Fallacy of Persuasion   2 comments

What’s the most useless thing you know how to do?

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Propaganda Ride SharingWow, this is going to be a hard thing to say because I know a lot of really useless stuff. That happens when you’ve been alive more than half a century during a time of great innovation. As a writer of fantasy novels and an apocalyptic series, I sometimes use those now “useless” skills in my writing, which means I now I have to find something that wouldn’t have a use even in a fantasy world.

That means things that are kind of useless in our world today might be highly useful in the worlds I write about. For example, do you know how to adjust a butterfly valve in a carburetor? The other day, I mentioned rebuilding a carburetor to a friend of my son who actually knows a thing or two about cars and he said “Why would you bother when you can just replace the engine with a fuel-injected one?” Good point. Knowing how to rebuild a carburetor is pretty useless unless you live in a time when an EMP has wiped out the computers that run fuel-injected engines and then it becomes a highly valuable skill.

In the United States of America where it is very hard to even find a standard-transmission vehicle these days, being able to drive stick is an increasingly useless skill. Ah, but if you go to a 3rd world country, there are almost never any automatic transmission cars, so driving stick becomes a very valuable skill.

So, what is the MOST useless thing I know how to do? I know how to use propaganda to manipulate people to get a predetermined outcome. I trained how to do that when I was in college. But it’s a useless skill because you can’t really control other people. I recognized that in my first job out of college and so I don’t really use the skill anymore. While it is true that you can persuade people with reason and truth, it’s an illusion that if we just apply the right pressure, say the right words, whatever we do to sway other people, that we will get long-term willing compliance with things that are not true. Sooner or later,  people will rebel against whatever we’re trying to convince them of. Some people will recognize the falsehood immediately and others might take decades, but sooner or later, truth will work its way into people’s consciousness and then you’ll have a rebellion on your hands. The only persuasion worth investing a great deal of time in it is explaining reality to people who have been confused by propaganda.

Propaganda Testimonial.png

This past week, after six years of incredible pressure by local government agencies pressing arguments with questionable science trying to scare people into a specific and self-destructive course of action, the voters of my community rebelled and told the local government that it cannot be involved in air quality issues related to home heating for at least the next two years. The “victory” was won because the government itself boldly did what some of us predicted they would do back when this whole totalitarian regime first started – their hand-selected “community” taskforce y voted to force the entire community to use a fuel that will increase our not-inconsiderable heating costs by one-third. It was like they just decided to self-destruct. With them showing their underdrawers, the voters decided to take the power away from them. Now the individuals who make up the community will have to use reason and technology to solve the problem of air quality in a cost-effective way.

I was part of the community group that hoped to sway the vote to remove authority from the Borough. I helped with the social media campaign. The other folks kept looking for just the right words or just the right slogan to get people to understand what they were saying. I kept saying “Just be honest”. I told them to talk about how the local government’s actions have effected them personally. Meantime, the Borough and the useful idiots who support their draconian measures used hyperbole and end-of-the-world propaganda language. And in the end, about 15,000 people (in a community of 100,000, which is another issue) voted. More than 7500 voted to take away the Borough’s control over home heating devices, while less than 6500 voted to let them remain in control.

Propaganda CredibilitySo, I would say my skill with propaganda is the most useless skill I possess because human nature eventually pushes back against propaganda. Sometimes it takes years for the rebellion to occur, but it does eventually happen. As stupid as many people often seem to be, truth will out … eventually. I can put decades of effort into a propaganda campaign only to have information revealed that discredits the propaganda and … poof, I’ve just wasted years of my life on an illusion.

I’m pleased I learned that lesson very early in my career because it could easily be me as the Public Information Officer of the Fairbanks North Star Borough who now has egg on her face. So, it really is truly the least useful skill I possess, so I’m glad I’ve sworn it off as not worth the effort.

Posted October 8, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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2 responses to “Fallacy of Persuasion

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  1. The voter turnout numbers are a sad reflection of how many people pretend to care about any given issue but really don’t.


    • I think they’re an indication of how many people have realized that it doesn’t really matter how we vote. Since I wrote this article, the Borough has announced a special session to explore a legal challenge against the home heating initiative as well as the tax cap that has been renewed every two years for 30 years (controlling the increase in property taxes, but not preventing it). So, it looks like the election result may be null and void anyway and that would have been the case even if all 70,000 adults had voted. Voting is a placebo at best.


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