(EF7) S1-E5: Sleight of Mind The Black Magic of Rhetoric The Evolve Faster Podcast with Scott Ely Season One

EF7 SHOW NOTES

Looking to play or download the episode? Click here…(EF7) S1-E5: Sleight of Mind: The Black Magic of Rhetoric (Season One, Episode Five)

Can We Trust Reason?

The big question driving Episode EF7 is … Can we trust reason? In an online world now overcome with fake news, reason and rational thinking would seem to be an obvious bet for an antidote. But how many times did you find yourself in a situation where your reasoning was unreasonable to somebody else? Does this mean it’s not a consistent tool we can trust in all situations? Or are there other skills you need to develop in your critical thinking toolbelt in order to fight fire with rhetorical fire?

So you shouldn’t discard reason as a reliable tool in your existential arsenal, but it’s prudent to give it a regular and proper maintenance job ever. Reason didn’t create us but the other way around. So when’s the last time humanity created something that’s 100% perfect? Following reason blindly is same as blindly following emotions — and it gets even worse when these two are mixed up.

dedication

DEDICATION: Episode EF7 is dedicated to George Orwell. This episode builds off of the investigation started in Episode EF5 of what is the truth. Here, however, we add in the complex reality that important facts and truths are both manipulated by the organizations which dominate our lives — like governments, corporations and other institutions. Few have explored this particular art of mental manipulation better than George Orwell in books like1984  and Animal Farm.

Orwell worked in a literal propaganda department of the BBC during WWII called the Ministry of Information. His job was to send slanted views about the war to India and, in a hilarious twist of fate, almost no one he was targeting (college-age adults) got the fake messaging because they didn’t have radios! Oops. But thankfully that job existed for Orwell because it led him to create the four Ministries (Love, Peace, Plenty and Truth) in the fictitious dystopia of 1984.

HOW George Orwell INSPIRES EF7

Episode EF7 goes a step deeper into the dark arts beneath the end products of things like propaganda. That is to say, the unsavory but powerful characters of EF7 are learning how to wield ancient techniques of rhetoric to weaponize their words and manipulate the masses via political elections. If Orwell had lived to see the power of rhetoric and propaganda leveraged up by the laser-targeting of fake social media marketing — leading, for example, to the election of Trump in 2016 — he’d probably have another book to write, possibly called 2061?

Politics is a game played with gloves off no matter in what corner you prefer to be. Episode EF7 tries to provide a backstage insight into the training for the fight. Orwell wrote in his diaries after his BBC work that “All propaganda is lies, even when one is telling the truth.” Have a listen to Episode EF7 if you’d like to imagine how deceptive the lies are when one is also not telling the truth.

To learn more about George Orwell, please check out the following resources:

inspirations

INSPIRATIONS: Leo Strauss, known as Sage of Princeton, a silent political philosopher who could turn even Hitler into a logical fallacy. Aristotle and Isocrates, two philosophers who first saw rhetoric as the art that shapes societies and individuals for the better. Edward Bernays, the father of modern propaganda and the crazy idea that you can sell cancer if you sprinkle it with happy emotions. Solomon E. Asch, a psychologist whose experiments showed how we can unconsciously break under the pressure of majority. Episode EF7 was further inspired by Warren G. Harding, Madsen Pirie, Stephen Toulmin, Richard Vatz, Gertrude Buck, LemmingsCarrotsPythia. For a full list of data and references please see Episode EF7 Show Notes.

Episode EF7 Summary

Edward, a marketing master and spokesperson for the dark arts of rhetoric and propaganda, is hired to educate a controversial businessman running for an important public office. It’s Edward’s job to bestow the black magic of verbal and written manipulation on the businessman to win the election. Where the tongue is quicker than the mind—and the pen sharp enough to cut—are these skills a well-respected art? Or are they just cheap mental tricks wielded by insincere charlatans?

Since perfected by the ancient Greeks, rhetoric has slowly devolved from a respected art into a manipulative tool used in marketing, politics and any other walk of life where mental and verbal coercion pays. Rhetoric, propaganda and the strategic use of logical fallacies are mental and verbal manipulations similar to the dark arts of black magic, in that they create smoke and mirrors to change minds to believe mistruths. And unlike a magician who deceives to entertain, these dark wizards act maliciously in pursuit of profit and power over others.

But what are the real cornerstones of these dark arts of mental wordplay? And it possible to recognize—or even to fight back—when someone tries to sway you using mental magic tricks filled with lies?

references

Madsen Pirie, The Book of the Fallacy: A Training Manual for Intellectual Subversives.1985, Routledge & Kegan Paul Books

Solomon E. Asch, Irvin Rock (Editor), The Legacy of Solomon Asch: Essays in Cognition and Social Psychology. 1990, Psychology Press

Paul Marchbanks, Rhetorical Tools. Unc.edu, www.unc.edu/courses/2007spring/engl/102/071/rhetorical_tools.html (accessed: 28 January, 2017)

Camila Domonoske, Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds. Npr.org, www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/23/503129818/study-finds-students-have-dismaying-inability-to-tell-fake-news-from-real (accessed: 28 January, 2017)

episode quotes

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(EF7) S1-E5: Sleight of Mind The Black Magic of Rhetoric The Evolve Faster Podcast with Scott Ely Season One

(EF7) You see Mr. Arding, if a story gets repeated enough times, even one as ridiculous as this one, you’ll slowly witness a lie turning into some brand of the truth. — The Evolve Faster Podcast (Season One, Episode Five)

(EF7) S1-E5: Sleight of Mind The Black Magic of Rhetoric The Evolve Faster Podcast with Scott Ely Season One

(EF7) We often convince ourselves to trust somebody because we’ve invested in their lies — The Evolve Faster Podcast (Season One, Episode Five)

(EF7) S1-E5: Sleight of Mind The Black Magic of Rhetoric The Evolve Faster Podcast with Scott Ely Season One

(EF7) If the people doing the questioning are a minority, they will be attacked by the majority — The Evolve Faster Podcast (Season One, Episode Five)

(EF7) S1-E5: Sleight of Mind The Black Magic of Rhetoric The Evolve Faster Podcast with Scott Ely Season One

(EF7) If a dangerous lie is nourished, your worry turns into anger, and the anger fuels actions you believe are right and just — The Evolve Faster Podcast (Season One, Episode Five)

(EF7) S1-E5: Sleight of Mind The Black Magic of Rhetoric The Evolve Faster Podcast with Scott Ely Season One

(EF7) Like with magic, fallacies are all about timing and misdirection — The Evolve Faster Podcast (Season One, Episode Five)

(EF7) S1-E5: Sleight of Mind The Black Magic of Rhetoric The Evolve Faster Podcast with Scott Ely Season One

(EF7) Human nature — and the desire to knock down someone else’s character — is very predictable. — The Evolve Faster Podcast (Season One, Episode Five)

(EF7) S1-E5: Sleight of Mind The Black Magic of Rhetoric The Evolve Faster Podcast with Scott Ely Season One

(EF7) Same as a magician, a clever speaker fools one’s reason by misdirecting the attention to one point, while the important part is happening somewhere else. — The Evolve Faster Podcast (Season One, Episode Five)

(EF7) S1-E5: Sleight of Mind The Black Magic of Rhetoric The Evolve Faster Podcast with Scott Ely Season One

Season One, Episode Five: Evolution gifted humans with minds able to create complex abstractions like language. But what if this ability is manipulated to hold power over others like a spell cast with black magic? And can we trust reason and our ability to protect ourselves? (EF7)

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