By David Gosselin
Rhetoric, propaganda, and the “magical” qualities of language have been used as a means of controlling mass opinion for thousands of years. First codified by Aristotle in his Rhetoric, the art of using language as a means of persuasion and increasing suggestibility has been at the heart of the struggle for political power since the early days of Western civilization.
Going back to Aristotle’s Rhetoric, we already find the tricks of the trade of those “smooth talkers” diligently laid out and formalized. These were the sophists and rhetoricians who seemed to always know just what to say, how to say it, and when to say it in order to elicit and guide the desired emotional responses of their audiences. Depending on whether the speaker wanted to sway his listeners by way of anger, empathy, or pity, a different set of images and subjects was considered fit for the job. The art of rhetoric lay in knowing which themes and subjects to choose, and using the proper sequence of thoughts and images to induce the desired emotional state. In the case of a speaker who sought to induce pity in his audience, Aristotle wrote:
“We will now state what things and persons excite pity, and the state of mind of those who feel it. Let pity then be a kind of pain excited by the sight of evil, deadly or painful, which befalls one who does not deserve it; an evil which one might expect to come upon himself or one of his friends, and when it seems near.”
The Rhetoric, Book II, Part VIII – Aristotle
So today we are regularly bombarded with new “sequences,” often opening with images of helpless women and children or civilians suffering at the hands of some cruel dictator or nation deemed a “foreign threat,” followed by truisms and platitudes i.e. general statements about “freedom,” “human rights,” and “democracy,” and then new “suggestions.”
Then as today, rhetoric was often devoid of real content, genuine insight, or meaningful wisdom—however artfully and passionately presented—but was subversive and powerful precisely because its practitioners were able to effectively model the outward linguistic forms and strategies used by the most compelling storytellers, poets, and communicators. These included the poet’s ability to use imagery and tell stories that would shape and color the imaginations of audiences.
In modern terms, the powerful effects of such rhetoric and story-telling can be best understood as the act of inducing “altered-states” in which imagery and narratives are used in subtle and artful ways to alter an individual or group’s emotional disposition. These heightened emotional states are then used to suggest new ideas, ultimately leading individuals or entire audiences to a new cathexis or outlook.
In reality, audiences were being presented with what amounted to trains of carefully framed imagery, elegant syllogisms, and just right amount of truisms and platitudes needed to create an air of agreement and the heightened emotional conditions necessary for behavior change or ideological transformation.
In contrast to the kind of rhetoric and eloquence codified by Aristotle, what we know as Plato’s dialectical method can only be understood as a direct strategic response to the sophistry and rhetoric used by the political classes and foreign operatives infesting the institutions of the ancient Athenian Republic—the cradle of Western civilization. The purpose of the dialectical method was to weed out the sophistry and subversive ideas that were often presented or “framed” (in modern Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) parlance) using emotionally compelling forms and technically sophisticated linguistic models and language patterns. Plato’s purpose was to introduce a means whereby one could evaluate not only the outward forms and feelings elicited by a carefully framed message or set images, but to identify precisely how these messages or stories were composed, and the underlying axioms or assumptions someone would be assimilating through exposure to these narratives. Moreover, the reason Plato deemed this so important was that he recognized no republic could survive the tyranny of public opinion and the perversions of oligarchical rule unless a deeper love of wisdom—the love of truth itself—rather than pleasing outward imitations and forms—became the primary object of desire of a people, and cultivated to its highest degree in its leaders.
So Plato in his seventh letter wrote:
“Though at first I had been full of a strong impulse towards political life, as I looked at the course of affairs and saw them being swept in all directions by contending currents, my head finally began to swim; and, though I did not stop looking to see if there was any likelihood of improvement in these symptoms and in the general course of public life, I postponed action till a suitable opportunity should arise.
Finally, it became clear to me, with regard to all existing communities, that they were one and all misgoverned. For their laws have got into a state that is almost incurable, except by some extraordinary reform with good luck to support it. And I was forced to say, when praising true philosophy that it is by this that men are enabled to see what justice in public and private life really is. Therefore, I said, there will be no cessation of evils for the sons of men, till either those who are pursuing a right and true philosophy receive sovereign power in the States, or those in power in the States by some dispensation of providence become true philosophers.”
– Plato’s Letter VII
Unfortunately, too many academics—termed “bread-fed scholars” by the poet and historian Friedrich Schiller—have contented themselves with treating the dialectical method as some kind of stand-alone arm-charm philosophy, as if Plato lived in a world of pure abstraction, overlooking the actual political situations of the day which led him to recognizing that the problems and destruction of civilizations were not merely the result of systems breaking down, or some cyclical God-willed fate or natural occurrence, but were rooted in something fundamentally deeper, located within the flawed hearts and corrupted souls of people who could simply be contented or satisfied with outwardly pleasing forms. The result was always the same: a vacillation between tyrannical rule by a few and the Jacobin “democratic” totalitarianism of mobs.
So philosophy emerged not as some pedantic practice, but from the greater recognition that it was the only thing that could actually save societies and civilizations from the otherwise constant cycles of opulence, chaos, decay, and corruption, which would always creep back when a people became too comfortable, complacent, and would forgo the cultivation of the higher faculties necessary for conceptualizing the long-term survival of a civilization, its institutions, and traditions.
Lesser minds than Plato have often gone so far as to believe that these cycles are the natural state of things, simply because they have happened so many times before. However, saying something has happened so many times before and must therefore be natural while at the same time never actually understanding the deeper roots for why such things happen in the first place is, as Plato demonstrated over and over again, not much of standard for Truth, or how an actually Good society should or could look like. The latter considerations belong to an entirely different domain that goes far-beyond mere empirical observation and general induction from a set of “facts.” In a word: it requires philosophy i.e. the love of real wisdom, rather than statistical descriptions and the clever modelling of “patterns”—none of which actually tell us if something is good, or pertains to some essential Truth about the universe and the nature of Goodness.
So Plato in his Republic used the example of tragedians depicting deep suffering and crises that moved people in emotionally compelling ways. But as Plato observed in Book X of his Republic, just because certain experiences were considered compelling and people could relate to them and have a cathartic experience, these things in-and-of themselves had no actual bearing on Truth, the Good, or how it might best be sought out.
Plato’s dialectic became the means of enabling listeners to unearth the underlying axioms embedded within the “deep structures” of a story, speech or slogan such that one could start to make the distinction between the mere imitation of things, and the real thing i.e. actual wisdom and actual Truth, rather than simply compelling descriptive accounts or familiar experiences presented as essential Truth simply by virtue of their recurrence and commonplace nature.
So Plato in Book X of The Republic writes:
“Therefore, Glaucon, I said, whenever you meet with any of the eulogists of Homer declaring that he has been the educator of Hellas, and that he is profitable for education and for the ordering of human things, and that you should take him up again and again and get to know him and regulate your whole life according to him, we may love and honour those who say these things—they are excellent people, as far as their lights extend; and we are ready to acknowledge that Homer is the greatest of poets and first of tragedy writers; but we must remain firm in our conviction that hymns to the gods and praises of famous men are the only poetry which ought to be admitted into our State. For if you go beyond this and allow the honeyed muse to enter, either in epic or lyric verse, not law and the reason of mankind, which by common consent have ever been deemed best, but pleasure and pain will be the rulers in our State.”
Then Plato says something even more provocative:
“And now since we have reverted to the subject of poetry, let this our defence serve to show the reasonableness of our former judgment in sending away out of our State an art having the tendencies which we have described; for reason constrained us. But that she may not impute to us any harshness or want of politeness, let us tell her that there is an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry; of which there are many proofs, such as the saying of ‘the yelping hound howling at her lord,’ or of one ‘mighty in the vain talk of fools,’ and ‘the mob of sages circumventing Zeus,’ and the ‘subtle thinkers who are beggars after all’; and there are innumerable other signs of ancient enmity between them.
Notwithstanding this, let us assure our sweet friend and the sister arts of imitation, that if she will only prove her title to exist in a well-ordered State we shall be delighted to receive her—we are very conscious of her charms; but we may not on that account betray the truth.”
The amount of nonsensical and hysterical drivel churned out over these passages by commentators and intellectuals of every stripe is astounding, not least because of the sheer number, but even more so because of the seemingly intentional and systematic avoidance of the actual paradox posed by Plato. Instead, Plato has often been treated as some kind of pure literalist, as though there were no nuance or ironies in his dialogues—just straight prose.
Indeed, the nature of the paradox presented by Plato is truly profound, in the deepest sense of the word. Those who treat his words as purely literal or rhetorical effusions not only avoid the essential nature of the issue at hand, but miss the opportunity to appreciate the rich fruits such inquiries bear. Ironically, Plato’s many commentators would not have so much trouble with the passages if they recognized that Plato’s challenge about “allowing the poets into our Republic” was in essence Plato being a poet, only disguising his poetry using prose and feinting an argument in order to draw out something deeper about the nature of language and truth, and the role art actually plays in a society committed to Beauty, Truth, and Goodness. A sharp contrast can be drawn between these ends and a culture of virtue-signalling, the endless pursuit of novelty, and “art for art’s sake,” the latter often framed as purely a matter of “freedom of expression,” but which is in reality usually devoid of any meaningful discussion about the quality of content or substantive value of a represented artistic idea or poetical conceit.
As a result of these fallacies, the idea of actual freedom and the means necessary for guarding it are often reduced to empty platitudes, or the decadence of simply flaunting convention and shocking/offending people for its own sake. In modern times, this obsession with novelty and shocking audiences has often been held-up as a great virtue and the ultimate symbol of a “free” society—even as all the society and souls inhabiting it become increasingly rotten, ugly, and decadent—just as Dante portrayed it in his Divine Comedy.
Alas, Plato’s purpose was to know whether the ideas found at the heart of any story, argument, or narrative actually pertained to something of essential Truth, or were simply imitations, something that may have sounded right or appeared correct, familiar, or pleasing, but was in reality not “the real thing.”
What would become of a society that could no longer make such distinctions?
In a word: Plato’s ultimate goal was to develop an ability to make distinctions between the real thing—actual truth—such that people could actually learn to love the real thing, and seek the real thing, rather than imitations and cleverly modelled representations (which were often ideologically subversive). And he even invited the poets to demonstrate how art and poetry could do just that, playfully declaring:
“Notwithstanding this, let us assure our sweet friend and the sister arts of imitation, that if she will only prove her title to exist in a well-ordered State we shall be delighted to receive her.”
Above all else, it was understood that the true philosopher king or sage responsible for overseeing a sovereign republic would necessarily have to be the one who couldn’t be simply fooled by the “art of imitation”—mimesis—typified by the poets and tragedians—the “image makers”—who could rouse and direct the emotions of their audiences by creating heart-wrenching scenes and cathartic imagery that would naturally leave people in states of heightened emotion and suggestibility.
Without such philosopher kings or a wise leadership to counter the saturation of society with rhetoric and “mimesis,” Plato understood that no republic could survive, since imitation of real situations and events by the poets and artists was not in itself a proof of its validity or truth, and could therefore never be a standard for judging what the future or direction of a sovereign republic should be.
And this is where our story about language takes a turn.
Fast-forward to the early twentieth century and we find books like Walter Lippman’s Public Opinion, Freud’s Mass Psychology, and later works like The Battle for the Mind: A Physiology of Conversion and Brain-Washing—How Evangelists, Psychiatrists, Politicians, and Medicine Men Can Change Your Beliefs and Behavior and The Structure of Magic I & II—all of which explore the relationship between thought, language, and imagery, and the various and seemingly “magical” ways in which the medium of language can shape the beliefs and behaviors of a group or entire mass of seemingly independent individuals.
In Lippman’s Public Opinion, the author examines the control of mass populations through the manipulation of the “pictures inside the heads of human beings”:
“The pictures inside the heads of human beings, the pictures of themselves, of others, of their needs and purposes, and relationship, are their public opinions. Those pictures which are acted upon by groups of people, or by individuals acting in the name of groups, are Public Opinion, with capital letters.”
Walter Lippman – Public Opinion (1923)
In this respect, while most academics tend to treat Plato’s famous paradox of “should we allow the poets into our Republic?” as the ravings of a would-be Kim Jon Un intent on banning anyone who doesn’t toe the state’s line, in reality, Plato was identifying precisely the problem of “Public Opinion,” with the recognition that the poets, storytellers and “myth-makers” were those with the power and skill to shape the “pictures inside the heads of human beings.”
But to fully appreciate how classical wisdom has been usurped and subverted by the “magicians” of language and persuasion time and time again—especially today—we should consider our own Western narrative matrix. In a veiled manner, it takes the form of shadows casts by “the magicians”—the social psychologists, behavioral scientists, and public relations “experts”—who work to shape and determine “the pictures inside the heads of human beings.”
Today, these take the form of carefully curated linguistic models presented in the form of catchy slogans run in feedback loops on MSM outlets—behavioral nudging-augmented and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) embedded messages free of the artful flourishes and embellishments of old, but targeted and distilled down to the essentials of “behavior change.” These are the slogans and seemingly empty platitudes which somehow—almost magically—seem to leave so many individuals “spellbound” and splintered into multiple personalities, proud citizens confidently defending and simultaneously maintaining mutually contradictory ideas, serving as walking talking images or Orwell’s famous “Double Speak.”
By bringing attention to the function of language and those who used language as a means of ideologically subverting the minds of the population, Plato was identifying one of the crucial paradoxes faced by any individual seriously looking at the question of state craft and the possibility of forging a republic that could weather both the storms of public opinion and the tyranny of oligarchical rule.
Then, as today, lifting the veil and revealing the deeper “structures of magic” of the many slogans and “spells” used by the wizards of language and magicians of psyops remains at the heart of the battle for the mind.
As Plato understood, the fate of republics depends on it.
Lifting the Veil
At the beginning of the twentieth century, interest in the use of language and psychology as a means of manipulating behavior and perception reached new-found heights. The impetus for this shift was in many ways sparked by the success of still young republics like the United States, and the related rapid onset of industrialism and the superseding of the British Empire’s maritime supremacy by vast new systems of rail and internal development—typified by Lincoln’s trans-continental railway and the leadership of European nations fighting to free themselves from the feudally-minded aristocratic “blue bloods” of the City of London and its web of “Free Trade” colonies, including the southern United States Confederacy. The appearance of new resistance against these ancient slave-labor dominated imperial forms—their most modern incarnation being the colonial British Empire of that time—made the importance of a strategic transformation of imperial control an existential question. Alas, the waning grip of eighteenth century methods and the failed experiments of European fascism and Nazism made clear to the hereditary ruling classes located within Europe’s ancient financial centers that sheer force and boots on the ground-style tyrannies were not a viable means of control on any long-term scale. As Aldous Huxley famously put it, “some form of consent is necessary.”
So right around the time Freud first published his Mass Psychology, Walter Lippman wrote about the importance of “Public Opinion” and was very candid about who controlled it, describing a:
“Powerful, socially superior, successful, rich urban social set [which] is fundamentally international throughout the Western Hemisphere and in many ways, London is its center. It counts among its membership the most influential people in the world, containing as it does the diplomatic sets, high finance, the upper circles of the army and navy, some princes of the church, the great newspaper proprietors, their wives, mothers, and daughters who wield the scepter of invitation. It is at once a great circle of talk and a real social set.”
To appreciate the psychological dimensions of this revolution and new age of psychological operations (psyops) that would be waged upon modern Western civilization, consider the words of Lord Bertrand Russell—a descendent of one of Europe’s oldest hereditary “blue blood” families. Describing the shifting focus of the hereditary ruling classes away from traditional forms of colonial rule in the post-war period, Russell wrote:
“I think the subject which will be of most importance politically is mass psychology. Mass psychology is, scientifically speaking, not a very advanced study, and so far its professors have not been in universities: they have been advertisers, politicians, and, above all, dictators. This study is immensely useful to practical men, whether they wish to become rich or to acquire the government. It is, of course, as a science, founded upon individual psychology, but hitherto it has employed rule-of-thumb methods which were based upon a kind of intuitive common sense. Its importance has been enormously increased by the growth of modem methods of propaganda. Of these the most influential is what is called “education.” Religion plays a part, though a diminishing one; the press, the cinema, and the radio play an increasing part.”
Bertrand Russell – The Impact of Science on Society (1951)
Russell did however explicitly state that the populace would not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated:
“Although this science will be diligently studied, it will be rigidly confined to the governing class. The populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen.”
Bertrand Russell – The Impact of Science on Society (1951)
These methods and their most advanced forms were first born through the study of hypnosis, group therapy, “group dynamics,” and trauma in shell-shock victims by British military psychiatrists and psychological warfare specialists at the Tavistock Clinic and related Anglo-American psychological warfare nodes.
To this day, Tavistock continues to find itself involved in questionable “research,” including the recent scandal involving the alarming rate of young children being rushed into “transitioning.”
However, for our purposes the case of Dr. William Sargant remains one of the most illustrative historical examples respecting the development of modern psychological warfare and its early genesis during WWII and the post-war period. Sargant wrote two noteworthy books, The Battle for the Mind: How Evangelists, Psychiatrists, Politicians, and Medicine Men Can Change Your Beliefs and Behavior (1959) and The Mind Possessed: A Physiology of Possession, Mysticism and Faith Healing (1971).
In The Mind Possessed: A Physiology of Possession, Mysticism and Faith Healing (1971), Sargant recounts:
“The origin of this book dates back to the Second World War and the treatment of battle neuroses—psychological disorders stemming from horrifying and mentally overwhelming experiences of war. Soldiers who had broken down, in combat or afterwards, sometimes became totally preoccupied by their memories of what had happened to them. In other cases, these memories had been repressed into the subconscious mind but were causing feelings of depression, fatigue, irritability, irrational fears or nightmares.” (p. 3)
Shell-shock victims became a prime resource for experimenting with and studying the seemingly “magical” effects experienced by people who found themselves in various trauma-induced or heightened emotional states i.e. “altered-states.”
What early Tavistock psychiatrists and military psychologists found was that “altered-states” could be induced by various means. They also found that events or situations did not even have to be real to induce such states: images or memories, real or unreal, could have the same effect of inducing altered-states in listeners. Research and experiments showed that altered-states could be induced, controlled, and increasingly directed with the use of drugs, alcohol, but even language itself.
On the explicit question of hypnosis and how it relates to guiding altered-states, Sargant described hypnosis in the following manner:
“A state of heightened suggestibility, intense sensitivity to one’s surroundings and a readiness to obey commands even when they go against the grain, is one of the most striking characteristics of hypnotized behavior, and hypnosis has given its name to the ‘hypnoid’ phase of brain activity. […] this phase can be caused by stress and creates a state of greatly increased suggestibility in which a human being uncritically adopts ideas to which they would not normally be open. Breuer was interested in this phenomenon at the end of the last century and his findings, reported in a masterly chapter which he contributed to a joint book with Freud, were repeatedly confirmed in our experience with drug abreactions during the war. Breuer begins by quoting Moebius as saying, in 1890: ‘The necessary condition for the (pathogenic) operation of ideas is, on the one hand, an innate—that is, hysterical—disposition and, on the other, a special frame of mind… It must resemble a state of hypnosis: it must correspond to some kind of consciousness in which an emerging idea meets with no resistance from any other—in which, so to speak, the field is clear for the first comer. We know that a state of this kind can be brought about not only by hypnotism but by emotional shock (fight, anger, etc.) and by exhausting factors (sleeplessness, hunger, and so on).’” (Id., p. 32)
In respect to inducing various states of heightened suggestibility, Sargant recognized parallels between the fundamentalist preachers who could invoke images of hellfire and God’s rage as a means of inducing radical shifts in belief structure, ancient Dionysian rituals filled with wine and orgiastic dancing, and tribal voodoo rituals filled with rhythmic drumming and frenzied dancing, all of which could be used to induce cathartic events that left participants “magically” cured of their apparent ailments, “demons,” or stress. The “magical” transformative qualities of language and their hypnotic effects were understood to play a powerful role in such rituals because of the nature of the charged imagery and language. Language was also seen as one of the most covert means of inducing and guiding “altered-states,” in contrast to the use of drugs, torcher, or other extreme forms of reward and punishment which are by their nature much more difficult to impose against people’s will, especially on a mass scale.
As we have previously demonstrated and will continue to explore, the same essential psychological warfare nodes are still very active to this day, albeit some under different names and forms, and discretely woven across the “Five Eyes” system with seemingly benign names like the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) aka “the Nudge Unit” or behind the façade of “elite” educational institutions like London Imperial College or East Anglia. These institutions are responsible for “nudging” and “re-framing” how populations think about health care and medical ethics, education, the management of “scarcity,” the environment, resource allocation, the free flow of information, and ultimately population control and “genetic engineering.”
The Structure of “Magic”
Following the published work of Sargant was the publication of The Structure of Magic I & II by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Their purpose was to use linguistics as a means of “modelling” precisely how emotional transformations and ideological shifts occurred in individuals by way of language patterns and imagery—what became known as Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). Language and the “linguistic models” people used as their maps of reality became the primary focus, leading to the development of a panoply of tricks and hypnotic techniques, including “visualizations,” “anchors,” “re-framing,” “calibration,” and a careful study of the “sub modalities” of language i.e. posture, tone of voice, hand gestures.
NLP served as a systematic modelling of the various linguistic models and language patterns that were most effecting at inducing “altered-states” and triggering transformations in the fundamental thoughts and feelings of patients. Combining linguistics and the modeling of high performance individuals, especially effective therapists who seemed to instinctively say just the right things to effect fundamental transformations in their clients, NLP emerged as a strikingly similar form of modeling the effective use of language by Aristotle in his Rhetoric, albeit without the need of ancient eloquence, instead targeted and distilled into the simple strategies and structures needed to induce and guide “altered-states” and new belief systems.
Bandler called those therapists who instinctively used the methods he modelled “magicians,” due to the seemingly magical transformations they were able to effect in their clients.
In the briefest terms, the idea of NLP was that many people operated with impoverished linguistic maps which shaped how people navigated in the real world. Limited linguistic models narrowed the choices and abilities of individuals to operate within the real world. Solutions were seen as a question of transforming, expanding, or enriching these linguistic maps using a host of different techniques.
Notably, Bandler was a student of Aldous Huxley collaborator and psychologist of MK-Ultra “mind-control” notoriety, Gregory Bateson. Bateson was heavily involved in CIA-funded experiments using drugs and hypnosis on trauma victims at a California Veterans Hospital; he also followed Bandler’s work on hypnosis and visited sessions with his patients. Bandler in particular studied hypnotist Milton Erickson’s work, usefully describing Ericksonian hypnotic language as “artfully vague, but systemically so.” For, language that was “artfully vague” allowed one to use ambiguity, the “gaps” in descriptions, and the overall power of hypnotic suggestion to create the appearance that listeners were freely providing their own meaning and naturally filling in the gaps—the “illusion of choice.” These techniques have the effect of solidifying beliefs into the “deep structures” of the psyche. Sensitivity and suggestibility to these elements was then something that could be heightened by increasing the emotional tension and intensity of traumatic images or emotionally-gripping thoughts, especially when induced in group settings where an air of empathy and the warm and motherly acceptance of a loving home could be re-created—functioning as an artificial family system—to the effect of emotionally disarming individuals.
As previously covered, we had an interesting example of the full panoply of hypnotic devices used to induce trance and altered-states in the space of only a few statements in the recent January 6th 2022 speech delivered by President Joe Biden:
“The Bible tells us that we shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free. We shall know the truth. Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see?
Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol, the confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart. Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened. But it happened here in 2021.
What else do you see? A mob, breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol, American flags on poles being used as weapons as spears, fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them.”
President Joe Biden – January 6th, 2022
Before instructing viewers to “close your eyes,” the preceding sentences made use of the words “the Bible” and “truth.” The word “truth” was repeated three times in short order. Doing so ensured “the Bible” and “truth” were prominently placed in the listener’s psyche right before the incantation began. Listeners were then instructed to “Close your eyes. What do you see?” The instructions were followed by a guided visualization in which people were asked to imagine “rioters rampaging,” “the confederate flag” a “Civil War,” and America ripping itself apart.
The questions “What do you see?” and “what else do you see?” also served as what hypnotists call “embedded commands” (written in bold). Additionally, “what else do you see” functions as a “bind.” For, the images of insurrection are never called into question, only how many. This creates the “illusion of choice”—a common tactic used throughout MSM narratives.
The guided visualization included a good deal of “frames” and suggestive imagery, including mobs breaking windows, “American flags on poles being used as weapons,” “fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers,” and ostensible Trump supporters stomping on the heads of the very law enforcement officials they supposedly supported.
Thus, listeners were presented with a particular “sequence” in which they were “primed” with the words “truth” and “the Bible,” then invited to engage in a “visualization” where they would be “anchored” to a set of violent images. In essence, the statement attempted to instill what hypnotist and NLP co-creator Richard Bandler calls “false memories.” These images could then being used to suggest other events might also be similar “insurrections,” serving as an automatic trigger or “cue.” Not surprisingly, the same language was used to suggest that Canadian trucker protests shared parallels with the supposed January 6th “insurrection.”
A key concept identified by Bandler was the question of sequence. The opening images or visualization presented to clients serve as the beginning of a “trance-induction.” By opening with the visceral set of images, the heightened emotional state is created. This opening step is then followed by a series of truisms and platitudes which any listener can identify or agree with, and then—and only then—once a heightened emotional state is successfully established, new suggestions are introduced.
Fast-forward to 2022 and images of war-torn streets and cities or scared women and children are regularly used as a means of inducing the kind of emotional states necessary for “suggestions” to take hold. So we even find propaganda outlets generating images of what other cities might look like if they were bombed, with the effect of getting audiences to “imagine” themselves in the same situation, feeling the same emotions of fear, helplessness, empathy.
In the case of propaganda and mainstream media messaging, the power of hypnotic suggestion and related methods depends on the structure and the underlying intentions of the speakers or messages remaining concealed, with only what NLP calls the “surface structure” visible to the general populace. On the other hand, the purpose of a sound dialectic is to unearth the “deep structures” of any message or idea and make that the conscious object of attention. The consequence of not having a sound dialectic is that audiences are led to believe stories and reality are simply what they appear on the surface, without regard for how the embedded “deep structures” of those stories cause them to actually think and behave, or what policies they support.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentices
After 100 years of applied social psychology and research in behavioral science, we find the previously-cited maxims of Lord Russell crystalized with the establishment of the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) and “Nudge Units” embedded within Western governments and the supranational agencies like The United Nations and World Economic Forum (WEF). There we find developed in their most cutting-edge forms of mass psychology and behavioral science things like “behavioural nudging” and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), methodically used to induce “altered states,” create a new “Great Narrative,” and guide people’s decision-making process without the need of “reflective processes.” Behavioural scientists and social psychologists refer to this as the targeting of “automatic motivations” i.e. the unconscious mind.
In the BIT’s MindSpace (2010) document, we find a systematic working out of the conceptual framework to be used to specifically target and guide the population’s “automatic motivations.”
Page 14 of the “Introduction” section includes a chart outlining the characteristic differences between the two systems:
Page 18 in the “User’s Guide” section presents a checklist of influences on our behaviour:
A key approach is the practice of NLP “framing.” For example, the BIT’s Behavioural Government (2018) report describes the use of “framing” techniques regarding the presentation of policy decisions in terms of deaths, rather than lives saved, and the profound impact it can have on decision-makers:
“Framing effects refer to how the presentation of an issue, not its substantive content, can determine whether it is noticed and how it is interpreted. For example, the figure below shows that politicians and civil servants were more likely to choose a risky policy option when it was presented in terms of how many deaths it might prevent (rather than how many lives it might save).
For example, most mainstream outlets now regularly frame headlines using phrases like “according to research,” “scientists say” and “studies suggest.” Despite wearing a scientific veil, these are not scientific statements, they are appeals to group think i.e. “social proof”; the statements are designed to leverage our perception of authority and cause our mind to take a mental “shortcut.” Research on this work was done by Michael Cialdini, the author of Influence. Cialdini explained how the perception of authority could be a powerful behavioural influence because authority is often perceived as a “mental shortcut” for people.
For example, we go to the doctor and follow the doctor’s advice because they studied medicine and received years of formal instruction. So, according to Cialdini’s research, having physio therapists plaster all their degrees, awards, and diplomas on their office walls increased patient compliance with recommended exercise regiments by 30%. Thus, leveraging the appearance of authority in the eyes of the population becomes a key factor in “nudging” them into taking mental “shortcuts” when faced with complex and multi-faceted problems.
However, the unconscious mind takes a whole host “shortcuts” and has many “defaults.” The second influence in the MindSpace checklist is “incentives.” The checklist describes incentives in the following manner: “our responses to incentives are shaped by predictable mental shortcuts such as strongly avoiding losses.”
On page 20 of MindSpace, the authors describe this powerful behavioural influence—“losses loom larger than gains”—in the following manner:
“We dislike losses more than we like gains of an equivalent amount. Most current incentive schemes offer rewards to participants, but a recent review of trials of treatments for obesity involving the use of financial incentives found no significant effect on long-term weight loss or maintenance. An alternative may be to frame incentives as a charge that will be imposed if people fail to do something.”
With language augmented by behavioral nudging and NLP linguistic “modeling,” it becomes possible to craft messages in which a “surface structure” is worded in one particular manner, leading to a definite set of suggestions and emotional state, while the “deep structure” i.e. the quiet part, is be embedded with axioms and assumptions that cause individuals to behave in ways that might otherwise seem contrary to their beliefs, and nowhere indicated in the “surface structure.”
This is where the relevance of Plato’s dialectic becomes most obvious. While rhetoric and propaganda messages seek to conceal the “deep structures” of curated language, a true dialectic serves as the means of going beneath the surface structure presentation of any message in order to unearth their “deep structures” and subject them to a rigorous process of testing and investigation. This usually takes the form of thought experiments and dialogue—the Socratic method—which serve as a rigorous process of testing hypotheses, imagining what a world organized around such assumptions might look like, how people holding x, y, z, axioms might behave in various scenarios. In this way, we are able to unearth the underlying structures of statements by imagining how they might be applied in more difficult or nuanced situations, thus exposing the limitations or closed natured of predetermined linguistic models embedded within modern-day narratives.
In this respect, the dialectic is the essence of scientific thought and experimentation, while rhetoric is simply the outward modelling of persuasive and effective communication skills and language patterns.
The main difference between earlier forms of ancient rhetoric, the later subtle imagery used by the likes of Edward Bernays and Freudian psychology enthusiasts, and modern NLP and behavioural science-infused messaging and “nudges” lies in the copious amount of work that has gone into perfecting these techniques and developing new cutting-edge levels of precision, just as prescribed by Lord Russell:
“The social psychologists of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black. Various results will soon be arrived at. First, that the influence of home is obstructive. Second, that not much can be done unless indoctrination begins before the age of ten. Third, that verses set to music and repeatedly intoned are very effective. Fourth, that the opinion that snow is white must be held to show a morbid taste for eccentricity. But I anticipate. It is for future scientists to make these maxims precise and discover exactly how much it costs per head to make children believe that snow is black, and how much less it would cost to make them believe it is dark gray.”
Bertrand Russell – The Impact of Science on Society (1951)
Not only this, but with the addition of a whole host of other hypnotic devices aimed at steering people’s “automatic motivations,” modern-day psyops magicians have essentially developed the ability to direct these “altered-states” in real time, using the additional help of NLP “cues,” “priming,” “anchors,” and related devices. Paired with a simple understanding of surface and deep structures and the nature of hypnotic suggestion, one can easily imagine the powerful and very dangerous effects these techniques have.
An appreciation for the subtleties of truth and language, rather than imitations and slogans “where all ambiguities and shades of meaning have been purged” remains at the heart of any republic’s survival. While the purpose of philosophy and a love of wisdom is to understand that which underlies our experience and perceptions of the world such that a truly Good society can emerge, rhetoric and the language of the “magicians” and spin-doctors of the modern narrative matrix are designed to bind people into predetermined systems of thought and feeling using carefully curated linguistic models, ultimately framing reality in ways that benefit reigning political and financial powers.
Even in Plato’s time, he remarked how the various institutions of Athens had been governed by sophistry and clever rhetoricians such that the institutions of his day were completely rotten. He understood that unless a population was able to be governed by true philosophers, or that those in positions of power devoted themselves to philosophy and could thus discern the deeper nature of things and the natural laws governing any and all systems, the laws of the state and its governance would remain incurable.
Plato understood that without a people and leadership dedicated to a love of wisdom over their own personal interests and petty conceits, the magicians and wizards of language and psyops would always remain capable of creating new illusions and shadows for the masses to chase after and call their own—all the while remaining enslaved and ignorant.
As Plato recognized, all the spell books, magicians, and smooth talkers in the world would be no match for any true philosopher king, sage, or people dedicated to a love of wisdom, for they would forever remain capable of naming and identifying the fallacies and artificial nature of the stories and shadows weaved by the magicians.
Then as today, the fate of republics depends on it.
 This shift towards mass psychological control was also accompanied by a modernization of imperial control, with the old colonial form of imperialism now morphing into the financial slime mold which award-winning filmmaker Michael Oswald dubbed “The Spider’s Web”—Wall Street being the North American extension of this system.
David B. Gosselin is a poet, translator, and linguist based in Montreal. He is the founder of The Chained Muse poetry website and the founder of the New Lyre Podcast. His new collection of poems is entitled Modern Dreams.