Former Arizona State Senator Karen Johnson
August 29, 2011
In the Spring of 2010, when Arizona passed a relatively mild bill (SB1070) that mirrored already existing federal law on illegal immigration, shocked pro-amnesty groups in the neighboring state of Utah formed a coalition to devise a counter-move. These groups were frustrated with the failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform (i.e., amnesty), and were terrified that the growing movement to pass laws against illegal immigration at the state level would spread across the country. The result of the coalition=s efforts was the "Utah Compact" B a masterful blend of political savvy, deception, and psychological manipulation.
On November 11, 2010, the Compact was unveiled in Salt Lake City. The date had been carefully chosen for its symbolic effect. It was the anniversary of the signing of the Mayflower Compact, the mere mention of which causes a surge of emotion to swell the hearts of freedom-loving Americans. The 21 principle sponsors of the Compact ceremoniously signed the document, subtly mimicking the signing of the Mayflower Compact and the U.S. Constitution, a nice touch that cloaked the Compact in patriotism. The Compact reads as follows:
THE UTAH COMPACT
A declaration of five principles to guide Utah=s immigration discussion
"FEDERAL SOLUTIONS: Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries—not Utah and other countries. We urge Utah=s congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders. We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants in Utah.
"LAW ENFORCEMENT: We respect the rule of law and support law enforcement=s professional judgment and discretion. Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities, not civil violations of federal code.
"FAMILIES: Strong families are the foundation of successful communities. We oppose policies that unnecessarily separate families. We champion policies that support families and improve the health, education and well being of all Utah children.
Utah is best served by a free market philosophy that maximizes individual
freedom and opportunity. We acknowledge the economic role immigrants play
as workers and taxpayers. Utah=s immigration policies must reaffirm our
global reputation as a welcoming and business friendly state.
"A FREE SOCIETY: Immigrants are integrated into communities across Utah. We must adopt a humane approach to this reality, reflecting our unique culture, history and spirit of inclusion. The way we treat immigrants will say more about us as a free society and less about our immigrant neighbors. Utah should always be a place that welcomes people of goodwill."
In analyzing the Compact, it is important to note that a principle of successful salesmanship is to ask a prospective buyer questions which can only be answered "yes."
"Isn't this a beautiful car ...?"
"Wouldn't your wife love driving around in this little dream machine ...?"
"Wouldn't it be great to get gas mileage this good ...?"
With each "yes" answer, it becomes increasingly awkward for the shopper to say "no." Each "yes" strengthens the buyer=s sense of agreement and conditions him to answer "yes" again to the next question.
"Can't you just imagine this car parked in your garage ...?"
"Is this the kind of car you would like to own ...?"
Finally, after piling up the "yes" answers, a good salesman maneuvers the shopper towards the "buy."
"Let's sit down and look at what kind of a deal we can give you ...."
"Let's see if there=s a way we can help you to have this car."
Like the questions posed by the skilled car salesman, the Utah Compact is a series of statements that mostly prompt agreement. You can break it down sentence by sentence and see the flow of "yes" responses, or areas of agreement. Starting with the first statement of the first principle:
"Immigration is a federal policy issue between the U.S. government and other countries." (agreed)
"We urge Utah's congressional delegation, and others, to lead efforts to strengthen federal laws and protect our national borders." (yes, agreed)
"We urge state leaders to adopt reasonable policies addressing immigrants." (Yes. Who on earth would want UNreasonable policies!)
In the second principle of the Utah Compact (Law Enforcement), the statements become more complex, each statement proposing multiple areas of possible agreement or disagreement. But the answers, of course, are all "yes." Thus, the flow of pleasant and agreeable "yes" responses continue and start to pile up. The pace and momentum subtly increase as the "yeses" come faster now. The inclination toward agreement becomes stronger with each "yes."
"We respect the rule of law [yes] and support law enforcement=s professional judgment [yes] and discretion. [yes]
"Local law enforcement resources should focus on criminal activities [yes], not civil violations of federal code. [Hmmmmm]
For the first time, a statement that might elicit a "no" response appears. But the many prior agreeable statements have created an expectation that the response will be "yes" again. Someone moving quickly, caught up in the repetitive pattern and the increased momentum of the rapidly accumulating "yes" responses might easily speed right on past with another "yes." The Compact has been carefully structured to condition the reader to do just that.
Furthermore, the average person does not know the clear difference between a "criminal activity" and a "civil violation of federal code." If you asked someone to explain the difference, they might offer "murder" or "robbery" as a criminal act and a "traffic violation" as a civil [though it's not a federal] offense. And the difference between those two are immense. Murder and robbery are, in the mind of a reasonable person, much more egregious offenses than failure to use a turn signal. So, for anyone sharp enough to even pause at this statement in the Utah Compact, the most obvious answer would still be a "yes." The statement is weighted both psychologically and intellectually in favor of a "yes" response.
This statement is deceptive, however, because it implies that entering or staying in this country illegally is always a civil violation when, in fact, it is only sometimes a civil violation; at other times it is a criminal violation. The reader, however, is not given that information. Nor is he prompted to think of various alternatives. What, for example, would happen if so-called "minor" civil laws, such as traffic laws, were not enforced? We would have chaos and mayhem on our streets! That we have chaos and mayhem on our borders due to lack of enforcement would be a better comparison than the one offered in the Utah Compact but, of course, the authors of the Compact don=t want anyone making THAT comparison. So, they spin the issue with a subtle deception and plant it on the speeding train of "yes" answers, knowing that only a lawyer with specialized training who has a deeper understanding of the difference between criminal and civil law, the appropriate divisions between state and federal law, and the implied roles of state legislatures and the federal Congress in creating laws, not to mention the proper role of law enforcement in enforcing the laws, would be able to respond to this statement in a knowledgeable way.
Anyone who gets that far, however, will sense the implied "yes" at the same time that he or she also senses the manipulation. The build-up of "yes" answers has taught the reader that the answer should be "yes." An emotional expectation has been created, not through the presentation of facts but through a subtle, repetitive pattern of structured responses. Though the reader will likely not recognize the manipulation, he may feel manipulated. He will experience cognitive discomfort but, since he lacks the expertise to explain why he would answer "no," he will almost always choose to live with the discomfort and read on. His "yes" will perhaps be a begrudging, cautious "yes." Nevertheless, it will most likely be a "yes."
psychological ingeniousness of that statement doesn't end there. Responding
"yes" to the statement brings the reader into a position of
agreement with the pro-amnesty, pro-open-borders camp. Removing enforcement
of illegal immigration from local law enforcement and restricting it to
the federal authorities is one of the most prominent arguments of the
pro-amnesty crowd. A person who has been a supporter of state-level enforcement
of the laws against illegal immigration will recognize this and will feel
backed into a corner. He now finds himself in an awkward situation. With
the heavy pressure toward a "yes" hanging over him, he feels
he would almost have to justify a "no" response. But since he
probably can=t, he simply feels foolish. He will feel embarrassed at the
prospect of expressing support for local enforcement over federal enforcement.
It now seems unreasonable to hold onto the idea of enforcement. All of
these thoughts and feelings occur within seconds. Without presenting a
single fact, the Utah Compact ingeniously yanks the foundations of the
pro-enforcement person right out from under him.
The next principle in the Utah Compact is on families, and contains three statements that are all easily answered "yes," further strengthening the reader=s sense of agreement and his inclination to answer "yes." The statements on families are followed by the fourth principle -- economic policy. This was carefully placed in the 4th position of the list of principles, because this is the principle that would most likely generate "no" answers. The economic reasons (cheap labor and increased profits) that cause business groups to support amnesty and open borders are not appealing, to say the least. But each agreement with the statements in the 1st three principles strengthened the inclination toward agreement with the next statement. By the time he reaches the 4th principle, the reader is finding the Utah Compact to be such a pleasant document that it is now difficult to disagree with it. He will now actually want to agree with the Compact because consistency and agreement are more comfortable than disagreement. He has begun to embrace the Compact.
Many people could not actually define what a "free-market philosophy" is in the 4th principle and would not know that nowadays it embraces the concept of open borders and amnesty, but that statement sounds pretty good (after all, it has the word "free" in it). Besides, the reader will be inclined to dismiss any uncertainties that arise as he reads the 4th principle. After so many "yes" responses, he will be unconsciously seeking agreement now, not disagreement. He is already sold on the Compact and won=t want to change course at this point.
And so it goes, right on through the 5th principle which contains only agreeable, benevolent statements and brings the reader to a satisfying conclusion. The 5th principle appeals to one's sense of patriotism and charity with carefully selected words like "free society" and "humane approach" and "spirit of inclusion" and "people of good will," pulling the reader into the Compact's kindly embrace as warm feelings wash over him. The 5th principle affirms the reader's feeling that the Utah Compact is a statement of friendly principles and that he certainly cannot disagree with it. Like a fly caught in a spider's web, none will escape from the sticky, smarmy grasp of the Utah Compact, though it will leave a bad taste in the mouths of some who sense that they have been "had" but can't quite explain why.
Political movements tend to adopt words and slogans that symbolize their goals. "Peace" was one such word that, when used by the anti-war protestors of the 1960s, meant much more than the dictionary definition. It meant "Stop the war!" and "Get out of Vietnam!" In our time, "Life!" B the battle cry of anti-abortion activists -- is likewise packed with meaning. It can mean "Unborn babies are alive!" or "Stop abortions!" or "Pass the parental consent bill!"
Understanding the importance of co-opting the language and developing such symbolism, leaders of the pro-amnesty, pro-open-borders movement have taken over certain words to symbolize their side of the argument. They now own words like "compassion" and "humane" and "comprehensive" and "families." When the pro-amnesty crowd shouts "Compassion!" everyone knows that it means "Give us amnesty!" and "Pass comprehensive immigration reform!" When they yell, "Don't split up families!" it also means amnesty, even though most family splits are caused when the father leaves his family behind in the home country to illegally enter the U.S., and family reunification would more often be accomplished by sending the father back home.
The Utah Compact never mentions "compassion" although it is implied, and uses the word "humane" only once. That, however, is enough. The news conference that introduced the Utah Compact was filled with statements about "compassion," "love," "humane treatment," and "families." Editorials on the Compact in the days that followed continued the messages of compassion and humane treatment and plenty of mention of that magical word "families." Activists on both sides of the argument intuitively understood what it all meant. Humane treatment = compassion. Compassion = amnesty. The mental process required to make the translation takes a mere fraction of a second but the message is clear and strong. The Utah Compact advocates amnesty.
The beauty of the Utah Compact is that it presents not one single fact either pro or con related to the substantial and complex issues of illegal immigration. Oozing affability, reeking with Christian virtue, impossible to dispute, the Compact is congenial and smiling as it hums its siren song, takes the reader by the hand, and walks him down the path to the very conclusion that the Compact's authors wanted him to reach. The Utah Compact whispers amnesty.
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Most readers will be totally unaware of the subtle psychological traps in the Utah Compact. They will read the Compact and reach a conclusion — most likely in favor of amnesty — but will be unaware that the conclusion they have reached will not be freely made. It will not be based on a truthful, straightforward presentation of facts and arguments. Their conclusion will be the result of coercive psychological tricks and subtle mental manipulation. The Utah Compact is a seductive piece of political propaganda.
© 2011 Karen Johnson - All Rights Reserved
Karen Johnson served in the Arizona legislature for 12 years, from 1997 through 2004 (AZ House of Representatives) and 2005 - 2008 (AZ Senate). Her all-time favorite committee assignment was chairing the Federal Mandates and States' Rights Committee. During her service in the legislature, she supported the Second Amendment, individual, property and of course states rights, as well as the Right to Life, and she still does. Karen and her husband, Jerry, have 11 children and 35 grandchildren. She believes strongly in the doctrine of liberty and does not desire to be tethered to ANY particular party.