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How to Win Friends and Influence People

July 31, 2014 | by

1280px-Daniel_Defoe_by_James_Charles_Armytage

Daniel Defoe, beloved in the pillory. Line engraving by James Charles Armytage, 1862.

Before he wrote Robinson Crusoe or Moll Flanders—before he wrote any novels at all, actually—Daniel Defoe was a pamphleteer, fomenting controversy in the London of the early eighteenth century. On July 31, 1703, he landed himself in the pillory for seditious libel; he’d written an anonymous satire mocking the hostility toward Dissenters, suggesting that the whole lot of them should be killed. It didn’t take long for authorities to pin him as the author. Then they did what authorities do: fined him to the point of bankruptcy, threw him in prison, and subjected him to ritualized public humiliation.

Before his stint in the stocks began, Defoe managed to write and disseminate a poem, “Hymn to the Pillory.” Legend has it, however dubiously, that the public was so enamored of his verse that they came to greet him at the pillory with flowers, toasting his health instead of hurling stones at him.

Lesson learned: in the court of public opinion, nothing carries more weight than a well-timed poem. Bear this in mind next time you’re stoking the flames of religious unrest in your community.

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  1. tim hildebrandt | April 25, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    We pity the old hippy carrying a sign
    Declaring the end is quite near
    We think the future looks just fine
    We order another cold beer

    The End of the World has happened before
    They say there’s nothing to fear
    Empires have fallen, plagues come and go
    We order another cold beer

    No reason to worry as the ice melts away
    As oceans dry up and rivers don’t flow
    No concern of ours- its over our heads
    Only god is smart enough to know

    So raise your glass to the ultimate cheer
    Open your wallet and spend all your dough
    Lets watch as your brother shoots the last deer
    And laugh to ourself as he dies in the snow

    So let’s try to forget that the end is so near
    Let’s close our eyes and hear the wind blow
    lets all order another cold beer
    And pretend we’ll not reap all the shit that we sow

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