Money is power. Making people believe what you say is power. Power is having a substantial influence in politics. Mass media has an immense power. So does social media. Knowledge is power. Religion is power. Language is power.
How to make lots of people believe what you got to say? First of all, play on their fears. And create a sense of purpose in their lives. Show them how to live their lives as people hate uncertainty and are eager for advice on how to live their lives. Make them feel like they’re part of a community. Pretty much every human wants to feel like they’re part of a community. Some people go to greater extents than others for this. Involuntary loneliness is awful. Play on people’s biases, confirm their beliefs. Make them feel special and unique. For example organised religion does all of this.
Is there any way to avoid external influence? You can never be free of external influence. The first step to gain a sharp critical thinking is to read about hereditary bias, confirmation bias and other biases. Another concrete tip is to learn how to assess the credibility of sources and learn statistics. Some researchers abuse their PhD title in their field to gain credibility in other fields even though most of the time, they know as much as a layman in all fields outside of their expertise. Learn for example the difference between randomised and non-randomised studies. Learn how to interpret diagrams as often statistics are used to boost a claim. The third concrete tip I can offer is to think every now and then about the subject critical thinking. The fourth concrete tip I can offer is to don’t ever follow anyone blindly. Don’t give up your critical thinking because a leader is good-looking, says what you want to hear etc even if it’s highly tempting.
Fallacious thinking is pretty common. It’s an eternal question whether you can trust your intuition or not. Question is also whether you can trust your rational thinking or not. Hint: you’re probably not nearly rational as you think.
Moreover, when should you be sceptical and when don’t you need to be sceptical? Knowledge is power in the sense that it considerably makes it easier to assess when you can trust your intuition or not for example. If you know a lot about for example physics, it’s way easier to trust your intuition in that subject than in a subject that you don’t know anything about.
However there is an uncertainty to most knowledge, more so in social sciences than the natural sciences. There’s an ambiguity that most humans seemingly tend to dislike but in my opinion it’s good that ambiguity exists. That’s how science progresses, by never being super sure. Even on theories that are vastly supported are still being tested.
To conclude, power and knowledge are intimately connected. If you know how humans function on a general level, know that almost all human beings hate uncertainty, have at least one fear and have a need to be a part of a community. Combine that with being good at rhetorics, it’s quite easy to manipulate people. However there are some general and concrete pieces of advice that can be used to sharpen your critical thinking and thereby decreasing the risk of falling for an authoritarian leader or a manipulative person.