Thursday, August 4, 2011

Unbrink the Country. The Big Lie Bars Consensus Without Capitulation. Consumer-Oriented Thinking. Political Consensus. IRAC. I.R.A.C.

Unbrink the Nation.
The Big Lie Propaganda Technique
Bars Consensus Without Capitulation.
Can We Counter the Big Lie.
in Political, not just Juror Life
Needed:  Education.  A Political Consumer-Oriented Think Tank, 
to Educate Voters against the Big Lies.
Truth and Transparency in Political Sales

The recent national Credit Rating Downgrade issues continue. At the time, Standard and Poor's highlighted the dysfunctionality of our political process: the contentious inability of house and senate and its funded factions to sway voters, to reach consensus.  Voters are lost in fear and force and humiliations of backing away from ideologies rammed down throats, is that so.
How to examine whether there are Big Lies in the ideological indoctrinations of either side. The Big Lie:  The idea originated with Hitler in Mein Kampf, a worthwhile examination that does not focus on the extremes of genocide, just how he got the job done by persuasion of the people. By way of update, see
Consensus takes groundwork, as is already familiar to those on juries, and the groundwork is agonizing, see On juries, failure to reach consensus means that the system will probably begin again with a new jury, or the plaintiff or state will abandon the pursuit. We do not have the luxury of that time, to start over.  Identifying any Big Lies can help, if it will be allowed by those whose interest lies in the lies.
For those not called to jury duty, the consensus concept may be mistakenly equated with "agreement".  Not so.  The agreement is not as to terms, but as to willingness to abide by, move forward on those terms.  In political life, the concept is as important as it is to a jury, if it is to avoid mistrial by virtue of hung jury, and starting over.
Start with S and P's focus on "consensus."  Can we define and meet it in the political context, now that this "judge" has told us what we have to do (no more mere digging in), with persuaders in every media haven trying to conceal facts and get commitment to an ideology regardless.
  • What is consensus; 
  • What gets in its way; and 
  • How can consumers of the political product (voters) unhook from learned behaviors, just as politicians will have to, in order to reach consensus.  
To get to conseusus, try, as a start, the process of I.R.A.C. in communications -- the IRAC paradigm. FN 1

IRAC is known to law students, but apparently avoided by lawyers in government because it works to clarify, lead to sensible positions. Are we overloaded with lawyers in government, trained to think there is no fact until a trier of fact formally finds it. Until then, spin a narrative and hope it flies. There is nothing sincere or necessarily true or "factual" about a trial position. It is aimed to win over a judge or public opinion. Different. The voter should learn what the lawyer-legislators (there is a difference in objective and mindset) already know about persuasion, and use against the voter for their own financial gain, is that so?  See


IRAC is analysis by defining issues, not just bandying about an ideological vocabulary;  identifying relevant rules with historical support;  applying those to facts and arguments (including ideologies in multiple forms) and come to conclusion. Can voters vet issues anew, and rein in recalcitrant ideologues making money off all of us. If not, we deserve the downgrade.  Don't blame them. Blame us for buying in.

1. Consensus - Agreement to move forward on terms

Those who go to trial seldom think a court decision is  totally fair, either. 

Why come to consensus:

Now we know why in the political world. If we don't, just as in litigation, a judge will decide for us, and that may contain results that are worse for one side or the other. S&P was only one of the judges (there are other credit groups, and voters remain the ultimate judge, if allowed a clean election). But the lesson is clear: third party decisions will contain errors by the decision-maker, but those will probably not change the result. Factor the likelihood of errors in, and hope they are not too bad.  Judicial errors probably only count if they go to the heart of the matter, show an abuse of the discretion of the decision-maker.  A mathematical error will not meet the criteria, probably. Live with it.  
  • Here, S&P was the judge. We knew it would be the first judge. 
  • Obama correctly assessed what that judge would need to find the United States' favor.
  • Republicans walked out of negotiations at the most critical time, because their version was not to be adopted wholesale, and, indeed, even more would be required. Obama was right again. 
  • Where ideology cannot accept what is required in the real world for the common good, shelve the parts of the ideology that bar movement forward.
Consensus is not luck or easy. Consensus is intentional.   Acting Together Toward a Goal to Move Forward; acting in concert. Imagery:  marriage or divorce;  conjoined in vital ways; or going own ways.

Consensus does not require agreement on all the angles of the agreement.  Parties choose to act on concert, together, even if one or both parties retain strong reservations and disagreements on particulars.  Those get shelved in favor of the totality. 

This is familiar in divorce.  People sign settlement agreements that then become orders so they can move forward, finally.  And the agreement enables them to do so without the expensive, delaying and often copping-out of of passing the issue to a third party to decide at a trial. 

The advantage in court practice, however, is enforceability:  Any party who had reservations who then obstructs the agreement can be contempt of court anyway. 

Contempt of voter. 

In that sense, in politics, we need the same kind of enforceability of the consensus of the voter's will in the election.  Ongoing obstruction of the voters' will, the consensus from the last election, is contempt of voter.  Try that for size, underminers of the last election's government. And stop it.

Political consensus.  Pull the tractor together, even if you would rather be in the other line of pullers.

With consent as agreement with position seemingly impossible, work toward consent as agreement to harmonize actions. See  Keep your precious disagreement, but shelve its getting in the way of joint action toward a common goal. 

2.  What gets in the way of consensus
a.  Learned, trial-lawyer type tactical-acting out behavior.

Playground Bullying.

Add inflammatory language; and use of persuasion techniques that sway based on emotion and imagery rather than the merit of the argument.  We need a new rule:  nobody argues based on aspersions on the other side.  Everybody must present what he or she would do instead.

Proposed rules for the Super Committee:  No theater. Boehner blew it.  Dysfunctional theatrical displays work against analysis: walking out of negotiations, huffing, all silly things learned and practiced in law school and courts, mislead a decisionmaker and distract from main issues.

No behavioral acting out allowed in the Joint Committee. Behavioral displays of plumage and strut, exacerbate reactions, and do not help solve a problem, Skip puerile bully non-negotiating tactics. These maneuvers are a dime a dozen, all taught behaviors and boringly predictable:  Watch a video.  Search hardball trial tactics. Enjoy
  • walk-out (do one at least once in each negotiation, lawyers are taught), 
  • demonize proposals of the other side as moving goal posts, while doing such yourself;
  • refuse to return calls, delay, delay, 
  • then find the media and huff. 
All learned behavior, like Pavlov's dog.  Put an adversarial lawyer in negotiations and he salivates because he knows he can soon walk out in a huff and bark. Brinking the nation over one side's ideology will abort us all. See

b.  Poor judgment in free speech.  

Any speech can retain its freedom, where the speaker exercises some restraint in the interest of consensus.  And now we have no choice. 

Like free use of guns, responsible use can include reasonable time, place and manner constraints for public safety, and similar.  Watch your language if your interest is in analysis, not baiting.  The purpose of speech is known by its time, place, manner. Voters, what are your representatives and their funders doing? Is it in your interest?

c.  All oaths now to be rendered inoperable. Period. 

d.  Spun information, incomplete, supporting facts not convincing, agenda-ridden.  Look up persuasion, propaganda techniques. Spot them.

e.  Insistence on the perfect, for this particular group or person.

Adversarial persons and groups who stand in the way of consensus insist on agreement to their way on each and every point.  Not needed for proper consensus, not fair, not appropriate.  Political agreements that become law are signed in order to move the process forward overall, a consent to act together, and do not require a giving up of disagreement with some provisions. 

3.  How can voters unhook from buying the spin process --
Merit over Messaging Technique

How to get back to merit.
a.  Unhook.  

Vet the source, the content.  Who is really looking out for your interest. Are the most vociferous the ones who have not vetted on their own, who absorbed the big lies.

b.  Explore independent thinking techniques,

Analyze. --  Individually, or in Consumer-Oriented Think Tanks I.R.A.C. as an Analytical Process for Everyman: Reasoning for the People.  See FN 1

c.  Lighten up.

Uses of imagery.  

That last one, little letter c.  Can we unbrink the nation with a little humor?  Or is somebody going to cry, "Insult!"  Look in your own garden. Thumbs up!   Both viewpoints here get an image. There are always other uses and interpretations - gardens do that.

That could also be pirated for another meaning. Here we choose the thumbs up.

Thumbs down.

Thumbs down.

 Laugh, don't shoot.

That means you, NRA. Public safety, public interest, rights to do whatever, are all part of our democracy's balancing process. Lighten up. Issues are matters of respective merit, not ideology. How else to get consensus, or do you prefer force?

d.  Re-frame how we see our Democracy.

No more tricorns and fifes, if we are serious about consensus.  Put away the stockings and knickers and muskets, at least until the Super Committee has completed its work.

Ask what image represents what we are at this point. 

Is our Democratic way of life, in the total scheme of Planet Earth's cultures, a mere embryo.  Is it in danger.  Is it worth saving. At what stage. Who decides if it should be destroyed. We are not even 250 years old, one of the lights (we like to think) of the world. Who or what other ideology has the right to destroy it and for what reasons.  Familiar imagery of flags has been abused, gets lost.  Try another familiar image, but in this unfamiliar setting.  Does ideology control, or facts, and what are facts.

The concept brings out issues of who decides what for whom, when, how, what does passage of time do to the issue, all that. Here is our democracy, compared to the age of most other cultures of the world. 

Debate. Facts.

Unhook from ideology as the first analytical tool.

Clashing ideologies and supremacism, before a factual analysis and conclusion, mean war. Unbrink.

e. Object when media treats opinion as "news."  

Viewpoints are bought and paid for.  Opinions without full statements of supporting facts do not move us forward, are reactionary. They take up time that is better spent on fact presentation.  Instead, vote with your remote, with your news subscription.  When any media treat views as news, or slips in persuasion to skew objectivity in the journalism, flip.  Demand that the opinionator instead lay out what he or she would do. That is news. You can form your own opinion, after you have all the facts.

f.  Messages to be based on merit of one's own argument, not demonizing, casting aspersions on the other.   

Those who depend on messaging skills (persuasion tactics) rather than merits of an argument will howl.

The bid for public opinion is already in overdrive, but look back at the positions, not the opinions of them by the spinners.  Obama was indeed right in his idea of the great bargain all along. We had no time for the nonsense that ensued by Republicans combining unrelated issues. Wrong forum, wrong time, for the debate that cannibalized us all. Needlessly.

Unbrink the nation. S&P may have erred in some calculations, but basic points remain: Unless all tools are available to address problems, we continue to lose.
  • National stability, socially and ecomically, means matching revenue to needed expenditures so all have access to opportunity. 
  • Time, place, manner. To suddenly stop feeding someone, even though he may well need a reduced diet, is probably to kill him.  Failure to feed the democracy aborts it.
  • Funding goals:  cut anything that fails to serves stability and growth. 
  • Productive people require less government support - an immediate savings in spending
Thumbs up on that.


Unbrinking means changes in behavior on both sides. Ideology has been a weapon, and that has not worked. S&P tells us that. Is ideology a mess of pottage when it is separated from context, put first before facts? Pottage. Sell your self for it and what do you get. See

"If the facts don't support your case, argue the law. If the law doesn't support your case, argue the facts. And if neither the law nor the facts support your case, create a smoke screen and obscure everything."

FN 1  IRAC.  Voter tools for analysis. What is the issue here. What solution is proposed. Does the solution address the supposed issue, or another agenda.

  Learn how to phrase an issue first -- what is to be decided.  Then separate what proven rules should apply.  Then apply those rules to the facts and arguments; and see what the conclusion is as to the issue. 

In analysis, the principles of IRAC have long been available to professional training schools, see  Can it be used by voters to demand information from the Super Committee, to explain to the public what is happening without reference to a particular member's ideology. Let ideology come in at the end, to see if it tweaks a result that all can live with, or not.

Bring tools to the public. A little IRAC exposure may enable a voter to spot logical weakness, despite emotional connection that may have already been made. 
  • Examine use of analogies and repetition and other persuasion tactics.
  • Stop before committing to a position.
  • IRAC: A step by step analysis tool. Simple.

Balance in any resolution of anything leads to perception of fairness, thus stability.  Here, ideology comes at the end of the analysis, not at the beginning.  Period. If someone starts with ideology, flip the channel.