By Roger F. Gay
One of the features of a good brainwashing is stealth. The washed mind doesn't know that it has given up control and is carrying out the will of others. That's why it is so difficult, for example, to wrestle a cult member back to the real world. They are entirely convinced that they have attained a level of understanding that you do not possess and that it would make much more sense to pull you into their “reality” rather than the other way around.
Is there anything in the results of brainwashing that are so easily recognizable that it would tip someone off to the fact that they'd fallen into the trap? If they can identify key behaviors in themselves, will it become easier for them to find their way out of the illogical maze of indoctrination?
At least one of the results of political brainwashing becomes quite obvious when you know to look for it. People will fight savagely for candidates they know little to nothing about, pounding the importance of issues they do not understand, and repeat talking points (from TV's talking heads, etc.) that make little to no sense when examined objectively. The same is true in the negative. They attack opposition candidates that they have not examined, whose positions on issues they have never investigated, because that's what their programming says needs to be done to anyone who stands in the way of their goal. They lie whether defending or attacking, knowing that they're lying, even when they really have no idea what benefit they might actually receive from success.
Obvious enough? If you've engaged in much political discussion, you have seen the behavior. Have you linked it with brainwashing? More importantly: Do you behave this way yourself? If so, do you ever ask yourself why you do it? If you search yourself honestly, admitting that you know less than you often pretend, that you often find yourself out on a limb hoping that your opponent suffers from the same affliction and won't be able to expose you (insisting that everyone is as you and behaves as you – wishful thinking), and the only real answer you have is a will to win, then you have been brainwashed. Your behavior is that of an addict. You want to get a rush from winning. But winning is less satisfying than you imagined (especially since what you've actually won is a mystery). You push farther, with ever more extreme behavior, in the hope that the dull rush of the senseless battle will somehow be turned into ecstasy.
The first step in getting over the addiction is to admit that you have a problem. You don't have to tell me about it. I don't have a clinic. Admit it to yourself. The cure is not as difficult as you might imagine, as long as you're really a “normal” person and your political behavior is an aberration. Once you've recognized this problem, you're well on your way to solving it.
Think about who you really are and just be yourself. You are not the political candidate. You are not being paid to shill for the candidate. There is no reason you should be acting like you're on their team, with a bright and happy extremely well-paid future if he wins. You're just a person. A voter. The benefit you get from the process comes from learning all you can, judging the candidates honestly and objectively, and casting a vote for who you – in the end – believe are not only the best (relative), but that are actually good (hold to at least a minimum acceptable standard).
“In the end” is a key phrase in that explanation. It makes no sense to pick a candidate without learning first, simply by responding emotionally or thinking what the ad said was nice. It makes no sense to throw your support his way as early as possible as if you're giving yourself more chances to win a stuffed Teddy Bear if it goes in the right hole. The primary season begins at least a year before the general election. That gives you plenty of time to dig and learn. If you don't know enough during the primaries, don't participate. If you still don't know enough in November, then admit who you are. Politics just isn't your thing.