We have seen huge scientific advances from quantum computing to space exploration during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It would be silly to assume that psychology did not develop during this period as well 9 . If we consider the ranking game a competition, some players are always ready to violate the rules to ensure that their priorities are well-managed. If the rules are unwritten, they are even easier to breach. In many games there are referees, umpire, judges, or arbitrators. However, “Life is a game with many rules but no referee,” as we know from Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996), the Russian-American Nobel prize-winning poet. (To provide some context, Brodsky was once asked: “You are an American citizen who is receiving the Prize for Russian-language poetry. Who are you, an American or a Russian?,” to which he answered: “I’m Jewish; a Russian poet, an English essayist – and, of course, an American citizen.”) Manipulators have the intention of gaining an advantage by adopting various tricks, from simply cheating to sophisticated propaganda techniques. Their goal is to lead the list of successful people.
How to manipulate?
Appeal to fear Appealing to fear is a technique used to motivate people to take a specific
action, or support a particular policy decision, by arousing fear in listeners. As the reader knows well, this strategy has been adopted by US presidents, who have made claims like, “If we don’t bail out the big automakers, the US economy will collapse. Therefore, we need to bail out the automakers,” or “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life.” Experts often point out that these tactics exaggerate the present threat, but the strategy persists; the current (2018) president’s “formula is very clean and uncomplicated: Be very, very afraid. And I am the cure.” 10 .
The Hungarian election campaign in 2018 had a single topic: fear. One pundit has written, It hardly seems to matter that the migration crisis has largely passed and that there are now more posters in Hungary about the danger of immigrants and refugees than actual refugees and immigrants let into the country this past year. The poster is in keeping with a campaign that has been rife with dirty tricks, false news stories, vicious personal attacks, conspiracy theories and perceived enemies all around.” 11 .
Black-or-white fallacy ”Who, you’re not with us is against us. Another US president in this
century declared: ”Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists” 12 . if you were asked which would you rather be: against the Patriot Act, or a patriot, the question implies that if you are against the Patriot Act, then you cannot be a patriot. However, if someone is not your ally does not imply that she opposes you. You can’t exclude that she might be neutral or simply undecided. If you are forced to choose among two options, and other options are eliminated, this logical fallacy.
2 thoughts on “The Manipulator”
Re Black and white fallacy: I think logical fallacy does not matter here – contradiction is the last thing to bother a politician. More interesting might be that, due to the “with me or against me” strategy the initial illusion creates reality by sharply dividing the society, in exactly those two camps. Some will resist, actively or passively, while opportunists submit. That has happened in both Hungary, and America recently. On a second thought, however, the supporters’ camp may be divided into (immoral) opportunists and true enthusiasts, with (I guess) a fuzzy border between the two. There is pretty interesting psychological research concerning the links between personality and political attitudes, here is a relatively recent one:
Personality and Political Attitudes: Relationships across Issue Domains and Political Contexts
ALAN S. GERBER, GREGORY A. HUBER, DAVID DOHERTY, CONOR M. DOWLING and SHANG E. HA
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 104, No. 1 (February 2010), pp. 111-133
Thank you Zoltán for the great comment and references!