Mass Hypnosis

Albert von Keller – Hypnose bei Schrenck-Notzing

There’s a moment in the film, All About Eve, where Margo Channing, an actress in mid-life with a salty tongue and noble spirit says, “I detest cheap sentiment.” Words to live by. Yet, she becomes prey to the cheapest of sentimental ploys by a young, ambitious, and conniving actress, named, Eve.

Margo is the model for my inner critic, Griselda, mentioned in earlier posts—although Griselda’s cynicism would never allow her to be victimized by someone as saccharine as the title character in All About Eve. She would have seen through Eve immediately and sent her packing.

As you might suspect, I detest cheap sentiment, too. Over the years, I’ve learned to recognize that sort of emotional manipulation. Google’s recent Super Bowl ad was a particularly offensive example. Narrated by an actor playing the part of a widower asking Google to remind him of things his departed wife said, the voice-over and images were set to a threnody designed to to wrench viewers’ heartstrings from their chests.

And, judging by the majority of reactions on social media, the technique worked.

But I was infuriated. Because aside from what I saw as a facile and obvious attempt to manipulate people’s emotions, there was an underlying awareness to it that all the sorrow and empathy evoked would make viewers forget forget forget that Google is storing those lovely memories and photographs, along with plenty of other data they’ve amassed via tracking, and that the accumulation of that data, and access to users’ lives and activities comes with risks.

Cheap sentiment is a powerful tool, and those who use it know that.

Last night people’s screens filled with shamelessly sweet and heart-stirring images and false promises designed to make them forget forget forget years of the most sinister and self-serving behavior.

Look here not there, listen to this, not that, and think only about how the images and words make you feel….

It hard to blame people for not seeing the truth. The technique is cheap, but frighteningly hypnotic.

It’s hard to fault them for being distracted, forgetting….

But do you hear that? It’s the sound of fingers snapping. Wake up. Wake up. And remember….

©2020 All Rights Reserved


The other day someone told me I was living in the past, and reminded me, quite archly, what year it is.

Let me back up….

This someone called because they were under the assumption that matters of emotional delicacy could be handled via text messaging. When they realized, much too late in the “conversation,” that messages had been misinterpreted, they became frantic.

Backing up again….

I do text. It is a quick, efficient way to check in on people, particularly in emergencies, provide updates about any number of situations when necessary, and convey brief, time-sensitive messages. It has its uses.

But getting to my caller. They read me the “conversation.” It was long. It was rambling, at times incoherent. Worse, the only tone that came across was anger.

Another digression….

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was this: “the most important thing you can ever know about technology is when NOT to use it.”

…which was the point I tried to make on the phone to my caller…

… who then gave me a shrill lecture on how people communicate in 2019.

So I said this:

There are times texting is appropriate, and times it is not. There are times it accomplishes exactly what it needs to, and times it sucks you in and drops you into a giant sinkhole, leaving no way of escape.

Texting is not a substitute for communication which demands vocal interaction.

You can learn a great deal when you LISTEN to people on the phone. You may not see their faces, but the timbre and changes in their voices, slowness or rapidity with which they respond, speaks volumes, and allows you to effectively shape what you say. And, personal, voice-to-voice communication affords one other critical advantage: it allows interruption. If someone is misinterpreting, or going off on a tangent, or getting hostile or breaking down, you can short-circuit them, call them on their behavior, or provide the type of comfort they need. NONE of that is possible in a text.


I’d rather be able to communicate meaningfully and productively. I’d rather have a sense of a person’s humanity.

I’d rather be a dinosaur.

©2019 All Rights Reserved


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Photo by Pixabay on

You have to use it. Of course, you do. And take that video. Naturally.

The moments were too infuriating to pass up.

And it’s good, what you captured, isn’t it?  When you look at the recording again? You know it’s good.

So you take those good, significant moments, and post them.

Because you were shocked and outraged by all or part of what you saw, and you want others to agree, share your reaction, your clip.

And of course they do.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t record injustices, or share them. They need to be exposed. As they always have.

But when others re-post your video, they will likely focus on only the most outrageous, horrific, and sensational parts; and those who follow suit will do the same.

Because we are drawn to shocks and outrages. And we skim…

…unaware of, or simply blind to implied ellipses…

…omissions that might tell a different story.