“The moon was shinning on the lake at night,
My Slayer T-Shirt fit the scene just right…”
Let’s start with an etymology and a kind of psychospiritual techno-political mathematical equation.
Etymology of the word attention: “active direction of the mind upon some object or topic.” From root attend meaning “direct one’s mind or energies”, “give heed to” or “stretch” (as in stretching your mind towards something.)
Hence, attention is the essence or the motive force of mind (classical spiritual teaching). Attention is what directs the mind.
Which means controlling or directing another’s attention therefore equals mind control by definition.
Attention = Active Direction of the Mind
Attention = Essence of Mind
Directing the Attention of Another Person’s Mind = Mind Control
That’s the thesis here. Let me unpack the implications of that thesis as it applies to the phenomena of the attention-based economy.
Here's the wiki on the concept of the attention economy:
"Attention economics is an approach to the management of information that treats human attention as a scarce commodity, and applies economic theory to solve various information management problems. Put simply by Matthew Crawford, Attention is a resource—a person has only so much of it." (my emphasis)
In other words as information has become abundant, attention has become the scarce resource. Everyone is therefore fighting to grab everyone’s attention (notice the nefarious implication of the verb “grab” there.)
Out of this organizational theory has sprung an entire cadre of information workers seeking to gain your attention. Tim Wu dubbed them the attention merchants. Wu’s book (of the same name) brilliantly shows that there’s a key twist however to their work.
The expectation is that these attention merchants (marketers, brand specialists, social media gurus and the like) would be selling something to you. A traditional marketing assumption would be that they’re trying to get your attention to sell you some product, experience, commodity, or whatever.
But as Wu masterfully shows that is not the case. The attention merchants are giving away information for free (since information is basically costless now) and here’s the crucial point, they are busy selling you and your attention to corporate entities.
Youtube & Facebook are the most obvious and gargantuan versions of this but they are far from the only ones.
For the attention merchants you are the product, you are the resource to be harvested by corporate entities. You are not the customer or consumer. You are the product. The consumers are corporate entities.
Or to be more precise attention merchants are selling your attention to corporations.
Attention recall is the essence or motive force of mind. Attention is what guides or directs your mind to an object or topic.
Ergo, attention merchants are quite literally selling your mind to corporations.
Notice precisely what is meant here. They’re selling your mind to corporations.
Notice what I said (and what I didn’t say). Attention merchants aren’t selling your brain to corporations. At least not directly. And at least not yet.
They’re selling your mind. They’re selling the essence of your mind, i.e. your attention.
Your attention—i.e your mind—is a “scarce resource” corporations are seeking to extract profit from. The entire “giveaway” information economy is the lure. You freely give away your mind to their control. The attention merchants are the middlemen (and women) facilitating you transferring your mind over to corporations.
UR MINDZ R BELONG 2 US NOW
Which is why attention merchants are mind control operatives in the most precise sense of the term. They’re in the business of mind control.
The recent documentary The Great Hack explores this very topic from a number of interrelated angles: data privacy (or the lack thereof), surveillance society, and targeted psychological operations.
That last point is the most relevant for our focus here. Psychological operations which is to say mind control by another name. The documentary explores in-depth the work of Cambridge Analytica and its targeted political ads on Facebook in both the Brexit campaign as well as the 2016 US election.
At one point, Brittany Kaiser, a former employee of the firm, testifies before a UK governmental panel. She states explicitly that the methodology the firm employed was labeled by the UK government itself "weapons grade", i.e. a form of psychological warfare.
You can see how this worked in a short clip detailing (in the voice of the CEO Alexander Nix) the work of Cambridge Analytica in Trinidad and Tobago. The short but brutal clip is here. The island is divided between Afro-Caribbean and West Indian populations. The two main rival political parties each represent one of the ethnic bases. Cambridge Analytica decided to socially engineer a "grassroots" youth movement called Do So which pitched itself as a youth rebellion against the corruption of the political system in the country. Do So was a pledge among youth not to vote, basically an inverse version of Rock the Vote. They did--as freely admitted in this clip by the CEO--knowing full well that the likelihood is that the West Indian youth would still vote while particpiating in the concerts and social media campaigns while Afro-Caribbean youth would be less likely to actually vote.
So in other words it was a psychological engineering experiment to see if they could increase apathy and decrease voting among a black youth population. Which was very "successful" in helping swing the election overall about 6% with youth vote down something like 30-40%.
Cambridge Analytica used the information they garnered from the Trinidad and Tobago case and then went on to target an "apathy/decrease voter" campaign against African Americans, particularly in the key swing states of the Upper Midwest and Rust Belt (Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania particularly). States that handed Donald Trump his electoral victory in the 2016 US Presidential campaign.
The original German (that is to say Nazi) term that more euphemistically gets translated into English as "psychological operations" literally rendered into English is "worldview warfare" (in Germans weltaschunngkrieg). That is precisely what Cambridge Analytica was up to, warfare on people's minds, in particular their worldviews.
The key tie in to these psychological operations and attention merchants is that Cambridge Analytica received its data on people that it then used to profile them and perform worldview warfare/psychological operations upon them from Facebook. It then turned around used Facebook as the medium to perform its "weapons grade" psyops on those same people via the same platform (Facebook) itself that it culled the information it used to execute that psychological warfare. A full perfect horrific circle. It received some of that information from "free" personality profile tests on Facebook, which are of course lures from the attention merchants to seek to control the attention (minds) of the users to sell to corporations.
In order to try to figure out a constructive response to this disastrous scenario, let’s take a step back and explore what this idea of attention as being the essence of mind really means.
Attention is at the root of all conscious experience. Wherever you place your attention a world of experience arises in consequence. Within that world of experience certain phenomena are open within the clearing of your attention and others are closed off.
Take a simple example. If you close your eyes and bring your attention to the layer of your feelings, then the world that will open up is what you’re feeling. You may notice you feel sadness or anger or fear or contentment or disgust or any number of other emotions. If you really give your attention to tracking your feelings the outer world and other people (temporarily) will tend to go into the background or maybe disappear altogether.
That’s what it means to say that whichever way you point the needle of your attention a world of experience arises that opens up some possibilities and closes off others.
In that simple example of going within and tracking your own individual emotions what got foregrounded in experience was your inner emotional state. What got backgrounded was the outer world and other people.
Another example would be if you guide your attention to focus on the sky an entire other world of phenomena arises (clouds, possibly birds, the sun or moon, planets, stars, etc).
Or if you place your attention in the space between you and a friend what comes up is the relational space between you and them. Are you two fighting/arguing? Are you really deeply bonded? Are you disconnected? Whatever it is will become pretty obvious once you simply put your attention (your mind) on that dynamic, allowing the experience that is there to reveal itself.
When you’re focused on the sky—if you focus your attention clearly enough—then you’re own inner emotional experiences don’t come as much to view. If you focus your attention on the space between you and your partner you might forget about your external environment for a bit.
Attention is always deployed. Consciously or unconsciously we choose where to put our attention. Our thinking trails this more micro moment to moment shifting of our attention. Attention directs of guides our mind. Attention “stretches” our mind in a specific direction.
If you place your attention on the sky then you start to observe what’s going on and then you have thoughts about it. Usually that happens so quickly you don’t even notice it but if you can slow down you can actually become conscious of that movement in real time. This self-consciousness is a key to breaking out of the attention merchants psychologically and emotionally enslaving cycle.
Attention merchants know this and they are very intentionally seeking to hook your attention into their dynamic so that again it (your mind) can be sold to corporations.
Attention merchants track how you are deploying your attention. They track how long you stay on a certain kind of youtube video or what you click on and what you don’t. All of that data collection is to be able to sell that information on how best to harvest the scarce resource of your attention (which again remember is your mind) to corporations.
When you intend to watch one youtube clip or just look at one thing on FB and then you realize it’s an hour later your attention has been “grabbed”. Your mind has temporarily been controlled by another entity--namely corporations through their intermediaries the attention merchants. Just look at the term “social media influencers”. Influencers are trying to influence your mind. During that time you’re “under the influence” you are most certainly being psychologically and emotionally programmed. Subliminal messages, advertising, and the overall harvesting of data on how best corporations can break down your defenses and “grab” (i.e. gain control of) your attention (your mind).
Here’s a creepy example. On a phone call causally tell a friend that you’ve got a headache or stomachache. Then check your spam folder in your email 10-15 minutes later and see if you don’t have a bunch of ads for aspirin or antacid tablets.
So what to do about this?
Learn to focus your attention.
There’s a whole host of ways to do this. Learn to feel your feelings (that is learn to attend to your feelings). Learn to attend to the sensations of your physical being and thereby learn to regulate your own nervous system.
Those are good places to start. But you don’t need to be meditating in order to learn to focus your attention. You can use just about anything to learn to train your attention. You could take up knitting. You could work on dribbling skills for basketball. You could read a novel and get really engrossed in it (not in ebook format but old school printed variety).
Anything to hone, to focus your attention through conscious choice is key.
The social media and internet world exists to break down your attention into thousands of tiny disaggregated, distracted bits. It corrodes your ability to train and consciously deploy your attention. When you cannot consciously deploy your own attention then you can trust someone or something else will deploy your attention for you. Under such a circumstance assume that they are deploying your attention for their own gain at your expense which is precisely what the attention merchants are doing selling your attention to corporations.