Wednesday morning, Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, stated that the media’s job is to control people’s thoughts. Her statement came during a discussion with Joe Scarborough and guest Yamiche Alcindor on Trump’s updated immigration ban.

Referring to  the White House’s ongoing war against the media, Brzezinski expressed concerns that if the economy goes downhill, people would start putting more credence in Trump’s statements than the media. She said, “It could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think…and that is our job.”

Considering that Brzezinski has largely espoused more liberal and Progressive views (such as empowerment of women in the workplace) and banned “fake journalist” Kellyanne Conway from appearing on the show, this Orwellian statement comes as a shocker.

It is no secret that Trump has great contempt for reporters, belittling the press while attempting to bypass the media and present  “alternative facts” directly to the public at every turn. Nor should come as any surprise that members of the mainstream press are very upset about this state of affairs, or that Trump’s die-hard supporters would come to trust their President more than the media. But thought control?

Seriously, Mika?

The concept of using mass communication as a way to indoctrinate and shape public perception is not new; arguably, the “Holy Inquisition” of the Middle Ages was a form of mind control. What is frightening, however is that the advent of electronic media has taken it to a new level. One of the earliest examples of media mind control in modern times was the result of an accident.

On Halloween night of 1938, Mercury Radio Theater presented Orson Welles’ now famous adaptation of War of the Worlds. That broadcast was presented as if it were actually a breaking news story. It was so realistic that as many as one million listeners across the nation who had tuned into the program late were sent into a panic, actually believing that Earth was being invaded by Martians.

Shortly afterward, a prominent psychologist named Hadley Cantril (1906-1969) studied the effects of that broadcast. In 1940, he published his findings in a book titled The Invasion From Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic. Cantril examined the War of the Worlds broadcast in context of global events of the time (it was the eve of World War II and the country was still in the throes of the Great Depression) as well as how fear inhibited people’s ability to think critically. Later on, Cantril founded the Institute for International Social Research, and worked closely with the federal government in the study of how “opinion polls” could actually be used to shape public perceptions.

Fast forward to the early 21st Century and the Internet Age. Consider how many news stories in the mainstream media are presented in ways that provoke fear and incite anger and outrage. Also consider the “dumbing down” of American society over the past generation, even to the point that critical thinking is discouraged – and how quickly news stories, both real and fake, are disseminated today.

It appears that Mika Brzezinski’s slip was an acknowledgment of what the mainstream corporate media has been doing all along. Thanks, Mika – for letting us know so we can be on our guard going forward.

K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.