The art of obfuscationDecember 27th, 2010
It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s not these days. Fact and fiction are as unreliable as the shifting sands. What’s yesterday’s fact is today’s fiction.
Take medical facts, one day, trans fats are good for you, the next, they’re called Franken-fats. Or politics, yesterday’s yes-we-can visionary is today’s establishment sellout.
Even in the rarefied world of classical guitar playing, yesterday’s god (perhaps a certain gentilhombre of the guitar) is today’s has-been.
Clearly, you can’t rely on anything. It’s a world run by obfuscators.
To help you navigate this brave new world, I’ve decided to put together my own guidelines for would-be obfuscators, a kind of manual that will help you understand their bogus modus operandi.
First, there’s no such thing as truth. To obfuscators, truth is whatever you want it to be. If you’re selling a hot new product, whatever you say IS the truth. (This is useful if you’re a guitar teacher.)
Next, muddy the water. Create confusion in the minds of your followers (or students). Avoid transparency at all cost. Because transparency will give your game away.
How do you do this?
First, say it in the most complex ways possible. Use fancy words, preferably, those that sound authoritative or academic.
Second, say it with as many words as possible. If you can do it in ten pages instead of two, do it in ten. If you can do it in fifty pages, even better. The more words you can lay down, the more convincing you will appear.
And back it up with data, loads of them. Don’t worry about validity, people don’t have time to check details, as long as it sounds authoritative, it’s good enough.
If you can, use scientific terms to back up your theories. If you’re a preacher, quote from the Bible. If you’re a guitar teacher, make sure you use hardcore terms like extensors and flexors.
If possible, put some impressive sounding credentials after your name. Nothing impresses more than a PhD after your name.
To reinforce your credentials, drop names of famous people like Segovia or the latest classical guitar heartthrob. Yes, you can tell stories about how Segovia called you up on your birthday. If you’re too timid to make this claim, you can always say you’re one of his students. This is a failsafe tactic because the man is unable to disown you.
Create myths and legends about yourself. Make up stories, anecdotes, don’t worry about historical accuracy again. No one bothers to check them anyway. And even if someone does bother to check them out, who will believe them?
Create elaborate rituals. Nothing impresses like little personal touches that speak of your genius, especially in public events like masterclasses or concerts. But be sure you rehearse these rituals to make them more convincing.
Keep on hammering on your key issues. Reinforce them in the minds of your followers. Someone once said, I forgot who it was, “People will believe anything if you repeat them enough times.”
And while you’re doing this, don’t forget to demoralize your followers. Yes, if you want their respect, you have to kill every bit of self-esteem in them. Reduce them to mindless robots who will follow your every command, because if you allow them to think, they will start questioning you at some point.
The best way to do this is to completely ignore their strengths and focus on their shortcomings. And shortcomings they will have aplenty, because that’s why they came to you in the first place, that’s why they’re looking for guidance.
In guitar terms, tell them everything they know about guitar playing is wrong, and they have to start from scratch. The hand’s got to be fixed, the seating position’s got to be fixed, the fingers’ got to be fixed. Not enough follow-through? That’s got to be fixed too.
Tolerate no dissension. Once you allow a voice of dissent, you’ve started them on that slippery path to reason and independence from you.
And never fail to remind them you’ve got the keys to the kingdom. You’re the only one who can save them from the fires of hell or the anguish of eternal guitar mediocrity.
Yes, this means creating a dependency complex. But hey, if they don’t become dependent on you, how do you expect them to swear unwavering loyalty to you?
Just some random thoughts on the subject. I might have missed a couple more points along the way.