In this age of post-truth politics and alternate facts, lying had never been more in the public eye. We see it in politics and in marketing; in the form of pronouncements, media releases, editorials, and of course, advertising.
Here are eight mechanisms I see being used. If we know how lying is done, we can better spot the lies. Then we can choose whether to believe in them or not.
1. Tap into an existing (often simplistic) narrative. A fast way to connect with those who are already sympathetic. Reinforcing someone’s personally-identified narrative is a powerful form of ego-stroking and comfort-giving. You also don’t need to be as verbose as you can assume a level of shared baseline knowledge. Even alienating non-believers can be a powerful bonding technique.
2. Validate established identity. Appeal to their beliefs, convictions, and ideals. Especially when these form part of their core identity. Enable their biases to lead them astray. Validating to their identity appeals to their ego. It says “you are ok” and “you belong with the righteous/just side.”
3. Tap into existing fears. Often fears that are based on ignorance and which come with strong emotions such as those involving children, livelihood, or mortality. Triggering base animal fears is a way to stop your audience from thinking critically about your message. Feeding conspiracy theories take fear to the next step by subverting their thinking faculties to only support a particular narrative.
4. Selective truth and disclosure of information. Selective truth can help fence-sitters come across to your side of the argument. Missing information can cause their brains to fill in the blanks, and in doing so, cement them to your way of thinking. And because they filled the blanks themselves, their position become that much harder to shift.
5. Appeal to universal truisms and the innate goodness in people. “Everyone should have a chance…” “Everyone has a right…” “Everyone deserves…” Using statements like these elevate your position, even though that may be factually inaccurate. Everyone wants to feel they are reasonable, They forget that this does not mean everything they hear is reasonable or right.
6. Sow doubt and sell black-and-white solutions. This is an extension of tapping into fear. Once you’ve scared them, you reinforce their helplessness, and then sell them compelling, and simple, solutions only you can provide.
7. Fuel and encourage the expression of anger. Catharsis, the release of strong emotions, can be channeled into both constructive and destructive ends. Inducing the expression of a powerful emotion like anger, especially righteous anger, against a simplistic enemy, can powerfully cement them to your cause.
8. Repeat. Repeat. Donald Trump allegedly said: repeat a lie three times and it becomes truth. Repetition, done through multiple media channels and formats, certainly does seem to work. Advertising knows this very well.