So why another blog?
After many years in the consulting industry, I wanted to find a space to chronicle some of the more egregious examples of political and business manipulations. Merchants and politicians (and, frankly, others) have always tried to manipulate the public. Some writers even published “how-to” manuals: The Prince. So, nothing new under the sun – why bother blogging about it?
Well, for a number of reasons, manipulation has become both much more prevalent in recent years, and, in some ways, more insidious. Manipulators have become more savvy, be they politicians, businessmen, or media. At the same time, the typical targets of manipulations – the consumers, for example, or the average voters – have become less capable of spotting these manipulations. The main reason for that is simple: the world has become more sophisticated and more complicated. A company can hire ten very bright executives who will spend every working hour, 5 days a week, 48 weeks a year finding interesting ways to manipulate existing and potential consumers. An average consumer, by contrast, will have a few seconds to learn of, or spot, the manipulation itself. Remember that the best manipulation are hard to spot, and they rely on small shifts – it’s easier to convince a million people to give you an extra cent than to manipulate a thousand folks to hand over a thousand dollars each. In that context, the average consumer, voter or reader is easily outgunned by more organized and better funded manipulators.
Finally, there are very few organizations who have an interest and the resources to spot and highlight manipulations. Again, manipulations involve tiny shifts of perception and behaviors across a large number of people – and it’s hard to focus attention on that sort of things. Consumer organizations – like the Consumerist.com – do a good job of educating consumers and occasionally shaming manipulators, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
I’ve spent the last ten years or so studying manipulation and trying to understand how it works and why it works. I started this blog to document some of the lessons I’ve drawn from this study, and to hopefully educate at least a few people on these techniques. This matters, after all – more informed consumers will make for better consumers. Voters who understand how some politicians manipulate them will hopefully be less likely to vote them into office. I am under no illusion here – manipulators, especially institutional manipulators, are better equipped and much more focused than their targets, and no blog will change that. But even the mightiest rivers start with a few drops…
So welcome, and please do share your thoughts! I am a writer, but this is a new media for me, and I think I’ll need a lot of help over the coming months.