American presidential elections provide me with hours of entertainment. I love this stuff – especially the “process stories” and “horse race coverage.”
This time round it’s even more entertaining, because Donald Trump is running. But boy, has the media got him wrong! For several months now, Donald Trump has been presented as a clown and amateur, who stumbles from one gaffe to another. And this is the result:
Scott Adams, the author of that comic, is best known for his Dilbert cartoon. He’s also an amateur hypnotist, and author of several books on negotiation and persuasion. He seems pretty good at it. Consider this anecdote from his Wikipedia entry:
In 1997, at the invitation of Logitech CEO Pierluigi Zappacosta, Adams, wearing a wig and false mustache, successfully impersonated a management consultant and tricked Logitech managers into adopting a mission statement that Adams described as “so impossibly complicated that it has no real content whatsoever.”
I think Adams sees a kindred spirit in Donald Trump – who, after all, literally wrote the book on The Art of the Deal. And unlike every other commentator I’ve read, Adams gives a compelling explanation for Trump’s success: the Donald is systematically playing the media, exploiting the visceral reactions of voters, and slaying his opponents. Nothing in his campaign is accidental.
Here is one example:
When CNN anchor Chris Cuomo asked Trump to react to the Pope’s criticism of capitalism, Trump correctly saw it as a trap. If he engaged with the question he would be quoted on this topic and smeared with the association of Trump-capitalism-corruption. Tomorrow the headlines would be some form of “Trump blah, blah, corruption.”
Trump couldn’t bluntly refuse to engage in the question because that would look weak. So how does Trump wiggle out of such a well-crafted media trap?
Trump responds that he would tell the Pope that ISIS is coming to get him, and that they have plans to take the Vatican, which I assume is true, or true enough.
Do you even remember the question anymore?
Now compare the wattage coming from these two thoughts:
1. A boring discussion about corruption in capitalism. (Cuomo’s question.)
2. A mental picture of ISIS taking over the Vatican.
No comparison. Corruption and capitalism are mere concepts that have no visual appeal. The ideas are important yet inert. But an ISIS overthrow of the Vatican is so visual you wonder why it isn’t already a movie. And that visual is all anyone will remember of that interview in a week.
Do you still think Trump’s clown act is random?
Four weeks ago, Adams said that “Hillary Clinton has a 95% chance of being our next president unless we get some surprises. But the other 5% is all Trump.”
Now he says that Trump has a 98% chance of winning the election. He’s the only one saying it, but then he’s also the only one who has been right about Trump so far. It is fascinating commentary. Read it all at blog.dilbert.com.