[sociate] On Bush/Kerry, Huffington and Cialdini (I'm in a blog feeding frenzy!)

  • From: "Jerry Michalski" <jerry@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Sociate News" <sociate@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 16 Jul 2004 16:10:15 -0400

"He's a flip-flopper" has become the rallying cry for Conservatives trying
to convince voters to avoid John Kerry. Repetition does create illusions,
doesn't it? Here's  <http://www.ariannaonline.com/columns/column.php?id=722>
Arianna's punchy summary of who's really been flipping and flopping:

...as Dick "Not Peaches and Cream" Cheney ominously put it at a Republican
fundraiser: "These are not times for leaders who shift with the political
winds, saying one thing one day and another the next."

I couldn't f---ing agree more, Mr. Cheney. But it's your man George W. who
can't seem to pick a position and stick to it. He's reversed course more
times than Capt. Kirk battling Khan in the midst of the Mutara Nebula. Gone
back on his word more times than Tony Blundetto. Flip-flopped more
frequently than a blind gymnast with an inner-ear infection.

The list of Bush major policy U-turns is as audacious as it is long. Among
the whiplash-inducing lowlights:

In September 2001, Bush said capturing bin Laden was "our number one
priority." By March 2002, he was claiming, "I don't know where he is. I have
no idea and I really don't care. It's not that important."

In October 2001, he was dead-set against the need for a Department of
Homeland Security. Seven months later, he thought it was a great idea.

In May 2002, he opposed the creation of the 9/11 Commission. Four months
later, he supported it.

During the 2000 campaign, he said that gay marriage was a states' rights
issue: "The states can do what they want to do." During the 2004 campaign,
he called for a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Dizzy yet? No? OK:

Bush supported CO2 caps, then opposed them. He opposed trade tariffs, then
he didn't. Then he did again. He was against nation building, then he was OK
with it. We'd found WMD, then we hadn't. Saddam was linked to Osama, then he
wasn't. Then he was - sorta. Chalabi was in, then he was out. Way out.

In fact, Bush's entire Iraq misadventure has been one big costly, deadly
flip-flop:

We didn't need more troops, then we did. We didn't need more money, then we
did. Preemption was a great idea - on to Syria, Iran and North Korea! Then
it wasn't - hello, diplomacy! Baathists were the bad guys, then Baathists
were our buds. We didn't need the U.N., then we did.

And all this from a man who, once upon a time, made "credibility" a key to
his appeal.

Now, God knows, I have no problem with changing your mind - so long as you
admit that you have and can explain why. But Bush steadfastly - almost
comically - refuses to admit that there's been a change, even when the
entire world can plainly see otherwise. He's got his story and he's
sticking to it. But that darn Kerry, he keeps shifting his positions!

Consistency -- not flipping or flopping -- is one of Robert Cialdini's six
principles, the forces that make people say "yes" when they really mean to
say "no." (Cialdini's book,
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0688128165/jerrymichalskisr>
Influence, leads my list of dangerous knowledge;
<http://www.influenceatwork.com/> here's his consulting practice.)

While we're on the subject, the Bush campaign is making wonderful use of the
other five Cialdini principles, to wit: 


*       Authority: He's the President! He stands in front of American flags
a lot and lands on carrier decks. He speaks authoritatively (as long as he's
not in a press conference) and never admits a mistake, because he's probably
infallible. How could you question his authority, especially in a time of
war? 

*       Liking: What's not to like about this good ol' boy who makes up cute
nicknames for everyone and is kinda fallible, just like the rest of us?
Youthful indiscretions? Bah!

*       Reciprocation: This one applies mostly to his major funding sources,
the contributors who have already received regulatory relief, no-bid
contract wins, tax cuts and so on. Poorer folks should wonder what exactly
they have to be grateful to him for. Or maybe that's the role of tax cuts,
even faced with a ballooning deficit. 

*       Social proof: Watch the Republican convention, where the speakers
chosen and the words they use will be carefully crafted to project an image
of diversity, civility and patriotism. 

*       Scarcity: This one they're not using much. Its usual form is "Sale
Ends Sunday," which is hard to translate into election terms. Let me know if
you see how it applies. 


Notice that logic isn't on the list. By consistency, Cialdini doesn't mean
building consistent, logical arguments, but rather being consistent in what
you say or do from one instance to the next. It's why a good salesperson
will get you to say "yes" to something insignificant, then ask you the
closing question in a way that would make you seem to be a waffler if you
said "no." After all, you were just being so agreeable. Because
flip-flopping breaks one of Cialdini's cardinal principles, it is an
effective insult. Look how it took Al Gore down. 

Logical arguments are the hard way to convince people. Facts get spun,
obscured, classified, misused. How can we change this? How can we create a
society with civil discourse, with facts used in ways that promote the
design of experiments to test new ideas? 


posted by Jerry Michalski at 1:17
<http://www.sociate.com/blog/archives/2004_07_01_archive.html#10900193248415
1214> PM

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