Getting Votes Through Hypnosis
Political campaigns are notorious for accusations about opposing candidates. More than one politician has accused the opposing candidate of brainwashing his or her supporters. As far as we have been able to determine, only one candidate openly admitted to trying to exercise mind control over his own political base.
The 1978 election for Governor of the state of Georgia found Nick Belluso seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party. He prepared a television commercial, but it was so controversial that he had difficulty getting stations to run it.
Why was it so controversial? The candidate did not make disparaging remarks about his opponents. He didn’t invoke racial slurs. There was no use of profanity. Even so, every television station except one declined to run the ad.
The commercial began with Belluso saying, “This is Nick Belluso. In the next ten seconds, you will be hit with a tremendously hypnotic force. You may wish to turn away. Without further ado let me introduce to you the hypnogenecist of mass hypnosis, the Reverend James G. Masters. Take us away, James.”
Those few who watched the ad saw their screens fill with the image of a man in costume, sitting behind mist created by buckets of dry ice. He stared into the camera and said, “Do not be afraid. I am placing the name of Nick Belluso in your subconscious mind. You will remember this. You will vote on Election Day. You will vote Nick Belluso for governor. You will remember this. You will vote on Election Day. You will vote Nick Belluso for governor.”
News story from WDEF television, containing most of Belluso’s hypnosis campaign advertisement.
Belluso later claimed that the hypnosis aspect was a prank, used to illustrate a point. “Who knows what hypnosis is,” said Belluso. “We’re all mesmerized in some or another anyway. The politicians have been hypnotizing people for years; I’m just a little more honest about it.”
The world may never know whether the hypnotist would have had any real effect on the election. Only one station, WATU in Augusta, Georgia, ran the ad. All others declined, citing liability concerns.
“There is a fear that if they are hypnotized, they may not wake up in the period of time that they should wake back up,” said Jeff Davidson, president of Atlanta television station WXIA.
Sidney Pike, representing another Atlanta station, WTCG, added an additional concern that viewers might be hypnotized without knowing it. Others might get in an automobile accident after watching the ad and claim they were hypnotized when they really weren’t.
Viewers in Augusta were the only ones who saw the ad as planned. None reported any ill effects, but that may only speak to the power of the hypnotic effect.
If any of Augusta’s voters were successfully hypnotized, the effect was insufficient to change the outcome of the election. Even with Belluso’s claim that he was endorsed by “The Force,” he finished 5th in the Democratic primary.
The candidate was not put off from politics as a result of his failure, however. Two years later, he ran for President of the United States.
SPOILER ALERT: He didn’t win.