March 1, 2024

(Continued from Part 3.)

Shifting Definitions

The person who controls the definitions of words, controls the thoughts of the people. Orwell knew this well as he crafted his dystopian novel, “1984”. In that story, the ruling “Party” used “Newspeak” to control language and definitions to limit the subjects’ ability to think and communicate about ideas that went against the Party.
In the allegory, “Animal Farm”, also by Orwell, citizens endured a set of definitions that constantly shifted to suit the leader’s lust for power. For example, the phrase, “all animals are equal” shifted into “some animals are more equal than others.”

While Orwell’s books were meant to describe methods of Nazi and Communist oppression during and after World War 2, the books provide an illustration of how changing language and definitions manipulates a society. Deceivers can obtain agreement from people under one definition, then the thoughts and values of those people will shift as the definition of the word shifts over time. Consider, for example, the following shifts in language or principles that have occurred over the past few years.

Be wary of shifting definitions, and the expectations upon our behavior based on migrating principles.

Logical Fallacies

Logical fallacies, or false logic, can be used to try to “prove” that a person should think differently. Logical fallacies create the appearance to disprove an unpopular principle, so that a subject drops their concern for the unwanted idea. But, in fact, the subject has been duped into changing their mind.

Reduction to Absurdity: This fallacy is usually used to invalidate the opposition. It takes a policy or person’s position and over generalizes it–or the consequences from it–to an outcome that is extreme to the point that is absurd so that most reasonable people would disagree with it. Consider the example of Person A asking Person B if they believe in God. Person B responds in the affirmative, to which Person A replies, “you and all the other flat-earthers.” Person A has just reduced Person B’s position to an absurd level, equating believing in God to believing the earth is flat. It is a ploy to invalidate Person B’s position, and perhaps humiliate them enough to change their mind.

Changing the Question: This is a form of redirection when a deceiver is faced with a direct question that they don’t want to answer, he or she can respond with a lengthy answer that addresses a different point, without actually answering the question. Oddly enough, most people will track the response in their mind, then forget the original question. The fact that an answer is given to the question does not necessarily mean that the answer addresses the question. This logical fallacy is a favorite with White House press briefings. If the questioner persists with the originally question, they are often chastised as being uncooperative or belligerent. In one recent briefing, the presenter stormed out of the room.

Straw Man Argument: This logical fallacy occurs when a position is misstated or misrepresented, then the deceiver argues against the misrepresented position, then acts as if the original position is invalid. In effect, the deceiver builds a make-believe person –or “straw man”– and then argues against that pretend person’s pretend opinion. This fallacy works when people aren’t really paying attention to the actual details of the debate, but rather follow the deceiver because the deceiver is more confident, or because they want to believer the deceiver.

False Choice: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), a congresswoman from New York, has asserted that young girls will have to be subjected to pubic area inspections if the NCAA and other athletic associations do not allow biological males who want to live as women compete in women’s sports. Women’s advocate, Riley Gaines, astute and articulate as ever, slammed AOC’s claim as “fearmongering”. Gaines is right. AOC is attempting to use fear of personal violation as a trade-off for letting biological men compete in women’s sports. (Ironically, the real violation of privacy occurs when men compete in women’s sports.) AOC is attempting to force people into an unwanted policy by presenting a false choice. It is not really a choice of either allowing men to compete in women’s sports OR having our girls be subject to a humiliating lack of privacy.

Recently, President Biden asserted that we must continue to fund the Ukrainian war, or U.S. Troops will have to directly confront Russian troops. This is a false choice. It is not necessarily true that we will go to war with Russia if we cease funding the Ukranian war.

A false choice wrongly casts a dilemma into two mutually exclusive choices. The encouraged choice (which may not be one that you would ordinarily make) is contrasted with an obviously unacceptable choice. This is done is such a manner as to make you think that these are the only two choices, when–in fact–they are not.
Inductive Reasoning: A solid conclusion should be made from deductive reasoning, where a decision about a specific situation is derived from conditions that pertain to a large number of observations. The opposite, making generalizations about a large number of situations based on the observation of a single situation, is called “inductive reasoning.” So when a person says, “I knew a white person who cheated me one time, therefore all white people are dishonest,” they are falling victim to inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning leads people to unfair judgments about groups of people based on some experience with a few people.

PARALYSIS

If a subject is too smart to be deceived, they can still come under the control of another by having their mental abilities paralyzed. These techniques short-circuit our conscious defenses. The following are only a few of the ways that our psychological defenses can be paralyzed.

Foot-in-the-Door.  Our minds demonstrate an oddity that seasoned cult leaders, advertising executives, and other deceivers understand very well. If they can get you to say ‘yes’ to something small and simple, then the chance is much higher of you saying ‘yes’ to a subsequent, more demanding question. With two people meeting on the street, one will agree to go to coffee with another more readily if they had first said ‘yes’ to some innocuous request, such as, “do you have the time?”

The phrase, “foot-in-the-door” refers to the hypothetical situation where a door-to-door salesman sticks his foot in the door to keep pitching his wares. However, this can’t be done unless the door is opened. Opening the door is equivalent to saying “yes” to an initial, innocent request.

Reciprocity. Reciprocity is a close cousin to the foot-in-the-door technique. During the 1970s, when you walked through a major west coast airport, you ran the risk of being approached and having a stranger pin some kind of gift or flower on your shoulder. Likewise, when driving through certain parts of certain cities, stopping at a stop sign will prompt someone to appear from nowhere and begin washing your windows. These two examples have one thing in common: the expectation of reciprocity. Both of the strangers that have given something to you, and expect something in return.

The surprising thing is that it works. In fact, our psychology is such that we frequently feel compelled to offer back when something is given to us. It is even more surprising that what we are willing to offer back is often much more valuable than any nominal item or service they gave to you.

Reciprocity may be at the core of the inclination of one political party to bring in illegal migrants, hoping that those migrants will display reciprocity and vote for that political party.

(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 5.)