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….

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Attractive Lies

multicolored abacus photography

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Yet again I saw the familiar questions, the familiar attempts to analyze how one person can insist that an utterly twisted or fabricated version of events, history, motives, statistics, and more, are true in the face of concrete evidence pointing to the contrary, and how so many people can buy into those lies.

The point is that fallacies, no matter how specious, if delivered often enough, with absolute authority, are almost impossible to counter.

***

Years ago, during a discussion, a friend asked me to explain how some scientific process worked. I didn’t know the answer, but launched into a detailed imagining of the reason. When I finished, my friend said, “Oh. Okay, thanks.”

I burst into laughter. “I can’t believe you bought that.”

My friend was confused, “Why wouldn’t I? You said it with such authority.”

And I confessed that I’d made up every word, because I hadn’t the slightest idea what the answer to his question was.

Mean of me, I know.

But it proved that the right salesman can make some people believe anything.

***

In the past weeks, as lies have been heaped on lies, with little success in exposing them, and the deceitful machinations of the person spreading them, I’ve thought a lot about the dangerous allure of untruths that are attractive, and seemingly plausible—those that affirm people’s suspicions and fears, or merely substantiate notions that entitle them to act unethically, or merely comfort them. And, repeatedly, the scene in the link below keeps coming to mind, because, better than anything else I’ve heard or seen, it demonstrates how difficult it is to convince a person that their arguments and beliefs have no basis in fact, and how frustrating and infuriating it is to even try.

Absurd logic.

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bubble universe

Screen Shot 2018-01-14 at 1.59.50 PM

A bubble would be nice, don’t you think?

With the current flu epidemic, it would be really nice. I could wrap myself up, knowing I’d be safe from airborne microbes just waiting to invade my throat and lungs, and venture out into the world without a care.

Of course, the bubble would have to be flexible, so that I could maneuver comfortably, and sheathe my fingers while still allowing them to pick the best fruits and vegetables from the bins. And the best bubbles would be heated, and have smart phone technology built in….

Or, maybe that’s asking too much.

~~~

In the past couple of days, I’ve been hearing this repeatedly:  “We can’t know what’s in his heart.”

Really?

It’s not difficult to know what’s in someone’s heart.

For example:

If you receive a letter of introduction from a large company saying they have acquired the company where you work, and want to assure a smooth transition, but also want you to reapply for your job, can you know what’s in your new employers’ hearts regarding your job security?

If your teachers say they do not accept late papers, can you know what’s in their hearts when they scowl and refuse to take the late papers you offer?

And if an acquaintance says she doesn’t want to talk to you anymore, then hangs up on you if you call, can you know how she feels about you?

~~~

It doesn’t take much to know what’s in people’s hearts when they demonstrate it through word and deed.

Think of it as an equation:  LANGUAGE + ACTION/EVIDENCE = POSITION

So:

—new bosses wanting smooth transition + required job reapplication = they’re not keeping everyone;

—no late paper policy + glowering while refusing a late paper = disdain for students who think they’re above the rules;

and

—saying “Don’t call me” + hanging up = “I don’t want you in my life. Go away.”

~~~

It feels so straightforward —

LANGUAGE + ACTION/EVIDENCE = POSITION

— that one would have to be living in some kind of grotesque bubble to continue rationalizing away what is so patently clear, asserting what is contrary to the facts when doing so offers no convenience, no protection, no security.

It boggles….

…unless the alternate world within that bubble is preferable to facing the truth outside it, or the inhabitant feels more at home inside all that ugliness.

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