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Are you being manipulated? Yes, and it’s getting worse.


I wrote what follows almost nine years ago and the reason for the reposting of it (with some alterations and additions) is to examine what may have changed. Springing to mind some monumental changes in society would include a rise in feminism and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, while in government there certainly has been a bold display of narcissism and authoritarianism. Some questions we should consider are: Has the government gotten better or worse in these past nine years? Have we become a better nation, more caring? I care about how we are governed. The word ‘manipulated’ is used repeatably in my text to empathise how I think we are governed, so read on, and please make a contribution in the comments section.

Purposeful manipulative social change without a common good caveat is a form of social evil.

It seems to me that in my lifetime, a lot of things have changed. But then change is one of those constant certainties of life. However, I am greatly concerned by how manipulated we have allowed ourselves to become.

Let me canvas some of the manipulated changes we have experienced and make some observations.

Of course, one’s age might bring a different perspective to how we view manipulated change. Obviously, if you are very young, you will have nothing to compare what follows with anything you have experienced. In other words, your “now” might be your norm.

For example, I happen to believe we are, as a society, more manipulated now than I can ever remember. You can see it everywhere – Murdoch’s manipulation by virtue of extreme media ownership.

Political manipulation by institutions, lobbyists and corporations more powerful than government. The manipulation by television stations would have you believe that mediocrity is excellence. And you can include religious faiths that manipulate children with warped theology based on very little evidence.

Manipulation by the blatant falseness of advertising is another means of persuading you to think the way you are directed. If you think about your everyday life, you cannot avoid the fact that many of the things you do are manipulated to influence your decision-making processes. Blatantly so. This was brought to our attention in the book by Vance Packard, Hidden Persuaders, in which he revealed the length advertisers go manipulate you. First published in 1957, “it remains one of the best books around for demystifying the deliberately mysterious arts of advertising.”

I have been retired now for some time, and I have had time to think. In fact, if I had my time over, I would not be the slave to the work ethic I had. Thinking can be impaired by too much work. We spend so much time at it that we have lost the art of thoughtful observation and creativity.

Our spending is even manipulated by the need to have more of the ‘unnecessaries‘ of life, and we have become confused with what we want instead of what we need.

Of course, we are manipulated into believing we need things because it creates jobs. Spend up big this Christmas. We are even told that things that are bad for us we are entitled to.

I’m thinking salt, fat and sugar that is causing a worldwide epidemic of obesity and, in the future, might take half the nation’s income to pay the health bill. We have more leisure, but less fun, more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

And it’s conservatives who say it’s the individual’s right to free choice even if it goes against the common good. In reality, it is the government that has the power to change things. Not the people.

So we end up spending more but enjoying life less. But we still need the money, of course. We have been manipulated into thinking we need another car, or a bigger house because ‘Bill and Mary’ have one. But it will take two wages to pay for it. Who cares that it will mean a smaller family and less family time?

Increasingly our possessions multiply enormously. We are told that this creates jobs, and if you want to be seen to be successful, you will need a boat and a holiday house.

Nothing is repaired anymore. Replacing things will also create more jobs. We have become a replacement society. But at the same time, our appreciation of the value of our possessions has declined. We have become so manipulated by ‘Affluenza’ that we have forgotten what frugality means.

We are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying simplicity. A consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having stuff and has failed to teach us that doing things is more pleasurable than possessing things.

Our kids have been manipulated into thinking that six hours on ‘Fortnite‘ is more pleasurable than sleep. So ingrained into our teenager’s minds has gaming become our kids are losing touch with life’s realities.

So successful has manipulation become by government, corporations, and the advertising industry that we now confuse the cost of living with the cost of lifestyle.

Continued Sunday with… “You are being manipulated because purposeful social change without a common good caveat is a form of social evil.”

My thought for the day

Never confuse what you want with what you need.

The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of reason never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rational explanation.

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  1. Harry Lime

    It is the triumph of MATERIALISM,John,and the Liar’s pack of drones are simply the latest and worst manipulators,by giving personal ,first hand examples.The’Fuck you Jack,I’m alright’ principle is strong in their targeted audience.There is no better example than the oaf masquerading as PM,prosperity cultist and supreme hypocrite.My dog’s arse is more Christian.

  2. Doctor Wu

    That’s right Harry Lime. The “you Jack” principle has long been the operative, but never mentioned, mechanism of divide and rule … And John Lord, I read Vance Packard’s book back in the early 70s, as set reading in a course entitled “The History and Philosophy of Science”. So revealing and instructive was it, that I thought it should be prominent on high school reading lists. While I take your point, I rather think Scummo is familiar with Packard’s work too. Oh, he has probably not read it, but his demonstrably failed experience in advertising and his present efforts to distort objective reality make certain his familiarity with the techniques … I hope for, but do not expect the sheeple of Australia to change-out this guvmint. If they did, with what will they replace it? From my redoubt in the NT bush, I see only Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee.

  3. Martin Hubbard

    My mother passed on her value of money and my father was a prime example of the addiction of consumerism. I’ve found a balance. I’ve constrained my “wants” but expanded my “needs” to address comfort and allow some indulgence of my hobbies to meet some emotional desires. I spend money on making our home more comfortable, we don’t have anymore space than we can use. No ensuite, no family room and one of our 3 bedrooms is a dedicated study. People think we’re crazy and as for having multiple cars, my hobby really makes them scratch their heads. I buy new high quality appliances that will last a lifetime rather than getting sucked into lots of bells and whistles that we’re told we need but never use. The older I get, the more I reject the rise of (your apt term) Afluenza. As for government, I am totally astounded that I live in a society that can tolerate such abuse of power and position. I’m being naturally guided further to the left as a result of the distorted right.

  4. John Lord

    Doctor Wu. I read it as a young man. A part that I liked was the hidden cameras to test the eye blink rate of different colours.

  5. wam

    American 1950 bullshit, lord. In those days we were without TV, ABC radio and few Adverts in papers and magazines. Insufficient money and a rejection of the glad and sorry system meant Vance was irrelevant till we caught up in Wu’s era. But by then our family were inured to such ‘persuasion’ and still are except for the grandkids whose phones are all consuming and is clearly a need of the order of food. Oxygen, water, phone/food and shelter are the needs for life now.
    The are interested in gaming no manipulation at all

  6. Bob Rich

    John, this has the same theme, and the same call to action as my essay, “How to Change the World:
    The consumerist society consumes the planet, and it has consumed the future.

  7. Jon Chesterson


    Good article John, I concur.

    Partisan Government, corporations, banks, insurers, real estate, tourism, employers, advertising, media, TV, internet, public and private health care systems, hospitals – They are all at it treating you like an ignorant consumer not a human being; and none of them are listening. This is the world we are bringing our children and grandchildren into, where cost of living gets the headlines not quality of life, where citizenship is exchanged for herd and cattle; civil rights, human rights, freedoms, choice and responsibility are replaced by centralised government control, surveillance and manipulation. And if you don’t like the way you are treated, you are scapegoated and socially or economically alienated. Misinformation, social manipulation and engineering are worse than a pandemic, where you are seen as a liability. Welcome to the Australia, the political and corporate abuse we never thought existed.

    I was not born into this, I did not migrate for this, I never asked for it but this is what we are given.

  8. Terence Mills

    It seems that the announcement of a $600million gasfired power station in the Lower Hunter was just that : an announcement to secure a by election win.

    What about the power station ? Well they will probably announce funding for a feasibility study (remember the Collinsville clean coal power station) and that’s the last you’ll hear of it.

    How gullible are we ?

  9. Michael D. Breen

    Once upon a time there were professional organizations. Associations of professional people. The marks of a professional person were three. To have mastered and been qualified in a discipline. To have and be committed to a set of professional standards. And to be reviewed by peers who would caution or expel an individual if they behaved badly or gave the association a bad name.
    Seeing that individuals and companies manipulate and contribute to purveying error in return for money, are they behaving professionally? Should not peers caution or hold these people to account?
    Currently it seems to me that many in the media are the whores of capitalism who will do anything for a bob. Surely they contribute to the destruction of standards, of behaviours and as the connected article suggests the destruction of the environment.
    Is it not possible for organizations like yours, which I have just discovered, to try to raise standards? To hold to account those without a conscience who will do anything for a bob? Who manipulate consumers and society?

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