The Power of Persuasion - Everyone’s a Target

The rise of global terrorism is a major concern for parents as well as police agencies. How does this threat impact our lives and the lives of our children? To help cope with the stressful issues raised by this new reality, Jews for Judaism has developed a dynamic and highly relevant presentation. The Power of Persuasion skillfully explores the connection between cults, telemarketers and terrorists.

Over the past 30 years, cults have been responsible for dramatic personality shifts in countless individuals. Some of these personality changes have resulted in an almost robotic behavior, such as the mass marriage of 3,000 strangers who were matched up at a 1998 ceremony in Madison Square Garden by Unification Church leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon. A more extreme and frightening example was the 1978 mass suicide of 913 men, women and children, all members of the Jonestown cult.

Most recently, cult groups have resorted to violence. In 1985, the Guru Rajneesh cult launched the first large-scale biological attack in U.S. history, poisoning 751 people with home grown Salmonella germs. In 1995 the Japanese doomsday cult, Aum Shinri Kyo, killed 19 people and injured more than 5,500 in Sarin nerve gas attacks in the Tokyo subway system.

According to cult expert Dr. Margaret Singer, “Cult groups manipulate their members with a systematic application of psychological and social influence techniques also called ‘thought-reform.’” This manipulation is often used, albeit on a less sinister level, by telemarketers and advertising agencies that control our buying habits by employing marketing techniques developed by social psychologists. Some of these techniques include embedded messages, placement advertising and subliminal messages.

Terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Al Qaeda, also recognized that they could recruit followers by adapting the power of persuasion used by marketing agencies and the thought control techniques used by cults.

The intentional misuse of these powerful psychological tools has led to a proliferation of groups who take advantage of individuals to further their evil agendas.