Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Jurassic Jumbo-Mumbo

Michael Crichton is allegedly an admitted plagiarist with an anti-science bend. He is also a crafty manipulator of words and emotions. The New York Times recently published Chrichton's opinion on "gene patents", aka: "Patenting Life". How does Chrichton get away with such Jurassic Jumbo-Mumbo? Let us study his ways. Here are his opening two sentences:
YOU, or someone you love, may die because of a gene patent that should never have been granted in the first place. Sound far-fetched? Unfortunately, it’s only too real.
Speaking of "YOU" --and we just love this topic, don't we?-- it is quite evident that you are "smart". After all, You read THE New York Times. You are conversant in matters of technology, law and public policy. You enjoy a good debate that flexes the old cerebral cortex muscle. This right up your alley. So how long did it take for the smart you to read Crichton's opening sentences? (Did I say two? Did you trust me? Did you count? Actually there are three.) So how long did it take you? What do you say? Maybe 2-5 seconds? Why so slow? Perhaps you took one of those speed reading courses that makes you special, makes you faster than ordinary mortal men? That's right. Admit it. You are special. You zipped through that baby in under 1.718 seconds. Retention rate was a cool 100%. That's right baby! High five. Conscious comprehension? Close to zero. Huh? Zero? What did YOU miss? Did you notice that Crichton is methodically firing up the different parts of your brain so as to get an emotional rise out of you? He immediately mentions "you" and "love" and fear of "death"; followed by a "because" that fools your brain into thinking that an actual "reason" follows close behind. It doesn't. Instead what follows is more mixed messaging into the different parts of your brain. First Crichton conjures up some undefined "gene patent" as the cause of your death (or of your loved one's demise). Then Crichton injects a backward in time suggestion about this evil "gene patent" being something that --assuming it exists, which it doesn't because Crichton is talking about specualtive events in the future, i.e. your death and the existence of this allegedly causal patent-- as if it already happened. Did "you" notice the mid-sentence switch in tense? First Crichton is describing the future (your imminent death) and suddenly he is in the "should have been" past. He convinces your brain that this after-the-future past actually occurred "in the first place". And you buy it without a second's hesitation. Why else did he insert that gratuitous phrase, "in the first place"? Did "you" have time to think about it? Well maybe not you. But you and you (those other parts of your brain) did catch all of that and they started processing it. However, in the split second before your brain might start questioning what is going on, Crichton throws you a suspension of disbelief pitch: "Sound far-fetched? Unfortunately, it’s only too real." Yup mind manipulation is only too real. But go ahead and laugh it away. Ha ha ha. No, not me. I'm not fooled by these psycho-linguistic tactics. I'm special. Why I spotted them right away. None of that can work on me. I did love his movies though. Especially the parts where the drum beat goes up and my heart beat subconsciously increases in response and then my brain senses that I'm scared or excited or both. Ha ha.

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