It can be done. I've done it more times than I know or remember. The rules and tools haven't changed since I lead our debating team in high school. Fact is, argumentation hasn't changed since Aristotle laid out the structure in ancient Greece. You state your premise or proposition then you state your reasons or facts that prove its true. You also point out the flawed reasoning of your opponents' premise. As Aristotle glibly states, "This is how conclusions can be reached through logical reasoning." It took Nietzsche and Carl Jung many years later to point out that the human mind is in no way logical, nor can it necessarily be moved by logic.
Enter modern science, advertising, politics, and the thousand ways they have of imprinting their messages upon our gullible brains. The technique is simple and rests on the scientific fact that neurons acquired together are wired together and fire together. So they imprint your brain simply by saying the same thing over and over again. Your brain, watching TV or listening to music or playing games, is probably coasting along in a relaxed alpha wave of relaxation and so files the data away. Even if your brain is active and alert in the waking beta wave, chances are it's focused on other information so again the data is filed away without critical thought. You've been imprinted and usually by an expert. Snap, Crackle, Pop! Good to the last drop! Tony the Tiger. What pictures do these words bring to your mind? Did you set out to learn these things or did it somehow get implanted into your brain?
Enter politics where the greatest wordmasters reside. Dr. Frank Luntz, the Republican's George Lakoff, is the ultimate wordmaster. In his book, Words that Work, he lays down a few of his secrets. He doesn't use the word framing, but instead refers to context and contexting. 'It's not what you say," he states , "it's what people hear." Meaning that words have to relate to the hearer's life and other data that is already planted in their brains.
His words are so important that each day in Washington D.C. Grover Norquist holds a luncheon meeting for as many Republicans who care to attend. There they learn the words to use and the words never to cross their lips. They must never say government because some people might have good thoughts about their local and state governments. They must say Washington which is big government, the seat of all evil. It falls in with Washington waste, Washington spending, Washington bureaucracy, Washington regulations, Washington promises and failures. They must never say privatization, they must say personalization, Not private accounts but personal accounts, not private health care but free market health care and not private schools but charter schools. It's not drilling for oil but exploring for energy. You see how it works? The word forms your perceptions, your whole train of thought. Not tax reform but tax simplification, not tax cuts but tax relief.
It's not an inheritance tax or an estate tax that brings to mind passing on amassed wealth to one family but a death tax, which brings up the exasperated vision that they even tax you when you die! And it's never an undocumented worker but an illegal immigrant. And a clump of cells that can be sucked out with a f 16 catheter up to the twelfth week of pregnancy is called a baby and the gynecologist who preforms this procedure is called a babykiller. All of these words and phrases tie into other beliefs and data stored into the greatest most complex organism in the universe: the human brain.
So is it even possible to change these ground-in long-time perceptions and if so, how? It's possible! The phenomenon is called a paradigm shift. It is a radical mind-blowing change in underlying beliefs or theory where one system of beliefs must be discarded to be replaced by a new system of beliefs. The term was previously reserved for the scientific community, which in its truth-seeking mission must constantly correct itself. Oh my God! The world is not flat! It's round! Oh my God! Ethers do not cause illness! It's those little beasties there under the microscope! Good grief!! Bleeding does not cure a patient!! Better to keep them hydrated!!
Thomas Kuhn writing in the early 1960s applied the paradigm shift to humans explaining how a "series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions" causes "one conceptual world view to be replaced by another." Carl Jung, that great explainer of the unconscious mind, tells this story to explain. One day you walk into your bedroom and there's a package. You ignore it. The next day there's another package. But you're not interested. Again you ignore it and it goes on and on until the whole room is filled with packages, which you can live with day by day. Then one day you walk in, your eyes widen and you say, "Oh my God! What's in all these packages?"
Apparently the process takes some time before the pop happens. A person sitting in church singing or praying suddenly has a revelation. This is all phony! Lies! Stupid! An immediate atheist, they go to an atheist's meeting and express their anger and hatred toward the people who have lied to them all their life. Life-changing paradigm shifts are often accompanied with strong, out-of-control positive and/or negative emotions. I remember the look on a wife's face who was married to a doctor she worshipped. She adored him. He could do no wrong. Then in one nasty minute she discovered that he was unfaithful to her with many women and everything that she believed was a lie! It took her a long time to recover.
Neurologists studying the brain wondered how this paradigm pop could have happened. Now they think they have an answer. For as long as they studied brain waves they thought there were only four. Alpha and beta when conscious and theta and delta when asleep. Then while recording the brain waves of athletes a skier was suddenly plunged into a life-threatening situation. Suddenly a new wave appeared, a wave so low, they had never thought to look for it in that range. Worse, this wave didn't appear very often, certainly not in day-to-day life. They named it the gamma wave and while little is known about this state of mind they surmise it to be a state of hyper-alertness and perception where there is an integration of sensory input from the entire brain. Ignoring normal neuron paths, gamma waves are associated with bursts of insight and high-level information processing. Theory is the gamma wave is the light bulb when a new idea occurs, the pop of the come-to-realize paradigm shift.
So how do we lead people to this life-changing event? How do we change the neuron paths in their brains? It seems difficult when in fact it is rather simple and obvious. Well obvious now that I've learned the technique. I learned it from a master. I studied him as I watched his arguments stun his opponents into silence. I marveled as his popularity grew by leaps and bounds. His followers began to number into the millions. So powerful were his arguments that even the experts in the field could not or dare not refute them. It was calculated that ninety percent of the people who heard him changed their minds and their lives. His opponents' arguments crumbled before him. His rhetoric inspired new ideas and new energies that live on today and will live on forever. In the end his arguments and beliefs prevailed against the most powerful government on earth.
Next Week: MLK and the battle of the Gods