The art of persuasion is, sadly, one that anyone can master with the utensils of lies and fear. Think of lying as a mode of transport to get us to our desirable destination, and fear as the driver. Lies possess the influence to change the way we think of others and ourselves at the drop of a hat, for the better and worse, with fear as the reasoning behind it.
On a more global and historical scale, war leaders such as Winston Churchill, Adolf Hilter and Joseph Stalin displayed advantages of their lying abilities to the public to introduce ideas and soon-to-be-actions, with fear as the motive.
Brainwashing started out as mouth-to-ear verbal communication but soon took physical shape in the form of artwork: propaganda. Remember the American poster of Uncle Sam who wants YOU for the U.S Army created by J.M Flagg in 1917, or the vibrant imagery of blood red coloring, mixed with Swastika symbols painted by artist Joseph Goebbels during Hitler’s reign over Germany in the 1930’s and ’40’s? Then, in the 1950’s, the Chinese referred to mind control whilst living under a Maoist government. It described methodologies of persuasion geared towards individuals who needed a more “right way” of thinking, dictated by the social system.
But instead of Hitler persuading the Nazi regime to run amuck throughout Europe and kill six million Jews, I was persuaded by a 27 year-old ex-bartender that selling makeup out of the trunk of my car to complete strangers all over Los Angeles would turn me into a millionaire within a year. What was I smoking?
More like I was desperate for some quick cash and couch casting pornography seemed too preposterous since I’m no longer a college student, but a college graduate. God bless that degree: it’s the reason my parents love me and the reason I kept my clothes on and never bought cheap, hooker-like lingerie from 7th Heaven or Fascinations, both of which were conveniently close to my college campus.
Once a mastermind leader has convinced enough people to think the same right-way, it’s time to convert others. Why does that scene from Zoolander immediately come to mind? With Mr. Mugato dressed as a child laborer in Derek’s imagination, all the while a remixed version of “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood plays in the background. After enough people are recruited into killing the prime minister of Malaysia, just one example, a cult is born.
Not all cults necessarily focus on mind control, but they do form a backbone based on similar interests and perspectives. Take cult movies for example, people from all walks of life come together for one event because they want to be there. Nobody sourly and bitterly gets dragged along to watch Army of Darkness, Shaun of the Dead or Blade Runner on a middle school lawn under the stars, a drive-in movie theater, or the Hollywood cemetery – ’cause that just sounds awful. Some cults; however, have a different concept of fun, such as counting down the days to Doomsday, or printing pastel-colored Greek letters on T-shirts and house pillars, or even host a Bible study event. Jeez, I’d rather die.
Luckily for me there is a cult that specializes in group poisoning, also known as revolutionary suicide or “drinking the Kool-Aid.” One-way ticket to Jonestown, please.
But back to selling makeup out of my car. Instead of the cult disguising itself as a sorority house or temple, members gathered at a marketing office near LAX. Mind control crept in from the start with a strict dress code. I took out my lip ring, covered my tattoos, and brushed my hair — thank Jeebus black is considered a formal, professional color, or I’d be too far out of my element. Showed up the next day in a knee-length dress — gross — a blazer, and appropriately sized heels that disgustingly resembled the ones I wore to middle school dances.
Upon arrival, I notice all the girls looked the same, and all the fellas matched in dark suits, white button-up shirts, and colorful ties. Can’t be having individuality lurking around the corner. Then, before our boss sent us out to sell makeup packages for the “awesome deal of only 20 bucks,” she made us listen to her rise-to-fame motivational speech. Every day was the same story: a college student bartender who one day realized her future was going nowhere, so she decided to make a life-changing decision: go on Craigslist, and find a job that doesn’t make you cry yourself to sleep every night. I vividly remember this sentence; “I started out like you guys, at the bottom, living paycheck to paycheck, now look where I am today.”
I don’t know Sandy, (that’s truthfully her real name; some people need a public slap in the face to take their ego down a few notches), where are you? In an office near the airport that teaches young adults how to bother strangers by waving packaged makeup in their faces, and encourages soliciting in shopping malls, that’s where. Thoroughly unimpressed, Sandy.
I hoped that I wasn’t the only one who thought Sandy’s triumphant uprising speeches were nothing more than a way to brainwash us into doing the dirty work that keeps her office up and running. After talking to other co-workers, I realized most had been there too long to have a mind of their own. Some topics of discussion, or what I like to call “real talk,” were off-limits on the clock.
Talk of anything other than a positive mindset were silenced by hand signals given to and from the promoted brainwashed leaders in efforts to keep the newbies, such as myself, in line. The hand signal to change the subject was flicking your middle and index finger in front of your mouth. Leaders also utilized the “belt loop” signal, a clenched fist by the waistline, to keep newcomers constantly close to their assigned leader to avoid negative networking with each other such as, “What type of horseshit is Sandy talking about?” These hand gestures, in addition to a strict dress code, screamed physical manipulation from the beginning.
Verbal manipulation soon followed with a strange one of a kind language that only the cult members spoke. Everyday leaders asked the inexperienced ones what their goals were for the day out in the field, which really only meant, “how many bags of makeup do you wish to sell in hopes of buying groceries for the week?” Well, I supposed my groceries cost around $100 since I’m a failure in the kitchen and only eat frozen dinners and drink tap water, so that’s 11 bags of make-up after Sandy taxes out her portion of the gross income. Did I ever sell 11 bags of makeup?
Once. On my first day, after I stopped for a lunch break and downed two shots of tequila, and then sold to the female bartender. Other days I would have to sweet-talk male shoppers just to take home 20 bucks with the classic line, “if you buy this, I’ll throw in my phone number.” My boyfriend at the time wasn’t too happy.
Last, but not least, comes to the term J.U.I.C.E – Join Us In Creating Excitement. J.U.I.C.E was used all over the office.
J.U.I.C.E replaced the word “cool” or “I agree.” It even became an adjective. Cult members yelled J.U.I.C.Ey or “juice by you” when someone would “ring bell,” another gut-wrenching term in the cult dictionary that meant someone sold enough makeup to take home $130 bucks in cash after tax. A few days later I learned that Requiem for a Dream created the phrase “juice by you” when Mrs. Goldfarb loses her mind from diet pills. Coincidence? Most likely not since I lost my mind two weeks into this job and quit. I certainly don’t regret my time there, as it gave me a hilarious, twisted tale to tell friends, family, and now the Internet. Also, I did take home cash every day, which I continuously spent on In-n-Out’s animal style fries and Starbucks’ canned espresso shots — solely the two things that kept me motived enough to talk to rude strangers for eight hours straight.
Sophie is a recent graduate from Arizona State University with a BA in Film and Media Studies. Born in London, and raised in Prague, she is a natural born traveller, which led to exploring Southeast Asia and most recently, Alaska. Whilst traveling, she’s expanded her knowledge and passion for foreign film and music. Upon moving to Los Angeles, she’s worked on television sets, a 2014 Sundance short, and participated in a live taping of “America’s Got Talent.” Sophie’s attentiveness for music began at seventeen, when she first gained access to the senior lounge’s speaker system, and often got into trouble for blasting explicit lyrics through her high school’s hallways. In her free time, Sophie spends countless hours at the movies, tattoo parlors, and local dog parks.