Mind Control 101 in Action
I was sitting in my US Government class, and our primary teacher was a self-proclaimed bleeding heart liberal.
Part of the class was spent getting our opinions on controversial issues, and one day, the issue of abortion came up. The class was painfully boring most of the time because the teacher would only call on those who agreed with him or regurgitated the answers to an issue none of them had ever had to confront in their own lives. Needless to say, I couldn’t have cared less about their opinions on something they’d only heard about from teachers and the media.
Well, as it so happened, my dad had shared Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal with me a few days earlier, and I loved it—to this day, I still think it is one of the most poignant pieces of satire ever written.
So, being the unoriginal smartass I was, told my friend who sat in front of me to go along with what I was about to say.
The teacher asked who was pro-choice, to which I raised my hand, along with about 80% of my class. The teacher looked at me surprised—probably because I always seemed to support conservative causes. He asked why I identified as pro-choice.
“Well, I know this is going to sound weird, but just hear me out,” I said. “Along with saving lives through stem-cell research, it is our moral imperative to the rest of the world to not just allow abortion, but to encourage it.”
The teacher told me to go on, but was clearly suspicious of what I was up to. Fortunately, he was barely sober enough to sit on his stool that day, so it was pretty much open season at this point.
“Well, since proponents of stem-cell research postulate that these fetuses do not yet meet the qualifications for being considered human or ‘alive,’ and since these fetuses are simply being disposed of without being put to a practical purpose, I think it is our moral imperative to eat these fetuses.”
The teacher and the whole class looked at me stunned, so I continued, trying to cover what I thought was an obvious joke. Apparently, it wasn’t.
“I mean, protein is something that we take for granted here in the US. Most people around the world cannot afford proper protein sources, and together with the amount of meat we consume and waste in this country, it is incredibly irresponsible for us to be throwing away perfectly viable sources protein. Think about it; if there is a point at which a fertilized egg is not human, then logically it can’t be cannibalism either if it is consumed before it reaches that threshold.
What it amounts to is that we could be saving millions of men, women, and children around the world, but instead, we do what Americans do best—we waste things that could be the difference between life and death for others.”
My friend who was going along with the joke said, “You know what, from a perfectly logical standpoint, that makes a lot of sense.”
The teacher agreed. “I have to say, I’m impressed. You made a valid logical argument for something that is a real problem around the world, and it solves a number of ethical issues in a practical way. Good job.”
He then asked the class who believed my idea was worth implementing. My friend raised his hand, and then slowly, more and more did the same. Eventually, of the 80% that was pro-life, two-thirds of those people thought I was on to something.
This little unintended mind control 101 experiment had a huge effect on my. I never returned to that class, or really that school. I was so disturbed that it was so easy to convince a room full of people that cannibalizing aborted fetuses was not just moral, but a moral imperative, that I was too afraid to be around my teachers or classmates.
Lessons Learned from Mind Control 101
So what parts of mind control were used to convince them of something so obviously abhorrent?
Cognitive dissonance is one such mind control technique. The class was led to believe that they could not be pro-choice without accepting some logical assumptions. What they didn’t realize is that just because something makes logical sense doesn’t mean it is okay or permissible.
Another was “appeal to authority.” It is classic mind control 101 material. When the teacher said it was a good idea, he was essentially giving everyone permission—or even incentive—to agree. Also, by my friend being the first to go along with the idea, it further allowed others to think that the idea was a good suggestion.
Logical fallacies, like the snowball effect, and guilt were further used to give the impression that the idea was acceptable.
What This Experience in Mind Control 101 Taught Me
Although I eventually went to a different school, got my diploma, and got my degree, the most important thing that this mind control 101 experience taught me was how important it is to stick to your own moral code. When all else fails, your personal beliefs and ethics are what will give you guidance.
People can be easily led for better or worse. With strong personal convictions, that becomes a lot more difficult.