Gabe Samandi ‘22
Major: International Studies
Bio: Gabe Samandi enrolled at Fordham in 2018 hoping to study the intersections of race, economics, and health outcomes through an international lens and apply his critical storytelling ability to the world of journalism. By 2020, he was doing exactly that. Interning for NBC News/MSNBC and covering the rapidly unfolding world events of the pandemic and the racial justice reckoning, he began to analyze how information spreads over social media. He found quite the story.
Title of Research: A general history & theory of Mind Control: Information Design, Commercial Truth, and the Disinformation Crisis
Mentor: Dr. Mathias Klang, Department of Communications & Media Studies
Abstract: The phrase “mind control” typically sparks the imagination to think of implausible and delusional hysteria; the paranoid schizophrenic who argues the existence of instantaneous and affirmative instructions against one’s own will that can subvert the autonomy of an individual. Since the early 1950s, associations such as the above have provided an illusion of separability between established epistemic concepts and the realm of amateur conspiracy theory “research.” With the invention of the internet, however, and especially after the concerted effort of international disinformation campaigns via social media, such lines have begun to blur. Questions about the interplay between implicit psychological associations and social norms with institutionally accepted conventions like “behavioral modification” and “social engineering” have long been a realm of philosophic debate and academic study, but what becomes of such inquiry when it is turned in on itself, questioning the very legitimacy of rationality, the academy, and institutional government? Misinformed opinions about government conspiracies and mind control technology leading to violent or tragic outcomes are far too varied, stubborn, and pernicious to be organic. Analyzing the shape, scope, and history of psychological and information warfare over the last 100 years, “A general history and theory of MIND CONTROL: Information Design, Commercial Truth, and the Disinformation Crisis” pieces together the disparate elements of a complex scientific, historical, and sociological phenomenon deployed as a weapon between nation-state actors that drives predictable and pathologically antisocial behavior among civilian populations for geostrategic ends. Taken altogether, such a psychological warfare technique may only reasonably be deemed “mind control.”