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So I decided to write a book about the war. I spent two years taking a look at many different styles of coercion, their histories, and how these techniques have been retooled for modern times. I concluded that most of them are based on a simple phenomenon known as regression and transference. It's used in a positive way by therapists, and a dangerous way by salespeople and marketers. Basically, if people can be made to feel disoriented or helpless, they will seek out someone to act as a parent. When people are confused, they want parents who can tell them what to do, and reassure them. Once you create a situation where people feel that they can trust you, that you understand them, that you'll take care of them, or that you'll lead them, they will submit.

The other main set of techniques that are being used in coercion today are taken from neurolinguistic programming. They are really just simple hypnosis techniques, like Milton Erickson's "pacing and leading." If you're sitting in a room with someone, what you would do is subtly assume the same position as your target, and adopt some of the same breathing and speech patterns — that's pacing. Then, amazingly, you can slowly lead the person by changing your posture, breathing rate, or speech pattern. You're subject will change his posture too, to conform to yours. Then you begin to work on his thinking, as well.

This same technique plays itself out in the sales world through the sciences of demographics and target marketing. You pace your target market ­ listen to the language of it, "target market" — it's a war metaphor. If you're in the target market you are in the cross hairs of marketer's rifle! To pace the target demographic, the marketer studies buying motives and propensities through focus groups, then creates messages that perfectly reflect their existing emotional states. Marketers pace our behaviors and feelings in order to lead us where they want us to go.

When this process gets automated through a technology like the World Wide Web, watch out. An e-commerce site watches and records each user's interactions with it. What screens did the user look at and in what order? Where did he click? When did he buy? Did he buy when the background was red or blue? Did he buy when the offer was in the top left or the top right? And the computer can then dynamically reconfigure itself to make a Web site that identifies and then paces each individual exactly. Meanwhile, the user thinks he's "just doing it."

Once the customer is properly paced, then you work on leading the person towards a greater frequency of purchases, greater allegiance. So-called sticky Web sites are really just trying to create an inexorable pull on the user towards greater and greater interaction with and loyalty to the particular brand being offered. The user is a fly, and the branded website is the flypaper.