Persuasion and Privilege

Persuasion runs on irony and the Rules. A persuasion maven never says only and exactly what she means. Irony, always – whether called Irony or Dissonance Reduction, Jamming the Attribution, the Long Conversation in the Head, or simply Ding Dong – persuasion mavens can never only and exactly say what they mean and must learn the charms of irony.

And, always, too, the Rules, most especially, It’s about the Other Guy and All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere. A persuasion maven always follows the Rules to find the irony. Without the Rules, you are lost and left believing in Laws which is another way of saying you believe in the Queen of Tomorrow which, finally, is the way of saying you are not a persuasion maven.

Irony and Rules; the fundamental things apply to today’s persuasion lesson with Al Gore and Climate Change, and Science as Racism (or perhaps Racism as Science). Consider this observation from Mr. Gore.

“Secondly, back to this phrase ‘win the conversation,’” he continued. “There came a time when friends or people you work with or people you were in clubs with — you’re much younger than me so you didn’t have to go through this personally — but there came a time when racist comments would come up in the course of the conversation and in years past they were just natural. Then there came a time when people would say, ‘Hey, man why do you talk that way, I mean that is wrong. I don’t go for that so don’t talk that way around me. I just don’t believe that.’ That happened in millions of conversations and slowly the conversation was won. We have to win the conversation on climate.”

Thus, when Mr. Gore says, Climate Change, he means more than he says: Are you a racist? And, Climate Change advocates then pursue the metaphoric task of Winning Conversations. Succeed in the Tempest over Teacups and defeat the Racism of your time.

While this is certainly a persuasion attempt – irony plus metaphor – I’m not sure of its effectiveness.

If It’s about the Other Guy, you are not changing the Global Warming Racists, you’re just shutting them up in conversation. Silencing racists did not pass the 1964 Civil Rights legislation. That required changing hearts, minds, and most importantly, votes. Racists still fought against those laws and their implementation, but they lost supporters who changed their minds and that made the difference.

And, All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere as told in the Gore quote,

“Hey, man why do you talk that way, I mean that is wrong. I don’t go for that so don’t talk that way around me. I just don’t believe that.”

There’s no irony or metaphor in that quote, just the authentic and sincere expression of the speaker’s beliefs. As someone who grew up in rural Missouri with the vestiges of Jim Crow and de facto segregation, I saw and heard the kind of conversations Mr. Gore describes. His counterattack is sincere, but is it persuasive? Or scientific? But why raise science about Climate Change?  We’re fighting racists and their racism after all.

I appreciate one bridge in the Global Warming Racist metaphor. Some listeners may be motivated to express more loudly their climate beliefs when talking at the Table of Brotherhood and inspiration is a good thing. But, again, note, this narrow bridge in Gore’s metaphor does not change the Other Guys and only motivates sincerity in the like minded.

Global Warming Racism sounds more like a speech to a defeated army than the strategy of a persuasion maven. Raise the flag one more time! Rally to me, true believers. Fight the good fight against hate and ignorance! Perhaps a Confederate Colonel exhorted in a similar fashion back in that day.  Appeals against bigotry and intolerance move from all positions.

For a man who won numerous elections and worked side by side with the master maven, Bill Clinton, it’s puzzling to observe Gore’s bad persuasion with Climate Change. He’s attracting the attracted and changing no Other Guys. He’s no closer to a Green World than Rachel Carson or, gasp, Henry David Thoreau. Sure, Gore has earned enormous fame and fortune on his environmental efforts, but neither vanity nor greed is a good explanation for his bad persuasion. Of course, Mr. Gore was truly born on third base; given much, he managed well. Senator’s son, Harvard crimson, safe Viet Nam service, then his daddy’s seat and Clinton’s triangulation. On his own, Gore lost the election that was his for the taking and now uses his Green magnet to attract hedge fund partners, Hollywood rhetorists, Nobel Cool Table inconsequentialists, and progressive sophisticates. He acquired the symbols of achievement and changed nothing in their acquisition.

Just as power corrupts persuasion, so too with privilege?