Wednesday, September 20, 2017

MLM and 12 Classic Propaganda Techniques Pt. 3


Today's blog post is going to finish the classic propaganda techniques series. Again, these techniques can be utilized for a multitude of purposes and are designed for one person to take advantage of another. This does not have to strictly apply to MLM, and often doesn't, which is why it is even more necessary to fully understand their uses and effects. There will always be people trying to deceive and manipulate others, therefore it is our to prepare and arm ourselves against these antagonists. Without further ado, let's dig into the rest of the list.

7) "False Equivalence:  Attempting to equate vastly different situations to one’s advantage.
Narcissists use false equivalencies to justify their unreasonable views and grandiose needs as well as to avoid responsibility for their destructive behaviors.
Example:  Reaction from a narcissistic parent after raiding an adult child’s bank account:  "'Yes, I emptied your account. But don’t forget, you once stole a dollar from your younger brother when you were six.'"
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False equivalence is one of the most common MLM tactics currently used. In fact, most of my previous posts about common MLM rhetoric have something to do with false equivalence. In this instance I would like to focus on one of the most repeated lines by MLM proponents, "Corporate America is a pyramid scheme". MLMers focus on the shape of a corporate hierarchical structure, which is a pyramid, therefore everything else about it must qualify as a pyramid scheme. This premise is clearly flawed, and the main reason a pyramid scheme is illegal doesn't have to do with its shape, but rather with the way a good or service is distributed, in the case of MLM.

In general, product pyramids focus on sales of goods or services to their distributors rather than the public. This becomes problematic because there has to be an outside demand for the product or service and there has to be an external revenue source. If the revenue is only generated from members within the organization, then there cannot be any new revenue and the people that joined last will not make any money, because there isn't anyone below them to make them money. In other words, if you joined in last, you are going to lose money in this structure. This is known as a "closed-market swindle" (Brear).

The fact that product pyramids (MLMs) share the same shape as a corporate hierarchical structure, is an unfortunate coincidence and should be treated as such. Other than the shape, there is no reason for the two to have any relationship.

8) Gish Gallop:  A rapid-fire series of assertions, questions and accusations launched at another without giving a chance to respond.
Named after the 20th century creationist Duane Gish, this technique attempts to convince or overwhelm others by listing many shorthand arguments, any one of which could be easily refuted, but the collective weight of which seem convincing and would take time and effort to refute.
Narcissists love the feeling of power and dominance that comes from spitting out multiple statements that make others appear foolish or ignorant.
Example:  A narcissistic partner when criticized:  “How dare you question me? I’ve given you everything you have. Do you think you could have survived without my help? I’ve accomplished more in the last week than you have in a year. Who would you be without me? You think your friends would lift a finger if you really needed it? You’re often so wrong you don’t even realize it. I’m surprised you’ve managed to survive this long.”
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This technique is utilized by veterans of MLM. MLMers that have mastered parroting all of the usual thought-stopping rhetoric and can repeat it upon command are great at this, because the faster they can rattle it off, the more knowledgeable they appear. In fact, they begin to develop a confidence behind their parroting which creates more of an illusion of expertise.

An example of this is when I attended my first Amway meeting. The presenter was Mike Carroll, an Amway diamond, and he was extremely good at repeating the same tired MLM lines about "building a business" correctly and went through all the bad comparisons with a "regular 9-5 job". By the time he was done talking about building "someone else's dreams", being a "slave to an hourly wage", "working for the man", never having "vertical opportunity", "losing time with family", "never getting to take longer vacations", and "investing in yourself rather than someone else", the ability to think critically was massively under attack. It was hard to stop, think, and analyze all of the nonsense he had rattled off, and it was almost automatic, to nod your head and become a believer. This use of "Gish Gallop" was so effective it got people out of their chairs and at one point had them screaming with joy.
9) "Lesser of Two Evils:  Giving someone only two undesirable options of which one is far more catastrophic.
Narcissists use this to justify or excuse control, abuse, or other excesses.
Example:  A narcissistic parent to an adult child:  'Yes, you were hit you as a child when you misbehaved. Would you rather have been sexually abused? Count your blessings.'"

Image result for lesser of two evils fallacy
MLMers love to use the lesser of two evils, and funny enough, they don't realize when they are doing it. MLMers have constantly used the line, "Are you going to work a 9-5, or become an entrepreneur", or some variant to the point they stopped thinking about the positive side to working an hourly job. There are a lot of blessings working for someone else, and being your own boss is not for everyone. The amount of responsibility alone could drive most people away from starting their own businesses, and most people don't have the desire to truly build something from the ground up. It takes a lot of time, effort, and sometimes money, which are all factors that create barrier to entry. Yet, MLMers act like it is the easiest and most desirable choice, and the only choice, to combat working a "9-5 job", or "working for a boss", or "making someone else's dreams true", or some other nonsense. The truth is, most people do work for someone else, and there are many people making very lucrative salaries without starting their own businesses. There are many other options other than, entrepreneur or de facto slave.
10) "Repetition / Ad Nauseam:  Repeating a word or phrase endlessly to sidetrack discussion.
The goal is that if something is said often enough, others may start to believe it. It also is a way of dismissing what another is saying my simply talking over them, repeating a stock phrase or being unresponsive to further discussion.
Example:  A narcissistic boss to employee:  "'I’ve made up my mind. That’s all there is to it. My mind is made up. When I make up my mind, my mind is made up. Period.'”
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The above is a picture of "Boxer" from George Orwell's, "Animal Farm"

MLMers use repetition a lot, and they do it because they know it works. In a previous post from this series, there was a propaganda technique known as "The big lie". "The big lie" gets exponentially more powerful when it is accompanied with repetition, and it showed during a Dateline expose involving an undercover reporter attending a major Amway function. People in the crowd were screaming "Flush that stinkin' job!", and were also screaming "Freedom!", and yet none of them realized they were never going to achieve either of those dreams. In reality, if they did Amway full-time, then they would actually be replacing that "stinkin' job" with a different one, and there never was the opportunity for "Freedom!", because nobody ever retires from Amway. The most successful members were still peddling the dream on stage, and according to the income disclosure statements, 95+% of those people in attendance would never make enough to live. Yet they continued to repeat the same thoughtless lies, screaming in glee, because the repetition had taken over and stopped them from thinking about what they were actually saying.
11) "Scapegoating:  Falsely blaming one individual for a group’s problems.
Scapegoating is one of narcissists’ favorite tactics because it can accomplish many things at once: making others feel inferior; getting other people to go along with the narcissist in ostracizing someone; gaining a feeling of power at orchestrating a group action; hiding or distracting from anything that would make the narcissist look bad; and evading the narcissist’s responsibility for creating part of the problem.
Example:  A meddling narcissistic relative:  'You’re the reason this entire family is a mess.'”
Image result for scapegoating
MLMers utilize scapegoating to try and discredit the horrifying statistics that describe all parts of MLM. Some of the statistics include, 95+% of MLMers don't make money, 50% of MLMers quit in the first year, 90% quit in 5 years, and 95% quit in 10 years (according to "The Balance", but I believe these percentages are low), and my personal favorite 100% of MLMers do not "retire" on "residual income". Their response to these statistics is to scapegoat the MLMers that didn't make it. MLMers may say, "they didn't follow the system", "they didn't try hard enough", "they didn't have the right mindset", or some other nonsense, but of course the sobering reality is all MLMs are a ruse. MLMs are responsible for these failure rates, and the creators of MLMs know the "business opportunity" is not viable. If someone can say something, in science, with 95% certainty, then that would be treated as fact until otherwise noted. To date, nobody has been able to disprove these tragic statistics.
12) Tu Quoque:  From the Latin for “You too,” answering a criticism by asserting the other person is guilty as well.
The implication is that a questioner or accuser is hypocritical. The goal is to have a stalemate and put others on the defensive while sidestepping the original complaint.
Example:  Response from a narcissist when told he is being selfish:  “How dare you accuse me of being selfish. You’re just trying to make yourself look good by making me look bad. It doesn’t get any more selfish than that.”
Image result for Tu Quoque
"Tu Quoque" is another one of the more underrated propaganda techniques MLMers use, and is more subtle than many of the other techniques. The reason being, the blame is being shifted to accuser and they usually don't realize it. This technique is commonly used when someone confronts an MLMer and the MLMer responds with, "What do you do that is so much better?", or "How much money do you make?", or "What do you know?". A lot of the time the accuser may also be unsuccessful, or rather, not be as successful as MLM claims you can be, therefore they cannot respond to these statements. This is how the technique works and it is why it is so effective. It doesn't matter if the accuser is successful or not, and it doesn't matter if the accuser has something better than MLM. The bottom line is, MLM is a broken "system", and it doesn't matter if the person has a better answer.

Another way of looking at this is, if you were to tell someone they were losing money because they are spending more money than they are making in MLM, and they respond with, "Yeah, well, what do you do to make money?", don't go down their rabbit hole. You don't have to defend yourself by dignifying that with an answer, but a good answer would be, what difference does it make, you are still losing money. 
These propaganda techniques are not critically thought out by design, but rather designed to stop critical thought. If someone says something that sounds ridiculous, made-up, or simply doesn't make sense, even if you don't know why, then it is important to take a moment and think about what the real meaning is. You will be surprised how often you catch people using propaganda techniques for persuasion, and you will also be surprised how often you find people are full of...




  1. False equivalence? How about "your job is a pyramid"?

    Or if not Amway, how else will you get rich?

    Scapegoating: "You didn't work hard enough" or you didn't follow advice correctly.

    1. Joe,

      That is the name of the game. As Anna says, "Deny, Distract, Defend, Disappear", is the go to method for MLMers that appear on these blogs.

      They utilize these propaganda techniques like quotes from the bible, and a lot of them don't even realize they are spreading terrible disinformation.

  2. JD,

    Do you allow for guest posts here? I'm thinking about writing a mini-essay about cults and how to avoid them, and why it's so easy to get involved in them.

    1. Ally,

      Absolutely! Feel free to e-mail it to me, and I will post it for you!

  3. Thanks for the propaganda series. These techniques are very real.

    The great tragedy is that the front line of propaganda spreading individuals who are using these techniques, are not inherently unscrupulous sharks who get rich at the expense of others, but individuals who are under the spell of the propaganda and losing money themselves. The interests of the MLM supplier and high level king pins are pushed by foot soldiers who themselves are not only excluded from profiting, but who often pay for the privilege to spread the message.

    This creates comfortable arms length distance, and a free ticket to the MLM supplier to benefit from outrageous arguments, false claims and cult like control without carrying any legal burden. It has the added benefit that people get the message from individuals whom they trust, who seem to believe what they are saying, and who don’t have a past record of dishonesty. As a result it often bypasses the built in intuitive sanity checks which we use to recognise junk.

    1. Kwaaikat --

      Your first paragraph perfectly described the Nazi effect. Obviously Hitler was extremely effective at spreading a propaganda message, but it became exponentially more powerful when people joined and spread the message on his behalf.

      I don't think you can say there isn't a "legal burden". Herbalife just paid over $200 million dollars because of their outrageous claims that distributors can make tons of money. They also had to completely restructure their compensation plan and got a permanent mark on the company that will be in the annals of Google forever.

      The way in which people get deceived by those they trust and consider reputable is a frustrating epidemic. I'm not really sure what to do about that, especially since there isn't a way in which you can tell people will be susceptible to scams. If you grew up with someone and they joined a MLM, it would be very difficult to tell them they are doing something wrong, and if you didn't know it was a scam, then you would be extremely vulnerable to it. The only way to combat this is to teach people, early in life, to research, research, and when they think they are done RESEARCH! Otherwise, history will be doomed to repeat itself.

  4. Isnt Herbalife in trouble currently for stating that failure was due to lack of effort, which the FTC shot full of holes, just before fining them $200M and subjecting them to a 7 yr injunction?

  5. Herbalife did get badly fucked over by the FTC, but there are still silly people who want to join up. Go figure.

    1. Unfortunately, the much-vaunted settlement between the US government (in the form of the FTC) and the 'Herbalife' racketeers, was largely negotiated by former senior FTC officials (including former Federal Trade Commisioners) who now work for 'Herbalife.'

      Perhaps it's just an unfortunate coincidence that these demonstrablly-amoral dunces with law diplomas, completely failed to identify the criminogenic 'MLM' phenomenon, let alone halt it, whilst they were supposedly working for the people of the USA, and that they are now receiving large piles of stolen cash from it?

  6. No one denies that the FTC is pretty much corrupt and bought off. It's been that way for a very long time. The fact that they had to do SOMETHING against Herbalife means that the abuses perpetrated by that company must have been egregious.

    1. The current situation in the USA is both tragic and comic. You've got government of 'MLM' racketeers, by 'MLM' racketeers and for 'MLM' racketeers. Yet the USA still advertises itself as being the world's leading proponent of democracy and the rule of law.

      In reality, the USA has long since become the world's leading pedlar/exporter of dangerous cultic bullshit. Agencies of the USA government have not just been turning a blind eye to the vast criminogenic phenomenon of 'MLM' cultic racketeering, they have been protecting and promoting it.

      This morning I took a look at the Stats. on my Blog and discovered a huge spike in page visits from one of the poorest nations on Earth, Bangladesh. I would presume these visitors are either journalists or regulators, but they might also be Muslim scholars/clerics.

      Bangladesh (formerly, East Pakistan) is a Muslim State.

      The page which is being most-visited from Bangladesh explains the 'MLM' racket labelled, 'Forever Living Products.' It also sets out the origins of the 'MLM' phenomenon.

      The Instigator, and current bosses, of the 'FLP' racket are adherents of the ludicrous 19th century fairy story, originally penned in 17th century English, entitled 'The Book of Mormon.'

      The bosses of 'FLP' have been obliged to hand over a significant % of their annual gross revenues deriving from their cultic racket to the 'Mormon Church' via the system known as 'tything.'