Opening Minds: A Book Review

Richard Kelly’s review of Jon Atack’s new book

Jon Atack's new book "Opening Minds"opening minds: the secret world of manipulation, undue influence and brainwashing

How would I describe Jon Atack’s most recent book, Opening Minds:…?

I could start with “totally engaging, thought-provoking, damning, and scary as hell.” Then I would add “brimming with mind-boggling facts” and “expertly written.”

Jon’s writing style reminds me of my grandfather, who was a very caring, wise and gifted story teller. Yes, Jon is blessed with that rare talent, as a storyteller, of being able to delightfully grab and hold your full, undivided attention and light a fire in your belly at the same time.

“Wow! So what is Jon’s book all about?” you ask.

Opening Minds is a stirring wake-up call, a warning about the ease by which the human mind can be tricked into surrendering to subtle, uninvited, and unethical persuasion techniques. These are methods that can undermine even the most intelligent person’s critical thinking skills – ultimately reducing that person into unthinking compliance.

Jon makes a convincing case that “psychological manipulation”, “undue influence” and “brainwashing” – or whatever one chooses to call it, challenge the very notion of human rights. The use of undue influence by abusive individuals, authority figures, unscrupulous cults, high-control pseudo-religious groups and totalitarian organizations is growing at an alarming rate. Yet, the concept of “undue influence” remains a well-kept secret from both the media and the general public.


In his book, Jon explains that it is only by understanding the principles of “undue influence” that our modern societies can be made resistant to extremism. On that issue, he “delivers the goods.”

Jon does a masterful job of carefully and patiently explaining the process of “undue influence” and how it follows a predictable series of ten specific steps.

His compassionate – but alarming – story of “Omar’s” immersion and radicalization process into a terrorist cult is very powerful. It should convince even the skeptics of how easily a smart, scientifically educated and rational person can be transformed into a suicide bomber.

Jon’s chapter on how the mind works and what makes the mind susceptible to outside influence is ground-breaking. For example, these facts totally blew me away:

“If the unconscious mind is Mount Everest, then consciousness is about the size of a pebble on the top. The awareness or working memory is about two to three seconds in capacity. At most, it contains seven channels of information…”


He then goes on to explain how the subconscious can be manipulated by groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses, ISIS and Scientologists to foster a new identity – a pseudo-identity – within their victims.

I personally believe that to clearly identify a problem is half of the resolution process. Jon Atack achieves that objective by doing a superb job of explaining the sinister and pervasive problem of undue influence in today’s society.

Opening Minds: the secret world of manipulation, undue influence and brainwashing should be required reading for all concerned citizens around the world.


Opening Minds: A Book Review — 8 Comments

  1. Sounds like a great book – hope he sends it to mental health and governmental authorities who can help publicize how undue influence works!

  2. Darlene, I think that is what makes this book so good, as it will be very readable and understanding for the BIG non-JW world out there. I am hoping the book is a wake-up call for the general public to see how pervasive and sinister “unethical persuasion” is in the Jehovah’s Witness/Watchtower culture.

    • I think the phrase “unethical persuasion” is a very useful one since it reminds us of the importance of informed choice with which JWs in the main are not familiar.

  3. The book is good in exposing the dangers and harm in undue influence in any situation and by any and all parties. Working to get closer to arresting this global monster. What though is an alternative for former witnesses? What or who is offeering any dependable thinking, reasoning to direct our better lives now? Getting free from all the myths, stories, and controlling parties for profit and gain at the forfit of individual lives – great! What next?

    • “What or who is offeering any dependable thinking, reasoning to direct our better lives now?” We think and reason and find independence. Bettering your life is simply about working to become a person you admire. “What next?” You live life as a free thinker, as human beings are meant to. Go meet coworkers, neighbors, and classmates who are guaranteed to be more intelligent conversation than any Jehovah’s Witness. Go to college. Get a job. Join a band. The people you’re leaving behind are not friends if they aren’t supportive of your happiness. Love and friendship do not judge or cause shame.

      At twelve, I began asking questions of the religion. Love of math and science taught me to question even myself. The elders’ and other congregation members’ replies were vague and dismissive. However, a good student doesn’t study from one source. The Carnegie Library awaited, where I answered my own questions. Books gave me God, religion, philosophy, and the ancient history of it all. It was soon clear that the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses is completely irrational and in no way supported by the Bible. I left at eighteen years old, as soon as I was legally able without being reported as a runaway. I studied engineering, traveled extensively, and have been in several alternative music bands.

      You aren’t walking away from your life. You’re walking towards it.

  4. Elmay, for many ex-JWs, finding a competent therapist who understands “undue influence” and its toxicity is the first step. Bonnie Zieman, in her book, gives many tips on how to find a good therapist and when one does, how to find and connect with your authentic identity.

  5. Richard, I have been reading the rwritings of many very good and experienced therapist and of former wise people and they have been helpful “to find and connect with my authentic identity” which continues to grow as I find verification of true nature of self and how life now could and should be for humanity and consideration for ALL LIFE NOW.
    Wondering where the people are who are searching and finding a reality of tolerance and base of thinking, reasoning and conduct not found in relilgion, politics, etc. that would benefit the whole brotherhood/sisterhood of humanity.
    I find sporatic issues such as GOD without religion -universal, yet, diverse faiths that could, if applied result in NO more war but mutual honesty, truth, in thought, desires, conduct bringing harmony to the world of humankind. No more need in rehashing the evils of the history of humanity and the present wickedness and irresponsibility forced on peace due to self control rather than having to contend and suffer with the undue influences of the few upon the many.
    Thank you so much for considering my question-I say I am beyond the Bible. Life continues to change except the evils, and wicked are still mislead and misleading. Let’s make “Friends of enemies” not destroy but build up.

  6. Comment: i m urgently looking for supporting my resistance of influence and social abusing from agressive manipulative j.witness .please dont delay . agresive person- Eva Jusiak , persons resisting – me and my daughter . details after contact . uk london tel. 07484646464 , 020 8590 3827 .
    talking with Wlad Kioshi Nowak only ,pls !

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