Missionary Body Language


This is my favorite slide when I give an Epsilon Theory presentation. I created it by googling “[name] + finger pointing”. Try it sometime, for any politician you can think of. Odds are, there are several shots of him or her shaking his or her finger at you, admonishing you with body language to LISTEN UP, BUB. Because that’s what a Missionary does to create Common Knowledge. Their goal isn’t to tell you the news. Their goal isn’t to communicate facts. No, their goal is to tell you how to think about the facts. Their goal is to communicate an opinion as if it were fact – what we call Fiat News here in ET-land.

Body language is a critical part of that communication. The finger wag is a classic trope of the genre, and when you’ve got a self-styled master of body language as your Missionary-in-Chief, this is what you get:

But the Donald’s use of body language for Missionary effect doesn’t stop with the finger wag. Whatever you think of the Donald’s policies, you are missing the plot if you don’t realize that he is VERY good at playing the Common Knowledge Game. You are missing the plot if you don’t realize that he uses body language in a very studied manner, that it is part and parcel of his personal success as a politician.

Like so many things, once you start looking for the trained use of body language, you will see it everywhere.

This is called the “reverse steeple”, because it’s the upside-down version of the same move that you see in every James Bond movie when the Evil Genius sits around the Mastermind table, thoughtfully puts his fingers together, and explains his Nefarious Plan to rule the world. It’s a power move. An aggressive move. A dominance move.

In fact, google any “[aggressive egomaniac] + sitting down” and I bet you’ll get a reverse steeple shot. Here’s Conor MacGregor, for example.

Or you could just hold a cat. I never got the whole cat thing for Blofeld, even when it’s done so menacingly by Donald Pleasence, but the truth is that I don’t get any of this body language stuff. And as much as I’d like to say that cat holding is a body language move we will never see in real life, 2018 has managed to prove me wrong on that score plenty of times already.


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