Tag Archives: Manipulation

The Formula for Brainwashing and Manipulation

Picture via UCreative.com

Yes, after so many posts complaining about how people are manipulated, I’m going to give the actual process that’s being used… by damned near everyone. The basic formula has been used by cult leaders, the Nazis, etc… all the way down to the modern media and political parties on ALL sides. Once I explain the pattern for you, if you truly look with an open mind, you’ll see it used everywhere.

It’s been a while since I mentioned it, so just to establish my “credentials” here, (as it were), I’ve had a decades long interest in the fields of human behavior, hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming, etc… While I’m not a professional, I am very well read on the subjects.

The Actual Four Step Formula:

First, let me say this is a fairly basic formula. There’s ways to add to it via things like body language, faked evidence, quoting (or misquoting) experts or otherwise respected people, hypnotic language and other “slight of mouth” tricks, etc…

  1. Allow Your Voice to Go Up and Down; Modulate Your Tonality and Volume.

Seem silly? Anyone who has attended a single public speaking class will tell you that a speaker’s voice is what leads an audience down a path. In clinical hypnotherapy, a calm monotone will lull a person into a relaxed state and make them more susceptible to the hypnotist’s words. In this case, it’s a similar goal with opposite means. The speaker wants to captivate the audience and play on their emotions. The more the audience is led through emotional highs and lows, the more wrapped up they’ll become. The more they’ll shut down their logical thinking too.

Note that this can be as subtle as the nuanced changes in tonality seen with newscasters and YouTube pundits, to as dramatic as a stereotypical Southern preacher’s sermon.

2. Tell a Happy or Sad Story to Knock Emotional Consciousness Off Balance

The classic political examples here are the hometown hero, or the poor victim of a natural disaster, poverty, etc… There’s a million ways to do this however, especially if the storyteller is crafty. The idea remains the same however; use the combination of verbal tonality and tone of the story to capture the target’s imagination and get them thinking on an emotional level.

3. Induce feelings of Guilt, Fear and/or Anger

Here’s where the real manipulation begins. The story leads down a path that creates negative emotions in the audience. There’s a problem; suffering of some sort, another group trying to harm the audience, etc…

Ever seen an ASPCA commercial? They are MASTERS at this part of the manipulation game:

Not only is there a bad problem, you’re clearly made to feel like a horrible human being who is allowing it to continue if you don’t give them money. Nevermind that the ASPCA is horrible at supporting local SPCA organizations and spends it’s money on other projects. That’s another post however.

That video is Textbook manipulation though. While this is the most blatant example you’ll likely see, other examples exist everywhere you look. Those liberals are out to steal everything you own and destroy your way of life. Those conservatives want you kept in chains and to starve to death in the gutter. That other race is the cause of all your problems and they’re ALL alike.

Yes, the VAST majority of it all nowadays is divide and conquer. If you’re focused on the evil of that other group, you’re not paying attention to the game in front of you. Even worse, as we frequently see in politics, the same evil the other side is doing is excused when it’s “our” group. It wasn’t the same situation, or it was a frame up, etc…

So, now that you’ve got the group all whipped into a frenzy and feeling bad about something, what do you do?

4. Offer Them a Way Out

Here’s where control gets locked in, and you create an action or desired result. Now you simply give the group a solution that will lead them to a better life. Lots of examples here; Drink the Kool-Aid and the aliens will take your spirit to a better world ala Jonestown cult. Yes, younglings, that’s where the phrase “drinking the kool-aid” came from.

On the more extreme end of things, there’s the frenzy that numerous dictators have whipped populations into. Everything from Hitler’s speeches capitalizing on the German peoples’ misery to communist leaders like Lenin and Mao, on down to banana republic dictators.

Make no mistake though, it’s everywhere. Newscasts that subtly imply that something happened because of this group or that… Hell, it’s not even subtle in the case of COVID (for example). Depending upon who you listen to, the entire planet is going to die or suffer forever, OR we’re all going to end up in chains because we’re asked to wear a mask. It’s even the basic pattern for commercials. Their basic message is always the same; you’re currently somehow less than ideal, BUT the solution is OUR product. It will make you a success at work, popular, the dream of every member of the opposite sex, etc…

And there you have it. That is the basic, bare bones outline of how everyone from cult leaders to advertisers and the news media manipulates people. As I mentioned before, there are numerous ways to add onto the basic framework. With emotional or physical torture, for example, giving in to what the torturer wants and accepting their words that somebody else is responsible for the torture (ie your allies that abandoned you) is the offered way out. What Palpatine put Anakin through in the Star Wars prequels is a perfect example of this kind of emotional torture scenario.

One LAST Twist However:

A quick addenda here that deserves mention. There’s a PARTIAL truth passed around the psychological and hypnosis communities. That being that you can’t get a person to do something that’s against their will or inherent nature. I say it’s a partial truth because the truly scary elements of both those communities figured out a way around it a long time ago. NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) calls it reframing. 20 years ago political pundits called it spinning.

Simply put, all you have to do to get a good person to do something incredibly evil is convince them it’s actually a good thing. Let’s take something along the lines of an old movie plot where a husband is hypnotized into killing his wife. Not possible according to some. However, if the husband were hypnotized to believe she’s really a burglar breaking into the house with intent to kill him (instead of his wife)… then he very well might kill her.

That’s an extreme example simply to provide clarity on what reframing is. You’re far more likely to encounter reframing in the form of something being presented as a necessary evil for the greater good, the ends justifying the means, or something balancing out another wrong of some sort. Reframing is everywhere nowadays also, and is a frequent part of this whole manipulation pattern. Everything from politics to a guy at a club trying to reframe a girl’s initial negative reaction to him.

How to See Past It All:

image via salesman.org Ironically part of an article on how great salesmen persuade, not manipulate… ignoring that persuasion is indeed manipulation.

There’s a ton of books out there on seeing through and overcoming manipulation. Let me give you a few basic tips however.

FIRST: is probably the most cynical, yet valuable piece of advice I ever got. My old High School sociology teacher told the class to always assume somebody is lying, and then ask ourselves what they get out of that lie. The reasons here can be as numerous as there are people. Breaking up a couple to take a partner away, selling a product, gaining personal or political power, etc… That last part includes network ratings AND YouTube followers by the way.

Again, this IS a fairly cynical approach to life. My personal twist on that advice is to ask “COULD they be lying and what might they gain?”. That applies mostly to strangers, but even with friends, etc… you should ask yourself if they got bad information or are otherwise being misled.

SECOND: Actively look for the emotional manipulation. Is what you’re being told making you feel a certain way that you weren’t before? Is it playing on existing feelings? Is it being implied or outright stated that those feelings are the fault of someone or something else?

If you’re looking for it and are aware of it, you’ll see it for what it is and be FAR less likely to be controlled by it. Fear and loathing are POWERFUL motivators. They’re also widely used tools nowadays.

THIRD: Apply logic and look for supporting evidence. This is where the YouTube crowd fails even harder than the mainstream media (who is BAD anymore). Show me proof of something; actual PHYSICAL EVIDENCE that amounts to more than hearsay quoting of somebody who knows somebody who saw something. “Everybody knows” is not proof either, it’s manipulation.

Basic logic (sadly) seems to be tricky for most people nowadays. I don’t have enough blog space to try to teach common sense either. If you follow the second piece of advice however, it’s FAR easier to apply critical thinking to a situation.

Let me also say this much; beware of quantum leaps in logic. For example, just because politicians are corrupt and power hungry does NOT mean they’re all also lizard people from outer space. Take the time to rationally digest what you’re being told and analyze it. That above example is a great example of escalation of control.

FOURTH: Set ego aside when assessing things. That includes group identity think also. Just because somebody wants you to wear a mask doesn’t mean they’re trying to enslave you. just because somebody is NOT wearing a mask doesn’t mean they’re trying to kill you. Both of those examples are unsubstantiated jumps in reasoning based on fear and ego. Or, as they used to say in the old lawyer TV shows; “assumes facts not in evidence”.

Long story short: You’re not perfect, neither is any group you identify with. Likewise any group you disagree with is NOT all evil either. Every group has good and bad elements within it. That’s just human nature.

I hope that helps and enlightens those who actually read through the article. 🙂

If you found it at all moving, feel free to repost with credit given to me. This is one of those things that I’d REALLY like to see become widespread knowledge.

Stupid Story of the Day:

I was hoping to stay away from politics and the virus today, but… ABC just had to work my last good nerve.

HEADLINE: Health care workers fear losing their jobs during coronavirus pandemic.

We’re expected to believe that during a global pandemic of “epic proportions”, that small and rural hospitals are laying 43,000 people off in order to focus exclusively on emergency room treatment of patients, per the story.

“This may seem counterintuitive as we read daily of health care providers caring for COVID-19 patients stretched to capacity, but other types of health services have been shutting down like the rest of the service economy. This month’s losses were concentrated in ambulatory care settings, including physician offices, dental offices, and offices of other practitioners. As non-essential visits were cancelled, and states began ordering social distancing, such offices were closed. Even telemedicine visits, directly linking providers to patients, reduce the use of support staff.”

Here’s why I’m calling BS:

1) Rural areas, despite all the false stories of them struggling to cope, have seen minimal intrusion by the coronavirus. Everywhere you look, it’s URBAN areas with dense concentrations of people that are getting hit the hardest. New York City being the poster child there; high population, EXTREMELY crowded and it’s an international city. Placerville CA, by contrast (with a population of roughly 11,000) hasn’t seen a single case at all.

2) “Ambulatory Care” is walk-in type services. Nothing in that definition implies non-essential. Dentists are walk-in and while many are putting routine teeth cleaning visits on hold, they’re certainly still seeing people for impacted wisdom teeth, chipped or knocked out teeth, cavities, etc… Same is true with all other non-ER medical treatment. It’s only the completely routine and preventative stuff that’s being delayed.

3) Any place where the coronavirus IS an issue, personnel are getting shuffled around to other departments to help deal with it. Doing something to care for patients, (with the virus or otherwise), in some way. Even if it’s just running supplies and records back and forth.

4) It flies completely in face of the constant barrage of stories about there not being enough health care workers to deal with this “crisis”.

5) Why is this supposedly only happening in small and rural hospitals, not urban ones? Again, this sounds simply like bias against the deplorable, smelly Walmart shoppers who vote conservative.

You just don’t furlough health care workers in the middle of a pandemic UNLESS they’re in a completely non-helpful role, such as the gift shop AND / OR they are NOT willing to come in and help for fear of the virus. That IS happening with a few health care workers too. One of my fellow bloggies here was forced to make that decision and opted to stay home. I can’t judge her either because I don’t have a small child to think about as a factor to such a decision. She does.

WHAT’S NOT SAID IN THE STORY:

Even if we assume this story IS true at all, let’s consider a couple of key facts that were left out. Can’t put in important details if you’re trying to create blind panic for ratings, right?

1) What jobs these people have. I’d seriously bet that none of the furloughed people are actually doctors, or nurses. Hell, even janitors are needed to clean and sterilize areas.

2) How many of these “lost jobs” are people that were just too afraid to come to work thanks to the media-created hysteria. There’s a HUGE difference between that and a hospital saying “we just don’t need you now”. As a side note, I’d imagine a few of them are even normal retirements.

3) That, per the CDC, there are a total of 18,000,000 (18 million) health care workers in the United States. Now, for those who aren’t willing to do the math themselves, that means that the 43,000 “lost” jobs, if they’re real at all, amount to .24% (a hair less than one quarter of one percent OR 1 in 400) of the total heath care workforce.

Is ANYBODY out there starting to see just how far the Media will go to exploit a crisis and outright hurt people for the sake of ratings?

Let the flogging begin!

By the way… ABC’s parent company is Disney. THIS kind of manipulative, shoddy reporting is what your money spent on Disney stuff goes to support.

I’m Cheating Today

Such a vague sentence with so many potential meanings, LOL. Today is supposed to be Writing related Thursdays here at the blog. Due to having so much to do and only a week(ish) before the movers show up, I’m going to cheat regarding the theme, and shortcut my writing load.

Instead of my own post, I’m going to recommend another blog out there. I follow several well crafted blogs on the various aspects of writing. THIS one focuses on the manipulative use of language though. Most readers know this is an area of particular interest to me, primarily because I see the damage it’s doing to society.

Todd Garrington’s blog focuses primarily on the manipulative wording and messages of advertising. He does a great job of analyzing the messages used to promote conspicuous consumption.

If you really want to become more aware of what you’re REALLY being told in that ad or commercial, give his blog a look. You may come away a little more cynical but you’ll certainly come away smarter and more aware.

Todd Garrington’s Blog

A Case Study in The Abuse of Statistics

I was asked about the recent “record number or CEOs quitting” conspiracy theory, so I’m doing a post on it. Primarily because a little research shows how this is cherry picking data and a complete abuse of statistical data.

I hope all of you will pay close attention to this post. The analysis I give here can be used to punch through the complete BS that’s thrown around so much of the internet nowadays. As tough as I was on the media yesterday, they look like paragons of virtue and honesty compared to social media, Reddit and the fringe “media”.

OK so the latest conspiracy theory is that CEOs have stepped down in record numbers the last year, and the pace has been increasing since the start of the year. This is ABSOLUTE PROOF to the delusional that the CEOs were all part of a vast conspiracy of the evil rich to kill off the great unwashed.

THE BASIC FIGURES:

The only figures I saw thrown around a few articles were the base numbers for last year and this year. We hit 1480 resignations last year, and had 219 just in January this year. Apparently no stats yet beyond January. Both are RECORD HIGHS!!!

THE ACTUAL BAR GRAPH SHOWING THE TREND:

Here’s the information that’s NOT being said. The case quickly falls apart if it was shared as part of the story:

As you can see from the tweet, the info wasn’t tracked at all till 2002. While the last couple of years DO show a spike, they’re not THAT far out of line with previous years. 2005 through 2007 in particular came fairly close.

NUMBERS IN A VACUUM:

The biggest abuse of statistics is that people will quote a statistic completely on it’s own; ‘in a vacuum”. That’s ALMOST never accurate, and is usually accompanied by the infamous “everybody knows” as a substitute for facts.

“Everybody knows” is actually just an effort to get people to avoid critical thinking, and an almost guaranteed sign that what you’re hearing or reading is complete bullshit.

For statistics to have any meaning, they have to be looked at in terms of what may be impacting the numbers. Let’s look at the possible influences that were NOT discussed relating to this issue in any article I saw:

1 Has the number of corporations grown in equal proportion? If the percentage has stayed the same even though the number has gone up, the only thing that’s changed is the number of players in the game (so to speak). IF there’s an even higher proportion of corporations, then the percentage of CEOs “quitting” would have actually gone down.

2 Have these CEOs truly “retired” or have they just jumped ship or shifted to an advisory role? Job hopping has become both trendy and big business (pardon the pun) for corporate executives, just like it has for professional athletes. Cash in a severance package, jump to another company for a better package and even higher pay. Rinse, wash repeat in a few years. It’s all about the game here for some executives.

Until you have meaningful statistics about who has both truly retired AND also run for the hills, there’s absolutely NO rational way to establish a link between CEOs resigning and some sort of global conspiracy regarding the pandemic.

3 What are the ages of the CEOs retiring? There’s likely a huge difference in motivation for a 70 year old CEO retiring and a 30 year old one doing so.

4 How many of those retirements were due to the company being eaten up by a larger one? It’s a legitimate factor in the numbers, especially with companies like Disney, Google and Amazon gobbling up more and more companies out there.

5 How many CEOs retired due to real health issues?

6 How many CEOs retired due to personal or corporate scandals?

7 How many had specific clauses in their contracts that made it a benefit for them to retire recently. 2020 is a nice round number to use as a deadline for receiving stock bonuses, etc…

8 How many simply had their contract expire this year?

Are you readers getting the idea here? 🙂 It’s only when you can show both a pattern of increase AND a proven pattern of causes after accounting for all potential influences that you’re close to the truth.

Let’s shoot down one specific example used as proof in the stories; Bill Gates. He’s got more money than God so he HAS to be part of some now proven conspiracy!!

Reality: The man is 64 years old. He’s been running Microsoft for almost 40 years. He stepped down as Chairman years ago already, signaling he was transitioning towards retirement. He’s also heavily involved with the charity he started and been saying for years he wants more free time with his family.

I’d say there’s also an unspoken likelihood that given his age, etc… he’s possibly feeling a little overwhelmed by all the latest advances in technology and realizes the company might be better off in younger, more innovative hands as well.

Vast evil conspiracy or just an aging man wanting to finally take it easier?

CONSPIRACY THEORIES IN GENERAL:

So, as you see, what we have here is a conspiracy that looks good at first glance, but quickly falls apart under any real analysis. The same is true of most conspiracies really. My opinion is that even in most legitimate cases, the “conspiracy” isn’t some cabal that sets in motion dastardly deeds. They simply make sure to exploit and capitalize on the situations once they occur. Remember my Rahm Emanuel quote a few days ago?

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” – Rahm Emanuel

Once again, “could not do before” really means couldn’t get away with before. He’s recently reprised that saying also as he makes the rounds on TV trying to exploit the coronavirus situation to make himself relevant again.

I could further point out that a good way to potentially hide a legitimate conspiracy is to bury information about it under layers of complete crap that’s supposedly connected to the conspiracy. …At least until the whole diversion tactic reaches a critical mass. I think we’re at that point too. People see conspiracy theories in their breakfast anymore.

CONCLUSION:

So there you have it. As my college statistics teacher pointed out; “Numbers don’t lie; people do”. Sometimes it’s out of ignorance and lack of analytical skills. Sometimes their personal biases and need to blame others blinds them. Sometimes people just try to blatantly manipulate others with partial truths.

Knowledge and critical thinking skills are the only defense against it all. We live in a world of unprecedented access to information. Unfortunately the vast majority of it is tainted or outright false. Without a basic understanding of the kind of analysis I put forth here, you’re doomed to be led around by the nose by people manipulating you for their own gain.

Beware Media Hysteria & Manipulation

It’s Tuesday! Time to take out the trash again. LOL

The coronavirus mess has done a lot to highlight media sensationalism and manipulation IF you’re paying attention and looking for facts. I’ve gone over the statistics in recent blog posts. This virus should be taken seriously. Sheltering in place and social distancing is a good idea. Is it the end of the world though? No.

If you paid attention to most media outlets, either we’re all going to die and it’s going to be worse than the Spanish Flu of 1918, OR we should all go out and lick shopping carts because it’s a hoax.

Ironic that the last proponent of “it’s all a fraud” that I heard was Rand Paul. He was on the radio a little under a week ago howling that it was all just an attack on civil liberties. No word on if he’s changed his tune since coming down with the virus. O_o

On the hysteria side, the best example I’ve seen was media sources quoting Emily Landon, MD, Executive Director Infection Prevention and Control, University of Chicago Medical Center in saying this was the Spanish Flu of 1918 all over again.

She (and the media quoting her) completely neglect to mention that the Spanish Flu killed somewhere between 17 and 50 million people. Some say as many as 100 million. She also fails to mention that the Spanish Flu was much more dangerous to younger people with stronger immune systems than COVID-19 is. There were also other secondary factors like areas still physically recovering from World War 1 getting hit extra hard.

As of today, we have 18,605 total deaths worldwide, 2091 just today. That’s enough to merit taking this seriously. It’s a FAR cry from 50 million people in a year though.

Here’s the thing with the shelter in place and other measures we’re all being advised to follow: If they work properly, it’s going to look like they were never needed, or at least were a big overreaction.

Stay calm, realize this will pass, and take anything the media EVER tells you with a grain of salt. Be skeptical. The media thrives on creating fear and anger.

So, let’s look at some of their more common tricks:

“Expert” Opinions:

The two examples above illustrate that the media will ALWAYS be able to find an “expert” to back up whatever opinion they have. Rand Paul and Emily Langston are both doctors, but have COMPLETELY opposite views on this mess. Why? Personal motivations.

Rand Paul was raised by his father to be a huge civil liberties guy. Normally we could use more of them too. Sometimes, common sense has to balance civil liberties with social good.

Emily Langston runs the Infectious Disease Center at the University of Chicago. A) the more noise she makes about this, the more money her center will get from the government and private donors. B) Given her role, she probably sees every new outbreak in terms of an absolute worst case scenario.

“Experts” almost always run off of motivated self interest before anything else. Another example from this pandemic is that it’s being reported that the CDC was actually downplaying how dangerous this outbreak was at the beginning. They supposedly got blindsided by it and didn’t want to look ignorant. I’ve only heard a few unconfirmed reports here, but if true it explains where the White House and others were getting bad info from.

Just hit a search engine if you want to see how many times the CDC has dropped the ball before. Anybody recall they were all for e-cigarettes as a healthy alternative to smoking when that first started?

Partial Truths:

Keep in mind that no matter how bad any media outlet spins a story, there’s always going to be just enough truth to avoid having to admit they bald faced lied. What do I mean?

OK, let’s say there’s a news story about some EVIL person swooping into the local store and buying up their entire inventory of toilet paper. The story takes on a whole different light if that “entire inventory” was the last package they had, doesn’t it? Technically they reported accurately BUT would they have given a true picture in that scenario? I’ve seen the media go this far in other cases to create ratings. I always ask what I’m NOT being told anymore.

Half Quotes:

Another favorite tactic of the media. Politicians on both sides either benefit or suffer from the tactic’s use. It all depends on who is doing the reporting on whom. Reagan used to get misquoted by the media all the time regarding his proposed shutting down the Department of Education. They’d report that he wanted children to suffer. They ignored that what he actually proposed was sending the funding directly to the states instead, believing people closer to the issues knew better how to spend the money than bureaucrats in Washington DC.

Leaving Out Key Facts:

There’s no test kits and medical supplies!!! How often have you heard THAT exaggeration in the news? Well, they’re ALL manufactured in CHINA, right down to every antibiotic that’s sold in the US. Anybody see a problem here? Anybody hear that fact reported, or is it all blaming the government and evil corporations?

Manipulative and Misleading Language:

I’ll finish this up with this one last major tactic. The media, politicians, corporations and PR firms, and some of the more manipulative individuals out there all pull this trick. Manipulative language is everywhere

One story on MSN’s home page talked about how the number of deaths from COVID-19 *SOARED* in the US. It sounds so dramatic doesn’t it? Virus spreading everywhere, no one is safe! If you look at the numbers though, we’re at 600 deaths nationwide. In a population of 330 million, that’s a pretty damned small number.

Again, let’s follow the advice out there and keep that number small. Be kind to your fellow bloggers and human beings too. Even when you know the facts, this is still a kind of scary situation.

BOTTOM LINE:

Be skeptical of anything the media tells you. Displaying personal bias and social engineering are seen as good things in the media today. Strong negative emotions = strong ratings also. No single source is going to get it all correct. It’s not enough to go to a source with a similar outlook also. If you like CNN, you’re only going to get the same info at MSNBC. You have to go to TownHall.com or Fox. The same is true of you flip the coin. Fox and talk radio slant the truth also. I catch them regularly. You have to look at and fact check both sides to find the more complete truth in the middle.

And for the love of humanity, DO NOT get your news from late night comedians or social media! Talk about fountains of misinformation and hysteria…

A Quick Impeachment Addenda…

I was TRYING (and failing, lol) to keep the post on impeachment from getting too long. I forgot to add my final point as a result:

If you wanted to keep milking the cash cow of contributions, and keep playing the divide and conquer game with the public, could you possibly ever come up with a better way than the current infantile behavior both sides are displaying?

“I’m not turning over the articles of impeachment until I’m happy with the planned trial.”

“You don’t control the Senate, quit over-stepping your bounds.”

It’s all just enough to keep the mindless followers out for blood. Both get to throw tantrums and claim the other is endangering democracy. They can potentially keep this up all the way past the 2020 election, God help us.

Ironically, they’re both right about being a threat to democracy.

As for the answer… Richard Pryor had it right:

Weaponizing Fear and Loathing

Riddle me this: What’s the fastest two ways to get people to abandon all reason and often their freedoms as well? Answer: create panic and stir hatred.

For those who didn’t guess, this is another post inspired by my frustration with seeing so many “End of the World” stories, posts and rants in the media and other blogs. My opening premise is absolutely true also. If you get people scared enough about something, they’ll do anything they’re told is a fix, and attack or shun anybody who disagrees. It’s how the Nazis took power in Germany, and it’s a tactic seen almost everywhere in politics and social issues nowadays.

I wish I had the energy to go on the major tirade this deserves. God knows I could spend all day verbally tearing up the extreme left, the extreme right, the environmental movement and other social justice causes. Maybe I will in future individual posts also.

The bad part is that most of the social causes I agree with in principle. It’s the extreme they’re taken to and the lies told to advance them that annoy me AND ultimately hurt their cause. The extreme elements of the environmental movement have been saying life is going to end in 10 years for 30 years. The updated science is always better though.

That kind of exaggeration only hurts a VERY important cause. There are several serious issues related to the environment that deserve attention. Lies only hurt the cause. They give nay sayers ammunition and they make some believers feel overwhelmed and like nothing they do could make a difference either.

I picked on the environmental movement here even though that wasn’t my original plan. There are plenty of other groups out there that deserve a kick in the rear also. I’d be here forever though. With that in mind, let me try to get to the bigger point here.

If your cause is using scare tactics and stirring up hate to get people to act, you should question the cause’s leadership and methods at the least. The cause has given up the moral high ground at that point. You should also thoroughly question the “facts” you’re being told at that point. At best they’re going to be half truths spun for a secondary purpose (like somebody’s personal power and wealth).

Beware of anybody who says they have all the answers and they’re the only ones who can fix all your problems. If they tell you that anyone who disagrees is the enemy also, RUN! In the old days, we called that a cult. Nowadays, sowing fear, anger and division is just business as usual.

It will only stop when the silent majority finds it’s voice and says ENOUGH.

The Art of Persuasion Hasn’t Changed?!?

I’m writing this in response to an article I came across on the Harvard Business Review (HBR).  They sometimes have some good stuff, but I think this particular article was a little short sighted

The irony here is that the author is a Harvard professor in communications.  He had a point about the basics not changing since Aristotle.  His list of the five basics are:

  1. (Establishing) Character
  2. Reason
  3. Emotion
  4. Metaphor
  5. Brevity

The only one I could argue with is that I think establishing character is now often replaced with establishing some sort of (often imagined or exaggerated) expertise or credibility.  Morals don’t matter so long as you’re an expert, a victim or better yet both.

Re-reading the article, maybe it’s fairer to say that while I agree those key foundations haven’t changed much, I’ve seen a great deal of change in the nature of persuasion.

Misrepresentation and half truths have always been a tool of the unscrupulous.  Nothing new there.  I’m seeing them used FAR more often nowadays though.  The media and politicians on both sides do this constantly anymore, to the point I don’t believe anything they say without extensive fact checking.  There’s a HUGE difference between “unarmed man shot by police” and “unarmed man high on drugs shot by police while trying to wrestle gun away from officer”.  The former gets far more ratings than the latter though.

Combine that with sarcasm and you’ve got the play book for all the late night talk shows.  A far cry from the days of Carson.

As I mentioned in a reply to another blog, I also see deliberately vague communication being used much more frequently.  Typically with the goal of creating some sort of deniability on the speaker’s part if they’re called out on anything.  I miss the days when  “establishing Character” and speaking plainly yet in a civil manner was considered a virtue.

The biggest change in persuasion specifically that I’ve seen is the use of manipulative language.  Without getting into politics, let’s take another look at the news.  We’ve all heard the term “collusion” tossed about in excess the last few years.  It sounds horrible and it’s used to provoke a strong negative emotional reaction.  Yet, there’s no LEGAL basis for the term.  It was used in place of the proper criminal term of “conspiracy” because then the media and various other people can’t be sued or prosecuted for making false criminal charges.  The Left did it with Trump and the Right did it with Hillary.  That was just an easy and blatant example.  I’m not taking sides at all here either.  I think we all would have been better served by honest discussions about what may have been illegal and what may have been legal but was certainly bad form or outright immoral.  The lesson here remains to be aware of the manipulative use of language.

Persuasion has become far more of a science today also.  People know that if they can get a peer in a group to say something is good or bad, the rest of the group is much more likely to follow suit.  That’s the whole trick to selling Tupperware or Mary Kay.  I could go on for quite a while here, but there are dozens of websites devoted to revealing sales tricks like that, push-pull techniques, take aways and imagined scarcity, etc…

Probably the most insidious form of persuasion is Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP.  I’ve mentioned this a few times in previous posts.  NLP was first created in the late 70s with the goal of figuring out how the best in any given field do what they do and making it repeatable.  NLP quickly became focused on communication and persuasion, and borrows heavily from Ericksonian Hypnosis.  It’s used in everything from selling to seduction too.

To over simplify it, NLP persuasion (at it’s most basic levels) relies on subtle “hypnotic” commands and catch phrases to trick people into thinking they want to do or not do something.

For example; “what was it like when you…” will get a person to recall a specific experience.  Anything from sex to the first time they saw and fell in love with their dream car.  Don’t believe me?  Ask yourself about something that way and see if your mind doesn’t begin recalling that experience.

There are dozens of phrases like that also.  “What would it be like if…” for example.  The whole idea being to capture and lead the target’s imagination toward a desired result.  There are other tricks used along with those phrases, such as the human mind’s inability to process a negative.  Phrase anything as a “don’t want to” and the other person’s subconscious will process it as a “want to”.  Which sounds more sincere?  “I don’t want to have sex.” or “I just want to cuddle and relax.”

It’s not necessary for you to immediately realize just how twisted this can get.  If you think about it though, you might find yourself aware of just how great the potential for abuse here is.  😉

Presuppositions are another NLP trick used by nearly everyone today.  A presupposition is something stated as fact and used as a premise for an argument / persuasion attempt.  Let’s avoid politics and the media for this example.  If I said “It’s going to rain today, so you should take your umbrella.”, the presupposition there is that it is indeed going to rain.  That may or may not be true, but by stating it as fact, the debate on if the umbrella is needed is derailed unless the likelihood of rain is challenged.  That challenge is less likely since the rain was stated as a matter of fact.

Again, if you pay attention (an NLP embedded command to do so), you’ll see presuppositions used everywhere.  Anything from you need something being sold, and that it can be a benefit to you, so something that “other” group over did was evil and clearly motivated by malice.

So yes, the very basics of communication may not have changed much, but I think it’s easy to see that the science and morals of how one goes about persuading have changed a great deal.