The Art of the Lie: How the Manipulation of Language Affects Our Minds

The Art of the Lie: How the Manipulation of Language Affects Our Minds

by Marcel Danesi


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This book shows how language can be used strategically to manipulate beliefs.

From Machiavelli to P. T. Barnum to Donald Trump, many have perfected the art of strategically using language to gain the upper hand, set a tone, change the subject, or influence people's beliefs and behaviors. Language—both words themselves and rhetorical tactics such as metaphor, irony, slang, and humor—can effectively manipulate the minds of the listener.

In this book, Marcel Danesi, a renowned linguistic anthropologist and semiotician, looks at language that is used not to present arguments logically or rationally, but to "move" audiences in order to gain their confidence and build consensus. He demonstrates that through language techniques communicators can not only sway opinions but also shape listeners' very perception of reality. He assesses how the communicative environment in which the art of the lie unfolds—such as on social media or in emotionally-charged gatherings—impacts the results.

Danesi also investigates why lies are often accepted as valid. Artful lying fits in with an Internet society that is largely disinterested in what is true and what is false and in which attention is often given to speech that is entertaining or persuasive. Have we become immune to lies because of a social media discourse shaped by untruths? In an electronic age where facts are deemed irrelevant and conspiracies are accorded as much credibility as truths, this book discusses the implications of lying and language for the future of belief, ethics, and American democracy itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633885967
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication date: 01/06/2020
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 546,611
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Marcel Danesi is professor of linguistic anthropology and semiotics at the University of Toronto, director of the university's Program in Semiotics and Communications, and an internationally-renowned semiotician. He is the author of Understanding Media Semiotics, 2nd edition; Popular Culture: Introductory Perspectives, 4th edition; Language, Society, and New Media: Sociolinguistics Today, 2nd Edition; Murder in Plain English (with Michael Arntfield); and The Semiotics of Emoji: The Rise of Visual Language in the Age of the Internet. He has also published many articles in scholarly journals. He is the editor in chief of Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies and a past-president of the Semiotic Society of America. He has appeared frequently on all major media, including NPR and CBC, and has been interviewed by the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and other media outlets.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments and Dedication xiii

Chapter 1 Lying As Art 1

Prologue 1

Lies and Lying 4

A Machiavellian Art 8

Language, Belief, and Reality 11

Discourse 16

Trump and Mussolini 19

Alienation 22

Epilogue 24

Chapter 2 Alternative Facts 28

Prologue 28

A False Equivalency 30

Doublethink and Doublespeak 33

Alternative History 40

Restructuring the Lexicon 46

The Power of Belief 51

Epilogue 55

Chapter 3 Confabulation 58

Prologue 61

The Nature of Confabulation 68

Redemptive History 68

Otherness 74

Epilogue 80

Chapter 4 Fake News 84

Prologue 84

Origins 86

Occultism 92

Counterattacks 95

The Fake News Syndrome 99

Disinformation 101

Conspiracy Theories 104

Epilogue 108

Chapter 5 Gaslighting 113

Prologue 113

The Gaslighter 115

Artifice 125

The Great Pretender 130

Epilogue 135

Chapter 6 Verbal Weaponry 137

Prologue 137

Blunt Speech 139

The Attack on Political Correctness 143

Attackonyms 151

Denial, Deflection, Distraction 158

Words Matter 161

Epilogue 164

Chapter 7 Truthful Hyperbole 167

Prologue 167

A Language of Business and Religion 170

Narcissism 177

Hucksterism 180

Bullshitting 184

Epilogue 190

Chapter 8 A Machiavellian Art 193

Prologue 193

Machiavellianism 195

Lies and Mental Health 197

Manipulative Language 199

Cognitive Dissonance 202

Machiavellian Intelligence 208

Epilogue 211

Notes 218

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