Getting to the Truth of the Matter

Rhetoric, the patriarch of propaganda, the mother of manipulation.

For over 2000 years rhetoric has been a foundational pillar of a classical education.
In the last century rhetoric was given a bad rap in the general population due to being face with its misuse, in a big way, by Hitler. Without recordings of Hitler, both audio and video, rhetoric would still be a commonly used word today. It’s still there.
Today we call it persuasion. We also call it neurolinguistic programming (NLP).

Three Paths of Communication

We can deal with facts. We can forget the facts and deal with emotions. Or, we can find the middle ground.

“Just The Facts, Ma’am”

If we are going to write or talk about something we need a few things. We need a subject and some information about the subject. We can then investigate where those facts lead.

This is like the monotone lecture we have in school. Learning math by rote. Or the death by powerpoint presentations we’re forced to endure.

Torture me. Put me out of my misery.

This goes by the name Dialectic – the art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions. Effective, but Boring!

The Flip Side

Diametrically opposed to the dialectic is Sophistry. Long before the 1950’s classic “Twist and Shout” people were taking things out of context, twisting them, and then shouting them out to the masses.

Deception, lies, propaganda.

No need to have a solid foundation in facts. If you say it often enough, and loud enough, eventually people will accept it as fact. People live in fear of asking questions which opens them to manipulation.

This abuse of the truth is used by politicians, business leaders, religious leaders and the media to name a few. In a world without questioning, the liar is king.

The Fine Line

There is a fine line between persuasion and sophistry. Using emotionally packed words can be motivational. Using emotional keys launches the mind into flights of fancy and gets it excited. Emotions are what drive our passions. Without them, our rational thoughts would never climb from simply an idea to a flight to the moon.

Imagine a powerpoint slide, densely packed with data, and the presenter actually reads it in a monotone, slooooooow paced voice. Your mind drifts to daydreaming on a myriad of other things. Anything except what the slide is about.

Now, imagine a picture of the moon and the presenter excitedly talking about overcoming all the obstacles keeping you from taking a trip to the moon. Your mind is engaged. Your creative juices are flowing. You become part of the team overcoming the obstacles. Persuasive speech engages the mind, lets it fill in the pieces and opens it to leaps of creativity.

Best Left Unsaid

Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric is the faculty of discovering the possible means of persuasion in reference to a subject. Leaving out some information engages the mind. Get it to fill in the pieces, opening itself to other leaps.

It is sometimes difficult to follow a rational argument. By stimulating the mind through emotional involvement, the mind is able to make intuitive leaps without the rational, step-by-step proof.

Some of Aristotle’s associates thought there was too much potential for pure manipulation in abusing the techniques of persuasion.

They Were Right

Today we are surrounded by manipulation. The media has gone way beyond yellow-dog journalism. Politicians focus their speech on emotional manipulation. Some businesses abuse us with their advertisements. Even our children play the emotional manipulation card.

But, if we are aware of the techniques they’re using, we are far less susceptible to being sucked into the deception vortex. We can choose to get on the bandwagon rather than being conscripted into servitude.

Discover the facts. Ask questions. Judge the responses.

Your discernment is your only defense.

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