Limbaugh's hypnotic fallacies, echoed by conservative media stars and kleptocratic politicians, must at long last be understood for being the hypnotic persuaders that they are.
During the past day or two, including the New York Times, many newspapers featured the assertions of right-wing media personality Rush Limbaugh about the west coast fires having nothing to do with human-made climate change. Of course, Limbaugh, to whom Trump gave the U.S. Medal of Freedom owing to his great respect for Limbaugh's wisdom, does not believe there is such a thing as climate change. Limbaugh talks about the fires on the west coast in response to scientists quoted on CNN saying they are so intense mostly because of climate change. Read the quote from Limbaugh below, and imagine how his words might influence your moderately conservative neighbor.
Limbaugh: It's absolute bunk. You have nothing to do with these fires. You know who's responsible for the fires? California and Washington State and Oregon politicians who have not allowed all these dead trees to be cleared out of there. These forests are nothing but kindling. And if you would go in and clear these forests out, you wouldn't have fires anywhere near this intense. But we can't touch the forests. No, no, no. That would be messing no, no, no, we can't we can't do that." Well, yes we can, and we should.
In this one paragraph, Limbaugh uses potentially effective hypnotic language that psychologists, physicians, salespersons, orators, and politicians have used since before Socrates and that the Republican Party has used with such people as the communication strategist Frank Luntz. There are at least four of what I refer to as "Red Flags of Persuasion." I'll identify the hypnotic language in Limbaugh's quote a little later. I present a list of persuasive words, intent signals, hypnotic word use, and classic fallacies in a 1993 book entitled The Bum's Rush: The Selling of Environmental Backlash (Phrases and Fallacies of Rush Limbaugh). My intention was to warn people how Limbaugh was creating millions of climate change deniers. "The Bum's Rush" is slang for rude or abrupt dismissal, without due deliberation. Growing up in St. Louis, my father's crowd used the phrase to describe people who were lying about something or were being intentional fraudulent with the intent to deceive.
When I wrote the book, I taught hypnosis at UC Berkeley and simultaneously worked as an EMT/Firefighter with a hobby of gentling wild BLM mustangs. I taught courses used to certify psychologists in using it for therapy. I used Limbaugh's best-selling book at the time to expose how he was hypnotizing millions of people. Unfortunately, salespeople and lawyers bought the book. I had intended it for environmentalists and educators. None of them wanted to read about Limbaugh. (It did land me as a participant in a million-dollar documentary where I got to spend a week with the surviving scientists who created the atom bomb. The producer wanted me to analyze why so many still believed in what they did, in contrast to those who did not.)
People can unintentionally use hypnotic words, but whether intentional or not, most people are not trained to recognize them cognitively before they have already subscribed the message to some degree. Even the BBC played into the Conservative hand with their "Reality Check BBC News article title, "US West Coast fires: Is Trump right to blame forest management?" For too many people, such a title is all they need for their hypnosis to be maintained. The credibility of the BBC opening with the question is sufficient. No need to read what the answer is. Of course, if you take the time to read it, you will learn that Professor Stefan Doerr, a wildfires expert at Swansea University, says extreme climate conditions are the key factors. Recognizing how American Indians used to do control burns and admitting this is not done sufficiently in many places, he says even in areas where there have been attempts to reduce flammable material in forests, extreme meteorological conditions are the main drivers of these extreme fires."
To give you an example of how successful Limbaugh is in convincing people, especially those good-hearted folks who want to believe only the brightest possibilities, consider my late father-in-law and how he was responsible for me writing The Bum's Rush. An intelligent, kind-hearted, generous Volkswagon executive at the time, he had been a Nazi youth and was captured by the US in WWII and brought to Virginia. We were discussing a 1992 article on ozone depletion from the Union of Concerned Scientists. He said it was "hogwash", and he would prove it. He had me listen to a taped radio broadcast of Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh was quoting from Dr. Joe Waters, NASA's chief climatologist, who said, "There is no ozone hole." When I got home, I called Dr. Waters and asked him about the quote. He said, with some frustration, that Limbaugh took him out of context. He declared that the ozone hole in question was no longer where it had been. When I asked him if ozone depletion was a serious problem as people were saying, he said it is the gravest situation facing humanity.
Thinking my father-in-law would be impressed, I had gone to the source and would modify his position. When I told him what I had learned, he said, "What does Waters know?" I knew immediately I had to start listening to Limbaugh, much to my wife's chagrin. Within a week, I was compelled to write the book. By the way, the book was essentially banned due to the powerful political positioning of New Gingrich's world and the collaboration of Limbaugh with Roger Ailes and Fox News. As a result of my wife just having told me we have to make the book available, we are making an e-book out of it next week so it will be available on my website at fourarrowsbooks.com.
OK, so what red flags of persuasion did you note in Limbaugh's paragraph above? Here are some to consider next time you listen to someone causing you the slightest cognitive dissonance.
"It's absolute bunk." This is an absolute. Absolutes make for powerful persuasion when spoken with authority to a vulnerable listener. They convey finality and stifle further discussion. In hypnosis, they are the hypnotic suggestions or directives themselves. In sales, they are the closes. For those raised in authoritarian families, the mindset is conditioned to respond to such absolutes without critical awareness.
"You have nothing to do with these fires." This is a classic double-bind strategy. It works in medical emergencies when you gently move a patient's arm to their side or across their belly and ask them which is more comfortable. Although they are in great pain and lying in broken glass on the snow, they will choose one. Then you continue, "Good, just let that comfort move through your body and allow your blood pressure to return to normal." Salesmen also use it when selling pots and pans after getting people to imagine the product's wonders. (Hypnosis is merely the natural ability to imagine while in a lower brainwave frequency to create automatic tendencies to create what is being imagined). Then the salesperson asks, "Do you want to use my pen or yours to sign the contract." People who cannot afford the product often sign. In this quote, Limbaugh gives you two choices, either you are responsible (as someone contributing to climate change) or not.
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