This is not an academic exploration of what manipulation means. Read that again. You don’t get a ‘balanced perspective’. You get unbalanced originality. If you don’t like that bugger off now!
The trouble with words is that people want perfect definitions. The reality is that, it is rare for words like manipulation to have a single meaning. There can be several meanings based on contexts. When one Google’s the word ‘manipulation’ what the search engine brings up is what’s most popular. A search engine is not meant to give a ‘balanced perspective’. Most times search engines via their algorithms, will focus on what’s of most interest to most people. There is a risk with that. Huh? Yes – people being very busy don’t have time to dig deeper. I mean Netflix and Facebook viewing are higher priorities. So – most people just take away the first lot of things that a search engine brings up. Their attitudes and beliefs there after are based on what they skim read – Netflix calls!
Hence the commoner meanings of manipulation related to exploitation and abuse. Google is not going to give you positive aspects of manipulation. And I’m not going to write a thesis on good and bad aspects of manipulation here.
At the outset I wish to set out two broad categories:
- Socially accepted manipulation
- Pathological manipulation
But there is a large blurred boundary which I will explore later.
Socially accepted manipulation (SAM)
This could easily get bogged down in what is ethically or morally acceptable. For example, is it acceptable for a male to woo a female into bed for sexual purposes? You know the answer to that is ‘It depends’. If it’s a female child, who cannot lawfully consent, it is morally and legally wrong. If it’s an adult female of sound disposing mind, some will argue that it is offensive and therefore wrong. Well tough the latter adult scenario happens everyday. It is accepted as part of the risk of forming relationships. Not because you don’t like the risk means it is wrong. Those of the speed-reading type will have missed context and already inferred that I think it is acceptable. I said ‘accepted‘. I do not find many things acceptable, but society accepts even grudgingly a broad range of norms. I did not say that rape is right! Chrysst! I can sense imaginations running wild all now. Look, the average sub-25 male in Western societies, is very much interested in bedding a few females and to do that chatting up, flirting, making them laugh, spending loadsah money on them – is all part of the tactics. These have a higher probability of working in general, compared to doing nothing. Hang on a sec – I’m not saying that none of this will fall over a blurred boundary with Pathological Manipulation. What I am saying is that many of the above lawful behaviours are accepted as part of life’s rough and tumble.
For those who wish to unstick from sex, there are other areas to consider. What about religious manipulation? Broadly speaking it is accepted that in growing up in any society the prevailing religion has a high probability of being accepted by children and young people. If you don’t believe me check the stats on percentages of people in the Middle East who are not muslims. Religious indoctrination is part of SAM for sure. Choice of religion and values that flow thereafter are all part of it. Extremism is not part of SAM, just in case some fool was about to argue.
The education system also manipulates minds into accepting certain ‘truths’ and values. Nobody has a problem with that – except me of course.
Family dynamics also involves manipulations by parents of their children or other family members. That’s all accepted. Everybody knows, “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding.” sort of manipulations.
Law can orchestrate manipulations whether or not individuals find it acceptable. A mentally disordered person detained in a UK hospital on grounds of one or more of three main risks, will find that they can be detained as long as necessary until the risks are manageable safely in the community. Hence I know of some mentally disordered individuals who have be locked up for over 20 years – and that’s nothing to do with the heinousness of their original offence. It’s mainly to do with them not working with therapies to reduce their risks. Those who work with the system, who afford themselves lawful manipulations by engaging in therapies move on far more swiftly.
Politicians manipulate minds on a large scale. Whilst some have a problem with that, it is socially accepted.
The process of marketing and advertising is often part of manipulation. Come on – who hasn’t seen the flashy adverts on TV for some holiday in the sun? What – did you think they want to sell you real value? It’s accepted by society that this happens and is allowed
As mentioned above there is a blurred boundary between SAM and PM. But it is easier in general to spot PM because the law will often define a boundary about what is not tolerable. Get caught driving recklessly or breaking a speed limit and you ought to know what happens next. The punishment is there to manipulate you back to correct behaviours. But that’s not PM it is SAM. A range of boundaries that would fall into PMs are managed by some powerful laws such as the Sexual Offences Act, or counter terrorism laws. Terrorist cells regularly do pathological manipulations.
The big essence of PMs are delineated by a one or more of the following:
- False representations.
- Over control.
- Brain-washing and illegal grooming.
- Grossly immoral or illegal behaviour.
- Nefarious and/or disproportionate advantages to the manipulator.
- Causing physical and/or psychological suffering to a person.
- Character assassination of others.
- Disrespect and disregard for the truth in context.
The above is not a full list (just in case).
It’s funny how people like neat packages – one or the other – black or white – and then the same people attack exceptions in each. Well tough – there are loads of concepts that blur into each other or overlap. The reason for the blur – is about context. A particular context may throw an issue on one side instead of the other. Somebody wants an example. Punching someone in the face is an act of violence – no arguments there. But as I’ve explained in another blog the context of such violence changes everything. Violence is often seen as wrong by a majority of people. However, if one is forced to be violent in defence of one’s life or lives of loved ones, it is then seen as right. So wrong on one side turns to right due to the correct context.
Manipulations of any type are taken by most to be naturally wilful or intentional acts. They may not be, in a minority of instances. Does the education system wilfully brain-wash people to think in certain ways? Do teachers and religious leaders consciously ‘know’ that they are involved in some activity that will shape a persons values? I don’t think so. There not thinking, “If I say this to him he’s gonna believe that.” They’re mostly doing what they do because it’s natural and automatic to do and say what they do.
Does the tabloid and non-tabloid newspapers say, “Ahhahhh.. Let’s give them the story this way so that they will believe (zip)?” Of course not. When BigMedia splashes headlines about some schizophrenic stabbing someone, are they fully aware of the ways such reports will impact on people? Does the media report on every person who under the influence of alcohol, has murdered somebody? Of course not. Through selective attention to murders by schizophrenics in the media, most people don’t realise that they are at 7 times greater risk of being murdered by just standing next to a person who as consumed 4 pints of normal strength lager over a couple hours, compared to standing next to a schizophrenic with active symptoms of psychosis. The point is that selective reporting is one way that minds are manipulated inadvertently – and this is not just about people with mental health.
For more on the above readers may wish to read up on moral panic and deviancy amplification.
There are complex pathopsychological processes in individuals which can unconsciously manipulate minds of others. I’m not going to lecture on this here because text on a page cannot explain hundreds of abstract concepts that contribute to this sort of phenomenon. It’s taken me over 25 years to grasp all that – so in no way could I just give a list or explain it in a few lines. This sort of manipulation is most dangerous. How? Because the majority of unskilled observers will not be able to see it. It is based on patterns of cognition and behaviour which are difficult to pin down for hard evidence. In psychotherapeutic circles professionals talk about these things. The minds of psychopaths is a very specialist area of knowledge.
The ‘best’ sort of manipulation is the kind where those manipulated are not even aware that they’re being manipulated. Obviously, if they were aware they might take action. When people become aware that they have been ‘unconsciously’ manipulated, they tend to feel stupid – and of course remain very silent.
- Manipulation is an important topic.
- Some sorts of manipulations are acceptable.
- Some manipulations even if morally offensive are accepted into the fabric of society.
- Some manipulations are pathological.
- There are other kinds of complex manipulations which are a specialist area of knowledge.
Disclaimer & Guidance