How to Herd People in 5 Steps

A Manual on Mass Manipulation

Alex the Younger
11 min readDec 19, 2021
Nazi Reserve Police Battalion 101, the subject of the book Ordinary Men, which describes how everyday cops carried out the massacre of Poland, and how they did so willingly.

The following excerpts are taken from psychologist and Nazi torture survivor Joost Meerloo, from his 1956 book, Rape of the Mind. We shall use it as the backbone of our manual.

Step 1: Isolation

Pavlov formulated his findings into a general rule in which the speed of learning is positively correlated with quiet and isolation. The totalitarians have followed this rule. They know that they can condition their political victims most quickly if they are kept in isolation.

Step 2: Disorient

One important result of this procedure is the great confusion it creates in the mind of every observer, friend or foe. In the end no one knows how to distinguish truth from falsehood. The totalitarian potentate, in order to break down the minds of men, first needs widespread mental chaos and verbal confusion, because both paralyze his opposition and cause the morale of the enemy to deteriorate unless his adversaries are aware of the dictator’s real aim. From then on he can start to build up his system of conformity.

Step 3: Narrow Their Time Horizon

“The core of the strategy of menticide is the taking away of all hope, all anticipation, all belief in a future. It destroys the very elements which keep the mind alive. The victim is utterly alone.”

Step 4: Sow Suspicion

In the Nazi concentration camps and the Korean P.O.W. camps, a kind of mass paranoia often developed. Loneliness was increased because the prisoners cut themselves off from one another through suspicion and hatred. This distrust was encouraged by the guards.

They constantly suggested to their victims that nobody cared for them and nobody was concerned about what was happening to them. “You are alone. Your friends on the outside don’t know whether you’re alive or dead. Your fellow prisoners don’t even care.” Thus all expectation of a future was killed, and the resulting uncertainty and hopelessness became unbearable.

Then the guards sowed suspicion and spread terrifying rumours: “You are here because those people you call your friends betrayed you.” “Your buddies here have squealed on you.” “Your friends on the outside have deserted you.” Playing on a man’s old loyalties, making him feel deserted and alone, force him into submission and collapse.

The times that I myself wavered and entertained thoughts about joining the opposite forces always occurred after periods of extreme loneliness and deep-seated yearnings for companionship. At such moments the jailer or enemy may become a substitute friend.

Step 5: Reward Compliance and Punish for Noncompliance

On the two types of brainwashees:

Another of Pavlov’s findings was that some animals learn more quickly if they were rewarded (by affection, by food, by stroking) each time they showed the right response, while others learned more quickly when the penalty for not learning was a painful stimulus.

In human terms, the latter animals could be described as learning in order to avoid punishment. These different reactions in animals may perhaps be related to an earlier conditioning by the parents, and they find their counterparts among human beings. In some people the strategy of reward and flattery is a stimulus to learning, while pain evokes all their resistance and rebellion; in others retribution and punishment for failure can be a means of training them into the desired pattern.

Before he can do his job effectively, the brainwasher has to find out to which category his victim belongs. There are people more amenable to brainwashing than others. Part of the response may be innate or related to earlier conditioning to conformity. Pavlov also distinguished between the weaker type of involuntary learning, in which the learned response was lost as soon as some disturbance occurred, and the stronger type, in which training was retained through all kinds of changed conditions… for our purposes it is only important to know that there are some types of people who lose their conditioned learning easily, while others, the so called “stronger” types, retain it.

On incentives for compliance:

If a prisoner accepted Communist doctrines, his life became easier, according to the men’s stories. But if a prisoner resisted Communist doctrines, the Chinese considered him a criminal and reactionary deserving of any brutalities.

On resistance:

A man will often try to hold out beyond the limits of his endurance because he continues to believe that his tormentors have some basic morality, that they will finally realize the enormity of their crimes and will leave him alone. This is a delusion…

Of course, one can vow to hold out until death, but even the relief of death is in the hands of the inquisitor. People can be brought to the threshold of death and then be stimulated into life again so that the torments can be renewed. Attempts at suicide are foreseen and can be forestalled.

In my opinion hardly anyone can resist such treatment. It all depends on the ego strength of the person and the exhaustive technique of the inquisitor. Each man has his own limit of endurance, but that this limit can nearly always be reached and even surpassed is supported by clinical evidence.

Nobody can predict for himself how he will handle a situation when he is called to the test. The official United States report on brainwashing (See the “New York Times”, August 18, 1955) admits that “virtually all American P.O.W.s collaborated at one time or another in one degree or another, lost their identity as Americans…thousands lost their will to live”…

Pro Tips

Separate the Weak from the Strong

For the totalitarian, the weak are those who stubbornly refuse to accept their new conditioning. The strong types are those who will willingly accept the new conditioning. Some of the strong types will require accolades for their loyalty, and the strongest types will be converted even if they don’t receive any material benefit other than the benefits of being on the side with the upper hand. The weak and the strong types should be processed in different ways.

For a multitude of reasons unknown to us, the weak will not respond to propaganda, to totalitarian reward incentives, or to societal pressures. These types should be rooted out and separated from the strong population. Their weakness cannot be allowed to spread and they cannot be allowed to disrupt the efforts to maintain the loyalty of the strong types.

Pain and fear will likely work for most everyone, but as Pavlov noted, there are some who may vehemently resist if they’re processed in the wrong way. And if the strong see pain and suffering being inflicted on the weak, it will reinforce their beliefs that they chose the right path. The strong may also enjoy seeing the suffering of the weak, and feel they deserve such punishment.

Might is Right

“Might is right” is perhaps the default moral compass for most human beings and an evolutionary instinct. Most people will willingly follow whoever they perceive to be the strongest archetype. The men history remembers most have generally been, in one form or another, warlords, conquerors, tyrants, and mass murderers.

When the commoner sees a police officer bludgeoning a man with his elbows, the commoner’s first thought will always be, “what did that man do to deserve this?” There is an immediate assumption of guilt. The burden of proof is given to the victim to prove his innocence. Court systems have fought against this instinctive nature of the mob by instituting “innocent until proven guilty” policies.

The totalitarian must do away with “innocent until proven guilty”. Make examples of those who may defy you, and maintain your appearance as the mighty. Your efforts must be serious, any hint of being uncommitted to the cause will run against you.

This also means that you can never apologize, never step back on a position, and stand by every position of your party, especially if it’s a lie.

On Comedy

Comedy is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if your enemies use silly comedy, it can reinforce to the masses that the resistance is uncommitted, that they are unserious, and therefore not mighty. And in your subjects, it will allow them to cope with this new world, and allow them to carry on forward towards your will. That is, after all, the social practicality of comedy: social cohesion and coping.

However, using comedy to shame the regime and its followers can possibly hinder your efforts. Shame is powerful, and could possibly form a new movement of its own.

You may, from time to time, need to make an example of a joke gone too far, that strikes too closely to the truth. But stomping it out completely will be impossible, and may even work against you.

Create your Own Words. Manipulate Definitions.

Pavlov had already explained that man’s relation to the external world, and to his fellow men, is dominated by secondary stimuli, the speech symbols. Man learns to think in words and in the speech figures given him, and these gradually condition his entire outlook on life and on the world.

As Dobrogaev says, “Language is the means of man’s adaptation to his environment.” We could rephrase that statement in this way: man’s need for communication with his fellow men interferes with his relation to the outside world, because language and speech itself the verbal tools we use are variable and not objective. Dobrogaev continues: “Speech manifestations represent conditioned reflex functions of the human brain.” In a simpler way we may say: he who dictates and formulates the words and phrases we use, he who is master of the press and radio, is master of the mind.

Spoken language acts like a programming language for the brain. The brain will develop and form connections based on the definitions we assign words — OR — the definitions others assign for us. Most of the time, it is this latter process which assigns each of our definitions. Most of our thoughts are not our own, but reflections of things we’ve seen or heard at one time or another that were imprinted upon us.

“Universal literacy was supposed to educate the common man to control his environment. Once he could read and write he would have a mind fit to rule. So ran the democratic doctrine. But instead of a mind, universal literacy has given him rubber stamps, rubber stamps inked with advertising slogans, with editorials, with published scientific data, with the trivialities of the tabloids and the platitudes of history, but quite innocent of original thought. Each man’s rubber stamps are the duplicates of millions of others, so that when those millions are exposed to the same stimuli, all receive identical imprints. It may seem an exaggeration to say that the American public gets most of its ideas in this wholesale fashion. The mechanism by which ideas are disseminated on a large scale is propaganda, in the broad sense of an organized effort to spread a particular belief or doctrine.”

— Edward Bernays, Propaganda (1928)

Weaponize the Law

Equality under the law, and the pursuit of blind justice is an impediment to the totalitarian. It’s very simple, you can’t live above the law if the law applies to you. The law can only apply to your enemies. Once the law is sufficiently directed towards your enemies, then you should occasionally flaunt this double standard. Once again, might is right, and there is no stronger show of power than to show your subjects all the things you can do that is illegal for them. Most of them will not even notice the hypocrisy, they will rationalize to themselves why you can do those things and they can’t.

Threats to the Totalitarian

Your Closest Allies and Family

Above all else, the greatest threat to your power will come from the people standing directly behind you. There is a reason the king’s throne sits with its back to the wall, so that no one might stab him from behind.

The totalitarian regime has two options: [1]

  • The leader can cling to power until the, often violent, end.
  • You can create a succession mechanism that smoothly transitions power at a certain date. That way you can leave office and retire while still retaining power and dignity in the party.

It’s a simple choice really, don’t be a fool like Gaddafi and be literally molested to death by an angry mob because you wanted to cling to power until the very end. Kim Jong Un killed his own uncle, Jang Song Thaek, and displayed his headless body to his entire cabinet as a warning to anyone who might try to overthrow him. [2] If you want the throne all to yourself, intense paranoia will become a daily ritual, and your paranoia will eventually prove correct.

In the US, the system allows a smooth succession every 4 years, in China it’s 5 years, in Mexico it’s 6. This predictable system will allow you to rule without the crippling anxiety of wondering who is going to assassinate you.


These impudent rascals, the intellectuals, who always have to know everything better than everybody else. These are people stuffed with knowledge and intellect, but bare of any sound instincts. If left unchecked the intellect can become autocratic and become a disease in itself.

Every week newly fabricated stereotypes ogled at us as if to convince us of the splendour of the Third Reich. But the Nazis did not know the correct Pavlovian strategy. By satisfying their own need to discuss and to vary their arguments in order to make them seem more logical, they only increased the resistance of the Dutch people. This resistance was additionally fortified by the London radio, on which the Dutch could hear the sane voice of their own legal government.

Had the Nazis not argued and justified so much, and had they been able to prevent all written, printed, or spoken communication, the long period of boredom would have inhibited our democratic conditioning, and we might well have been more seduced by the Nazi oversimplifications and slogans.

— Joost Meerloo, Rape of the Mind

They say, I am delusional to think that one person can effectively plan the economic engine and create the new social order. They say it’s all far too complex to calculate top-down. But I cannot be mistaken, everything I do and say is historical!

Logic is an insufferable trick the philosophers play to win over the ignorant — philosophy is a scam. The only thing I know to be real is me. Anything that helps me achieve me goals is good, and anything that stands in my way is evil. I believe in power, I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with the concentration of power in one man’s hands.

In order to prevent this cancer from spreading, I must destroy the nervous system of the intellectual, the printing press. Censorship is the tool the totalitarian uses to prevent the intellectuals from sowing disloyalty among the population. Censorship must be combined with severe punishment in order to be effective. The punishment must far outweigh the Streisand Effect that might arise. People love a good mystery, they want to know what you’re hiding, it automatically makes it more valuable. Curiosity must kill the cat. Any instance of being uncommitted here will only work against us.

  1. Authoritarian breakdown — how dictators fall, by Dr. Natasha Ezrow
  2. Kim Jong Un beheads uncle and displays to cabinet
  3. This paragraph is a direct quote from Hitler. This hatred of the intellectuals is a commonly shared opinion among narcissistic psychopaths. They hate them for two reasons:
    - The first, they correctly identify one simple fact: you can’t see intellect. It is easy to measure how tall a person is, how strong they are, how loud they speak, how many people are in their audience, but intelligence is very hard to measure, it’s not easy to qualify or confirm. In this, they are right, but they mistakenly dismiss intellect, philosophy and sometimes knowledge itself altogether as a trick — a sort of conman gimmick (the irony here should not be lost on you). This often gets them into trouble, because after all, sound knowledge is incredibly useful.
    - And two, they hate the intellectuals because logic is never on the side of the totalitarian, and the intellectuals will often speak out against their efforts. In the mind of the narcissistic psychopath, there is no difference between an obstacle and evil.
  4. This last sentence is a direct quote from Hitler.
  5. This last sentence is a direct quote from Teddy Roosevelt. This paragraph is essentially the moral litmus test of the totalitarian. This deluded moral compass is extremely consistent among all narcissist psychopaths according to the research (check out Without Conscience by Robert Hare). I can also confirm this from my own interactions with these kinds of people and I have encountered more than one. This is a very common justification for ruthless pragmatism.



Alex the Younger

Satisfying my endless curiosity, and maybe yours too | Software Engineer | Praxis Alumni