The question of rhetoric

Experienced stage magicians will tell you that what matters most is not the cleverness of your magic trick, but the compelling quality of your narrative. A well-executed card trick is an amusing diversion, but a psychologically effective illusion, one that powerfully draws its audience in to suspend its disbelief, can make an impression that lasts a lifetime.

Which leads to an obvious question: If you are fighting for a cause — let’s say a good cause, like fighting poverty or discrimination, or helping to ensure a cleaner environment — to what extent is is ok to employ the principles of effective stage magic?

I’m not talking about making cards disappear. Rather, I’m talking about the ability to draw in an audience, to weave a compelling and emotionally engaging narrative, to move people to action through the sheer power of your performance.

Is it “cheating” to lean on such tools, rather than letting your good message speak for itself? Or is it in fact the opposite: That to effectively fight for a good cause, you need to use every rhetorical trick in the book?

2 thoughts on “The question of rhetoric”

  1. There’s a story circulating in Facebook at the moment that I think is a good example of this: It is about an animal shelter that came up with a new advertising story that flips the usual appeal and produced great results. I think the reason it works is that there is a big element of truth in it and that’s why it moves people. Doesn’t seem like cheating to me.

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