It takes a nation to protect the nation
This is a series of excellent videos by Scott Adams about techniques of presuasion. As such, it perfectly fits with the my Dialogue Analysis system, where I try to analyse the structure of an argument without getting into the body or meat of the actual issue in discussion. For example, by identifying a tu quoque argument form, in a discussion on abortion, which may be pointed out without knowing anything about the abortion issue itself.
Scott Adams takes this one step further, by identifying gestures in the media space, which wipe out the opponent in a subtle and frequently underhand way, without actually addressing the differences in policy or ideological position between them.
Heres the first one to enjoy: the Linguistic Kill Shot.
Disclaimer: For new readers, this is part of my series on Trump’s skills as a persuader. I am analyzing events through the filter of my Master Wizard Hypothesis. The Master Wizard Hypothesis says that Trump is playing three-dimensional chess with a two-dimensional world and he will win the presidency in a landslide. (The alternative hypothesis is that he is nothing but the loudest “outsider” and will flame-out soon.)
I don’t know which candidate would do the best job as president. I am not that smart. But I am impressed with Trump’s game. I write about it for entertainment. Don’t take cartoonists too seriously.
The Fiorina Linguistic Kill Shot: “Look at that face!”
This morning I see that the press is playing rusty trombone on Rolling Stone’s article about Trump and his unkind comments about Carly Fiorina’s appearance. The press is furiously trying to manufacture news out of the quote and doing a good job of it so far.
You won’t appreciate the beauty of Trump’s game until you read the entire article, and that takes too long. But if you do, look for a Master Wizard making a Rolling Stones writer fall in love with him while setting up the writer to transmit the Fiorina kill shot embedded in a sexist-sounding comment.
And the Outragists danced and shouted. As planned.
See the search results on Trump’s linquistic kill shot this morning, below the post here.
All of the chatter from the Rolling Stones article will be about whether Trump’s comments were sexist or not. True to form, Trump is making all of us think past the close. The sale in this case is the idea that Fiorina’s face will be a problem with voters. We accepted that part of his suggestion and went directly to the idea of whether mentioning it is okay or not.
Yeah, that happened.
A kill shot is designed with one necessary element to distinguish it from a mere insult. The kill shot has to put words to what you were already thinking in a vague sense. If you disagree with the main idea in the linguistic kill shot, it has no power. Trump only picks kill shots you agree with on some visceral level. For example…
Jeb Bush does look “low energy.” We agree as soon as Trump says it, even if we had never had a concrete thought about it until he voiced it.
Ben Carson does seem “too nice” for the difficult job of staring down foreign leaders. We agree.
And I’m going to come right out and agree that Fiorina’s face was bothering me. But I never would have voiced that opinion without Trump going first because it sounds terrible. I wouldn’t want to be associated with the thought. [Note to Outragists: The first sentence in this paragraph is the one to take out of context. You are welcome.]
When I say Fiorina’s face bothers me, I am not referring to her looks in general. She looks fit, stylish, and attractive to me. But she does have what I call the angry wife face when she talks politics. Guys, you know the face, which is usually paired with a tone of disapproval. It is your greatest nightmare. It is the face that says you did not do a good job, at whatever.
The outragists in the press will report Trump’s comments as sexism. And by today’s standards, I agree with the classification. But what every adult male who has ever had a relationship with a woman saw was Trump putting words to their own personal nightmares: That face.
Trump will never win over voters who would be incensed by his “sexist” comments. But he can stir-up that crowd and make them carry his message to the rest of the world without paying a penny for ads.
I have no way of knowing this, but I think most voters see a guy competing in a beauty contest and commenting on the beauty of another contestant. People do cast their votes based on looks, and that includes the attitude that a candidate’s face projects. The physical appeal of the candidates – both men and women – is a HUGE factor in any political race. That’s why we don’t elect short, bald, male presidents. It works both ways. Trump spoke the ugly truth.
My guess is that the majority of American voters chuckled at Trump’s comment and muttered to themselves some version of “We don’t have to worry about him lying to us.”
And his popularity grows
The best Trump kill shots have the following qualities.
1. Fresh word that is not generally used in politics
2. Relates to the physicality of the subject (so you are always reminded)
Clinton has already experienced some coughing fits on the campaign trail. And her voice often sounds hoarse, which is to be expected when you give speeches every day. Neither of those things mean much. But add the Internet rumors that Clinton has some lingering brain issues from a concussion, plus her long bathroom break during that one debate, and some rumors that she has trouble with balance, and there you go. That’s enough circumstantial “evidence” to convict her of being unhealthy.
The so-called evidence in this case is probably a mix of true facts that might not matter too much plus rumors and speculation. If you looked at any one piece of “evidence” on its own, it would mean nothing. But put it all together and you have…confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias is what makes you see any kind of evidence as supporting your point of view. Once Trump puts in our heads the idea that Clinton might have some stamina (health) issues, that’s all we will see in the evidence, even if it doesn’t exist.
And that is why “stamina” is such a well-engineered kill shot. Between now and November, the odds of Clinton having another coughing fit, losing her balance, forgetting something, or having some other health issue is nearly 100%. Trump has primed his “stamina” kill shot to get stronger as time goes by. Confirmation bias will keep adding “evidence” to his suggestion even if that evidence is imaginary.
Some folks reminded me that Trump has been using the stamina kill shot for months with no real effect. But stamina is a sleeper word. It gets reactivated every time the real world triggers it in your brain. And the real world is certain to deliver.
What happens the next time you see Hillary Clinton looking tired? Under normal circumstances you might tell yourself that all candidates look tired. And they should, given the workload. But Trump primed you to see any bit of fatigue in Clinton as a health issue. So you will.
Keep in mind that Trump always goes where he has an advantage against an opponent. Trump’s big advantage (I think) is that he appears to be managing his physical energy better. I’ll bet he spends fewer hours campaigning but uses those hours better because he draws big crowds.
In my book, I talk about using “energy” as the primary metric for you own life. When you do things that keep your energy high, the rest of your life works out better. You are more fun to be around, better looking, more productive, and more credible. Trump seems to be managing his energy whereas his opponents are trying to maximize voter contact. They probably spend more time prepping for debates than Trump does, trying to memorize important facts that Trump doesn’t care about. If I’m right, Trump will keep his energy high and Clinton will fade over the months from exhaustion. Voters will see it.
You won’t remember that Clinton worked harder on the campaign trail, or that she did more studying to command the facts. You stopped caring about that stuff a thousand campaign lies ago. But you will remember any health or energy issues that Clinton might experience in the coming months.
What if Clinton copies Trump and reduces her schedule to keep her energy high? That would look to the public and the pundits as if Clinton doesn’t have the stamina. Trump wins either way. And that’s another tell for a Trump strategy. He creates two ways to win and no way to lose.
Another advantage of “stamina” as a kill shot is that it reminds you of sex without being a sexual word. It makes you think Trump has this stamina thing (sexual power) and Clinton does not. And when Trump shows up with his model wife, the message is reinforced. Add a shaky and unhealthy Bill Clinton to the mix and the contrast is even bigger. Stamina works in Trump’s favor on every level.
On a related topic, many of you asked my opinion on Trump’s anti-Clinton ad that shows Hillary Clinton barking like a dog and Putin laughing. I give the ad an A+ for persuasion. It was funny and doesn’t take itself too seriously, but at the same time it appealed to our irrational minds just as Trump intends. Your rational mind knows that Clinton’s “barking” has nothing to do with anything. But your irrational mind sees Putin and ISIS looking powerful on the video while Clinton barks like a chihuahua.
The humor in the ad is what makes it work. Without the humor it would look like a lame comparison. And people equate a good sense of humor with high intelligence, whether or not that is true. The ad leaves us feeling that Trump is funny-smart and Clinton is ridiculous.
You know who wasn’t funny? Hitler, that’s who. Every time Trump makes us laugh he chips away at the Hitler meme that has been dogging him. So it works on a branding level too.
Don’t listen to the 2D pundits who say the ad looked like it was created by a college student. Ignore anyone who says it lacks content. That video is a masterpiece of viral persuasion.
All politics is dirty tricks: