Magical word viruses and inoculation

This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  John Sawyer 3 months ago.

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  • #29388
     John Sawyer 
    Participant

    Yesterday afternoon starting with Kyle and spreading through the community we had a lot of demonstrations of a particular type of power. That of using peoples’ assumptions and desires to perform some basic actions that, in aggregate, spiraled the group into a fair amount of backbiting and confusion. I don’t think the chips have all fallen yet so I’m not going to declare winners and losers and I’m not going to directly line up any long term consequences. When you look at the actions taken and the vectors:

    By way of demonstration, Kyle was ’caused’ to give up his seat (using his society-ingrained tendency to be polite) and to buy yogurt (using his personally-ingrained tendency to believe statements as truth, and be polite)
    Several BOS members were convinced to put forward a ‘Code’ in the Slack, convinced that they would get something they had said they wanted, or by authorities they had invested some trust in.
    Larry revealed that he had been manipulated in a more general sense (without revealing exactly why).
    Several BOS members revealed that they had been convinced to start up a private conversation with Morgan based on his statements of mistrust.
    There are almost certainly more. Meghan and Larry have variously speculated on this on this and warned that anyone else who is holding on to actions based on a promise are as likely to get played.

    The important bit here, to me, is how once primed the activation is really just a phrase. A few words of a request coming from the right source pushed a small action that may or may not have a larger consequence. This is exactly what Irene described as ‘Magic,’ words spoken in the right place in the right order to secure compliance. I’m tempted to call bulls**t but I definitely get the reaction.

    Hence inoculation. The first time you’re caught by the ability to use society’s norms and our upbringing – that part of our personality that allows us to function and get along with other people, a defense against general chaos – against us, to ‘secure compliance?’ You feel used, and floored that it’s even possible. It may as well be magic, it’s -so- effective. This is how cults [of personality] are formed. This is where you get a Tony Robbins, or a Noah Sinclair, someone who sees all the same cues and then says ‘how do I make them work for me?’ And that’s on a micro scale. These practitioners get followers who will do anything for them – they’re sages, after all, showing how to work a very particular type of magic. Words, compliance.

    At a macro level, you get weaponized marketing, aka propaganda. We like to think we’re smart, we’re immune. We’re absolutely not. The right words just haven’t been used to push us, or we haven’t noticed we’re being pushed. At the demonic level, you can nudge people, prime them, then secure action with just a few words. Vote for X.

    But once you’ve seen the trick done, had someone show you how it’s done, and gotten a good look at the toolbox? It’s still pretty damned impressive, but it isn’t magic. You’re still vulnerable but you can recognize you’re being used. Will you still fall in little ways? Sure, but you won’t be as likely to fall on the macro scale, to give away all your belongings or hurt someone simply because you’re nudged. The only real defense against scammers and con men is education.

    And we just got a hell of an education yesterday. I’m not saying that this whole business was ‘for our own good’ but if we’re looking at the ‘why’ there are two possible outcomes. Either the people who lifted the curtain and showed us the magic get some new recruits, or we’re inoculated against this in the future. We’ll see the manipulation – maybe not in time to stop it, but in time to stop it from spreading, and in time to stop eating the people who get manipulated. We’ve got antibodies now.

    Two whys, two very different ends.

  • #29389
     Megan 
    Participant

    So, a couple of things.

    1. But once you’ve seen the trick done, had someone show you how it’s done, and gotten a good look at the toolbox? It’s still pretty damned impressive, but it isn’t magic. Well, but that’s not what Irene said. She said that this is what magic was to them. That becomes harder to dispute. And the blahblah right words thing – to people who practice “magic,” that is essentially what it is to them as well. I was told the other day “looks like you spoke something into existence.” Whether you believe that is possible or not, that is a belief of a definition of magic – that saying something, the right words at the right time, puts it out into the universe and creates it. Or that saying something out loud makes it more real. There are other ways of using language and words to manipulate that *aren’t* about manipulating socially ingrained tendencies like you’re talking about (i.e. NLP, again, if you believe in it). And regardless of any of that, it worked with Kyle. And then it worked with others last night on slack.

    2. The stuff on slack last night – and the title of this thread, “magical word viruses and inoculation,” screams Snow Crash. Again. I’m back to Snow Crash. This is the same thing that happened with the coffee thing.

    3. No one is inoculated. Seeing the trick once doesn’t mean that you’re not going to fall for it again. Viruses adapt. Whatever defense mechanism you put in place, whatever control you think you have, they will subvert.

  • #29392
     John Sawyer 
    Participant

    Speaking generally, you’re right. My experience and take on NLP is that it’s not a terribly useful view as written but contains enough validity in part that it’s worth keeping an eye on. I’d like to caution against taking claims of magic at face value unless you’re so jaded or inured that the word ‘magic’ doesn’t conjure some meaning for you that implies an over-and-above-the-facts significance. That, from where I’m sitting, is dangerous – it quite literally grants a power to a technique that might be mundane simply because of a claim that it is.

    If on your side of the screen ‘magic’ is just a comfortable shorthand for what we’re talking about here – using words to create actions, to create ideas… authorial power and the power of the demagogue, then it doesn’t have a hold on you, it’s just a useful bucket. In that sense, there’s no harm in using the term.

    Yeah, I’m not going to be able to fully remove Stephenson from my lexicon. I don’t read that as nonfiction but it’s influential. And an influential idea is… well, it’s a little circular.

    As to 3). We will definitely be fooled again, the Who don’t have it right on this one. People get the flu every year despite the vaccine. I never want to minimize the power the Order has in this situation even at the most mundane level. They have a lot of information, ways of gathering more, good techniques, and manpower. Being able to attack the ‘problem’ of a person from multiple directions at once without it being obvious that the parts are working together is incredibly powerful. Something will, eventually work.

    My point, or my goal, is to establish that there are defenses. They aren’t perfect, and they aren’t going to prevent you from getting controlled, or nudged. But they will help to minimize the damage, to prevent the worst of the outbreak, and to slow the spread. I’m not willing to throw in the towel and completely give up.

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