mind control

People Trying to Control Your Mind Have More Tools Than Ever

VICE News' "Complexify" series takes you down the rabbit hole, to show you why just about everything is more convoluted than you think.
October 20, 2020, 1:50pm

Are you susceptible to mind control? 

Both Donald Trump and Barack Obama have been accused of using some kind of hypnosis or mind control to cast a spell over unsuspecting Americans. Media companies, consolidated in ever fewer hands, can seem like “cults” that are “brainwashing” their audiences with propaganda. And online influence campaigns can lead us down dark rabbit holes, manipulate our emotions, or just trick us into buying stuff we don’t need.

Of course, losing one’s personal autonomy to some sinister force has taken many forms over the years. 

For example, if you ever notice your head rotating a full 360 degrees or find yourself blaspheming in ancient tongues, you might be experiencing demonic possession, which—like zombies—show us mind control’s roots in faith and folklore. But mind control goes way beyond the supernatural. Take the CIA’s Project MKUltra, a series of dangerous, unethical, Cold War experiments that used torture, sensory deprivation, and drugs like LSD on thousands of subjects, aiming to perfect methods for controlling human behavior. 

These days, much of the mind-control debate centers on social media, which uses little psychological rewards and punishments to condition users into new habits and behaviors. YouTube, with its reported penchant for pushing viewers toward extremist content has been called “The Great Radicalizer.” 

The good news is that whether you’re talking about politicians or would-be digital manipulators, most supposed mind-control methods don’t exactly work as advertised. The bad news is that there are certainly plenty of governments, businesses, and scientists who’d love to puppet you like a marionette, and they’re not likely to give up trying.

In this episode of Complexify, we got mesmerized by the world of mind-control, probing creepy street hypnotists and subliminal chicanery in an effort to master this spellbinding subject. Here’s what we learned.