Psychological manipulation: How people are convinced to accept costly & destructive policies

September 2020: The British Government has developed a habit of announcing new lockdown/covid rules and restrictions in vague outline without any detail.   For example, on 7 September it was announced that, as of Monday 14 September, social gatherings of more than six people would be made illegal with big fines for offenders. No detail was issued on who this is supposed to apply to or in what sized venue - on what this is supposed to mean for the arts, pubs and restaurants, workplaces, family celebrations, church services, or any other area of society.  Does this apply to freedom protests and also to Extinction Rebellion? Is it effectively a fresh lockdown? 

It appears chaotic and incompetent, and bears little or no relationship to the rational facts of covid nor any other illness.  There appears to be no reference to Parliamentary Procedures or to ordinary freedom and human rights.

The question here is this: 

Is this a result of random incompetence - or is there a strategy?

Or - the third option - an element of both? 

We think that there is an element of both, and, as when we watch the tide come in up the beach, there is a definite trend towards coercion and authoritarianism, and away from our traditions of freedom and responsibility, away from the proper processes of decision-making,  and away from a well-functioning society that is nice to live within.

The seeming chaos and unanswered questions produce uncertainty, loss of confidence, and take our eye off the big picture. Instead of asking "What is going on here? What is your justification for these measures?" many people merely moan about the apparent incompetence, ask questions about the detail .... but then succumb and comply. A sizeable minority even welcome the restrictions, believing that it keeps everyone safe.

 

Meanwhile, the government is finding out how far it can push the public. And this has a formal term - it's called "nudging". Everyone needs to be aware of what nudging is.

Here's how it all works:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4CxaEh3NNQ

Peter Whittle chairs a discussion (21 June 2020) whether Covid-19 and Lockdown will affect the carbon zero agenda. Richard Bingley of Global Cyber Security points out that the Green agenda is not a grass-roots movement - wind turbines have been imposed across the landscape without any say from the people who live there.

 

Just before the end of the discussion, Dr Benny Peiser of the GWPF draws a parallel between the climate emergency and the Covid crisis - "the people have been scared out of their wits and will then behave animalistically - and governments can then manipulate people to their will."

James Delingpole mentions the Government's "nudge department". What's that?

Here it is - the ‘nudge’ department, officially entitled The Behavioural Insights Team, an organisation that operates globally:

https://www.bi.team/about-us/   

This is what they say about themselves:

"The Team has grown from a seven-person unit at the heart of the UK government to a global social purpose company with offices around the world. Our work spanned 31 countries in the last year alone. Our mission remains the same. We generate and apply behavioural insights to inform policy, improve public services and deliver results for citizens ...."

Hidden manipulation is the formal policy, as described in "MINDSPACE".

This is an official 96-page report from 2009 entitled

"MINDSPACE - influencing behaviour through public policy"

 https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/MINDSPACE.pdf

“Influencing behaviour is central to public policy. Recently, there have been major advances in understanding the influences on our behaviours, and government needs to take notice of them. This report aims to make that happen.”

‘Nudging’ is described in the report as “cues [that] act on people without their conscious knowledge: indeed, people actively resist the suggestion that their actions are being influenced.”  

 

Covert manipulation is being paid for by the taxpayer, using our money to persuade people of the current government's political position and agenda. This seems to us to be unethical, anti-democratic, and anti-freedom of thought. Much of what passes for the independent press turns out to be one form or another of government propaganda, paid for by the target (us).  The same is the case of large numbers of individuals who comment on social media and in newspaper comments boards, while they pretend to be independent members of the public, they are actually paid for by the government (or other sources) to influence general opinions. The combined effect is so powerful that we would describe it as coercion.

The fact that departments such as this exist, is part of why government policy is, in practice, nearly the same regardless of which political party is in office.

 

Nudging works by playing on people’s goodwill, ‘wear a mask because it makes other people feel more comfortable’ and then watch as one person says it to the next and slowly the whole mass of people conform. Also by reducing any topic to two extreme positions, and making sure that the groupthink selects the extreme that the nudger wants. They keep feeding it out as ‘memes’ (fragments of a social idea, a soundbite with legs, with power to make people conform). 

 

One strategy we witness time and again is to deliberately create division in society, with envy, jealousy and anger. Also confusion with constant change in life. Again, people in this state are easy to manipulate. This is ‘Divide and Rule’ on a truly massive scale.               

 

Another related strategy is to drive people into extremes of opinions, where it is either one extreme or another, whereas reality might be neither of these extremes, or might be a complex mixture of both. I find a simple visual triangle useful in conversations to generate constructive dialogue, putting the two extreme opinions at two corners and then asking, what might be third options here?

 

Another is to cast any debate as personal, as one person’s followers versus another - as opposed to an intellectual desire to learn, understand, and uncover the truth of the matter. The concept that an individual has rational ideas of their own is rubbished in every way possible. The author has been accused many times of being influenced/controlled by people she’s never heard of!

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Tactics for Psychological Coercion (AKA "Brainwashing") – Dr Margaret Singer (1921-2003)

 

1.      EXACT REPETITION

Techniques to increase suggestibility and ‘soften up' the individual via hypnotic or other suggestibility increasing techniques such as extended audio drills, excessive exact repetition of routine activities.

 

2.      SOCIAL ISOLATION

Establishment of control over the victim's social environment, time, and sources of social support through creating social isolation; removing contact with family and friends, as well as persons who do not share group-approved attitudes.

 

3.      INFORMATION CONTROL

Rejection of alternate information and separate opinions. Rules exist about permissible topics to discuss. Communication is highly controlled. An ‘in-group' language is usually constructed.

 

4.      ALTER REALITY PERCEPTION

Make the person re-evaluate the most central aspects of his or her experience of self and prior conduct in negative ways. Efforts are designed to destabilize and undermine reality awareness, world view, and defence mechanisms.

 

5.      CONFUSE TARGET

Create a sense of powerlessness by subjecting the victim to intense and frequently confusing, conflicting actions and situations which undermine the victim's self-confidence and judgement.

 

6.      PUNISHMENT

Creating strong, aversive, emotional arousals in the subject by reactions such as intense humiliation, loss of privilege, social isolation, social status changes, intense guilt, anxiety, and manipulation.

 

7.      CONFORMITY THREATS

Intimidate with group-sanctioned psychological threats. For example, it may be suggested that failure to adopt the approved behaviour will lead to severe punishment or the reappearance of a prior physical illness.

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What can we do?

Every small action that promotes a healthy society is valuable. Every encouragement to the use of common sense, every smile, every hug. Every letter, every online comment.

 

Help one another keep our hearts clear of FEAR. Encourage ordinary conversation. Avoid being pushed to extremes of opinion.  Not *either this or that* but instead ask, "What other possibilities are there?"

All pushback is good, and anything that delays the encroachments upon freedom and humanity.

By way of the example given at the top: September 2020: The British Government has developed a habit of announcing new lockdown/covid rules and restrictions in vague outline without any detail.   For example, on 7 September it was announced that, as of Monday 14 September, social gatherings of more than six people would be made illegal with big fines for offenders. No detail was issued on who this is supposed to apply to or in what sized venue - on what this is supposed to mean for the arts, pubs and restaurants, workplaces, family celebrations, church services, or any other area of society.  Does this apply to freedom protests and also to Extinction Rebellion? Is it effectively a fresh lockdown?

 

By Thursday 10th, there had been enough of an outcry to encourage the government to draw back from actual lockdown. 'Gatherings' that had been planned and risk-assessed were to be allowed.  No actual rules, though, until Sunday. 

So it's not as bad bad as it could have been - but still another major step towards control and away from freedom and responsibility. These are now 'rules' and the police have been given instruction to enforce them, regardless of other legal considerations such as the Common Law or Human Rights legislation, let alone our traditions and common sense. It also gives the authorities the power to determine what has or has not been 'risk assessed' and another tool to make use of. In particular it removes our freedom to invite whoever we want to our homes.

It also adds to the general instability, and this in itself makes a population more easy to manipulate.  The worst thing here is our natural reaction, "Phew! It's not as bad as it might have been!" followed by grateful acceptance of what is in fact an outrageous removal of our freedom to associate.

 

Freedom to associate is one of our human rights. On 13 September Boris Johnson announced that he will repeal part of the Human Rights Act in order to put a stop to illegal immigration, which was received by the population with joy .... we smell rats.

As for the initial question, is it random incompetence with relatively small scale profiteering (contracts for masks, etc) or is there something strategic going on? Nobody expressed it better than William Shakespeare in Hamlet, 1602:

Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t.

..... commonly expressed as, "There's method in the madness"

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Benny Peiser (above) drew attention to the deliberate creation of fear as a tool of manipulation as regards global warming. The American Institute of Economic Research has noted the same phenomenon in respect of Covid-19. Two articles include:

When will the madness end?  10 July 2020, by Jeffrey A. Tucker

“I’m a practicing psychiatrist who specializes in anxiety disorders, paranoid delusions, and irrational fear. I’ve been treating this in individuals as a specialist. It’s hard enough to contain these problems in normal times. What’s happening now is a spread of this serious medical condition to the whole population. It can happen with anything but here we see a primal fear of disease turning into mass panic. It seems almost deliberate. It is tragic. Once this starts, it could take years to repair the psychological damage.”  https://www.aier.org/article/when-will-the-madness-end/ 

Month Four of the Panic: Where Is the Evidence?  19 July 2020, by Roger W. Koops

"It is well known that panic and anxiety changes the chemistry in the brain. In fact, rational thought diminishes rapidly in a panic state. Governments know this and use it to coerce populations to follow what they might normally consider to be questionable or bad policy ..... 

Remember at the beginning in March, the following mantra:

We are at WAR with this virus -

We must unite to DEFEAT this virus - 

Everyone must SACRIFICE to defeat this virus - 

We are in this TOGETHER -

So first of all, in order to implement the horrific policies which were about to be unleashed on society, the government had to create a state of panic. But, unlike 9/11, when some news media questioned the premises, this time the main news media was in hook, line, and sinker and they continue still in that mode. Why that should be I am not sure and it is better left to others to decipher."

https://www.aier.org/article/month-four-of-the-panic-where-is-the-evidence/

The author (Roger W. Koops) is puzzled about the mantra, being such obvious nonsense as regards a corona virus. The answer lies in Britain - rhetoric like this was what we heard during the Conservative Party's election campaign last autumn, with Boris Johnson recreating various of Sir Winston Churchill's characteristic postures.  The obvious possibility here is that the Behavioural Insights Team described above introduced the mantra into the USA.

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James Lindsay - on need to guard against others manipulating our goodwill:

"Occasionally in the course of human events it becomes necessary to have to explain something no one would ever have expected to have to defend. In the present moment, we find that circumstance to be the case and that thing to be that two and two do, in fact, make four....

... postmodernism, particularly in the hands of the ideology of Critical Social Justice, is not at all interested in truth. It is only interested in power, which it will establish through its attempted revolution, which it in turn knows it can only achieve by turning otherwise intelligent, well-meaning people into “accomplices” by manipulating their good will, charity, fear of being disliked or ostracized, and, especially, unawareness of what is actually going on beneath the rhetorical tricks they’re being served up with intentionally limited context."

https://newdiscourses.com/2020/08/2-plus-2-never-equals-5/

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The British government also uses various parts of our security services to urge and jostle people into agreeing with what they want. This seems to be another well-kept ‘open-secret’ but was amply demonstrated by the numbers of online trolls attempting to persuade newspaper readers that Brexit was economic suicide, by trying to flatter people into taking sides and agreeing with them. Read more here:

https://www.ukcolumn.org/article/behavioural-insights-second-team-leading-uk-governments-covid-19-response  

where the many links between the same individuals who worked to overturn the Brexit vote, are implementing Covid-19 behavioural changes, and are also involved in the ‘Climate Change’ agenda, as well as Common Purpose.

 

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Use of social media and Artificial Intelligence to manipulate behaviour and opinions https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/16330/tiktok-china

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How to manipulate people by playing on their emotions and good intentions, in this example to accept vaccination https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2020/08/13/coronavirus-vaccination-campaign.aspx

Yale University study underway to identify most effective messaging – advertising campaign for the Vaccine

The idea that the vaccine promotion might be more “overwhelming” than what we’re used to is further supported by a clinical study on ClinicalTrials.gov, the aim of which is to identify the most “persuasive messages for COVID-19 vaccine uptake.” 

1)Personal freedom message — A message about how COVID-19 is limiting people’s personal freedom, and how society, by working together to get enough people vaccinated, can preserve its personal freedom.

2)Economic freedom message — A message about how COVID-19 is limiting people’s economic freedom, and how society, by working together to get enough people vaccinated, can preserve its economic freedom.

3)Self-interest message — A message that COVID-19 presents a real danger to one’s health, even if one is young and healthy, and how getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to prevent oneself from getting sick.

4)Community interest message — A message about the dangers of COVID-19 to the health of loved ones: The more people who get vaccinated against COVID-19, the lower the risk that one’s loved ones will get sick. Society must work together and all get vaccinated.

5)Economic benefit message — A message about how COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the economy and the only way to strengthen the economy is to work together to get enough people vaccinated.

6)Guilt message — A message is about the danger that COVID-19 presents to the health of one’s family and community. Therefore, the best way to protect them is not only by getting vaccinated, but to get society to work together to get enough people vaccinated. Then a test question asks the participant to imagine the guilt they will feel if they don’t get vaccinated and then spread the disease.

7)Embarrassment message — A message is about the danger that COVID-19 presents to the health of one’s family and community: The best way to protect them is by getting vaccinated and by working together to make sure that enough people get vaccinated. Then it asks the participant to imagine the embarrassment they will feel if they don’t get vaccinated and spread the disease.

8)Anger message — The message is about the danger that COVID-19 presents to the health of one’s family and community. The best way to protect them is by getting vaccinated and by working together to make sure that enough people get vaccinated. It then asks the participant to imagine the anger they will feel if they don’t get vaccinated and spread the disease.

9)Trust in science message — A message about how getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the most effective way of protecting one’s community, that vaccination is backed by science: If one doesn’t get vaccinated that means that one doesn’t understand how infections are spread or you are one who ignores science.

10)Not brave message — A message which describes how firefighters, doctors and front line medical workers are brave: Those who choose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 are not brave.

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