This week I’m beginning a book club which is entirely focused on the theme of propaganda and the human susceptibility to mind hacking. Why? Because there has been an abysmal lack of self-awareness on this topic among the general public. And that’s a shame because the less aware we are of the trickery involved in social pressure and psychological manipulation, the less immune we are to those things. But when you learn how and why people blindly conform to destructive behaviors, it’s like learning the magician’s tricks. You can get beyond the illusions of political correctness, propaganda, and advertising. That’s not to say you won’t still be susceptible, but building public awareness can really help cut through and challenge the political correctness we are barraged with in modern life.
Our club is going to read a lot of titles, mostly non-fiction, but I hope also to include some fiction. (The dystopian novel “We” by Yevgeniy Zamyatin is high on my list. That’s the book that influenced George Orwell to write 1984.) I offered a short list of titles in my Federalist article “Ten Resources for Hack Proofing Your Mind.”
But I’ve decided to start the club off reading Denise Winn’s book “The Manipulated Mind” because that book serves as an overall primer on many different aspects of psychological conditioning, indoctrination, and brainwashing. At just over 200 pages, it’s relatively short and introduces the reader to many of the theories and scholars who have studied conditioning and social psychology, including Ivan Pavlov, Stanley Milgram, Solomon Asch, and numerous others. Here are a few of the questions I offer for pondering if you read this book:
- What parallels can you detect between political correctness and the 10 brainwashing processes discussed in Chapter Two? (For example, as used on college campuses, or in the media, or in Human Resources departments.)
2. Why is the threat of social rejection so central to getting people to conform to an agenda? And what makes some people more vulnerable than others?
3. What do the Milgram experiments (“Obedience to Authority”) tell you about how ordinary people can commit unthinkable acts?
- Given the information you gleaned from this book, what qualities would you conclude are necessary to keep a society free?
I’d love to hear about more and more folks starting book clubs like this to jump start these kinds of discussions. If you know people who are interested, why not get together and start reading with them? Spread the word!