The best manipulators are charlatans. I define charlatans as fraudsters with the unique ability of being able to fool themselves.
Regular fraudsters envision how their victims could be fooled by appearances. They know they are lying, but do it anyway. They are aware they are being dishonest. It’s all about keeping up with appearances.
Charlatans go one step further : they are masters in the art of self-deception. It comes to them naturally. The delimitation between honesty and dishonesty becomes so blurry that lying to their victims doesn’t feel like a reprehensible act anymore, but a virtue. It’s all about repressing doubts until they turn into a feeling of righteousness. The theological term for that transmutation is “faith”.
Both types of fraudsters ―the consciously and subconsciously dishonest ones― enjoy condescension immensely. It’s their primary gain. Being able to manipulate others makes them feel superior and justifies their dishonesty. They compensate by blaming their victims. And, when their victims rebel, they find other means of belittling them; ironically, often by vilifying them. Or, by carrying out threats of ostracism. And, in most severe cases, by killing those that refuse to volunteer as victims-perpetrators.
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” ―Matthew 20:16
Religion is such a powerful self-perpetuating meme because, just like in a pyramid scheme, the swindled are also the swindlers. Adult perpetrators are mostly victims of childhood indoctrination. Despair is the recruitment hook for others. Imaginary benefits, like eternal bliss and denial of death, are the selling points to close the deal. The greed that blinds the mark. Condescension is the immediate payoff for participating in the scam. Wanting more power is the motivation for climbing in the hierarchy; it confers, among other advantages, impunity.
–Max Moore, via Facebook, November 16, 2014