Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 12 2016: How can we break through the “divide and rule” spiral of silencing?

How can we break through the “divide and rule” spiral of silencing?

BRADES, Montserrat, April 6, 2016 – Often we feel pressured to be silent in the face of folly, lies or evil. Our social antennas wave in the air and tell us that saying the obviously unwelcome truth, or even just voicing an unpopular opinion or caution could cost us dearly – a “divide and rule” tactic. As, “[t]here are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth.” So, “the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil .” [Amos 5:10 and 13, NIV.]shutup

The same prophet also counsels us: “The lion has roared — who will not fear? The Sovereign LORD has spoken — who can but prophesy?” [Amos 3:8.] Our challenge, then, is to build a sound confidence that we have the right and necessary thing to say and an effective way to say it. We may also need to be backed, especially by a lion. That is how one can be the mouse that roars with the voice of a lion.

Amos also revealed how the silencing tactic creates dominance for an evil agenda and its corrupt messages. Keep the people divided and ignorant, like crabs in a barrel. Make sure they have no lion to back them. Then, push your message: in the mass media, on the Internet, in social media and through word of mouth on gossip networks. Anyone who tries to question or object – “cut off ‘e head.” Then (as the silk cotton tree at Cudjoe Head reminds us) put the head on display as a frightening trophy to scare anyone else who might get notions about truth, right, justice etc.

Under slavery, that was all too literally done to poor Cudjoe and his head. Today, propagandists know that murdering someone’s good name will do pretty much the same job. Do it just right, and those who listen to, believe and spread slanders and lies will not even realise that they are spreading someone’s snake- in- the- garden toxic talking points.

There is actually a theory for such a propaganda tactic, the spiral of silence. As the University of Twente puts it :

spiral of silence

. . . 1) people have a “quasi-statistical organ,” a sixth-sense if you will, which allows them to know the prevailing public opinion, even without access to polls, 2) people [in a polarised situation] have a fear of isolation and know what behaviors will increase their likelihood of being socially isolated, and
3) people are reticent to express their minority views, primarily out of fear of being isolated . . .
That is why our region needs to have a wide range of public voices and especially leaders who can boldly stand up and make an effective and sound case to the public or in social situations. Otherwise even obviously foolish destructive talking points can easily dominate public opinion; pushing the prudent person into silence. (The spiral of silence theory, in fact, helped to explain how the Nazis were able to turn Jews into despised scapegoats during the 1930’s and 40’s.)

All across the Caribbean, it is time for us to insist on some counter-balance to very powerful agendas from the North . . . and, increasingly, from elsewhere. We must also realise that silencing spin tactics can easily be imposed in government-controlled media houses, and that our private media can also play the ruthless message dominance game. Online bloggers, social media and the wider Internet can be very irresponsible, and old fashioned crabs- in- a- barrel gossip and slander can be just as destructive.

How can we counter such tactics?

1 → By awareness. Reading articles (like this one) on media spin tactics can equip us to be aware of what can be done to manipulate, divide, polarise and deceive us into following marches of folly.

2 → By learning how to tell the difference between straight sound information and twisty spin games. As we saw recently straight, sound information will be factually accurate, fair-minded, kind in tone and balanced (or at least, balancing):

story elements

3 → By refusing to entertain or spread slander, gossip, or ill-founded, unfair claims and agendas.

4 → By seeking out, supporting and learning from many sound leaders who seek to guide and guard us based on truth, soundness and doing what is right. (Who is a sound shepherd, and who is a hungry wolf?)

5 → By asking good questions and learning the confirmed facts on key issues so we can know the difference between what is straight and what is spin. (For instance, here in Montserrat, the UK Government has repeatedly stated that the reasonable assistance needs of Overseas Territories have a first call on the UK Aid Budget. Fact-checks will easily show that while in 2005/6 that budget was £5 – 6 billion, it is now £12.2 billion, with DFID’s slice over £10 billion. Where, HMG spokesmen also have repeatedly said that we must address good governance, risk management and value for money concerns if major economy transforming investments are to be made. So, until we radically reform and improve governance, we cannot move ahead on major development projects.)

6 → By learning how to think based on facts and logic:

• Arguments work by appealing to (a) our emotions, (b) to the real or apparent credibility of an authority or presenter, (c) by pointing to facts and logic.
• Of these, emotions are the most persuasive but are no sounder than the underlying judgements and impressions that make us feel as we do.
• No authority is better than his or her facts, assumptions and reasoning.
• So, to the facts and logic we must always go; if we wish to be sound and discerning.

– END –

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How can we break through the “divide and rule” spiral of silencing?

BRADES, Montserrat, April 6, 2016 – Often we feel pressured to be silent in the face of folly, lies or evil. Our social antennas wave in the air and tell us that saying the obviously unwelcome truth, or even just voicing an unpopular opinion or caution could cost us dearly – a “divide and rule” tactic. As, “[t]here are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth.” So, “the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil .” [Amos 5:10 and 13, NIV.]shutup

The same prophet also counsels us: “The lion has roared — who will not fear? The Sovereign LORD has spoken — who can but prophesy?” [Amos 3:8.] Our challenge, then, is to build a sound confidence that we have the right and necessary thing to say and an effective way to say it. We may also need to be backed, especially by a lion. That is how one can be the mouse that roars with the voice of a lion.

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Amos also revealed how the silencing tactic creates dominance for an evil agenda and its corrupt messages. Keep the people divided and ignorant, like crabs in a barrel. Make sure they have no lion to back them. Then, push your message: in the mass media, on the Internet, in social media and through word of mouth on gossip networks. Anyone who tries to question or object – “cut off ‘e head.” Then (as the silk cotton tree at Cudjoe Head reminds us) put the head on display as a frightening trophy to scare anyone else who might get notions about truth, right, justice etc.

Under slavery, that was all too literally done to poor Cudjoe and his head. Today, propagandists know that murdering someone’s good name will do pretty much the same job. Do it just right, and those who listen to, believe and spread slanders and lies will not even realise that they are spreading someone’s snake- in- the- garden toxic talking points.

There is actually a theory for such a propaganda tactic, the spiral of silence. As the University of Twente puts it :

spiral of silence

. . . 1) people have a “quasi-statistical organ,” a sixth-sense if you will, which allows them to know the prevailing public opinion, even without access to polls, 2) people [in a polarised situation] have a fear of isolation and know what behaviors will increase their likelihood of being socially isolated, and
3) people are reticent to express their minority views, primarily out of fear of being isolated . . .
That is why our region needs to have a wide range of public voices and especially leaders who can boldly stand up and make an effective and sound case to the public or in social situations. Otherwise even obviously foolish destructive talking points can easily dominate public opinion; pushing the prudent person into silence. (The spiral of silence theory, in fact, helped to explain how the Nazis were able to turn Jews into despised scapegoats during the 1930’s and 40’s.)

All across the Caribbean, it is time for us to insist on some counter-balance to very powerful agendas from the North . . . and, increasingly, from elsewhere. We must also realise that silencing spin tactics can easily be imposed in government-controlled media houses, and that our private media can also play the ruthless message dominance game. Online bloggers, social media and the wider Internet can be very irresponsible, and old fashioned crabs- in- a- barrel gossip and slander can be just as destructive.

How can we counter such tactics?

1 → By awareness. Reading articles (like this one) on media spin tactics can equip us to be aware of what can be done to manipulate, divide, polarise and deceive us into following marches of folly.

2 → By learning how to tell the difference between straight sound information and twisty spin games. As we saw recently straight, sound information will be factually accurate, fair-minded, kind in tone and balanced (or at least, balancing):

story elements

3 → By refusing to entertain or spread slander, gossip, or ill-founded, unfair claims and agendas.

4 → By seeking out, supporting and learning from many sound leaders who seek to guide and guard us based on truth, soundness and doing what is right. (Who is a sound shepherd, and who is a hungry wolf?)

5 → By asking good questions and learning the confirmed facts on key issues so we can know the difference between what is straight and what is spin. (For instance, here in Montserrat, the UK Government has repeatedly stated that the reasonable assistance needs of Overseas Territories have a first call on the UK Aid Budget. Fact-checks will easily show that while in 2005/6 that budget was £5 – 6 billion, it is now £12.2 billion, with DFID’s slice over £10 billion. Where, HMG spokesmen also have repeatedly said that we must address good governance, risk management and value for money concerns if major economy transforming investments are to be made. So, until we radically reform and improve governance, we cannot move ahead on major development projects.)

6 → By learning how to think based on facts and logic:

• Arguments work by appealing to (a) our emotions, (b) to the real or apparent credibility of an authority or presenter, (c) by pointing to facts and logic.
• Of these, emotions are the most persuasive but are no sounder than the underlying judgements and impressions that make us feel as we do.
• No authority is better than his or her facts, assumptions and reasoning.
• So, to the facts and logic we must always go; if we wish to be sound and discerning.

– END –