10 Lessons on Manipulation
Why the Intelligence Community Fosters Mediocrity, Ignorance, and Emotionalism, Treating You as if You Were an Indolent 12-Year-Old.
I was employed by the CIA's Special Activities Center. This center focuses on covert and paramilitary operations. Known as the Special Activities Division (SAD) until 2015, the SAC comprises two main sections: the SAC/SOG (Special Operations Group) for tactical paramilitary tasks, and the SAC/PAG (Political Action Group), which specializes in covert political maneuvers. My role was a blend of both groups, leaning more towards hands-on operational work than the broad-scale political scheming typical of the PAG. Nevertheless, my experience with them provided valuable insights into the art of public deception.
Below you find a list of the top ten strategies commonly used by covert agendas to manipulate public opinion through the media. Historically, the media has been highly effective in shaping public opinion. Media tools and propaganda have played pivotal roles in creating or dismantling social movements, justifying wars, influencing financial crises, promoting various ideological trends, and even in establishing the phenomenon of media as reality creators within the collective psyche.
Media manipulation is an integral part of our everyday lives. Each event is presented by the media in a manner that suits their agenda, leading to a distorted perception of reality among audiences. This misconception can result in incorrect assessments and behaviors in individuals. The media not only play a social role but are also tools for controlling public sentiment. The way news is presented influences people's understanding of events and their reactions to them. The media's role varies: they can highlight certain issues while remaining silent on others, turning them into a new form of power.
The media aim to persuade the audience to unconditionally accept all political and social actions of the government, becoming part of the state power apparatus.
But how do we detect the most common strategies used in these psychosocial tools that we all engage with? Fortunately, this article exists to expose these practices. Some are more obvious, others more sophisticated, but all are equally effective and, from a certain perspective, demeaning. Encouraging stupidity, promoting a sense of guilt, creating distractions, or constructing artificial problems and then magically solving them are just some of these tactics.
These strategies may resonate with those who don't solely depend on mainstream media, which often offers a fragmented selection of themes and a condensed bombardment of information.
Those who adopt this approach and view the world through the lens of liberal pluralism — which posits that there is no central power, elite, or ruling class in society, but rather various groups of actors exerting their influence in a somewhat balanced manner, ensuring that ideas aligning with the fundamental interests of the majority prevail — are likely to reject this list.
A crucial aspect of social control is the strategy of distraction, which aims to shift public focus away from significant issues and decisions made by political and economic elites. By inundating the public with constant distractions and trivial information, people's minds become more compliant and less questioning. This strategy of distraction also plays a key role in deterring widespread interest in fields like science, economics, psychology, neurobiology, and cybernetics.
The central concept here is “triviality.” Attention is a scarce resource. In a democratic society structured so that a few profit while the majority observes, it's essential to keep the majority engaged in trivial matters to prevent interference with specific interests. This state of diversion echoes the Roman Republic's approach, described by Juvenal as “bread and circuses.”
Anyone observing the selection of topics in TV, radio, newspapers, and everyday conversations should question the relevance of these topics to their life or the lives of others. By focusing on factors that contribute to long-term happiness and examining the relationship between the time or attention given to these topics and their actual relevance to life, one might discover a sort of “inversion” of priorities.
To sensationalize certain themes, trivial matters like special supermarket deals, sports team rankings, celebrities' love affairs, the peculiar name of a neighbor's child, or the benefits of medium-fat over regular margarine are highlighted. These are juxtaposed against the downplaying of serious issues like the erosion of civil liberties, torture, threatened mass murder, secret wars by western “models,” normalization of war, precariousness, and the distortion of war causes and promotion of crises through war ideologies.
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