One of the positive side-effects of the Trump administration is that citizens are far more informed on the issues than at any time in my memory. The public seems to be getting into the details on a lot of topics lately. Gun control is a great example. I consider myself under-informed on that topic, but improving daily, as are most of you who follow the news. And I thought it would be useful for some of you to compare your views on the topic to where I’ve evolved so far.
What follows is my public confession of ignorance on the topic. I will list the things I believe to be true, while asking readers to fact-check me. I’ll modify my list as corrections come in.
In no particular order, here’s what I think I know.
Gun control works. If it didn’t work, the Vegas shooter and the Florida school shooter would have used fully-automatic weapons and killed far more people. The one-time mass shooters are clearly using the most lethal weapons they can get without too much friction. Fully-automatic weapons are expensive, less available, and can create a paper trail with purchase. That’s evidently enough friction to make them not the weapon of choice. Therefore, the existing gun controls on fully-automatic weapons seem to work.
Professional criminals can always get weapons. But they are not the topic of most gun control conversations for that very reason.
States with tight gun control have lower gun violence. But those states are also blue states. The...
I’m seeing a lot of “list” journalism now that is designed to paint President Trump in a negative light. The power of the list is that the more items on the list, the more persuasive it looks, even if the items are weak. Here’s a good example.
If you want to create a persuasive political attack list, be sure to include the following elements in various combinations.
The power of the list is that while each item is unimportant, false, overblown, or an obvious misinterpretation of intent, the sheer quantity of items makes it persuasive nonetheless. A list of five criticisms is better than three, and ten is better than five. It doesn’t much matter how solid any of the items are when viewed in isolation. Readers will remember the size of the list more than the items on it.
The common view we see from the mainstream media is that President Trump is a monster and there is no doubt about it. In support of that view, they offer plenty of evidence. And by evidence, I mean they hallucinate they can read minds.Pundit creates news by reading minds
One of the biggest illusions of life is that we humans are good at deducing the inner thoughts of both strangers and loved ones based on observing their actions. The truth is that we are terrible at knowing what others are thinking. We just think we are good at it. No one is good at it. No one.
Need proof of that claim?
Think about the last disagreement you had with a romantic partner. There’s a high likelihood that one of you was incorrectly interpreting the thoughts of the other. And a big cause of that wrongness is the illusion that people make decisions based on one variable. We don’t. Our decisions are based on lots of variables — so many, in fact, that often we are not entirely aware of why we make our own decisions, much less why others do.
The business model of the news media has moved away from hard reporting and toward punditry and opinion. Viewers enjoy opinion-driven content and it costs a lot less to produce than hard news. And that means...
Now that some time has passed, and emotions have subsided a bit, I can tell you about the best persuasion play of the past year. The credit goes to the anti-Trump media. They convinced much of the world that the President of the United States referred to a bunch of racists with tiki torches in Charlottesville as “fine people.”
What President Trump did say is that some “fine people” were at the event. I see only two ways to interpret that statement. One interpretation is completely ordinary and the other is batshit crazy. The batshit crazy interpretation is the one the anti-Trump media persuaded you is the real one. They would have you believe that the President of the United States publicly and unabashedly sided with self-labelled racists who were chanting anti-Jewish slogans. We are asked to believe President Trump took sides with the anti-semitic chanters despite having a Jewish daughter, Jewish grandkids, Jewish son-in-law, and several Jewish top advisors. We also know President Trump is so popular in Israel that they are considering naming a train station after him. And Netanyahu gets along with President Trump great. Probably has something to do with President Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem.
Amazingly, the anti-Trump media successfully persuaded half the public in this country that President Trump intentionally and publicly took sides with racists who have intense hatred for his family and close advisors. President Trump clarified soon after his first statement on Charlottesville that he disavowed the...
Can humans have sex with machines and create digital offspring? Almost. Here are the components you need:
Humans are the result of more than DNA. We become who we are through experience as well. The human-computer offspring would be no different. To the father, the child would perhaps remind him of himself but the simulation would have different life experiences informing its pattern-recognition circuitry....
Update: New Book added: Win Bigly – By Scott Adams
Readers of this blog have been asking me to update my persuasion reading list. If you wonder why people are asking a cartoonist about persuasion, it is because I am a trained hypnotist, and mention that skill often in the context of blogging and Periscoping. I have also studied the various tools of persuasion for years because they are helpful in my job as a writer. In my New York Times best selling book Win Bigly I teach you President Trump’s world-class persuasion techniques that you can use for your work or personal life.
I recommend reading these books in the order listed. If you decide to skip a few, I strongly recommend reading the first book on the list, Influence, as a grounding for the rest.
Influence – by Robert B. Cialdini PhD
Win Bigly – By Scott adams (Persuasion Tips based on the 2016 election)
Impossible to Ignore – Dr. Carmen Simon
Trump: The Art of the Deal – Donald J. Trump
What Every BODY is Saying – by Joe Navarro
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – by Charles Duhigg
Thinking, Fast and Slow – by Daniel Kahneman
Salt Sugar Fat – by Michael Moss
Pre-Suasion – By Robert B. Cialdini PhD
Sometimes you can prove an alleged event did happen, but you generally can’t prove something did not happen. For example, if police have clear video footage of a crime in progress, several direct witnesses, and DNA evidence too, you can say they proved the defendant did the crime. But if your neighbor says an angel visited him in his bedroom at night, and there were no witnesses or physical traces left behind, you can’t prove it didn’t happen. All you can say for sure is that you don’t have any evidence of it happening.
So if you want to drive a political opponent crazy, allege that he or she did something evil, provide no direct evidence, and force them to do the impossible: Prove it didn’t happen.
Consider the Russian collusion investigation. We have seen no conclusive evidence that President Trump colluded with Russia to win the election. But the mere existence of an investigation into the allegations, along with lots of “Russia, Russia, Russia” news coverage on tangential topics, primes us to think “Where there is this much smoke, there must be fire.” To escape this trap, President Trump would need to do the impossible. He would need to prove he didn’t collude with Russia in some secret way that left no evidence behind. And you can’t prove a negative, as the saying goes.
So how do you defend yourself when you can’t prove something didn’t happen? One way is to turn the same trick against your attackers. An emerging story...
By now you know President Trump announced his winners for the Fake News Awards. You can see them here. Let’s talk about what he got right in terms of persuasion.
The very idea of a Fake News Award is unusual and provocative. That guarantees attention. Getting attention is step one in any persuasion play. Nearly everyone who cares about American politics is aware of the story. I’m no historian, but I doubt any prior president has combined theater and politics so ambitiously and so effectively. President Trump is intentionally and deftly “bringing the show” on this topic and lots of others. If you don’t understand persuasion, you might think he is just being crazy or narcissistic or authoritarian or some other misdiagnosis. But if you know that attention and memory are the primary levers of persuasion, and you see how often he commands both, you might recognize that you are seeing something special here in terms of a talent stack. (A talent stack is a combination of skills that are designed to work well together, such as the collective sub-talents for persuasion, theater, and politics.)
President Trump didn’t need to announce the Fake News Awards ahead of time. He could have simply put together the list and tweeted it any time he wanted. But he knows anticipation controls attention, and it amps up the perceived importance of whatever follows. He primed us. His supporters were salivating for the “good stuff” to come, while his detractors in the anti-Trump press...
North Korea is playing nice with South Korea lately as they coordinate joint participation in the Olympics. But don’t get too excited about that niceness because it is a wedge strategy to separate South Korea from the United States in our unified position against North Korean nukes. Still, talking feels like a positive step compared to the alternatives.
The big issue, as we all know, is that North Korea wants nuclear weapons and most of the rest of the world, especially the United States, is unwilling to live with that. Hence the economic sanctions.
So what would a solution to this stalemate look like?
For starters, you need a solution in which both sides seem to have won something. The alternative involves squeezing their economy until we choke it out, and that’s the current default path. The problem with that approach is that it risks pushing them to a war of desperation, and while we wait for that horror, millions of innocents will starve. The United States will come out on top eventually, but not at a cost we can be happy about. So allow me to suggest a winning option for all involved. I call it the Switzerland of the East plan.
Kim Jong Un went to school in Switzerland. He knows it as a country that gets just about everything right and does it without a traditional army. Is Switzerland safe from attack? Yup. Safer than just about any other country. Their famed neutrality is like a psychological army that...
The Small Business Optimism Index hit an all-time high. That’s the new Presidential Approval Poll.
In olden days (pre-2016), candidates for president were not so different from each other. I can remember pundits complaining endlessly about how similar the Democrats and Republicans had become. In that environment, you can easily imagine someone who voted for Candidate A warming up to Candidate B. In those simpler times, a presidential approval poll meant something.
Today, a “presidential approval poll” is little more than taking attendance. If you’re a Democrat, you disapprove of President Trump as a lifestyle choice. If you voted for Trump, you probably still approve of him because you knew exactly what you were getting. And if you are an anti-Trump conservative, you allow cognitive dissonance to rule your brain and you say he’s doing a good job but you disapprove of him anyway. David Brooks accidentally described this phenomenon in this article.
I contend that business optimism — and small business optimism in particular — are the new standard for presidential approval because “economics” captures most of what a president influences.
If a president starts a war, or threatens to start one, the economy flinches.
If a president starts a trade war, or threatens one, the economy flinches.
If a president is tearing apart the fabric of civilization in one way or another, the economy collapses.
If a big terror attack succeeds on the homeland, the economy flinches.
If immigration is allowed in large numbers, the economy feels it.
I could go on. The...
On CNN yesterday, Jake Tapper described President Trump’s recent behavior — including the President’s tweet about having a bigger nuclear “button” than North Korea — as abnormal and unstable. In other words, crazy.
One folksy definition of “crazy” is that it involves trying over and over again a solution that has never worked while hoping it works next time. President Trump is doing something closer to the opposite of that. He’s doing something new, both strategically and verbally. To be fair, new things can be crazy too. But usually only if they don’t work. When a new and unexpected thing works out well, we call it genius. And that begs the question: Is President Trump’s approach to North Korea working?
We’re seeing economic sanctions on North Korea that have the support of the UN Security Council. That part is working, and it took diplomatic skill to make it happen.
But we also see satellite images of tankers smuggling oil into North Korea. The sanctions looked as if they were not effective until South Korea detained two tankers involved in smuggling oil to North Korea. Grabbing two tankers doesn’t do much in terms of limiting supply, but it does dramatically change the perceived economics of being a smuggler. And if grabbing two tankers doesn’t get the message across, South Korea can keep detaining tankers until the economics do change. North Korea would be willing...
Do you remember when candidate Trump told us (in effect) that he would be the first non-politician to win the presidency? It seemed impossible to even imagine such a thing. Then he did the impossible.
Do you remember when it was common wisdom that if the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel it would be a huge problem? President Trump did it anyway. So far, it looks like a minor problem at most.
Do you remember when experts said President Trump shouldn’t mess with the Iran nuclear deal because it could cause a huge problem for the United States and its allies? He did it anyway, and it is likely a supporting variable for the Iranian protestors who don’t like how their government is creating problems that don’t need to be problems.
Do you remember when experts said China will never help squeeze the economy of North Korea because China fears a refugee crisis? President Trump encouraged China to squeeze anyway. Then he helpfully provided satellite photos of tankers cheating on the high seas. After South Korea grabbed and held a second cheating tanker, the economics of smuggling oil have turned negative, or will soon. And North Korea is sounding — at least to my ears — more flexible than ever.That branch is stronger than you imagined.
Do you remember when it was common wisdom that...
President Trump has delivered on a number of promises for his base. But there was an impressive amount of breakage along the way. You might say he President Trump did as much demolition as he did construction. The press is doing a good job of telling us what he accomplished in 2017. But they keep leaving out all the stuff he broke that probably needed to be broken. I’ll fix that for you here.
GOP – Trump broke the GOP and reconstructed it along his terms, successfully it seems.
DNC – The DNC has no charismatic leader, no game plan, and little money.
Clinton Dynasty – Done
Bush Dynasty – Done
Mainstream Media – The public learned that news coverage is based on bias as much as fact.
NFL – Ratings down, attendance down.If President Trump were a large piece of construction equipment, which one would he be?
FBI (leadership) – The FBI as a whole is still highly credible, but the leadership is not.
Pundits – Nearly all the pundits were wrong about Trump’s nomination, election, and successful (by Republican standards) first year.
Government Regulations – For good or bad, we have fewer regulations now.
Hollywood – Big stars are alienating 40% of their potential audience whenever they take time off from groping.
North Korea – They used to have a pathetic but functioning economy. That situation is changing rapidly.
ISIS – Remember ISIS? They used to be a...
When candidate Trump first set about the job of redefining politics (and reality) back in 2015, people had lots of predictions about how things would turn out. One year isn’t long enough to know everything we need to know about his presidency, but it’s long enough to to check some of our predictions. As a public service, I put together a list of predictions that various people made about Trump that you can use to evaluate your own predictive powers. Count the number of items on the list that you once predicted would be true. I’ll tell you how to evaluate your score at the end.
Did you once believe…
Trump will never win the GOP nomination.
Trump will never win the presidency.
Stocks will drop if Trump is elected.
President Trump will deport ten million illegal immigrants.
Trump will be gone (impeached, jailed, or quit) by end of 2017.
Trump’s immigration ban on several Muslim countries will be found unconstitutional.
Trump colluded with Russia, and that’s a crime.
Trump obstructed justice (a crime) by firing Comey.
Trump’s skills as a “con man” might get him elected but it won’t transfer into doing the job of president.
Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will cause huge problems.
Trump’s tweeting will cause huge problems.
GOP will never embrace Trump.
Trump will get nothing important done.
Trump will not work effectively with leaders of other countries.
GOP senators will vote against GOP priorities because of President Trump’s mean tweets.
Trump will not nominate qualified judges to the Supreme Court.
Trump is incompetent.
Presidential approval polls...
I thought I’d update my life story here. This was created in the WhenHub Studio at WhenHub.com. This is a nice gift idea for someone in your life. You can easily create a life story for someone you love. Share on social media or play to your TV on Christmas day with Apple TV or Google Chrome. Also good for New Year’s Eve parties — show the year in review.
Crime is the base problem for a number of poor urban areas. Wherever you have high crime, you have trouble attracting employers. And without employment options, you end up with poverty, a low tax base to support schools, hopelessness, drug dealing, and the rest. So I thought I would share some ideas for reducing urban crime. The first idea comes from Black Lives Matters out of New York. I can’t judge this sort of idea from my suburban home in California, but I share it with you because it belongs in the conversation. There is a small experiment going on in part of Harlem that has drastically reduced violent gun crime. Police say the big difference is the number of illegal guns they took out of the neighborhoods in question, but they also credit a group called Street Corner Resources with “. . . a mix of adult education courses, connections to legal and housing help and free job placement programs that would result in positions that could pay $40 to $50 a day more than selling drugs.”
I think it’s always fair to be skeptical of success claims. But I like any plan that can be tested small and evaluated. This example fits that model perfectly. Ideally, we should have a dozen different programs running in different neighborhoods around the country to see which ones work best.
I’d also like to see a system in which senior citizens within a dangerous neighborhood can watch security camera videos of all...
One of the big changes in our national consciousness, thanks to President Trump, is that many of us are starting to see politics in terms of “deals.” We are also thinking about a growing economy. Compare that approach to the Obama/Bernie/Clinton worldview that is more about wealth transfer in a world of scarcity. For my purposes today, you don’t need to decide which approach is better. I only make the claim that we are more focused on the Art of the Deal than at any time in American politics. This is one of the many ways President Trump is in our heads.
And the deal-making mindset, along with some lucky coincidences, has created the greatest opportunity for improvement that the African-American community has seen in decades. At the same time, Republicans have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to earn a larger share of the black vote in 2018 and beyond. All we are missing is the right deal. Is there a potential deal that is good for President Trump and the GOP while also being good for BLM?
Yes. And it isn’t even hard.
I’ll get to that deal after some necessary context. (It’s worth your time.)
You probably remember that candidate Trump famously asked African-American voters during the campaign “What the hell do you have to lose?” It sounded like a weak offer when I first heard it. But combined with his deal-making approach to politics, you could also see it as an invitation to pitch some ideas. The door is open.
As we approach the holiday season there will be much debate on how President Trump has performed for his first calendar year. As a populist president, I think the best way to judge his performance is by focusing on the issues voters say are their top priorities. Pew Research polled voters to determine their political priorities for 2017. Let’s see how President Trump is doing so far on the top ten priorities according to the public.
Terrorism (76% rated top priority)
ISIS is on the run, thanks in part to President Trump’s loosening of the rules of military engagement, as well as pivoting from a Whack-a-Mole strategy to a total annihilation strategy with no withdrawal date. Both moves are good persuasion. And while President Trump’s “extreme vetting” is unpopular with many citizens, it has probably reduced risk to the homeland. And General Mattis is widely considered to be a strong hire.
Economy (73% rated top priority)
I’ll give President Obama 75% credit for the strong economy. But I think consumer confidence and the stock market tell us there is optimism about the current administration. That confidence is buoyed by Trump’s reduction in regulations via executive orders, his tough talk on trade, and his persuasion toward a higher GDP that is already becoming self-fulfilling. If people believe the economy will be better next year than this year, they invest this year, thus making next year better. We might see something good come out of tax reform, but I don’t think...
Readers who pre-ordered my new book, Win Bigly, already got a copy of the bonus chapter that I offered with the pre-order. Now that the book is out, I thought I would include it here for the rest of you. The context is that I’m a trained hypnotist and people often ask me about the topic, so I thought I would answer the most common questions about it. This chapter is in the book, but publishing it here makes it easier to share.
For me, the biggest impact from learning hypnosis was recognizing that people are not rational creatures. We’re creatures who act irrationally and then rationalize our choices after the fact, at least for any decision involving emotion. Once you embrace this concept, the world is far easier to understand. But there are a number of other practical benefits to adding this skill to your talent stack. I’ll tell you a few below.
The Making of a Hypnotist
Hypnosis is a special form of persuasion, generally involving one hypnotist guiding one patient (or subject) toward some sort of personal improvement. You don’t need to be a trained hypnotist to be persuasive, but understanding what hypnosis can and cannot do is extraordinarily valuable. It can change your entire worldview. That’s what happened to me when I trained to be hypnotist. I once believed people use facts and reason to make decisions. When I disagreed with people, I assumed it was because I had different facts or better reasons.
That was an...
After the tragic terrorist attack yesterday in NYC (where I am now), leaders were quick to say it was an act of terror and the perpetrator was a coward. Both terms are persuasion mistakes. I’ll tell you why.
Terror is what the bad guys want. If we label the outcome as terror, we give them their win, and we remind the public to stay scared.
Calling a terrorist a coward might sound like a powerful insult, but it isn’t persuasive. No terrorist views sacrificing his life for his cause as cowardly. The word bounces right off. To make an impact, you have to use a word that has at least a grain of truth from your subject’s perspective. If your words can’t get a foothold, they are not persuasive.
President Trump — who is better at persuasion than almost anyone — labels these attackers “losers.” That’s a step in the right direction. And it also features Trump’s famous engineering for future confirmation bias. Every time ISIS loses territory they are reminded they are losers. That sinks in over time. People are more influenced by the direction of things than the current state. President Trump correctly persuades to the trend, so events support the label of loser. Neither “terrorist” nor “coward” persuades to the trend.
I think we can do better.
When a would-be terrorist considers his plans, he is probably 100% convinced that paradise awaits him, virgins and all. Our best counter-persuasion would involve injecting some doubt in that belief. Eternity is a long time to...