How They Brainwash the People

Brainwashing goes by many names. In business, we called it marketing and advertisement. In politics, we called it political communication. Or campaigning. Or propaganda. Or anytime a politician opens his or her mouth. In the media, we called it… well, the media.

Marketing and advertisement aim to create the “consumer zombies”. To brainwash us into a life of slaving away for our capitalist masters. To toy with our vanity by telling us that we do not matter, unless we buy and consume. To exploit our insecurity by persuading us to measure the value of humanity by the car that we drive, the cosmetic that we wear and the brand that we buy. To enslave us with our own lack of self-worth.

Political communication aims to create the “citizen zombies”. To brainwash us into obeying our political masters unquestioningly. Whether on who to vote for. Who to march for. Who to riot for. Who to love or hate. Which country to invade. Or, which minority group to persecute.

The media is simply a platform for our capitalist and political masters.

(Yes, we are full of skepticism today.)

The strategy of brainwashing is to manage the perception of the people and shape the reality of the world in which we live. Meaning, to bombard the people with information that would get them to think in a certain way, in other word, form a perception. Then, persuade the people to act on it, in other word, create a reality in response to said perception.

For example, if the political machine is successful in forming the perception that “America kinda suck now” and will “continue to suck even worse”, while painting a picture of Donald Trump as the hope that can “make America great again”. If enough people buy into this  perception, then guess what, said people would go to the booths and cast their votes.

Hence, creating the reality of Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States of America.

Key to the success of brainwashing the populace is “emotional investment”. Love is blind, deaf and dumb. Tug on our heart’s string, get us to invest our emotions into a person, a group, a religion or an ideal so completely, and the passion of the people can move mountains and create wonders. But as there are two sides to every coin, yank on our heart’s string, and the passion of the mob can rain hell and fire.

To wash away logic, reason and rationality with that most powerful detergent, emotion. Of which, the ingredients include love and hate, hope and fear. Mind you, the people aren’t stupid. But if we let our emotion overcomes our reason, then even the most brilliant people become blabbering idiots. Haven’t you been in love?

Picture this:

It is 2010, at the height of the red-shirt demonstration in Bangkok. In the middle of Ratchaprasong District, the leaders stood on the stage, while thousands of red shirts watched on. A leader bellowed into the microphone, “We must fight for democracy!” The crowd went wild with cheers and applause. Even a skeptical observer went, “Yeah dude, that’s cool. Fight for democracy.”

The leader then said, “We must demand democratic elections!” The crowd again went nuts, and even the skeptical observer couldn’t help but think, “Yeah dude, that’s cool too.”

The leader went on to chant about justice, human rights and equality. The frenzy crowd was in the palm of his hands, and even the skeptical observer went, “Preach on, dude, preach on.”

Then the leader said something about if they don’t get their way, everyone should grab a bottle, fill it with gasoline and light the city up. Now of course, by this time the people had their emotions so invested, there was no turning back. Again, they cheered enthusiastically.

The skeptical observer, meanwhile, went, “hold on, dude, that ain’t cool.”

Picture this too:

It is 2014, at the height of the whistling demonstration in Bangkok. In the middle of Ratchaprasong District, the leaders stood on the stage while thousands of whistlers watched on. A leader bellowed into the microphone, “We must fight against corruptions!” The crowd went wild with cheers and applause. Even a skeptical observer went, ‘Yeah dude, that’s cool, fight corruptions.”

The leader then said, “We must fight against the lies, greed and treachery!” The crowd again went nuts, and even the skeptical observer couldn’t help but think, “Yeah dude, that’s cool too.”

Then the leader said something about using physical force and intimidation to prevent democratic elections, and also something about “external force” should move in and save the country. Now of course, by this time the people had their emotions so invested, there was no turning back. Again, they cheered enthusiastically.

The skeptical observer, meanwhile, went, “hold on, dude, that ain’t cool.”

Leading up to both scenarios, one side has spent years constructing the perception that the enemy wants to establish a corrupt capitalist republic. While the other side has also spent years constructing the perception that the enemy wants to create a corrupt feudal absolutism.

(Note that, if you are now arguing about which side is worse, then you may just be a brainwashed zombie. Get vaccinated immediately.)

The game is to get the people emotionally invested to the point they are blinded by love, clouded by hate, motivated by hope and united in fear.

Consequently, the reality that has been shaped is General Uncle Tu and General Uncle Pom, dictators extraordinaire.

When emotion overcomes reason, we become mindless zombies. The art of brainwashing is as old as time, and like most things in life, the passion of the people can be channeled into creating something good, or into wreaking destruction. Either way, the people will always be pawns in this game, if we allow our emotions to be manipulated.

History isn’t just about what happened and when it happened. History is also about the how and the why. Thailand needs to learn – not who to hate or what to despise – but how we got here and why we are here.

But one thing is for certain, those master manipulators on the stage were never the ones out there, risking lives and limbs. Rich folks talk. Poor folks die. It’s another tale, as old as time.

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