February 11, 2013

On Deception - 1
  Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men.
  -- Plato

  Now, the framers of the current treatises on
  rhetoric have constructed but a small portion
  of that art. The modes of persuasion are the
  only true constituents of the art: everything
  else is merely accessory.
   -- Aristotle, Rhetoric - Book I


1. About Deception
2. Useful links

About ME/CFS


Yesterday I wrote about Frankfurt's booklet "On Bullshit" and provided a video-link to an interview with him.

This is a follow-up and also an extension, and an attempt to reformulate what is the essential point and purpose involved in what has been variously referred to as
bullshit, baloney, bogosity, BS, crap, and other similar terms are

(1) what is both reprehensible and typical for it (when I use terms like those listed) is that it involves intentional deception, and
(2) when practiced as a professional craft, or in a professional context like politics, religion, advertising, marketing or public relations, it is a kind of rhetoric, while
(3) that rhetoric these days comes with philosophical ("epistemic") pretensions associated with postmodernism, and also with the sort of "philosophy of science" associated with Kuhn and Feyerabend: "There is no truth", "there are no facts", "everything is relative" - there are only "narratives" and "interpretations".

In the present Nederlog I will take up these themes, but since it is likely I will write more about it, the title of the Nederlog has a number: "On Deception - 1".

One good background for the subject, with
a lot of information and ideas about  marketing, public relations, postmodernism, bullshit, fraud, manipulation, and large scale deception of the public see "The Century of the Self" (<- Youtube), which also has a Wikipedia link: The Century of the Self.

Finally, one reason to be personally concerned with it is that I have run into a lot of deception in Amsterdam:

By the
municipal government (mayors, aldermen, lawyers) about drugs and being corrupted by drugs dealing (in Amsterdam protected by mayor and aldermen, "tolerated" though legally forbidden by a signature of the mayor, worth billions of dollars in turnover each year); by the municipal University of Amsterdam (board of directors, staff, politically organized students) about education and politics; by the municipal bureaucracies (for health and for the dole) about illness and physical threats abnd insults by bureaucrats; and by large amounts of public relations propaganda by the municipal goverment about its policies and the personal excellencies of the careerists who live luxuriously by politics, lying, public relations or drugs corruption.

Apart from that, I am aware since the early 1980ies, at the latest, of a general drop in the standards of language, discussion and education in Holland, where the last certainly is an objective fact, and the first two are made possible by that and have been much furthered by the very extensive and very common use of sales talk or of postmodernistic writing styles and attitudes - "truth is relative", "morals are relative", "everybody is equal" - whenever large or important audiences are addressed.

1. About Deception

It seems to me that the age in which I live, at least since the 1980ies, is the age of marketing, the age of fraudulence, the age of deception: Everywhere in Europe and the UD, and especially in marketing/economy and in politics/power, public relations techniques and marketing techniques are being and have been systematically used to deceive the electorate and the consumers.

The essence of the marketing techniques is that carefully selected groups of persons from target groups, whether possibly buyers or consumers, or possible voters or followers, are being studied empirically to find out what are their feelings, desires, values and ideas about a product or idea to be sold or made popular to them, with the end of finding the means to most effectively convince them to buy or desire that product or idea. [1]

The essence of the public relations techniques is that
target groups of potential consumers or voters are approached with communications that have been tailored towards the end of convincing them that a certain product, person or idea is worth buying, admiring or following, regardless of truth, fact, or values: The end of public relations is not honest information or communication, and the production of a rational belief, but the production of beliefs and desires that help products, services or persons become acceptable and desired by a public, based on emotions, fallacies or deception. [2]

Because I want to get my terms right, and intend to write more about the extremely widespread uses of the techniques of deception involved in marketing and "public relations", that are both species of propaganda, I started in the present text with linking some appropriate definitions of relevant terms. These have been mostly lifted or adapted from my Philosophical Dictionary.

My background for the present discussion of deception consists of one general assumption and one general moral value:

My key general assumption in considering and discussing the marketing and "public relations" is scientific realism: I am an analytic philosopher and psychologist whose thinking is based on 45 years of study in analytic and classic philosophy and logic, based on the ideas that there is a real world, that exists independently from my or anyone's beliefs and desires about it, that I and every other human being and indeed everything
whatsoever that exists is part of, and that reality is best studied with scientific methods, that have been carefully designed to try to find out what the real facts are, in some field or domain. [3]

My key general moral value is that a human society is a cooperation of individual persons to protect and help each other, and that such a cooperation is only possible if the participants are honest about their beliefs, desires and ends. Put negatively, there is no human society based on cooperation for mutual help and protection, if parts of that society, such as its political, religious or business leaders lie about their beliefs, desires and ends, and further their private interests by deceiving others. [4]

Having read a lot of philosophy and psychology, I am aware that both my assumption and my value are contested or denied in academia, and also elsewhere, and are often set aside as naive. I only observe that the doubts, denials and disqualifications of scientific realism and of honest cooperation often are forms of rhetoric that I am opposed to - one is being intentionally lied to, deceived, misinformed, manipulated, confused, bullied or demeaned - while it is obvious that no small face group - a human group of which all the members know each other face to face and cooperate closely, depending on each others' competence, honesty and usual benevolence - including families and work units, can function well in practice if its members as a rule lie to and deceive each other. [5]

To conclude this section, I observe that the formal study of systematic deception as outlined is known as rhetoric, about which Aristotle - the founder of logic - wrote a very interesting treatise, in three books.

Since then, there have been quite a few more treatises on rhetoric, that sometimes also has been restyled or redefined, away from the art of persuasion, e.g. as the art of speaking well, or also as a kind of linguistic study.

For my purposes, the Aristotelian and other treatments of rhetoric as the art of persuasion, not necessarily by speech or writing, but also by images, music, and art, is most fit, for I will consider it as the art of intentional deception and propaganda: To convince others not by logically valid and factually true (or probable [6]) means, but by playing on their fears and desires, and by presenting what is claimed to be "information" in a slanted, biased, partial, prejudiced, and generally dishonest and propagandistic way.

There are other uses of the term "rhetoric" and indeed other kinds of rhetoric - notably: the art of speaking well, or the art of advocacy - that may or may not involve rhetoric as the art of persuading a public by any effective means, and do not necessarily involve rhetoric in that last sense, but they are mostly not what I am concerned with, although it deserves stressing that part of the art of persuasion is to speak the truth sometimes, especially when this helps one's basic end of persuading a public; when one cannot avoid speaking the truth without loosing credibility; or when not speaking the truth is legally actionable.

Finally, the foundation of rhetoric as public relations have been laid by
Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays, in a book of 1928, that is quite cynical in content and indeed in title, for it was called "Propaganda" at the time, and only in the late 1940ies this - factually correct - term was replaced by the - rhetorically misleading - euphemistic term "public relations".

2. Useful links

The point of rhetoric as deception is to persuade an audience by any means - and being honest, keeping to what one knows the facts are, not pretending knowledge where one is ignorant, not exaggerating, not creating false impressions, all of which are both the methods and the ends of real science that are totally at variance with the ends of persuading an audience.

As it happens, these days, large parts of psychiatry; considerable parts of medicine especially pharmacology and the means of testing, selling and marketing medical drugs; large parts of philosophy, the social sciences, and linguistics, and almost all of public discourse has been taken over by (post-)modern rhetoricians - well paid, highly trained
public relations professionals and professional marketeers, who are willing, in principle [7], to sell any point of view and any product to any audience for money, and who are generally able to do so wherever there is no strong premium on honesty or no strong and effective sanctions against liars and conmen.[8]

And there is more, but in order not to make the present text too long, I will only provide a list of links to Wikipedia articles (mostly) that are relevant to my subject and its background.

This is meant to be helpful, to me or to anyone interested in the subjects of public relations, politics, health care, the current crisis, the DSM-5 or psychiatry, or indeed their interrelations. It is not meant to be exhaustive, and it treats various aspects.

First, generalities and background about public relations, marketing, psychiatry:
The Century of the Self (Wikipedia) 
Adam Curtis (Wikipedia) 
The Century of the Self (YouTube)

Stuart Ewen (Wikipedia)
Stuart Ewen Interview 1 (Stay Free! Magazine)
Stuart Ewen Interview 2 (Stay Free! Magazine)

Geoffrey Miller (Wikipedia)
Adam Curtis is the maker of "The Century of the Self", a BBC documentary in four parts, each nearly an hour long, that is mostly concerned with the influence of the Freud family, that includes Edward Bernays, the founder of "public relations". I strongly recommend it, even though it takes four hours to see all.

Part of the ideas of Curtis relates have been said to be inspired by books and ideas of Stuart Ewen, who is a specialist and professor in and writer about media matters, including marketing, public relations, and advertising. He also appears several times in Curtis' four documentaries. The two interviews with Ewen are not on Wikipedia, but appeared in Stay Free! Magazine, in the 1990ies. This certainly helps to understand
"The Century of Self", and also has considerable interest and value on its own merits.

Miller has some ideas about how marketing has exploited human instincts, to the benefit of the marketeers and the corporations they serve, but at the cost of the human development of the masses they exploit and deceive. There is a further set of ideas here, related to egoism, altruism, Darwinism and evolutioonary thinking that I leave out here. (But check George Price, for some interesting ideas and a human interest story.)

Second, the relations to logic, rhetorics, propaganda

Aristotle (Wikipedia)
Aristotle's Rhetoric (Wikipedia)
Edward Bernays (Wikipedia)
"Public relations" (Wikipedia)
Propaganda (Wikipedia)
E. Bernays: Propaganda
The first two are about rhetoric, especially as treated by Aristotle, whose text about it can be found on the internet on various places, in various translations, and even in the original Greek. I read it ca. 1972, and was impressed, but did not then realize how it relates to what is now called "public relations". It is well worth reading, and I'll probably put it on my site soon, with my notes if I can find the energy.

The second two are about Sigmund Freud's nephew Edward Bernays, an conman like his uncle, who invented the profession of "public relations", that he initially called "propaganda".

The third two are about propaganda, in general, as treated on Wikipedia, and as treated by E. Bernays, in his 1928 book of that title, which is on my site in a html -edition.

Third, some of the techniques, terms and concepts involved in marketing, public relations, manipulation and deception:
Communicating (Wikipedia)
Marketing (Wikipedia)
Focus_group (Wikipedia)
Customers (Wikipedia)
Selling (Wikipedia)
Financial_transaction (Wikipedia)
Advertising (Wikipedia)
Promotion (Wikipedia)
Direct marketing (Wikipedia)
Charm offensive (Wikipedia)
Psychological manipulation (Wikipedia)
Impression_management (Wikipedia)
There is more below, and one point to make is that selling, dealing, trade and sales talks are at least 3000 years old, and that in itself there is nothing wrong with that, while the related point is that with the arrival of public relations, marketing, modern advertising, and media like TV very much has changed in selling commodities to a public, for which see The Century of the Self

Fourth, about those that use marketing and public relations: Corporations, governments and politicians mostly, for trained public relations con men and women are expensive, as are their campaigns:
Corporation (Wikipedia)
Consumerism (Wikipedia)
Consumer_capitalism (Wikipedia)

Elitism (Wikipedia)
Psychopathy (Wikipedia)

Third Way (Wikipedia)
Anthony Giddens (Wikipedia)
Social corporatism (Wikipedia)
Corporate statism (Wikipedia)
These are just a few from many possible relevant selections.

The first three are in the list because economical propaganda aka advertising and marketing is mostly done by corporations, in a type of society that, at least in Europe and the US, is well described by the term consumer capitalism, that caters to citizens who believe themselves to be independent consumers.

I put elitism and psychopathy in because it seems to me that both in the leading echelons in business, banking and in politics there are far more psychopaths, proportionally, than in most other occupations except the mafia, and that, again like the leaders of the mafia, these leaders invariably are elitists in the sense that they believe that they know better than other people how things should be done and what for. Also, like all politicians in nominal democracies, they invariably pretend to be populists of some kind, and to be firmly anti-elitarian (whlle striving for governmental positions that rule millions, and usually earning to incomes).

The third group is about the "Third Way", associated with the names of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair who publicly professed it, as did the former Dutch PM Wim Kok. It seems that its main "ideas man" is professor Sir Anthony Giddens, Bart, who can be seen (by intelligent people) to write in a postmodern gobbledegook style, that is very reminiscent of the Orwellian abuses of language that is practiced by the American Psychiatric Association, that also has its public communications done by "public relations" experts. Social corporatiism and corporate statism are two notions related to the Third Way.

Fifth and last more about concepts and techniques of (mass) manipulation - for which see

Data manipulation
Market manipulation
Media manipulation
Psychological manipulation
Now for some backgrounds:
Crowd_manipulation (Wikipedia)
Ingratiation (Wikipedia)
Superficial_charm (Wikipedia)
Flattery (Wikipedia)
Superficiality (Wikipedia)
Persuasion (Wikipedia)
Keeping_up_with_the_Joneses (Wikipedia)
Planned_obsolescence (Wikipedia)

No Logo (Wikipedia)
The last is about a book critical of marketing and brand marking, one of the techniques of selling crap to the masses as if it were pure gold: Make them believe that they are better persons if they are consumers of products of a certain brand.

P.S. There is more to follow, but this is a large field, and I have only so much health, and already had planned to write notes on E. Bernays' "Propaganda" and on Aristotle's "Rhetoric", so I do not make any promises, except that I will try to do it since the subject of deception by "public relations" and marketinf is quite important, it explains rather a lot about the modern world and also about the vicissitudes of my own life, and I know of few people who have as much relevant knowledge as I have.

Finally, I realized that what I mean when using the more metaphorical terms "bullshit", "bogosity", "crap", "baloney", etc. is generally best described as deception, rather than as bullshit, bogosity, crap, baloney, simply because this term covers both the intention and the practice best. It is true that there are some unintentional bullshitters - reverends, priests, philosophers, and many quite stupid persons who cannot see through the bullshit or deceptions they believe - but most who are professionals, whether in politics, business, religion or "public relations" know damn well that they are trying to achieve is to deceive you.

And in any case, as I have several times remarked:

For more on marketing, public relations, postmodernism, bullshit, fraud, manipulation, and large scale deception of the public see "The Century of the Self" (<- Youtube), which also has a Wikipedia link: The Century of the Self.

Feb 12, 2013: For the fourth time repaired the same link...I hope it does as instructed now.
[1] Note that this is basically a technique - see Focus group, in Wikipedia - that belongs in the overlap of sociology, psychology and psychiatry. Wikipedia a focus group defines it as:
A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging.
It need not be about marketing or manipulation (finding out what works): The point of focus groups is to find out what people believe, desire or feel about something, albeit that there seems to be a distinction between what focus groups try to elicit, that tends to relate to desires and feelings, and what opinion polls try to find out, that tend to relate to beliefs.

In either case, the information gained may be used to deceive or to inform.

[2] Note that this is defined as a species of propaganda, that always involves misrepresentation, whether through bias, slanting, or emotional talk, pictures or sounds, and that it comprises much more than mere sales talk.

In fact, most kinds of "public relations" are disguised as to what they really are, although they all try to sell
something - in a wide sense: genereate acceptance, support, belief, desire for a product, person, idea or value - to some public.

The reason for the disguise is that most people tend to be far more wary of talk and persons that seem directed at selling them things than when this is not (seen to be) so.

Modern "public relations" comprises much more than mere sales talk: Much of it - like sexy models draped on the hoods of cars that are meant to be sold - is directed at generating a kind of mood, feeling, expectation or attitude, and may indeed not even mention whatever product, company, institution or person it seeks to endear.

[3] I am not going to defend this, for various reasons, one of which is that an honest discussion requires a lot of knowledge of philosophy and logic that most people do not have, but I do want to make two general points.

First, scientific realism is quite close though not identical with common sense, that also presupposes a shared reality in which all persons live and know some things about and also are mostly ignorant about. The difference is that scientific realism is far more sophisticated than common sense realism.

Second, scientific methods are aimed at finding what a certain kind of facts really are, and tends to be quite involved, intricate and specific to specific fields of research. To understand and use them well generally requires a university education, while it should also be remarked that such an education normally only instructs those who receive it in a set of specific methods (and often: equipment and mathematical techniques) that then and there are used in a specific field of research.

The only discipline that studies scientific methods in general - across fields of research and sciences - is philosophy of science.

[4] Again I am not going to defend this, though it does seem to me a proven fact that within a face group (!) of a small business, a set of cooperating colleagues, or a family, honesty is generally the best policy, if indeed not always used there either, and I also regard it as a proven fact that the members of face groups find it much easier - and often desirable and moral - to deceive people who are not a member of their group.

Also, I am not someone who is against lying in general, on principle: Sometimes lying is better than speaking the truth. And I am well aware that animals and even plants use deception as means to further their ends and to keep alive.

My problem is with systematic deception on an industrial scale, as a technique to manipulate and deceive the masses, by false, partial, misleading information, and by manipulating their desires and feelings through what are deceptions.

I am not against sales talks: I am against con men and fraud.

[5] The basic problems with discussing scientific realism and honesty are that a real rational discussion requires a lot of knowledge on the side of the participants as one meets with what are in fact the fundamental problems of philosophy and ethics. Since the arisal and growth of postmodernism in Academia, which started in the 70ies, and which now looks less present and less strident only because much of it has been widely accepted, mostly because "everybody does it", also within Academia, and including philosophy and psychology, it is very difficult to have a rational debate with intellectually qualified and honest persons about the topics of realism or morality.

Outside Academia this is also difficult: Most people lack the knowledge and at least in Europe and the US relativism is very widespread, and has been widely taught in schools and universities as liberating, emancipatory, modern, desirable and fashionable. (In fact, it usually is a cowardly cop out often masked as irony: By taking no position, one runs no risks.)

[6] The reason to write "logically valid and factually true (or probable)" is that while most factual judgements, if rational and based on evidence, are not certainties but probabilities, the statement that so and so is probable to such and such an extent is itself true or false.

It is also true that here matters are already in principle quite complicated, because there are various kinds of probabilities, and indeed also various kinds of logic.

None of this makes these matters "relative" in any ordinary sense, but it is true they are complicated and tend to be discussed in misleading ways, while the notions of truth and probability are not easy to get clear.

[7] The "in principle" is inserted (1) because "publc relations" is from the start a dishonest kind of conmanship while (2) some of those who do it professionally will have ethical qualms about selling their personal services to just anybody for any purpose.

[8] Generally, one does not know who is responsible for the enormous amounts of advertisements and manipulative prose that reaches one to make one buy or vote for certain things: Those who evidently and palpably lie to you usually have no face and no name, and may be safely assumed not to lie in the ways they do if they had to write their name, address, phone number and personal picture under their attempts to manipulate thousands or millions.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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