So You Want to Be a Demagogue!: Part One.

So you want to be a demagogue!

Good for you! I mean it; good for you! Wanting to be a demagogue shows that you wish to be active in your community—that you want to make a difference! You picked a great time.  Rarely in the history of our great country have so many been so willing to stand so passionately behind so little! Sure you will face some stiff competition. The number of wanna-be Demagogues is topping out faster than Hugh Hefner’s pacemaker . But if you work hard and follow a few simple guidelines, you will be leading armies of vacant, hollow-eyed followers down the pathway to ignorant, impotent rage in the time it takes Megan Fox to blow a movie deal!

Let’s get started!

Tip One: Keep it general.

The Success of any demagogue lies less in what he or she says than in how he or she says it. The more “content” you impose, the more stuff your followers will have to remember and your enemies to use against you. You are going for feeling, not thought. The ideal post-demagoguery conversation should go something like this:

How was the speech?

It was awesome. It was truth laid bare!

What did he say?

You bet he did!

How do you stoke the fires of passion without getting caught with an empty can of gas? That brings us to Tip Two:

Tip Two:  As You Tell the Story Remember Not to Tell a Story.

First we will discuss what a story is, then how hard you should work to avoid providing one.

A story is a lesson or a statement of moral preference presented in the structure of a narrative.  The most common narrative is one in which a well-intended person—the hero—has a worthy goal.  In the pursuit of his or her goal, the hero encounters someone whose purpose is to do whatever he or she can to keep the hero from achieving the goal—the villain. The story describes the series of events through which the hero strives to overcome nature, fate and the devious actions of the villain to achieve the goal.

At the source of ALL good stories is conflict.—the hero and villain matching skills and world views to win the day.  Stories are exciting! Stories create concrete, emotion-laden images in peoples’ minds. Stories stay with us forever!

For those reasons, the successful demagogue should never, ever, ever tell a storyEver!

Have you already forgotten Tip One: Keep It General?  Sure your story might move the crowd to great emotion, but when they get home and a few days later, after the emotion has dissipated, the crowd still has all of those details to ponder—images of good guys and bad guys using specific skills to achieve specific goals.  They will start to talk to one another about what attributes the true hero possess and who in the world possesses them? They might begin to consider what happens when two seemingly worthy goals conflict with one another. The whole thing will snowball as people begin to try to create for themselves all of the things any good, loyal blindly obedient follower should need to get from the demagogue!  Teach a man to fish and he will feed himself; sink a well-cast hook into that same man’s cheek, and he won’t even think about food until after you have slowly and painfully reeled him in!

Instead of a whole, well-constructed story the demagogue provides only the following narrative elements:

  • There is a goal worth doing anything to achieve.
  • Everyone not in this crowd right now is part of a vast conspiracy to keep everyone but them from achieving it.

“Then how” you might ask “do I tell my story?”

You don’t tell your story. They do! If you have adequately addressed the two themes stated above, the crowd, hungry for salvation, desperate for inspiration has been told all it needs to know. There is something worth having and someone who doesn’t want them to have it. Plant those two seeds in their minds and they will fill in the blanks like coke-addicted Mad Libs fans.  Instead of pondering what your claims they will be rabidly supporting your contentions with what is in their minds indisputable truth from their own sorry experience.  They will fill in all of the blanks. You will get all of the credit and leave none of the tracks! “Oh my God!” each will think. “I could be a hero if those bastards would get off my throat! Thank you [your name here] for being brave enough to tell it like it is!”

I’d call that a Win-Win! And by that I mean—You win twice!

Homework Assignment: Here are two paragraphs–a traditional inspirational story followed by the successful demagogue’s version of the same story. Analyze each until you appreciate why the second is more appropriate to your needs than the first.

Story One.

Once upon a time in a land not unlike ours, there lived a young boy who wanted nothing more than to see the world. On the day of his sixteenth birthday, his father said to him “What can we give you to celebrate this great occasion?” The boy said “I would like a bus ticket to the great city across the border.” His father and mother looked sadly at each other, then his mother said “Son, we wish we could make your wish come true but the reality of our times is that the great city across the border is our mortal enemy. Because our government believes that they are plotting to destroy us, we are forbidden by law to travel there.”

Not wanting to upset his parents and make them think he was ungrateful, the boy accepted the traditional sixteenth birthday present of a fast used car and a night with a seasoned hooker.  However, he vowed that some day he would indeed travel to the great city across the border.

When the boy turned eighteen he joined the national army and requested duty in the great city across the sea. When his tour was up, instead of returning home, he travelled to the great city across the border which was legal from the great city across the sea. When he got there he found that much like his country, the people of the great city across the border had no animosity toward his people; it was just the governments that did not get along. He spent his time there forming relationships with others who felt the way he did. Then he went home–again by way of the great city across the sea–and with his compatriots worked tirelessly until the will of the peoples was realized and peace was created between the two great nations.

Story Two.

People, what I am trying to tell you is that we can never never drop our guard! Not for a second, because there are so many powerful, selfish entrenched interests who wake up every day trying to find new ways to rob us of our freedoms and take what we have! Why do they want to take what we have? Because what we have is so valuable! What we have makes us the envy of the rest of the rotten world! Don’t believe me? Visit that crime-ridden, disease encrusted city across the border and see how good they have it. But if you do, I promise you you won’t come back! They will hurt you, because they hate you for what you have.

You know who I fear for the most? Our brave young men who have the courage and sense of responsibility to send home their seasoned hookers, store their fast used cars and go abroad to defend our freedoms. Many die on the battle field, but just as many come home wounded, embittered with twisted ideas about the world and sometimes have to be hospitalized and treated for their delusions. It breaks my heart. It just breaks my heart. Please, pray with me.

There you have it. Study hard. Discuss the problem with your fellow demagogues and be ready for par two!

Next Time: How to Win Friends and Effluence Enemies!

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About bigshotprof

College Professor in the Communication Studies department at Pace University. My personal life fall somewhere in the gap between less than you want to know and more than you need to know.
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