"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." - Rudyard Kipling
Kipling's right. He would know, being a great writer. Now let's look at propaganda.
Propaganda consists of three simple things: appeal to people's emotions but make them think you're engaging their reason; tell them the enemy is evil and wants to destroy you; then tell them when the enemy is vanquished that peace and harmony will rule. In a nutshell, that's it. And you can start wars with it ("All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger." - Joseph Goebbels).
If you want to expand on propaganda a bit, it comes down to classifying everything as either that narcissistic all-good or all-bad. That's why Goebbels suggested classifying the anti-war protestors as traitors.
Propaganda is based on the archetype of the horror story: good attacked by evil; vanquish the evil; normality returns. This is something Stephen King knows quite well, which accounts for his popularity.
People only have a tiny bit of them that is rational. As for groups - they're never rational. Which is why you will never find me in a crowd.
It's amazing what I've seen some people (themselves irrational) do to even-more-irrational people. Convince them Manchurian Candidate brainwashing exists, or impossible conspiracies, or anal-probing aliens, or "Send me money and I'll save your soul," or God-knows-what-else, and they'll swallow it hook, line and sinker. Not only that, but also send them money. And lots of it!
I have known about the power of words since I was 12, perhaps 11 years old, because I felt their effect on me because at that age I was so imaginative. I was transported (in a sense, hypnotized) into a better world. And I was never the same because of it.
Because of what I was (and am) I can see what people do to other people with words.
People who can pull off propaganda successfully are often considered saviors. I consider them wizards, sometimes good, sometimes bad, like Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays, who is the modern founder of propaganda techniques.
By the way, the word "charm" actually means "to sing."
For those of you who came here from the Manosphere, rank amateur wizards are trying to rewire your brains to believe what is mostly nonsense. Unfortunately, once you believe something fervently, it's hard to get it out of your head. They're trying to convince you that women are bad and the enemy who seek only to destroy you.
Advertising works the same in appealing to the emotions and not reason. That's why you see advertisements for fast powerful cars featuring beautiful women and nothing about "how this car will last 400,000 miles with normal maintenance."
I'm not the only person to see these people as modern-day wizards.
This is from Scott Adam's blog.
In 1901 the first American-born wizard came into the world. His name was Milton Hyland Erickson. And to the wizards he later trained, he was their Merlin, or Dumbledore if you prefer. The main difference is that Erickson was real.
Erickson was an autodidact, and maybe more. He discovered that he could arrange words in a way that cast spells on people and took control of their minds. If you have seen the Star Wars movies, you know all about the Jedi Mind Trick. Erickson’s power was like that, but slower, and with more words.
In earlier times, such a person would be burned as a witch. But Erickson was born into an age of science, and in the new world, non-science claims such as his were swept to the side and assumed to be bunk.
Fortunately for us all, Erickson was a good wizard. And he made it his life’s work to train other wizards in his ways. As one might expect, the most talented of Erickson’s wizards went on to amass incredible wealth and breathtaking power. The new wizards were not saints, or even close, but they were generally a force for good. They built some of the biggest companies in the world. They led nations toward social justice. They ended wars triggered by evil wizards overseas. They stimulated economies.
These super-wizards live and work among us, but their powers are visible only to other trained wizards. The public believes these wizards achieved their success with luck, brains, hard work, and passion. Those things matter, but the wizards had more. They could shape reality by altering how people see the world.
Sometimes the wizards work publicly, and brazenly, knowing that their methods are only visible to other wizards. Other times they work behind the curtain, pushing buttons and pulling levers while the media looks in the wrong place and reports the wrong causes.
Now, for perhaps the second or third time in history, one of these Erickson-trained wizards is running for President of the United States. You can expect that candidate to win. His name is Donald Trump.
Allow me to connect the dots for you.
Donald Trump is buddies with the most powerful wizard alive, Tony Robbins. Robbins is the biggest motivational speaker, life coach, and self-help guru in the world. Here’s a video showing Trump and Robbins selling a National Achievers Congress event they partnered on. First, listen to Trump’s style (full of happy-sounding words but zero content) and compare it to Robbins who follows on the video and is also full of happy words with zero content. See the similarity?
Tony Robbins’ inspiration was John Grinder, an American linguist and a student of Milton Erickson’s teaching. Based on Erickson’s work, plus a lot of marketing ridiculousness, Grinder developed NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Critics say NLP is more garbage than science. In my experience, NLP is about 10% real and 90% marketing. But the real part is exceptionally powerful.
What other wizards have been trained by Tony Robbins, you ask? This article in INC explains why Bill Clinton had Tony Robbins “on speed dial.” Clinton had advice from at least one other known wizard, and that advice probably changed the course of history, but I can’t mention that name for ethical reasons.
Another disciple of Erickson, Pierre Clement, opened schools to teach the Erickson method with some of his own flourishes added. One student of Clement’s school went on to write extensively about Erickson’s ideas. But to make them less “wizard-sounding” and more practical, he coined the phrase Moist Robot.
That would be me.
The moist robot philosophy, which I wrote about in my "How to Fail" book, is an outgrowth of Erickson’s teachings. In the moist robot view of the world, rational thought is mostly an illusion except for simple tasks and perhaps math. The good news is that the small, rational voice in your head can sometimes muster enough control to send you in a productive direction.
Erickson’s discovery is that words are like a UI for the mind. If you pick the right words, the mind goes into admin mode and you can rewire things at will. It might take lots of repetition, but you can get a lot done with that wiring over time.
Arthur C. Clarke famously said that any sufficiently advanced technology will look like magic. In this context, the magic involves the question of how someone like Donald Trump could be leading in the polls. But it isn’t magic, it is method. Trump is operating on a wizard level in terms of word choice.
Milton Erickson is known as the modern father of hypnosis. The word “hypnosis” is loaded with misinformation because people have been exposed to bad movies and stage hypnosis shows. Stage hypnosis is more “magic tricks” than persuasion. The “trick” is that it only works with an audience. If you give me a hundred people, I can find one that doesn’t mind clucking like a chicken in front of the rest. He might even enjoy the experience. To the other 99 folks in the audience, it seems this subject is under a hypnotic spell and doing things against his will. The reality is that he’s just a dude doing things he doesn’t mind doing at all, but experiencing it in a super-relaxed state. There is more to it, but the central “trick” is that the subject is not embarrassed in the way that you would be, so the effect seems greater than it is.
Real hypnosis, in my view, is closer to the science of persuasion. The best book on that topic is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Dr. Robert Cialdini.
So how powerful is this stuff?
Ask Steve Jobs, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump. All wizards.
Have you ever wondered why Dilbert has an uncommon first name, no last name, a nameless boss, and he works for a nameless company, making nameless products, while living in a nameless city? That’s hypnosis. By omitting those details I allow the reader to better feel some version of “That’s me!”
Likewise, when you criticize Trump for being vague on policies, you should know it is intentional. The empty spaces are provided for you to fill them in with whatever you think is a good idea. For a skilled wizard, the less he says, the more you like it. The wizard lets your brain fill in all the blanks with your personal favorite flavor of awesomeness.
Two months ago Donald Trump was widely thought to be under-qualified for the job of president because he has never been a politician. Today most of the chatter is about how he is good at delegating.
Two months ago you thought he was just an annoying loudmouth and a braggart. Today a lot of people are thinking he is presidential stuff.
I don’t know what Hillary Clinton thought about Tony Robbins’ advice to her husband, or whether she did some wizard training herself, but one assumes so because of the association. And that means if the race comes down to Trump versus Clinton, two Erickson-trained wizards will be going toe-to-toe for the first time in American history.
You might be wondering if I could use my wizard powers to become president someday myself. The quick answer is yes, even with my obvious flaws, unless I ran into a stronger wizard along the way. But don’t worry about a third Adams presidency. I like my job better. And the world does not need my help because Tony Robbins seems to have things under control. Literally. But I will keep my eye on all of them for you :-)
Update: Here’s a sentence I picked out of the news today (Business Insider) in which the writer describes a general puzzlement over why Trump is improving in the polls:
“It’s not clear what is specifically driving Trump’s recent improvement against Clinton…”
I’m not puzzled. You are watching a master wizard rewire the public in real time.
"Those who control language, control the perception of reality."