Perception Management

Perception Management #

People often use language to conceal rather than reveal their real intentions.

Disinformation or misleading and perception manipulating stunts discredit genuine discourse. **Casuistry is **the application of general rules and principles to questions of ethics or morals in order to resolve them. It involves the use of subtle, sophisticated, and sometimes deceptive argument and reasoning, especially on moral issues, in order to justify something or mislead.

Professor Marshall McLuhan observed,

“Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind. To get inside in order to manipulate, exploit, control is the object now.”

It is the deceit of words and sleight of hand which may not involve any deliberate falsehood, but inferentially manipulates our perceptions, what Wittgenstein calls the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language and eristic argument.

In Macbeth, Shakespeare demonstrates the deceptive role of language when Banquo tries to warn Macbeth not to trust the witches.

And often times, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles to betray’s
- In deepest consequence

Macbeth fails to heed the advice and only through painful experience learns the lesson:

Infected be the air whereon they ride;
And damn’d all those that trust them!


And be these juggling fiends no more believed
That palter with us in a double sense,
That keep the word of promise to our ear
And break it to our hope.

Many people use language to conceal and deceive rather than reveal.

False language: #

Blandishments – flatteries, cajoleries, praises, fulsome, effusive, insincere platitudes, rhetoric, oratory, banality, prosaicism, clichéd, bromides, cant, hollowed language, husk, shell,

“Base words are uttered only by the base
And can for such at once be understood;
But noble platitudes — ah, there’s a case
Where the most careful scrutiny is needed
To tell a voice that’s genuinely good
From one that’s base but merely has succeeded.”
W.H. Auden, Collected Poems4

“Words empty as the wind, are best left unsaid” Homer

Discord, the goddess of strife, AKA Eris, the Greek goddess of mischief, gave us the term eristic reasoning. Eris (casuistry, sophistry, eristic reasoning, specious arguments…) is present in presidential debates, in court rooms and wherever people are talking not to discover truth but to win with whatever it takes.

All attempts to communicate are subjective and therefore even well intentioned, informative writings can be prone to bias or unconscious distortion of truth.


A respectable family’s uncle was condemned to death by electrocution for a nasty crime. To salvage the family reputation, they negotiated the following media release to make it appear innocuous:

At the time of his death, Uncle Charles occupied the chair of a well connected electrical institution. The ties that bound him to his position were strong indeed. His death came as an extreme shock.

When it became evident that ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s great-great uncle, Remus Rudd, spent time in prison from 1883 and eventually hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Melbourne in 1889, Kevin Rudd’s staff sent back the following biographical sketch:

“Remus Rudd was famous in Victoria during the mid to late 1800s. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Melbourne-Geelong Railroad.

Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad.

In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the Victoria Police Force. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honour when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.”

NOW That’s how it’s done, Folks!


“As Archbishop of almost 20 years he has lead from the front to put an end to cover-ups.”

A press release issued on behalf of George Pell. Given the Catholic Church’s legal structures and his lame responses to charges of child abuse, describing the institution as a “front” is refreshingly honest.

“We know that truth is free; but bullshit - spin can command increasingly higher premiums.”

However, much of the communication we are exposed to is deliberately persuasive and justifies using any means at its disposal to convince us their cause is just. Extreme forms of persuasion are called propaganda.

We need to be on guard – vigilant, not to be taken in; too credulous or easily duped.

Fool me once, shame on you;
fool me twice, shame on me

As active participants in a democratic society we need to be able to discriminate between reality and falsehood – bullshit detectors, so that we can make sense of what is happening and make well informed considered choices.