Blog description and table of context for most older posts.)