Manipulative Cycling Advocacy

Recently, when I wrote my four part series to defend the great unwashed masses who wanted bike lanes and cycle tracks, I noticed that the Saavy VCers (sic) had used a great number of manipulative techniques.

Wanted to get in on the fun, I loaded up the wikipedia page:

“Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics.[1] By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at another’s expense, such methods could be considered exploitative, abusive, devious and deceptive.”

This is something that I can not do as I seek to be honest as well as to give more than I take.

Damn! 🙂

I know that this is a big charge to be making. Why would they want to do this?

The reason is because they know that most people want bike lanes and that most people are not reponding to traditional VC propaghanda. The one thing that is refreshing about Forrester is that he is actually quite honest in his approach. Many see this as off putting, but I actually do like his honesty. He’s also fun in that he creates funny situations like calling people “unthinking cyclists” which is awesome since he’s an “uncycling thinker.”

But cycling saavy has gotten to the next level in propaghanda. They are not going away; they are getting more clever.

Let’s unmask some of what they are doing. Note, I like these things and don’t think that the list below is sinister:

1. Get some older people, younger people, minorities, and more attractive people to ride bicycles, in traffic with normal clothes and sans helmet. Note that they are still working on a few things on this list. 🙂

2. Stop pushing the notion that a child can ride in high speed traffic. (Yes, this is a great step forward).

3. Approach people from the point of view of their feelings and beliefs instead of boring us with loads of facts.

But here’s where things go dark. Since they are not getting results on getting many people to ride in a world in which they allow the traffic engineers to ride rough shod over common sense and basic human decency, the Saavy are turning to manipulation to fill the gaps.

1. “Lying by omission: This is a very subtle form of lying by withholding a significant amount of the truth.” Example is not telling us how many people die in door zone accidents. Another is saying that one is for “some types of infrastruture” then we learn that, behind closed doors, they torpedo all infrastructure projects that does not match their imaginary “conflict points” theories.

2. “Minimization: This is a type of denial coupled with rationalization. The manipulator asserts that his or her behavior is not as harmful or irresponsible as someone else was suggesting, for example saying that a taunt or insult was only a joke.” When we hear that the VCers are getting rid of Forrester, or the groups are “turning over a new leaf”, we have to forget the years of damage that cycling has suffered. We just need to “forgive and forget” even while they NEVER APOLOGIZED FOR THE DAMAGE THEY DID. Nor do they have any plans of doing things better in the future. And yet, outsiders insult us by insisting that we “work together” with these Quisling assholes.

3. “Selective inattention or selective attention: Manipulator refuses to pay attention to anything that may distract from his or her agenda, saying things like “I don’t want to hear it”.”

Anytime there’s a valid argument against helmets, vehicular cycling, or any other kind of nonsense, these objections are NEVER addressed as if by ignoring things they will go away. (Hint: they won’t.)

4. “Diversion: Manipulator not giving a straight answer to a straight question and instead being diversionary, steering the conversation onto another topic.”

Again, this is done in so many ways, I can’t even start to name them.

5. “Covert intimidation: Manipulator throwing the victim onto the defensive by using veiled (subtle, indirect or implied) threats.”

When I first attended some advocacy meetings, I recall biking away from the meeting thinking that if we weren’t “careful” then cycling would be totally banned. Later, I learned that this was bullshit. Nobody said it, but I somehow felt this impression anyway.

6. “Guilt trip: A special kind of intimidation tactic. A manipulator suggests to the conscientious victim that he or she does not care enough, is too selfish or has it easy.”

We often hear how we are “elitist” or that most people agree with us all ready when we fight for infrastructure. If things are easy and people like what we say, this is a good thing. Instead, they try to make us feel guilty for it.

We also hear, ad nauseum, how they fought to defend “rights to the road” as if by letting road conditions to deteriorate for cyclists while pushing for us to ride on dangerous and high speed roads, they did something we should not be grateful for.

7. “Shaming: Manipulator uses sarcasm and put-downs to increase fear and self-doubt in the victim. Manipulators use this tactic to make others feel unworthy and therefore defer to them. Shaming tactics can be very subtle such as a fierce look or glance, unpleasant tone of voice, rhetorical comments, subtle sarcasm.”

Every time I hear about how my questions and facts are a “temper tantrum”, I realize that they are trying to manipulate me into silence. (Note: does not work on me.)

8. “Vilifying the victim: More than any other, this tactic is a powerful means of putting the victim on the defensive while simultaneously masking the aggressive intent of the manipulator.”

We often hear about how “scofflaw cyclists deserve to die.” This is also blame bicyclist first (BBF).

9. “Playing the servant role: Cloaking a self-serving agenda in guise of a service to a more noble cause, for example saying he is acting in a certain way for “obedience” and “service” to God or a similar authority figure.”

We hear about how some people “served on committees for years because they care about the community.” To quote the Clash, “if you’ve been trying for years, we’ve heard your song.” So shut up.

10. “Feigning innocence: Manipulator tries to suggest that any harm done was unintentional or that they did not do something that they were accused of.”

For years, I have complained about racist comparisons between infrastructure, and real world harms to groups of people. Each time they are called out on it, they pretend to not understand what all the fuss is about. Guess what group is being used by old white guys to promote their insane and dangerous cycling “rights” (sic).

11. “Playing the victim role: Manipulator portrays him- or herself as a victim of circumstance or of someone else’s behavior in order to gain pity, sympathy or evoke compassion and thereby get something from another.”

We see this when those who fought infrastructure for years now flaunt their years of service and their old age as if they are some poor innocent victim rather than someone, for years, who has spoken, in secret, against the wishes of the community, all the while knowing that this is wrong. Now we are supposed to feel sorry for them because they are miserable failures at getting people to ride in their crazy style which nobody wants. Boo-hoo. You should have embraced the community, been honest about what you wanted, and more trusting that the government was going to work with you to create a better world of cycling. Or you could have STAYED HOME AND WE WOULD HAVE NICER THINGS.

There are many more tactics.

Overall, what I’d prefer, instead of all this nonsense is:

1. Better studies with better data for how to get cycling to be more efficienct, more comfortable, and safer.

2. An honest statement of one’s intention. If one wants to ride in traffic because it’s faster, personally, and to keep cycling marginal and unpopular so one can feel like a special super hero, just say so. I’m perfectly honest about wanting my world to be set up so I can meditate all the time and not really pay too attention to what I’m doing safety wise.

I don’t want to wear a helmet because it’s uncomfortable and it’s a mood killer. Let’s get others to just as honest!

3. Leave people alone who want to be left alone.

I don’t know how many people told me to wear a helmet, take a class, get off the sidewalk! Give me a break. I like the way I ride. I’m perfectly happy the way I am. I would like to see a cycle track from house to my job. THAT is the type of help I need. If you can’t offer that to me then buzz off.


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