Jun 3, 2019 · 15 min read
For as long as there has been human language, humans have been using it to manipulate one another. The fact that it is possible to skillfully weave a collection of symbolic mouth noises together in such a way as to extract favors, concessions, votes and consent from other humans has made manipulation so common that it now pervades our society from top to bottom, from personal relationships between two people to international relationships between government agencies and the public.
This has made it very difficult to figure out what’s going on, both in our lives and in the world. Here are some tips for navigating this complex manipulation-laden landscape, whether that be the manipulations you may encounter in your small-scale personal interactions or the large-scale manipulations which impact the entire world:
1 — Understand the fact that humans are storytelling animals, and that whoever controls the stories controls the humans. Mental narrative dominates human consciousness; thought is essentially one continuous, churning monologue about the self and what it reckons is going on in its world, and that monologue is composed entirely of mental stories. These stories can and will be manipulated, on an individual scale by people we encounter and on a mass scale by skillful propagandists. We base our actions on our mental assessments of what’s going on in the world, and those mental assessments can be manipulated by narrative control.
2 — Be humble and open enough to know that you can be fooled. Your cognitive wiring is susceptible to the same hacks as everyone else, and manipulators of all sorts are always looking to exploit those vulnerabilities. It’s not shameful to be deceived, it’s shameful to deceive people. Don’t let shame and cognitive dissonance keep you compartmentalized away from considering the possibility that you’ve been duped in some way.
3 — Watch people’s behavior and ignore the stories they tell about their behavior. This applies to people in your life, to politicians, and to governments. Narratives can be easily manipulated and distorted in many different ways, while behavior itself, when examined with as much objectivity as possible, cannot be. Pay attention to behavior in this way and eventually you’ll start noticing a large gap between what some people’s actions say and what their words say. Those people are the manipulators. Distrust them.
4 — Be suspicious of people who keep telling you what they are and how they are, because they’re trying to manipulate your narrative about them. Be doubly suspicious of people who keep telling you what you are and how you are, because they’re trying to manipulate your narrative about you.
5 — Learn to see how trust and sympathy are used by manipulators to trick people into subscribing to their narratives about what’s going on. Every manipulator uses trust and/or sympathy as a primer for their manipulations, because if you don’t have trust or sympathy for them, you’re not going to mentally subscribe to their stories. This is true of mass media outlets, it’s true of State Department press releases which implore you to have sympathy for the people of Nation X, and it’s true of family members and coworkers. Once you’ve spotted a manipulator, your task is to kill off all of your sympathy for them and your trust in them, no matter how hard they start playing the victim to suck you back in.
6 — Be suspicious of anyone who refuses to articulate themselves clearly. Word salading is a tactic notoriously used by abusive narcissists, because it keeps the victim confused and unable to figure out what’s going on. If they can’t get a clear handle on what the manipulative abuser is saying, they can’t form their own solid position in relation to it, and the abuser knows this. Insist on lucid communication, and if it’s refused to you, remove trust and sympathy. Apply this to people in your life, to government officials, and to 8chan propaganda constructs.