Reservations about Scott Adams on Trump

Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) has been arguing/predicting on his blog that Trump will win the presidency because of his superior persuasion techniques. I agree; I’ve found Adams’s Master Persuader Hypothesis fairly convincing the whole time he’s been talking about it.

But there are still some points about Adams’s persuasion stuff that don’t add up for me:

  1. Why wasn’t Trump already president? If Trump is such a Master Persuader, why didn’t he perform better those other times he ran or thought about running for President? If a lot of his success this past year depended on the experience he gained from his reality show, or on the political climate being just right this time around, then that makes the M.P.H. look weaker.
  2. What counts as persuasion? With Scott Adams Goggles on, it’s easy to convince yourself that all success is the result of persuasion even when it might not be. Confirmation bias is a powerful thing. But if Adams’s definition of persuasion includes masses of people chattering on the internet about what a racist Trump is (as he now seems to be saying), then Adams’s original concept of persuasion as a kind of verbal martial art known only to a few elites looks a lot less viable–not to mention less important/interesting.
  3. Why should we believe what Adams tells us about persuasion? It also seems like everything Adams writes is an ironic or reflexive attempt to use the very persuasion techniques he’s describing, and as he constantly reminds you, persuasion is all about emotion and not at all about facts or rationality. Adams says persuasion doesn’t work on about 20% of people–but is that true, or is it just a persuasion tactic in which you make up a data point (in this case, a plausibly-low-sounding number) to quell the doubters (“Ah, I must be in that 20%. OK, continue…”), like in the movies when the burglars throw a steak over the fence to quiet the guard dogs? What if that actual number is more like 50%? Or 75%? How effective is persuasion vs. plain old sophistry? What about vs. plain old lying? What about vs. plain old Telling It Like It Is?
  4. Scott Adams thinks Kanye West is a Master Persuader. Nuff said.

The echo

How I realistically see the echo thing* playing out:

1. Mostly, nobody will know what the echo is and will ignore it.

2. The few people who do know what the echo is will mostly be people who already don’t like Jews. The echo will have very little persuasive or informative power with regard to the “Jews enjoy disproportionate levels of influence on [our] non-Jewish society” topic.

3. In the eyes of people who know what the echo is but disagree with it, are alarmed by it, or fail to see its practical worth, anyone who uses the echo non-ironically will simply be branding themselves as “scary KKK” types.

4. This will force the rest of the Alternative Right (AR) to make a choice: either distance themselves from people who use the echo, or accept that same “scary KKK” branding. (Dismantling that branding is a separate project and is much longer-term.) My prediction is the AR will do the former, but I’m only weakly confident in that prediction. Nevertheless, here’s my reasoning: If the AR does the latter and accepts that same branding, its momentum as a serious influential movement will effectively be terminated, since:

a) the next logical place for the AR to attain supporters is rural evangelical Christians (most of whom think favorably of Jews), and/or disaffected young conservatives (most of whom don’t have much of anything against Jews and a substantial portion of whom are themselves Jewish) and so they’ll have trouble expanding beyond their echo chamber (no pun intended);

b) presently, the AR can boast of being intelligent, non-violent, and primarily interested in basic concepts such as American national sovereignty and standing up for white people and their culture—concepts that actually ought not to inspire much controversy. This might still be possible to do while embracing the echo itself (minus the online trolling thing), but it is nearly impossible to do while embracing the current set of echo-users, who tend toward monomania over Jewish influence and who frequently venture into “Jews are lizard people” land. Also, it isn’t clear whether the echo is supposed to be an educational thing or a trolling thing, and if it’s to be both, the path from trolling to education is convoluted and hazard-laden.

5. In 5 years, if the echo is widely used at all, another weak prediction of mine is the echo will simply signal to most people that the person around whose name it’s used is Jewish, and nothing else beyond whatever meaning various groups ascribe to that information. Most groups ascribe very little to it compared to current echo-users. A few interested people might dig and find out something along the lines of “Hey did you know this used to be a way for racist anti-Semites to mark Jews for harassment online?” and that will either be an interesting tidbit to which they shrug and move on, or it will put a bad taste in their mouths and they’ll avoid it. Then the whole thing will fade away except maybe for the people who used it initially.

*The Wikipedia article is of course one-sided and broad-brushed. I don’t know of any neutral treatment of it, so I recommend personally interacting with more than one actual echo-users to get a fuller understanding.