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A few months ago, when I was attending one of my university courses, I was challenged to write an article. It should be related in some way with “speech techniques” and “powerful speeches”.
Around that time, coincidently or not, I had bought a book called “The 48 Laws of Power”, by Robert Greene. If you haven’t heard, it is a highly controversial – even immoral -, book. I thought it would be interesting if I used that book to analyse how the, let’s just call them, “people with power”, achieve success through their speech.
Speech techniques to manipulate crowds
By writing that article, my intention was to understand how these people can manipulate us every day and deceive masses to go along with what they want. I also wanted to understand those powerful speech techniques had a relation with the uprising of hate speech in the last few years, and the overall role of Design to fight that (since it’s my area).
In this post, I have a different purpose. I want to share my conclusions on my research of those laws, to understand how masses are manipulated. At the same time, I want to question the morality of those techniques, see if someone using them can really call himself “powerful”.
It’s almost shocking understanding how simple and easy it is to use these “laws” or techniques. And how efficient they had proved to be along history (especially in the last two centuries).
“Play on people’s need to believe to create a cult-like following”
While I was writing the article, I found some rules that were very interesting to analyse. One of them was the 27th, which said: “Play on people’s need to believe to create a cult-like following”.
At first, this one seems obvious and everyone should know it, right? Well if that’s the case why so many people still fall for it?
When the Catholic church used these methods to make the crusades, there was very few information to the common people around those times. But even the holocaust used the same method, making a group of people believe that they had a mission – to be the perfect race (yes, it’s just a tiny piece of all the frame, but it paints an idea).
Another example is the Ku Klux Klan. How can such group still live to this day? Could it be because people are racist? It’s hard to accept a group like this lived this long. They cultivate the need to believe that they are special, and the others aren’t. That is what makes their leaders who they are. And it is this belief that passed through generations and made the cult survive.
“Conceal your intentions”
When we listen to politicians in the news, we can listen to a lot of new measures and ideas that they want to put in motion, and their speech about them. A great part of them follows the 3rd rule: “Conceal your intentions”.
This “law” implies that when talking to someone we should always say what we want to do, especially what will happen, but never the reason.
This worked very well for Trump, for example. He said he was going to build a wall, to stop the Mexicans from entering in the USA. As consequence, crime would fall.
The fact is that there are people who support this. However, he never really explained why he wanted to do it, consciously or not, so people were just supporting an idea, never considering if it was morally acceptable.
Morality (or lack of it) in powerful people
There are many other “laws” like this one. Which, in my opinion, can be obnoxious and show a lack of morality in this “powerful people”.
I will not elaborate on them since they are already self-explanatory. Just to give an idea, here are some of them: “Get others to do the work for you, but always take the Credit”, “Learn to keep people dependent on you” or “Keep your hands clean”.
Will we be able to recognize these “techniques” when shown to us?
To finish this post, I just want to point out some final questions: which position will we have when faced with someone using these tricks, right in front of us? Will we ignore that person or try to expose him?
Maybe, if we have an opportunity to use them, we shall do it as well… Or maybe we won’t. Is it so bad? I don’t know.
One thing I’m sure: it’s a form of “power”, but a very small one. It’s the new “power” of this century, one that only counts from the waist down… It’s superficial, a question of size. It doesn’t give two thoughts about morality or the seek for knowledge.
Can these tricks be effective? Yes, they can be! But are those people really “powerful”? I believe not, since it’s just superficial.