Notes politics Psychology

Law 37: Create Compelling Spectacles (The 48 Laws of Power)

Law 37: Create Compelling Spectacles

Grand symbolic gestures can be used as a powerful tool to influence, distract, and project an aura of power. Words are not as powerful, they are dangerous and often misinterpreted.

We often reflect on what others say to us, and eventually believe in the opposite of what they say – this is part of our perverse nature. Words can also offend us, but the visual is direct, it is like music, it supersedes the rational. It leaves no room for doubt and over deliberation. Words create controversy and stir up divisions, they highlight personal and cultural differences, while images are universal; they bring people together. Images appeal to emotions, they are the perfect instruments of power.

Fra Filippo Lippi was a Renaissance painter who was captured by the Moors. He managed to win his freedom by sketching a drawing of his master on wall with a piece of charcoal. When the owner saw the artist’s image, he revered the power this man had; he let Lippi go. Had the artist used arguments instead, he would have never gotten anywhere. His words may have been lost in translation, or the Moors may not be too keen on entertaining the rational arguments of one of their prisoners, but a single image couldn’t be resisted – it communicated more than anything Lippi could have said.

It’s not just artists who can take advantage of the power of images. Even details like color is key in creating the right visual effect to dazzle people. The con artist Yellow Kid Weil peddled phony stocks through a newsletter; he called it the “Red Letter Newsletter” and he printed it in red ink at a high cost. Weil knew that the keys to deception are found in these seemingly insignificant details and so do modern marketers. Titles that have “gold” are often colored that way.

Think of how sporting events such as the Superbowl make use of imagery, or how political parties build their popularity through symbolism.

The people are always impressed by the superficial appearance of things…. The [prince] should, at fitting times of the year, keep the people occupied and distracted with festivities and spectacles. (Niccolò Machiavelli, 1469-1527)

Read The 48 Laws of Power

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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