Category Archives: Style

fashionable fun in daily life

Comparing Kisses and Satire; Fashion and ObamaCare

So, a President walks into a satiric interview . . .

Between Two Ferns Zach and Obama

. . . and ignites Exposure for ObamaCare.

An interview of President Barack Obama by the comedian was watched online more than 11m times on Tuesday and appeared to drive significant traffic to healthcare.gov, the insurance portal.

Traffic to healthcare.gov jumped 40% on Tuesday, as the website racked up more than 890,000 visits total, a White House spokesperson said. Direct click-throughs from the Galifianakis interview, however, appeared to account for only a small portion of the added traffic. The click-throughs were tallied at 32,000 by 6pm Tuesday.

You can see why I joked tongue-in-cheek that even a guy like Bill O’Reilly would have signed up for ObamaCare if the President had done this in the Surge at the start in October 2013.

But, perhaps, my evaluation was premature and ungrounded. Where’s the comparison, Professor Poopypants? So, traffic jumped after the interview. Compared to what. How about this truly viral video on YouTube from a very small fashion designer.

“Hey my dears,” Ms. Pilieva wrote. “I wanted to share our little film with you.”

The email’s recipients had starred in a video that Ms. Pilieva had recently directed on a shoestring budget for a small clothing company.

The three-and-a-half-minute video, shot in black and white, showed 10 pairs of strangers kissing for the first time.

“Here are the links,” she wrote. “Feel free to share as you wish.”

That wish was the Internet’s command. By Thursday afternoon, the video — titled “First Kiss” — was a bona fide viral sensation.

A YouTube link had about 42 million views. A Vimeo link had been watched an additional 1.5 million times. (By comparison, President Obama’s appearance on the popular online comedy show, “Between Two Ferns,” posted Tuesday morning, had about one-third the traffic.)

Pilieva sent that email to 21 friends which contained the YouTube link to First Kiss. The rest is Exposure history. In four days the video got 40 million hits. Obama’s Between Two Ferns video – which aimed at a very similar audience – got about 15 million hits.

Persuasion Analysis.

According to the relentless logic of the Cascade, you can’t get downstream TACTs unless you first get Exposure which produces Reception. The Other Guys have to get the play before it can play them.

The ObamaCare website at Healthcare.gov got a lot of Exposure and Reception in October 2013. That was unfortunate because as we know the remaining elements in the Cascade – Processing and Response – didn’t work very well. Tons of Reception producing the Direct Experience Persuasion Play®™© and failure!

So, Team Obama mounts a comeback and now, deep in the fourth quarter with time running out and trailing very, very, very badly, they score with that fabulous Between Two Ferns interview that spikes traffic and hits and click-thru and . . . still can’t beat a virtual unknown fashion designer sending an email to 21 friends with a YouTube link.

Pilieva doesn’t have a target audience of 45-50 million (the number of uninsured who must go through ObamaCare eventually) much less the even smaller number of 7 million enrolled after a massive and expensive six month persuasion campaign from Big Fed and Big Insurance. Yet, she got more hits from one persuasion play in four days than Obama did with his fabulous interview with Zach. Remember the first Rule of Persuasion.

There Are No Laws of Persuasion and If There Were Why Would Anyone Tell You

Team Obama has the kind of persuasion resource you can only dream about and they can’t get a positive persuasion play that beats a small fashion designer starting with 21 friends. Who would have put money on that proposition? There Are No Laws and that’s why you get these weird and completely ridiculous outcomes.

Of course, simply because Pilieva got 40 million hits doesn’t mean she sold 40 million dresses or hats or shirts or anything. She’s got a ton of Exposure and Reception, but the TACTs?

Unfortunately, that’s the same problem facing ObamaCare. Even with pretty good Exposure, they still are not hitting their TACTs. And, they probably feel pretty bad about that.

But, here’s a persuasion play (YouTube) I think will make almost anyone feel better, if only for a moment.

First Kiss

Rousseau as Early Public Intellectual and Persuasion Panther

In an earlier post we looked at the hapless Mr. Day and his futile plays to create the perfect wife. Past the horror of his ethical violations – “adopting” foundling girls then raising them to become a possible wife – which is of no concern to vampires reading Professor Nietzsche, we recoil from Day because he failed! And he failed following a noted intellectual and persuasion panther of Day’s day: Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Let’s take a closer look at the theorist behind Day’s practical, but ineffective, persuasion.

JJ Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau is an early example of the intellectual selling sand and ice and an interesting case study in applied persuasion. Living in the 18th century, Rousseau was a prolific writer who took full advantage of the mature book publishing industry of the time – a print network of considerable reach and credibility. Consider this Wiki graph about European publishing.

European Book Output

Make sure you track the scale on the y-axis. We go from about 1 million manuscripts in the Middle Ages to 1 billion books in the Age of Enlightenment. That’s not linear, but exponential change. And just as book publishing increased, so did newspaper publishing and Rousseau made the news, too.

Rousseau used this communication network, his incredible productivity as a writer, and a deranged interpersonal style to become one of the most famous people of his time without being a king, general, or pope, but just a middle-class citizen of Geneva, Switzerland. He is a progenitor of the modern intellectual, one who knows how everyone else should think, feel, or act without thinking, feeling, or acting that way himself while acquiring reputation and resource along the way.

His book, Confessions, may be the greatest example of biography-as-persuasion ever written. While the book was published after his death (he was officially banned from publishing after 1770 and he died in 1782), he used the Scarcity Cue to great effect. He read portions of the book aloud in Paris salons to selected groups of Cool Table Other Guys, who then spread the word of mouth. In his Local and under publication ban, Confessions was as famous as his prior books without ever hitting print in Rousseau’s lifetime.

Realize that Rousseau was no fraud, but a man of serious skill and accomplishment who also understood persuasion without reading the Persuasion Blog and Primer. Every expert or scientist with a press kit is merely following Rousseau’s example. In his way, Rousseau is an important precursor to Richard Wagner in the development of the persuasive public intellectual. You see the skillful use of a new communication technology (book publishing) along with various social influence plays (reading aloud from a banned book – don’t you just tingle at the thought of sitting in such a room in such a moment, although nowadays the idea of a banned book is quaint, isn’t it?).

P.S. You might enjoy reading Paul Johnson’s book, The Intellectuals.

P.P.S. Oscar Wilde, yet again, gets there first, now with Rousseau. From The Critic As Artist.

Humanity will always love Rousseau for having confessed his sins, not to a priest, but to the world . . .

Last word to Oscar and who writes who. Again, from The Critic As Artist.

Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes the biography . . . Cheap editions of great books may be delightful, but cheap editions of great men are absolutely detestable.

Write your own Confessions! Or else.

If You Cannot Count It You Cannot Sell It

Finally. A reliable and valid measure that counts the change a university education puts on the Other Guys called students. We once just assumed that a bachelor’s degree meant the Other Guys were now different and better as a result of taking Comm 80 with Dr. Rock. Of course, that assumption was faulty.

“For too long, colleges and universities have said to the American public, to students and their parents, ‘Trust us, we’re professional. If we say that you’re learning and we give you a diploma it means you’re prepared,’ ” said Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “But that’s not true.”

Now we can prove the change with a test.

The test, called the Collegiate Learning Assessment, “provides an objective, benchmarked report card for critical thinking skills,” said David Pate, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at St. John Fisher College, a small liberal-arts school near Rochester, N.Y. “The students will be able to use it to go out and market themselves.”

Now, color me biased. I’m dead by degrees, bachelor to Masters to doctoral, and worse than that, I was a tenured professor in one of those fauxLearning factories called a university. I even published self- and system-protecting peer review research that enabled the criminal enterprise to continue. You cannot trust a word I say!

My bias now noted we can consider my persuasion analysis of the Collegiate Learning Assessment.

First, a Peitho nomination to the Council for Aid to Education, the guys who invented this persuasion play. The Council is a nonprofit once affiliated with RAND Corp.

(Bias Side Bar: I worked with RAND during my Fed days. RAND makes AARP look like a lemonade stand. RAND required and received higher indirects on Fed funding than Harvard! Over 100%. And that was in 2001, kids, with Mr. Bush running the Fed, not exactly a RAND kinda guy. Imagine the rate RAND gets from Team Obama. RAND also has a nice office in Arlington. Right next to the Ritz-Carleton Hotel. Funny how coincidences like that happen, huh? But, RAND is a nonprofit. Really. Back to the opera!)

And if you’ve ever worked with nonprofits you know that there is a lot of money to be made for the people in the nonprofit even with the absence of shareholders and investors. No one who knows nonprofits doesn’t know there is nonetheless a for-profit mentality and operation at a nonprofit. A Peitho nomination just for seeing this opportunity if not yet realizing the benefits that may accrue from it.

What benefits? Think about this. The Council says universities cannot prove the effect of their education, but the Council can with the CLA. Remember the key quote:

“The students will be able to use it to go out and market themselves.”

Big deal, you’ve got a lousy degree from UMich or USC or even LSU. That just means you’ve got merit badges in keggers, bowl games, and twerking. Unless you are aiming for the Miley Cyrus turf, that degree don’t mean a thing. Enter now the CLA. Your score on that test will prove the change that is counted with the test score, exactly what you learned from that university.

Did I say university? Why just university? Why not any source that provides a bachelor’s degree level of learning? Like a MOOC. Or your Mom’s kitchen with home-schooling? Imagine if the Council can actually sell that line to even a small percentage of the millions of graduating seniors every year and their employers. No matter where the undergrad did the learning, the Council and Its test of Collegiate Learning Assessment can count your change, prove your learning, and provide the merit badge you need for a great job to those employers.

Kids want the CLA because employers want it because everyone thinks a single standardized test can measure what no university can measure: The effect of a university education.

Thus, universities do deliver education plays that do change at least some of the Other Guys called students, but the universities cannot prove this. The Council makes no claim at delivering education plays, but does assert it can measure the education plays it cannot run for itself.

You’d think since we talking about tests and counting changes that you’d find some kind of Falling Apples in here. Man, there’s got to be some science in education and measurement. And, if there’s some science then there’s got to be peer review literature with lots ‘n lots of numbers. Then hit your favorite academic search engine like I did on August 26, 2013 (Academic Search Complete database through the WVU Library). Key word search on “Collegiate Learning Assessment.”

I found 29 hits in the publication type called Academic Journals. All of these journals were of the executive or association type that provide little more than that What I Did On My Fulbright articles. Lots of perspective, opinion, and prediction. The CLA thingy has been around since 2003, ten years. That led to 29 book reports, but: No data! To date the Council has published no Falling Apple papers on the CLA in peer review literature. None. And no one in the university network, the home of peer review, has published any data on the CLA.

So. That Council has no published Falling Apples to verify the measure of change that universities deliver, but cannot count for themselves. Give the Council another Peitho nomination for sheer brass.

You see how ridiculous this is. The Council is a bunch of nonprofit vampires and panthers out for the blood of universities while shouting those universities produce something worth measuring that the universities cannot measure for themselves. It’s crazy on the face of it. How can the Council get away with this play?

Anyone who works in higher education can tell you that it is almost impossible to show an effect for an institution on its students because it all depends upon the entering level of skill of the kids. Take a bunch of dumb kids and run them through Ivy and four years later they will also still be about as dumb as they were before. Take a bunch of smart kids and run them through Phoenix and four years later they will be about as smart as they were before.

As we’ve noted before even really cool schools admit this, but not very loudly because it means that schools don’t really change kids, they just certify them by prior motivation, skill, and ability. Chances are real good that if you have a degree from Harvard, in high school you were in the National Honor Society, won conference medals in track, edited the school paper, and had a real high score on the SAT or ACT. And, if you have a degree from some other college, you didn’t do those things in high school. Universities operate more on the prestige of the kids they attract than what they do with those kids on campus.

Universities cannot shout this out loud and we finally see the opening the CLA Council is charging through. Since any particular school cannot deliver a single measure of worth for each kid beyond the degree, the Council will step in and invent a simple to understand test that will prove what already exists.

Remember the Rule: Persuasion Is Strategic or It Is Not.

Stripping for Exposure

Here’s a new twist on an old Exposure tactic. Girls take off their clothes to sell music!

No. Not like Miley and Gaga and Brittney and Madonna and on and on. Sure, female artists bare skin to sell music, but what if no one wants to see your skin? You can still use girls to take off their clothes. Visit Atlanta.

Each member of Coalition DJs, as the group calls itself, is responsible for spinning five new songs two to three times a night over an eight-week period, working them in between better-known hits. Artists, who pay several thousand dollars per song for the service, get a customized printout of data verifying where and when their song was played.

The result is similar to what happens when radio programmers across the country add a record to their limited rotations: The sheer repetition turns many of the songs into instant hits—in this case, on the streets of Atlanta, hip-hop’s unofficial capital city. That, in turn, can lead to record deals, radio airplay and national exposure.

And where do the Coalition DJs spin the new tunes? In Atlanta strip clubs! As the WSJ article notes, those strip clubs are a hot bed for hip-hop, so if you are a hip-hopster seeking sales you can use the female form to gain Exposure for your music.

You see the Exposure play here. Somebody else makes a crowd of Other Guys then you step into the spotlight with them. Of course, you pay them for the privilege, not like those locust-eating zealots who put their message on a billboard on the main road to your show. Or like Jamie the Celebrity Chef in LA. Nope. This is straight up persuasion business. You buy your way into their crowd.

What’s next?

Coming soon to a club near you: A girl who first strips for an Atlanta hip-hop tune then realizes she can write and perform her own music while stripping to it! Everyone thought that Miley was over the top. We’ve got at least one more stiletto heel shoe to drop on that play.

Then the porn star babe who does sex acts to sell her hip-hop. Then . . . I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Jeepers. No pictures in this post. How is that possible?

Tailoring Miley Cyrus

The picture is worth a thousand words.

Tailoring Miley Covers

Same model. Same magazine. Same issue.

Different covers!

See the same tailoring with Time!

Time Tailoring

You see the persuasion play. Changing the message permits better targeting of various Other Guys.

And, tailoring, we know is a tricky play. It typically produces Small Windowpanes, but with more costs. With magazine covers some of the cost is actually reduced because the cover photo shoot is a huge budget item and if you can get multiple shots from the same shoot, you’re efficient. But, you still have to cover the cost of printing smaller runs of the same issue because you are running those varied covers.

Another potential savings here concerns the Other Guy called the advertiser.

Mr. Clinton’s reference is to a practice by publishers to almost always sell the ad space inside all the front covers to a single advertiser. Often, he explained, “we go to the advertiser that might have had that position secured” — that is, had already bought the ad space inside the front cover.

So. With multiple versions of the same issue, you can sell the same cover advertising space to different sources. Of course, they don’t reach the entire audience, just the smaller audience that prefers a particular cover shot, but now you are trading the Rule of Large Numbers for the Rule of Right People. The magazine probably gets more money with the divided audience.

You see the complexities of practical persuasion with this play. Yeah, tailoring does produce a small benefit with attendant costs. Depending upon your Local, tailoring might be the smart play.

It’s also interesting to note this:

Although there is apparently no consensus on when magazines began adding front covers, it has been at least a decade. Michael Clinton, president for marketing and publishing director at the Hearst Magazines unit of the Hearst Corporation, said he believed it “started with a few of the editors of the fashion and beauty books, who wanted to show different images of the cover personalities, putting their foot in the water.”

So, best guess is that an old persuasion idea like tailoring has been applied in advertising like this in just the past 10 years when the Internet destroyed the existing technology monopoly, er, media model. Considered from the other end of the telescope, magazines shunned an old persuasion play back in the day, but now desperate times call for desperate measures.

Everything old is new again (YouTube)!

All That Jazz Everything Old Is New Again

Serving the Server with Champagne Ears

Champagne Tait Veuve

Consider this demonstration of the uses of persuasion in restaurants. The article notes the kind of tailoring many restaurants are doing whether because they value that kind of service or they just bought a software system that provides easy tracking of information. Most of the examples are pretty obvious applications, but the story closes with an interesting twist on persuasion over white linen (or chipped Formica).

The No. 1 tip for getting great service: butter up your server.
“You can impact the quality of your dining experience by serving your server,” Mr. Meyer said.

Hey. The restaurant servers as the Other Guy! Great concept in applied persuasion. Just as they try to move you with persuasion you can move them in a similar fashion.

And, if you think about it, you should have the advantage here. Typically when somebody else is trying to persuade you they have goal-driven blind spots. They are looking at you for telltale information that they can use. This means they are not expecting you to be observing and manipulating them. Hunting the hunter, right, and if you’ve ever gone hunting for anything you know how focused you get during the hunt. Like this.

Once we arrived early for dinner at a nice New York City place and had a drink at the bar. We were feeling festive and ordered champagne or Champagne since this place was serving glasses from really good bottles of French Champagne. We were talking about how they make champagne as the bartender popped open a bottle behind me. I was feeling playful and had begun a line of patter with Melanie as I acted FauxItAll about wine and she was actually falling for it or at least acting like she was falling for it and she’s so good at both I often can’t tell the difference, so as far I was concerned, I had my babe on the line. As the bottle popped open I archly observed, “Ahhh, the unmistakable pop of Veuve Clicquot!” Melanie squinted at me and said, “You can tell which Champagne by the sound?”

We had been talking about the sweet variation between Champagnes and so I told her that the drier ones, like Veuve Clicquot, have a very sharp pop, like a rifle shot, while the sweet ones, like Taittinger, have a big round pop, like a shotgun. Now, I do have incredible hearing, like Roderick Usher from the Poe short story, so Melanie believed me. We raised our flutes in toast then sipped and enjoyed the delicious dry Veuve Clicquot as Melanie looked like she admired her man of little wealth but great taste who can hear the difference between different French Champagnes.

Then the bartender thanked me for the tip about the sound variation and picked up the check from the bar with a nod.

It would make a better story to quit here and leave this demonstration of persuasion on a server in a restaurant to save money on expensive Champagne, but alas, the story does not end here. I am a terrible change agent face-to-face and for the most obvious of reasons: I am sincere.

I had been playing sincerely with Melanie in a happy scene of Love Over White Linen, then the bartender walked in. When I’m wearing a blue suit, Other Guys think I know what I’m talking about when I’m just trying to get a kiss from Melanie. Worse still, this joint enjoyed great reviews with the upscale crowd and I’d just conned a young bartender into thinking there was an expert Champagne play with your ears!

Can you imagine how a bartender could play this play for fun and profit in his job? He could target an unsuspecting customer – gee, maybe a man trying like hell to impress a babe – with this story, embellished with Local circumstances. Good grief, Champagne Ears shouts: Persuasion Play! I couldn’t let this young guy pull this stunt in this place because he’d surely run it against a genuine Champagne expert who’d get him fired for stupidity.

I reached out over the bar and touched his arm. I told him that I was just trying to get a kiss from Melanie and that you cannot hear the difference between Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger at the cork. Both the bartender and Melanie looked shocked at my admission, then Melanie started laughing and the young man slowly shook his head from side to side. “You really had me,” he said. I could see from the look on his face both the disappointment of losing a cool persuasion play and the relief at near-missing a future disaster. He put the check back on the bar.

Thus ends my story and you see all the persuasion lessons. Some men are great persuaders when aiming at the TACT of kissing a beautiful girl, but oh so sincere when the bartender stumbles in. Such sincerity costs both the kiss and a free tab, the point of the persuasion, but in this case, not the person, me. You can persuade the persuader in a bar or restaurant, uptown or downtown, but you must follow the Rules and check your sincerity at the door.

P.S. Happy Birthday, my blonde at the end of the bar. Taittinger this time?

Illuminating Marriage with Persuasion

It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid, and most particularly Changing the Other Guy. You can Count the Change on four dimensions: Magnitude, Persistence, Resistance, and Prediction. You can aim at a little bit of Change that lasts long enough to get a glance, one night, or the Long Run. You get all my point and see the variety of Change you seek in Other Guys. And, of course, the variety you seek also determines your persuasion Box and Play. Lingering glances versus one night stands versus the Long Run each require different persuasion.

So, consider that for marriage.

I asked whether society should consider something like a 20-year marriage contract, my own modest proposal that, as in the one from Mexico, acknowledges the harsh truth that nearly half of marriages in the United States end in divorce and many others are miserable. The rough idea: two people, two decades, enough time to have and raise children if that’s your thing; a new status quo, a ceremony with a shelf life, till awhile do us part. But despite having proposed it, whimsically, as a journalistic expedition, I found myself surprised and even unnerved by the extent to which some experts I spoke with say there is a need to rethink an institution that so often fails.

Marriage is designed for the Long Run, you know, that until death us do part thing. And some people wish to take the Long Run and make it sprints of predetermined lengths and see how it goes after each finish line. Marriage is no longer a marathon, but a staccato of dashes that require a new registration after each burst.

As a persuasion guy, if I wanted to design persuasion that ensured no one ever made the Long Run, I would change the Box from a Marathon to a Sprint. Don’t permit the Other Guy to see the transaction as a Long Run, but always get Her thinking about intervals. Did she like the Honeymoon Race? How about the Newlywed Race? Now, the House ‘N Kids Race? How about the MidLifeCrisis Race? Empty Nest?

Get more specific. The He’s Drinking Again Sprints. Or, She Likes Them Younger Now. How about, But California Would Be Better Than Here. The ambition race: I Got A Better Job Offer There.

Make the Long Run nothing but a series of episodes, challenges, DIY projects with this important proviso: You can Change the Marriage after each Race.

You don’t need much persuasion savvy to see how the Short Runs Box and Play produces different Change compared to the Long Run Box and Play. If you want to diminish loyalty, commitment, persistence, perseverance, trust, tolerance, toughness, creativity, innovation, and, oddly enough, self-reliance, change the Box from Long Run Change to Short Run Change.

Now, take the Negativity Effect or the Bad Is Stronger Than Good Effect and run that through all those short run trials, tribulations, and finish lines. Simply give all the Married Other Guys regular, predictable, and unavoidable opportunities to engage Agonizing Reappraisal after each end point. Our human nature predisposes us to over-seek and over-weigh negative information. Think that might play any role in Short Runs Marriage? See all the naturally and required opportunities to finish an interval with bad news. And, you think most Other Guys will want to re-up for another race?

Marriage in the Short Runs is a persuasion dream for stimulating selfishness, counterfactual thinking, short sidedness, self destruction through justification, and on and on with the failures that arise from always having to evaluate. When people decide whether they like or dislike something, the very nature of the evaluation process plays against the Long Run. Merely provide recurring attitude evaluations of Marriage at various intervals and you will guarantee a Change.

What looks like freedom or rationality or even PostModern2.0 is nothing more than persuasion in action. Hey, if you are a divorce lawyer, you need to get behind this idea in a big way!

When It Is Scarcely Normal®, You Must Do It

A standard Peripheral Route persuasion play drops a Cue on you to obtained the desired TACT. I note the Big Social Six, the CLARCCS Cues, based on the work of Robert Cialdini. One of the six, the Scarcity Cue, operates on a rarity principle. When Something is hard to obtain, limited in quantity or time or availability, in other words, when it is Scarce, then you want it more. Just watch one of those home shopper channels for a demonstration. Look for counters that show how little time remains to purchase or how few items remain in stock.

Now, let’s turn this Cue of Scarcity around and demonstrate how to make something Rare into something Common and thus more desirable. Consider this image from the NYTimes.

The story then details the rapid, deep, and wide popularity of vegan restaurants . . . in Southern California . . . most particularly at the Cool Tables in Hollywood and thereabouts.

In fact, from power tables in Beverly Hills to pubs in the San Fernando Valley, the surging popularity of plant-based diets is drastically changing the dining landscape. That shift is under way in various cities around the world, but it’s happening in an explosive way in and around Los Angeles: at the elite gastronome magnets, at casual gathering spots and everywhere in between.

Vegans are everywhere!

Except we know that only 3% of people identify as vegan and that estimate comes from the New York Times. When did 3% of anything become the New Normal?

You see the scientific foolishness of anyone who asserts that something so rare as 3% as any kind of normal. This 3% represents about two standard deviations from the mean. In the Windowpane parlance a Large Windowpane is .8 of a standard deviation, so 2.0 is a Super Stupendous Windowpane difference. When 3% of the crowd is Doing It, then It is like totally out there, man.

Yet, the NYT turns the Scarcity Cue into the New Normal, making what is Rare into a social norm and thus into the Comparison Cue – If Everyone Else Is Doing It, You Should, Too. Yet, we know that Everyone Else is Not Doing It when only 3% are Doing It.

The persuasion play here beautifully demonstrates the operation of Peripheral Route Cues. It requires a Low WATT processor, someone who is not engaged in that Long Conversation in the Head, seeking and scrutinizing persuasive information. Instead the NYT Scarcely Normal® persuasion play operates on Low WATT Times readers pouring skim milk into their over-priced coffee while skimming the Times.

And, I’m pretty sure the folks at the Times know exactly what they are doing with the Scarcely Normal® persuasion play. Here’s the outro for the story.

Is plant-based eating the way of the future? A new fountain of youth? That’s anybody’s guess. But in a city where nobody wants to get old, plenty of people are willing to give pumpkinseed chorizo and parsnip bacon a try. As Ms. Freston put it while finishing off her martini: “These guys want to extend their lives. They want to live long.”

A girl with a Martini proving the Falling Apples of a $150 vegan meal.

When in doubt, take the Peripheral Route!

I’m Scarcely Normal!

P.S. Freston looks like my kinda vegan. Blonde with a big drink over white linen. Man, if she’s got a PhD and a CV like the NYC phone book . . .

The Novel Nixon Persuasion Play

Much public persuasion is accomplished in private. That interesting news story in the Times or the Journal turns out to be a skillful PR plant from a persuasion operative. Hide in plain sight, the man behind the curtain in a curtain factory. Here’s an old attempt from 1960 coming to light in 2012, a dirty trick against the Trickster himself from that era, Richard Nixon. First, background.

In 1960, Vice President Richard Nixon ran against Senator John Kennedy for the US Presidency. Nixon, to put it mildly, was hated by the Democrats for myriad reasons, most notably his relentless and successful prosecution of Alger Hiss as a spy for the Soviet Union (you can still start a fight among old liberals over Nixon; he’s like the Lex Luther to their liberal Superman). Democrats had lost the two prior presidential elections to bumbling Dwight Eisenhower, the dumbest Republican ever (until Ronald Reagan, then George W. Bush), and now saw a chance against the formidable Nixon. But, they knew that Tricky Dick was a dangerous foe, a gut fighter who would lie, cheat, and steal to win the White House. How to compete?

Frankel and some cronies laid out a plan in an eight-page memo titled “Nixon.” They insisted that standard “public relations clichés” — planting items with Walter Winchell, running an anti-Nixon newsletter, and so on — were by themselves “insufficient to arrest the Nixon trend.” Instead they proposed a “single, major and . . . practically certain-of-success project.” A novel. Specifically, a novel telling the story of an amoral politician easily recognizable as Tricky Dick. The approach would be similar to Robert Penn Warren’s Huey Long-inspired novel, “All the King’s Men.” And unlike a straight biography, it could take creative license in exposing Nixon’s putative dark side. By imagining his motivations — “his inner thoughts; his secret meetings; his backers and their clandestine activities” — the interpretation would “paint a vivid and frightening picture” of an “unprincipled opportunist whose every act, thought and motive was contrived and adapted for his goal, the White House.” The novel would “reveal Richard Nixon,” Frankel said, “lay him and his motives bare, and in this revelation . . . destroy him in his shot at the presidency.”

The Nixon Novel Persuasion Play®! Democrat political operatives believed in the power of the novel and the novelist in 1960, thinking that such a play would reveal the desperate and dark fiend, Richard Nixon. And, these operatives actually and seriously shopped this play without any cooperation or knowledge of John Kennedy, thus functioning as a kind of Super PAC before Super PACs existed.

But who to write it? The memo mentioned John Hersey (“Hiroshima”), Henry Morton Robinson (“The Cardinal”), Edwin O’Connor (“The Last Hurrah”) — but the clear favorite was Steinbeck.

That would be John Steinbeck. The Pearl. Cannery Row. The Grapes of Wrath. Travels With Charlie. Of Mice and Men. He won the Pulitzer and the Nobel Prizes for his writing. We’re talking about a first class creative talent. But Steinbeck, himself a strong Democrat, declined to write the Nixon Novel for the best persuasion reason possible: He didn’t think it would work! (Steinbeck would later become famously close to President Lyndon Johnson and write a book about the Viet Nam war that provided a decidedly unDemocratic take on the war that was sympathetic, supportive, and strongly encouraging of the policy!)

This Nixon Novel Persuasion Play fascinates for many reasons. First, it is a dirty trick of the first order, something Democrats always accused Nixon of playing, yet here they are trying to play dirty tricks themselves! Second, it shows a wild persuasion creativity. Write the Novel and Nixon is dead. These guys were clearly aware of the Hide In Plain Sight persuasion play with subtle plants of favorable persuasion parading as straight news (that reference to Walter Winchell columns), but thought that a novel from a first class writer would throw a bigger punch.

Nowadays, this sounds crazy as hell because virtually no one reads literary novels and couldn’t name a living Nobel winner. Back in the 50s and 60s, such novelists were rock stars and enjoyed enormous public prestige and reading. A guy like Steinbeck was widely read in both the popular press (Reader’s Digest) and in book stores. There’s simply no counterpart to people like Steinbeck working today. Our media world has changed so remarkably that genuine writing artists – Philip Roth, Salmon Rushdie, for example – are public pygmies compared to Steinbeck or Hemingway from the past.

The most interesting persuasion question is to ask whether Steinbeck was correct in his reasoning to decline the offer. Would a Nixon Novel work? The tricksters themselves reasoned:

“There is a believability about books,” they wrote, “due partly to their rather permanent form, as opposed to the more transient qualities of newspaper and magazines and the lightning-like departure from the scene of TV and radio ideas.”

You can easily imagine what this perspective would say about Facebook or Twitter or blogging. Talk about transient. Especially compared to a book. Now, make that book an attack novel written by a Nobel-level artist and the book’s gotta win, right?

This is such an interesting persuasion story because of all the angles in it. Democrat tricksters attacking Tricky Dick with tricks of their own. A bygone era’s affection for a medium of communication that is our Great Grandfather’s Oldsmobile. The fervent belief that persuasion in the hands of an artist is more persuasive than in the hands of a maven. And that artist’s rejection of that belief.

It’s still an open question whether great art could swing an election. We won’t test it in 2012, but it gives you something to work on for 2016!

Persuasion with Oysters

For a moment suspend disbelief about the science of climate change and just look at the persuasion of climate change. The day after Hurricane Sandy hits the Big Apple, the New York Times publishes this interesting piece that links the destruction of the New York oyster to the destruction from Sandy.

I’m talking about the oysters that once protected New Yorkers from storm surges, a bivalve population that numbered in the trillions and that played a critical role in stabilizing the shoreline from Washington to Boston . . . Until European colonists arrived, oysters took advantage of the spectacular estuarine algae blooms that resulted from all these nutrients and built themselves a kingdom. Generation after generation of oyster larvae rooted themselves on layers of mature oyster shells for more than 7,000 years until enormous underwater reefs were built up around nearly every shore of greater New York. Just as corals protect tropical islands, these oyster beds created undulation and contour on the harbor bottom that broke up wave action before it could pound the shore with its full force. Beds closer to shore clarified the water through their assiduous filtration (a single oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day); this allowed marsh grasses to grow, which in turn held the shores together with their extensive root structure.

You know this is headed into Bambi territory and Man Enters The Forest or in this case the tidal shores of the Eastern Seaboard. The Man then ravages the plucky bivalve, stupidly eating the very thing that will save Him someday from Mother Nature. The writer makes that “for the want of a nail” kind of argument wherein the smallest detail determines cosmic outcomes. Not a bad tactic and especially with the oyster as the nail. Interesting. Off-beat. And when served with the correct sauce, tasty, too!

As the writer observes at his opening climate change persuasion . . .

I wish I had some oysters. I’m not talking about oysters to eat — although a dozen would be nice to go with that leftover bottle of Champagne that I really should drink if the fridge goes off.

The climate change gourmet! Yeah. Lead your climate change science persuasion with the effete upper case spelling of champagne and marvel at the gustatory combination of carbonated wine with mollusks. While I prefer vodka shooters with raw oysters and a mix of sauces, champagne, or especially Champagne, is nice, too.

Tasty, but not persuasive.

It’s not about the Oyster, Stupid, but the Other Guy!

P.S. While I admire the style of riding out a hurricane in Manhattan with champagne and oysters as I watch cars float through Wall Street, I can only marvel at the sincerity. Compare this bad sea food persuasion to the prawns at NIH.