You've been Delphied!

SUBHEAD: Widely used on Kauai, the Delphi Technique pretends to include the input of citizens into the decision making process.

By Juan Wilson on 19 March 2012 for Island Breath - 
Image above: The ancient public theater at Delphi, Greece. From (  

This post was inspired by some material sent to me by Ken Taylor ( I'm sure you've been at a public meeting where an important public concern, like a moratorium on development, is to be discussed.

County agencies and "stakeholders" (like land owners, developer/speculators) as well "experts" are present to attend the meeting. The meeting is "facilitated" by a likeable well known local person with a gift for speaking in public and who knows many of the public attending. After the introductions there are a few lengthy boring powerpoint presentations by the "experts" and "stakeholders" promoting the development in question.

We are now an hour into the meeting. Some frustrated members of the public are already filing out the door. The facilitator calls for a break after which there will be a Questions & Answers session with the public officials, stakeholders and experts. Because there are so many present and the Q&A time limited the facilitator then hands out 5x3 cards and some pencils and asks the public to each write down a question they have of the presenters. This is when another portion of the public starts drifting to the doors.

The Q&A session includes only the questions the facilitator selects as "pertinent". There is no chance for a give-and-take or followup if the stakeholder or public official fails to answer the question. After the Q&A there will be a Planning Session to be used for gathering ideas from the public on the issue at hand.

The Facilitator breaks the public into "manageable" groups of a dozen or so, with a nexpert or stakeholder to lead the session. A pad of 24"x36" paper and a fistful of colored markers are available for brainstorming ideas.

Some more members of the public drift away in frustration. Bullet points are added to a list of "good" ideas selected by the group leader. A representative from the public is chosen to read the bullet points back to the reassembled public after the breakout session. To those still clinging to the hope that participation matters, the facilitator promises that the input from the public will be evaluated and incorporated into a final report. Hey, do you get it yet... you've been had! Flimflammed! Delphied!

The Delphi Technique  

By Albert V. Burns on 23 September 2002 for the Ether Zone - ( 

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 predetermined 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 likable person with whom those participating in the meeting can agree or sympathize.

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—or ‘breakout’—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 reconvened.

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 reassembled 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.
Four: 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.

We're So Easily Delphied  
 SUBHEAD: Because we ignore its techniques  
By Joan E. Battey on 1 march 2004 for the Ether Zone -

Many of the earlier discerners of what was taking place in education (among other issues), were made aware of the technique which was so very successfully implemented to achieve the goals of the change agents in education. No matter how often it was explained, it was slow going getting any widespread understanding of just how the technique worked. Even less understanding is shown regarding the fact that this discovered Delphi Technique is far from limited to the educational minefields where it was first discovered.

The idea behind this results-achieving scheme is that people like to believe they are part of the decisionmaking process (a favorite change agent/educrat/policy-pushing term). People are so flattered by being brought into the "process" that they leave much of their thinking abilities at the door and dutifully line up to be herded into the path disguised as Our Best Thinking, later found to be Gotcha!

By that time, the damage is always done, though still rarely recognized until much later -- mainly because Delphi is adept at "multi-tasking," as educrats term the ability to perform and achieve results in several diverse things simultaneously.

Delphi-ing is successfully employed by those who know that what people would object to right up front (even those who aren't up-to-speed on such things) must be skillfully spoon-fed in such clever increments that people end up believing that they have outsmarted any charlatans and taken the reins of decision making into their own hands.

Like carnivals where shills are planted in the groups of potential customers, so also in public view, shills are planted to shift public opinion while appearing to be wanting to get public opinion on an issue before actually undertaking any action. In order to do this, clever manipulation techniques are put into play. "Is this an important issue? Then let's define it so we know what it is and how best to deal with it. Okay, now let's brainstorm pros and cons."

Sounds good, doesn't it? Especially if you haven't noticed any clever insertions of the preliminary steps in media reports leading up to "getting the public involved."

People are so excited about being asked for their opinion, and being totally unaware of their lack of input, they aren't careful about how they state their opinions when asked. They don't consider the big opportunity they give the other side to zero in on what the weak points are in the overall plans. What's more, they don't watch the reaction of the questioners, or the fact that suddenly, close to them, are people who are intensely eager tp present rebuttals.

The rebuttals are surprisingly homed in on by the facilitators, who move on away from those who wish to clarify their views where others might be influenced by them. The decisions are now ripe for fine-tuning, while no real input was ever wanted or listened to by the facilitators -- except that which was preconceived as leading to the desired outcome.

The Delphi Technique has moved on far beyond the education Decision Making Committees, and is in full-bore implementation in the national media on most issues of the day. Scant coverage is given prior to requests for public input, which usually take place in well-organized and carefully-scheduled focus groups or hearings. Immediately afterward, however, not only is skewed news available, but also almost instantaneous lengthy statements by those with the agendas to push, the programs ready to implement, the decisions that are already being readied for release.

Because most people have been already encouraged to forget everything that happened day before yesterday, or even yesterday, the Delphi Technique has become more and more the rule in mainstream media. It is often preferred by many "clients" of mainstream media, because to go to alternative news sources and apply logic and fact-sifting is to make one appear to be outside the realm of the movers, shakers and decision makers. Quick: up/down/decision.

Only the "experts" are worth hearing from, and the "experts" have been accredited by the mainstream media -- unlike those who present credible information in alternative sources, but who are not themselves "credible" by not being accredited by the accreditors.

Thus, the Delphi Technique has moved beyond the folding chairs and the magic markers on the giant paper pads or blackboards in places where concerned parents, taxpayers, voters, or members of groups were given token opportunities to state their opinions before being left behind when the scribbled marks were made and soon overridden by those inspired by the shills scattered through the meetings.

The Delphi Technique, thanks to media implementation, is now applied to issues far beyond its original use in education conflicts. It has long since moved on to entertainment, civic issues and all of politics. Not to mention religion, which has also been "discovered" by the Delphi proponents, as added fertile ground for further fine-tuning desired public reactions, which they wish to publicize and UTILIZE.

Regardless of what issue is currently being covered, focus on emotion; focus on group input much of which is delphi-ed before it registers on many "decisionmakers. Be one of the crowd, or be soon marginalized and removed from the virtual playing field of decisionmaking. Isn't that the major message of media today? Shifting it and reaching those not affected by it is an uphill and multi-faceted task.

Until Americans learn to re-activate their memory-retrieval systems, apply that in assessing news, politics and things that are affecting them, and to decipher the Delphi-ing that is coming at them from all sides, they will have no major overall cultural, political and religious impact with input they make. They'll be skillfully kept from publicly keying in on the deliberate diversions and deliberate timing of public information, reaction to it, and from effectively countering the publicity awarded to those who have been given the job of crafting the illusion of public involvement in decision making.

Most of all, they will need to attract more Americans to join them in their efforts, to combat the entrenched and growing successes of the growing numbers of Delphi-converts to spread out across society and all that affects it.

One of the most important lessons that may need to be learned is that we can be as easily "Delphied" by friends as by foes! Vigilance seems to be more eternally needed than ever before..

1 comment :

Janos Samu said...

It is an excellent piece of information. Now we have to work on the countermeasures. And we will.

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