How to Beat a Manipulator

In our political and personal lives many of us have been conned. Here’s how to recognize how politicians and people manipulate us and how to stop them, according to Caitlin Johnstone.

Photo Manipulation by Erik Johansson. (Tracy Torres, Flickr, Public domain)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Humans are hackable. Ask any conman. Our desire to think we have control over our lives often hides this from ourselves, but most of us are highly suggestible and hypnotizable. If you think you’re not, you’re in more danger of being hacked than someone who has humbled themselves enough to see how this works in them.

There’s no need to be ashamed of being conned. Realizing that you’ve been, or are being, conned will naturally bring up feelings of embarrassment, but it’s never your fault that someone’s taken you for a ride. Get clear: conning someone is the crime; being conned is being a victim of that crime. That’s how the law sees it in fraud cases. Manipulators would love you to think that it’s your fault for allowing yourself to be manipulated, but that’s just another manipulation isn’t it?

Manipulators use one of our most astounding, useful, and beautiful human characteristics when they con us—empathy. Our innately trusting nature is the reason why we’ve been able to collaborate on large scales to create and innovate in extraordinary ways unseen anywhere else in the animal kingdom. Because we learn by modeling, and we are shaped by the group we inhabit and our urge to create harmony will make life viscerally uncomfortable until we are back in alignment with our tribe. We are the peacemakers; we seek alignment, which is how we are paced by manipulators into aligning with their sick agendas. How gross is it then that our ability to empathize and relate to each other is one manipulators use to control us?

Because of the reach of mass media, every single one of us is in an abusive relationship with plutocratic manipulators. Many of us are in personal relationships with manipulators too. Conveniently, the strategies for dealing with sociopathic manipulators are the exact same, from plutocrats to your live-in partner.

Get Clear on Your Own Will

You are easy prey if you don’t know what you want and you leave it up to others to decide for you. If you don’t have a sense of who you are and what you stand for, anyone can come in and co-opt that for their own sick agendas. Sit down, get quiet, and make an inventory of who you are and what you need. Don’t be squeamish about adding things that you don’t have yet. That’s the point. Make a list of what you need not just to survive, but to thrive. Apply the live-and-let-live rule to every one of your wants, and if you’re confident that nothing you want will hurt or interfere in anyone else’s will, then the list is good. You can stand by it unequivocally, and you should do so with as much strength and confidence as you can muster. Grow to its size and advocate loudly for it.

Watch Where the Resources Go

How do you really know if you’re being manipulated? Well, what manipulators understand that the rest of us don’t is that there are real life resources like sex, money, work, gold, oil, land, water, food, people, air, etc; and there are good feelings. They will always try to get you to swap real things for good feelings. If you don’t have empathy, you see the whole world in a completely different way. Most people are trying to get what they need without hurting anyone, because hurting someone hurts them too. Manipulators don’t experience that, so they just get what they need by telling their victim that they’ll hurt someone if they don’t hand it over.

Zoom out and take an inventory of who’s got all the stuff. Which way are the scales tipped? Good manipulators try to shift the ground underneath us to funnel the real wealth into their coffers, while placating us with good feelings about how blessed our hard work is and all that, and how selfish it would be to demand healthcare when there’s people in Syria who need to be bombed for their freedom. Leave all that behind and zoom and out and see who’s got all the stuff. Who has all the power, all the wealth, all the real stuff that you can really use in the real world, and who is barely existing but has hope for a better tomorrow?

Same in a marriage. Who has all the wealth, power, kudos, retirement savings, and who just has a story about what a good person they are? Religion has primed us for manipulation, and that was by design. Over millennia, we have been taught to value fealty, piety, hard work, submission, and to leave judgement and reward til after we die. This creates the perfect environment for manipulators who can see very clearly what the valuable real-world things are, and what are creations woven of fairytales. Work out what’s real in the here and now, and see who is in control of what should be your stuff. Is it you? If it’s not, you’re being manipulated out of it.

Watch Their Actions, Not Their Words

Manipulators only have words. They can’t just walk up to you and say “Give me your life savings,” they have to weave a complex story that makes you feel like it’s the right thing to do. A good conman will never ask for anything if they can get away with it. Ideally, they want you to make the offer. That’s the best kind of con, the one where the victim thinks it was their idea in the first place. A great conman will have you begging him to take the thing that he wanted all along, so then he can even get your gratitude for it.

By zooming out and seeing what they’re doing, rather than listening to what they’re saying, you can get a much better idea of what’s actually happening. If, for example, they’re saying they support single-payer healthcare while voting against it, sabotaging any efforts in any direction, taking money from donors who oppose it, and generally running interference on it, then those actions tell the real story. If the offer is not what you asked for but you are so desperate, so far down the line with them, so invested, and so cut off from any alternate solutions that you’ll take anything, then the con is complete.

Think about it from their point of view. Ideally, they want to be the ones you go to for the thing they don’t want you to have. They want to be the ones you place your hope and energy with so you don’t go to someone who will actually help them, but they also need to string you along for as long as possible, doing as little as possible, while taking as much energy as they can from you without arousing suspicion. They sing the song of inertia, of incrementalism, of “Not now, but soon.” That’s how they keep you trapped. If you zoom out and watch what they’re actually doing, rather than what they’re saying, you will know when it’s time to say bye Felicia and seek out an actual solution.

Don’t Try to Out-Manipulate Them

Once you’ve figured out you’re being manipulated, the knee-jerk reaction is to try and manipulate them back. Dude. Don’t even. Do you know how beautiful and precious you are to even think that that’s possible? These people have had no empathy for all their lives, and without all that emotional noise clouding their decisions, they have been playing every single person in their life like a game of chess. They are masters. They are five moves ahead of you already, and you’re just learning what a rook is. They have a whole lifetime of manipulating under their belt, and you are a total noob. You will lose that game. Don’t play it.

Instead, go with your strengths. Demand what you want and stick to that, loudly and unapologetically. Keep asking for what you want in the most direct way possible. Remember, a manipulator aims to take your will from you. Take it back. Many of us have been so manipulated for so long, we don’t even know what we want anymore. Make your inventory, keep it simple, keep it to what you know you need to thrive, and then plant your feet and demand it.

Meanwhile, keep pointing out the weird things they do to try and avoid giving you what they said they would. Shout it from the rooftops when they do something sly. They’ve used your politeness and goodwill to hide their little indiscretions. Don’t let them anymore. If they’re being creepy, say it. Don’t be manipulated into tacit consent by your politeness.

Keep telling the truth to yourself at least, even when it doesn’t tally with your worldview. Remain as intellectually honest with yourself as possible about what the knowable facts are, and what is conjecture or wishful thinking. Verify everything as much as you can so you know you’re standing on solid, factual ground. Manipulators love to keep people as confused as possible. Get as many quantifiable, verified, real-world facts as you can underneath you and build your worldview on them. And when you’re sure of yourself, say it like it’s true, because you know it is. Be unequivocal with the things you know. When you’re sure, don’t let anyone get in any wriggle room. Approach your private research with curiosity, objectivity and a light hand, but once the work is done, plant your feet in its truth and don’t let them be uprooted.

And lastly, don’t play by the rules, play by what is right. Manipulators love rules because they love to strategize about how to bend them, and how to bend you with them. Think of the worst kind of lawyers and you’ll know exactly what I mean. If you’re a deeply good person like you know you are, and you are always trying to point yourself at the highest interest, you know deep down if you’re doing the right thing. Trust your guts and forge ahead. Keep doing the right thing, even if it breaks a rule.

Apply The Manipulator’s Rules In Reverse

There’s something in psychology called “projection”, and anyone who has done a good deal of inner work will tell you that it’s a handy self-enquiry tool to see if what you hate in others, you can find in yourself. In order not to deal with our guilt, we tend to project the things we don’t like on to other people to hide the shame of it from ourselves. Bringing it out into the light can often result in some healthy forgiveness of both ourselves and our perception of others.

That’s great, but what the sages neglect to tell you is that people are also projecting all the time on to you. If you’re suggestible and good-hearted enough to not want to harm anyone, you can take everyone’s projections on to you as truth without even realizing it. Unless you develop a strong, conscious, healthy sense of who you are as a person, you can be gaslit into thinking that you’re any amount of the horrible things people project on to you, and that can easily grind you to a confused and babbling halt. Again, take an inventory of who you are and what you want, and grow in size until you can stand in that truth and defend it. Find your will and take it back.

Manipulators particularly use projection as a tactic to hide what they’re doing to you in plain sight. A manipulator can have you chasing your tail by simply suggesting that you or others are doing what you are seeing them doing with your own eyes. DNC caught rigging the election? Oh no, it was actually Russia who rigged the election by catching the DNC rigging the election. See what I did there? It’s so dumb, but it works.

Here’s the key: simply reverse the pronouns. When faced with a manipulator, everything he says about you, he is saying about himself, and everything he says about himself, is what he thinks of you. If he’s telling you you’re duplicitous and you’re a liar and you’re trying to take him for all he’s got, he’s actually saying he’s duplicitous and he’s a liar and he’s trying to take you for all you’ve got. If you have good grounds to believe you are being manipulated by someone, reverse the pronouns in your mind and let them tell you who they are. It works from personal relationships right up to the grand manipulators employed by the plutocrats.

Bring as much awareness as possible to all the ways you’re being manipulated, and all the ways you’ve been inadvertently manipulating. Make it as conscious in yourself as possible so we can all add to the sum of human knowledge as to how to transcend the manipulations. Once we draw back and fill out to our own individual sovereign boundaries, we will be able to trust ourselves to stand in our truth. We will also be able to see who we can trust so much more easily, and once you know you can trust someone, you can collaborate with them. These newly-conscious and divine collaborations will create the very things we need to solve the real world problems we face as a species and take the will of the planet from the sociopaths and return it to the will of the people.

And that’s really all it will take. A tipping point of un-manipulatable and awake people collaborating to create new systems that will surpass the old is all it will take to wrest power from the manipulators who only have the old Biblical tools of fear, guilt and shame to work with. This is doable, and it only needs you.

This commentary was originally published on .

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. This article was re-published with permission.

94 comments for “How to Beat a Manipulator

  1. August 30, 2018 at 18:05

    A very good book showing how to deal with manipulation from people in one’s personal life is entitled Emotional Blackmail, by the writer and psychotherapist Susan Forward. She shows how to deal with manipulation, or what she calls emotional blackmail, from people like spouses, lovers, family, bosses, and coworkers.

    In the introduction to her book Susan Forward introduces the term emotional blackmail to describe the emotional and psychological manipulation which is the subject of her book This is an example of where giving something the right name goes a long way toward helping one to understand and come to grips with the matter being discussed.

    She also introduces the term FOG to describe how the blackmailers keep us from seeing just what they are doing. The term is both a metaphor and an acronym for Fear, Obligation, and Guilt.

    In the first part of her book she shows how emotional blackmail works, and shows different styles and methods of blackmail that are used. She describes blackmail both from the point of view of the one being blackmailed and from the point of view of the blackmailer. (And she emphasizes that blackmailers are not necessarily bad or evil people.) She shows how one being blackmailed enables the blackmailer (by teaching the blackmailer what works), and how and why a person might come to employ emotional blackmail.

    In the second part of her book she shows practical ways and behavioral strategies for dealing with emotional blackmail and breaking the cycle. She also shows ways of identifying and dealing with the emotional hot buttons that make one susceptible to blackmail, and of cutting through the emotional fog (i.e. fear, obligation, and guilt). This includes dealing with both present issues and issues from one’s past that might need to be understood and dealt with.

    Susan Forward is known for her books which both help one to get to the emotional heart and root of problems and issues that one might be dealing with, as well as give practical, nuts-and-bolts ways and strategies for dealing with one’s issues in the here and now.

  2. August 28, 2018 at 17:22

    Regarding the matter of societal manipulation and conditioning, I have something personal I want to share.

    I am a heterosexual male, and I have had a liking, or sexual attraction, to body hair on women since being an adolescent. And my attraction has always been toward women, and not toward men.

    I especially like a woman who is otherwise attractive, and who has serious body hair (more than just a little), and who likes and is not ashamed of her natural state and her natural body hair.

    For instance I like the hairy legs belonging to this female fitness blogger who decided to stop shaving and let her body hair grow out. Her name is Morgan Mikenas, and she is the subject of this article:

    I realize that what she has done is not everyone’s cup of tea, but really is there anything inherently wrong with her not shaving? Does it really do harm to anybody?

    For a long time our society has had a taboo about women having body hair. Hairy legs and other body hair on a woman are supposed to be unkempt and unfeminine and unattractive. And by implication “real” men are supposed to like smooth legs and no body hair on women, and for a man to like body hair on women is supposed to be “unmanly”.

    Many people say, or profess to say, that body hair on women is “gross” or “disgusting”.

    I wonder how much of that dislike toward body hair on women is real, and how much is conditioned, or manipulated, by society, that women are not supposed to have body hair and one is not supposed to like body hair on women.

    It is really a result of societal conditioning, and manipulation, that women, starting when they are young girls, feel that they HAVE TO go through all kinds of pain and trouble to remove any and all body hair, and look like plastic Barbie dolls (or prepubescent girls).

    It certainly profits the razor companies and the cosmetic companies that women have to go through all that pain and trouble.

    And as a result of this societal conditioning and manipulation, not only do women have to go through all kinds of pain and trouble to remove body hair, but MEN like myself (and women too) who might actually like body hair on women, are denied the chance to enjoy and marvel at the beauty of women in their natural state.

    And I am sure that there are a lot of men like myself who like body hair on women, but keep silent about it for fear of judgment and ridicule by small-minded people who would think there must be something wrong with any man who likes body hair on women, as a result of our societal conditioning. In fact I used to post on an adult chat board, now defunct, dedicated to discussion and appreciation of female body hair, and there were a number of other men who definitely liked body hair on women.

    It has often bothered me that just about everything has been acceptable or accepted in our society at some time since the 1960’s, except for natural body hair on women. It seems that that is the one thing in particular that society has been successful in conditioning people to think is somehow not acceptable.

  3. SK
    August 26, 2018 at 01:50

    Here’s a link to a pdf version of “The Con Artist’s Playbook” published by AARP and distributed for them by Frank Abagnale, the real-life con man that the movie “Catch Me If You Can” is based on.

  4. August 23, 2018 at 00:48

    It’s the massive increase in lies since the Internet was born, for when hundreds of lies are being written as truths, too many don’t have the critical thinking skills to untangle what the truths are, so we end up with a poorly informed and easy to manipulate athedult population!

    Teaching critical thinking and logic courses from 2nd grade through 12th grade would probably prevent most humans from being manipulated.

    • August 23, 2018 at 01:04

      In effect, we aren’t and haven’t been teaching our children and young adults how to think with provable facts to reach provable conclusions and how to avoid or quickly recognize massive amounts of false information.

  5. Skip Edwards
    August 22, 2018 at 15:03

    No,, keep doing as you are doing. While this is more of a psychological/ philosophical artical by Caitlin, it is point on. As an example, we continue to allow the rulers of our government to keep us fighting endless wars which reap billions-trillions of dollars of wealth for themselves from our tax dollars while ignoring the coming Climate disaster so as to allow their fossil fuel cronies to exact great costs from all of us in order to enrich themselves. As Caitlin points out, we are in an abusive relationship with these monstors, the government/corporate conspiracy, who are currently killing many people around the world and will eventually end life on Earth as we know it. Like an abused spouse in a relationship we take the abuse until we are a shell of the person we were originally; slave to the fear of the unknown and falsly secure in our own misery.

    • August 23, 2018 at 00:52

      Skip, until we start teaching many courses in critical thinking and basic logic, it is unlikely we’ll create an informed public and stop the current manipulation of most of our people.

  6. f f skitty
    August 20, 2018 at 14:12

    words to live by…
    i’ll decide for myself who my enemies are.

  7. Ken Bonetti
    August 19, 2018 at 14:30

    Thank you Consortium News for publishing Catlin’s articles. She has a penchant for the unvarnished truth about our decrepit socio-economic-political predicament. Sure she offends, but that is what opinion from any perspective does. Caitlin is a great asset to your project. Please keep her in your fold.

  8. Zhu Ba Jie
    August 18, 2018 at 22:12

    A knowledge of world history would help, too. All the problems some posters are blaming on the abrahamic religions exist everywhere else, too. Eliminate the abrahamic religionists more thoroughly than Stalin did, you will still have the same problems. “It is not in our stars but ourselves, if we are weaklings.”

  9. James Nicholson
    August 18, 2018 at 20:02

    Fear, guilt and shame are not “biblical tools” and the writer betrays their own weighted values here. There are some helpful things in this but a better understanding of the biblical values of grace, forgiveness and willing self sacrifice out of love would improve the advice. I know the church has used manipulation through history but that has never heen a biblical value.

    • August 19, 2018 at 15:13

      We don’t have enough fear guilt or shame.Just look at the actions of our politicians and corporations and media.Replete with sociopaths.

    • willow
      August 23, 2018 at 00:43

      The Bible, especially the Old Testament, is filled with stories about sin, Divine anger and punishment.

  10. Lois Gagnon
    August 18, 2018 at 19:57

    Anyone else notice some funky stuff going on with comments?

    • Zhu Ba Jie
      August 18, 2018 at 22:17

      Well, some are still unhappy that their parents made them go to Sunday School, and are raging that all humanity’s problems come, not from primate évolution, but from whatever religion they don’t like. Let’s hope they don’t get power enough to try to eliminate their scapegoats, and thus prove themselves just as bad as the church-going part of humanity. Cf Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, etc.

    • Jill
      August 19, 2018 at 13:10


    • Maxim Gorki
      August 20, 2018 at 10:30

      As in fewer and fewer websites allowing them? The Deep State is casting it’s shadow.

  11. Censorship. Why?
    August 18, 2018 at 18:32

    Current censorship drive seems to be aimed at those who defend Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

    By shutting down Wikileaks defenders, there would be no one to tell us what is happening in the event of a major mistreatment of Assange.

    Other news of critical events also will also disappear from view when non-mainstream media outlets are muzzled.

    They are engineering a news blackout. We can also say, they are expanding the current blackout as mainstream media outlets are already engaged in massive censorship by omitting critical news.

    • Skip Edwards
      August 22, 2018 at 15:10

      “By shutting down Wikileaks defenders, there would be no one to tell us what is happening in the event of a major mistreatment of Assange.”

      What do you call what is being done to Assange, now!? Imprisoned in a small room with no source of sunlight and no contact with the outside world; basically held in isolation. This is torture by anyone’s judgment.

  12. Bruce Sutka
    August 18, 2018 at 16:35

    To the essence of the subject. Truthful, insightful and revelatory.

  13. August 18, 2018 at 13:00

    Word to congress

  14. Joe Tedesky
    August 18, 2018 at 12:52

    “Here’s how it works. First, you obfuscate the main issues using Orwellian language games. Next, you point your finger at somebody else. Then, if you’ve got the power, you destroy that somebody else, preferably by engineering a scandal of some kind, however irrelevant, however absurd. Problem solved.” Anatomy of a Scandal: Israel Crucifies Corbyn By Michael Howard

  15. August 18, 2018 at 12:05

    I want to have some profound philosophical comment to add. Nope. I may not have your talents in articulation, but I know this stuff and forget. Than
    something or someone comes along and helps me to remember at exactly the right time.
    Thanks for that.
    I have noticed a button in me when someone tells me I can’t do “that” and I know it’s the right thing to do, it just makes me have to do it “more”. .

    • Tom Kath
      August 18, 2018 at 21:48

      Wisdom is the ability to tell you what you already know.

  16. Adam Halverson
    August 18, 2018 at 11:37

    “It’s easier to fool people, than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

    – Mark Twain

    The aforementioned quote perfectly illustrates and summarizes why it is so challenging (for many of us) to make many of the changes in this world that are necessary. The manipulators themselves aren’t the only obstacle – the metaphorical virus that they have implanted into the collective minds of people in society, and its effects, only serve to make these manipulators even stronger. The people being compromised add another dimension to the situation. The mass media is the perfect vector for being able to accomplish this, en masse. In a nutshell, it really is a three-step process at its base. Create the lie, deliver the lie, and then enable that lie to spread. And, as Joseph Goebbels – the Nazi Minister of Propaganda – has said, “a lie told a thousand times ‘becomes the truth’ ;” therefore, that process must be replicated and repeated until the desired results are obtained.

    It’s particularly insidious when these manipulators appeal to the accepted axioms and dogma of the people (some of which they themselves created) to propagate their lies and deception. Here’s a perfect example:

    e.g. the idea of diamond-studded wedding rings, which so many accept as a “long-standing tradition,” was actually concocted by De Beers, an absolutely evil organization in the diamonds industry, that has been directly and indirectly responsible for the murders of millions of innocent people (slave labor), as well as price-gouging for ridiculous profits. Aside from scientific and industrial uses, diamonds themselves have almost no intrinsic value, relative to their market price, and rapidly depreciate in value after being purchased from a dealer so they’re a terrible investment. The big lies being peddled here are that (a) diamonds are valued appropriately, and that (b) they are a mandatory accessory for marriage. These lies serve the interests of those peddling them. In essence, diamonds have value in much the same way fiat money has value – it is regarded by society and institutions as having value, but that’s it. It’s the perception of value, but much of that value is fictitious.

    Equally insidious is when these manipulators hijack movements designed to serve the common good, and corrupt those movements for the purpose of steering that movement away from its actual intended goal, to serve their own interests. Sometimes, the manipulators don’t even have to resort to any kind of hijacking – they can simply create movements, often boosted by popular figures, which effectively say one thing but do another; we have seen this time and time again within various political systems, as well as within NGOs and “social justice” organizations. Sometimes, these movements advocate for, and resort to overt violence, which should always raise red flags.

    To sum up everything, the real challenge isn’t just in dealing with manipulators and protecting ourselves from them – it’s also in convincing others that they have been manipulated, while offering solutions that actually work. Another real challenge is in protecting beneficial movements – especially those that we ourselves create – from the dangers of being hijacked by bad actors from within, who intend to do harm.

    • KiwiAntz
      August 21, 2018 at 18:01

      What a fantastic summary Adam. Bravo.

  17. August 18, 2018 at 09:43

    Perhaps we are Conditioned
    November 9, 2017

    Conditioned to believe, there is no he or she
    Conditioned to accept that we are gender free
    Conditioned to believe we live in a “democracy”
    Conditioned to accept political hypocrisy

    Conditioned to accept whatever our kids are taught
    Conditioned to believe gender bender rot
    Conditioned to accept unhealthy lifestyles
    Conditioned to approve all this with a smile

    Conditioned to believe the media’s views
    Conditioned to accept what is the “news”
    Conditioned to approve of idiots appointing idiots
    Conditioned to believe whatever they tell us

    Conditioned to approve the killing of the pre-born
    Conditioned to treat innocent human life with scorn
    Conditioned to accept the killing of the old
    Conditioned to accept euthanasia, and do as we are told

    Conditioned to approve of illegal wars and killing
    Conditioned to join a “coalition of the willing”
    Conditioned to approve of selling arms to dictators
    Conditioned to support a political fabricator

    Conditioned to kill, bomb, destroy, and maim
    Conditioned to obey orders of the politically insane
    Conditioned to approve of “legalized” murder
    Conditioned to obey, as long as it’s an order

    Conditioned to accept nuclear weapons
    Conditioned to accept the killing of millions
    Conditioned to pay and pay more taxes
    Conditioned to help, to reduce the world to ashes

    Conditioned to allow offshore tax havens
    Conditioned to accept this by hypocrite nations
    Conditioned to be tax slaves of the ruling “elites”
    Conditioned to be conditioned, are we asleep?

    • backwardsevolution
      August 18, 2018 at 14:12

      Stephen J. – excellent again!

    • Tom Kath
      August 18, 2018 at 21:43

      Stephen, a very good translation of Caitlin’s treatise into poetry. I hope someone can say the same thing in music, painting, German/French etc., – Possibly the most difficult might be to put it in dreams! – For all those who have been conditioned to be asleep. Is there a medium that can be understood by those who don’t want to understand?
      I suppose the moment we try to explain, we can be accused of trying to manipulate.

    • August 28, 2018 at 16:53

      I am surprised that no one has responded to question that some of the things that you list here are supposed to be bad.

      Conditioned to believe, there is no he or she
      Conditioned to accept that we are gender free
      Conditioned to believe we live in a “democracy”
      Conditioned to accept political hypocrisy

      Conditioned to accept whatever our kids are taught
      Conditioned to believe gender bender rot
      Conditioned to accept unhealthy lifestyles
      Conditioned to approve all this with a smile

      OK, so exactly what is it here that is supposed to be bad that you say we are being conditioned to accept? Are you saying that homosexuality, being attracted to somebody of the same sex, and gay marriage are wrong? Are you saying that transgender people, who have decided to get a sex change operation, have done something wrong that society needs to condemn?

      Conditioned to approve the killing of the pre-born

      So do you think then that abortion is ALWAYS wrong, and in ALL circumstances?

      You think that a woman who has been raped and becomes pregnant as a result must not have an abortion? If so that is very cruel.

      You think it is wrong for a woman to abort no matter how early in her pregnancy? Or when the woman’s life is in danger?

      I hope that you are not also against birth control, as are a lot of people, particularly those in the Religious Right, who are against abortion. Or do you think that sex should be only for the purpose of procreation?

      And I hope that you are for comprehensive sex education in schools, rather than abstinence only, which has been shown not to work. It seems that if young people are treated with respect as adults who are capable of making smart and wise decisions when given complete information in a respectful manner, that they will then (for the most part) make smart and wise decisions.

      And Stephen, I see that the one web site you link to on your blog is a Catholic “pro-life” web site. In that case then for you to write about how we are being conditioned is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Hey it should be obvious that the Catholic Church throughout its entire existence has been conditioning people to think and believe in a certain way. (And woe to those who have refused to be conditioned! Ask Galileo. Ask anybody who has run afoul of the Inquisition.) And it has been in its very nature to do so. I.e. the Catholic church has been conditioning, or trying to condition, people to think that it is the one true church, and that the Pope and the church hierarchy speak for God (and that the Pope is infallible!), etc. Pretty much all of European society was conditioned by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. Fortunately in recent times the church has not been as successful in conditioning all of society, but a lot of people are still being conditioned by the Catholic church.

      And of course the same is true of other religions and religious entities, particularly those that are conservative, authoritarian, or fundamentalist.

  18. August 18, 2018 at 09:30

    Lot’s of good points by Kaitlin. Some of her quotes are powerful like those below. She is a very good wordsmith.

    “Good manipulators try to shift the ground underneath us to funnel the real wealth into their coffers, while placating us with good feelings about how blessed our hard work is and all that, and how selfish it would be to demand healthcare when there’s people in Syria who need to be bombed for their freedom”.

    “DNC caught rigging the election? Oh no, it was actually Russia who rigged the election by catching the DNC rigging the election. See what I did there? It’s so dumb, but it works.”

    Something else, she makes me squirm when I look back at how many times I have been manipulated.

  19. August 18, 2018 at 01:47

    WOW! What an awesome article! You nailed sociopathy/psychopathy!!! It cost me and my insurance company many thousands of dollars for me to learn all that you have written. I had no idea I’d married a sociopath/psychopath and that I’d been manipulated into it and that he was projecting himself onto me! Yep! I learned how to trade good feelings and words for real stuff and actions while growing up in evangelical fundamentalism/cult. I’ll never forget the day that he stood over me and looked down on me and began telling me all the awful things I was thinking. I was so gullible and naive all I thought was, “Wow! My PhD husband is SO smart! He KNOWS what I’m thinking when I don’t even know I’m thinking it!” Of course, I tried to be a better person because I had no clue I was still being manipulated. (I eventually recovered my mind and sense of self but it was hard work and took a long time.)

  20. Zhu Ba Jie
    August 18, 2018 at 01:44

    new systems = new religions? Othsrwise, pretty good.

    • inforebel
      August 19, 2018 at 09:57

      Zhu, “new systems = new religions?”

      Yes indeed. The Cult of Equality is the new religion.

  21. Eljayen
    August 17, 2018 at 23:43

    For young women: Take a look at how your boyfriend’s father treats his wife. That serves as a good indication of how he will treat you. His father is his role model. His teacher. Manipulation can be learned by watching. The men in my hub’s family were/are manipulative chauvinists. After almost 40 years of marriage, I can now see this clearly. Articles like this help. Knowledge is power! It’s never too late to stick up for yourself & call them out on their behavior. And hurry before they “teach” it to another generation.

    • August 18, 2018 at 01:51

      Eljalen knows what she is talking about!!!!

  22. andy--s
    August 17, 2018 at 21:54

    Thank you!
    Its is becoming more and more difficult to bring this stuff to light without losing friends and family.

    • Lois Gagnon
      August 18, 2018 at 14:47

      You got that right! The Hillary loss was revealing in many ways. People I believed were political allies turned out to be nothing of the sort. They are as manipulated as those they accuse of the same on the right.

  23. Tom Kath
    August 17, 2018 at 20:22

    A most interesting subject and good expose.
    I am particularly glad to detect a bourgeoning willingness to trace some of these fundamental human flaws to their true origins – These are referred to as the Abrahamic religions – Judaism and the resultant Christian and Islam faiths, which all rely on the premise of ONE God, the “almighty” who CREATED chosen people, EXCLUSIVELY of other life, to control, manipulate, and use.

    Our obsession with gold and money harks from there as well.

    • Zhu Ba Jie
      August 18, 2018 at 01:48

      Yes, yes, blame the Jews! None of these flaws exist in China or India, do they? I’m being ironic, of course. Scapegoating xyz religion or party or country or whatever is more manipulation.

      • anon
        August 18, 2018 at 19:49

        Yet he is right for the West; doubtless there are exploitative religions elsewhere.

  24. August 17, 2018 at 19:17

    Sounds unrelated to say this, but can you imagine, Sunday August 19 marks 65 years since Operation Ajax, British/CIA plot to overthrow Mohammed Mossadegh, democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, because he had the audacity to nationalize Iran’s oil industry to benefit exploited Iranians. The Brits employed the CIA to pull off the coup, well documented in Stephen Kinzer’s “All the Shah’s Men”. So what does the USA do to commemorate this memorable date? The State Department plans a new action (actually already started) to attempt to topple the current Iranian government, called the Iran Action Group. Talk about manipulation and audacity!

    • christina garcia
      August 17, 2018 at 23:53

      Jessika , can you stop that action , without the resources that the government has? If you can , I will gladly join you. Until then, besides complaining, what are your suggestions/ideas to change the situation? I am not snarky, I am just tired of hearing complaints and no one has an answer or idea how to counter these forces.

      • August 18, 2018 at 01:38

        The people who have the answers to help are never the people who get elected.

      • Jill
        August 18, 2018 at 10:06


        What are your ideas? I would like to hear those as well as Jessika’s ideas.

      • penrose
        August 18, 2018 at 17:02

        If you want a better world, you’ll have to create better people. Quality over quantity. How do you accomplish this? This is the evolutionary problem of the ages. Evolution 2.0. I won’t hold my breath waiting for its release.

      • Skip Edwards
        August 22, 2018 at 15:26

        Christina, did you not read the article? We are in an abusive relationship. We are like meek deer frozen in the headlights of that which creates our own impending doom. But unlike that meek deer, we have the brain power/logic to realize what lies ahead; just not the will, yet, to do anything about it. History will repeat and we will rise up. Unfortunately, there just might not be anyone around who is remaining to read of our gallent efforts.

  25. Jill
    August 17, 2018 at 18:41

    Per the techniques mentioned in this article, I was wondering if anyone would be willing to get info from ShareBlue on twitter? I don’t have social media but will contact a representative another way.

    I am trying to gather information concerning Caitlin’s banning from twitter. She is saying that her criticism of John McCain caused ShareBlue to instigate a campaign against her on twitter. This is what she wrote:

    Here are my questions for ShareBlue.

    Did anyone from ShareBlue decide to move against Caitlin Johnstone on twitter? If so, why? What was the criterion used for selecting her? Is this criterion applied uniformly by your organization?

    I also have questions for Twitter itself if anyone would like to ask those on social media.

    Twitter: will you explain why you have suspended Caitlon Johnstone’s account? Matt Taibbi says it was a tweet concerning John McCain which twitter found to be “abusive behavior”. He then listed twitter’s own definition of “abusive behavior”. How does twitter feel this tweet fits into your company’s definition of “abusive behavior”? Are you consistent in applying this criteria and definition to all of your users?

    If other people who do have access to social media would be willing to ask these questions I would appreciate your help. If I can find answers using the old fashioned methods of e-mail and phone, I will post them here.

    • backwardsevolution
      August 17, 2018 at 19:19

      Jill – it looks like she’s back up now. At least that’s what it said on Reddit. I’m like you, Twitterless.

      • Jill
        August 17, 2018 at 19:24


        That’s what I see at elizabeth lee vos twitter! That’s great news!!! I still want my questions answered though so I went ahead and sent my e-mail. Evidently, there was a lot of push back at shareblue and twitter! A win for the good people!

  26. pyrokitteh
    August 17, 2018 at 18:19

    excellent article! thank you.

  27. August 17, 2018 at 16:22

    (“Religion has primed us for manipulation, and that was by design. Over millennia, we have been taught to value fealty, piety, hard work, submission, and to leave judgement and reward til after we die. This creates the perfect environment for manipulators . . “) – author

    If we consider the concept of “god” that characterizes Christianity, Judaism and Islam, we see that “he” – “god” – is simply the projection of the male psychopathic mind. God as sexist, vengeful, without empathy, uber violent, uber controlling, even gas-lighting, and more than willing to subject we hapless humans to a veritable – “eternity” – of “endless suffering” – in a “lake of fire” no less. Sorry, but I’d say this is the description of a psychopath’s psychopath, rather than some conception of “divine perfection.” It is not difficult to imagine the evolution of such a strange concept of god as simply the projection of the psychopathic minds that craved power over everyone else. God as an eternal psychopath. How perfect.

    No wonder, given such a bizarre conception of “god,” Mother Church could spend century after century publicly torturing and burning my european ancestors through the Holy Inquisition in order to instill blind obedience to “god’s representative on earth” Mother Church – and by association the crown. Church officials were just doing what “god” planned to do to all of us who didn’t properly “obey” – burn us alive – for “thought crimes” like “doubting” or daring to even “question” church doctrine.

    Of course this psychopathic “god” works in “mysterious ways” we are told. To paraphrase George Carlin’s classic line: “why will god send you to hell to suffer for all eternity? Because he L-O-V-E-S Y-O-U!!!!”

    Is it any wonder such a “god” presides over the three most violent and dangerous religious groups on planet earth, Christians, Jews and Muslims? Is it any wonder members of all three of these religious groups think slaughtering innocents falls quite within their religious duties – and that they are even doing “god’s work” while they kill? I dare say it is hard to imagine that a more humane or peaceful world is possible while such bizarre fairytale concepts of – “the divine” – continue to poison the minds of so much of the world’s population.

    • August 17, 2018 at 19:36

      There is an interesting book on this topic, in which an angry, jealous God – Yahweh contrasts to the pluralistic ancient gods of Egypt, who were far more concerned about the afterlife than material achievement in the present. In an era of polytheism, it would be common to visit foreign lands and acknowledge and bow to their local god, i.e. Odin. I understand that Christianity, historically, was not necessarily preoccupied with monotheism, as Christ was not overly concerned polytheism, but rather problems with the money changers in the temple, who in fact, later had him crucified by the Romans. The focus on salvation in the afterlife in Christianity, which was derived from the death-worshipping Egyptians, gave a more congenial tone to Christianity. The monotheism in Christianity stems from Jewish influences on Christianity which occurred much later in church history through Puritanical movements within the church, which again were the influence of Judasim.

      [From Yahweh to Zion (Guyénot, Barrett)]

    • Sam F
      August 17, 2018 at 20:16

      Well said, Gary.

  28. Eddie
    August 17, 2018 at 16:07

    I read the link and saw the study he cited, but it didn’t seem particularly convincing as proof of ‘voter manipulation’ to me for the following reasons:

    1.) It was done by an ad agency who had conducted the campaign in FL, so they had a very vested monetary
    interest in showing how ‘effective’ their services are. I’ve never counted agencies as a good place to
    get objective info, even if it’s ‘internal only’ info, since they have notoriously Machiavellian internal
    politics where truth is irrelevant

    2.) The study claims that they ‘manipulated’ ~17% higher Democratic ‘NO’ votes against a referendum
    that would’ve increased class sizes in local schools. However, given that most of the time Dems
    will normally support these kinds of measures, a simpler reading of these results (assuming they’re
    true?) would be that it was just a case of informing existing ‘believers’ of an upcoming vote that they
    might-well NOT have been aware-of (ie; very low % of people follow local politics). In that case,
    it was simply an effective ‘get-out-the-vote’ tactic, which I don’t have a problem with.

    While I don’t doubt that there is a percentage of people who are easily manipulated politically and take postings on Facebook & Twitter at face-value, I still can’t help but believe that it’s a tiny percentage, and that they’re probably too preoccupied with loaning money to Nigerian princes to be voting…

    • Eddie
      August 17, 2018 at 16:11

      (Note: this comment was meant as a REPLY to Sally Snyder’s comment below, but it didn’t happen?)

    • Jeff Harrison
      August 17, 2018 at 17:32

      I gotta say that I agree with a lot of what you said, specifically that a study by an ad agency of said ad agency’s effectiveness is probably questionable. The bigger picture for me is this whole meddling bullshit. Three Names has been whining about the e-mail release but, frankly, that’s illegitimate. The released e-mails were unaltered and demonstrated utterly slimy behavior on the part of the DNC and their henchmen (and their candidate) and is the sort of thing that any party would drool to get their hands on. You can’t commit libel, slander, or meddling by telling the truth (something that seems to be lost here). Otherwise, all the meddlerites have is facebook and twitter posts and damn few of them. Ms. Snyder’s post points to how gullible people are and what they accept as real. I have zero sympathy for people who essentially say: I saw it on the internet so it must be true. Can you really call it meddling if someone puts bullshit on the net and someone is gullible enough to swallow it whole without exercising some critical judgement of the bullshit to ensure its accuracy? Don’t we all have a responsibility to ensure that our opinions comport with reality? This is as opposed to hoovering up over a million facebook profiles, analyzing them, and providing the analysis to the Trump campaign like Cambridge Analytica did. You’ll notice that Cambridge Analytica isn’t on the docket…..

      • August 18, 2018 at 09:42

        Jeff Harrison, “You can’t commit libel, slander, or meddling by telling the truth (something that seems to be lost here). ”

        Nailed it.

  29. August 17, 2018 at 16:04

    And people here in comments are still using a 2,000 year old myth written in a series of pamphlets by different people (all male) over an estimated period of hundreds of years to explain how people fall for the Big Con.

    That piece of absolute Irony made my whole morning. I needed a laugh after the climate reading I did earlier. Thank you even if it was unintentional!

    Horus, the 5,000 year old first son of a virgin god is probably rolling in his grave right this very minute.

    We are so cocooned in fantasy through childhood that I would guess that it is most likely impossible for any one of the 7.6 billion of us to truly shed all of these ingrained chains that bind our minds. They are set patterns so deep into the unconsciousness that only those rare people with a memory of everything they every heard or saw from babyhood would have any chance to dig it out of all that mud. We absorb everything we experience and it is absorbed into the invisible consciousness realms of our minds transmitted by the electrical connections into the cells in our brains. That’s a lot…to dig into!

    How many people here still have fond memories of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy? And then you found out it was all a lie. How many remember how you felt when you found out? Cognitive dissonance at age 5 or 6 or 7. Completely rocked your world and you don’t remember?

    What about the ancient reptile brain stem? Can’t forget that ancient piece of us because it directly affects how we think and react, too. Pretty violent piece, too, it seems. But it did keep our ancient ancestors alive way back when.

    But I certainly agree that we can at least try to recognize this tendency in ourselves as a serious first step to not buying what ‘those who own everything’ are trying to feed us. The sociopath and psychopath and the plain-vanilla variety of petty conmen that from birth that seem to own or try to own and control everything are, barring some freak emotional accident and awakening, are likely far beyond any help..

    But for us, just turning off the tv permanently for the rest of your life is always a very good way to start the cultural de-programming. It is insidious and addictive but try this anyway. You’ll find yourself with much more time for so much else to do in your life.


  30. Kolokol
    August 17, 2018 at 15:50

    Caitlin suspended on Twitter.

  31. August 17, 2018 at 15:25

    Sorry Catilin ,but it will take much more than that to untangle the abject corruption of the 2 party system.We didnt get Trump and Hillary because we were “manipulated” but because Trump was right,the system is rigged.Hillary Clintons complete corruption of the entire system ,including the corporate media who pushed Trump with 6 billion in free airtime.Hillary even chose Trump,Trump was her pied piper candidate becasue even she knew she couldnt win an election against even Ted Cruz the creepiest munster.It was Bill Clinton who talked Trump into running,as a Republican,Trump hasnt even been a republican since 1999 he was a HUUuge Hillary supporter.

    So what we had was the 2 most hated candidates in US history and one was a war criminal.

    Trump ran against the Bush = Hillary neo cons and the neoliberal policies like TPP that Hillary pushed.Trump is a stiff middle finger to the entire system and process.And lets not forget Hillary cheating Sanders who would have won.

    Trump is a disgusting greedy baboon and manipulator but he is taking on some of the most dangerous and powerful and corrupted systems and people the planet has ever known and for all the wrong reasons…..but Ill take it.Trump has now pushed back against the permanent state criminals that are pushing for WW3 with Russia.I can only pray that he wins against them.

    The USA corporate media lost their legitimacy along time ago and they are responsible for the rise of Trump.The hiring of former Bush criminals Brennan and Clapper and Haden who are proved liars and criminals allowing them to spout more lies and propaganda is proof positive of media collusion with the neoconservatives war criminals.

    its long past due someone takes them on before they push us into another war based on lies and propaganda against a real country that has nukes .

    Sadly ,Trump is the only one who is even trying.

    • August 18, 2018 at 01:53

      We had the 2 WORST candidates in American history! One of them is a war criminal, the other one is workin’ on it.

      • August 18, 2018 at 14:49

        Trump ran against the bush neo cons and won.

        Trump has at least tried to work with Russia and not start WW3 as Hillary planned and boy are the neoconservatives angry.

        Trump is pulling the mask off the corruption and the deep state along with the corporate media CIA collusion.

        I’ll take it

  32. August 17, 2018 at 15:13

    Psychology and sociology as studies reveal sharp contrasts. There is a difference between being conned in a personal relationship and by a sociopolitical system such as a government which is a vast leviathan network.

    • tina
      August 18, 2018 at 00:01

      did someone kidnap Joe Tedesky?

    • August 18, 2018 at 02:03

      As a historian and a recovered victim, I disagree. Caitlin nailed it. The traits and dynamics are the same whether one is dealing with a personal relationship with a psychopath/sociopath or a psychopathic god or psychopathic system. (Psychologists use the terms interchangably these days.) For those of us raised in evangelical fundamentalism we learn that god is a psychopath from reading the bible literally —- although “he” is assumed to be good and us evil. We are set up to accept and often to marry psychopaths and then to wonder what is wrong with us. Once I understood my personal relationship with my psychopathic husband I could see the parallels in American history and Western Civ.

  33. Jill
    August 17, 2018 at 15:01

    Caitlin has just been banned on twitter according See @elizabethleevos.

  34. Jeff Harrison
    August 17, 2018 at 13:31

    It’s interesting that some time ago, probably about 10 years, I noticed that whenever the US accused some country of something or other, the US was found to be doing that very thing although they would never acknowledge that. We, as in the US government, fit Caitlin’s description of a manipulator to a T. The MSM aids and abets in the manipulation by endlessly repeating that country X is accused to doing A while conveniently leaving off that the US is actually doing A. Caitlin has explained my observations……

    • Gregory Herr
      August 17, 2018 at 17:37

      Ain’t it the truth. Accuse Putin and Assad of indiscriminate bombing…and then go and level Mosul and Raqqa. Accuse Russia of interfering in your elections against the backdrop of recent history propping up Yeltsin and bragging about it on the cover of Time–as well as current political meddling with NGO “fronts”.

      Say you are fighting the “good fight” against terrorism…all the while either directly conducting a war of terror upon civilians in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine, or aiding and abetting terrorists who will do it for you. Say you stand for democracy, freedom, and human rights…all the while leaving a long stinking trail of political coups and assassinations in favour of the likes of Pinochet, Suharto, the Shah, and (enemy of my enemy) Hussein.

      • David Hamilton
        August 17, 2018 at 18:17

        Splendid and relevant examples.

      • Skip Edwards
        August 22, 2018 at 15:42

        How do we ever get this out to our citizens so they can have a chance to understand what our government, and those individuals with addresses who control it, is doing in our names?

    • Joe Wallace
      August 19, 2018 at 02:58

      Jeff Harrison:

      Speaking of projection, here’s the devastating ending to Jack Holmes’ August 15, 2018 article at entitled “Our Large Adult Leader Is Going After Everybody Who Dissed Him”:

      “So Brennan should not have access to highly classified material because he makes ‘unfounded and outrageous allegations,’ has ‘wild outbursts on the internet and and television,’ and is prone to ‘lying’ and ‘increasingly frenzied commentary’?
      He doth project too much.”

  35. Mary Fishler
    August 17, 2018 at 12:41

    Nice to wake up to this with my “morning joe,” a visible, morning sun and air that is more breathable today. We’ve got to keep trying.

  36. Glenn Goodman
    August 17, 2018 at 12:04

    What a great article. Caitlin is absolutely right about the Biblical tools. In fact I would recommend a reread of Genesis to everyone. It is the story of how humanity went from being free independent creatures to being slaves of that tiny percentage that we read about all through history. In that fabulous piece of literature humanity, represented by Adam and Eve, dwell “in deos” with God, and he only forbids eating from two trees, one of which is a clear reference to religion, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent tempts them and they indulge in religion, changing history forever. The story makes a point of the fact that they are naked and unashamed before religion, but after they are conned by the serpent God goes looking for Adam and he says, “where were you Adam, I’ve been looking for you?” Adam replies, “ I was naked and had to get dressed.” God replies, “ who told you you were naked?” The very fact that the Bible, is a book that begins with God forbidding religion and ends with a liberation theologist ordered executed by the serpent religion of his day, shows how badly we have been conned – once we see it. Caitlin is absolutely correct about shame ( and the sexual repression which creates that shame) being a key tool that controls us. Everyone should read this article.

    • August 18, 2018 at 02:14

      As a historian, I would suggest everyone read the oldest book in the bible which is Deuteronomy. It is the beginning of the war god, Yahweh, and “his” commands to his chosen to: invade their neighbors, show no mercy while killing everyone but the virgins, and take their land, cisterns and harvests. It is the genesis of a cult.

      BTW: I disagree that the tree of knowledge of good and evil is speaking of “religion”. It could be “conscience” which everyone has —- except for sociopaths/psychopaths.

      Source: “The Bible Unearthed” by Tel Aviv U archaeologist, Israel Finkelstein and historian Neil A. Silberman

  37. Kalen
    August 17, 2018 at 11:26

    How to know if politician is lying?

    His lips are moving. Such judgment never ever fails.

    As Plato wrote: politician job is to lie convincingly and then serve those who pay better.
    True after 2400 years.

    • Lois Gagnon
      August 18, 2018 at 15:12

      Thanks for the great quote.

  38. vinnieoh
    August 17, 2018 at 10:20

    Not knowing anything about Ms. Johnstone, this article is informative about her utopia prepper efforts. Some things that this piece brought to mind for me:

    The take-down by James Randi on (Johnny Carson’s) Tonight show of Uri Gellar. Gellar was a simple prestidigitator, a stage magician who, as occasionally happens, believed he could convince a significant portion of those who saw his act that he really was in possession of supernatural powers and thereby elevate his stature and his profits. As such, he was just one in a long line of practitioners of sleight-of-hand who believed he could manipulate his audience into believing he was in possession of “Real Majic.”

    Another thought that bubbled up is a quote from Carlos Castaneda’s (real or fictional) mentor “Don Juan Mateus”: “A path without heart will close in on you and destroy you.” To paraphrase: without empathy you walk in darkness and isolation.

    And one more: around the time of my 45th birthday (seems so long ago) I had a revelation that seemed exceedingly profound to me. That is, it hit me with a force that almost knocked me over how diligently and with so much effort most people try to be like everyone around them. To not be different. Today, when fads are manufactured for profit and distraction, those that refuse to be so manipulated risk being regarded with suspicion by those who have embraced the manipulation. As I continue to grow older and resist being manipulated I’m increasingly regarded as non-relevant by the mesmerized. And the reach of the manipulative corporate media is mesmerizing ever-larger portions of the populace. So be it.

    re her sparse comments here on religion: the soliloquy “The Grand Inquisitor” in The Brothers Karamotsov.

    • Charles Watkins
      August 17, 2018 at 12:26

      Gellar was rather more complicated than that. It seems he did believe he possessed psychic powers, but the pressure to perform in public left him no choice but trickery. He was also a spy.

      • vinnieoh
        August 17, 2018 at 15:34

        I’m aware of some of the details of his very strange life, but as far as his “psychic powers” he was either a huckster or self-deluded. Your second sentence was very strangely worded, leading me to guess that you also believe in “psychic powers”…?

  39. Realist
    August 17, 2018 at 10:05

    “Conning someone is the crime; being conned is being a victim of that crime.”

    By the book, perhaps. By the nature of the beast, laissez faire capitalism not only seems to allow it but to glorify it. Movies have been made featuring such sociopaths as the central protagonists, if not the heroes, of the tales. Just regular folks often like to wax triumphant over who they’ve snookered and how they made out like a bandit on some deal. More, I would say, than those who have happily reported on the great deal they just gave another person, certainly not, heaven forbid, a total stranger from whom they stand to gain absolutely no quid pro quo at some time in the future. All in all, I think a much more relevant motto for the United States of America, rather than the old standards of “E pluribus unum” or “In God we trust,” would be “Caveat emptor.” I’m sure you’ve heard it both as a caution and, just as frequently, as an excuse.

    I’m not disagreeing with Caitlin’s assertion that (assuming free will) we must all choose what we really want in this short life, whether riches, accomplishment, admiration, power, service or honor and act consistently in its quest ever after. I’m saying that in spite of all the platitudes floating in the air amongst all the greenhouse gases, too many Americans these days assume that choosing the last item on my rather incomplete list is a fool’s errand. Maybe they figure that only they themselves would truly know how honorable, fair, ethical or moral they have been and how fungible is that in a laissez faire capitalist society? The risk-reward dipole usually has most people choosing another priority. Suffering for honor, however, has always and still does make a captivating story to tell… and with all the different media modalities now at our disposal, always a potential money maker.

    Perhaps it shows, but unrelenting skepticism has always been my defense against the ubiquitous parasites trying to con us all. I feel no need to try to emulate or beat them at their own game, though I do want to understand the vile creatures as the natural phenomenon they represent. The metaphorical epithets we give them–parasites, vampires, blood-suckers, viruses, the list goes on–illustrate how commonplace victimization as prey is in a universe governed by the laws of thermodynamics (everybody and everything feeds on someone else’s negative delta S). Conventional wisdom does describe it as a “dog eat dog world.” The best tactic for avoiding or thwarting these wolves at our door is first recognising them, a skill learned in childhood from perceptive and vigilant–some might say compulsive and paranoid–parents.

    • Joseph T Wallace
      August 19, 2018 at 02:37


      “All in all, I think a much more relevant motto for the United States of America, rather than the old standards of “E pluribus unum” or “In God we trust,” would be “Caveat emptor.” I’m sure you’ve heard it both as a caution and, just as frequently, as an excuse.”

      “Caveat emptor” seems right, inasmuch as America is where “the rich and heinous” (Andrew Levine) ply their trade in the land of “bilk and money” (Finian Cunningham).

  40. michael
    August 17, 2018 at 09:40

    It’s interesting that 60% of people in 1975 believed the murder of Martin Luther King was a “government conspiracy”, as noted in one of the comment’s links. Of course in 1999 the King family sued the government and several local individuals as being involved in the murder of MLK, Jr and won their case with a unanimous verdict from the 12 jurors, who rendered a token damages reward as requested. The family merely wanted the Truth on record. Once this verdict was reached how is it still considered a “conspiracy”? If you disagree with an un-appealed jury verdict, you just dismiss it as a conspiracy? Sort of like losing an Election automatically invokes the Russiagate conspiracy?

    • Realist
      August 17, 2018 at 11:09

      The judge will always tell the jury that they are the only finders of “fact” in the case, not the prosecutors or defense who only provide “evidence,” which the jury then evaluates. That “fact” is not to be confused with absolute metaphysical “truth.” The jurors are as limited and flawed as any other participant in the process. Theirs is only an opinion about this “truth.” Not even in science is absolute “truth” derived from the method even when most carefully practiced. It is always only conditional truth, i.e., a concept (called a hypothesis) that has been tested through experimentation and not “falsified” (not disproven). It thus graduates to the status of a “theory,” as in the germ theory of disease, the theory of universal gravitation or the theory of relativity. We think these concepts approximate absolute truth or reality, but must allow that maybe they don’t, maybe they are still flawed and further research might reveal such. Even mathematics cannot be counted on to represent absolute truth. If you want to know why, read up on Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem. Briefly, he showed that there is no formal system (including mathematics) that can completely describe itself and that does not display contradictions somewhere in its logical structure.

      If James Earl Ray even admitted that he was the gunman, what could he have definitively known about the identity and motives of whomever presumably put him up to the crime? I don’t recall any proclamation of the “truth” by any source other than what you report. I certainly think there are a lot of reasons for “believing” (as opposed to “knowing”) that J. Edgar Hoover wanted the man dead. King was a known thorn in the side of the government. But those dots are still too far apart to prove Mr. Ray to be their puppet. The judge will always demand that the jurors put aside any prejudices or preconceived notions about the case before rendering a verdict within the bounds of “reasonable doubt,” but that doesn’t mean they do. They may try, but I don’t believe they can totally cleanse their minds of decades of conditioning in our larger society. Does anyone think the verdict in the OJ trial was anything other than jury nullification? Their finding of “fact” was basically 180 degrees opposite all the quite abundant evidence. Human beings in general are so mentally undisciplined, I suppose Theresa May could scare up 12 Britons to convict Putin of poisoning the Skripals without a stitch of evidence, just as the remnants of the Obama team are trying to create a case that Trump and Putin colluded to steal that election from Madame President. The law is far less logically rigorous than math and science, and I’ve shown you how imperfect they are. It’s just a tool basically, and all such implements can be used or misused.

    • August 17, 2018 at 15:55


      The ashamedly and massively suppressed true story of the 1999 Martin Luther King Jr. murder trial in Memphis is an excellent example of mass manipulation of the public as focused on by Ms. Johnstone. One can only guess as to how many Americans haven’t even yet heard about that profoundly important legal event. It is beneficial for readers of Consortium News who pass this way to be aware the lawyer for the King family in that historic 1999 trial was Dr. William Pepper, a friend of Martin Luther King Jr. in the last year of Dr. King’s violently and criminally shortened life.

      The greatest example or aspect of manipulation related to the 1999 King trial is the total omission of that profound event from America’s history books, therefore resulting in 19 years (for this one of many examples) of historical dis/misinformation entering the minds, perceptions and worldview foundations of every American student. Teachers and professors of history might wish to add their commentary …


  41. TomG
    August 17, 2018 at 08:56

    Ms. Johnstone has clearly done some heavy-duty interior work and offers some great insights on how to recognize and respond to manipulation.

    I don’t quite agree with her final summation–‘who only have the old Biblical tools of fear, guilt and shame to work with.’ Fear, guilt and shame are the tools of empire the Bible documents well enough–from Pharaoh on. There is plenty of anti-manipulation fodder in the Bible for the reader not open to the manipulation from those who like to take texts out of context for their own pretext. The Gospels speak powerfully to Jesus knowing what he needs and not allowing anyone to manipulate him. So it was for the Hebrew prophets before him. Jesus and the prophets were trying to steer us from manipulation and none were selling evacuation plans for the next life that passes for too much of American christianity (small c intentional) these days.

    Image is bartered, manipulated, stipulated. Essence is love–always given manipulation-stipulation free.

    • August 18, 2018 at 02:25

      Tom, as a historian I can tell you that there is no historical evidence that “Jesus” ever existed. The gospels’ “Jesus” is a metaphor, and often, the voice of Rome. If you like history and detail, you might appreciate Cal State Long Beach historian of early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls and Islam, Robert Eisenman’s work. The gospels historical context was the Jewish War against Rome and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The gospels turn reality on its head; history is 180 degrees from the gospel stories.

      • TomG
        August 19, 2018 at 07:41

        Diana Lee, Walter Bruggemann says that ‘liberals’ work to prove nothing in the Bible every actually happened while ‘conservatives’ try to prove that everything did. The first is open to memory as as a temptation to amnesia and the latter to memory as a temptation to nostolgia. I love Wendell Berry (who I believe historians would agree actually exists) and find as much to trouble me and inspire me in his novels and poems as I find in his essays. Which is to suggest I think you missed the point.

        Be that as it may, to quote Jayber Crow (who never exited historically) in making my point in another way, “This new war, like the previous one, would be a test of the power of machines against people and places; whatever its causes and justifications, it would make the world worse. This was true of that new war, and it has been true of every new war since…I knew too that this new war was not even new but was only the old one come again. And what caused it? It was caused, I thought, by people failing to love one another, failing to love their enemies.”

  42. Davejie
    August 17, 2018 at 08:01

    “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” ? Mark Twain

    • Tom Kath
      August 17, 2018 at 20:43

      “The amount of suffering endured by any mortal is directly proportional to the capacity to delude.” Tom Kath

      Whether they delude themselves or others doesn’t matter.

      • August 18, 2018 at 02:27

        Licensed psychologists would disagree with you. In psychopathic systems only the psychopath knows what is going on. They are destroying everyone in the system. No one chooses to be deluded. That is the result of brainwashing and/or early childhood trauma.

  43. Sally Snyder
    August 17, 2018 at 07:39

    While Washington is heavily promoting the Russian election meddling narrative, here is an interesting look at where the idea of election manipulation came from:

    The possibility that social media platforms can be used to engineer elections says a lot about the current state of news literacy in the United States and its suggests that voters are very easily manipulated by whatever they find on the internet.

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