Archives for posts with tag: Manipulation

Somebody asked, on his wall, ‘what do you like/dislike most about how people behave on Facebook?

Here’s my answer.

“Facebook presents us with huge opportunities.
For getting in touch with great ideas/very interesting people.
For con-artists to bamboozle other people’s minds.
What I like most? When people contribute. Ideas, feelings, whatever.
What I dislike? When people allow themselves to be taken advantage of.
You see, I could have said ‘I dislike people taking advantage of other people’. That goes without saying. Only telling a con-artist to clean up their act would be akin to asking a lion to stop feeding itself. That’s not gonna happen.
But we could train our minds to avoid being fooled so easily…”

Any way you look at it, a human individual is a decision making machine.

When living in the bush, the decision making process was rather straightforward.
Information was available on a ‘what you see is what you get’ basis and bad decisions had the rather nasty habit of becoming obvious after a very short time.

Now, when living in a social context, things are a little more complicated.
Other people want from us.
Other people actually depend on convincing us to do various things and not to do other things.

‘Convincing us’ means influencing our decision making processes.
Which can be done using one, two or a combination of the following methods.

By ‘managing’ the information we have at our disposal when making a certain decision.
By altering the way in which we feel about the outcome of that decision being put in practice.

The A&B of the matter, for those familiar with the domain…

But there are two other things which are rarely discussed about these matters.

How ethical is it to manipulate other people?
Specially when the manipulated are not fully aware of what’s going on, which puts the manipulator in almost full control of the whole process.

What are the longer term consequences of the whole thing?
Is there any difference between manipulating people to ‘consume’ things which are more or less detrimental to their health and manipulating people into making far reaching political decisions?

As in ‘is there any difference between convincing people that smoking isn’t that bad for them (or at least pleasurable enough to balance the risk) and convincing them to vote for/against … (feel free to pick your own candidate/issue)?

“The researcher whose work is at the center of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data analysis and political advertising uproar has revealed that his method worked much like the one Netflix uses to recommend movies.”

Matthew Hindman,
https://theconversation.com/how-cambridge-analyticas-facebook-targeting-model-really-worked-according-to-the-person-who-built-it-94078

Language is the tool we use when we consciously transmit, receive or glean information.

While the ‘transmitting&receiving’ part is rather simple, ‘consciously and ‘glean’ might need some explaining.

You’ve all heard about ‘body language’.

Actors use it consciously to convey emotion and sometimes even meaning while profilers use it to glean information unconsciously distributed by their marks.

Artists use specific ‘modes of expression’ – language, actually – to convey emotion/subliminal meaning to sometimes unsuspecting audiences.

Skillful ‘communicators’ have learned how to chisel a message – using most common words, printed or spoken – to obtain ‘maximum impact’.

By now I’m sure you’ve already gleaned what I meant by “‘consciously’ and ‘glean'”.
Contrary to popular belief, only one half of those ‘immersed’ in communication need to be conscious of what is going on in order for language to be in use.

Actors can influence their audience without the audience being privy to acting tools.
All of us freely distribute a lot of information about ourselves – through walking, eating, manner of speaking, etc., etc. – which can be ‘deciphered’ with ease by those knowledgeable in this trade.
All of us are inundated by all kinds of advertisement – commercial, political, religious, you name it – but very few of us are aware of the full picture which is being played for us.

In a sense, those of us who can sense anything are like any device connected to the internet.

If it’s connected, it can be hacked‘.

But nothing’s as bad as it seems.
Devices can be plugged off or fire-walled while we can stop watching crap.
And, of course, we can put our brains to work, in earnest, before buying into anything which is hurled towards us.

Both are done ‘by hand’.

Apparently, any likeness between these two stops here.

But, if you pull back in earnest, the ugly thing becomes unraveled.
Not only that it is masturbatory, aka self-inflicted, (political) manipulation should also be classified as sado-masochistic.

Manipulation, as a process, can be examined from two perspectives.
A social one and an individual one.
Now, that everybody knows that ‘manipulation is bad for you‘, any individual who allows themselves to be manipulated into anything must suffer from a masochistic disorder while those who actively manipulate others must be cold blooded sadists.
On the social side, since time and time again manipulation has been proven to have had dangerous consequences, any community that sees any form of manipulation as an acceptable practice must have certain suicidal tendencies. Aka suffer from a ‘social form’ of masochistic disorder. While those who manipulate must be, themselves, cold blooded sadists.

As for being masturbatory, something which is brought upon one self by their own hand, that is almost as evident as Polichinelle’s secret:

Bona-fide politics, that made in earnest, involves open discussion between those who are going to be affected by the decisions and those who propose and support them. Discussions which take place before each major decision is made, during its implementation and after its consequences have started to be felt. The interaction between the politicians and the general public is direct, unmediated.
In Nassim Taleb’s terms, in this situation the politicians have their own ‘skin in the game‘.

Which results ‘risk management’ policy which is the complete opposite of the one adopted by those who believe themselves to be insulated from the consequences of their own actions.

The manipulators, on the other hand, window-dress themselves and the propositions they make. Their goal being not as much to contribute to the well being of their community as to ‘sell to the public’ whatever their minds have been focused on, at that moment. They consider manipulation to be a legitimate tool either because they are not fully aware of the great dangers involved or because they have convinced themselves that they will be forever exempt from contributing to the  the eventual price.
Meanwhile, those who allow themselves to be manipulated either do not realize they are being manipulated or have adopted ‘cynicism as a refuge’ in order to mitigate the cognitive dissonance that is eating away their self esteem.

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true… The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

Please note that in this situation the interaction is no longer direct. The manipulator and the manipulated do not ‘touch’ each-other. Therefore neither knows exactly what the other has in mind.
The interaction is mediated by symbols. Which are ‘photo-shopped’ by the manipulators and, sometimes ‘admiringly’, accepted by the manipulated.

It’s exactly this lack of direct contact between the manipulators and the manipulated which determines the whole thing.
The manipulators are, simultaneously, unaware of the true situation and growingly convinced of their ‘impunity’.
The manipulated have initial difficulties in determining that they are subjected to manipulation and, in a second stage, the impression that there is nothing left to be done about the whole thing.

When, eventually, the consequences catch up with both of them, it is usually too late for anything else but ‘damage control’.

People regret that they didn’t wise up earlier, promise themselves they’ll never let something like that happen to them… and forget. Until the next time.

Manipulation: useful tool, mortal sin or what?!?

Hannah Arendt Explains How Propaganda Uses Lies to Erode All Truth & Morality: Insights from The Origins of Totalitarianism

Masochistic Personality Disorder

Secret de Polichinelle

Cognitive dissonance

Karma

socialism-for-dummies-explained

What’s going on here has nothing to do with what the bona-fide socialists were about (long time ago they tried to reduce the imbalances produced by the ‘savage capitalism’ that was roaming freely in those days) and a lot to do with what’s currently going on in so many contemporary societies.

What’s left for us to do is to find out who is the ‘socialist’ here.

Those two bone headed morons who are fighting over who to be in control of that ladder?
And who are crying now because both halves have become useless?

Yes, that was what they were fighting for!
If all they wanted was to leave the pit it wouldn’t have mattered who did it first…

Or, maybe, the ‘serpent’ who offered to help those two divide the ladder amongst them?

And who, by doing precisely that, made sure that his control, over his ladder – which was not shown, remained unchallenged?

But what has any of this anything to do with socialism? At all?

Did anybody whisper ‘monopoly’?
Back there?

Anyone?

dolce-gabbana-gang-bang

Some 30 years ago I stumbled upon a book by Desmond Morris.

The Naked Ape.

I read it overnight because next day it had to be returned to its owner. Books published in their original languages were hard to come by in communist Romania…
Little did I know at that time that my interests will slowly shift from Mechanical Engineering to Sociology and then on to decision making… Anyway…
In that book Morris tries to convince us that women have so many periods because in this way they are a lot readier to receive their mates, thus ensuring a tighter bond inside the couple. In turn this is beneficial in an evolutionary sense because a tightly knit couple is better suited for raising the kind of slow growing children that is characteristic for the human species.
In short Morris proposes that monogamy was a step forward in human evolution.
I tend to agree with him and I even have a further argument. Imagine what would happen if a small number of alpha males would ‘corral’ – one way or another – most of the available nubile women, as it’s the case with the chimps or the gorillas. Do you think the rest of the males would be able to cooperate in any way towards the survival of the community they belong to or they’d be constantly obsessing about how to get laid?

Which brings me to my subject.

Emile Durkheim used suicide as a pretext to introduce us to his theory about social solidarity and the social function played by what we consider to be a crime.
Durkheim’s research had led him to see suicide as an individual decision but one which is heavily influenced by the cultural medium to which the decision maker belongs. More over, the same line of thinking produced his conclusion that a society must keep a fine balance between ‘solidarity/intolerance’ and ‘laisez-faire’. One that is too intolerant drastically reduces its own ability to adapt to changes that occur in its ‘environment’ while those that do not care about the fate of their members will eventually auto-dissolve.

What if incidence of rape was to be studied in the same light?

Bill Cosby – a man who, let’s face it, could have had legions of willing women – is accused  to have drugged and raped some 40 women in more than 30 years before anything came to public notice.
Jimmy Savile, a British “larger-than-life character”, used “his celebrity status and fund-raising activity to gain uncontrolled access to vulnerable people across six decades” and to unabashedly rape them.
Rape not only occurs randomly in war time but has also been used as a weapon:
Sexual violence is also used to destabilize communities and sow terror”.
Meanwhile France – Durkheim’s own Motherland – has become the stage for some 7000 ‘tournantes’ every year. The English term for ‘tournant’ being gang rape.

As Durkheim said more than a hundred years ago suicide is indeed an individual act/decision but it’s incidence is heavily influenced by what happens around that person.
Same thing is valid for rape. A rape appears at the intersection between the history/experience/upbringing of the rapist, the social/cultural milieu in which he lives and his ‘on the spot’ decision.

Sex sells.
“It’s been said that as human beings, we have a lizard or reptilian brain that responds to certain primal urges. Food is one. Sex and reproduction is definitely another. This underlying, pre-programmed disposition to respond to sexual imagery is so strong, it has been used for over 100 years in advertising. And the industry, while abusing it more and more, would be foolish to ignore the draw of sexual and erotic messaging.”

How far are we willing to go in order to make a sale? As far as Dolce and Gabbana went when they published the picture above?

Morris said that our first step towards humanity was to change our very physiology in order to promote (at least an apparent) monogamy. It seems that we are now altering our culture in order to sell more…

Gang Rape taken to the next level… Manipulation went wild…

People glimpse fragments from the surrounding reality and then use their newly found understanding to gradually change it.
They do this in three, successive, steps.
The first has a lot to do with happenstance – the right man at the right place, the second involves a lot of ‘due diligence’ and the third depends very much on how those who end up in command of the new understating relate to the rest of the people.
Sometimes some of the people who ‘happen’ to ‘stumble’ on new information/experience something really new feel the urge to communicate to others what has happened to them.
Usually the information gleaned/sentiments experienced during this first step are so new that there are no socially sanctioned symbols that can represent them faithfully so the individual trying to communicate the entire experience has to find a novel way to make it understandable for those around him. This is art.
The second step has less to do with actual discovery and is more about systematization of information already at our disposal. Something like charting a newly discovered territory. Even if we have to adapt our existing tools to the new task – some of them had been discovered during the first step but that means they are already here when we start the second one, here the job to be done is more about reason than inspiration. This is science.
And now, that new information is available – even before it was widely disseminated – people start to use it. Some of it is used straight away/as it is/honestly while some other is used to keep ‘the others’ in the dark or to alter their perceptions in order to fit the goals of the ‘user’/’entrepreneur’/spin doctor.
Usually this last way of using newly found understanding has perverse consequences. The ‘user’ becomes arrogant and starts to believe he has somehow become a (demi)God while the people kept in the dark/unwittingly exploited sooner or later become aware of what is going on – and sometimes express that in artistic ways.
At some point the equilibrium is regained, either through  a  a series of oscillations that ’embrace’ it – a revolution – or through small steps in the right direction – evolution.
(Usually, as the distance between a given state of facts and the perceived point of equilibrium becomes wider then people gradually loose hope in evolution and start to consider more revolutionary methods.)

This doesn’t catch the entire picture – each of us is heavily dependent on the environment into which we happened to be born – but clearly states the difference between us humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.
We are able to make conscious decisions and we love to apportion blame.

When engaging into our favorite pastime we’d better take into consideration two things: Our consciousness/rationality is limited and we can speak about blame only if intent was present.
We don’t have unlimited access to other people thoughts, nor can we see very far, so, in reality, we are aware of a very limited portion of the world around us. Moreover, no matter how confident we are in our minds, our processing power is also limited. So both our decisions and our ability to accurately apportion blame are not at all infallible. Far from it.
On the other hand blaming natural causes or even people who are not aware of (some) of the consequences produced by their actions for what has happened to us doesn’t make sense. A lighting doesn’t know that it frightens people and may wreak havoc in a city if the electric grid is knocked out of order, just as the ‘financial engineers’ who came up with the concept didn’t know, at first, what effects ‘securitization‘ will have upon the global financial markets.

Hey, you promised us something about manipulation and management, not another essay about financial markets manipulation!

True enough so let me discuss first what manipulation is: nothing but a psychological tool. Please note that I’m concerned here with the lofty notion of ‘thought manipulation’, not with the mere ability of ‘juggling’ objects into position….
Regardless of why or for what purpose it’s performed, manipulation remains a simple and very efficient tool that can be used even ‘pre-consciously’ – if you don’t believe me remember how toddlers manipulate their parents into buying them diverse things that are not only a complete waste of money but also sometimes dangerous for their long term health. In this case the manipulation is twofold: the merchandisers position certain items near the cashiers’ desks so that the children might not miss them.

As with any tool it’s up to the user (a.k.a. manipulator) to set the standards, what’s acceptable and what not.

Really? But what if the manipulator is not fully aware of the consequences of his acts? (Remember my digression into the subject of limited rationality/consciousness?) Could it be that the entire world might be shaken, even worse that it has already been, by the yet unforeseen consequences of a manipulation already underway?
Well, as no manipulator is that skilled as to be able to avoid detection for very long, the sad part about the whole thing is that most of the time we know/feel that we are being manipulated and allow it to happen out of laziness or complacency… This being exactly the moment when we should start blaming ourselves for our own lassitude.

Even more ‘interesting’ is how we rationalize the daily use of manipulation:

“The uncomfortable truth is that when resolving all the different pressures from existing customers, your own organization, bids for new business, and the like, you are inevitably going to have to persuade people to do things that are not entirely in their own interests.”

So, how much ‘out of their own interests’ is it acceptable for us to manipulate the thoughts of other persons? Specially when they are, after all, our close associates – either clients, subordinates, bosses or even colleagues, friends, relatives, close family.

And, given that sooner or later everybody realizes at least some of the manipulation he has been subjected to, the survival of our entire social life basically depends on how much manipulation each of us is disposed to submit to.

Rather scary, don’t you think? Specially if we take into consideration the fact that manipulators do not always know exactly what they are doing….

Don’t despair. There are people, among the ‘movers and shakers of this world’, who have noticed at least part of what’s going on and have started to act:

“Fundamentally, I believe, the gap (between HR’s aspirations and actual role) arises from two complementary causes. First, executives and managers often think their job is to get financial results rather than to manage people. Second, when executives and managers neglect people management, the HR function worries about lapses and tends to “lean in” to right them itself. On the surface, this approach seems to meet an organization’s needs: management moves away from areas it views as unrewarding (and perhaps uncomfortable), while HR moves in, takes on responsibilities, solves problems, and gains some glory in the process.

But this approach is based on erroneous thinking. It is bad for management and bad for the company as a whole. When HR sees itself as manager, mediator, and nurturer, it further separates managers from their employees and reinforces a results-versus-people dichotomy. That’s why many HR teams refer to the rest of the company as “the business”; too often, they don’t really perceive themselves as a core part of that business.”

When more of us will get it that we’re all together in this, we’ll reinvent mutual respect and scale back manipulation to its natural status: a very useful tool for grabbing the attention of whomever we want to talk to. Used in this manner, like all decent advertisers do, manipulation becomes not only innocuous but also useful for both parties. One is able to get its message across and the other finds out easier what’s going on in this world.

There are costs to be incurred, of course. Those who refrain from more aggressive manipulation may loose some money at first and those who pay a lot of attention to the messages – precisely because they are no longer aggressively manipulative – may end up spending in this manner a lot more time than they used to until now. But if and when we’ll realize that long time survival is a lot more important than short time profit then we’ll foot the bill without much hassle.

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, “Everything you do…” : https://www.facebook.com/drwaynedyer/photos/a.387583371029.167523.83636976029/10151331343881030/?type=1&theater
Segoviano, M., et all, Securitization, Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2013/wp13255.pdf
Case Study, The Colapse of Lehman Brothers, Investopedia: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/economics/09/lehman-brothers-collapse.asp
Peeling, Nic, Principles of Management, Dorset House Publishing, http://www.dorsethouse.com/features/excerpts/exdpch1.html
Allen, Peter L., Toward a new HR. Philosophy, McKinsey Quarterly: http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/Toward_a_new_HR_philosophy?cid=other-eml-alt-mkq-mck-oth-1504
Dolmanian, Sarchis, Profit, Might it be overrated?: https://nicichiarasa.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/profit-might-it-be-overrated/

I spotted this picture on The Atlantic’s FB wall:Image

It also had a caption: “A reminder that you should read more than one newspaper—even when you’re using an iPad.”

“So where’s the news?” I asked myself.

Well, the news is that it was a reader who noticed this!
I was expecting, my mistake – I was presumptuous, a self serving sermon about modern era ‘militant journalism’ yet it was a glimmer of hope: people have started to think with their own heads.

And then I read some comments on the FB page. Quite a lot of people were not only taking sides – perfectly acceptable, everybody is entitled to have an opinion – but actually defending or defaming particular newspapers.

My conclusion? It seems there are still too many people who trust “their newspaper” while rejecting all the others. AND that too many journalists/owners continue to misuse this trust.

I started this post with “You can lead a horse to water but…” Some of you might get offended that I compare readers with horses, or, slightly better, with ‘stubborn’ horses who drink only when they feel the need. Some others might remark that horses are less gullible than some people. There is some truth in all these… but I had something else in my mind.

Good horse breeders never take their horses to water when there is no real need and certainly they don’t force anything down the throat of healthy animals. So why is this bullshit going on? I understand differences of opinion but crass manipulation is like purposefully damaging your herd!
Besides that, I know that horses are intelligent animals. OK, nowadays manipulation techniques are indeed very powerful but if a sizable – and growing – portion of the “herd” is able to see through them how come too many still refuse to have a close look at what is going on?

Simultaneously I have the distinct impression that the ‘manipulators’ consider that their habitat is so well protected from the rest of the world that they can do whatever they please, without any fear for the consequences their  acts might have. Are they really that thick, that disconnected from the hard realities of this world or are they delusional?

Well, no horse starts to drink before feeling thirsty!

Yes but we’re not horses! “Readers” and “writers”, we belong to the same species and inhabit the same Earth. Together.

For a funnier side of this subject you might try figuring out what really happened here.

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