Persuasive Communication and the Drive To Discredit – How They Do It, and What You Can Do About It

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on May 20, 2009

In this, my final post on the subject of the drive to discredit, I’ll examine the tools employed, and how to respond.  

What tools are they using?  

There are the standard negative means of persuasion,  such as name calling and casting aspersions, character assassination, negative labeling;  presupposition (speaking as if the foundation of their argument is already proven to be true, therefore what they say based on it must also be true); speaking with claimed authority  (everyone knows, so and so says)- this from spokespersons for the established order who at the same time rise in the esteem of the established order for assuming leadership in the battle. 

Here, size matters, because the bigger the scope of the campaign, the more likely it is to succeed.  For example if you own a network and seek to discredit someone who doesn’t, you have more power to drive home the damaging points than if you are an individual, a small group, or a group made up of disparate interests held together only by your trying to stop the drive,  and just trying to be heard.  Likewise, if you have many venues for the campaign, it is likely to be more successful than if it is a single venue promoting it. 

The Nazis were able to use mandatory speeches, police actions, publishing and the like to promote their demonization of Jewish culture and people.  Achmadinejad uses the pulpit of his presidency, and both sponsors and attends events where he can promote his campaign.  In neighboring states that already have biases along similar lines, others take up the cause for him.  Even in the western world, when a news media tells the story, they are complicit in getting the word out and spreading it further. 

CAM Makes A Great Case Study

In the case of CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine), opponents have hired guns whose sole purpose is obstruct through legal maneuvers any attempt at getting a bill passed.  I don’t name names because they are a litigious bunch, but I spoke to their lead hired gun some years ago, a southern good ole’ boy, as we were working to pass a licensing law in the State of California (the law DID pass, after a 5 year effort).  At the time, this lobbyist,  in the company of witnesses, said plain as can be,  “I don’t much care about the issue.  As long as these folks pay me, I’ll fight for ’em.”  So there we were, all motivated by our desire for right over wrong, for justice, for a healthier system, fighting people who didn’t care at all.  And yet it took 5 years. That’s the power of a lie told with conviction.

The conventional system, through press offices doing press releases, works hard to spread the word on every flaw they can claim to find in natural medicine.  Take what happened to Tryptophan, a natural vitamin, relaxant and sleep aid used by many until a bad batch from Japan (because it was contaminated) was responsible for the death of 11 people.  The problem was not with Tryptophan, but with oversight and control of the supply.   Yet Tryptophan was taken off the market, and kept away from consumers until their demand for it disappeared and the sale of Valium recovered.

Every study that claims a supplement or herb or dietary change is ‘ineffective’ gets trumpeted loudly across the land.  Any questioning of such studies somehow never quite makes it into the news coverage, and any study that proves otherwise gets scant notice.  Meanwhile, the errors and problems in our medical system continue to get little attention, while legions of lobbyists and lawyers and writers keep their focus on covering up the errors. 

Here’s the fly in their ointment:  Many of their natural constituency (graduating MDs and DOs, for example, along with pharmaceutical reps and writers covering the medical industrial complex) haven’t got the religion.  And because so many consumers are seeking healthier alternatives when it comes to their healthcare, I think the effort to discredit natural medicine is doomed to fail.  Af far as I’m concerned, whenever you hear the clamoring against the effectiveness of CAM, whether on a blog or a medical column in the paper or a medical host on TV, the sound you hear is the dying gasps of the old order.  

What Do You Do?

Have you tried to distinguish between fact and fiction? Can you tell if the information that is aimed at undermining someone or something is solid instead of manufactured?   Do the sources of that information stand to gain something by their success at discrediting?  (Gains can be intellectual, i.e., getting to be right; emotional, i.e. revenge driven; financial or political, as in what happens when whistleblowers are shot down)

Consider the world as it may be should the campaign succeed.  If that world is unacceptable to you, get involved.  Ask questions.  Distinguish between fact and fiction.  Engage others in respectful dialog. All that is necessary for evil to triumph  is for good men to do nothing.”

And if possible, have fun with it.  There is nothing that campaigners in the drive to discredit hate more than when their target fails to take them seriously.  You can then turn the drive back on itself, the way TV fake-news-hosts Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert do with political hypocrisy.  And if there is a legitimate criticism somewhere inside the heart of the beastly drive, don’t run from it.  Own it, take actions to correct it, and make those actions obvious.  Because then you can point back at the accuser and challenge them to do the same.

I’d love to hear your comments about drives to discredit.  If you do, it’s to your credit!

Be well, 


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