As you take in all the political ads that will be coming your way in the next few weeks, stories about the “biggest tax increase ever,” “job-killing health care,” “job-killing energy taxes,” etc. ad nauseum, keep this little gem in mind (from the “The Secret Lives of Big Pharma’s ‘Thought Leaders’” via Ezra Klein):
In the early 1970s, a group of medical researchers decided to study an unusual question. How would a medical audience respond to a lecture that was completely devoid of content, yet delivered with authority by a convincing phony? To find out, the authors hired a distinguished-looking actor and gave him the name Dr. Myron L. Fox. They fabricated an impressive CV for Dr. Fox and billed him as an expert in mathematics and human behavior. Finally, they provided him with a fake lecture composed largely of impressive-sounding gibberish, and had him deliver the lecture wearing a white coat to three medical audiences under the title “Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physician Education.” At the end of the lecture, the audience members filled out a questionnaire.
The responses were overwhelmingly positive. The audience members described Dr. Fox as “extremely articulate” and “captivating.” One said he delivered “a very dramatic presentation.” After one lecture, 90 percent of the audience members said they had found the lecture by Dr. Fox “stimulating.” Over all, almost every member of every audience loved Dr. Fox’s lecture.
Isn’t this type of persuasion exactly the art Frank Luntz taught the Republicans – and what the Bush machine perfected? Of course, it helps when you’ve got the telegenic Fox News bobble-heads incessantly repeating the focus group tested messages.