Going Scary

religionLast year around this time I heard an interview with Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoon who’s also a trained hypnotist and keenly interested in the art of persuasion.

In the interview, he claimed that Donald Trump was a master persuader with a good chance of becoming the next president. A year ago, the only other person with the same opinion was probably Trump. Adams’s argument is that persuasion allows success a field that you shouldn’t be succeeding in (because you don’t have any experience in it).

These days, Adams is a minor celebrity in the world of political opinion because of his track record on Trump’s popularity. By the way, Adams says he’s voting for Clinton.

Now in a recent interview, he’s laid out some interesting insights into the Clinton campaign. These are a few of his ideas below, which I’ve shortened for clarity.

Persuasion can be a superpower. I can tell you that Clinton’s campaign, before Bernie Sanders dropped out, didn’t have any signs of good persuasion. She was talking about experience and facts and policies. All this stuff doesn’t persuade anybody, because we don’t know about facts and policies. We just pretend we do.

After Bernie dropped out, she went full hard-core persuasion, dropping all facts and reasons — you don’t hear much about policies anymore. And she went to fear.

Take a look at what Clinton did to change her message. It changed from, “Hey, I’m experienced and he’s not” — which is not terribly persuasive when people want the outsider anyway . It went from, “Hey, he’s not such a good businessman,” to, “He’s dark, he’s scary, he’s crazy, he’s mentally unstable, he’ll have the nuclear codes.”

They went to super-scare. Some top persuaders  waded in and said, “Stop doing everything you’re doing, and scare the fuck out of people. And here’s how you do it. You make this guy look like he’s out of control.” So out of control that somebody like you could say, “You know, I think he does hate that baby.” And they pulled that off.

If I were advising her, I’d tell her to do nothing different. Because she’s way ahead in the polls. So to win, she just has to make Trump look increasingly scary. And it appears that will be easy to do, and she’s been very successful at it.