Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

If you can’t beat them, confuse them

In the late 1990’s, a board member of our ultimate parent company paid a visit following a critical internal audit report. He made an everlasting impression on me. One of his sayings was: “If you can’t beat them, confuse them” which is (probably) a paraphrase of a more familiar proverb: “If you can’t beat them, join them“. Latter is not always an option, the former is.

The saying is best known for its 1948 use by US President Harry Truman although “[t]he earliest evidence of a precise match for this saying [] appeared in a 1919 publication from the Manchester Literary Club in England” (Quote Investigator).

In 1947, Richard H. Leask presented “an extended three-element version of the adage”, while referring to an “old politician’s motto” as the source for the saying:

“If you can’t convince them, confuse them. If you can’t confuse them, scare them”. (QI)

This 1947 version appears to be the philosophy of life(yesterday’s blog)of several leaders, (climate) activists and politicians, including the presidents of Russia, Turkey and USA. I had never heard of the 2nd part of this expression but it makes perfect sense.

The title of my blog is also the “5th rule to live by” in the 2013 book Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by “successful law professor and a Sunday school teacher M.E. Thomas” (eg, NYT-2013). Her other 4 rules to live by are: (1) disregard unspoken rules, (2) assess costs and benefits, (3) the best lawyers are (probably) sociopaths, (4) be prepared (Economist-2013).

It’s not only presidents and sociopaths who use the technique of confusing someone. Many of us – if not all of us – will aim for changing the subject when a conversation comes too close and too personal (eg, Business Insider, Fast CompanyQuick and Dirty TipsWikiHow). 

Given the above, the technique of confusing (and beating) someone is probably an example of – or at least related to – one of the most sophisticated psychology techniques: reverse psychology and (psychological) projection (my blogs).

I have written before about confusion. However, I never realised its true importance in (my) life. Hence, I added a new blog label. In retrospect, utter confusion is what characterized my 2013 burnout and depression (my blogs). A tongue-in-cheek alternative for the song below, would have been the 1972 Johnny Nash song I Can See Clearly Now (video).

Land of Confusion (1986) by Genesis 
artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Now did you read the news today?
They say the danger’s gone away
But I can see the fires still alight
They’re burning into the night

There’s too many men, too many people
Making too many problems
And not much love to go round
Can’t you see this is a land of confusion?

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise.


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