Thomas Szatz claimed that one of the ways people influence or control other people is by literalizing a metaphor. Wikipedia says that “A metaphor is a figure of speech that refers to something as being the same as another thing for rhetorical effect.” An example might be calling a joke “sick.” A joke might have some similarities to an illness, such as causing revulsion, but no one would say that the teller of sick jokes should be given an antibiotic to stop the practice.
Metaphors work because the comparison conveys an understanding, or is intended to convey an understanding to the listener. When I say “that is a cutting remark,” I mean you to focus on the harmfulness and pain caused by your words.
Often people coin metaphors to try to get you to treat one thing in the way you treat some other thing which has some similar characteristics. When they coined “war on drugs” they meant that we should pursue reducing drug use in a way similar to an all out military operation, as opposed to a police operation or a mental health operation.
A more extreme step its to literalize the metaphor. Getting people to treat one object as exactly the same as another object, even when it is not. I suspect that he eucharist is a literalized metaphor. Jesus said that this bread is my body and this wine is my blood when he knew the jig was up and Rome was soon to arrest him.
Collectivist politicians compare society to a single organism. A collectivist would have no trouble saying something is in the public interest. Unless the interest is unanimous, there really is no public interest. There is only the interests of individuals. There may be a majority’s interest. In fact politicians would have a much more difficult time selling laws if they were correctly identified as “in the majority’s interest.” The majority of people may be benefited by an FDA that banned drugs not sufficiently shown to the FDA as safe and effective. A minority of gravely ill people denied effective treatments because the FDA is not yet convinced would not be benefited.
Aristotle thought that the art of metaphor cannot be taught.
The question is always whether the metaphor is apt. It is possible, however, to recognizing when a metaphor is being literalized. In that case the intent is always to mislead because two different things are never exactly the same in all respects.