The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Books and TV and Movies Are Mind Control

I read a lot. I’ve read many thousands of books.

Books are mind control, quite literally.

The words in a book are mean to make you experience certain emotions, imagine scenes, and understand certain themes, including moral and ethical ones. A book is a small world with rules, and if you read enough books with the same rules, you learn the rules.

All of this is also true of audio and audiovisual media; they are intended to make you think certain thoughts and feel certain emotions. They, especially audiovisual media like TV, leave less room for visualization and the use of your own imagination (and are both more and less powerful because of it, doing the work invests you more, but fine control is lost).

Every time you read something (including this essay) you’re putting your mind; your consciousness, under the control of someone else.

They may have your best interests at heart (does Fox, MSNBC, Disney, or Ayn Rand?) and they may not, and even if they mean the best, well, what they think is best may not be, or may not, be for you.

This isn’t exactly a revelation. We know advertising works, we know propaganda works, we know media changes how people think of and view the world, and how they feel about it.

But I’ll suggest (trying to change your view) that you see it as mind control. It’s not necessarily bad, and in most cases you’re consenting to it, but you are letting someone else control your mind.

If you’re consuming media, including mine, and it’s making you into a person you don’t want to be, then the best thing to do is stop consuming that source of media, and in general, you should consider very carefully who you let control your mind.

Consider why they are doing so. Don’t assume it doesn’t matter — and for God’s sake, don’t think you’re immune, because you aren’t.

Media is mind control. It’s conditioning, and you need to know who’s controlling your mind, and who’s making  you into what, and why, and who that benefits.

Does it benefit you?



Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 26, 2022


The Next Covid Wave Is Onrushing


  1. Ché Pasa

    Hm. Interesting.

    Re: literacy.

    Prior to the 19th century, universal literacy was not considered necessary or desirable. Some categories of US residents were forbidden by law to be taught to read and write (enslaved people); literacy among the poor and downtrodden, particularly immigrants, was restricted, public education was very limited.

    I still encounter plenty of Americans who say they are the first in their family to go to college, the first whose education went beyond the 8th grade.

    But then something changed toward the end of the 19th century and the first few decades of the 20th. What was it? Why was universal literacy considered rather suddenly to be both desirable and necessary? Was it because psychologists recognized that people who could read and write, no matter their status, could be surprisingly easily controlled, made to believe impossible things, be induced to buy, buy, buy tons of crap, be fleeced again and again by con artists and — yes — politicians?

    Yes, many would learn a lot of totally useless stuff, some would learn enough to advance science, industry and society, others would become lost in literary fantasy.

    And then movies and radio and television and now the internet became more and more active and effective control mechanisms from which it seems there’s no escape.

    Twitter is mind control. Facebook is mind control. That was the obvious intent from their outset. And you see how heavily they influence the “news” on the internet and every other medium in general. If it hasn’t been proclaimed on Twitter or force-fed on Facebook, it isn’t real, is it?

    Fantasy books are wildly popular, as are their film and television derivations. Violent video games become triggers for action in some people who apparently can’t tell the difference between the game and real life. For some, there is no real life. It’s all a game.

    Interestingly, our overlords and their political handmaidens are ratcheting down access to education and literacy. Overwhelming public education with administrators who serve no educational function but manage to suck up most of the money. Separating public education from private and religious education, and starving public education to serve the education of the would be elite in private and religious schools. Re-segregating the students. Delivering different forms of mind control depending on status.

    And so it goes. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. What’s to come of it?

  2. bruce wilder

    all storytelling, all argument is hypnosis, drawing your attention into trance, and filling your well of belief with suggestion

    waking up is an act, an act of will and intent, but one that must be repeated to have continued effect because it is human nature to lapse into trance states and the communication environment we live in is saturated with synthetic distractions, many gamified to entrap and direct

    thinking you are or ever will be immune is a silly self-indulgence

    you can cultivate detachment from self (the self so easily drawn in) and an habitual skepticism that asks critical questions, like “is this true?” but even then you may be already putting yourself in the habit of trusting tone of voice or a certain posture, expression of attitude, signals of class or religious philosophy

  3. Willy

    I bought an unknown-name portable dehumidifier because of the hundreds of 10-star reviews. Sadly, at home it performs nothing like those reviews. And neither did its replacement. Then a friend donated his used one and it works as well as my trusty old one ever did. Obviously, those reviews were doctored and stocked to bait the suckers.

    Lies. It seems that lying is standard practice these days. Seems damn near everybody’s a grifter. Supreme court justices lie under oath, the religious right lies about Christ and America, and I haven’t found an honest physician or mechanic in over ten years.

    As somebody who thinks his ability to mute, ignore and scroll past self-serving commercials, flashy ads and idiot commentary is so superior to that of the general public that he’s actually immune, I worry about the general population. When some entity lies to me I try to give benefit of the doubt, that maybe they’re just having a bad day. Twice and they’re on notice. Thrice and I won’t deal with them ever again. And I do warn others, wherever I can.

    I don’t mind being propagandized with books and TV and movies or any other mind control, as long as brave new ideas are involved. But make lying a standard practice and you’ll be ignored.

  4. StewartM

    Movies, music, and other forms of art? Most definitely I have come to see them as propaganda. In his text Culture, People, Nature: An Introduction to General Anthropology by Marvin Harris, Harris speaks of the purpose of most art in cultures–and that is a conservative one, to explain and justify the existing social order and to portray it as the “best possible” or even “there is no alternative”. Harris says it’s only recently that the “artist as rebel” motif has arisen (but even then, to my mind, they can be very conservative–Ayn Rand I’m sure thought herself as a rebel, but for uber-capitalism?)

    Scholarly books that rely on reason and evidence strike me as less overt propaganda, though novels and fiction also often are.

    With books and argument, just like rhetoric, you must keep in mind that our language is not a level playing field. In the old SNL comedy spoof of CBS’s “Sixty Minutes” ‘Point and Counterpoint’, Jane Curtain would advance a liberal argument that would be most cogent (though not entirely insult-free) while Dan Aykroyd would open his counter with “Jane, you ignorant slut”–all to howls of delight and laughter from the audience. Ergo, to win a debate, just use a Word of Power–“slut”, “nigger” or “nigger-lover”, “fag” or “queer”, etc. etc, and you “win”–just because there is no word in the English language for presumably straight white conservative men that packs the same emotional “punch” or has the same effect.

    Moreover, you don’t have to use slurs, you can use more refined language to in essence appeal to the same widely-shared social prejudices. In fact, such arguments are far more common and effective. So when I read things, I ask myself “is the author merely appealing to an ‘everyone knows’ prejudice’?

  5. Bill

    Thank you for that timely reminder!

  6. Art

    Pretty much everything is mind control. Coffee, for sure, but I also sometimes take a vitamin-B complex when I’m depressed (likely placebo effect but it does seem to work), and I brighten my friend’s day when she is feeling down by giving her a hug. I almost wrapped a ’63’ Chevy Belaire around a tree of Robinhood Road because I was entirely too enthusiast about listening to ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’.

    That tight curve is 4 wheel drift exciting but still manageable at 55. At 65 it was too much and only by dumb luck did I end up in the one narrow space between the trees. Six inches either way and I would have spun like a top and hit the oaks sideways. Drums, cool … harps, not so much.

    We live in a thick stew of influences. Everything we do, everything we say, or fail to say, has an influence. Not always the effect I’m seeking. Sometimes the opposite.

    But, yes. Books have taken me places and profoundly influenced my thoughts and the very mechanism of how I think. Almost nobody can stand to seeing themselves as monsters. There is always a reason. An excuse. Understanding that people will often swallow the most ridiculous lies if they are couched to flatter the listener explains a lot of falsehoods. Tell a lie that offers an anodyne explanation that covers an internal conflict and people will hold onto it. The story about Obama as a non-citizen spanned the distance from ‘Racism is bad’ to ‘I’m not comfortable with a black man in the Whitehouse’.

    So yea … mind control. Vote my way, think my way, change your socks, pop an erection every time someone waves a flag, they ring the bell and you/we drool. Moma to Eugene McCarthy, everyone plays the game.

  7. Raad

    I remember a brief exchange between us where the discussion was about how flow is so wonderful to be in and things that simulate flow and reduce mental workload like video games (esp. MMOs like RuneScape/WoW/EVE) and induce flow are so enticing.

    Question was how to remove it and that was a stumbling block but it’s an interesting point about workload needed for immersion and escape combined with reward. I’ve been playing around with an idea for combined WH40K and a TTRPG system in my head for awhile now and realised I was just trying to create a video game/MMO for myself with full control and very little reliance on others.

    Anyways, long winded way of saying I think video games are now ubiquitous in everything on some level, be it sports, reality tv, social media. All of these inside flow to some extent in the people that consume them/take part in them and that makes them even more powerful.

    Wonderful circus for when bread is in short supply.

    Problem is that they are absolutely means of control and are literal world ending weapons of culture shaping and creation. Which also ties into your work on culture/writings on culture that I’ve read so far that you’ve written.

  8. Raad

    *induce not inside

  9. Texas Nate

    You left out music.

  10. Feral Finster

    Reminds me of the old question of what is the difference between education and indoctrination?

  11. StewartM


    What was it? Why was universal literacy considered rather suddenly to be both desirable and necessary? Was it because psychologists recognized that people who could read and write, no matter their status, could be surprisingly easily controlled, made to believe impossible things, be induced to buy, buy, buy tons of crap, be fleeced again and again by con artists and — yes — politicians?

    How ’bout “not be conquered by your neighbors?”

    One huge difference why Czarist Russia lost WWI, and Soviet Russia won WWII, was that while the Czar ruled over a largely illiterate population (only 28 % of his subjects were literate c. 1900) , by 1941 most in Soviet Russia could read and write and many had technical and college degrees. So many jobs in the military, and moreover so many jobs needed to support a functioning military, either directly or indirectly, require education.

    I think a better explanation of why people are easier to be propagandized is that we’ve increasingly limited education to vocational training. Learn enough to be a good worker-widget, but don’t learn enough to start asking too-many questions. A good education should open you up to possibilities you did not realize could exist or have existed; and by that criteria the US does not provide a good education. Many Americans are shockingly ignorant of their own history and about the rest of the world.

  12. bruce wilder

    Are people more easily propagandized because literate?

    Europe is chock full of Cathedrals that seem like evidence to the contrary. Homer was reciting in a Dark Age.

    In many times and places, elites who were literate favored illiteracy as a jobs program for their own lovely selves.

    In England and Scotland, a Protestant enthusiasm for grammar schools and bible-reading, led to Shakespeare and then, civil war. It doesn’t seem like a steady path. Elizabeth I gave Wales a Welsh bible before James gave the rest of Britain and Ireland his official English bible. What effect?

  13. bruce wilder

    Western individualism fools itself into the false idea that thinking is an heroic practice of the isolated and lonely “thinker” when in actual practice all human thought is a product of social processes. Social groups, in social exchange, generate and process facts and reasoning — the processes of argument and discussion involve mutual or reciprocal hypnosis and suggestion, but also exchange of transactional status, acceptance, and marginalization among various possibilities. We all use thought like a currency to achieve dramatic status and association, which may be experienced variously as esteem or security or their opposites.

  14. Dan

    At least in America, there is an obsession over finding and consuming “good” media and studiously avoiding “bad” media.

    Liberals will scoff at Fox News and “Russian disinformation”, without so much of a thought as to how the NYT or CNN acts as an unofficial Democratic Party organ.

    Leftists will dismiss all Western media as shilling for NATO and capitalism, but somehow decide this means that RT, TeleSUR, or Xinhua always tell the truth.

    Right-wingers just declare that EVERYTHING except the most extreme outlets on their side, like Breitbart or OANN, is liberal communist groomer propaganda.

    And while yes, some media outlets on the more extreme ends are very clearly pursuing an agenda and play hard and loose with facts, the best thing you can do is try to consume media from multiple perspectives, ALWAYS with a critical eye, and work to discern the truth yourself.

  15. multitude of poors

    Great essay, along with so many thoughtful responses.

    Long story short, the Boiling Frog syndrome, and the countless ways in which someone can find themselves experiencing it without realizing it at first; or worse know it’s happening but be trapped in it with no means of escape. I really believe it can be psychologically deadly, but don’t at all have the time to expound on that thought, other than to add: e.g. Facebook, etcetera, induced suicides.

    Particularly liked your comments regarding audio-visual. Something that I can’t help but think very subtly effects people in a very bad way, particularly since coronavirus (but well before that also , since the nineties at least) are the distorted, way larger than life faces of EXPERTS™ which totally dwarf those viewing the audio-visual.

    Anyway, thank you much for it. Truly humble and meaningful essays seem so increasingly rare, it was a huge breath of fresh air.

    Take care all.

  16. Willy

    to win a debate, just use a Word of Power–“slut”, “nigger” or “nigger-lover”, “fag” or “queer”, etc. etc, and you “win”

    Impossible to not immediately think of Trump, calling each one of his disloyals, rivals, or discarded some derogatory name like Creepy Joe, Crazy Bernie, Sloppy Steve, Lyin Ted…. The count must run into the hundreds by now. You’d think that after all the childish obfuscating of his own obvious shortcomings, Trump would look quite the psycho by now, a pathetic untouchable. But nope.

    I just saw former Trump fixer Michael Cohen asked why so many people fall for Trumps charms. Why do so many line up to supplicate from a man proven to “throw you under the bus after he’s done with you”, with careers and reputations destroyed? He answered that it had to be some kind of weakness which most normal people are born with.

    I think of mega rock concerts. I used to wonder what an ancient Roman might’ve thought about thousands of 20th century fans packing large amphitheaters just to worship minstrels as gods. A good example is that ACDC/Iron man video. Thousands of Argentines got to cheer and fist pump to a balding, aging Aussie guitarist who stands all of 5’2” and wears a schoolboy outfit.

    I’d like to think that avid readers are least likely to be turned “fanatic”.

  17. What you describe is the shadow side of living by narrative–a necessity for human beings. We construct a story about how the world is, If someone asks of you left your keys on the bureau, you’ll look at the picture (story) in your head first, rather than walk back to the bureau. A big time saver, but not reality. There’s even evidence that people need a story to make what they see meaningful (cf. Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception

    We can’t get along without a narrative, and the prejudices it brings. That’s why it’s so hard to get people to change their minds. Even a tiny variation in the narrative threatens to bring down the whole house of cards.

    Even worse: We have defective software (see Supernormal Stimulus … Stuart McMillen’s comic is a nice summary). All those seven deadly sins, sugar, justice, fairness, etc. (even domination) are seductive and infinitely appealing. Trusting our own devices is just not reasonable…as our current situation might indicate. That whole idea of “freedom” suffers a similar fate.

    We get to have humility or humiliation. There is no third choice.

  18. Andy

    In this era of snippets, clips, soundbites delivered via apps and social media how much is the public actually thinking about the media it ‘consumes’? As was pointed out upthread people generally choose media from networks, organizations and people that align with their own ideological leanings. Tolerance for ideas and points of view that don’t 100% align with one’s own is low and many people outright reject any and all challenges to their preferred world view. E.g. when Scott Ritter changed his tune on the Ukraine war a lot of folks who had respected his analysis of the situation instantly began calling him an idiot, a sell out and even a US intelligence operative. Just because his views don’t fully mesh with their own. I used the Ritter example because it happened recently but this type of knee-jerk dismissal of a person whose views have changed or evolved happens all the time.

    Another phenomenon that’s become quite common on the right and the left is dismissing all mainstream media output as lies and propaganda… except when the MSM says something you agree with. How much thinking is going on here?

    Closely related to the above is a phenomenon that’s common on the political right and amongst people who’ve only recently discovered that a big part of the media’s job is to deliver propaganda and manufacture consent. They reject the MSM completely but accept 100% the narratives pushed by their preferred media outlets and commentators. For example someone stops reading the NYT or Guardian and replaces these papers with, say, RT and Breitbart and believes every word broadcast and printed by the latter. I’ve even seen a variation of this on Naked Capitalism where posters in the forum will proclaim that while the MSM is suspect they know they can “trust” NC. Sure, NC (re)publishes a lot of articles worth reading but that doesn’t mean every POV they endorse is The Truth or that Yves’ and Lambert’s judgment is always impeccable. E.g. Yves who despite her sharp intellect takes John Helmer’s dubious rants seriously.

    So instead of thinking critically about what they read a majority of people block out any information or POV that challenges their biases and world view and “curate” sources that reflect their personal biases. It’s the echo chamber effect. The rise of independent media outlets, blogs and other voices that provide perspectives that are ignored by the MSM doesn’t automatically mean people are doing more in-depth thinking.

    The rise of widespread conspiratorial thinking is another sign that not a lot of thinking is being done. Yes conspiracies are a reality but most of them are done out in the open. The notion that world events are primarily driven by a secret cabal of super powerful people is a projection made by powerless people who don’t understand how systems work and assume it must be larger-than-life individuals that advance history. E.g. the WEF and the Great Reset is just capitalists doing what capitalists have always done. The kooky ravings of Klaus Schwab are the tone deaf pipe dreams of a super wealthy elite who are out of touch with ordinary humanity. The only reason these people have the power they do is because of capitalism, particularly finance capitalism. Focusing on Schwab or Bezos or Musk is a waste of time. Even if Schwab and the ten most wealthy billionaires dropped dead tomorrow absolutely nothing will change. Capitalism enables them and to stop them capitalism must be abolished or subject to strict state control.

    Reading stuff and thinking about things is important and better than blindly accepting someone else’s words as truth. But the only way real change will happen is by collective action, like a general strike. The system isn’t going to change just because people are unhappy and complaining on the internet. Voting for left-wing candidates
    gets you band aids or crumbs, at best, most often they are destroyed by their party or not serious people in the first place, like Corbyn and Sanders respectively. (Will Melanchon and his coalition be able to break Macron’s neoliberal grip on France? I doubt it.) On the right you get Trump… and worse, and expecting the “populist right” to implement left wing policies is extremely foolish.

    The rail strike happening in Britain shows how much power ordinary working people still have despite decades of neoliberalism destroying working class unity. This is how we change our societies… get off the internet, organize and bring the economy to a halt. Typing things and reading on the internet creates the illusion of “doing something.” We need to overcome this barrier and learn how to take the the kind of real-world action that gets tangible results. Not an easy prospect in this age of alienation and social atomization but it’s the only chance we have.

  19. bruce wilder

    At least in America, there is an obsession over finding and consuming “good” media and studiously avoiding “bad” media.

    The realignment that has gathered momentum recently makes this very confusing at times. Matt Taibbi reflected recently on the non-surreal quality of his interview with Ben Shapiro (of Breitbart fame). Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeting support for Assange still makes me marvel.

    The religious Right is scary aggressive, while the center-left operates out of a narcissism that admits no self-awareness and is not committed to anything.

  20. Willy

    The religious Right has been continuously moving into fascistic territory, where their way is the only way and anything else is a Marxist trick, as well as insanity propagated by “The Other” de jour, as specified by their media sources which reign as gospel.

    An aside, but I’d say their behavior conclusively proves that the old political horseshoe theory was correct, and that their beloved Dinesh D’Souza Scheme (left=authoritarianism, right=liberty) was at best fanciful naiveté, and at worst, knowing deception and/or rationalization.

    Liberals, RINOS, Lincoln Project types, independents… occupy the centrist position which used to be status quo for the 1950s and 1960s GOP conservative. Debate is valued as long as it stays within democratic, republican, capitalistic and constitutional limits.

    Progressive ideologies haven’t changed, outside of having gone from debating with conservatives to running around trying to point out all the fascistic fires which are being set all over the place, powerlessly.

  21. bruce wilder

    Progressive ideologies are still the same, yes: individual autonomy in personal expression and choice, higher wages, more and better social insurance, a pro-democracy and anti-war foreign policy

    “progressive” ideologies are something else: history according to the 1619 Project, means-tested benefit programs, 40 billion for Ukie nazi’s but not one cent for the U.S., perpetual war with Russia-China, keep impeaching Trump till he cries, “Hillary save us!”, trans-rights in bathrooms and the Olympics, universal censorship via the Google, Meta and other handmaids to the Algorithm (the Algorithm is Great and TikTok is Her Prophet!), “follow the science” and COVID is over, meet you at the super-spreader, so much fun!

  22. Willy

    Are you describing progressive ideologies, or sad consensus attempts by the Democratic Party between their status quo elites and the few progressives they have, as agitpropped by modern conservative echo chambers, liberal NYT writers, and other elites, desperately trying to frame it all as being “progressive”?

    I’ve noticed that a recent sport for the status quo is to redefine anything “the left”. Examples Bill Maher or Elon Musk.

    They know it’s a lot easier when the rest of the citizenry debates from concrete and commonly agreed upon definitions. So they (elites) change things.

    Woke meant whites awaking to racist behaviors. Now they (elites) want it to mean anything “irrationally and irresponsibly leftist”.

    CRT meant a law school course. Now they (elites) want it to mean anything that makes whites look so inferior that our children will want whites replaced.

    Progressive meant Norway or even FDR. Now they (elites) want it to mean Venezuela or gulag USSR with poverty and genocide for all.

    If you can’t beat em, then change the perceptions of what it is you’re trying to join.

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