Defined as a “process aimed at changing a person’s (or group’s) attitude or behavior toward some event, idea, object, or other person(s), by using written or spoken words . . . Under our PERSUASION theme, we explore aspects of persuasion in film.
On what I imagine to be a breezy autumn day in the year 1517 in the quaint town of Wittenberg, Germany, Martin Luther walked up to a chapel with a hammer, some nails and placards. Once he had posted the “95 Theses” for all to see, he surely pondered the consequences of his boldness as he walked back home. Settling in at his humble abode, he must have felt increasing confidence for he proceeded to write more papers to express his beliefs that the Catholic church was corrupt.
Meanwhile, Luther may have gone about his daily life with no inkling that his criticism of the church was creating such a buzz that, within a matter of weeks, his message would roar into each village, town, and city in Christian Europe. Considering that this was the 16th century, the speed at which Luther’s message spread is no less astounding than the instantaneous sending and receiving of text messages today. Continue reading Luther’s Social Media: Essential to Reformation→
In the Year of Our Lord 1517, Dr. Martin Luther hammered a note, popularly called “The 95 Theses,” on the door of a chapel in Wittenberg, Germany. He might as well have taken that hammer and shattered the earth for the effect that this paper, which Luther entitled “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” had on mankind. So great was the aftershock of this event that its ripples reach us five centuries later, and will likely continue to impact future generations for as long as humans exist.
This event was a metaphoric earthquake waiting to happen. From medieval times (5th-15th century), the formidable Catholic Church dominated Europe and by Luther’s time (1483-1546) was steeped in corruption, which included the selling of indulgences to absolve parishioner’s sins. Rome’s magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica was built on funds raised from such practices (Justice, 2011). Continue reading Not Everyone is Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation→
A cult organization proclaimed tax-exempt in the US in 1993 (Levathan, 1993, May 15), the Church of Scientology appeals to people for any number of possible reasons, but I’ll name two. Its main appeal may be that it promises ultimate truth that will conform one into a supreme being. Second, the Church of Scientology demands a significant amount of time and money.
That second reason may also be part of why members stay. In some cases, it’s also because Scientology owns their secrets.
Scientologists Possess Ultimate Truth
Scientology members believe that they can possess the “ultimate truth,” thus become godlike, in control of their lives, and “have it made.” According to the documentary film, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (Gibney, 2015), this idea is offered to members through the structures of “The Bridge,” a hierarchy of eight levels, where at each level a member strives towards the next for the sake of rising in prestige and becoming more godlike. Thus the various principles of Scientology are revealed piecemeal to members as they reach one level and move on to the next. Continue reading How the Church of Scientology Appeals to Otherwise-Sane People and Why They Stay→
Over the last several months, we have watched a number of movies that have served as catalysts for discussion on the topic of persuasion. Via Blossoms in the Dust (LeRoy, 1941), we learned about the work of Edna Gladney, and how major and lasting social change can come about through the activism of a passionate person acting alone. Most certainly that person acted within the context of her world at the time, thus one could argue that it was a village that produced the outcome (Clinton, & Feinman, 1996) or that the person didn’t really do it without help (Obama, 2012).
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
One may, of course, proclaim that same message for any positive human achievement since Adam and Eve; and, further, we are intensely aware that many powerful ideas and actions have come from within the ranks of people who have benefited from American citizenship. However, the same “unbelievable American system” has also produced scores of others who were not persuaded to take action to move humanity to a higher level. So, it seems that those achievements of some individuals involved something beyond that village or simply the American system. Continue reading Are You Persuaded to Join the Herd?→
Newspapers, along with other communications media in America, are important sources for information. Atop the ivory tower of American newspapers is The New York Times. Since its start in the mid 19th century, The New York Times has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize 122 times, which is more than any other publication worldwide. (“Pulitzer Prizes”, 2017; “The New York Times“, 2017). Impressive circulation numbers show that The New York Times is a main source of local, national, and international news for Americans from the well-educated to the merely informed. The New York Times’ heavy influence is demonstrated time and time again; just recently its reporter Emily Steele is credited for bringing down Fox News’ highly successful host Bill O’Reilly (Lutz, 2017, Apr 20).
The ideals of journalism are facts, confirmed sources, and unbiased reporting. It should be the mission of every news source to adhere to these principles, but the reality is that human nature interferes—opinions, emotions, and personal agendas. Thus, we are surrounded by biased media who cherry-pick sources, manipulate narratives, and report with the intention to influence public opinion. As revealed in The Witness, the 2015 documentary film about the Kitty Genovese murder, the well-renowned The New York Times is not above such questionable means (Solomon, 2015). Continue reading The New York Times’ Abe Rosenthal, promoter of myth→
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