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Why No Information Should Be Off Limits


Is it wrong to teach people how to manipulate others?

The information is out there. Someone is going to learn how to sway the minds of others, for good or bad.

Isn't it irresponsible to keep this information from those who it might be used against?

For instance, some people were outraged over Robert Greene's book, The 48 Laws of Power. In it, he uses historical examples to teach the reader lessons about gaining and maintaining power.

But much like Machiavelli's The Prince, the book did not make judgment calls about whether using these tactics was right or wrong. It simply laid it out: here is what has worked for people looking for power, and here is where they failed.

Do not commit to anyone, reads one law of power, only fools rush to pick a side. This might seem sinful to a principled person, who says you should pick the side of right, regardless of who is likely to win.

Greene uses the famous French statesman Talleyrand to demonstrate his point. Talleyrand stayed in high positions of power during the shift in power from the monarchy to the revolutionaries, then through Napoleon's rise to power, his fall, and back to a constitutional monarchy.

During one great skirmish for power, one of his aides asked which side they were on. Talleyrand replied he would know which side he was on when he knew who had won. He once said that "Treason is a matter of dates."

But this can be read in two ways. Surely you could be the manipulator, and work every angle. Or you could still fight for the side that you view as right, and be aware of the Tallyrands in your midst.

How can you protect yourself from conniving foxes if you are unaware of their tactics and trickery?

Marketing and advertising are the same. You could use these skills to manipulate, or you could use them to understand the manipulators.

But even more importantly, selling is not evil. Convincing people to buy your product should not be seen as inherently manipulative, even if you use certain psychological tricks.

And if everyone was aware of these tricks, it would be that much harder to trick them into buying something they don't want.

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