Brainwashing doesn't take any sci-fi gadgetry or Manchurian Candidate hypnotism bullshit. There are all sorts of tried-and-true techniques that anyone can use to bypass the thinking part of your brain and flip a switch deep inside that says "OBEY."
Now I know what you're thinking. "Sure, just make an ad with some big ol' titties on there! That'll convince people!"
While that's certainly true ...
... they've got a whole arsenal of manipulation techniques that go way beyond even the most effective of titties. Techniques like ...
Every cult leader, drill sergeant, self-help guru and politician knows that if you want to quiet all of those pesky doubting thoughts in a crowd, get them to chant a repetitive phrase or slogan. Those are referred to as thought-stopping techniques, because for better or worse, they do exactly that.
"Say it with me now, folks!"
"FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS! FOUR MORE YEARS!"
"One, two, three, four, I, Love, The Marine, Corps. One, two..."
Why It Works:
The "Analytical" part of your brain and the "Repetitive Task" part tend to operate in separate rooms. But you didn't need an expert to tell you that. You know you can't solve a complex logic puzzle if I force you to scream the chorus to that Chumbawamba song over and over again while you're doing it. Try it.
Meditation works the same way, with chants or mantras meant to "calm the mind." Shutting down those nagging voices in the head is helpful for stressed-out individuals, but even more helpful to a guy who wants to shut down an audience full of nagging internal voices suggesting that what he's saying might be retarded.
At the political conventions, notice how they trained the audiences to fill the gaps between applause lines with chants ("U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!") rather than, say, pensive silence to carefully consider what the speaker has just said.
Also, those of you who've worked at Wal-Mart are familiar with the "Wal-Mart Cheer" that begins every shift:
They used to sacrifice a goat at the end, but PETA put a stop to it.
The rise of the internet news portal has given birth to a whole new, sly technique of bullshit insertion. What They (and from here on, "They" with a capital T means anyone who draws a paycheck by manipulating your opinion) have figured out is that most of you don't read the stories, you just browse the headlines. And there's a way to exploit that, based on how the brain stores memories.
The Drudge Report lives off this. A single anonymous source will report to some news blog that, say, Senator Smith runs a secret gay bordello in New Orleans. Drudge will run the headline:
NEW QUESTIONS ABOUT SMITH'S SECRET GAY BORDELLO
Or perhaps there'll just be a question mark on the end:
SMITH: SECRET GAY BORDELLO ASS MASTER?
It doesn't matter that the headline merely involves "questions" about the bordello. The idea has been planted, and two months later when somebody mentions Senator Smith around the water cooler you'll say, "The gay bordello guy, right?"
"WHAT IS OBAMA'S CONNECTION TO LEFT-WING EXTREMISTS?"
"TOYOTA PRIUS - MORE WASTEFUL THAN A HUMMER?"
"OFFICIAL SAYS WTC COLLAPSE 'UNEXPLAINED'"
Why It Works:
They call it "Source Amnesia." For instance, you know what a wolverine is, but probably don't remember exactly how you learned that piece of information. The brain has limited storage, so it stores just the important nugget (that a wolverine is a small, ferocious animal) but usually discards the trivial context, such as when and where you learned about it (the movie Red Dawn, probably).
In the era of the web and information overload, that's a mechanism They can exploit very easily. What They have found is that a piece of information--say, an ugly rumor about a politician--can be presented with all sorts of qualifiers (a question mark, attribution to a shitty source, the word "unconfirmed") but often the brain will only remember the ugly rumor and completely forget the qualifier.
And get this: it happens even if the headline we read was specifically about the rumor being untrue.
You'll see this daily, in every election cycle. The entire point of putting a shaky rumor into the press is to force your opponent to deny it. Why? Because They know that the denial works just as well as the accusation. Thanks to Source Amnesia, for millions of people all three of these ...
SMITH DENIES GAY BORDELLO RUMORS
SMITH REFUSES COMMENT ON GAY BORDELLO RUMORS
SMITH ADMITS GAY COCK BORDELLO
... register as the exact same headline.
During the presidential primaries, Drudge ran a huge photo of Barack Obama wearing a turban. Under it was an inflammatory headline about how disgusting it was that Clinton staffers were circulating such a picture.
But a huge number of people who saw it only remembered the picture (months later, 13% of voters still thought he was a muslim). That's the idea.
Restriction of reading and/or viewing material is common to pretty much every cult. Here on the internet, we've all heard horror stories about Scientology, which goes as far as filtering members' internet access. Obviously the idea is to insulate the members from any opposing points of view, to keep them marching in line.
That technique works just as well outside of the cult world, but They have to be more subtle about it. It just takes a little poison in the well, that's all.
"Of course the public is misinformed! They're reading that trash in the liberal mainstream media!"
"Of course the public is misinformed! They're watching Faux News and the other trash in the corporate mainstream media!"
Why It Works:
Studies show the brain is wired to get a quick high from reading things that agree with our point of view. The same studies proved that, strangely, we also get a rush from intentionally dismissing information that disagrees, no matter how well supported it is. Yes, our brain rewards us for being closed-minded dicks.
So with a little prodding, the followers will happily close themselves in the same echo chamber of talk radio, blogs and cable news outlets that give them that little "They agree with ME!" high.
This wouldn't have been possible even 20 years ago. I grew up in the 80s, in a house with three TV stations. Three. We got one newspaper, the local one. You didn't get to pick from the conservative news or liberal news, back in my day you took what you got and you were thankful for what you had, dammit.
Today, I go through that many outlets a day just to get my freaking video game news.
And now, that explosion of the 24-hour cable news stations and, later, the web and blogosphere, has created these parallel universes of Right vs. Left media outlets, complete with their own publishing arms.
And for each, their favorite topic of discussion is how corrupt and ridiculous the other side's media is. They each even have "watchdog" groups that exist purely for the reason of hammering away at each other (the left has FAIR and MediaMatters, the right has the Media Research Center).
When an MSNBC interview with candidate John McCain got tense, he responded to the question by openly accusing the reporter of being an operative for the other side:
Just days later the campaign called The New York Times "a pro-Obama advocacy organization."
This technique is relatively new, but you'll see a lot more of it in future elections. The candidate will talk right past the reporter asking the questions and says to his supporters, "These guys work for the enemy, don't believe a word they say. Their lies will only poison your mind."