The Critical Communication Method
What the anti-woke movement misses about communication.
“Words should mean something… The point of communication is that if I have some intention in my mind - I’m thinking something - I want that intention to appear in your mind so that you understand me. And then you say things back, because you have an idea in your head, and you want that idea to appear in my head so that I understand you.”
As a neurodivergent person, I wish that people were as literal and direct in their communication as anti-woke critic James Lindsay describes in the above quote. Unfortunately, in my experience, people do not say exactly what they mean. They say what they believe will produce the desired reaction in their audience.
For example, when someone says that a political opponent is “literally Hitler,” they do not mean that the person they are describing is literally the historical leader of the Nazi party from the 1940s. Rather, they are suggesting that you should respond to this person the same way as you would as if they were the historical figure Adolf Hitler. They are not saying that the person is “literally Hitler,” despite the fact those are the exact words they used. They are saying that you should respond to them with the same moral judgment you’d have towards Hitler.
In Linsday’s model of communication, the purpose of words is to reproduce the mental picture in the speaker’s mind in your mind. In the “literally Hitler” example above, the purpose of words is to produce a mental picture in your head that will cause you to act in the way the speaker wants you to. Words are not representations of literal truth, but an attempt to manipulate you into acting the way the speaker wants. If a picture of Hitler in your mind causes you to act the way the speaker wants, they will use language to produce that, even if that is not the truth. I call this the neurotypical communication model because there is already a word for people who only speak in literal direct communication: autistic.
If we were being generous, we might say that the feelings evoked by “literally Hitler” are closer to the speaker’s internal representation of the person they are talking about than any other language. Perhaps that description does accurately represent their view. However, such a description could be used manipulatively. If the speaker knows that calling their opponent “literally Hitler” will cause you to hate them and act or vote the way that they want you to, they could just as easily use this language to produce the desired effect in their audience, when they hold a different truth in their own mind. Even if the speaker does not intend to manipulate, this language is inherently manipulative, because it is intended to produce a reaction in the audience first and communicate the truth, second. By this standard, all neurotypical communication is manipulative. Only direct communication isn’t. Between these two styles of communication, which is more common?
By the way, anyone who doesn’t subscribe to my substack is literally Hitler. Subscribe:
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