The five gates of manipulation

Some thoughts on systemic machinations

“It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase.” — David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

In all systems there is manipulation. We find signs of manipulation in biological cycles, in military training, in our daily dealings with one another and even on a microscopic level.

No matter if it’s parasites, the military or advertising. Manipulation lives from placeholders, from images and signals that obscure something original and replace it with new signals. Or it retrieves ready-made patterns of behaviour that serve the purpose of the manipulator, but not those of the victim.

“Manipulation is influencing behavior for the benefit of others.“ — Rupert Lay

But all systems are characterised by something else. They are circuits. Interestingly, many of these circuits would collapse without the manipulators, without the communicative pullers. This applies to psychology, biology and the colourful world of consumption.

The principle remains the same. Reality is abstracted, distanced. A simulation takes over. The character becomes stronger than the original. The previous system or signal disappears until the manipulated message takes over.

The hidden persuader

Manipulated information is a sugar-coated stomach pill, a Trojan horse.

A suicide warrant that sounds like redemption.

A sacrificial order that feels like sex.

A buy order disguised as entertainment.

The question is, how does it work?

How do you get a person to behave against his own will, sometimes even against his instincts?

Step 1: Separate the victim from the herd.

Separation creates guilt. Guilt creates dependency.

Step 2: Watch it. Get to know it. Find the entrance.

Nothing has as much power over a person as his own emotions.

Step 3: Install yourself. The deeper the better. Delete what doesn’t fit. Become it.

Layered removal of the personality due to constant physical and psychological stress. The victim absorbs the message. The required control impulses are minimal.

Step 4: Issue new commands. Your orders.

It’s never important what someone does, it’s only for whom they do it. Social hierarchy is the key to success. Authority, friendship, sexual stimulation. Inside the organism.

Step 5: Support it. Give meaning to his actions. And give him a new herd.

Always give an excuse for the rational part, the last bit of reason.

“If the subject’s resistance subsides, it’s time to give him a reason or an excuse for his compliance.”
“Customers always need a rational excuse for their emotional decision. Therefore, always provide one. “ — David Ogilvy, advertiser

Expulsion creates guilt.
Guilt creates dependence.
Dependence promotes consumption.


I’ve published a german version of this text at my blog.