Take 11 Minutes and Learn the Secrets to the Science of Persuasion

This video is mostly narrated by Dr. Robert Cialdini, who’s most famous for his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (where he first presented most of the ideas seen here).  This is a text book—if not the Bible—on how to talk to people about things that you really care about, and get them to see your perspective.

Cialdini started out as a research psychologist, and my understanding (which fits the tone of the book) is that he began working on the book—which catalogues and examines several categories of sales/influence tricks and techniques—as a sort of warning to lay folks. After its first publication, it became enormously influential among marketers, copywriters, businessfolk, and all manner of modern propogandists.  If you write for any purpose (e.g., speechs, op-ed, news, fiction, non-fiction, persuading folks on the fence to vote for this or that) or run any sort of business, you need to read this book.  For that matter, even if you don’t seek to persuade anyone of anything, I still strongly recommend every adult in America  read this book, in order to better understand how it is you’ve come to believe what you believe, embrace what you embrace, and reject what “just isn’t your thing.”

(While we’re on the topic, you really should also read Darrell Huff’s HOW TO LIE WITH STATISTICS; the black arts outlined in these two books cover the two major toolsets that the politically and economically motivated are using to manipulate you and your loved ones every single day.  Get your hands on Master’s tools; consider their possible applications in tearing down Master’s house*.)

Caveat: Yes, some of the hard data and studies in the original Influence haven’t aged well, but the bold strokes—about how people behave and how our minds get changed without our realizing it—is still rock solid.

BONUS: Check out this analysis of Oprah, and compare it with what Cialdini describes above:

Continue reading “Take 11 Minutes and Learn the Secrets to the Science of Persuasion”

Emotionally Scarring Children to Help them Cope with Things that Never Happened #HappyHalloween!!! 🎃👻🍬

The images below are taken from Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child’s Book About Satanic Ritual Abuse.  This is a real book that was earnestly written and actually published, then presumably read to actual children (who, one presumes, were duly traumatized) in order to help them cope with having not endured fake things that never happened to anyone (see also “Satanic Panic”and D&D as thrill-kill gateway drug—and recall, these were current events, reported in the newspaper, recounted in measured tones on the evening news, endlessly explored on the afternoon talk shows I watched while my folks were at work. I was a fat, gullible, ill-monitored Jewish pre-teen at the time. These cases enthralled and terrified me.) "Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" halloween

The craziest thing about all this, to me, is that the author and publisher really did have their hearts in the right place, I think.  In contrast to most materials surrounding the issue of Satanic Ritual Abuse, this wasn’t an attempt to bait the hook of Fundamentalist Christian propaganda or Normative White bigotry with raw meat ripped from the tabloid headlines. 

"Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" ritual

"Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" cover This book comes from the “Hurts of Childhood” series, which honestly and directly tries to address real burdens that many children really face: parental alcohol abuse, sexual assault, traumatic family situations, and so on.  Yes, every single title in this series is just as maladroitly handled—but, jeez, at least they were trying.

"Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" bath "Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" doctor 2 "Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy: A Child's Book about Satanic Ritual Abuse" doctor 1

Let me stress: This stuff looks silly and ghoulish and comically naive now, but we actually believed these things were happening back in the 1980s. Real people really went to prison—and stayed there for years—having been accused of heinous abominations and convicted of committing a type of crime that hasn’t ever happened:

The survey included 6,910 psychiatrists, psychologists and clinical social workers, and 4,655 district attorneys, police departments and social service agencies. They reported 12,264 accusations of ritual abuse that they had investigated.

The survey found that there was not a single case where there was clear corroborating evidence for the most common accusation, that there was “a well-organized intergenerational satanic cult, who sexually molested and tortured children in their homes or schools for years and committed a series of murders,” Dr. Goodman said.

Many psychotherapists who have been vocal about a supposed epidemic of sexual abuse by well-organized satanic rings have grown more cautious of late. “There’s clearly been a contagion, a contamination of what people say in therapy because of what they see on TV or read about satanic ritual abuse,” said Dr. Bennet Braun, a psychiatrist who heads the Dissociative Disorders Unit at Rush-North Shore Medical Center in Chicago.

So, anyway, that was life in the 1980s. It was legitimately fake news that led to literal witch hunts and actually completely destroyed people’s lives.

(image sources  here and here)

TREAT TIME! 🎃👻⚰️🍬 Free audiobook: “The Slender Men” by David Erik Nelson

Been casting around for a short-n-sweet Halloween read? The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine has just released their audiobook of my story “The Slender Men”—free download awaits!

Episode 209: The Slender Men by David Erik Nelson – The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine

slenderman(here’s a direct download of the MP3, if you prefer)

Rish Outfield—who produced this audio—was also the voice actor for the last story I sold to PseudoPod, “Whatever Comes After Calcutta.”  I love what Rish does for horror stories; it’s just so spot on.  This is basically as close as you can expect to get to what I hear in my head when I revisit “The Slender Men.”

How Poor Healthcare Might Have Created our Prison Epidemic

Is there an argument to be made that our poor healthcare system and our huge prison population are linked?

Answer to “What are the freakiest anomalies regarding the brain?” by Huyen Nguyen

It’s an interesting answer overall, but here’s the bit that got me thinking about the no-doctor-to-prison pipeline (as a man who has had countless untreated concussions, back in the helmetless 80s and 90s—injuries that my docs have opined probably contributed to the clinical anxiety and depression that started to crush me in my middle age):

Recent studies have estimated 25–87% of prison inmates suffered some sort of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in their life and indicated associations between TBIs and criminal-like behaviour. TBI-related problems can complicate their management and treatment. They can experience mental health problems such as severe depression, anxiety, anger control issues, self-restraint, alcohol and substance abuse.

This makes it difficult for them to respond to disciplinary action in prison, to understand and remember rules, and anger issues can get them in dangerous incidents with other inmates. They also have a higher rate of recidivism.

The spirit of the law is that responsibility for a crime is reduced when a defendant’s cognitive ability is compromised by illness or injury.

This short film isn’t really all that disturbing…

…unless you’ve ever had or been a child or parent.  In that case, whoadamn!!!

This is from Ari Aster, the writer/director of Hereditary and Midsommar—the latter of which I loved, although plausibly for different reasons than most.  To me, it wasn’t a revenge film at all.  There’s a crop of female-lead horror films surfacing (A Dark Song is another that leaps to mind) that are tremendous explorations of how one processes trauma.  Midsommar is mos def one of these, in my humble—and, in a deeply morally ambiguous way, sort of an optimistic film, when all is said and done.  Highly Recommended.

You Can Help Reduce the Hidden Costs of Being a Minority in America

UPDATE 2019-10-11: Yom Kippur was Wednesday, and a guy with homemade guns and bombs tried to kill a few dozen praying Jews in Germany. He was thwarted by his own poor craftsmanship and decent locked doors. I’d really like to know that Jewish congregations throughout America have good doors, good locks, and good trauma kits. All of this is expensive; a small trauma kit—one with supplies to slow the death of one or two gunshot victims—runs ~$50. It would be nice not to have to chose which of my friends, neighbors, or family members dies and which might live. YOU CAN HELP US BUY THESE THINGS.  Heck, here’s the shopping list for a minimal trauma kit.  Buy the parts yourself, and send it to the congregation of your choosing. Concerned they won’t know what to do with it? Have them contact me and I’ll walk them through how to use this trauma kit in an emergency.

It’s expensive to be in the minority: You need to take days off that aren’t excepted in the “secular” work calendar; you need to buy things (garments, food, etc.) for which there is lower demand (and thus are correspondingly more expensive to acquire); you need to spend time (often on a daily basis) explaining very simple things over and over and over again to often very well meaning people; you have to swallow your gall over a very large number of very small insults; you have to search around for food or facilities or services that are suitable for you, and don’t oblige you to debase yourself or become an unwilling spectacle (although both are frequently part of your life).

Muslims face this.  Immigrants face this.  Folks whose genders don’t match their sexes in the predominant fashion face this.

Right now, all over America, very small groups of Jews are scratching together very large sums of money in order to buy thicker doors, better locks, security cameras, and bullet-resistant glass.

I know that you don’t wish any of us harm.  And I know how awful it feels to not be able to do anything.

If you’re in the majority, then you never have to sit down in your pew and say “OK: The shooter will almost certainly come through those doors, so I need to clear people this direction.  We’ll designate Person X to sprint down to the childcare room and get the kids out through the fire exit…”

If you never attend religious services, then you aren’t shopping for trauma kits—and so maybe have some shekels to spare.

If you don’t need to be dedicated brain cycles to having a plan for keeping your friends and neighbors alive for the 5 to 7 minutes it takes the police to arrive, then you have bandwidth to spare for some other thoughts—and likely some of those are “How did we get here?  How the hell can we get back?

Me, I’ve got the High Holidays next week; I’m waiting for the supplies for my trauma kit to come in the mail.  I’m reviewing building schematics and Google satellite views and walking perimeters to figure how long it takes to get from a fire door to the tree line.

If you’re bummed about the surge in American anti-Semitism (and the corresponding new fad of shooting Jews in our houses of worship while we pray), there’s something concrete you can do:

Send money

This flyer is for my community, but you don’t have to send us money.  I absolutely guarantee that every Jewish Federation in every part of this country is running a similar drive.  We all are operating congregations and community centers in of old buildings with shoe-string budgets. Google the nearest major city to you and the word “JCC” (for “Jewish Community Center”).  You’ll either get the Jewish Federation for that region, the nearest Jewish Community Center in that town, or that town’s lone lil synagogue (example: I googled “jcc billings, MT” and found these cats Congregation Beth Aaron—who almost certainly need better doors).

Give them a call and say “I’d like to donate to help you increase safety and security in your community.”  Give an amount of money that’s a multiple of 18 (it’s sort of a lucky number; Jewish superstition associates 18 with life and longevity).

 half page ad_Jewish Federation

Colt is ceasing production of consumer-grade assault rifles o_O

Washington Post: There are so many AR-15s in U.S. consumer hands that it makes no sense to produce more, Colt says”Stag2wi_

Three things worth noting:

  1. Colt is the father of the AR-15 and creator of the once highly profitable consumer-grade assault weapon niche. It’s enormous news that they’re out.
  2. This headline implies that the market is saturated because so many guns have been produced and sold, but if you read the article, that’s not what Colt said. They simply say demand is down. Yes, one explanation is that they overproduced and flooded the market. Another is that fewer people want these guns (often characterized as “the must vilified gun in America.”). Think about cigarettes: Demand for those in the US is also down, not because cigarette manufacturers overproduced and flooded the market, but because we worked hard to make having and using cigarettes less socially neutral and much more publicly controversial.
  3. Contrary to popular perception, while these guns are enormously popular with those committing the most heinous crimes, they are used in a vanishingly small percentage of total gun crimes.

 

Re-watched WAKING LIFE last night

This movie was a Big Deal to us back when it came out in 2001, but it hasn’t necessarily aged well (“Oh, look, another annoying young white man talking,” my wife opined near the end).

That said, I was struck, over and over again, by how hopefully the movie is about now.

Even in its cynical moments, it’s hopeful about us—the humans of the future—in a way that feels like something midway between “charmingly quaint” and “astoundingly, nearly nauseously, naive.”

I want to be like the people in this film. I want to see us the way they were certain we’d be. I want to be as confident as they were that we’d at least be trying to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday.

Today is Summer Solstice. Quite literally, it gets darker from here.

Let’s try and be the people we always assumed we were, dee down inside.

If you want to understand the last three years in American politics, read Stephen King’s 1985 novella “The Mist”

This is, by no means, any sort of endorsement of any of the film/TV/radio-drama adaptations of this work—all of which either entirely miss what gives this story its lasting power, or convert a fundamentally profound work about kitchen-table American politics (i.e., the only kind that actually matters) to a moderately stupid and lazily nihilistic creature features.

Read the novella (which is also the first story in Skeleton Crew—a whole book of classic King shorts that costs just a couple buck more than the standalone novella—and is bootlegged here).  Ignore the monsters and the titular mist; watch the people.  And never lose sight of the final word in the story.

  

Listen to (or Read) My Story “Whatever Comes After Calcutta” on @PseudoPod

The Pseudopod team always does great work, but I’m especially thrilled with what the reader—Rish Outfield—has done here; the story has lots of voices, and he captures them all.  Such a treat. (For those less inclined to audio drama and more to old-fashioned reading, they have the full text of the story posted, too.)

PseudoPod 649: “Whatever Comes After Calcutta

And here’s a YouTube video of the audio, if that’s your jam:

Enjoy!