Defending yourself Against Persuasion – Innuendo

By Michael Edmonds 28/04/2011


Innuendo is in myopinion one of the most pernicious forms of persuasion. It relies on our tendencies to be cautious and is reflected in the commonly accepted belief that “There is no smoke without fire”. Unfortunately, innuendo is the equivalent of a smoke bomb – able to deliver copious quantities of smoke with no fire at all.

Innuendo appears to be fairly common in politics and also, unfortunately, in the media. One only needs to consider Donald Trump’s recent attacks on President Obama (see below). With no evidence apart from vague hear say, Mr Trump implies that President Obama may not have performed well academically. No evidence, just simple “maybes” and “what ifs”. 

The use of innuendo is the antithesis of science, where facts and rational analysis rule supreme. This is one of the reasons I previously contemplated that many scientists would probably find it challenging to enter the political arena – the rules of the game are just too different. In science, substance trumps style, not the other way around.

Countering Innuendo

As I said earlier, innuendo is a very pernicious form of persuasion. When something is insinuated the best defense is to seek out what the verifiable facts are.  Forget the rumour, speculations, anonymous quotes. Seek out only the facts of the matter.