The power of manipulation as seen through an 8th grade election and worthless baseball cards

I’m reminded on this day of a couple of unrelated incidents from the past that say a lot about today

When I was in 8th grade at Wagner Junior High School, they held elections for grade president. One of the candidates who ran was Anthony B. Anthony had run the previous year and if I recall it right, he didn’t come anywhere close to winning.

Each candidate got up to speak and it was uneventful until Anthony’s turn. I wish I could remember what he said – it may have been something about students having a say in how much homework was assigned. And a group of athletes in the crowd roared. Then Anthony said something else and the crowd got bigger and roared louder. By the time Anthony was done, the crowd was frenzied. I’m convinced they would have done anything for him. It looked like a rally similar to some of those we’ve seen for our current president.

Anthony won election by a massive margin.

To my knowledge I don’t recall homework loads getting lighter or anything he talked about coming to fruition.

——

Flash forward a few years to the National Convention for baseball card collectors. I believe it was in Atlanta or Houston probably in around 1990 (here’s an article about LA’s crazy convention in 1991 – the picture promoting this article comes from that- I don’t think I was at this one but it sounds similar). This was at a time in which the baseball card business was a booming and people were looking for a way to differentiate their offerings.

One of the ways that manufacturers and people did so was through insert promo cards – creating a set of baseball or football or basketball cards with a false sense of scarcity in value, included with editions of such useless magazines as Card Show Digest or given out by companies to promote their products.

That morning when the doors opened, there was a mad sprint by hundreds of people to one spot in the convention hall. Turned out this group was giving away promo cards. People were running full speed. I know my dad likes to tell of how one person completely fell over, got up, dusted himself off and sprinted again.

I remember asking one of the people what he was running towards. He gave a shrug to indicate he didn’t know. He was just following the pack. He was blind to logic and reason.

I think of all of this now in the context of how the power of persuasion and how the power of false promise has impacted the United States since November 2016. And how easily people can be steered in a bad direction so easily. It’s frightening.

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