I’ve mentioned Aldous Huxley here before. This 1958 interview with Mike Wallace shows him to be as broad-rangingly perceptive as anyone at the time – with insightful comments on persuasion techniques, Foucauldian surveillance and control (before Foucault wrote a word about the topic), television (which he thought was already “being used too much to distract people all the time”), population growth, mind-altering drugs (which, of course, Huxley thought could be used for good, as he did, and for ill), etc.

The following line in Sentient Developments‘ George Dvorsky’s summary of the interview stopped me in my tracks for a moment:

“Today’s elections have become very much like this — nothing more than massive advertising campaigns. And whereas Huxley and his contemporaries were worried about subliminal messaging, today we worry that leaders like Barack Obama and other politicians are using novel persuasion techniques like Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).”

Obama and NLP… wow. That must account for the recent terminological shifts Jon Stewart made fun of the other day — Obama’s apparent renaming of the “war on terror” “overseas contingency operations,” etc., and his recent shifts in tone from giddy in the CBS 60 Minutes interview (which the right-wing press went nuts over) to overserious in his public speech on the economy a few days later, etc. (My response is still “give the guy a break.”)

NLP is useful for thinking about framing and reframing (one of the terms used in NLP discourse), which, if fans of George Lakoff are correct, helped Obama win the last election. Lakoff focuses more on metaphors, while the NLPists focus more on visual and gestural cues and such things – the microphysics of framing, you might say – but in fact, in Lakoff and Johnson’s “embodied mind” perspective, the two are closely linked, if more generally (language, cognition, and embodiment). (Chet Bowers has an interesting piece critiquing the Lakoff/Johnson model from an ecocritical perspective.)

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