Sometimes the greatest threats come from a world we cannot see.

Viruses are silent killers. You cannot punch a virus. They get inside you and destroy you from within.

There are biological viruses, computer viruses, and psychological viruses.

The first two are easier to understand than the last one.

By now we understand that we can catch Influenza by touching a contaminated surface. We know that we can get a computer virus from a compromised website or a malicious app we installed. But, did you know your mind can be hijacked by what you read, watch, and listen to?

I know because I’ve discovered many in my own head. I see them in others. I observe how invisible they are. A person could have one or several and never know it. Even deny it after discovering it for themselves.

These psychological viruses are sticky. Just because you become aware of them doesn’t mean they’re easy to part with.

They exploit your insecurities, your trusting nature, and your fears.

The Russians, according to a CIA document I read from 1993, were working on a device for decades that could put thoughts into a victim’s head without the victim knowing the source. It has occurred to me that no device was needed.

Marketing and mediums of mass communication are all it takes.

They don’t need to hack the election. They don’t need to exploit vulnerabilities in cyber code. The greatest weakness isn’t in a microprocessor, it’s in our minds!

The sad part is we’ve done it to ourselves and to the world for decades. This isn’t a new concept, but the evolved efficiency is mind-boggling.

We need antivirus software for our brains. I’ve discovered a good one. It’s called critical thinking and the word: why. But even with these tools, it isn’t enough.

I need to show you a few so you can see them.

The Exploitation of Body Image Insecurity

This one is more widespread than I had initially realized.

As a guy, I don’t look too often in the mirror. You could say that I have no fashion acumen. I really couldn’t care less how I look. That’s changing with improved taste and a helpful girlfriend, but for me, I’ve enjoyed immunity from body image insecurities.

Just because I don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And just because someone has them doesn’t mean they know they do.

It took getting close to an anonymous individual that I shall not name to discover how far a body image insecurity can be exploited. It opened my eyes to my own.

Using the schema (the pattern) I was able to detect similar vulnerabilities in both myself and other people. I then traced the exploits back to their source and discovered that marketing and mass communication regularly utilized these for the author’s gain.

I’ve also come to realize that the authors of these exploits may or may not recognize what they are doing. They are aware of human psychology, they know what works, but don’t fully understand why or how badly this might affect their target. Some do, some don’t.

Some are carriers. They spread these to their children, to their friends, to their significant others, and to the world.

They know not what they do. Some do, but many don’t. They don’t understand why it works. They don’t understand how much it can affect someone.

So body image… let’s address the vulnerabilities of women. Many are concerned about their breast size. Some are concerned that there is a bump on their nose. Others powder their faces obsessively with cosmetics. Weight is always a concern. Some women want a gap between the thighs and worry about the size of their buttocks. If their outfit is in or not. And how their significant other is perceived by their friends.

The insecurities vary. But, all of these are exploited by marketing. Selling them the solution, while contributing to the feeling of inadequacy.

For many, these feelings run very deep. They are unaware of why they do what they do or feel what they feel. Touch a button and they explode. They can be manipulated by voices in magazines, their social media news feed, and movies.

Their friends alter themselves and soon they will want to too. If they cannot, they will be self-conscious about their appearance.

Many men do not see it. They are carriers of this mental virus. They make remarks that have been spread to them to their partners. They push buttons without realizing what they do. These men become a pawn in the larger marketing scheme.

When confronted with this reality, they dismiss it. They see no harm in what they say or what they do. The objectification of women is not appreciated for the evil it is, to them, it is harmless fun. Even natural. If only they knew.

Now that I do, I see the world very differently. It’s as if I had been given special goggles and I can see the germs on everything women read. They are targeted mercilessly for financial gain.

Lipstick isn’t evil. At least at this time, I do not believe it to be. But, making women feel like it is required or somehow they are not beautiful without it, certainly is.

Making women feel that large breasts are somehow natural, and therefore a prerequisite to modern beauty, even when everyone’s is artificial, is evil.

These didn’t always exist. And your friends, most of theirs are fake. It’s not natural. It’s artificial. It’s marketing. It’s the exploitation of your insecurity. Your want to be “in” and “it” has been imposed upon you. No young girl naturally wants these things. These ideas were not their own.

The Exploitation of Validation Insecurity

That’s a mouthful. What do I mean? Certificates! Diplomas, degrees, licenses, ordinations, Twitter Verification… etc.

Anyone with an inkjet printer can charge me a $25 fee and make me an Ordained Minister. I have a friend who is a self-proclaimed atheist who can now officiate weddings legally because he paid a fee online to become an Ordained Minister.

Think about that for a moment. Where else do people pay fees for a piece of paper?

Ah yes, universities! Who could forget how all the students who are now in unfathomable debt for a paper with an old English font in a frame?

It took a long time for me to come to the realization that education isn’t a document, it isn’t a building, it is learning. I can get a paper for learning little and I can get no paper and learn much!

But, somehow I feel less of a person for not having more degrees on the wall. I opted out on my Master’s degree. As I watched my peers continue their education, a burning spot on my wall ate at me on the inside.

You see, I wanted a Ph.D. I wanted to tick all the checkboxes. I had been conditioned to do so.

Sure, no one knows what I know and a certificate helps others recognize my achievements, but it is not necessary to obtain knowledge.

It took me a long time to break free of that.

I began to ask myself how I came to feel this way. I discovered these were not my ideas originally, I had been conditioned to want this since grade school.

Many have. Now there are new ways to exploit this: online academies offering certificates for a fee in subjects ranging from time management to becoming a YouTube pro.

Education is not evil. I know this for sure. But, psuedo-education that exploits a desire for scholastic certification certainly is.

Sure, people got to earn a living, but don’t use a mental weakness of mine to make a fast buck. I have a real ethical problem with that. Don’t manipulate people to do or want things they wouldn’t have done or wanted without exploiting a vulnerability in their mind.

The Exploitation of Risk and Reward

In a word, bribes, and threats. Religion. Heaven if you tithe or align allegiances to a specific organization and hell if you don’t.

Cults are started this way. Not everyone would stick around if they weren’t so afraid something bad would happen to them.

It’s another example of a psychological exploit. The desire for untold riches and fear of eternal torment. In Islam, that bribe is 72 virgins known as houri.

The pattern applies to many other religions (or substitute with cults if you so choose).

Risk and reward are what employers use to exploit their employees, even sexually. The fear of losing a job or the desire for a promotion. It’s a vulnerability that can be exploited. Cartel overlords know this all too well.

This brings me to the next vulnerability I’d like to point out.

The Exploitation of Pride and Self-Perceived Immunity

The aforementioned opportunities for exploit may strike some as being a fault or weakness of a victim that “I don’t have.”

For example, a lot of people claim they can control their alcohol. They know when to stop, they are in control… you’ve probably heard or said this yourself.

The truth is, you can’t. It’s a vulnerability that can be exploited. Many alcoholics have to come to this hard realization that they thought they were in control, but if that were true, they would have never have tried it in the first place.

Why?

Because you have no desire for alcohol until you’ve tried it. Until your friends tell you about it. Until it’s been marketed to you. Until you perceive it as a right of passage to adulthood, which wasn’t your idea originally.

Once you’ve tried it, biological vulnerabilities take over. Now it’s all up to your body to crave it. And your friends to insist that you try a drink with them, because for some reason drinking alone isn’t acceptable.

No one asks you to eat a salad with them, or take vitamins with them… well that might be changing… but there’s something about drinking and smoking that must be passed around. There can be no observers who do not partake. Everyone must!

It’s like a virus. A virus that pressures each other into it and their pride keeps them from admitting that they are not immune to going over the edge. Yes, you can get hooked, you’ll want to stop but find it very hard. And no it wasn’t originally your idea. Every defense of it is a cliché.

The 7 Types of Propaganda

I took a class that covered the Theories of Communication. In that class, we were introduced to The 7 Types of Propaganda as have been classified by whoever came up with the list. Apparently, after further research, there are more.

Transfer

The act of relating something or someone we like or respect with a product. Symbols are constantly used in this form.

Testimonial

The use of well known, respected people to endorse a product or service.

Glittering Generalities

The act of referring to words or ideas that evoke a positive emotional response from an audience. Virtue words are often used.

Plain Folks

The use of everyday people to sell a product or service. Speakers in ads appear to make the person be one of the people.

Bandwagon

Attempts to persuade the target audience to take a course of action, “Everyone else is taking.” “Join the crowd.” This technique reinforces peoples natural desire to be on the winning side.

Name Calling

The use of names that evoke fear or hatred in the viewer. This technique links a person or idea to a negative symbol.

Card Stacking

A strategy of showing the product’s best features. Telling half-truths and emitting or lying about its potential problems.

Why Our Minds are Vulnerable

People perish for a lack of knowledge.

The proverb originates from the Bible verse Hosea 4:6. It is meant in a different context, but the phrase has always reminded me that “Knowledge is power.”

If you don’t know, you fall victim to what you don’t know. Once you know, you’re set free.

The truth shall set you free.

Another proverb that is meant in a different context, but still very meaningful to remember. Which could spark a new topic for another post… all the quotes we use that are out of context or just plain wrong. But even out of context are still useful to remember.

Last Thoughts

Our minds can be easily hijacked by ideas that were not originally our own. We can spread these ideas unwittingly harming those we love. Our oblivity to this stems from our ignorance of its existence and our pride denying it could happen to us.

We must always ask why. Dig deep and self-reflect. Just because we are well read doesn’t mean we read good things. We must always be on guard. Never rest thinking our minds are safe from manipulation. Whether this manipulation is intentional or accidental. Whether it stems from our own weakness or conditioning.

The greatest virus is the one that infects the mind. It’s nearly undetectable and can infect anyone.

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