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Monday, May 13, 2013

Get 'em to do what you want  

There are only two ways to get people to do what you want: force them or persuade them. Disparity of force favors the strong, the young, and the gangs. Carrying a gun levels the field. It allows the 120 pound woman to repel the 260 pound rapist, the gay man to protect himself from a truck loaded with men armed with baseball bats, and so on.

In an ideal society persuasion would prevail and violence wouldn't exist. We don’t live in an ideal society.

If we subscribe to the theory that government should protect us from violence, we will become victims; at least 20% of us will meet criminals in personal, violent encounters. More police, beyond a certain level, won’t protect us very much. Our ability to withstand -- and to use -- violence protects our lives.

Non-violent conflict

In non-violent encounters we protect ourselves by understanding what others are doing as they try to persuade us. Our knowledge and our ability to counter-persuade protect us, and help us prevail in a nonviolent conflict.

There are two major ways people try to persuade us; appeal to emotion and appeal to logic. Logic is usually tied to facts, but facts can provoke emotion, too. Selection of only those facts that support a perspective can convince naïve people. Selections of facts that provoke strong emotional reactions can temporarily persuade lots of people.

Convince them with facts or "noise" 

If you are trying to convince rational people of your belief, you set a foundation of facts, then build your argument using logical reasoning (deductive or inductive) to arrive at your conclusion. You can demonstrate that the factual basis is incontrovertible and that the logic is impeccable. You cannot usually prove that the conclusion is true, since other facts, known or not, could lead to a different answer.

Or, if your argument is weak, you can try to overwhelm your opponents with volume. For example, if you chant your slogan through a megaphone you’ll seem more convincing than your opponents who just yell their views. Or, you can send out lots and lots of mailers with warnings about the dangers posed by evil politicians making deals in back rooms.

Slogans are summaries. Cliff Notes give the reader only an outline of the characters and issues of War and Peace. Similarly, slogans give a brief summary of a position. So turning up the volume on a slogan doesn't convince thinking people although it can overwhelm their attention.

Label them "bad guys"

Another way to influence opinion is to label your opponents. A good example is calling them “racist.” We saw a lot of “racist” labeling during the last election, even in Costa Mesa.

Labeling is one of the propaganda techniques: “This known homophobic advocates for pre-natal care so if you visit your obstetrician during your pregnancy you hate gays.” Usually the conclusion is left to your imagination to help hide the lack of logic. “This Muslim terrorist spoke in favor of the Costa Mesa charter. . . Are you in favor of it?”

But, a person with outspoken beliefs that we consider prejudiced may still come up with a good idea. Say your opponent offers unarguable facts as a foundation for his logical argument for the health value of a vegetarian diet. Why should his membership in the Ku Klux Klan matter in the health food debate?

Manipulate to get your way

Opinion manipulation was extensively studied during the sixties. Some techniques for overwhelming the opposition by technique (without regard to truth or fact) were developed and refined. A lot of folks learned to use “Alinsky principles,” a collection of instructions for getting your way regardless of your position or your issue.

Alinsky published Twelve Rules for Radicals that formed a base for public manipulation. His techniques are studied today, and are used, even in Costa Mesa, to (try to) force decisions that favor the agitators who are using them. Alinsky's 12 Rules

One rule is to attack the opponents personally and on unrelated matters. That’s trying to force the opponent to stop arguing their position and waste time defending themselves. It sometimes works.

Examples from recent Council meetings: One frequent complainer threatened to “beat” the charter that will be studied, written and vetted over the next few months. He’d summon his powers to defeat the, as yet, unwritten charter if his demand for an “ideal mix” of  writers wasn't met. The “ideal mix” was based upon his personal perception of chosen members’ views. He didn't seem to recognize his conceit in assuming he knew how strangers would feel, think and write.

Again, another chronic complainer, who sometimes dilutes his message with obscenities when he feels out-argued, has been threatening to force a recall election for Righeimer. He was unlikely to succeed – and didn't – but he could have been problematic if the Mayor had diverted from governing Costa Mesa to address the complainer’s foolish remarks.

More manipulation

Another Alinsky technique is to change the debate, forcefully, to something that your side understands and can address with factual support, even though it’s actually unrelated. For example, on the issue of getting input from various perspectives when developing a charter, one could criticize previous appointments to other committees as being prejudiced. Either the appointments were too white/black/Asian, or were too male, or maybe even too heterosexual. The issues of gender and ethnicity are easier to argue, albeit completely irrelevant.

One might think that a charter committee’s majority should reflect the Council majority’s perspective. That would seem necessary to accomplish its purpose. To be effective – and acceptable to Costa Mesa -- it should allow input from people with differing views about the charter. The committee should hear from those who opposed the last proposed charter, folks who hope unions will keep increasing their personal benefits, and some who oppose organized labor, with or without a charter, and so on.

The Council shouldn't be diverted to arguing about gender statistics.
Fortunately, this (Alinsky) manipulation failed 3:2.

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