The Lizard. Appeal to Reptilian Instinct to Survive. Not reason. Not success. Use their fear for your benefit.
In 2009, David Ball and Don Keenan released a book titled, “Reptile: the 2009 Manual of the Plaintiff’s Revolution.” This book took the Plaintiff’s bar by storm. The book advises Plaintiff’s attorneys to appeal to the “reptilian” instinct of jurors for safety and survival. In a very real sense, it seeks to make a juror feel, subjectively, at risk from the tortious behavior of a Defendant.
It has been shown to actually work. Defense attorneys are gathering in order to find strategies against it. Politicians, however, have always understood it. And they continue to use it to their own benefit. Here are two examples of Presidential candidates pointing to some demographic as threats to everyone.
“Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America.” – Bernie Sanders
“The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.” – Donald Trump
These are but two examples. We can find attacks on Muslims, Blacks, Police, Christians, homosexuals, etc. Churches don’t want to pay for birth control? That’s a War on Women! Homosexual marriage being authorized by the Constitution? That’s a War on Christianity. Exploit the reptile. This is a war on YOU!
Need new taxes? Politicians exploit the reptile and threaten to do the following as their first cuts: (1) Police; (2) Fire; and (3) Schools. Whenever a budget is tight and a government wants public support for new revenue, rest assured they will trot out proposed layoffs to those three first. Because those cuts appeal to the reptile.
Politics today is about tribalism. Convince people to hate each other based on race, sex, religion, wealth and gender. Then the politician may profit from it. In a sense it always has been that way. Today, however, I think it safe to say that it is worse than it was before and there is a reason for it: social media.
It used to be that people had to get together in groups to talk about the issues of the day. It was difficult to find validation of one’s ideas and open discussion with others occurred face to face. One could challenge the other’s ideas and one’s own concepts were challenged.
Today, one can easily insulate oneself within a group of like-minded individuals. One can get validation from thousands or millions of others. And bogeymen are easier to find and finger. The Koch Brothers are evil! So is George Soros! Etc. And such provocation made through a soundbite meme. Enforce the hate. A brief quote. A picture. Appeal to the reptile.
Each of these has something in common. The politicians, groups, and others look to point to some group that is an existential threat to you. Bernie Sanders points to billionaires and corporations as destroying the middle class. Why? It’s easy. Middle class is large. Middle class feels abused and disadvantaged. There are a few hundred billionaires in the US. Corporations have no vote. Billionaires “are destroying” you! According to Sanders, they are a threat to your very existence. Appeal to emotion and get away from reason and win the HEARTS of the public. It’s easy to hate those people with a private jet when you are driving a jalopy. So long as you think that’s all they do.
Donald Trump points to illegal immigrants. They can kill you. Rape you. Give drugs to your children. Thus they are a threat to your safety and your jobs. Your very existence. By definition they have no vote. Appeal to emotion and get away from reason and win the HEARTS of the public. It’s easy to hate those people having baby after baby and supplying drugs to our kids. So long as you think that’s all they do.
We see it in policy with such things as science. Appeal to the base instinct to survive. Climate change (and, actually, the petrochemical industry) is a threat to the very survival of the human race. Coal fired power plants cause hurricanes and tornadoes and droughts and floods. Appeal to emotion and get away from reason and win the HEARTS of the public. It’s easy to hate coal companies for trying to kill you so long as you forget that they kept you from freezing to death last winter.
Appeal to the reptile. Why do people hate lawyers? Because they play tricks on people, make petty issues large, and spin facts and opinions in order to WIN. Sure, there is a place for it. But the fomenting of hate, the encouragement of finger-pointing and blame, the demonization of groups of people as threats to the public safety and livelihood are being used to gain support.
No political party or candidate has a monopoly on hate. Each and every one of them has a fundamental understanding of appealing to the reptile. See the lawyer tricks. And ask a question about anybody who calls for the vilification of any group of people.