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Learning Something New About Undue Influence

If you would like to learn something new about a subject most people know little about, you are in for a treat. And the price tag is only 53 minutes of your time; unless you choose to stop after 15 minutes, which will be well worth your time.

In this delightfully engaging video conversation, Jon Atack and Susan Gaskin bring to life what, to many, is a dry topic: undue influence. They begin with Jon’s colorful definition and appropriate synonyms, such as coercive control, exploitative persuasion, manipulation and brainwashing.                       

After briefly chatting about the history of these expressions, Jon explains why Open Minds has decided to default to the legally recognized term of undue influence.

Jon and Susan then liven things up by sharing scientific research which shows how easily the human mind can be swayed, and how predatory, abusive groups use undue influence to regulate their members’ thinking, dehumanizing outsiders and creating barriers between people.

Jon expertly explains why it is so important to educate young people to make up their own minds, rather than having their emotions manipulated by someone else. They also discuss what educational conventions actually work to prevent healthy personal autonomy, and share the latest news about some amazing reforms in education geared to create engaged, curious, and independent learners in our schools.

Among some of the fascinating topics discussed are:

  • What is undue influence, and how does it work?
  • How is it different from coercive control and exploitative persuasion?
  • What is manipulation? Where does the term come from?
  • What is brainwashing, and why has the term become inaccurate as we use it today?
  • What does social psychology teach us about influence?
  • What is personal autonomy?
  • How does our sense of infatuation lead to manipulation, and why is it so important to be careful with our love?
  • Why does chocolate taste so good?
  • What is the best way to avoid a scam?
  • Just what did Mrs. Mattel say when she first saw the Ken doll?

What do you think about this interview? Do you agree? Have you read Jon’s book? Do you have a story about undue influence that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

And be sure to check out Susan’s YouTube channel, too!

Spike on The Ochelli Effect – Societal Influence and Lifton’s Criteria

Advisory Board member Spike Robinson was a recent guest on the podcast The Ochelli Effect, where she and host Chuck Ochelli discuss the pervasive nature of undue influence and societal manipulation in our culture, stressing the fact that all influence, from beneficial to malignant, lies upon a spectrum, with the same techniques and methods being used to harm as well as heal.

In the second hour, they break down Lifton’s Eight Criteria for Thought Reform, taking each element and discussing how various diverse groups use these methods of influence to sway opinions, actions, and lives.

Listen in to the conversation!




Spike and Pearse Talk to Aaron and Uncle

Advisory Board Member Spike Robinson and Open Minds on Air podcast host Pearse Redmond are the most recent guests on the two back-to-back podcasts, Trans Resister Radio and Uncle The Podcast.

For the first hour, Spike and Pearse visit with host Aaron Franz, and they take a serious look at some of the lesser known aspects of undue influence, such as magazine crews and time-share scams, as well as discussing high-control groups and the mechanisms of control. In the second hour, Uncle joins in for Uncle The Podcast, and the mood becomes a bit lighter as they talk about pop culture, American football, and even debate the feasibility of a combination spaghetti strainer/ mop bucket. 

Here is the first segment, on Trans Resister Radio, and here is the second hour, on Uncle the Podcast. Or you may listen to the two shows as one, here.

Open Minds on Air: Undue Influence in Star Trek

In this month’s episode, Pearse is joined by Spike Robinson to launch a new series, “Undue Influence in Pop Culture,” where they plan to examine various popular movies, television series and books through the lens of undue influence and coercive control. This month, they compare and contrast two episodes of classic Star Trek: “Return of the Archons” and “A Taste of Armageddon.”

“Return of the Archons” is a classic example of how Hollywood portrays thought control or “brainwashing”, with a population of blissed-out automatons, only breaking out of tranquility for their purge-like Festival – a society completely under the control of a supercomputer, which was programmed six thousand years ago by the “savior” of their race, Landru. The people are glassy eyed and speaking in a strange, stylized sort of language, with no autonomy or independent thought.

However, it is in “Taste of Armageddon” that the real face of cultural coercion can be seen – for two planets fighting a mechanized, computer-calculated war, their cultures have become so tightly controlled that otherwise sane, rational people – people who talk normally and even persuasively about their “system” are so under the influence of their leaders that they will “willingly” step into vaporization booths, rather than face the indoctrinated phobia of what might happen to their world if they do not comply.

Using these two episodes as a starting point, Spike and Pearse discuss what mind control is, what it isn’t, and how our popular culture informs our opinions on this highly complex subject.

You may also upload the podcast here.

What do you think about this podcast? Do you agree?  Do you have example of undue influence in popular culture that you’d like to see us discuss? We’d love to hear from you!


Open Minds On Air 7 – Communication or Miscommunication?

This month, Christian Szurko of the Dialog Centre returns, joining Jon and Pearse in this informative, witty, and often hilarious discussion. They start with the idea of how communication is used – or, rather, misused – as a means of control in recruitment and indoctrination, and the impact this has in the recovery of those leaving authoritarian relationships. They move on to explore how the misuse of communication plays out in groups such as cults and gangs, as well as in everyday relationships. They also take a hard look at how our education system can act as the foundation for this type of control, and discuss how redefining words and phrases has long been used by authoritarian groups to exert control.

If you wish to download as an Mp3, use this link.

What do you think about this interview? Do you agree? Do you have a story about a misuse of communication that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

Jessica Terwiel on Conflict De-escalation

jessica terwiel

Jessica Terwiel recently appeared on the podcast “Left at the Valley”, discussing the often-neglected art of conflict de-escalation – stepping away and taking time to cool down. Jessica offers some solid life advice, sparkling wittily in her interview, which starts at 55 minutes into the show (though you’ll want to listen to the whole podcast, particularly their amusing breakdown of the top ten product failures of all time).



Open Minds on Air Episode 6 – Conspiracy Theories

This month Pearse Redmond and Yuval Laor explore the issue of conspiracy theories and their power to manipulate individuals and groups.  They start off by discussing the popular Qanon theory, breaking down how adherents to this and many other conspiracy theories operate within the structure of a secret society, and the dangers of being in a secret society. Yuval also discusses the concept of “argument from strangeness” and how this factors into both conspiracy theories and miracles. Later they touch on why authoritarian groups such as cults often employ conspiracy theories in order to control and manipulate their members.  Finally, they close out the show by discussing the danger of dismissing all conspiracy theories, and the human need to question authority, using the fabricated Nayirah Testimony and the Iraqi WMD’s as examples to support their arguments.

You may also download this episode as an mp3 here.

What do you think about this interview? Do you agree? Do you have a story about conspiracy theories that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

The Shroud of Turin In My Toast – part two of Rachel’s talk with Yuval

In part 2 of Rachel’s sit-down with Dr. Yuval Laor, the two discuss the various types of awe experiences, including celebrity, crowd dynamics, political power, beauty, high levels of skill, traumatic stress, moral virtue and the vastness of the unknown. These moments are taken advantage of by cults and manipulators to break down and control victims.

Plus: A story of a dangerous encounter Rachel had with a teenage Scientologist in trance-like state.

What do you think about this interview? Do you agree? Do you have a story about fervor that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! 

Terror, Love, and Brainwashing – Chris Shelton Interviews Alex Stein

Alexandra Stein is only a few minutes into her harrowing story when she pauses with a smile. “I know a lot of people listening to this are undoubtedly going to think: ‘well, why did you go along with it?’” she says. “And after I got out, that was the question I had: why did I go along with it?”

For this plucky intellectual, fighting for the rights of humanity was second nature. How, then, did she find herself involved with a group which took away her rights and turned her into a virtual slave? In this revealing interview with her fellow Open Minds Advisory Board member Chris Shelton, Alex Stein not only answers the perennial question: “how do people become involved in such groups?”, she also details the way predatory groups and individuals use our own normal psychology – and our natural instinct for human connection – to subvert the will of others.

Using the Attachment Theory pioneered by such thinkers as Bowlby, Stein shows how any of us, at the right time, could fall into the trap of a cultic group or relationship. Even those of us who have read her excellent book, Terror, Love and Brainwashing, will find this interview illuminating and thought-provoking.

What do you think about this interview? Do you agree? Have you read Alex’s book? Do you have a story about being recruited into a cult that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!

Fervor and Awe – Rachel Bernstein Talks with Yuval Laor

In this episode of IndoctriNation, Open Minds Advisory Board member Rachel Bernstein interviews Open Minds Review Board Research Coordinator Yuval Laor. Rachel and Yuval discuss Yuval’s studies of fervor and awe, the psychological phenomenon of indoctrination used by cults like  Scientology to manipulate their followers’ evolutionary blind spots into a state of “noetic conclusion” and infatuation similar to falling in love, or the love between parent and child.

In her trademark “one more thing” segment, Rachel shares some of the experiences she had with a controversial group based upon the teachings of Jewish Mysticism. As with all of her interviews, it’s well worth a listen.

What do you think about this interview? Do you agree? Do you have a story about awe or fervor that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!

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