You’ve all heard of different methods of “selling a lie.” Probably one of the more famous is a quote from a show I don’t remember.
“I find the most effect method of selling a lie is to hide it between two truths.”
The reason I don’t remember where it came from is because I have seen it and variations of it in many things. It’s a mantra and a trope often used in spy thrillers of all kinds but especially those set in the Cold War era.
We are now in the era where writers sell their souls to propaganda machines while calling themselves journalists. In today’s world you sell a lie by basing it on a fabrication then layer on increasing layers of obfuscation. Please allow me to illustrate. Since Time.com doesn’t allow non-subscribers to look at anything I have to quote this one paragraph.
What is true in New Hampshire is true nationwide. Polls show about 9 our of 10 Americans support universal background checks and a majority support bans on high-capacity magazines. As the country becomes more urban and more diverse, some pollsters find fewer people telling them they have a gun at home than at any other point in almost 40 years.
The article that came from is called “The New Politics of Gun Control” written by Philip Elliot. For Time Magazine it is unfortunate that I finally got around to reading this issue a few days before the subscription renewal email arrived. Primarily, because of this paragraph, I’m not renewing my subscription. It’s not the fact someone who sold their soul wrote it but the fact an editor of a supposedly journalistic magazine allowed it to go to print.
Now, for those of you who wish to sell your soul or simply create a character which sold their soul, let’s examine how to sell a lie. First the fabricated fact to base such a lie on. Seriously, did anyone sleep through the 2016 election? Just think back to all of those “scientific” polls predicting a landslide for Hillary.
Fabricating polling statistics is easy. You can either Al Gore it and delete/exclude data which doesn’t fit your predetermined conclusion OR you can do 2 polls. The first poll is just to identify the regions of the country (or whatever) which support your predetermined outcome. You then have a third party polling/telemarketing service sample from only those spots. No matter what you never report a stat higher than 95% and generally try to keep it to 9 out of 10.
Having established your base with a legitimate sounding fabricated fact, you now start using fuzzy obfuscation terms:
“a majority” “high-capacity”
These are terms which journalistic integrity behind them. Yes, a dictionary will provide some fuzzy definitions but this is not something which got a response from each and every person in the pool. It is a scoped stat without margin of error or method of arrival. It is exponentially less believable than the 9 out of 10 “fact” presented in front of it when considered in the full light of day, but the casual reader who got duped into the first swallows the second.
“High-capacity” is my favorite phrase of the entire quote. This has no meaning what-so-ever because it has a different meaning to each and every person. Another phrase which means nothing because it has so many meanings is “family values.” People used to believe they _knew_ what a priest meant when they said “family values” until that spotlight report about the serial pedophiles.
What does “high-capacity” mean to you? Honestly. If you hate guns it means a number greater than one. If you like or respect guns it certainly is a number well north of 10, usually well north of 100. Personally, I don’t mind them banning 5000 round magazines for the simple reason anything larger than a .22 caliber would have to be vehicle mounted. More a “you can’t possibly carry it 2 miles through the woods” issue than anything else. Even 100 round magazines on most things end up being a logistical issue in the woods. It is either this long thing snagging every weed/branch/bush you walk past or it is this big round drum sticking out on the sides making the weapon difficult to both hold and aim. Just look at the 1921 Thompson with type C 100 round drum magazine. You have to reach around that thing to grab the front stock, which is why the sights were mostly ornamental.
I was kind of shocked to see Wikipedia had the ‘Chicago Typewriter’ but not the ‘Chicago Violin.’ People who write prohibition era gangster stuff tend to eventually come around to that nickname. Why? Take a look. Kids today probably can’t understand the typewriter reference because they have never heard a room full of manual typewriters whacking away at the platen. Of course, the black and white gangster movies I remember didn’t show the actors stopping to assemble a Thompson. Somehow they reached into the violin case and pulled out a fully assembled ready to go weapon.
So, we shall end this post in a manner which should honk off many people while educating writers and thinking creatures. In 2015 there were 35,092 vehicle accident deaths yet only 13,286 gun deaths which were not suicides. If you wish to use statistics to champion saving of human life in an article then champion the banning on manufacture, sale, and operation of automobiles because you will save a lot more lives.
The problem with selling a lie is someone else can point it out then make a better sale.