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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Are we being manipulated?
Discussion and persuasion are critical in business and politics.  Sales are made and opinions are changed and votes are promised when people are persuaded. Citing facts in a logical argument is persuasion.

But, most of us have fallen into the clutches of a stereotypical used car dealer. Or, we’ve been subjected to persistent, annoying attention from someone insisting that we join their group or buy their cosmetics. We've experienced manipulation.

Propaganda popular in the '30's 

In the political arena, one form of manipulation is propaganda. The masters of propaganda developed guidelines during the 1930’s for influencing people without using facts or logic. Adolf Hitler said: Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.

How many times do we hear the refrain, “we need more police to reduce crime?” We've seen that it’s probably not true, but it is repeated through newspaper commentary, at Council meetings, and on blogs and Facebook pages. Perhaps it will seem true if it’s repeated enough.

Alinsky in the '60's

In the 1960’s, Alinsky built on propaganda techniques with a series of rules to achieve political and social ends. He acknowledged that truth was not necessary, or even desirable, in these efforts, so facts and logical analysis were not valued.

Instead, his advice emphasized attacking the opponent personally. He advocated changing the debate to distract the opponent into defending himself. And he encouraged letting followers do the things they enjoyed most, such as attacking those they disliked.

Recently we saw the Mayor’s letter praising Costa Mesa’s CEO attacked as “ignoring the contributions of others.” That’s irrelevant, but it gave the writers a chance to attribute intent and apply labels to the Mayor, which they evidently enjoy doing.

Commenters tried to divert attention to “violations of the Brown act” although they aren't lawyers. (Lawyers responded that it wasn't ) That distraction has failed to prompt defensiveness, so far.

Lackie, Dammeier & McGill in 2012 

In 2012 A law firm (Lackie, Dammeier & McGill) that specializes in advising Police unions developed a Playbook” for manipulating government bodies. (It quickly disappeared from the net when it was scrutinized by the public.) Their advice to Police unions includes:

  • ·         The public could care less about your pay, medical coverage and pension plan. All they want to know is “what is in it for them.” The message should always be public safety first. You do not want wage increases for yourselves, but simply to attract better qualified candidates and to keep more experienced officers from leaving.

  •  ·         Get your members to apply for jobs at a large local police agency. This triggers personnel background checks from that agency. It sends a strong signal; “your officers are going to leave.”

Are we being manipulated

It’s up to us. If it’s not a logical argument based on facts, why should we pay attention? We can't be manipulated by what we ignore.

Manipulation should not be effective in 2013 in Costa Mesa.

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