How Inspirational Stories are Used for Evil

February 9th, 2010

One of my older readers gave me flack for pointing out that BS self-help books rely a lot on inspiroof, which as all my loyal readers know, is proof by inspirational story.  The reader wonders what my problem is with inspirational  stories.

Well, I’ll tell you my problem: inspirational stories don’t mean jack!

Look, some people like inspirational stories.  As for me, I’m pretty chicken-souped out.  But there’s nothing wrong with an inspirational story, per se…except that:

  • Many inspirational stories you hear are outdated
  • Many are half-true.
  • Many stop at the happy part and leave out the rest of the story.
  • And many go off into James Fey-fiction-as-memoir-land.

Despite this, I told the reader, I don’t have such a problem with inspirational stories themselves (especially when they’re true!)

But in the hands of a sleazeball self-help guru, an inspirational story is a deadly weapon.

Why?  Because…

Inspirational Stories are Often Used as Proof That Some Kooky Belief is True

If you’ve ever been to a seminar, the first thing they get you to do is give a testimonial right after the event. Why? Because you’re all pumped up and full of good cheer.  If you give a testimonial 3 months later (when your sense of reason has returned) it’s doubtful they’ll get such a glowing recommendation.

But here’s the kicker: just because someone is inspired or if the kooky belief changed their lives, it has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on whether that belief is true or not.

An example: millions of people’s lives are changed when they convert to a religion.  So, let’s say my buddy finds Jesus and his life is changed for the better.  Good for him.  But there’s another guy whose life was changed for the better when he converted to Islam.

Two lives changed for the better by two different belief systems.  Can they both be true?

Just to bring it closer to home, I have an acquaintance whose life was completely turned around after he joined some UFO cult.  And I am NOT kidding.  He was a completely changed man.   And he changed 100% for the better (at least of this writing he is changed for the better).

Do you want the link to his UFO cult so you can go join it?

BS Gurus’ Books are Full of Stories and Anecdotes Because Their System Plays Upon Emotion and Would Never in a Million Years Hold up to Scrutiny

In logic, there is a fallacy called the appeal to emotion.  It’s where someone uses emotion to try to prove a point rather than valid logic.  Honorary fan of the blog, Stephen Colbert calls it “truthiness”.

Truth is not found “in the gut” and a story meant to appeal to your emotions as a way to prove that something is true is the highest form of manipulation.

Because when your emotions are being toyed with, your poop detector is put into stasis.  A BS book or program depends upon your poop detector being shut off completely…at least until you run out of money.

When someone is feeding you pump up material, and you pipe up and ask a reasonable question on why they don’t make any sense, you’ll probably get some story about how someone like you once doubted the system but then put away his or her doubt and is now “successful”.

Of course, if you ask for the name and number of that “successful” person, you probably won’t get it.  Or you will get the name, but that person will be someone affiliated with the organization of the BS guru.

Bottom line: Inspiroof is nothing more than a high form of manipulation.  If all someone has for proof is an inspirational story, then look elsewhere or put your poop detector into high gear and ASK for more.  If you don’t get it, move on—no, run as fast as you can.

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