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Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga: a Book Review

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:46 PM GMT on November 21, 2012

With a name like "Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga", a book with a title like that compels one to pick it up and see what the heck the author is talking about. And Joe Romm's new book on how to communicate doesn't disappoint--it's a thoughtful and compelling look at the techniques used by some of history's great communicators to help persuade. Joe Romm is author of the climateprogress.org blog, the most visited climate change blog on the Internet, and the main blog that I use to stay current on climate change and energy news. Romm defines Language Intelligence as "the ability to convince people of something both intellectually and emotionally, at both a conscious and unconscious level." He goes on to say, "If facts were sufficient to persuade people, then experts in science would rule the world. But facts are not, and scientists do not. We filter out all the facts that do not match our views." At the heart of great communication lies great story telling, and Romm give us these tips on how to tell a story people will want to read:

- Write a great headline: Newspaper readers read 56% of the headlines, but only 13% of the stories are at least half-read. Headlines are even more important on-line, since they are what show up on Google searches and tweets. An example of one the most re-tweeted headlines Romm used in 2011: "Mother Nature is Just Getting Warmed Up: June 2011 Heat Records Crushing Cold Records by 13 to 1" (Romm uses a pun and personification to help create an eye-catching headline.)

- Short words are the best words.

- Slogans sell.

- If you don't repeat, you can't compete. Repetition and rhyming help people remember your message.

- The golden rule of speech-making is: "Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em; tell 'em; then tell 'em what you told 'em."

- Repeated distortions and smears are as effective as repeated truths, so beware of these sorts of attacks.

- If you want to de-bunk a myth, you need to focus on stating the truth, not repeating the myth.

- If you want to be more noticed and remembered, use more figures of speech (metaphors.) Examples of metaphors I've used include comparing our melting Arctic to the attic of a house that is on fire (Earth's attic is on fire: Arctic sea ice bottoms out at a new record low) and comparing the impact of global warming on extreme weather to the impact steroids have on a baseball slugger (Extreme events of 2011: climate change a major factor in some, but not all).

- Create an extended metaphor when you have a big task at hand. Countless books and articles underscore that extended metaphors are at the core of human thinking.



Video 1. National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Dr. Jerry Meehl uses a metaphor to explain how climate change's impact on extreme weather is similar to how steroids affect a baseball slugger's ability to hit a ball out of the park.

At 183 pages, the book only took me about two hours to read, and I was very glad I did. It was very entertaining and informative, and anyone involved in public communication can learn from this book. I give it my highest rating: four stars out of four. Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga is $9.67 from Amazon.com.

Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday, everyone, and I'll have a new post for you on Friday.

Jeff Masters

Book and Movie Reviews

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

491. Xandra 4:42 PM GMT on November 23, 2012

Ok. Since I see the same old baseless, frivolous nonsense that is completely void of any grounded evidence to support your claim that Fox lies to it's viewers and is not honest with regards to science, let's kick this around a bit. If that was really what Fox News was doing, that is, fabricating the truth (which they are not), what would be their intention of doing so? Why would they do this?
Quoting TomballTXPride:

Incorrect on all accounts.
your opinion makes for a strong argument.. as always
Forcasted Wave Heights

Link




Gale force winds expected Sat into Sat night
Baltimore Canyon To Hatteras Canyon Out To 36n 70w To 34n 71w
This Afternoon
E of 72w...N winds 20 to 30 kt...diminishing to NW 10 to 20 kt. Seas 14 to 18 ft subsiding to 9 to 13 ft. Highest winds and seas E. W of 72w...N winds 10 to 20 kt diminishing to W to SW 10 to 15 kt. Seas 7 to 12 ft becoming 6 to 9 ft with E swell.
Tonight
Winds becoming W to NW 15 to 20 kt...then W of 72w increasing to NW 20 to 25 kt. Seas becoming 8 to 11 ft.
Sat
NW winds increasing to 25 to 35 kt...highest N. Seas building to 7 to 12 ft...highest NE.
Sat Night
NW winds diminishing to 15 to 25 kt. Seas becoming 5 to 8 ft...except E of 73w 8 to 12 ft...highest NE.
Sun
W to NW winds 15 to 20 kt. Seas subsiding to 4 to 6 ft... except E of 73w 6 to 8 ft.
Mon
W winds 15 to 20 kt diminishing to variable 10 kt or less. Seas subsiding to 2 to 4 ft...highest E.
Tue
Winds becoming SW and increasing to 20 to 25 kt...then over NW portion becoming NW late. Seas building to 6 to 9 ft.
Quoting Neapolitan:
In fact, most scientists in the early 80s said that we would warm. It's true. Even thirty or forty years ago, the majority of climate scientists and peer-reviewed articles predicted warming. From Peterson (2008), here's a nice graph showing the results of papers on the subject published between 1965 and 1979. Note that by 1978, no papers at all called for cooling...

warming

The Golden Nature Guide to Weather published in 1964 discussed CO2 causing global warming. They cautioned it was speculative, but they did not have as much data--or as much CO2 in the air.
Quoting Minnemike:
your opinion makes for a strong argument.. as always


Ah, Mike. I appreciate the kind words, Sir. But one little problem. Experience tells me that those who log on to make drive-by ad homenim comments about another's ability to make a case suggests they themselves are void of making any positive contributions to contradict what they don't enjoy to listen to.

Oh well. I suppose if you had at least attempted to chime in within the past hour or so to present your opinion without resorting to snide remarks, maybe then I would have taken you a bit more seriously.

Until then.....well, I'll leave that one up to you.
Quoting Neapolitan:
Stomach cancer can cause an obese person to lose weight. By your logic, then, cancer isn't a bad thing, either. Good to know. Thanks!
Interesting analogy Nea, but if we were in fact heading into a brutal ice age, that would not be good either. Farmers would not be able to produce food supplies adequate enough to feed the needs of billions. Energy needs would skyrocket for billions as well.Commerce of every kind would be affected...Excerpt...Starting roughly 12,800 years ago, the Northern Hemisphere was gripped by a chill that lasted some 1,300 years. Known by scientists as the Younger Dryas and nicknamed the"Big Freeze," geological evidence suggests it was brought on when a vast pulse of fresh water %u2014 a greater volume than all of North America's Great Lakes combined %u2014 poured into the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

This abrupt influx, caused when the glacial Lake Agassiz in North America burst its banks, diluted the circulation of warmer water in the North Atlantic, bringing this "conveyer belt" to a halt. Without this warming influence, evidence shows that temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere plummeted.

No time to react
Previous evidence from Greenland ice samples had suggested this abrupt shift in climate happened over the span of a decade or so. Now researchers say it surprisingly may have taken place over the course of a few months, or a year or two at most.

"That the climate system can turn on and off that quickly is extremely important," said earth system scientist Henry Mullins at Syracuse University, who did not take part in this research. "Once the tipping point is reached, there would be essentially no opportunity for humans to react."

For two years, isotope biogeochemist William Patterson at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and his colleagues investigated a mud core %u2014 a tube of mud %u2014 taken from the ancient lake Lough Monreach in Ireland. Because this sediment was deposited slowly over time, each layer from this core effectively represents a snapshot of history, with slices just a half-millimeter thick presenting one to three months.


"Basically, I drive around in western Ireland looking for the right conditions %u2014 bedrock, vegetation and lake %u2014 to obtain the most complete record of climate," Patterson explained. By looking at isotopes of carbon in each slice, the researchers could deduce how productive the lake was. When plants grow in lakes, they prefer carbon-12 to make up their organic tissue %u2014 that is, carbon atoms that have 12 protons and neutrons in total in their nucleus. This leaves the lake water with relatively more carbon-13. At the same time, oxygen isotopes give a picture of temperature %u2014 when animals or plants produce calcium carbonate, the ratio of oxygen-16 and oxygen-18 isotopes within are related to temperature.

At the start of the Younger Dryas, Patterson and his colleagues discovered temperatures and lake productivity dropped over the course of just a few years.

"It would be like taking Ireland today and moving it up to above the Arctic Circle, creating icy conditions in a very short period of time," Patterson said.

Their findings also suggest that it may have taken 100 to 200 years before the lake and climate recovered, rather than the decade or so that Greenland ice cores had indicated.

"This makes sense because it would take time for the ocean and atmospheric circulation to turn on again," Patterson said.

The discrepancies between the evidence from the mud core and the ice cores might be due to disturbances in how material flowed within the ice. "Sometimes there's melting, and you have percolation of material between layers, which can blur the records," Patterson explained. "We found a core that had not been disturbed even on a millimeter by millimeter basis, so the sediment had been layered in order since it was deposited."

Chilly future
Looking ahead to the future, Patterson said there was no reason why a big freeze shouldn't happen again.

"If the Greenland ice sheet melted suddenly it would be catastrophic," he said.

This kind of scenario would not discount evidence pointing toward global warming %u2014 after all, it leans on the Greenland ice sheet melting.

"We could say that global warming could lead to a dramatic cooling," Patterson told LiveScience. "This should serve as a further warning rather than a pass."

"People assume that we're political, that we're either pro-global-warming or anti-global-warming, when it's really neither," Patterson added. "Our goal is just to understand climate."

Patterson and his colleagues detailed their findings at the European Science Foundation BOREAS conference on humans in the Arctic, in Rovaniemi, Finland. . -(I am not saying we shouldnt take action against pollution, but Earth will change her mood as she sees fit, and there will only be so much we can do about it.)
"The prevailing theory holds that the Younger Dryas was caused by a significant reduction or shutdown of the North Atlantic "Conveyor", which circulates warm tropical waters northward, in response to a sudden influx of fresh water from Lake Agassiz and deglaciation in North America; however, geological evidence for such an event is thus far lacking."
Wikipedia cites Was the Younger Dryas Triggered by a Flood?
To far out, but would be quite a strange pattern.
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
Quoting bappit:
"The prevailing theory holds that the Younger Dryas was caused by a significant reduction or shutdown of the North Atlantic "Conveyor", which circulates warm tropical waters northward, in response to a sudden influx of fresh water from Lake Agassiz and deglaciation in North America; however, geological evidence for such an event is thus far lacking."
Wikipedia cites Was the Younger Dryas Triggered by a Flood?
I know. I was trying to make a point to Nea,s post stomach cancer and losing weight.
Quoting TomballTXPride:
491. Xandra 4:42 PM GMT on November 23, 2012

Ok. Since I see the same old baseless, frivolous nonsense that is completely void of any grounded evidence to support your claim that Fox lies to it's viewers and is not honest with regards to science, let's kick this around a bit. If that was really what Fox News was doing, that is, fabricating the truth (which they are not), what would be their intention of doing so? Why would they do this?


Fox News has an so-called "ultra-conservative" agenda. Ultra-conservatism relies on keeping the majority of it's supporters ignorant about just about as many things as possible in order to function.

For example, if the majority of people actually knew anything about taxes, they'd never vote for a Republican because Republican policies don't favor anyone who makes less than at least 200k to 250k per year. When Republicans speak of tax cuts, they don't mean for normal people, even when they claim they do. What they really mean is tax cuts for about 5 to 10% of people, and service cuts for the other 90 to 95% of people.

Fox News' agenda:
-Tax cuts for the very wealthy.*
-Salary increases or increased profits for the very wealthy.
-Wage cuts for everyone else (anti-minimum wage, etc).
-Tax increases for everyone else (Flat Tax).
-Service cuts for everyone else ("Entitlements").
-increased military spending.
-De-regulation! of the financial sector**


*It should be noted that many of the people on Fox News who are regular speakers or have their own shows have salaries or other income in excess of 500k per year.

**In spite of the fact de-regulation is a big part of what caused the bubble in the first place, due to the corruption that immediately comes in.


Where does climate change denial fit into this agenda?

Well, it fits in because many very wealthy people supported by Fox News are involved in oil and coal (energy) or manufacturing, and these things are regulated for pollution due to AGW and acid rains. So it is to Fox News contributors' benefits to deny these pollution issues as real problems. Further, it's to Fox News benefits to promote ignorance among the public in order to try to gain support for removal of all of these regulations in energy, manufacturing, and even financial sector.
Quoting TomballTXPride:


Ah, Mike. I appreciate the kind words, Sir. But one little problem. Experience tells me that those who log on to make drive-by ad homenim comments about another's ability to make a case suggests they themselves are void of making any positive contributions to contradict what they don't enjoy to listen to.

Oh well. I suppose if you had at least attempted to chime in within the past hour or so to present your opinion without resorting to snide remarks, maybe then I would have taken you a bit more seriously.

Until then.....well, I'll leave that one up to you.
in keeping with your assumptions.. i have already stopped taking you seriously. you may observe your own means to an end as well ;)