Lexicon by Max Barry

“At an exclusive school somewhere outside of Arlington, Virginia, students aren’t taught history, geography, or mathematics–at least not in the usual ways. Instead, they are taught to persuade. Here the art of coercion has been raised to a science. Students harness the hidden power of language to manipulate the mind and learn to break down individuals by psychographic markers in order to take control of their thoughts. The very best will graduate as “poets”, adept wielders of language who belong to a nameless organization that is as influential as it is secretive.” (Amazon)

I can’t say I thought Lexicon was a great read but the neurolinguistics thing was interesting. I kept hearing echoes from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash:

“As Stephenson describes it, one goddess/semi-historical figure, Asherah, took it upon herself to create a dangerous biolinguistic virus and infect humanity with it; this virus was stopped by Enki, who used his skills as a “neurolinguistic hacker” to create an inoculating “nam-shub” that would protect humanity by making it impossible to use and respond to the Sumerian tongue. This forced the creation of “acquired languages” and gave rise to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel.”

If I read Wikipedia correctly, there’s a difference between Neurolinguistics and Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). The notion of someone using words and language to “program” my thinking is disturbing. This came up again for me last year when Scott Adams begin writing a long series of posts about Donald Trump using Master Persuader techniques. I was skeptical at first now I’m not so sure.

Jim Jones talks his followers into drinking poison Kool Aide? Tony Robbins convinces folks to pay him for the privilege of walking on hot coals? David Koresh, Scientology, etc etc. Are we just “moist robots” (Scott Adam’s term) that can be programmed with a few well chosen words?

And while we’re on the subject of words… I don’t remember the last time I saw an NBC newscast that didn’t include repeated references to “devastation,” “tragedy,” “terror,” and similar fear words. I’m trying to stop watching and listening to network and cable news programs because I feel (physically) bad after watching/listening. Which I’ve concluded is the point.