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Message Mind Control - Behavior Modification Through Group Conformity

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Message Mind Control - Behavior Modification Through Group Conformity:

One of the first books I stumbled upon while searching for information about the strategies used for mind control in the "Message" cult following of William Branham was written by Edward Burnays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. Burnays was an Austrian-American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda, referred to in his obituary as "the father of public relations". He combined the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud.

In his book "Propaganda," Burnays describes the process in which psychological manipulation can be used in public communication to achieve mass persuasion. Chapter-by-chapter, Burnays describe strategies that will seem eerily familiar to a "Message" believer: provide your target audience with a form of media that they can study at home, alone, with limited outside influence. Do not tell the people, directly, the message you wish to relay -- let them come to their own conclusion. Promote the idea that others have fully decided through targeted speech techniques or marketing and branding strategy. Try to paint pictures in the mind of the audience. When comparing the fundamental elements described in the book Propaganda to Branham's strategy in his sermons, one might even ask if William Branham had actually read this book. His tapes were his medium that people listened to alone. He taught against television, effectively limiting outside influence. He never said that he was a prophet (at least in the beginning), and told the listeners that THEY said that. Very often, he painted mental images into the minds of the people, and then stepped into those images -- even if they were stories from the Bible. He over-exaggerated numbers of people in almost every scenario, and loved to "name drop" for the sake of making his claims sound more authentic. "Florence Nightingale" used in his sermons was not THE Florence Nightingale -- it was a "nickname" he used for an entirely different person. It seems that several people were "nicknamed" by Branham for some unknown purpose.

Burnays breaks this down to its simplest form. (Keep in mind that this was written in 1928. In principle it still applies. Culturally speaking, what we see today is either directly or indirectly a result of this thing called "propaganda"):

It is chiefly the psychologists of the school of Freud who have pointed out that many of man's thoughts and actions are compensatory substitutes for desires which he has been obligated to suppress. A thing may be desired not for its intrinsic worth or usefulness, but because he has unconsciously come to see it in a symbol of something else, the desire which he is ashamed to admit to himself. A man buying a car may think he wants it for purposes of locomotion, whereas the fact may be that he would really prefer not to be burdened with it, and would rather walk for the sake of his health. He may really want it because it is a symbol of social position, an evidence of his success in business, or a means of pleasing his wife. This general principle, that men are largely actuated by motives which they conceal from themselves, is as true of mass as of individual psychology. It is evident that the successful propagandist must understand the true motives and not be content to accept the reasons which men give for what they do.
- Burnays, Propaganda, 1928

After WWII, and as a result of Hitler's ability to persuade the masses that genocide of the Jewish population was a necessary evil, numerous of psychologists have studied the effects of mass persuasion. Cult psychologists have studied these findings as compared to the group conformity of a religious, political, or financial cult group. Their findings suggest that in many ways, the thread that links Hitler's evil to a destructive cult following is mass persuasion and behavior modification through group conformity. When a leader of a destructive cult indoctrinates his followers to confirm to their own opinions, beliefs, and ideologies, the group itself can begin transforming into something entirely different without any of its members noticing.

Take for instance the rigid dress codes of the cult following of William Branham today, versus what it was in the 1940's, 1950's, and 1960's when William Branham was alive. Branham had no reservations wearing shorts while on an exotic safari. Logically speaking, he was not around women, and he felt that he was still obeying his own doctrine. Today, however, the group has morphed into something else -- through group conformity today, men today focus on the rule and not the reason for the rule.

The dress styles for women have changed significantly, and not just because of today's fashion. The "Message" cult women of yesteryear all wore skirts above the knees, sleeveless tops, highly fashionable (for its day) hairstyles, and more. To people of their own time, they did not look differently. Though they prided themselves in "being" different, they did not appear much different when seen around town. But over time, and as the world has changed, the women's fashion seems strangely to match the 40's, 50's, and 60's. The group, as a whole, has not fully conformed to today's fashion. Where a Branham cult follower in the 1960's could enter a restaurant looking very much like other women, the Branham cult follower of today looks very different. Many "outsiders" look at the women and think to themselves, "are they in a cult?"

This is a subject covered in Hassan's book, "Combating Cult Mind Control."

Thousands of social psychological experiments have been conducted since World War II, yielding great insights into the various ways people are influenced, both as groups and as individuals. The result of these studies has been the consistent demonstration of the remarkable power of behavior modification techniques, group conformity and obedience to authority. These three factors are known in psychological terms as "influence processes" and demonstrate that situations often determine human behaviors, often more than the values and beliefs of the individual. One of the most remarkable discoveries of social psychology is that people are hardwired to unconsciously respond to social cues. For example, a class of psychology students once conspired to use behavior modification techniques on their teacher. As the professor lectured, the students would smile and seem attentive when he moved toward the left of the room.
- Steven Hassan. Combating Cult Mind Control

Stay tuned for more!

Combating Cult Mind Control (Second Edition):

Profile of "The Message" on Freedom Of Mind Resource Center: