the order of information — 4/30/15

Today’s encore selection — from Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Frank I. Luntz. As discussed by political advisor Frank Luntz, the sequential arrangement of information often creates the very meaning of that information:

“[In film when] two unrelated images are presented, one after the other, the audience infers a causal or substantive link between them. A shot of a masked killer raising a butcher knife, followed by a shot of a woman opening her mouth, tells us that the woman is scared. But if that same image of a woman opening her mouth is preceded by a shot of a clock showing that it’s 3 a.m., the woman may seem not to be screaming, but yawning. The mind takes the information it receives and synthesizes it to create a third idea, a new whole. …

“The essential importance of the order in which information is presented first hit home for me early in my career when I was working for Ross Perot during the 1992 presidential campaign. I had three videos to test: a) a Perot biography; b) testimonials of various people praising Perot; and c) Perot himself delivering a speech. Without giving it much thought, I’d been showing the videos to various focus groups of independent voters in that order-until, at the beginning of one session, I realized to my horror that I’d failed to rewind the first two videotapes. So, I was forced to begin the focus group with the tape of Perot himself talking.

“The results were stunning.

“In every previous focus group, the participants had fallen in love with Perot by the time they’d seen all three tapes in their particular order. No matter what the negative information I threw at them, they could not be moved off their support. But now, when people were seeing the tapes in the opposite order, they were immediately skeptical of Perot’s capabilities and claims, and abandoned him at the first negative information they heard. … I repeated this experiment several times, reversing the order, and watched as the same phenomenon took place. Demographically identical focus groups in the same cities had radically different reactions — all based on whether or not they saw Perot’s biographical video first  and the third-party testimonials second (and were therefore predisposed and conditioned to like him) before or after the candidate spoke for himself.

“The language lesson: A+B+C does not necessarily equal C+B+A. The order of presentation determines the reaction.”

Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear

Author: Frank I. Luntz
Publisher: Hachette Books
Copyright 2007 by Dr. Frank Luntz
Pages: 40-41

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corsairs and white slaves — 4/29/15

Today’s selection — from The Fortunes of Africa: A 5000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor by Martin Meredith. Muslim pirates (or corsairs) in North Africa, in retaliation for the encroachment of Spanish kings, enslaved at least a million European Christians in Algiers and other port cities. The most famous was Barbarossa:

“Spanish kings, having conquered the Muslim emirate of Granada and brought an end to nearly eight centuries of Muslim rule in Spain … established a string of fortress colonies, or presidios, along the coast from Morocco to Tripolitania and forced local dynasties in Fez (in Morocco), Tlemcen (in Algeria) and Tunis to pay tribute to the Spanish crown.

“The main resistance to Spain’s occupation came from local sailors who armed their ships and plundered Spanish vessels for cargoes and captives. In Europe, these corsairs were regarded as a barbarian menace, reviled for selling thousands of Christian sailors into slavery. But they themselves viewed their war as a religious conflict against Christian invaders and were seen by Arab and Berber inhabitants of the coast as local heroes.

Barbarossa Hayreddin (Hizir)

“The most famous of the corsair commanders were two brothers, ‘Aruj and Hizir, both known in Europe by the Italian name of Barbarossa. Born on the Ottoman island of Mytilene (now Lesbos), they began their seafaring careers as privateers in the eastern Mediterranean, but shifted their operations to the western Mediterranean where the opportunities for plunder from Spanish shipping were greater. In 1504, they obtained permission from the Beni Hafsid sultan in Tunis to use the nearby port of Halq al-Wadi (Guletta) as a base. Their raids on Sicily, Sardinia, the Balearic Islands and the Spanish mainland made them widely feared by coastal communities in southern Europe. In 1516, they succeeded in liberating El Djezair (Algiers) from Spanish rule. After consolidating control over the surrounding region and forcing the Beni Ziyad ruler to flee, ‘Aruj declared himself the new sultan of Algiers and set out to extend his power to Tlemcen in the west, but was killed there in 1517.

“His place was taken by his younger brother Hizir who inherited the name Barbarossa. Needing the support of a powerful ally against the might of Spain, in 1519 Hizir sent an envoy to the Ottoman court, bearing gifts and a petition from the Algiers population asking for protection in the war against Christian invaders and offering to submit themselves to Ottoman rule. The envoy duly returned home with an Ottoman flag and a detachment of 2,000 janissaries. The arrival of Ottoman forces in the western Mediterranean shifted the balance of power there decisively. …

“Corsair fleets continued their raids with official approval, making huge fortunes from captured merchandise and from the sale or ransom of captives. Their field of operation widened considerably during the seventeenth century when they began to use square-rigged sailing ships instead of galleys. Their activities formed the backbone of the economy. Corsair loot paid for the wages of government officials, furnished their residences and financed the building of harbour defences, aqueducts and mosques. Christian slaves were used as a ready supply of labour. They worked on construction gangs and as galley slaves, agricultural labourers and quarrymen. Skilled artisans were consigned to shipyards and arsenals and made a significant contribution to maintaining the fighting capacity of corsair fleets. Women and girls were sent to the harems. The only escape for white captives was to organise payment of a ransom or to ‘turn Turk’ — convert to Islam.

“The booming port-city of Algiers became the base for a fleet of seventy-five corsair ships and the principal entrepôt for European slaves. Between 1550 and 1730, the white slave population there stood consistently at about 25,000 and sometimes reached double that number. With so much slave labour on hand, Algiers blossomed into one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Contemporary writers remarked on the immaculate state of the streets, the elegant houses, manicured gardens and handsome pavilions. White slave labour helped build the Mole, a large breakwater protecting the harbour, dragging giant blocks of rock weighing twenty tons or more from hills outside the city. Tunis and Tripoli held about 7,500 Christian captives over the same period. The ports of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli also served as a haven for thousands of European pirates, many of whom ‘turned Turk’ and who joined in the plunder of Christian shipping with equal enthusiasm, sharing the profits with ruling officials. ‘If I met my own father at sea I would rob him and sell him when I was done,’ boasted John Ward, an infamous seventeenth-century English pirate based in Tunis.

“The white slave population needed continual replenishment. Some were ransomed; some converted; thousands died from disease and ill-treatment. New arrivals destined for the slave auctions of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli numbered on average about 5,000 a year during the boom years of the trade. Modern historians estimate that in all, between 1530 and 1780, at least a million European captives were enslaved on the Barbary coast.”

The Fortunes of Africa: A 5000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor

Author: Martin Meredith
Publisher: PublicAffairs a Member of the Perseus Books Group
Copyright 2014 by Martin Meredith
Pages 148-151

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If you use the above link to purchase a book, delanceyplace proceeds from your purchase will benefit a children’s literacy project. All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity.

praying the saloon shut — 4/27/15 is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.


Today’s selection — from 1920 The Year that Made the Decade Roar by Eric Burns. Prohibition, the legislative act that banned alcohol in the United States, began in 1920. But the groundwork for Prohibition was laid in hundreds of protests and demonstrations over the many decades preceding 1920, and also in the staggeringly high alcohol consumption of Americans dating back to the very foundation of the country. One such protest happened in Hillsboro, Ohio in 1873:

“The groundwork for Prohibition [was] laid forty years before [World War I], with the prim, pious, but ultimately untiring membership of the so-called Women’s Crusade, whose tactic, ingenious in its way, was to pray saloons shut. A cleric from Boston who found himself in the small southeastern Ohio town of Hillsboro as the Crusade was getting started in late December 1873 could not believe what he saw.

“I came unexpectedly upon some fifty women kneeling on the pavement and stone steps before a [saloon] …. There were gathered here representatives from every household of the town. The day was … cold; a cutting north wind swept the streets, piercing us all to the bones. The plaintive, tender, earnest tones of that wife and mother who was pleading in prayer, arose on the blast, and were carried to every heart within reach. Passers-by uncovered their heads, for the place whereon they trod was ‘holy ground.’ The eyes of hardened men filled with tears, and many turned away, saying that they could not bear to look upon such a sight. Then the voice of prayer was hushed; the women began to sing, softly, a sweet hymn with some old familiar words and tunes, such as our mothers sang to us in childhood days. We thought, Can mortal man resist such efforts?

“The answer, in the short term, was no. As men approached their favorite saloon and saw the women, among them their wives and daughters, kneeling not only on planked sidewalks but often in the dust that paved the streets, praying for abstinence, they were too embarrassed to enter the beverage emporium. They turned, feeling ashamed of themselves for what they had been about to do. They skulked away, hoping that loved ones had not seen them. 

“The result was the ‘Miracle of Hillsboro.’ In two weeks, all twenty-one saloons in town had been prayed out of business. For a while.

The Crusade spread: ‘east to Wheeling, West Virginia; northwest to Ripon, Wisconsin; southwest to Carthage, Missouri; and north to Minnesota.’ The results, however, were not always similar to those in Hillsboro.

Sometimes bartenders ‘baptized’ the women with buckets of warm, sudsy beer, dumping the liquid over their heads so that they would return home from their labors smelling not of triumph but of conversion to the other side. On one occasion, and a bitterly cold one at that, a saloonkeeper turned a powerful spray of water on the crusaders, causing [historian Herbert] Asbury to remark that the ‘line of praying crusaders resembled a row of icicles.’ And in yet another town, a gang of thugs who had been deputized by the mayor to enforce a spur-of-the-moment decree against public praying threw a seventy-year-old woman down a flight of stairs and, after she landed, struck her on the arms a number of times with wooden clubs.

“The problem with the Women’s Crusade was that its effects could not last. There were almost always more saloons in a town than there were groups of women to pray before them. The Crusaders might close one establishment with their piety, but the next remained open. When the women moved on to the next, the imbibers simply sneaked out the back door of that joint and returned to the first. Their shame had been brief; their thirst endured. In the long term, especially when viewed from a distance, the Women’s Crusade was little more than a game. Musical saloons. The habitués always won. Nonetheless, a start toward a dry America, futile though it turned out to be, had been made.”

1920: The Year that Made the Decade Roar
Author: Eric Burns
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Copyright 2015 by Eric Burns
Pages 40-41

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