Tag Archives: persuasion

Francis-Noël Thomas & Mark Turner

It is a characteristic strength of classic style to persuade by default. The classic writer offers no explicit argument at all. Ostensibly, he offers simply a presentation. If the reader fails to recognize that the ostensible presentation is a device of persuasion, then he is persuaded without ever realizing that an argument has occurred. It is always easier to persuade an audience unaware of the rhetorician’s agenda.

Francis-Noël Thomas & Mark Turner, Clear and Simple as the Truth: Writing Classic Prose, Princeton, 1994, p. 102

Vance Packard

[P]robing and manipulation […] has seriously antihumanistic implications. Much of it seems to represent regress rather than progress for man in his long struggle to become a rational and self-guiding being. Something new, in fact, appears to be entering the pattern of American life with the growing power of our persuaders.

Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders, New York, 1957, p. 6

Gore Vidal

To deny inconvenient opinions a hearing is one way the few have of controlling the many. But as Richard Nixon used to say, “That would be the easy way.” The slyer way is to bombard the public with misinformation. During more than half a century of corruption by the printed word in the form “news”—propaganda disguised as fact—I have yet to read a story favorable to another society’s social and political arrangements. Swedes have free health care, better schools than ours, child day-care center for working mothers… but the Swedes are all drunks who commit suicide (even blonde blue-eyed people must pay for such decadent amenities). Lesson? No national health care, no education, etc., because-as William Bennett will tell you as soon as a TV red light switches on-social democracy, much less socialism, is just plain morally evil. Far better to achieve the good things in life honestly, by inheriting money or winning a lottery. The American way.

Gore Vidal, ‘A Corrupt System’, in Joshua Cohen and Joel Rogers (eds.), Money and Politics, Boston, 1999

David Hume

Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of the rulers. When we inquire by what means this wonder is effected, we shall find out that, as Force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them but opinion. It is, therefore, on opinion only that government is founded, and the maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments as well as the most free and popular.

David Hume, ‘On the Principles of Government’, in Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, Edinburgh, 1742