How to Shift Public Opinion

Most people don’t really understand how to shift public opinion because they have a tough time grasping the concept of leverage.

It’s easier to think about influence at the sub-Dunbar level, even with all the tools available now for even impoverished people with an internet connection to reach millions. To handle influence at scale, you have to think in terms of abstractions rather than in terms of individuals.

The typical response to a radical proposal is that “it will never work” because of inertia. While it’s possible that it will never work, the point is not necessarily to achieve the radical proposal, but to establish it as a gravitational center, and then to pull  and push attention & conversation to that center.

An example of such a proposal is “Restore the Stuarts.” Saying this absolutely po-faced on Fox News would probably not do the trick on any meaningful timeline. That doesn’t really matter all that much, because by doing that, you’re establishing a new boundary that more timid opinion-nudgers can define themselves against.

The timid person might want to be more radical, but they know that it wouldn’t be practical. But by appearing more radical than the timid person, you make it possible for the sissy with a larger audience to shuffle several steps to the right. The larger and more powerful that you can make the gravitation on the outer right, the stronger the pull is felt by the timid ones who minister to the masses, who in democracy only care about the consensus, safe opinion.

The timid editor or TV producer acts like the basic political science model of rational election-winning positioning. Their whole function is just to look at the scale of public opinion, and then to plunk themselves down at the center to maximize their appeal to their market. By forcing more weight onto the right side of the scale, you can shove around the timid people who react predictably with little in the way of meaningful agency.

This is why in politics, the intellectuals are more powerful than the populists — the populists only react to the frame set by the leading thinkers. Crushing the opposing side’s thinkers enables you to re-set the field that the little shiny spokespeople must reconfigure their positions to react to the changed field of public opinion.

This works better if you really do want  to achieve something like “Restore the Stuarts” or “Return France to the Bourbon Monarchy” or “Reinstate the Articles of Confederation” or “We Demand Texan Independence,” and behave as if you believe that it’s possible with absolute certainty. It’s the low-ball or high-ball offer that you don’t necessarily expect to get in the first round, but might be able to get through successive rounds of aggressive bargaining.

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20 thoughts on “How to Shift Public Opinion

    • I don’t think noise is really the right term. We could probably do a better job articulating some more positive and practical visions in areas like education, gender relations, cultural criticism & creation, etc.

      More sound, yes, but in a dense way that pulls the rest of the spectrum in our direction.

    • Not noise, but rather reasoned, seasoned, and indecent arguments against the Enlightenment. This is the groundwork for the Restoration or whatever reality-based government takes the place of gross Progressivism.

    • On the scale of improving things slightly our job is to discourage people who put out amazingly stupid narratives by humiliating them when they do so.

      Look at what Steve Sailer did to the whole UVA rape hoax*.

      * Side note – I thought the broken glass aspect was so obviously false that everyone had to realize it so I didn’t say anything anywhere about it. Sailer did and that basically caused Rolling Stone to retract the story.

      • Sailer’s an example of someone who understands leverage.

        He went after the inconsistency in the story. Picked a single influential person with even more reach (Stephen Glass’ ex-editor). Included an angle that would move both him and other people who remember the Glass scandal. Notice how the chosen major inconsistency matches with the angle? Glass/glass?

        Particular event has even more leverage, because WaPo, Slate, Gawker and a lot of individual writers preemptively associated themselves with the RS story. Then it all blows up in their faces. One guy set the ball rolling on that one — that’s what leverage is.

  1. I have noticed that the corporate model ( and likely political model too) is that everybody says they want feedback or new ideas, but there is this class of consultants who actually get paid a lot of money to provide ideas.

    Secondly, politicians just starting out tend to need ideas- the corporatists aren’t going to fund them fully until they’ve established that they can get reliably get votes. So these politicians could be influenced. The way I would influence them is to help them violate the script in creative ways. Help Republicans support the ‘local’ movement by providing some economic reasoning. It might be helpful to point out we could remove what I think is the non-existent threat of carbon dioxide by building soil and planting trees.

    What would this do? Limit government’s scope. You may have noticed these legislative bodies have an annoying tendency to interfere with everything. The public will be more likely to divorce themselves of the political if the political sphere is smaller. Additionally, I have noticed that when leftists have agency- that is, they are actually engaged in some sort of action with direct relevance to their concerns- like farming, or setting up grey water systems- they magically start to realize the government meddlers are not part of the solution.

    • >I have noticed that the corporate model ( and likely political model too) is that everybody says they want feedback or new ideas, but there is this class of consultants who actually get paid a lot of money to provide ideas.

      Well, you’re either paid to have good ideas, or paid to ratify the decisions that management has already made. No one gets fired for doing what McKinsey told them was a good idea. It’s CYA insurance.

      Alternatively the consultant is paid because they make a huge difference in a short period of time.

      I don’t totally follow you in the second and third paragraphs.

      • Well, it would be an experiment. Bruce Yandle came up with his ‘bootlegger’s and baptist’ saying to explain how you’d get these different groups cooperating with each other for a particular goal. The baptist’s are whoever are spouting pious moral reasons for whatever the issue is, and the bootleggers represent the people who have figured out the laws proposed are economically advantageous to them.
        I think, for instance, the gay activist are taking the part of the baptists (not that they are actually moral, but they are using moral arguments) right now, and the lawyers are taking the part of the bootleggers. The lawyers want more marriages so that there will be more divorces, so they can get their hands on people’s money.
        I’ve also seen a bunch of supposedly pro-life laws passed in various states. Obviously, the pro-lifers are the baptists, and the bootleggers are the larger medical corporations who are now the only entities able to provide abortions.

        I am trying to think like the bootleggers, because they are the ones who win in the end.

  2. There’s always a worry about memetic insularity; the first thing I thought of was libertarianism, especially Austrians. Despite being broadly closer to the opinions of the masses than any other economic position, they don’t have real influence in public opinion.

    When typing this I realized the massive difference between the opinion of the masses and public opinion, despite they’re used as synonyms. Huh, mind worm noticed.

    • I don’t quite know what you mean. Whenever an Austrian-hued type goes on financial TV or other TV networks, they get flooded with e-mails from fans.

      The interest and book sales of Austrian econ have gone up tens of thousands of percentage points since 2007.

      Besides the Senate seat, though, almost no influence in government or academia for the most part.

      So it really depends on how you define it — the general public has no meaningful opinion on economics, but it does have strong opinions about Kimye and other grocery store checkout line topics.

      • Yes, I realized I was confusing my definitions. The Establishment influencing the Public versus how the masses influence the Public versus smaller actors.

    • Most people will think that it’s pointless to speak outside the window because it’s socially inappropriate. The more that you yank the audience farther to the right from outside, the more that the people who set the Overton frame have to move it.

      • Here’s how: “I’m in favor of a Christian dictatorship, with me in charge. I’ll round up the left, and put them in an archipelago of work camps in Montana and the Dakotas. We’ll get something useful out of them that way.”

        What’s not to love? I’ll appoint everyone here a prestigious powerful position to crush leftists in various ways.

      • Now now, let’s be reasonable and humanitarian. Leftists can simply be expelled to independent republics in Montana, the Dakotas, and a new special territory in Siberia with the cooperation of our allies in the Russian Federation.

  3. This is a perfect description of why GOP/Pope Francis-style “go along to get along” is ultimately self-destructive. This is the mechanism by which Cthulhu manages to always swim left. It is why “Permanent Revolution” is a viable strategy that works. You’re moving either one direction or the other – left or right.

    Unfortunately, most people on the non-left are so afraid of being called “extremist” or socially shamed by their enemies that they simply will not push in the right direction. This is why being based is so desperately required. Only those who can resist this fear, and do/say what is right no matter what, will cause any movement in the right direction.

    • The shoe has been on the other foot before, and generally you want to be in the strong defensive position that the left is in right now.

      >Unfortunately, most people on the non-left are so afraid of being called “extremist” or socially shamed by their enemies that they simply will not push in the right direction. This is why being based is so desperately required. Only those who can resist this fear, and do/say what is right no matter what, will cause any movement in the right direction.

      Precisely. There’s also a sort of instinct that it’s necessary to be ‘fair’ and ‘nice’ and that pushing the scale to far in one direction is a bad thing, partly because ordinary people don’t want to re-orient. They also know that it would kick a lot of people on the opposite side of the scale into the sewer, which would be mean.

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