In psychology, we know a set of tests. It aims at unlocking hidden prejudices, emotions or reactions buried under the very facade that faces everyday life. Erving Goffman once dubbed the phrase of social play acting and continued to add that we all do it, more or less successful.
The Rohrschach test is one such test. We show you fancy ink plots and you tell us what you see. Sometimes it is quite astonishing – what emerges from the depths of consciousness.
We are, of course, in the realm of stimulus response. Burrhus Skinner once broke the social ice when he showed that stimuli, well administered, trigger certain results. For instance, you can trigger hysteria or even outrage, by simply mentioning some words in a different context.
Harold Garfinkel did it once:
“The victim waved his hand cheerily
(S) ‘How are you?’
(E) ‘How am I in regard to what? My health, my finances, my school Work, my peace of mind, my …?’
(S) (Red in the face and suddenly out of control) ‘Look! I was just trying to be polite. Frankly, I don’t give a damn how you are’” (Garfikel, 1996: 44).
That’s the famous secret to unlock hypocrisy.
And it still works.
Imagine you want to expose politicians. Those who say they care about people. Those who say, they care about people’s welfare. Those who say, they want only the best for their people, or those who say, they have the better argument and the superior knowledge on their side.
Want to expose these frauds?
Try that one:
”The former mayor of London, who is a keen classical scholar, argues that the past 2,000 years of European history have been characterised by repeated attempts to unify Europe under a single government in order to recover the continent’s lost “golden age” under the Romans.
“Napoleon, Hitler, various people tried this out, and it ends tragically,” he says.
Hilarious, isn’t it. And so revealing. Boris Johnson said that the European Union is attempting to harmonize a region that is simply too diverse to be harmonized. And he says, others tried it before. Hitler or Napoleon. This is a classical psychological ruse. Hang two baits in front of your opponents and let them expose themselves. Of course, all correctly minded people jumped on Hitler. Outcry, hysteria and excitement, it is all about Hitler.
The little Corsican man, he is still a little Corsican man, despite all his endeavors. He simply cannot be used. He has no hysteria-factor. Nobody would care, if some politician would be highly excited and upset about the EU’s comparison to Napoleon. Hitler is of a different kind. Hitler is useful. He is so bad, that even the EU looks good. And he is useful for distracting the public from the fact, that Johnson’s comparison is correct and the argument behind it, cannot be defeated.
So if you cannot defeat the argument, try hysteria: He said Hitler! Outcry, outrage, hysteria – a choir of many voices all linked in hyperventilation. The less they are able to defeat Johnson’s argument, the greater their hysteria:
“Look what Johnson said.”
“He compared the European Union to Hitler.”
“It is outrageous.”
“You don’t do it – comparing the EU to Hitler.”
“It is bad taste.”
“Well, it is unheard of, it is appalling.”
Did the European Union try to invade Britain with a Blitz. No. They don’t need to. They conquered Britain with red tape. Did the European Union capture Europe by military means. No. They don’t need to. They have bureaucratic means, regulations, directives and the most useful European Court of Justice. Did the EU or Hitler suppress freedom of speech (by suppressing what is dubbed “Hate speech” or “Antideutsches Schrifttum”)? Did they try to dictate curricula in schools, inflict political correctness as a Newspeak, declare the best way a society has to function, outlaw those, who are opposed to the system?
There you have it.
Boris got it right. If not, surely someone would have produced a counter-argument by now!