There are certain psychological conditions that create an especially high level of vulnerability to manipulation.
Low self-esteem, loneliness and cognitive dissonance are good examples.
There have been studies done to understand and predict who is likely to get involved in a religious cult and similar studies to determine who might get involved in a terrorist organization. The results are similar.
It is possible to list those prominent characteristics and to be specific about the danger. For instance, the characteristics of someone vulnerable to a cult like Jim Jones’ People’s Temple are slightly different than those who would be likely to join Scientology. This allows us the ability to watch for these traits in our loved ones, our students or anyone we care about.
We can also identify and expose leaders who have addictive personalities, craving power and/or money and utilizing manipulative tactics to take advantage of such vulnerabilities. Individuals and organizations concerned with these leaders have been making this information available for years.
The piece that has been missing, in my opinion, is a framework of memetics.
Let’s start with a scenario of: #1 someone gets a taste of the power they can wield by using irrational ideas that cannot be proven or disproven, such as heaven and hell. #2 They manipulate individuals and groups of individuals with fear of suffering and assurance of eternal bliss. #3 As with all addictions, the desire for more and more power and/or money increases. #4 As the addiction grows – the methods of controlling those people who feed their addiction evolves, based on what works best. That describes the birth and evolution of a dangerous memeplex.
Memeplexes evolve!! The most potent survive and do the greatest harm to those with the highest vulnerabilities.
Understanding the developmental process of memes/memeplexes can allow us to build prevention into the equation of stopping mental manipulation.
Leaders will not be able to fuel their addiction to power and money if there are too few potential victims to take advantage of.
There are so many people who are dedicated to peace; to a world where those addicted to power and money have no opportunities to feed their addiction.
We just need to work together to build powerful memes, specifically designed to educate and provide support to those most at risk to losing their autonomy along with their ability to make rational decisions.
Memes of love, support and rational concepts are ultimately far more powerful than the manipulative ones.