Saturday, August 30, 2014

Capacity Focus, 91: The fallacy of worshipping the "short and simple" . . . or, why good . . . "long copy" outsells "short copy"

In an age where things are ever so often quite complex but where many want things to always be "short" and "simple," this can easily be carried to excess -- the simplistic

As the dictionary quietly counsels even as it defines:
sim·plism  (smplzm)
The tendency to oversimplify an issue or a problem by ignoring complexities or complications.

[French simplisme, from simple, simple, from Old French; see simple.]

sim·plistic (sm-plstk) adj.
sim·plisti·cal·ly adv.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
 A subtle warning.

Let us never forget, while a baited fish-hook may be 98% good fish food, it is the other 2% -- the hook -- that is decisively important.

A baited fish hook . . .
And so, the appeal to or demand for simplicity as an end in itself (rather than as a stage or a means to effective communication) can lead us astray into error. Especially, by demanding or expecting that everything be "simple." In a world that is full of complexities and complications.

That is, it can become a fallacy -- a persuasive but misleading argument, assumption or attitude.

No wonder the great Physicist Einstein made a crucial distinction: "everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler than that."

In short, he warns against excessive complexity on one hand, while pointing out the danger of taking simplicity to excess -- the point where we become foolishly simplistic or naive.

No wonder, at the opening of the Proverbs, Solomon counsels:
Prov 1: 1  a The proverbs of Solomon,
son of David, king of Israel:
 2 To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
 3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in  b righteousness, justice, and equity;
 4 to give prudence to  the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
 5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
 6 to understand a proverb and a saying,
  the words of the wise and their riddles.  [ESV]
In short, a big part of learning to be wise is learning to move beyond the superficial and misleadingly simplistic. 

For, a great many things in life and in making wise decisions demand more than a short superficial look at things. 

Not all that glitters is gold, and many a trap depends on not taking note of subtle clues that not all is well with how things seem to be. 

Where, of course, highly important and relevant matters of knowledge, Science, Mathematics, Technology, Finances, Economics, Health and Medicine, Politics, Defense and security, issues and public debates, News and Views, History, Theology and Philosophy (thus also worldviews foundations), Decision-making, etc are often irreducibly complex. 

As may be seen from this toy example of  decision tree analysis:

Things that are important and complex obviously require careful, clear, sound, prudent, insightful, balanced, diligent study, thought and action. Education and training, in short -- which are cultivated tastes (just like the acquired taste for nutritious vegetables that happen not to be sweet . . . and while the instinct that what is sweet in nature will not poison is sound, too many man-made sweet things do us no good and a lot of not so sweet veggies are good for us).

Which, does not sit well with our tendency to be lazy and to confuse being clear with being simplistic. 

Not to mention, our equally dangerous tendency to avoid responsibility and project blame or fault to others. Where also, in a democratic age, citizens are responsible to be informed and prudent, but are instead too often ignorant, misinformed, manipulated, resentful, bigoted and angry at stereotypical scapegoats while naively putting fashionable celebrities or superficial heroes on a pedestal. 

A dangerous atmosphere for democratic decision-making.

 One, conducive to the suicidal mass-march of folly.

For instance, we may compare a law provision just passed here in Montserrat (and NOT thoroughly discussed in the public) that reflects a current global push:

Sorry, "fifty million Frenchmen" or three hundred million Americans, etc can be and often are wrong. (E.g. What is inherently insanitary, medically damaging and disease spreading cannot be made wholesome by playing at word games.)

As a wise old tailor by trade and Sunday School Teacher by vocation taught me long ago now, by way of the example of the prophet Elijah, one man standing with God in the right is the real "majority."

Why is that?

In a nutshell, the inherently good Creator God is Truth Himself, Love Himself, and Reason Himself. His counsels .-- as opposed to what is under the false colour of being from God -- will in the end prove to be sound, though not necessarily popular.

Consequently, this insight and counsel from the Apostle Paul in his farewell letter to Timothy is also dead right:
2 Tim 4: 1  I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,  who is to judge the living and the dead, and by  his appearing and his kingdom: 
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and  exhort, with complete patience and teaching [NIV: "careful instruction"]. 
3  For the time is coming when people will not endure  sound  teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and  wander off into myths. 5 As for you,  always be sober-minded . . . [ESV]
Patient, sound plain-spoken clarity that calls us to the truth and the right, pointing out and correcting error, is the gold standard for Christian teaching and counsel:
2 Cor 4: 1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God,  we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice  cunning or to tamper with God's word, but  by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God   [NIV:  we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. ] . . .  5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants  for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said,  “Let light shine out of darkness,”   has shone in our hearts to give  the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 7 But we have this treasure in  jars of clay,  to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. [ESV]
But, how, then, can we speak effectively to a world that is often simplistic and impatient of complexities?

By working through the AIDA process:
A -- ATTENTION -- must first be drawn

I -- INTEREST -- must be created and sustained

D -- DECISION -- must be called for on a sound basis that engages heart and mind

A -- ACTION -- must flow from well-informed, heartfelt decision
Not easy, but important.

Where, for the interested, adequate, sound, balanced -- or balancing -- and clear information, evaluative guidance and decision are what are desired; and the smart ad-man therefore knows that,"long copy" outsells "short copy." 

(If you doubt me, ask yourself why there is a widespread audience for review magazines, how-to articles and the like. And, ask why it is that people often seek buying advice from those they trust as knowledgeable. As in, one convinced reader of the long copy joins your sales-force! For free, too. Or, s/he may even pay you for the privilege of joining the informed, motivated sales force . . . review mags often don't come cheap; as the magazine stand will show.)

This is so counter-intuitive, so cross-grain to conventional wisdom, that I need to cite the Business Insider article, as was just linked:
. . . One of the most common misconceptions is that people nowadays will not pay attention to ads or communications that have more than a minimal amount of ad copy.

The reasons most commonly given to support this notion are that people …
  1. Do not like to read.
  2. Have short attention spans.
  3. Are in the habit of reading short messages in texts.
  4. Are too distracted with multiple media channels.
  5. Have their noses buried in mobile devices.
While these reasons are often true, the conclusion that short copy sells better is not.

Everything is relative

Good marketers know that only members of the target audience can decide what is “too long” and what is “too short.” When I saw the movie Titanic, it was over 3 hours long. I thought it was too long. Teenage girls thought it was too short and watched the movie over and over again. Leonardo DiCaprio was not on the screen enough for them.

If people are really interested in something, they want more. If they are not interested, they want less. You cannot have too much of a good thing, but any amount of a bad thing is too much.

One of my favorite T-shirt’s of all time has a picture of Albert Einstein on it with a headline that reads, “Sit on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit next to a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” . . .


But first, one has to draw attention by breaking through the many filters that are out there that quickly turn people off, or cause them to not even notice a message.

That's where short copy makes a difference:


So, attention-grabbing headlines, colours, splash images, audio, video, music, endorsements by the well respected and more all count.

That's why a good headline, slogan, image, catchy jingle or powerful short story can help a lot.

Especially, when they are placed where people naturally or habitually are.

Comic strips and books, editorial-style cartoons, etc can help too.

So can well done multimedia presentations, good infographics charts and posters, in-a-nutshell summaries, abstracts, and executive summaries.

But, there is no escaping this one: long copy sells.

Directly, and indirectly.

(I will never forget the impact all over Jamaica of the long-running Carol Reckord radio drama, Dulcimina and her life in Town. [Unfortunately, today, Young and worthless, Bold and Brazen, and the like as Soap Operas or as "Reality Shows," have largely taken over. And news and news magazines on Radio or TV with dubious "journalists" or "egg-spurts" and talking-head "celebrities" or "stars" are too often more of the same.])

Where also, it is always, let the buyer beware -- always, carefully evaluate:

So, let us never be misled by the fallacy of worshiping the short and simple to the neglect of being adequately and soundly informed on important matters. 

Not to mention, neglecting the duty of  thinking and deciding soundly for ourselves, based on such adequate information as leads us to the truth and the right. For, godly wisdom is a chief thing --and is more profitable than a gold mine.

Where, as Paul aptly counselled, the gospel is "of first importance." A point, I will never tire of underscoring in the teeth of an impatient, superficial, hyperskeptical and dismissive age:

  The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel from Slaves4Christ on Vimeo.

As our Lord put it, what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul END

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Assyrian Christian woman pleads for her people in the face of Islamist genocide

Monckton of Bretchley provides a translated letter from an Assyrian Christian woman:
>>“As a proud Austrian woman primarily, and then as an Assyrian of Iraqi origin, I appeal to you to direct particular attention to the horrific ethnic and religious cleansing and the dreadful genocide which is being perpetrated, especially at this very moment, against Christians in Iraq and Syria.
“This systematic mass murder is being committed by radical Islamic holy warriors whose leader a few weeks ago proclaimed a new caliphate, presently called IS, or the Islamic State.

“It is very sad to have to look on as Austria … scarcely reacts to the horrifying events. The ignorance in the face of the gravest human rights violations unfolding before our eyes, and at the gates of Europe, is beyond me.

“It is mass murder that one of the most ancient peoples in the world, with their thousands of years of culture, representing a global cultural inheritance, is being annihilated.

“The Christian minority in Iraq is one of the most ancient Christian communities, having been in existence since the first century. Today they are on the point of being abandoned to massacres, executions and everlasting oblivion.

“Only a few weeks have passed since the violent advance of ISIS paralyzed Iraq, sent hundreds of thousands of people to their deaths and drove another 100,000 out of their homes.

“A month ago, the Islamic State captured large swathes of Iraq with breathtaking speed and overran its second-largest city, Mosul. Nineveh is the Assyrian name for the city of Mosul; it is more than 2,000 years old. This city was home to a Christian community in Iraq that was once the country’s second-largest community.

“However, the advances of this jihadist group did not stop with the taking of Mosul. A few days ago they conquered the city of Qaraqosh, where 50,000 Christians lived. The refugees fleeing from Mosul had tripled this number.

“It was in Qaraqosh that the Christians from Mosul and surrounding villages … had found safety. The adherents of the Islamic State issued an ultimatum to the Christians: they painted the Arabic letter N (ن) on the houses of Christians in order to identify them as unbelievers marked for execution, just as the Nazis had marked Jewish properties with the Star of David.

“The Arabic letter ن stands for ‘Nazarene,’ the Quran’s disparaging term for Christians. In addition to the letter ن, the jihadists wrote: ‘This property belongs to the Islamic State.’

“The holy warriors gave the infidels the following alternatives:
  1. “Convert to Islam;
  2. “Pay the jizyah tax on non-Muslim religions, which is set unaffordably high;
  3. “Move out and leave everything behind;
  4. “Die by the sword.
“That is exactly what the Quran prescribes for dealing with Christians and Jews. The militants told the Christians to leave the city, even using loudspeakers attached to the minarets of the hundreds of mosques in the city.

“The time-limit within which Christians had to decide was fixed at 24 hours. Anyone who failed to make his mind up by that time was brutally executed. It took the fanatical jihadists just 24 hours to expel all Christians from a city where Christians had lived for 2,000 years.

“An entire people is being murdered and violated today to the cry of Allahu Akbar. An entire religion is being stamped out.

“Anyone who does not belong to the religion of these jihadists is simply beheaded. Christian, Yazidi, Shabaks, Shiites and even Sunni, any infidel, is brutally killed.

“In the name of humanity, rescue these people and these minorities. At this moment, 100,000 Yazidi are barricading themselves on Mount Sinjar, without food and water, and 25,000 children have died in agony from hunger and thirst.

“In the meantime, 150,000 Christians have fled to Arbil. The churches, and the houses of other Christians in Arbil, are already so overcrowded that there is no more room for new arrivals.

“The people are living in inhumane conditions. Some are sleeping on the streets. Children and infants scream from hunger and fatigue. They feel hated and rejected. They have been made foreigners in their own land.

“By the degrading and inhuman actions of these jihadists, the human dignity of non-Muslims is being literally trampled underfoot.

“Today, in the 21st century, women and infidels are being sold as sex slaves by the radical Islamic jihadists. Their men are being beheaded before their eyes, their children violated.

“This is genocide without parallel. It is happening right now.

“Even Arbil is no longer secure; on Friday Aug. 8, 2014, I spoke with my cousin there by telephone. He told me that on that very evening, having already packed their suitcases, they were going to make their way along the escape route in the direction of Diana [a village in northern Kurdistan with a substantial Christian population].

“There is no longer a life for Christians in Iraq. They are in very great danger. To avoid beheading, they will try to flee into Iran, the only remaining escape route out of Iraq . . . .

“Please use your influence to help us to organize relief supplies. Let us be generous in accepting amongst us refugees from Iraq and Syria, a persecuted people to whom the foremost preference must be given.

“Please also make representations at the international level. Our country must join the political and military campaign against the Islamic jihadists. Civilization is in danger. Do not wait until the jihad arrives on our own doorstep. Thank you.” >>
The studious silence, inaction and failure to face this for what it is, speak for themselves, throwing the utter bankruptcy of media, activists and officialdom alike into high relief. Not only in the wider world, but in our own region. END

Monday, August 18, 2014

Matt 24 watch, 251: A lesson in the power of unity . . . in the demonic wrong (oh, how the Prince of Peace must weep over our folly!)


Especially, when we reflect on this visual lesson in the demonic, blasphemous, murderous spirit manifested in this mocking of the descent of the Spirit on the newly baptised Jesus:

Courtesy Wiki, the price paid for following such demonic folly:

Human losses of World War II by country
(when the number of deaths in a country is disputed, a range of war losses is given)
(the sources of the figures are provided in the footnotes)
Country Total population
Civilian deaths due to
military activity and crimes against humanity
Civilian deaths due to
war related famine and disease
Deaths as % of
1939 population
 AlbaniaA 1,073,000 30,000

30,000 2.81
 AustraliaB 6,998,000 39,700 700
40,400 0.57
 Austria (German-controlled)C 6,650,000 Included with German Army 120,000
120,000 (see table below)
 BelgiumD 8,387,000 12,100 75,900
88,000 1.05
 BrazilE 40,289,000 1,000 1,000
2,000 0.02
 BulgariaF 6,458,000 22,000 3,000
25,000 0.38
 Burma (British)G 16,119,000 22,000
250,000 272,000 1.69
 CanadaH 11,267,000 45,400

45,400 0.40
 China I 517,568,000 3,000,000
to 4,000,000
to 11,000,000
5,000,000 10,000,000
to 20,000,000
(1.93 to 3.86)
 CubaJ 4,235,000
100 0.00
 Czechoslovakia (in Nov. 1938 borders)K 10,400,000 [25] 25,000 300,000
325,000 3.15
 DenmarkL 3,795,000 2,100 1,100
3,200 0.08
 Dutch East IndiesM 69,435,000

to 4,000,000
to 4,000,000
(4.3 to 5.76)
 Estonia (within 1939 borders)N 1,122,000 Included with the Soviet, German, and Finnish Armies 50,000
50,000 4.44
 EthiopiaO 17,700,000 5,000 95,000
100,000 0.6
 FinlandP 3,700,000 95,000 2,000
97,000 2.62
France FranceQ 41,700,000 200,000 including colonies[26] 350,000
550,000 1.35
 French IndochinaR 24,600,000

to 2,000,000
to 2,200,000
(4.07 to 8.1)
 GermanyS 69,850,000 4,300,000
to 5,500,000
1,100,000 400,000
to 2,400,000
to 9,000,000
(see table below)
Greece GreeceT 7,222,000 20,000
to 35,100
160,000 140,000
to 600,000
to 807,000
(4.5 to 11.2)
Guam GuamTA 20,000 1,000
to 2,000

to 2,000
(5.0 to 10.0)
Hungary HungaryU 9,129,000 300,000 280,000
580,000 6.35
 IcelandV 119,000
200 0.17
 India (British)W 378,000,000 87,000
to 2,500,000
to 2,587,000
(0.42 to 0.68)
IranX 14,340,000 200

200 0.00
Iraq Iraq'Y 3,698,000 500

500 0.01
 IrelandZ 2,960,000 10,000
Irish volunteers included with UK
200 0.00
 ItalyAA 44,394,000 301,400
(includes 10,000 African conscripts)
454,600 1.03
 JapanAB 71,380,000 2,120,000 500,000 500,000 2,620,000
to 3,120,000
(3.67 to 4.37)
 Korea (Japanese Colony)AC 23,400,000
to 483,000

to 483,000
(1.6 to 2.06)
 Latvia (within 1939 borders)AD 1,951,000 Included with the Soviet and German Armies 190,000 40,000 230,000 11.78
 Lithuania (within 1939 borders)AE 2,442,000 Included with the Soviet and German Armies 275,000 75,000 350,000 14.33
 LuxembourgAF 295,000
2,000 0.68
 Malaya (British)AG 4,391,000
100,000 2.28
 Malta (British)AH 269,000
1,500 0.56
 MexicoAI 19,320,000
100 0.00
 MongoliaAJ 819,000 300

300 0.04
Australia Nauru (Australian)AK 3,400
500 14.7
   Nepal BG 6,000,000 Included with British Indian Army

 NetherlandsAL 8,729,000 17,000 198,000 86,000 301,000 3.45
 Newfoundland (British)AM 300,000 included with the U.K. 100
100 0.03
 New ZealandAN 1,629,000 11,900

11,900 0.73
 NorwayAO 2,945,000 3,000 6,500
9,500 0.32
Australia Papua and New Guinea (Australian)AP 1,292,000
15,000 1.17
 Philippines (U.S. Territory)AQ 16,000,000 57,000 100,000 400,000
to 900,000
to 1,057,000
(3.48 to 6.6)
Poland Poland (within 1939 borders)AR 34,849,000 240,000 4,880,000
to 5,080,000
500,000 5,620,000
to 5,820,000
(16.1 to 16.7)
 Portuguese TimorAS 500,000
to 70,000

to 70,000
(8.00 to 14.00)
Romania Romania (within 1939 borders)AT 19,934,000 300,000 500,000
800,000 4.01
Belgium Ruanda-Urundi (Belgian)AU 4,200,000

0 to 300,000 0 to 300,000 (0.00 to 7.1)
 Singapore (British)AV 728,000
50,000 6.87
South Africa South AfricaAW 10,160,000 11,900

11,900 0.12
Empire of Japan South Pacific Mandate (Japanese)AX 1,900,000
57,000 3.00
 Soviet Union (within 1946-1991 borders) AY 168,524,000 8,700,000
to 13,850,000
to 12,000,000
6,000,000 21,800,000
to 28,000,000
(see table below)
Spain SpainAZ 25,637,000 Included with the German Army

 SwedenBA 6,341,000
600 0.01
  SwitzerlandBB 4,210,000
100 0.00
 ThailandBC 15,023,000 5,600 2,000
7,600 0.04
Turkey TurkeyBD 17,370,000 200

200 0.00
 United KingdomBE 47,760,000 383,800
including Overseas Territories[11]
450,900 0.94
 United StatesBF 131,028,000 407,000
(including 1,900 members of the U.S. Coast Guard)
12,000 (including 9,500 members of the U.S. Merchant Marine)
420,000 0.32
 YugoslaviaBG 15,400,000 300,000
to 446,000
to 1,400,000

to 1,700,000
(6.7 to 11.00)
Approx. Totals 2,000,000,000 22,000,000
to 30,000,000
to 30,000,000
to 85,000,000
(3.17 to 4.00)

What a contrast is:

A lesson from history. If, we will but heed. END