Jon Atack’s new book, Opening Minds: the secret world of manipulation, undue influence and brainwashing, will change the way you think about your friends and family members. They are not as safe and secure as you think they are.
Opening Minds is a sobering wake-up call, alerting us to the ever present danger of manipulative groups and people that want to shanghai our clear thinking abilities, as well as the critical thinking skills of our friends and family members.
In this exceptionally well written and expertly researched book, Atack grabs our attention immediately with, “Honest persuasion is the foundation of an ethical society. But, we also live in an age where dishonest persuasion is applied every day, all day, to subvert reasoning through direct appeals to our emotions.”
He then warns, “Throughout history people have been unwittingly influenced to act against their better interests, and today, even more sophisticated forms of influence pose a significant threat to a free and open society.”
Atack estimates that at the very least, 700 million people are being psychologically manipulated without their informed consent by a predatory group or individual every day.
He then describes how pervasive coercive control techniques are in today’s world: “Undue influence is rife in our society. It is used by terrorists to radicalize young idealists; by pedophiles to ‘groom’ innocent kids, by white supremacists and criminal gangs to lock in new recruits; by abusers to control personal relationships; and by human traffickers to keep their workers enslaved. Undue influence is also used to persuade millions of members of pseudo-religious groups to violate the basic human rights of even close family members.”
Atack artfully displays the ten-step process used to scam victims and the nine nefarious ingredients required to consummate an undue influence experience.
For me personally, I was reminded of how scarily easy it is to suck a person into an unrealistic belief or a futile cause with his statement, “In an uncertain world, people are drawn to those who boast certainty.”
If a person could read only one chapter in this book, it should be chapter 5, which is all about how our mind works. I was awed by the little known fact that “If the unconscious mind is Mount Everest, then consciousness is about the size of a pebble on the top. The awareness or working memory is about two to three seconds in capacity.” Atack also explains that it is due to the nature of how our unconscious mind works that we are so easily manipulated without consciously knowing it.
Atack continually engages the reader with common sense, words of wisdom and an occasional epiphany. One of those gems is: “Most of us recognize that we have at times been gulled into buying some useless artifact, due to a sales pitch. However, the ego is unwilling to accept this, because the illusion of free will is so complete. So such personal errors are downplayed.
“The big problem with undue influence is that it has a before and an after, but no during. While individuals are under coercive influence, they will swear blind that they are acting out of their own free will. They choose to be overworked and undernourished, to accept the alpha behavior of their manipulator. The moment the veil lifts – which can take decades – they don’t have the strength to do anything but crawl away and weep, covered in wounds which take a great deal of licking.”
Education, Atack believes, is the key to addressing the world’s undue influence problems. Learning to use our critical thinking skills is essential, along with an acquisition of a deep understanding of the tricks of the mind. But, this requires a fundamental paradigm shift. To make it happen, Atack recommends, “We must make clear distinctions between exploitative and ethical persuasion. The former always uses deception, while ethical persuasion is open and honest and reveals all of the known information in a clearly accessible way.”
I loved the title of this groundbreaking book. But I kept thinking that if the book was marketed with two different titles, it might increase the chances for it to become a best-seller. My choice of a second title is “Who is fooling who?”
But why you ask? Because I believe this book really does deliver vital answers to who is fooling who in today’s world and how we could make our world a safer and more secure place to live for our friends and family members, and for you and me.
What do you think about this article? Have you read Jon’s book? Do you have a book you’d like to see us review? We’d love to hear from you!