Never underestimate the power of this effect.
Group consensus breaks your mind.
Consider the Asch protocol, a real experiment which has been replicated many times. Shown an image of three lines, one of which is obviously longer than the other two, most respondents will agree with planted subjects who have been instructed to lie and say they are all the same length.
Make sure you read that right: people, by and large, will not trust their own perceptions when challenged by an apparent group consensus.
What’s worse is that the pressure to conform is experienced as a kind of severe pain by the brain. Imaging has demonstrated this.
Consensus is when everyone around you appears to believe the same thing, and act accordingly. We are moved by consensus in almost everything that we do. What we wear, what we eat, how we spend our leisure time and even our deeply held values are all shaped by beliefs and attitudes expressed by those around us and those whom we choose to be around.
When you were in high school and they talked about “peer pressure” incessantly, they were warning you of the power of consensus.
The real trouble is when imaginary consensus, like the one created by sycophantic applause at a press conference, skews our perceptions of the world.
This is mind-breaking: using false representations to warp others’ perceptions of reality toward ends that serve the mind-breaker.
In this historical moment, it is vital to publicly demystify the topic of mind-breaking, the first objective of all psychological warfare, is vital in this historical moment.
Mind-breaking is more than gaslighting.
“Gaslighting” is a specific kind of mind-breaking in which getting targets to question their own sanity is the explicit goal. What is more dangerous are the mind-breakers that keep you from questioning anything at all.
If anything, successful mind-breakers fabricate realities in order to hide the psychotic nature of their own activities.
For instance, mind-breaking the public is the only way to make such atrocities as war not only permissible on pragmatic grounds but actually palatable to a liberalized nation. Propaganda and widespread misinformation (classic mind-breaking tools) can even instill the active celebration of militarism. Support our troops = support our leaders’ military agenda, for which the “troops” are a thinly veiled symbol. After all, they are all legally bound to follow those leaders’ commands without question. Who do you think is most likely to benefit from such displays of generic patriotism? Certainly not the enlisted cannon fodder, themselves powerless and likely victims of mind-breaking. No, the mind-breakers, who rely in part on manufacturing a car-bumper consensus of support for nationalistic militarism are the real winners here.
False balancing between opposing opinions is another classic mind-breaking tactic. It occurs when a set of opinions are treated as though they all deserve equal consideration and respect when at least one opinion is certainly the product of mind-breaking. Vastly overstated beliefs in the amount of violence perpetrated by immigrants and the mentally ill are an example, giving the fear of broken minds equal play with conclusions derived from verifiable facts.
A mind-broken opinion is always inferior to any others arrived at through clear-minded perceptions.
Plenty has been written on the reframing effects of fake news and the distraction tactics that are used to hide unsavory behavior that is otherwise public record. Both operate at least partly on consensus.
Fake news appears real because it is shared and liked by so many people. Sensational events and tweets are distracting because when one person points, everyone around them tends to look in the same direction. And keep looking in that direction, drawing in more people. Even when nothing is there.
Fake news and the like are only initial attempts at breaking your mind. The problem will only intensify, and consensus is perhaps the strongest principle that can be leveraged against your perception of reality.
- Censorship creates false consensus in the media.
- Selectively funding and strictly regulating research in academia creates false consensus at universities. This contributes to mind-breaking faculty, staff, and students alike.
Hiding reality is the best way to distort it, as the dishonest few in power know so very well.
Accepting a “post-fact” world is cynical and unhelpful. It is an act of submission to mind-breaking. Honesty has decayed as a public value, and this needs to be remedied.
Remember the Asch experiment? It only works when someone lies.
This piece is an adaptation of a response to this article. I thought the topic deserved a somewhat more thorough treatment.