How Cues and Programming Work in Mind Control and Propaganda

This transcript is from a presentation by Neil Brick at The Sixth Annual Ritual Abuse, Secretive Organizations and Mind Control Conference, August 8 – 10, 2003 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Windsor Locks, CT. Some of the topics discussed may be heavy for survivors. Survivors may want to read this with a support person or therapist. The conference is educational and not intended as therapy or treatment. All accusations are alleged. Our providing the information below does not necessarily constitute our endorsement of it.

This page has been put on the web by S.M.A.R.T., P O Box 1295, Easthampton, MA 01027 E-mail:

Neil Brick is a survivor of alleged Masonic Ritual Abuse and MK-ULTRA. He is the editor of S.M.A.R.T. – A Ritual Abuse Newsletter. He has published numerous articles on ritual abuse. His topic is: “How Cues and Programming Work in Mind Control and Propaganda.” The address for S.M.A.R.T. is P O Box 1295, Easthampton, MA 01027 USA, E-mail:

Please use caution while reading this presentation. It may be very heavy for survivors. All accusations are alleged. The conference is educational and not intended as therapy or treatment.

This speech will be similar to one I made in May in Boston at the Survivorship conference. I have added some examples about ritual abuse and additional comments on conditioning.

How Cues and Programming Work in Mind Control and Propaganda

Many triggers or cues are innate. An example of a trigger or cue could be a hot feeling when going near an oven burner. Almost instinctively, a person would pull their hand away from the burner. This would be an unconditioned response. There are conditioned and unconditioned triggers or stimuli and conditioned or unconditioned responses. Pavlovian classical conditioning involves pairing an unconditioned stimuli with a conditioned stimuli to get a conditioned response.

The famous example of dogs salivating when a bell rings is an example of classical conditioning. The dogs were conditioned to do this. The unconditioned stimuli may have been the smell of food and the unconditioned (normal) response was salivation. The unconditioned stimuli, the smell of food was paired with the soon to be conditioned stimuli, the bell. Eventually when one withdraws the smell of food stimuli, the bell alone produces salivation. This is the new conditioned response. Extinction is when the conditioned response diminishes. In other words, if the bell conditioned stimuli is not reinforced with the giving of food, the response (salivation) will diminish after a while. The more trials performed, the more there will be resistance to extinction. In other words, the more often the bell is paired with the smell of food, the longer it will take for the conditioned response to fade away. Generalization is when a similar stimuli produce a similar response. In this case, a bell with a similar tone or note may also produce salivation. Pavlov’s Law of Strength states that when higher intensity conditioned stimuli are paired with conditioned stimuli with shorter intervals between them or if they are overlapping, this will produce better conditioning. If the bell was rung a long time after the smell of food, the conditioning would be weaker than if it was rung at the same time or close to the same time as the smell of food.

Programming is similar to this in several ways. A survivor may be tortured repeatedly until an new alter is created. This alter will be given a cue to let them know when to come out, this could be a smell, word, number, sound, color and so on. This cue is either paired with the alter’s creation and is given to the alter to listen for or to look for. The law of strength applies to the strength of the trauma and the strength of the cue. A stronger smell may be easier to associate with a strong trauma, which makes the conditioning stronger. Also if the alter and cue are paired together or closer in terms of time, they will associate more easily.

Extinction may occur or at least the cue and programmed connection could be weakened when the survivor avoids the cult and other cues for long periods of time. But these cues could also lie dormant and be regenerated unless the survivor does the necessary work to undo the program and all its components, including the emotional components.

A specific example of this could be : In a ritual a child is tortured by being hit with sticks while being chained down on a table. The cult members chant, let Satan come out, let the evil take over. The child through practice has learned to dissociate and switch. An alter called “evil” is created by the child and named so by the cult. The cult’s cue could be the verbal phrase “evil come out.” This verbal cue is the new conditioned stimuli paired with the child’s alter state. The unconditioned stimuli was torture, the unconditioned response was dissociation. Torture is paired with the new verbal cue (conditioned stimuli), causing the new conditioned response, the alter “evil.”

William Sargant first looked at combat PTSD and compared it to Pavlov’s classical conditioning. He extended Pavlov’s model to explain how people could change their world view suddenly. This was caused by intense trauma, followed by a person’s personality breaking down, followed by the application of new ways of thinking. Pavlov’s dogs during a flood either forgot or reversed their previous training. First, Pavlov’s “equivalent” phase of brain activity or breakdown occurred. Second, Pavlov’s “paradoxical inhibition” occurred where weak stimuli would produce strong responses and strong stimuli would produce weak responses (inappropriate responses). Third, in the “ultraparadoxical” stage, responses changed from positive to negative and vice-versa. Current models of PTSD suggest that PTSD can be understood as learned helplessness, a set of foci in the brain firing repeatedly and inappropriately. Cognitively, a person’s world view is so changed as to become untenable. Pavlov’s observations on animals breaking down under extreme stress could be applied to humans and survivors.

Pavlov was able to build up and break down behavior patterns in dogs. Pavlov’s work seems to have influenced confession getting and brainwashing techniques. Pavlov’s dogs had four basic temperaments, strong excitatory, lively, calm imperturbable type and melancholic. Each type reacted differently to stress. Pavlov could cause a dog to break down by increasing the intensity of a signal (electricity), delaying the time between the signal and food, confusing them with positive and negative signals interchanged or tampering with its physical condition. If a dog of stable temperament acquires a behavior after extreme stress, it is hard to break this behavior. The could be compared to a person of strong character becoming a one-track minded fanatic. Some survivors may also become fanatics.

The implications for survivors of ritual abuse and their symptoms are obvious. Increased trauma could cause dissociation, making a person more susceptible to suggestion. The delay of gratification could also make one more suggestible. Positive and negative signals interchanged, like praise and insults given rapidly can cause a break. Or the lack of sleep, food or drugging can also make one more suggestible. And once a survivor becomes suggestible, they are easier to program or reprogram.

An example for ritual abuse survivors could be the variety of techniques used on them to break them and cause dissociative states. As in the previous example, the child’s alter called evil could become extremely stubborn and pedantic. This alter could have a totally different behavior pattern than the other alters in the child’s psyche. The new alter may be very edgy when it comes in contact with weak stimuli or very calm in the presence of strong stimuli, like Pavlov’s paradoxical inhibition.

Are there any questions or comments ?

Propaganda techniques are similar in many ways to programming techniques. One could say a person is being programmed when being propagandized. The combination of vision and sound on TV make a person more suggestible. Most people get their news from TV. Once a person is overly emotional or numbed out, they become more suggestible and less likely to critically think about their choices. Subliminal learning is then enhanced.

According to Sargant, various types of beliefs can be implanted in people after brain functioning has been disturbed by fear, anger or excitement. These cause heightened suggestibility and impaired judgement. These group manifestations may be classified as the herd instinct, they appear most strongly in wartime and periods of common danger. Prolonging the time between giving a signal and the reward or giving an unexpected shock or alternating positive and negative signals and not giving the reward can also cause dramatic changes in patterns of behavior. Sargant describes Edward’s conversion techniques. In brain-washing and eliciting confessions an induced sense of guilt is important to achieve. This is also common when programming survivors. Anger against external and internal enemies nationally can be used to make the masses suggestible, like our war against Iraq. Examples in our media today are all too obvious. It is unfortunately too easy to direct people’s attention away from the fraudulent elections in our country and the outright thievery (like Enron) of the rich corporations against the populace, by creating enemies (like Iraq) and fear (like different color codes against apparently almost nonexistent threats).

As I mentioned yesterday, social mind control techniques may be similar to ritual abuse mind control techniques, but usually differ in intensity. The use of guilt in rituals is an example of this. Allowing a child in a ritual to get close to a small cat or dog and then forcing the child to kill the animal because they performed a previous ritual badly or were heard telling someone about the cult, in a set up situation. This guilt is used to condition the child to fear telling on the cult. To break this conditioning , the child (or adult) may need to repeatedly tell their story and break the fear, this is called habituation, not reacting to or following the previously conditioned stimuli (cue) and response (fear), but resisting it. This is a way of breaking a conditioned pattern. This also helps the survivor re-associate the information into conscious memory. Habituation or systematic desensitization is also used with certain disorders, like OCD.

Skinner believed that the environment controls the behavior (operant conditioning). Behavior is shaped and it is continued by its consequences. Operant behavior is behavior that operates on or manipulates the environment to produce consequences. Like the bird in the Skinner box being conditioned to peck at the button to get the food. This behavior is shaped by rewarding behaviors that more closely approximate the desired behavior. Organisms act to eliminate or avoid harmful stimuli. The consequence of this action is called a reinforcer. A negative reinforcer is aversive, the organism attempts to eliminate the aversive stimuli. People react to negative stimuli by moving away, acting aggressively or by initiating the desired behavior.

An example of this for ritual abuse is the training of a child sex slave. The behaviors that more closely approximate sexual behavior for a child may be rewarded with candy or affection, while a negative reinforcer (an aversive one) such as electroshock or beating, may be used to encourage the child to perform the behavior. Reinforcers always encourage behaviors, whether they are negative or positive. The programmer may punish the child to diminish a behavior, like the expression of pain during a sexual experience. Punishment is intended to decrease the occurrence of a behavior.

People can also be conditioned this way. A person will act, speak or dress a certain way to gain approval or to avoid insult. According to Skinner, freedom is not dependent on the feelings the contingencies generate, but it is dependent on the contingencies of reinforcement. In other words, it is not how you feel, but the result that determines your action. He believed that the ideas of a culture are the social contingencies or the behaviors they generate, the reinforcers are the society’s values. In cultural evolution, acquired practices (not genetic) that promote survival are transmitted. Feelings are by-products of the controlling social practices. A cultural designer needs to accelerate the development of practices that develop appropriate social behavior through consequences (like laws). The malevolence or benevolence of the society depends on the social programmers, in our case those that control the media and television. Malevolent social programmers will cause wars, extreme poverty and suffering, like we see in the United States. But Skinner also believe that people make the environment which in turn controls them. Therefore people can have control, if they take it. We need to make our own environment.

Are there any questions ?

How can we avoid being programmed and propagandized ? (From smart issue #30) As I mentioned yesterday, knowing about social mind control techniques can help survivors learn about cult mind control techniques, and social mind control techniques (like religious programming) may contain cult triggers and programming also.

From FactNet (about Coercive Persuasion listed under sources):

“The subjects easiest to influence are usually young, trusting, gullible, and non-critical people from protective backgrounds or people who may be particularly vulnerable because of some recent unsettled transition (my note: survivors may also fit in this category)…the rejects are likely to be individuals who have easy access to accurate, critical, or counterbalancing information. Insolent, self-centered, street-wise, highly critical or recalcitrant individuals are generally culled out…” Though everyone is susceptible to some degree.

1) Try to find out both sides of the story.

2)Learn about propaganda and mind control techniques and learn how to recognize them. If necessary, learn to avoid those using these techniques (this may be online or offline.) The media and advertisements may be a good place to start either learning about these techniques or avoiding them. At times, advertisements don’t even discuss the product or its attributes at all.

3) When in a potential situation where you can be MC’ed or propagandized, learn how to recognize the feelings of going into a meditative state and learn some of the techniques for getting out of these states. “Conference trigger management and safety” is available at smartnews/page5/NBpresentation99.htm I believe that avoidance of these situations is usually the best way to keep from being MC’ed or propagandized.

4) The user of propaganda or mind control techniques may exhibit a “lack of morals,” lying and/or disregarding the rules of the debate, list, group or society. This is similar to the “us vs them” or may be justified by “the ends justify the means” arguments organizations may use.

5) Try to use your gut feelings. If something doesn’t feel right, step back or remove yourself from the situation. I believe that a legitimate group or organization will give an individual the time and room to make their own choices.

I believe the following statement also applies to being MC’ed and/or fooled by propaganda. From FactNet, “No one “joins a cult.” People recruited into destructive groups think they are doing something else, something beneficial and worthwhile. Anyone can be recruited given the right sales pitch and the right conditions in one’s life. We are all potential victims.” While I believe it is necessary to learn from our mistakes, I think that feeling too much guilt doesn’t help. It may be necessary to make an amends when safe. This may be simply by getting healthy and possibly educating others.

No one also knows they are being mc’ed or propagandized or that the group they are in is doing this to them. Our entire society is built on propaganda. All one needs to do is to look at individual behaviors of people to realize how illogical and programmed they are.

Are there any questions or comments ?

How can survivors avoid being cued and reprogrammed ?

Avoiding cult members is crucial. Also, cues can be stuck into popular culture, usually through popular movies or TV shows, but also via symbols on the internet. Carefully screening one’s mail and one’s phone, using caller ID and an answering machine and turning the phone off when one is more susceptible to being MC’ed.

Being aware of the feelings of when one is going into an alpha or meditative state and learning how to immediately get out of the state and remove oneself from the situation is very important. Learning about common cues used on survivors may also help. Staying grounded and aware and present is important . Undoing the programmed with a safe, trained support person at a safe pace is also very important. This way the cues can be deactivated and a survivor will be less likely to be accessed.

I hope this presentation has helped you better understand how mind control and propaganda can effect one’s life, as well as how to avoid these, so you can make your own choices, not those conditioned by others.

AOL versions no longer on the web may be at the way back machine url.

The references below and an old version of this discussion are available at :


Barker, L. M. (2000). Learning behavior; Biological, psychological, and sociocultural perspectives (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

“Conference trigger management and safety” is available at smartnews/page5/NBpresentation99.htm

Propaganda Critic Index of Site Dedicated to Propaganda Analysis – Word games, Name-calling, Glittering generalities, Euphemisms, False connections, Transfer, Testimonial, Special Appeals, Plain Folks, Bandwagon, Fear, Logical fallacies, Bad Logic or propaganda?, Unwarranted extrapolation

“Q & A on mind control,” FactNet, Inc., rancho2.htm#one (Please note: at (which may be triggering) FactNet lists names on their cult experts page, SMART has heard allegations about a couple of these people and several may not be pro-survivor.)

Sargant, William (1997) Battle for the Mind; A physiology of conversion and brain-washing

Skinner, B.F. (1971). Beyond freedom and dignity New York: Bantam/Vintage Books

SMART News Issue #30 (information on propaganda)