What is the Strawman, and how is it related to delivering truth? This follow-up episode on the straw man narrative reveals the crucial details still left undiscussed. Bill Stierle and Tom talk more about it, along with other issues related to purchasing truth. They discuss the Strawman leading in the confirmation basis, how to keep it in place, how it works best for a person, and how emotional load relates to it. On to the deeper politics of things, Bill and Tom note how Justin Amash uses the straw man argument to minimalize himself. Learn more from them as they further explain how confirmation bias gets wired to our brains, how it gets anchored in a way that media and branding are hijacked and get it to move to our desired direction.
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Purchasing Truth And The Strawman Part Two
Bill, we had a conversation where we were talking about the strawman. We felt very good about that conversation, but we realized that there’s another aspect to the straw man that we didn’t cover. Can you share that with us?
I’m bringing this entire message forward about how truth is purchased through language and people’s messages, whether it’s politics, branding, marketing or sales. The messaging is purchased in a certain way. The truth is purchased and it gets yanked around a bit. The strawman is one of the ways that we get yanked around a bit. There is a presentation of the extreme of a viewpoint. Those leftists over there, there are a lot of those people over there. There is a large caravan. It is as if the American military can’t process a couple of 100,000 people. We can’t house a couple of hundred thousand people. We’re not strong enough to do that.
If it’s that bad, we’re not putting resources in there to get this transition to take place. It’s disheartening. We talked about these seven items, the perception that gets hijacked with the strawman. Those liberals, those feminists, they want to kill all men. No, they’re looking for things like equality, fair pay, equal treatment and choice in regards to their bodies. If we’re going to take away their clinics, why don’t we start snipping men to do that? If you want control over it, you’re going to ask the government to do it, would it be great if men and women were treated equally like that? That man would lose choices too. It’s like, “Men lose choices?” The strawman paints the feminist and these other labels and diagnoses, religious people, scientists, conservatives, liberals, capitalist, gun control, gun owners, they’re going to paint them into the extreme and they’ll bring that minority viewpoint.
They’re going to try to drag that to the center so that the person that’s responding to it has to deal with this floppy strawman experience. Instead, what the respondent could do when somebody brings a strawman is not only use a sounding board technique by saying, “There are people that think that way. With delight, there are not as many as you think they are.” That simple minimalization, “You’re scared with those people. You don’t know what to do with them. You’re trying to scare the people that are listening to you. Is that what you’re doing?” That is called a sounding board. It is a comeback that makes the speaker a little foolish for amplifying it, “What do you get with that example? 20,000 people or is it 100,000? Is that what you’re worried about that many people?” Minimalizing the strawman and bringing a sounding board experience to it is a counter-narrative.
That’s pretty effective, but it’s not the most effective thing in communication to use. What are the most effective things to use? The most effective thing to do is to deliver a line of focused empathy towards the strawman, which would sound like, “I’m guessing you’re needing some safety at the border. You would like to bring some protection and you’re scared about that. Is that correct?” Your natural response is the exact natural response that they would need to do is yes. All of a sudden, the strawman character that they pushed forward has got to slump a bit. The speaker is going to have to wilt a bit because I brought the core of the wisdom about protecting the border, not the judgment and the label about that you know the answer or those other people don’t know the answer. That’s the difference. Tom, say the word entitlement and watch what happens.
All these people want our entitlements, our protections.
I’m guessing you would like fairness. You’re frustrated because no one’s helping you and it doesn’t seem like you want to help others. Is that correct?Facts only work when the emotional load of the person is lower. Click To Tweet
All of a sudden, the person is going to go silent or go numb because you backed him into the corner too quickly possibly. If it wasn’t done with a sincere connection to what they were saying, then they might bring back an explosion of anger. They’ll either do a monster person or they’ll do a nice dead person. We did an episode already on a nice dead person, monster person. In there is the value in how you stay out of the nice dead person, monster person and then stay in the position of compassion and advocacy and passion around the thing you’re advocating for. Instead of going into a monster person, nice dead person language narrative.
Bill, we see this strawman play out all the time in the media, especially if there’s a panel of people that are having a discussion. Let’s stay with immigration since you started there. We hear people, the strawman is, “There’s this massive caravan. There are thousands of people coming all at once in this caravan.” You hear other people on the panel argued, “It’s not really a caravan or the United States processed many more immigrants at the border in a year than this. This isn’t that bad.” They go for the counter facts.
It’s unsettling to even hear those words come out of my mouth. Facts and truth don’t necessarily live in the same space because as soon as you put one opinion next to a fact, the opinion when it has been dominated with perception, perspective and it has been amplified by its proportionality, the fact truth dwarfs because the proportionality has been, “This person is upset about this. It must be a big thing.” The fact is going like, “No, it’s not.” The passionate, engaged brain hijacks other people’s fight, flight and freeze response to go like, “I’m with them. They’re upset and therefore I need to deal with their upsetness.” What happens if they’re saying it is only this big? That’s where the strawman is going to be a lead into the confirmation bias. You’re going to confirm the mindset that I already have in place. That’s really unsettling.
Unsettling is a good way to talk about it. For a lot of people, including me, this was a lesson for me. It is like cognitive dissonance. It didn’t make sense to me. What do you mean truth has nothing to do with facts? When you hear somebody on Friday Night that Bill Maher is getting very frustrated with the narratives coming from conservative talking heads. He would say, “We have these things called facts.” He’s right. We have this thing called facts, but as you’re pointing out facts are not going to change minds.
It only works when the emotional load of the listener is lower. Tom, there’s a thing called the emotional load. The emotional load gets higher inside a person as they moved towards protection or fight, flight and freeze. The emotional load increases. The ability to listen to facts or listen to the truth is greatly reduced to that. The fact being spoken into somebody that’s upset doesn’t count, they need up to three to five lines of empathy before you can get them to listen to a fact. This is so vital. As we’re trying to convey is that we want to get people motivated in order to weigh in their opinion about what side of this narrative are we going to go on? Are we going to go after? Are we going to lean towards or step further into an authoritarian mindset that we want to live in, which is very patriarchal? Which has to do with this person got this money, therefore he gets this respect. Therefore, he gets this privilege. Therefore, he gets to do crimes. Therefore, he gets to break the rules because that’s what rich people get to do.
Meanwhile, we would like a narrative about justice and fairness to lead the environment. This is what justice would look like. The word justice is one that has not been launched very well yet. The reason why is that you’ve got to put justice and see if he can carry justice out. Justice will not take place if impeachment happens too soon. If it happens too soon, you will not get justice because what winds up happening is they vote, the Democrats win. The Republicans have them not do it voted down or not even bring it to a vote. We roll in the election and he gets to go, “Those people think I’m good, I’m good. I get to keep doing the things I’d like to do because they’re not in the place.” The Republicans are not in the place to win. They are doing the short-term ground game, tilt the scale, change the narrative, slug it out, street fights political things. It’s not a boxing match. It is a street fight. That’s where the truth is getting caught.
They once did a tournament. The tournament was what martial arts is the one that will beat the other martial arts. He took all the martial arts. They took the top person, the top candidate. They were going to fight these others. You’ve got this Kung Fu guy next to this karate guy next to all these different techniques. The guys treated that match like a street fight. There’s this person centering and doing the spiritual practice and getting ready to fight and the other person’s go like, “There is no way I’m going to take him out.” All of a sudden, it was a street fight and it’s like, “This kind of aggression is not about skill and mastery. This aggression is about winning.” The truth is getting hijacked because of the struggle with winning and that struggle with that. That’s the thing that’s upsetting and disheartening.
I have a question for you and an example to ask you about that. Not every Democratic candidate has gone on Fox News. Some of them are rejecting the very idea, but Pete Buttigieg walked into Fox News. He stepped into their space. He seemed to offer empathy. There was a point at which he used a strawman argument in reverse. I wonder if you would agree with that, where he was taking something extreme that’s been said on the conservative side and amplified that for them to talk about their own media being hijacking people’s truth. When somebody like Laura Ingraham is talking about the detention centers at the boredom, like summer camps for children. He slowed down and emphasized and said, “Summer camps?” To me, that’s a quiet, slow, thoughtful focus of attention and turning it into a question like, “Do you all believe these are summer camps?” Without saying that, to me, is that a strawman argument?
That’s a sub-character. That’s a sounding board. It makes the point that’s purely so that the author would have to agree as like, “This is not a good thing.” It’s a devastating come back because there’s a bit of foolishness in it. With that foolishness, there is a disconnection that takes place. To give you the point, they had to fight back all of those characters, all the people that he picked on. They all picked on him back. They gave him exploding anger. They gave him bitterness. They even cut footage to try to minimize his impact. They didn’t re-air his standing ovation on their things. They go like, “How many of you do in private insurance?” All these people have their hands up. “How many would replace the private insurance that you’ve got with public health?” All of the people raising their hand and he’s got like, “I didn’t know that this was going to take place. It will cost less. It’s too expensive and we’re getting hammered out here.” Yes, we would change that because it’s time to change it. The ability for the Democrats to be on message collectively in the same direction instead of picking a lane is going to be much more effective for them rather than to pivot. One of the things that Barack Obama did very well when he got elected is he pivoted and they were always behind him.
We were in the quagmire of Iraq and he goes like, “What about Afghanistan? This is where the battle started.” The American public goes, “This is where the battle started. Why is that not finish yet? What are we on this quagmire for?” He immediately moved. John McCain, they never ever caught back up. They were still trying to get, “We probably should go back to Afghanistan and clean up that mess that we started ourselves into.” They never got back. By the time that they looked around, he was in the White House because they had no counter-message. Regrettably, the pivoting is also something that’s essential to deal with these various different strawman characters that are being put up. That’s the thing that’s very challenging in the world too. It’s difficult.
It leads to confirmation bias because what happens is that facts are ineffective to convert or convince people with opposing beliefs. The truth and the facts are no match for somebody confirming their bias. It has to do with the brain’s liking certainty. Our brains enjoy learning something once and then not relearning it. Forming an opinion once and then not changing the opinion. The brain likes it because who wants to keep rethinking things all the time? The joke I usually say is, “Tom, there’s one course I cannot sell you and here’s the course I cannot sell you on. It’s driver’s education.” Because you already know how to drive and you are not going to admit the terrible driver you are. Who wants to admit that they’re a terrible driver? Tom is saying, “I’m not a terrible driver. Stop saying I’m a terrible driver.” The answer is you’re not a terrible driver, but because you think of yourself as a good driver, Tom, you drive better than probably you are. We confirm ourselves into beliefs that people are good drivers. You’re a good driver. I’m a good driver. Why? I haven’t hit anything. That doesn’t mean you’re a good driver.
It means you’re lucky.
You are lucky and the rest of the other good drivers are watching out for you’re a good driver as they get the judge and criticize you being an idiot or whatever that you are on the road. The main thing is the confirmation bias that is saying, “I don’t want to learn something new. I’ve been a Republican for all these years. My family was a Republican.” Now, you’re seeing that some of those confirmation biases. George Will was on a TV show being interviewed. He was going like, “This is not conservatism. What they’re doing is not this, where is my party?” I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of people have said, “Enough is enough on this guy. Enough is enough for this group of people. Enough is enough on them.” I’d rather regroup with a group of reasonable Democrats than I want to regroup with these people that are ripping the rest of the nation and tearing us in half. I’m not going to go there, the scorched Earth policy.With foolishness, there is disconnection. Click To Tweet
Mitch McConnell is correct by saying, “I’m going to stand firm on this and the people are getting aligned.” In a patriarchal society, one that’s run by a king or a royal family, you get away with stuff like this. We’ve been leaning towards this type of leadership. The Saudis have been doing it for years. The Russians had been doing it for years. I guess we’re going to try our hand at it for a little while and let our own version of autocrats and oligarchs. Nobody likes putting people in a label or diagnosis like that. We needed to do this at one time in American history. We did it during the industrial age when we started calling these people robber barons. That was the label that stuck with them. The oligarchs are not as bad as robber barons.
It doesn’t sound as bad. I would agree.
Why did the word robber barons work? Because a big part of America’s independence from England was all of this nobility that was given special privileges. Americans had enough about it. We go like, “We’re giving all this money to all those people over there in England. Why are we doing that? We’re not doing it that way. We’re going to go in this other way.” The only challenge is that the way certain capitalism is run. It’s run in a place to set up those people that know how to use the system and work the system as well as sell, have great products, have good contracts to sit on the top with extreme wealth. “I made mine. I want to keep mine.” A poor person doesn’t want to take away from somebody, but they also can’t get out of the hole that they’re in. There’s got to be some bridge that’s built between the haves and the haves not, the 1% and the middle class.
The middle class got to be vibrant again. It’s creating a vibrant, engaged, productive, fair, middle-class. I think I created a message for Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders. You can only talk about the evil 1% for so long. You’ve got to get the narrative to engage the rest of the voters because there are plenty of voters that can vote for whatever tax increase you want to give to the wealthy, but they’ve got to come out and vote for that. They’ve got to come out and engage that.
What I’d like to propose with you and me, is we’ve got to think about it that this is a marathon. This is not a sprint. There’s a sprint quality to it, but the marathon is the courts have all got to be changed back. Fairness has got to be re-instated. We’ve got to get back to where they need for choice is one that is not made by the government or not made by moralists. The need for choice has got to be an independent choice and not be the government gets when it doesn’t meet the individual’s needs that’s making the choice to go there.
Bill, isn’t there an aspect of the media in pursuit of ratings in advertising dollars that makes strawman arguments all the time? It appears that way to me where they are amplifying certain things. The thing that shined a big light on this for me, you’ve heard in the news about the congressman from Michigan, Justin Amash. He is a Republican who was the only one has come out in favor of impeaching the president. You have the Republican establishment using the strawman arguments to try to minimalize him and his impact on them. That’s one aspect because they’re saying, “He never liked Donald Trump anyway.” Maybe that’s true, but as if not liking Donald Trump is a reason that he would then somehow be biased against the president and that he’s not truthful in his pursuit of justice for this president. He believes he should be impeached.
They made him an outlier. They called him independent. They called him marginalized. He stood in that town hall and he took it. He’s got like, “Stop it. “It’s not about loyalty to that guy. This is about, “If I follow those rules, does this guy have to follow those rules and everybody in this room has to follow those rules? That’s what criminality looks like and I voted that way. I want impeachment now.” I read the thing. My colleagues haven’t read it. All they’re doing is they’re supporting the guy so he doesn’t Twitter them. Bring them on, who is he?” He literally minimizes the president’s message. He’s like, “I got voted and my constituents like me. They’re going to like me even more after this. There’s a whole bunch of other people that are going to like me too. I’ve got to like me. That’s the main thing.” He’s on a winning narrative.
I saw that, but then the other thing that was very illuminating to me was that after that town hall, he was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which by the way, I lived there in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That’s where my first child was born. It’s an ultra-conservative part of Michigan and part of the country. It was tough to be in there as me because I’m not necessarily ultra-conservative. Regardless, there were interviews with some of the audience members after. There’s this one woman that the media was interviewing. They’re asking her reaction and she’s like, “I had no idea there was anything negative about the president in The Mueller Report. She said she had no idea. She said, “It’s conservative news, but I watched the news.”
To me, this is the conservative news, probably Fox News that she watches has been minimizing the negative aspects in The Mueller Report for their viewers to the point where they have no idea that the president committed obstruction of justice, which if you read The Mueller Report, you see that he absolutely did. The only reason Robert Mueller didn’t charge him as Robert Mueller said in his statement is, “He didn’t have the ability to consider indicting the president. It was never going to be a result of his work. That is up to Congress.” There are so many strawmen out there that are affecting the narrative. It’s very interesting that you mentioned that Justin Amash is doing a very good job making his points and separating himself from Donald Trump and speaking truth that Donald Trump should be impeached. We’re going to have integrity and not just follow the guy because he is the president or figurehead leader of the party. He’s hijacked our party, it’s his point. You have everybody else on the liberal side of the fence that is frustrated with all the repeated lies and hijacking of truths in general. There are all sorts of strawmen out there leading to this confirmation bias. To me, that woman is an example of confirmation bias.
It’s confirming her beliefs. Once she got out of it and she’s going like, “There’s something wrong with my bias. Maybe I need to drive a different car here. I need to drive my car in a different way. I need to take my thoughts out for a spin. This is my guy and my guy is telling me that there’s something wrong. This is the first time my guy is getting this. I’ve got to find out stuff. I can’t think of fake news as fake news. I’ve got to think of this is one perspective and this is news with perspective. This is news that has a broader perception of what I would like. I got to broaden my perspective in order to have a larger perspective, then I can get out of it.”
One of the things that happen is storytelling in order to keep the confirmation bias in place. Donald Trump as a marketer and as a brander tells stories. One of the famous stories that he has to say, “We’ll do a global sentence. Most of you already know this. Some of you may not know this,” and then tell the story. What he’s literally doing here, Bill Maher made this particular mistake one time. He goes, “I can’t believe that when Donald Trump says the sentence, most people don’t know that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.” Bill goes, “Most people know that.” What Bill doesn’t understand is that Donald Trump is getting the listener to say, “I knew that.” The listeners’ self-worth is going up.
It’s like what you taught me when I’m speaking to a prospect in my sales process to reflect something back to the person to get them to agree with you, to get them to say yes either out loud or in their head. That’s what you’re saying that Donald Trump does with this example.
The big difference is you have integrity. He doesn’t but it’s effective. You’ve got to get the other person out of their own way. The quickest way to get them out of their own way is to hook on to something they already know. Once they already know it, then sell and present from that viewpoint. This is something that they already know. This is something where they’ve been. It’s like, “I already know that. I’ve already been here. I know this thing. Most people don’t know this.” The answer, “We knew that. I know that.” I feel better because it’s like, “That’s a trick.”
It can be used for good to help people get out of their own way and you’re doing something in integrity by leading them that way to get in their own way and do something that’s going to benefit them. You can use it for evil or your own selfish purposes and getting them to do something that you want them to do that’s not in their best interest.The most effective thing in communication to use is to deliver a line of focused empathy towards the straw man. Click To Tweet
I could sell a university. I could sell an airline. I could sell this. I can sell steaks. Shall we go down his list of business failures? He’s got whole wreckage of it.
Trump Water, wasn’t that another one? Somehow that makes the water that comes out of the skies and out of our Earth better.
Storytelling provides enough evidence for the listener to get further and further on the hook. They’re swallowing the bait more. It’s like an Aesop fable. It’s like, “It rings true and it reinforces that bias.” When it reinforces the bias because I know that thing. I know what that’s about. That’s the thing that can make a big difference. The biggest challenge with abortion is that we all had to get through here through birth. No human being is going to say life is not precious because we’re living it. If a person’s living it, they haven’t all the way went down to depressed, helpless and hopeless because they’re experiencing the quality of life. The fight from the people that are interested in abolishing abortion is a fight for the sanctity of life.
They’re fighting for somebody else’s life the way they are fighting for their own life. They’re committed to that magical experience called living. From a spiritual place, from an emotional place, it’s the most magical thing. One woman would say, “When my three children were born, it was the thing that’s made my whole identity. It made me get why life was important. It helped me center my life. I’m not going to rob this other child that opportunity because this woman doesn’t have the courage to have the same experience that I had.” That’s where the root of that is. If you can’t win it on, don’t take another woman’s choice away from her. That’s not a full win. It’s true but it’s not helpful. It’s true but it’s not effective.
What’s interesting is what the right to life side of the equation continues to argue and continues to move the goalpost as to when does life began? When does life become a life? We can’t have an abortion after that life becomes a life. I’m trying to define that point. In some ways, you would think it is a losing argument, except it’s not a losing argument when you have control of the state legislature. You can make the law anyway you want to, but arguing that point of when life begins is the wrong argument, as you were saying here.
You can’t fight it or win it from that truth point.
I liked the truth point that the reality is all pregnancies are caused by men. You can’t have a pregnancy without a man. You said that why don’t we start snipping men instead of having an abortion? Whether that may be the extreme strawman argument, I don’t know.
Free condoms for men from age 13 through 30. We’re going to have a right to life and if we want to protect the sanctity of life, we want to make sure that the man has the right intention to care for this child because he doesn’t have the right intention as he’s having sex with a thirteen-year-old or fifteen-year-old or seventeen-year-old or under. If he is interested in meeting his need for pleasure at the expense of a woman, that at least we’re going to give him a condom so that we don’t have to go through this whole abortion thing. I know that’s on the fringe because it’s hard to make it acceptable because it makes the taxpayer pay for men’s condoms.
I’m sure there’ll be another interesting argument against it.
Think about that, a religious person argues, “You’re making sex permissible. We want the men to have integrity and strong motive and commit to a woman, but this won’t make them do that.” The answer is, “They’re not doing it anyway.” Let’s go after the objective that you’re interested in. I’m poking at the strawman. The woman has to take responsibility, but we’re going to make her responsible. It gets into a very unsettling place to say, “If you’re going to shut this clinic down, then we need to make a free tack on there. We’re going to tack on that there needs to be this on there or else.” It is a very difficult discussion. You and I are taking this issue as two men in a very light and creative way to say what would meet the need for respect for women so they get choices and deal with and support the right for life movement to say, “You want the right to life? Let’s change the goalpost to where they need to be, which is men’s accountability.” The right to life has to do with men’s accountability, then. If she’s pregnant there, all of a sudden, what are we going to do with it? His parents are responsible for that. His family is responsible for that. This is where it gets interesting because I’m moving the goalpost the other way.
It is very interesting. It would be a wonderful thing to have this debate in some of these state legislatures. Unfortunately, that kind of debate doesn’t even see the light of day. Part of it is courage. Part of it is the inevitability that certain states have complete conservative control of both branches of our government, the executive, and the statehouse. We see that happening where they continue to try. They’re focusing on the woman and recreating laws about her body and what she can do. There is no attention whatsoever on the root cause of the pregnancies that create the need for an abortion in some cases.
That’s a hard one. The Republicans are in trouble here. They’ve been so anti-government, “Keep your dirty government hands off of everything except for a woman’s body.” You want them involved in this, “You want to do it yourself?” “Yeah, except for that.” “Do you want that to be taken?” It’s a tough challenge that they’re in.
The other tough challenge that frustrates me is they want to make sure that every conceived child is brought into this world, regardless of the circumstances that created them and the conditions they will be brought in to live in. Yet, they don’t want to then pay for the welfare and the other social services. Remember the entitlements they would call it that are going to help care for those children once they’re here and that’s very frustrating.
It’s to keep the low-income people because then they have to keep doing low-income jobs. It’s a way to keep people scrapping from week to week, from day-to-day for money issues. You get to pay them very low wages once you keep them in that space. Other countries have extreme experiences of this. India has got its problems with the untouchables. All the different countries have their individuals that have no other place to go other than the slave circumstances of capitalism and of production. This brings us into huge other sets of issues. The next time we get together, Tom, what we need to lean into is confirmation bias, how it gets wired into the brain, how it gets anchored in such a way that media marketing and branding hijack it and then get it to move it into a direction it would like in order to create extraordinary wealth for a few people.
I think that will be a very engaging discussion. I look forward to having that one.
The easiest way to purchase truth is to lean into somebody else’s bias. Confirm it several times and then hijack their decision making so that they give you money.
I look forward to that discussion next time. Thank you so much, Bill.
It’s been fun, Tom. Thanks. I appreciate it.
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