Society is capable of programming a man to kill his own mother and father and eat them in a stew—that’s what the French writer Jules Romains said, in slightly different words, in his 1938 novel Verdun. While this is a slightly shocking statement, it’s likely true. The premise of James Lane’s 2013 documentary, State of Mind: The Psychology of Control is that science and technology, along with advertising and other media techniques, have been used to control individuals both physically and mentally, for hundreds of years. The aim has been to turn citizens into a herd that blindly follows the elite class in a particular society.
Making reference to the writings of philosophers such as Plato, Machiavelli, Hegel and Darwin, the documentary describes systems and practices put into place over the years with the intent of controlling citizens’ behaviours and attitudes. These include the public school system, which has traditionally encouraged students to passively take in information without asking any questions, plus more physically intrusive practices such as the MKUltra mind-control experiments conducted in the 1950s and 1960s in North America, and Dr. Ewen Cameron’s methods of “curing” psychological problems by actually wiping a patient’s brain clean and filling it with new information. If you’re thinking that people wouldn’t engage in such barbaric practices today, perhaps you’re right, but the film puts forth the hypothesis that the ruling class still tries to control the population in North American society; the only difference is that they use methods such as television and the Internet to do so, as opposed to the direct manipulation of the brain and body by psychiatrists.
State of Mind is meant to serve as a warning to people to be aware that they’re being controlled. All the experts featured in the video believe that if average citizens are to stop the ruling class from controlling them, they must change their habitual conformity and servitude. But to change things, we must be aware of our existence, yet many people just drift through their daily lives without thinking critically about their habits. State of Mind makes reference to dystopian literature written by Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) and George Orwell (1984), and it’s bone-chilling when realizing how many of the elements included in these novels actually exist in Western society today.
Could this documentary be considered a piece of propaganda itself? It seems odd that people would be watching a movie on a television about how bad it is to be brainwashed by television, among other things. However, while propaganda is only loosely based on fact and strongly appeals to the emotions of its viewers, the information presented in State of Mind is based heavily on detailed empirical evidence, and is not presented in the exaggerated manner that propagandists often use to present their material.
Watch State of Mind here:
image 1: nolifebeforecoffee (Creative Commons BY)
image 2: sparktography (Creative Commons BY-NC)