tSFC: Chapter 14: When Parents Won’t Listen, Children Will

When adults refuse to change their beliefs propagandists, persuaders and advertisers go after children.

In 1885 the National Electric Light Association was created with the purpose of providing for the demand of electricity and electrical devices in the United States. It would later change its name to the Edison Electric Institute or EEI.

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In the 1920s and 30s electric power demand grew, and the number of companies entering the market began to take away from the profits of the NELA. After unsuccessfully lobbying Congress and the Senate to preserve their monopoly they tried a new strategy. They subsidized the writing of textbooks and bribed editors to discuss the importance of monopolies in economic development. In twenty or thirty years they could try again with a new generation of politicians in office. Ones they had personally taught to support what their company was doing.

Education is an area of chronic underfunding and endlessly in need. It thus opens itself up to influence, provided that the investors are willing to wait decades for it to pay off, which the NELA and EEI were. They saw a future demand for electricity and each year that demand grew. When the adults wouldn’t listen, they persuaded children in classrooms, who didn’t have a choice. Their classwork, homework, and tests all ensured the children, read and understood what was best for the EEI.

Perhaps a core concern here is what other ideas have been bought by the wealthy and put into the education of children for no other purpose than profit.

 

Notes on the heading:

Research into the NELA and EEI was difficult. There is very little written about their influence and impact despite the massive size of the company and heavy political involvement.

It is as though through their scholastic influence they convinced several generations of children to believe in their way of doing business, and now that those generations hold office they are rarely if ever in controversy.

Perhaps this is also because the company has a history of bribing reporters to bury anything that might shine a negative light.

As I prepared this heading I thought of the Youth of Hitler, children huddled into churches to hear the ideas of the Third Reich.

The EEI was not a group of racists or anti-Semites planting ideas into textbooks, but rather capitalists who simply wanted their children to make even more money than they were. It wasn’t illegal than, and still isn’t today. That’s what worried me most about learning of this tactic of propaganda.

Immune to Science?

Chapter 13: Immune to Science

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When I tell people about my work on propaganda and persuasion many find it interesting, some think it’s important, but none believe it is relevant to them. Every person I’ve spoken to assumes they are immune to the techniques and tools of modern propaganda. They worry for the masses they have never met, but never for themselves.

I find this approach most interesting. The techniques used by modern persuaders have been carefully studied in labs and derived from massive collections of data. It is science. I’ve never encountered anyone who thinks they are immune to the science of medicine or the science of physics. They don’t think that if they take a painkiller it will do nothing because they are immune, but such is the approach people bring to the science of persuasion. “They have tested it, proven it, but it won’t work on me.”

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I point out that much of persuasion research is dependent on this kind of hubris. The person who believes they are immune to the techniques of persuasion takes no precaution to protect themselves from it. I always assume that if I can’t tell you exactly how someone is trying to manipulate me, if I can’t break it down into its scientific pieces, that is because it’s working.

-End of heading

Notes on the heading:

In When the Sky Falls (see chapter 48) I discuss how certain magic tricks are constructed. Magicians actually base their tricks on the assumption that the viewer is skeptical, that they are trying to see where the trick or slight of hand takes place. As such arts are made the final product is then more likely to work on the skeptic rather than less likely. A similar approach is taken towards propaganda and persuasion techniques. Many are tested in focus groups to be more effective on people who are wary of persuasion.

This heading has a slightly different feel to it and came about after I had a conversation with a stranger. I was at a social gathering talking to a friend about my recent books sales. The man approached us and interrupted our conversation to tell me he would not buy or read my books. (As strange as that sounds it’s fairly common, or at least that’s my experience.) As I talked about my work and studies on mass media persuasion and propaganda his immediate reaction was “That doesn’t work on me.” In the moment I had a flashback of multiple conversations I had with people who all said similar things.

I had just spent the last few months studying Facebook advertising and how to target an audience then look at their other interest to drive better engagements, a tactic that was used by the BREXIT campaign to great success. My thought was, ‘If you only knew how this worked you wouldn’t say that.’ It then became something I thought a lot about, why do so many people assume they are immune to persuasion? Perhaps it is because they easily see all the persuasion techniques that are not targeted at them. I point out now, that even the most effective advertising or propaganda never impacts more than 30% of people. Truly widespread impact requires a multitude of tactics. So, the average person sees 70% of all persuasion as ineffective and therefore assumes that 100% is ineffective on them.

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The chapter heading comes from the The Sky Fall Conspiracy, but the additional notes are from The Nature of Sky Fall Events.







Chapter 12: Overcoming rational will:

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One method of effective propaganda is to overcome rational will. This method is best done by arousing emotions more than reason, usually by creating the illusion of rational decisions. This concept is achieved by a method known as one-sided reasons. In the study participants were asked to choose to assign custody of a child to one parent. Parent A had an average income, average relationship with the child, and average health. Parent B had higher income but traveled a lot for work. A strong relationship with the child, but also a very active social life and poor health.

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The overall choice of the students was then determined by the question asked, not the information given. If the participants were asked “Which parent should get custody” the majority of participants chose parent B for the reasons listed. If the students were asked “Which parent should not get custody” the majority of participants also chose B for the reasons listed.

It became clear that people make choices for a reason, as seen in the experiment the first option was bland, there was no reason to choose it or not to choose it, thus when people need a reason to choose or not choose a parent they always chose the same one. There was an illusion of rationality, and choice all established by the producer of the propaganda. The Nazi propaganda gave infinite reasons to distrust and hate the Jews, and when the people needed to make choices, they did so based on the reasons they had been given.





Citing Yourself as the Source & Getting Away with it.

In 1940 the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) started a radio broadcasting company in the United States with the purpose of spreading British propaganda and encouraging Americans to join the Second World War.

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However, after learning about all the lies Britain told in the propaganda during the First World War many Americans doubted if anything the British were saying was true. To combat this problem, the BSC started paying small American newspapers to publish stories their top writers and reporters were gathering. Once published in small-town papers these well-written stories were often picked up by larger publications. Once that happened the BSC would relay the stories on their own radio broadcasts, citing that the stories had originated in American Newspapers.

All these stories and propaganda had a single source, the BSC, a secret intelligence
agency with a single purpose; convince America to join the war, but to the American people it seemed that newspapers all over the country were producing these stories. Indeed, everyone was talking about it...because the British were paying them to do so.

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In the Cold War, the Soviet Union decided to plant stories that the AIDS was a virus created by the CIA and American government to increase anti-American sentiment. Knowing that any anti-America media that came out of the Soviet was suspect the propaganda team paid newspapers across India to publish the stories first. They then had radio stations broadcast the story across the world always citing that it was an Indian newspaper that broke the story first.

Similar techniques are used by the creators of fake news now. If a story picks up enough traction to be mentioned or even denounced on established news networks, an image or tag is added to the story and headline “as seen on….” Once again relying on the consistent human behavior to read news headlines, not news stories.




How to Alter Belief

People are reluctant to change belief or behavior, as any persuader, advertiser or propagandist knows. A psychological technique was created to manage the transition of belief called anchoring. The anchor roots in something the person or most people already believe.

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In 1516 the lower portion of the city of Rome was designated the Ghetto. It was not only reserved for Jews, but they were forbidden to live anywhere else in the city. The section is where much sewage drained, and the waterways were in poor repair. When rains came hard, the section flooded and sewage poured into streets. The section wasn’t filthy because the Jews lived there. The Jews were forced to live there because it was filthy.

It was here that anti-Semitic prejudice of the world took on a specific tone. Jews were dirty, filthy and carried disease. If anyone doubted this claim, all they needed to do was visit the lower section of Rome, crowded with Jews living in filth.

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In the building of their anti-Semitic campaigns the Nazis started with this age-old prejudice that Jews were filthy and carried disease, and from it, they fanned the flames of hate. They produced films and images that confirmed and solidified these ideas in the minds of the people.




The Impact of Images: Nast vs. Tweed

A good image tells an entire story with a single stroke. It ignites the imagination in a redetermined direction. Their comes from the fact that the viewers own imagination helps create that story. What do they imagine came before, what do they imagine comes after? And because they help create it, they are less likely to doubt when a contradiction to their own thoughts is presented.

In the mid-1800s, William Tweed rose to political power in the state of New York. There were long-standing jokes about ‘Boss Tweed,’ and his corruption told all throughout the state for years, but it wasn’t until cartoonist Thomas Nast aimed at the politician that his empire of corruption began to crumble.

Nast Drew cartoons of Tweed and his people taking part in various criminal activities, and abusing their power. In reaction, European investors panicked, withdrew and demanded payment on investments creating a financial crisis in the state. The images portrayed embezzlement, political corruption and intimidation.

At the time Nast had no proof and was creating cartoons based on rumors. The truth would eventually come out that he was right. But what if he had been wrong? None the less they still sparked investigations into the affairs of the politician.

In response to the political cartoons Tweed said, "Stop them damned pictures. I don't care so much what the papers say about me. My constituents don't know how to read, but they can't help seeing them damned pictures!"

As investigations revealed the truth and depth of Tweed’s corruption, he fled to Spain. Based on what the Spanish had seen of Nast’s cartoons they arrested Tweed, not because they knew his crimes, but because they believed Nast’s images.

Perhaps a similar thing can be said today in the tide of fake news. “My constituents don’t read the papers or watch the news, but they can’t help seeing them damn pictures, and headlines.”




What is this?

On occasions I’ll get that question when I put up a chapter heading to my general Facebook account. The chapter headings have been fan favorites from the first book. Here I release the latest along with images.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about these the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. They often attributed to William Stephenson; however, if you’re paying attention William Stephenson’s book is destroyed. The fictional book from which all the quotes come from is written by Jay Nichols. He puts Stephenson name on it partly out of respect, and partly because he doesn’t want people hunting him down anymore. It also explain why some quotes are dated after Stephenson died.

The heading themselves are historical anecdotes, and scientific studies about persuasion, mass media influence, and propaganda. They all seek to drive the answer to a single question. The every first question asked at the beginning of the series; “What makes you believe?….because if you don’t know how that works, you won’t know when you’re being manipulated.”