|The Delphi Technique and consensus building are both founded in the same principle – the Hegelian dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, with synthesis becoming the new thesis. The goal is a continual evolution to “oneness of mind” (consensus means solidarity of belief) -the collective mind, the wholistic society, the wholistic earth, etc. In thesis and antithesis, opinions or views are presented on a subject to establish views and opposing views. In synthesis, opposites are brought together to form the new thesis. All participants in the process are then to accept ownership of the new thesis and support it, changing their views to align with the new thesis. Through a continual process of evolution, “oneness of mind” will supposedly occur.
In group settings, the Delphi Technique is an unethical method of achieving consensus on controversial topics. It requires well-trained professionals, known as “facilitators” or “change agents,” who deliberately escalate tension among group members, pitting one faction against another to make a preordained viewpoint appear “sensible,” while making opposing views appear ridiculous.
In her book Educating for the New World Order, author and educator Beverly Eakman makes numerous references to the need of those in power to preserve the illusion that there is “community participation in decision-making processes, while in fact lay citizens are being squeezed out.”
The setting or type of group is immaterial for the success of the technique. The point is that, when people are in groups that tend to share a particular knowledge base, they display certain identifiable characteristics, known as group dynamics, which allows the facilitator to apply the basic strategy.
The facilitators or change agents encourage each person in a group to express concerns about the programs, projects, or policies in question. They listen attentively, elicit input from group members, form “task forces,” urge participants to make lists, and in going through these motions, learn about each member of a group. They are trained to identify the “leaders,” the “loud mouths,” the “weak or non-committal members,” and those who are apt to change sides frequently during an argument.
Suddenly, the amiable facilitators become professional agitators and “devil’s advocates.” Using the “divide and conquer” principle, they manipulate one opinion against another, making those who are out of step appear “ridiculous, unknowledgeable, inarticulate, or dogmatic.” They attempt to anger certain participants, thereby accelerating tensions. The facilitators are well trained in psychological manipulation. They are able to predict the reactions of each member in a group. Individuals in opposition to the desired policy or program will be shut out.
The Delphi Technique works. It is very effective with parents, teachers, school children, and community groups. The “targets” rarely, if ever, realize that they are being manipulated. If they do suspect what is happening, they do not know how to end the process. The facilitator seeks to polarize the group in order to become an accepted member of the group and of the process. The desired idea is then placed on the table and individual opinions are sought during discussion. Soon, associates from the divided group begin to adopt the idea as if it were their own, and they pressure the entire group to accept their proposition.
How the Delphi Technique Works
Consistent use of this technique to control public participation in our political system is causing alarm among people who cherish the form of government established by our Founding Fathers. Efforts in education and other areas have brought the emerging picture into focus.
In the not-too-distant past, the city of Spokane, in Washington state, hired a consultant to the tune of $47,000 to facilitate the direction of city government. This development brought a hue and cry from the local population. The ensuing course of action holds an eerie similarity to what is happening in education reform. A newspaper editorial described how groups of disenfranchised citizens were brought together to “discuss” what they felt needed to be changed at the local government level. A compilation of the outcomes of those “discussions” influenced the writing of the city/county charter.
That sounds innocuous. But what actually happened in Spokane is happening in communities and school districts all across the country. Let’s review the process that occurs in these meetings.
First, a facilitator is hired. While his job is supposedly neutral and non-judgmental, the opposite is actually true. The facilitator is there to direct the meeting to a preset conclusion.
The facilitator begins by working the crowd to establish a good-guy-bad-guy scenario. Anyone disagreeing with the facilitator must be made to appear as the bad guy, with the facilitator appearing as the good guy. To accomplish this, the facilitator seeks out those who disagree and makes them look foolish, inept, or aggressive, which sends a clear message to the rest of the audience that, if they don’t want the same treatment, they must keep quiet. When the opposition has been identified and alienated, the facilitator becomes the good guy – a friend – and the agenda and direction of the meeting are established without the audience ever realizing what has happened.
Next, the attendees are broken up into smaller groups of seven or eight people. Each group has its own facilitator. The group facilitators steer participants to discuss preset issues, employing the same tactics as the lead facilitator.
Participants are encouraged to put their ideas and disagreements on paper, with the results to be compiled later. Who does the compiling? If you ask participants, you typically hear: “Those running the meeting compiled the results.” Oh-h! The next question is: “How do you know that what you wrote on your sheet of paper was incorporated into the final outcome?” The typical answer is: “Well, I’ve wondered about that, because what I wrote doesn’t seem to be reflected. I guess my views were in the minority.”
That is the crux of the situation. If 50 people write down their ideas individually, to be compiled later into a final outcome, no one knows what anyone else has written. That the final outcome of such a meeting reflects anyone’s input at all is highly questionable, and the same holds true when the facilitator records the group’s comments on paper. But participants in these types of meetings usually don’t question the process.
Why hold such meetings at all if the outcomes are already established? The answer is because it is imperative for the acceptance of the School-to-Work agenda, or the environmental agenda, or whatever the agenda, that ordinary people assume ownership of the preset outcomes. If people believe an idea is theirs, they’ll support it. If they believe an idea is being forced on them, they’ll resist.
The Delphi Technique is being used very effectively to change our government from a representative form in which elected individuals represent the people, to a “participatory democracy” in which citizens selected at large are facilitated into ownership of preset outcomes. These citizens believe that their input is important to the result, whereas the reality is that the outcome was already established by people not apparent to the participants.
How to Diffuse the Delphi Technique
Three steps can diffuse the Delphi Technique as facilitators attempt to steer a meeting in a specific direction.
Always be charming, courteous, and pleasant. Smile. Moderate your voice so as not to come across as belligerent or aggressive.
Stay focused. If possible, jot down your thoughts or questions. When facilitators are asked questions they don’t want to answer, they often digress from the issue that was raised and try instead to put the questioner on the defensive. Do not fall for this tactic. Courteously bring the facilitator back to your original question. If he rephrases it so that it becomes an accusatory statement (a popular tactic), simply say, “That is not what I asked. What I asked was . . .” and repeat your question.
Be persistent. If putting you on the defensive doesn’t work, facilitators often resort to long monologues that drag on for several minutes. During that time, the group usually forgets the question that was asked, which is the intent. Let the facilitator finish. Then with polite persistence state: “But you didn’t answer my question. My question was . . .” and repeat your question.
Never become angry under any circumstances. Anger directed at the facilitator will immediately make the facilitator the victim. This defeats the purpose. The goal of facilitators is to make the majority of the group members like them, and to alienate anyone who might pose a threat to the realization of their agenda. People with firm, fixed beliefs, who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, are obvious threats. If a participant becomes a victim, the facilitator loses face and favor with the crowd. This is why crowds are broken up into groups of seven or eight, and why objections are written on paper rather than voiced aloud where they can be open to public discussion and debate. It’s called crowd control.
At a meeting, have two or three people who know the Delphi Technique dispersed through the crowd so that, when the facilitator digresses from a question, they can stand up and politely say: “But you didn’t answer that lady/gentleman’s question.” Even if the facilitator suspects certain group members are working together, he will not want to alienate the crowd by making accusations. Occasionally, it takes only one incident of this type for the crowd to figure out what’s going on.
Establish a plan of action before a meeting. Everyone on your team should know his part. Later, analyze what went right, what went wrong and why, and what needs to happen the next time. Never strategize during a meeting.
A popular tactic of facilitators, if a session is meeting with resistance, is to call a recess. During the recess, the facilitator and his spotters (people who observe the crowd during the course of a meeting) watch the crowd to see who congregates where, especially those who have offered resistance. If the resistors congregate in one place, a spotter will gravitate to that group and join in the conversation, reporting what was said to the facilitator. When the meeting resumes, the facilitator will steer clear of the resistors. Do not congregate. Instead gravitate to where the facilitators or spotters are. Stay away from your team members.
This strategy also works in a face-to-face, one-on-one meeting with anyone trained to use the Delphi Technique.
More and more, we are seeing citizens being invited to “participate” in various forms of meetings, councils, or boards to “help determine” public policy in one field or another. They are supposedly being included to get “input” from the public to help officials make final decisions on taxes, education, community growth or whatever the particular subject matter might be. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, surface appearances are often deceiving.
You, Mr. or Mrs. Citizen, decide to take part in one of these meetings. Generally, you will find that there is already someone designated to lead or “facilitate” the meeting. Supposedly the job of the facilitator is to be a neutral, non-directing helper to see that the meeting flows smoothly. Actually, he or she is there for exactly the opposite reason: to see that the conclusions reached during the meeting are in accord with a plan already decided upon by those who called the meeting.
The process used to “facilitate” the meeting is called the Delphi Technique. This Delphi Technique was developed by the RAND Corporation for the U.S. Department of Defense back in the 1950s. It was originally intended for use as a psychological weapon during the cold war. However, it was soon recognized that the steps of Delphi could be very valuable in manipulating ANY meeting toward a pre-determined end.
How does the process take place? The techniques are well developed and well defined. First, the person who will be leading the meeting, the facilitator or Change Agent must be a likeable person with whom those participating in the meeting can agree or sympathize with. It is, therefore, the job of the facilitator to find a way to cause a split in the audience, to establish one or a few of the people as “bad guys” while the facilitator is perceived as the “good guy.” Facilitators are trained to recognize potential opponents and how to make such people appear aggressive, foolish, extremist, etc. Once this is done, the facilitator establishes himself or herself as the “friend” of the rest of the audience. The stage is now set for the rest of the agenda to take place.
At this point, the audience is generally broken up into “discussion groups” of seven or eight people each. Each of these groups is to be led by a subordinate facilitator. Within each group, discussion takes place of issues, already decided upon by the leadership of the meeting. Here, too, the facilitator manipulates the discussion in the desired direction, isolating and demeaning opposing viewpoints. Generally, participants are asked to write down their ideas and disagreements with the papers to be turned in and “compiled” for general discussion after the general meeting is re-convened.
THIS is the weak link in the chain which you are not supposed to recognize. WHO compiles the various notes into the final agenda for discussion? AHHHH! Well, it is those who are running the meeting. How do you know that the ideas on YOUR notes were included in the final result. You DON’T! You may realize that your idea was NOT included and come to the conclusion that you were probably in the minority. Recognize that every OTHER citizen member of this meeting has written his or her likes or dislikes on a similar sheet of paper and they, too, have no idea whether THEIR ideas were “compiled” into the final result! You don’t even know if ANYONE’S ideas are part of the final “conclusions” presented to the re-assembled group as the “consensus” of public opinion. Rarely, does anyone challenge the process since each concludes that he or she was in the minority and different from all the others. So, now, those who organized the meeting in the first place are able to tell the participants AND THE REST OF THE COMMUNITY that the conclusions, reached at the meeting, are the result of public participation. Actually, the desired conclusions had been established, in the back room, long before the meeting ever took place. There are variations in the technique to fit special situations but, in general, the procedure outlined above takes place.
The natural question to ask here is: If the outcome was preordained BEFORE the meeting took place, WHY have the meeting? Herein lies the genius of this Delphi Technique. It is imperative that the general public believe that this program is THEIRS! They thought it up! They took part in its development! Their input was recognized! If people believe that the program is theirs, they will support it. If they get the slightest hint that the program is being imposed upon them, they will resist.
This VERY effective technique is being used, over and over and over, to change our form of government from the representative republic, intended by the Founding Fathers, into a “participatory democracy.” Now, citizens chosen at large, are manipulated into accepting preset outcomes while they believe that the input they provided produced the outcomes which are now THEIRS! The reality is that the final outcome was already determined long before any public meetings took place, determined by individuals unknown to the public. Can you say “Conspiracy?”
These “Change Agents” or “Facilitators” CAN be beaten! They may be beaten using their own methods against them. Because it is SO important, I will repeat the suggestions I gave in the last previous column.
ONE: Never, NEVER lose your temper! Lose your temper and lose the battle, it is that simple! Smile, if it kills you to do so. Be courteous at all times. Speak in a normal tone of voice.
TWO: Stay focused! Always write your question or statement down in advance to help you remember the exact manner in which your question or statement was made. These agents are trained to twist things to make anyone not acceding to THEIR agenda look silly or aggressive. Smile, wait till the change agent gets done speaking and then bring them back to your question. If they distort what you said, simply remind those in the group that what he or she is saying is NOT what you asked or said and then repeat, verbatim, from your notes the original objection.
THREE: Be persistent! Wait through any harangues and then repeat the original question. (Go back and re-read the previous column.)
FOUR: (I wish to thank a reader of the previous column for some EXCELLENT suggestions.) DON’T go alone! Get as many friends or relatives who think as you do, to go along with you to the meeting. Have each person “armed” with questions or statements which all generally support your central viewpoint. DON’T sit together as a group! Spread out through the audience so that your group does not seem to be a group.
When the facilitator or change agent avoids answering YOUR question and insists that he must move on so everyone may have a chance to speak, your own agents in the audience can then ask questions, worded differently, but still with the same meaning as yours. They can bring the discussion back to your original point. They could even point out, in a friendly manner, that the agent did NOT really answer your question. The more the agent avoids your question, and the more your friends bring that to the attention of the group, the more the audience will shift in your favor.
To quote my informant: “Turn the technique back on them and isolate the change agent as the kook. I’ve done it and seen steam come out of the ears of those power brokers in the wings who are trying to shove something down the citizen’s throats. And it’s so much fun to watch the moderator squirm and lose his cool, all while trying to keep a smile on his face.”
Now that you understand how meetings are manipulated, let’s show them up for the charlatans which they are.