Ted Koppel and the False Premise, Part II

By Robert Ringer - Thursday, September 25, 2008

By Robert Ringer

What got me thinking about my interview with Ted Koppel on ABC News Nightline many years ago was watching how Sarah Palin was sandbagged by the media throughout the presidential campaign — particularly when her cerebrally deficient handlers threw her to the media wolves: Charlie and Katie.

Charlie Gibson’s now-famous question — “Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?” — tongue-tied Sarah Palin for a second. And well it should have, because it was based on a false premise! Alert the media: There is no such a thing as the “Bush Doctrine.” The so-called Bush Doctrine can be just about anything you want it to be. There was no reason for the question other than to make Palin look bad. Why play games?

To her credit, she recovered quickly and fired back at Gibson, “In what respect, Charlie?” That caught him off guard, and he staggered against the ropes for several seconds. Then, instead of answering her question, he came back with, “What do you interpret it to be?” He sounded (and looked) like a stern college professor asking a student a trick question.

Up to that point, my scorecard had Sarah Barracuda ahead on points, with Gibson reeling and trying to stay on his feet. But when she blurted out “His world view,” she opened the door for him to press on with this nonsensical subject that was completely irrelevant to the presidential campaign.

Having been through this kind of Gotcha Garbage many times myself — and having the advantage of watching the Gibson-Palin interview in the comfort of my living room — I found myself wishing I could slip her a note. The answer I thought she should have given Gibson was something like, “First of all, there is no such thing as the Bush Doctrine. The term means different things to different people. Second, I’m not here to take a test on George Bush. I’m here to talk about what John McMush and I plan to do for this country.”

The point is that the premise of Charlie Gibson’s question — that there is such a thing as a “Bush Doctrine” — was false. But Gibson decided that Palin had flunked his little quiz, and he proclaimed that the Bush Doctrine is that America has the right to “anticipatory self-defense.” So, why play games? Why not just ask the woman, straight out, if she believes the U.S. has the right to anticipatory self-defense?

The lesson we should all draw from this is that as we make our way through the coming years of endless, deadly doublespeak, we must keep reminding ourselves to carefully check a person’s premise before answering his question. I find that when it comes to questions regarding politics, most of them are based on premises that are false. And it’s simply not possible to give the right answer to a question based on a false premise. For example, suppose someone responds to your stated belief that wealth redistribution is wrong by asking, “So, you don’t care what happens to the poor, the sick, and the homeless, right?”

First of all, the premise that wealth redistribution does, in fact, help the poor, the sick, and the homeless is false. In fact, I would argue that it makes them worse off — especially over the long term. Second, the premise that there is a correlation between a belief in redistribution of wealth and compassion for the poor, the sick, and the homeless is also false.

Politicians are notoriously prolific truth twisters. While they work hard at trying to make the world believe they are acting in the best interests of their constituents, their real purpose is obfuscate the truth to achieve their own ends.

They accomplish this by conditioning our minds to accept false premises, which are cemented into place by the government-controlled education system. A classic example of this is the widely accepted notion that the president and Congress not only have the power, but the ability, to perform such miraculous tasks as “getting the economy moving” and “creating jobs.”

The premise that a president can affect the economy in a positive way is ludicrous on its face, yet the vast majority of voters accept it as a premise. The reason for this can be found in French philosopher Michel Montaigne’s observation that “Men are most apt to believe what they least understand.” The vast majority of the population knows nothing about macroeconomics (and some would argue that the same is true of most professional economists), so they are ripe to believe almost anything — especially if it sounds like it’s going to put dollars in their pockets.

But this is not just true for politics and ideology. You have be alert to being asked questions based on false premises in your business and personal life as well. One of the games people love to play is to use their personal opinions as premises. Oftentimes, what this really means is that they use their conclusions as premises! The latter is known as an a priori argument.

I find that the best defense against being taken in by false premises is knowledge. Whenever my knowledge comes to my aid in refusing to acknowledge a false premise, it reminds me of Leonardo da Vinci’s words: “The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.”

Above all, be vigilant about checking your own premises. The path to success is paved with correct premises, because they, and they alone, lead to correct conclusions. Thus, you have to constantly defend yourself against false premises on two fronts: (1) Those that others would use against you and (2) those you might be tempted to use yourself.

To the extent you succeed at these two objectives, you, too, will experience the noblest pleasure — the joy of understanding.

Previous – Ted Koppel and the False Premise, Part I

Ted Koppel and the False Premise, Part I

By Robert Ringer - Thursday, September 25, 2008

By Robert Ringer

My, how time does fly. It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly twenty-five years since my first and only appearance on ABC News Nightline. I must confess that my memories of that show do not bring tears of joy to my eyes. Tears, maybe … but joy? Not so much.

The producer of ABC News Nightline called me one day out of the blue and said he would like to do a show on “fear in the workplace.” He had already lined up Harold Geneen, former chairman of IT&T, and a psychiatrist from Wharton to be two of the guests. He said that because my name was “synonymous with intimidation,” he felt I would be the ideal person to round out the program.

I told him that although I admired Ted Koppel and thought it might be fun, it probably would be unfair for me to do the show. I explained that my book, Winning Through Intimidation, had been incorrectly positioned by the media as a book about how to get ahead by intimidating others, and that if he was counting on me to play along with that misrepresentation, he would be sorely disappointed.

The producer said that he understood what I was saying and assured me that I needn’t worry about being cast as “the bad guy.” I warned him one last time that I had resigned from playing the role of master intimidator for TV producers years ago, and that Koppel might be less than thrilled with my answers if he took that approach with me.

He again assured me that he fully understood and that there would be no problem. So, based on those assurances, I agreed to do the show. In my haste, however, I had forgotten one well-established fact about producers and interviewers: Most of them have no qualms about lying in order to suck you into their game plan!

The first half of ABC News Nightline that evening consisted of film clips of scenes from Psycho, The Exorcist, and Poltergeist. From this rather odd beginning, Ted Koppel segued into the evening’s discussion topic: “Fear and the marketplace: How executives use it to get more out of their subordinates.” It was a stretch that proved to be too difficult even for a professional like him.

Koppel started by asking Harold Geneen if he attributed his remarkable success at IT&T to his ability to motivate his executives though fear. Geneen replied that he had never advocated motivation through fear, and that he saw himself only as a demanding board chairman who set challenging goals for his people.

Looking disappointed by Geneen’s answer, Koppel then addressed me by saying, “Mr. Ringer, you’ve been called ‘the Apostle of Intimidation.’ How do you feel about motivating workers through fear?”

I politely but firmly told him that I objected to his introduction, and proceeded to explain that my book, Winning Through Intimidation, was not about intimidating others, but about how to defend yourself against intimidating people. He twitched so noticeably that I feared his hair mousse would crack, and the interview went downhill from there.

It was a long, uncomfortable hour for everyone involved. The producer’s good-guy/bad-guy scenario had failed to materialize. As you might have guessed, he neither thanked me nor said goodbye when I left. Standing on principle can be very lonely endeavor.

As annoying as that ABC News Nightline experience was for me, I was proud of the fact that I had held fast to my beliefs and refused to play the producer’s deceitful game of “pin the tail on the villain.” Years earlier, when I was a naïve young man, I had fallen into the trap of playing the bad guy in a number of interviews. The low point for me was when I play-acted the role of an intimidator on The Tonight Show, making an utter fool of myself – to the delight of producer Freddie de Cordova, who held me over for a second segment.

I shall not go into that story in detail here, as I have discussed it at length in my book Action! Nothing Happens Until Something Moves. But I will say that it was a turning point in my life in that it made me think a great deal about the danger of accepting false premises — and the efficacy of learning to challenge them.

In Part II of this article, I’ll tell you what it was that prompted me to think about the details of my ABC News Nightline experience in the first place.

Next – Ted Koppel and the False Premise, Part II

Desire and Detachment

By Robert Ringer - Thursday, September 25, 2008

By Robert Ringer

In our most recent Mastermind Discussion Group session, Joe Vitale was my special guest. Joe, the author of numerous books, including his excellent bestseller The Attractor Factor, has an in-depth understanding of, and unwavering belief in, the ability of the mind to deliver results. His inspirational thoughts are worthy of exploration.

I think most rational adults realize that your life is pretty much the sum of your thoughts. Negative thoughts tend to attract negative results; positive thoughts tend to attract positive results. Simple … but not quite that simple.

The subject of the law of attraction is far too complex to discuss in detail here, but there is one important aspect of this powerful principle that I would like to share with you. It’s the concept of “letting go.” On our Mastermind call, I referred to this concept as “graduate-school stuff,” because the way it connects with your ability to achieve a goal is subtle and can be difficult to grasp.

In The Attractor Factor, Joe puts it this way: “You must let go of your attachment to success to attract success.” He says that you have to be careful not to become addicted to your desire; i.e., don’t think to yourself, “I must have this.”

When I read Joe’s explanation, it reminded me of something Viktor Frankl wrote in his book The Unheard Cry for Meaning about “paradoxical intention” – a technique used in psychotherapy that involves doing the exact opposite of what you’re hoping to achieve. In laymen’s terms, it’s based on the idea that the more we make something a target, the more likely we are to miss it.

The quickest and most certain way to achieve a goal is to mentally focus on what you want, and attach very strong feeling to wanting it. If you picture a result without attaching strong feelings to it, it’s no more than a thought.

And that’s where the subtle connection between desire and letting go comes in. If your objective becomes an obsession – if you believe that you can’t be happy without achieving it – your feelings pass the point of diminishing returns and your focus becomes counterproductive. Sort of like what happens when you press too hard to close a deal. In other words, if you want something very badly, but you don’t have to have it in order to be happy, you are more likely to get it.

Again, the subtlety: Having strong feelings or inspirational thoughts about wanting to attract something into your life is a good thing – the stronger your feelings, the better. But, at the same time, you have to let go and allow the universe to deliver it to you. Not an easy thing to master, but well worth the effort. I have seen it work in my own life repeatedly.

To the extent you are able to achieve this fine balance, you are likely to have an abundance of both peace of mind and success.

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