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Berkeley and Hitler

Here’s the best article you are likely to read about the absurdity of calling ANY American president Hitler. This is the sort of persuasion (sprinkled with facts) that can dissolve some of the post-election cognitive dissonance that hangs like a dark cloud over the country. Share it liberally, so to speak. You might save lives.

Speaking of Hitler, I’m ending my support of UC Berkeley, where I got my MBA years ago. I have been a big supporter lately, with both my time and money, but that ends today. I wish them well, but I wouldn’t feel safe or welcome on the campus. A Berkeley professor made that clear to me recently. He seems smart, so I’ll take his word for it.

I’ve decided to side with the Jewish gay immigrant who has an African-American boyfriend, not the hypnotized zombie-boys in black masks who were clubbing people who hold different points of view. I feel that’s reasonable, but I know many will disagree, and possibly try to club me to death if I walk on campus. 

Yesterday I asked my most liberal, Trump-hating friend if he ever figured out why Republicans have most of the Governorships, a majority in Congress, the White House, and soon the Supreme Court. He said, “There are no easy answers.”

I submit that there are easy answers. But for many Americans, cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias hide those easy answers behind Hitler hallucinations. 

I’ll keep working on clearing the fog. Estimated completion date, December 2017. It’s a big job.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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President Trump and the Other Countries

Today’s news will be all about President Trump’s tense phone calls with the leaders of Australia and Mexico. The popular spin is that the president was rude and aggressive with both of them. Very unpresidential, say the critics. Maybe he is crazy! And orange! Chaos! Chaos! Chaos!

Another spin on the same observations is that both Australia and Mexico required their leaders to “stand up” to President Trump in a more aggressive way than you would expect with a normal president. I didn’t hear the details of the calls, but I have to think they were lecturing him, or talking down to him, or generally being dicks because that’s what their countries required of them in this situation. Trump just showed them what that strategy buys them.

If you see one phone call as an event that stands alone, you’re missing the story arc. Everything is an ongoing negotiation with Trump. Australia and Mexico just had to sleep on the idea that their relationship with the United States is worse today than yesterday. And it sends a signal to other leaders that lecturing President Trump with an eye toward grandstanding or embarrassing him isn’t the strongest strategy. He probably needed to make that point one way or another. That’s done. Now let’s see if the next foreign leader decides to lecture him or not. I’m thinking no.

There will be plenty of breathless commentary today about the end of civil diplomacy. What we don’t know is how it all turns out. Don’t judge a book by the first sentence. The fun is just starting.

Just to be clear, I’m sure the new administration is making plenty of rookie errors. It’s not all brilliant persuasion. But don’t assume you can tell them apart with limited information.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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Introducing the Chaos Drinking Game

Every time you hear the word “chaos” on CNN this weekend, take a swig of alcohol. You’ll be drunk in ten minutes.

As you know by now, the word chaos is engineered persuasion from someone on the left. (Godzilla?) All of the pundits, celebrities, and TV hosts that dislike Trump are using it as often as possible. It’s starting to become hilarious because word-thinking is all they have left.

Is it time to turn “chaos” into a drinking game? Take a shot every time you hear someone say “chaos” on CNN this Friday night. 

You’re still right. They still can’t stop using that word. @ScottAdamsSays

— Glacenoir (@glacenoir) February 1, 2017

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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Hypnotists Flips Pro-Choicers to Pro-Life in Seconds (I explain how)

Here’s a link to a provocative (and disturbing) short video of a hypnotist (my word) flipping pro-choicers to pro-life in minutes. I judge it to be real because the persuasion technique is solid gold. I’ll tell you how he did it after you watch.

I’ll explain the steps he used. These are not necessarily in order. 

Step One: Choose your subjects carefully

Notice that the subjects were on the young side. Young people are easier to flip because they haven’t had as long to harden their opinions and to make those opinions part of their core self-image. The hypnotist’s method would usually fail with people over fifty. (I assume, based on what I know of persuasion.)

Step Two: Pre-suasion

Read the book Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini to see how mentioning one topic (in this case the Holocaust) can bias you for an unrelated topic that you discuss right after. The trick is to put the pre-suasion immediately before the persuasion. You don’t want time to pass. The immediacy is what makes it work. You want topic A to conflate in your brain with topic B, even if they are unrelated.

Obviously you need to pick your priming topic carefully, and that isn’t always obvious. In Cialdini’s book he discusses a study that says people are more likely to vote Republican immediately after seeing an image of an American flag. That wouldn’t have been obvious to me. But in the video it is a bit easier to see why the hypnotist chose the holocaust as his primer before discussing abortion.

The hypnotist shows us his technique with a word-play game. He asks his subjects to spell the word “shop.” Then he immediately asks them what they do when they see a green light. They reflexively say “stop” because he primed them with the word “shop.” (The correct answer is that green lights mean go, not stop.) The hypnotist accomplishes two things with this question. He first makes the subjects start to doubt their own common sense, which helps if you want to change a mind. But it is also a wink to the trained persuaders watching the video. He is showing us his technique. 

As I have told you in this blog before, persuasion works even if you know the technique and recognize it as it is happening to you. 

Notice also that the hypnotist chooses the holocaust because it has maximum emotional impact and he can describe a bulldozer scene that is chilling and visual. He also uses trial jury legend Gerry Spence’s method of putting them in the imagined scene so if feels personal. 

For maximum persuasion you want high visual content and high emotional content. The hypnotist maxed out on both. (This guy is not a beginner.)

Step Three: Make them convince themselves

The hypnotist asks questions and lets the subjects talk themselves into changing their opinions. If he directly challenged their beliefs they would just harden in their resistance. But he gives them encouragement and the freedom to do it on their own. That freedom is an illusion. He is changing their minds for them.

I use this method a lot. 

Step Four: Get them to say “baby”

The hypnotist tries to lead the subject into calling a fetus of any age a “baby.” He does that by showing sonograms of a fetus just a few weeks old. Remember that our visual sense is our strongest. Seeing eye-indications on the fetus makes us think of a human. It makes us assume life. It’s a reflex. 

Then he asks the subject to fill in the answer to the following question:

“It’s okay to kill a baby in the womb when…”

That’s triggers the subjects to become pro-life at that moment.

Step Five: Move them from certainty to doubt.

Some subjects probably didn’t say “baby” when prompted, so the hypnotist takes another path. He asks them if they would blow up a building if they didn’t know for sure whether or not there was a living person inside. Of course the subjects say no.

Then the hypnotist connects the dots. You can’t be 100% certain there is no “life” in a fetus, even at a few weeks from conception. It is unknowable.

The subjects in the film give up at that point and express pro-life sentiments.

Notice that “blow up the building” is super-strong visual imagery. That is good technique.

Step Six: Make them say the new opinion out loud

The hypnotist makes his subjects state clearly and publicly their new position as pro-lifers. Cialdini’s book Influence teaches us that once you commit to a stance it becomes hard to change your mind. So as soon as the hypnotist got the conversion he wanted he locked it in by making them proclaim their new position in public.

Step Five: Ignore the failed attempts

I assume the video leaves out any failed attempts. This isn’t the sort of thing that works every time. It leaves the viewer with the idea that pro-choicers are just confused. All they need is two minutes of explanation and they will flip.

The reality is that most people are locked into their positions on abortion. The hypnotist in this video is crazy-good, but you can’t flip most people that quickly.

Still, the fact that it can work at all should tell you that everything you ever thought about human rationality was wrong.

Update: Some of you asked what method could be used to flip someone from pro-life to pro-choice. That’s harder because the emotional argument is heavily biased to one side. (You can’t top a dead baby-maybe.) And emotion is a big part of persuasion. The Persuasion Filter predicts a long term trend toward restricting abortion rights simply because that side of the debate got their persuasion right, finally. 

My own view on abortion is that men like me should sideline themselves on this topic and let women decide what situation is most credible and tolerable. I’ll follow their lead. I add nothing to the quality of the decision. (The financial dimension is a separate question.)

On a totally unrelated note, what is the most useful and entertaining book you have ever read? 

Scott Adams

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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The Odds of Being Killed by an Immigrant

I keep seeing tweets and articles saying the odds of an immigrant killing a citizen of the United States are approximately zero. Obviously those calculations assume that our past experiences do a good job of predicting what happens next. And this is good news. Really, really, good news.

It’s good news because I used to be afraid of lots of stuff that never happened in the past. For example, I have never died from a nuclear attack, but now I understand that risk to be zero. We can dismantle our nuclear deterrents and relax. If a nuclear bomb hasn’t killed me in the past, I can safely conclude that it will never kill me in the future. I feel sorry for all of you science-deniers who think otherwise.

I built a complicated prediction model to prove my point. The model only has one variable – the number of times I have died in nuclear blasts in the past. That number equals the number of times I will die in nuclear blasts in the future. Skeptics might doubt the credibility of my prediction model, but I would argue that it fits the past quite well. And that means it predicts the future too, unless you are ignorant of science and whatnot. 

More good news: Climate change is not a risk in the future. Man-made warming has never destroyed civilization in the past, so that means there is no chance it will happen in the future. That’s how the past works; it tells you what happens in the future. And boy is that handy. Before I learned that secret I was just guessing.

We all learned as kids that history repeats itself. You know it is true because you heard it when you were young and stupid, and it stuck in your head. That’s proof right there. And it fits your observations too. For example, look how many times the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. They must have done it thousands of times by now, just like they did the first time. You might think the airplane would stay invented. But that’s not how the past works, you ignoramus. The past repeats. Those brothers just keep inventing that airplane, over and over. Even after they died, which obviously they did not see coming because they had not died in the past.

Now let me tell you a little secret about investing that will make all of you rich if you follow my advice. History repeats, so buy stocks that have already gone way up in value. Those stocks have no choice but to keep going up forever. Remember, history repeats. Those stocks have no choice. Easy money.

You’re welcome!

I left the best part for last. It turns out that you and I are immortal because we have never died in the past. And throw away those condoms because you can’t get any diseases or babies you don’t already have. Seatbelts are a waste of time too.

I’m thinking about taking up smoking because I know a smoker who got hit by a car and died. If smoking didn’t kill that guy, I can be confident it will never kill me either. I’ve been living my life as a scaredy cat and never knew it.

And someone needs to tell Trump he isn’t really the president. We’ve never had a real estate developer as president in the past, so obviously it didn’t happen this time either. 

— sarcasm off —

The idea that we can predict the future based on the past is one of our most persistent illusions. It isn’t rational (for the vast majority of situations) and it doesn’t match our observations. But we think it does. 

The big problem is that we have lots of history from which to cherry-pick our predictions about the future. The only reason history repeats is because there is so much of it. Everything that happens today is bound to remind us of something that happened before, simply because lots of stuff happened before, and our minds are drawn to analogies. 

History does repeat in the scientific sense. If you can rigorously control the variables of your experiment, you can expect the same outcomes almost every time. But the real world is not a controlled experiment. 

That said, the odds of any one American getting killed by an immigrant is probably about zero. But the odds of at least one American getting killed by at least one immigrant in the next thousand years is close to 100%. It seems to me that the only honest and rational opinion about immigration is one that takes this form:

Example rational and honest opinion:

– I favor immigration of X type, and…

– I understand that the likely cost in American lives will range between zero and several thousand dead and wounded over the next ten years. On top of that, I recognize that the families of the victims are destroyed at the same time, so perhaps 100,000 people will be adversely affected by looser immigration of the type I favor. I accept that risk to maintain the rights of non-Americans to immigrate here and to preserve the national character of the United States as a nation of immigrants. I also think it makes it easier to combat terrorism because it makes us look like less of an enemy to Islam.

But you rarely hear an opinion that sounds like that. Instead we get various versions of this:

Example irrational and dishonest opinion 1:

– I favor immigration of X type, and…

– There is no substantial risk because immigrants from the specific countries that are subject to the temporary ban have never killed any Americans in terrorist ways before.

– Stop talking about rape, you racist.

On the other side of the debate you see this:

Example irrational and dishonest opinion 2:

– I say I oppose immigration from Muslim countries because I want to protect myself and my country from potential terror attacks. And…

– I’m not allowed to say that my real fear is that if Islam gets a large enough foothold in the United States we will be transitioning from a situation of assimilation to one of eventual conquest because Islam doesn’t like to play second fiddle.

I don’t know how immigration will turn out. But I am confident that the outcome will not be based on reason. And that might be okay too. Citizens don’t like to live in fear, even if the fear is irrational. People who are afraid of flying find the experience deeply unsettling even if they understand the risks to be miniscule. Fear matters, and Americans have fear about immigration. Find a way to remove the fear – that doesn’t involve backwards-facing statistics – and you have the possibility of a rational solution. And the only way to remove fear is to eliminate terrorism by persuading terrorists to stop. 

I’ll work on that for you.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub, a link you clicked because you are curious

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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Is President Trump Doing Management Wrong?

I made the mistake of turning on CNN yesterday and saw all the hypnotized pundits trying to work the secret persuasion word “chaos” into every comment about President Trump. That’s your tell that none of the pundits are offering independent opinions. They are part of the hive mind led by some uncredited persuader on their side. Someone told them to say “chaos” a lot, and so they do. This might signal the return of Godzilla. Reminds me of “dark,” their hive-mind word for the summer of 2016.

It appears that Trump’s counter-persuasion for “chaos” involves framing his administration as “disruptive.” That’s a good persuasion move because it doesn’t deny the observations. A disruption looks a lot like chaos from the outside. Two movies on one screen.

The interesting question to me is this: How do we know whether President Trump is doing a good job or a bad one? What standard do we use for comparison? If you are not comparing Trump’s performance to some objective standard, you’re not saying anything at all.

Does it make sense to compare President Trump’s performance to an imaginary president who didn’t get elected? I don’t think science recognizes your imagination as the base case for an experiment. It just feels like it should be. That’s an illusion.

Does it make sense to compare President Trump’s performance to past presidents who got a lot done in the first week? Well, maybe, if such a person existed. No one has ever tried moving at Trump’s speed before. We expect the slow-moving traditional leader to create less “chaos” than the entrepreneurial and disruptive leader. But don’t you have to include the benefits in this comparison? The whole point of Trump’s flurry of activity is that he’s trying to create good outcomes. We don’t know if the good outcomes will pan out. All we know is that it was a bit messy at the start. 

Is being a bit messy a sign of a problem?

Not if you’re the entrepreneurial, disruptive, candidate of change who just got elected.

Let me explain another management concept that the pundits don’t understand because, generally speaking, they don’t have the right kind of education or experience to analyze a business process. 

There are two basic styles of management. One is the cautious style of Fortune 500 companies. The other is the rapid-iteration and A/B testing style of entrepreneurs. Trump is bringing the latter style to the office. The markers for this style of management include:

1. Rapid and decisive hiring and firing.

2. Bias toward action. 

3. Rapid A/B testing. Release the early beta version and judge reactions. Adjust accordingly.

4. Emphasis on the psychology of success. Entrepreneurial management includes lots of persuasion and bullshit because entrepreneurs have to fake it until they make it. In other words, they have to create demand via persuasion.

Compare that management style to a large company style. Big companies move slowly in both hiring and firing. They get caught in “analysis paralysis” because no one wants to be seen as making a mistake. And they don’t do rapid testing and iteration with consumers. They try to get it right before any customers see the product. 

The world is watching Trump trade some “chaos” to get the benefits of entrepreneurial management. It’s fast and messy, but he’s testing in real time. He’s watching protests. He’s watching news coverage. He’s watching social media. And he’s rapidly adjusting as needed. The net effect of Trump’s bias for action in his first week is that he created a presidential brand of being the most action-oriented president of all time. Your first impression will be sticky. If things work out for Trump, you will forget any temporary “chaos” and remember him as the most effective president in history. Success fixes everything. Every entrepreneur knows that.

The smartest person I know told me that the secret to business success does NOT necessarily involve hiring the right people. We just think it does. The real secret to success is firing the people that you discover to be the wrong fit until eventually you END UP with the right people. No one is psychic enough to do hiring right every time. Job applicants are good at misrepresenting themselves. But a good leader knows which employees to fire and does it quickly and humanely.

Trump fires well. We saw him fire campaign managers as needed to restaff for each phase of his campaign. Lewandowski was perfect for the scrappy first months. Manafort was the right campaign manager to get Trump through the nomination process. And Conway was the right pick as his closer.

I’m not suggesting that everything Trump does is the right move. Quite the opposite. I’m suggesting that he has chosen an entrepreneurial management style that is guaranteed to create more small-scale unforced errors than you might see from a boring Fortune 500 management style. If Trump quickly fixes his unforced errors, you’re seeing a style done right, not wrong. 

If you see a pundit crying “chaos” about Trump’s early moves, you’re probably seeing someone with no entrepreneurial management experience. In the startup world, speed has replaced intelligence whenever you can rapidly test*. Doing things quickly, and adjusting as needed, often gets you to a faster/better result than planning a moonshot that has exactly one path to success. 

Obviously you want to match the management style to the situation. The messy entrepreneurial style might work great for fixing “systems” in the government, such as healthcare and immigration. It should work against ISIS too. And I expect it will be great for negotiating with other countries because they don’t know what to expect. 

But sometimes you need to get it right the first time because the stakes are high. Those situations will be obvious to any president. I wouldn’t worry about President Trump launching some nukes just to see how it turns out. 

A good way to tell whether a pundit or citizen understands the field of risk management well enough to critique Trump’s performance is to ask how they view his history of bankruptcies. If a person thinks those bankruptcies are a sign of poor management, they probably don’t know much about business. But if they understand the few bankruptcies – out of hundreds of projects – as part of a diversification strategy with good risk management that siloed off the losers, you might be seeing someone who understands business.

*The smartest person I know told me that too.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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The Persuasion Filter Looks at Torture. Does it Work?

If I ever get captured and threatened with torture it will take about five seconds for me to give up every secret I have. That’s because I know I would break eventually, so why put up with unnecessary torture?

I assume the same is true for the lightly-trained ISIS fighters. Some are just teenagers. Once the bravery-inducing drugs in their system wear off, I have to assume that at least some of them – if not most – would become quite flexible under the threat of torture, not to mention the torture itself.

But won’t they lie?

Well, in many cases the secrets they reveal under torture can be easily checked. If they tell you ISIS has a munitions storage area somewhere, you can go check it out. If they tell you there are ISIS troops massing somewhere, you can fly a drone over and take a look. 

And if you learn that the prisoner lied? More torture, I assume, and probably worse than the first time. So lying about things that can be verified is a bad strategy for a captive.

Some things can’t be verified. But sometimes you have two prisoners. See if their stories match up. That would help.

My point is that common sense, combined with everything you know about human beings, tells you that torture works, at least in some cases. It would work on me. It would work on you. It would certainly work on under-trained ISIS prisoners. 

So why do the experts say torture doesn’t work? 

The answer can be found in the Persuasion Filter. Torture is persuasion, but so is the way you talk about it. If you promote me to the rank of General, put me on television, and ask me if torture works, do you know what I’ll say?

I’ll say it doesn’t work. 

I’ll say I can get more cooperation by being nice. I will look you in the eye and lie my ass off. Because that’s my job.

As a military General, my job is to keep my troops safe. So I will lie about the effectiveness of torture for several reasons: 

1) An enemy might someday capture my troops. I don’t want the enemy to think torture is a practical option.

2) I don’t want the enemy to know their captured soldiers will be giving up their secrets to my side in under five seconds.

3) I don’t want to tarnish the brand of the United States or the military by associating it with torture.

4) I don’t want to go to jail. Torture is illegal.

So the ideal approach for an “expert” on torture is to say in public that it never works while finding ways to skirt the law and use it anyway when needed. Waterboarding, for example, was an attempt to stay legal while still “torturing.” 

Keep in mind that for every “expert” on television that says torture never works, there are lots of “experts” around the world using the method every day. I doubt they would use if it it NEVER worked. After all, they are the experts.

This brings us to President Trump. He says with surprising candor that he believes torture works but will follow the recommendation of his generals who say it doesn’t.

Interpretation: Torture works. The generals know it. We’ll find a way to do it if necessary to keep the country safe. You don’t want to know the details.

We like to believe that experts are more credible than non-experts. And President Trump is no expert on torture. But keep in mind that President Trump is a Master Persuader who can detect bullshit faster than normal people. 

You might even call him an expert at detecting bullshit. 

When President Trump presents something as fact, the odds are high that it is hyperbole or just persuasion. You don’t want to assume his facts are literally true, although they are usually emotionally or directionally true.

But if President Trump – The Master Persuader – tells you someone else’s facts are bullshit, you can usually take that to the bank. The man knows bullshit when he sees it. And with his skillset he can also smell it coming from miles away.

On an unrelated topic, when you see President Trump disagreeing with the experts on climate change, you assume he has no credibility. He’s not an expert in the field. But he does know bullshit when he sees it. And I think he believes the prediction models are unlikely to be accurate. (As do I.) The prediction models are not science, per se. They are persuasion disguised as science via the process of conflation and association. And Trump knows persuasion.

Trump could be completely wrong about climate change. So could I. But when the Master Persuader calls bullshit on something, be cautious about betting against him. 

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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The Canadian Option

My most agitated liberal friend sent me a link today about Justin Trudeau announcing Canada would take all of the Trump-banned immigrants because diversity is their strength. My friend said that was an example of real leadership.

His conclusion is debatable, but didn’t Canada just solve all of Trump’s problems? If humane treatment of immigrants is the goal, Canada is the right place. They have polite behavior, free healthcare, and lots of space. That’s a win-win-win.

Or am I missing something?

Canada also gives us a test case to compare to America’s plan. In five years we can check back and see how it turned out for them. If it worked, we can reassess. Until then we obviously need to wall-off Canada. But that’s another topic.

Now that I think about it, the Middle East has a lot of space too. Remind me again why Muslim countries are banning Muslim immigrants. Is it because they are Hitler?

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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Be Careful What You Wish For (especially if it is Hitler)

As a trained persuader, I’m seeing a dangerous situation forming that I assume is invisible to most of you. The setup is that during the presidential campaign Trump’s critics accused him of being Hitler(ish) and they were sure other citizens would see it too, thus preventing this alleged monster from taking office.

They were wrong. The alleged monster took office.

Now you have literally millions of citizens in the United States who were either right about Trump being the next Hitler, and we will see that behavior emerge from him soon, or they are complete morons. That’s a trigger for cognitive dissonance. The science says these frightened folks will start interpreting all they see as Hitler behavior no matter how ridiculous it might seem to the objective observer. And sure enough, we are seeing that.

To be fair, Trump made it easy this week with his temporary immigration ban. If you assume Trump is Hitler, that fits with your hypothesis. But of course it also fits the hypothesis that he’s just doing his job. We’re all seeing what we expect to see. 

But lately I get the feeling that Trump’s critics have evolved from expecting Trump to be Hitler to preferring it. Obviously they don’t prefer it in a conscious way. But the alternative to Trump becoming Hitler is that they have to live out the rest of their lives as confirmed morons. No one wants to be a confirmed moron. And certainly not after announcing their Trump opinions in public and demonstrating in the streets. It would be a total embarrassment for the anti-Trumpers to learn that Trump is just trying to do a good job for America. It’s a threat to their egos. A big one.

And this gets me to my point. When millions of Americans want the same thing, and they want it badly, the odds of it happening go way up. You can call it the power of positive thinking. It is also the principle behind affirmations. When humans focus on a desired future, events start to conspire to make it happen.

I’m not talking about any new-age magic. I’m talking about ordinary people doing ordinary things to turn Trump into an actual Hitler. For example, if protesters start getting violent, you could expect forceful reactions eventually. And that makes Trump look more like Hitler. I can think of dozens of ways the protesters could cause the thing they are trying to prevent. In other words, they can wish it into reality even though it is the very thing they are protesting.

In the 3rd dimension of persuasion, the protesters need to be proven right, and they will do whatever it takes to make that happen. So you might see the protesters inadvertently create the police state they fear.

If you are looking for the tells that this dangerous situation is developing, notice how excited/happy the Trump critics seem to be – while angry at the same time – that Trump’s immigration ban fits their belief system. If you see people who are simply afraid of Trump, they are probably harmless. But the people who are excited about any Hitler-analogy-behavior by Trump might be leading the country to a police state without knowing it.

So watch for that.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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The Persuasion Filter and Immigration

President Trump has issued temporary immigration orders that ban citizens from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. This is a good opportunity to test the Persuasion Filter against what you might call the Hitler Filter.

For new readers of this blog, my starting point is the understanding that human brains did not evolve to show us reality. We aren’t that smart. Instead, our brains create little movies in our heads, and yours can be completely different from mine. We see that situation now. Half the country thinks President Trump is well on his way to becoming a Hitler-like dictator. But many other Americans think Trump is an effective business person with good intentions. They can’t both be right.

I use the word “filter” to describe an optional way of looking at the world. A good filter is one that makes you happy and does a good job of predicting what happens next. Let’s use that standard to compare the Hitler Filter to what I call the Persuasion Filter.

The Hitler filter clearly isn’t making people happy. The people watching that movie are protesting in the streets. Meanwhile, the people who see Trump as a good negotiator looking out for the country are quite happy with the job he has done so far. The Persuasion Filter says Trump opens with a big first offer and negotiates back to something reasonable. If you don’t recognize the method, it looks crazy, random, and racist. 

But what about predictions?

The Persuasion Filter predicting Trump would become president when the Hitler Filter thought he had no chance. Now we have another chance to test the predictive power of the Persuasion Filter.

If Trump is a Master Persuader, as I have been telling you for over a year, he just solved his biggest problem with immigration and you didn’t notice. The biggest problem is that his supporters on the right want more immigration control than he can (or should) deliver while his many critics on the left want far less. Normally when you negotiate there is only one party on the other side. But in this case, Trump is negotiating two extremes in two different directions. It’s the toughest possible situation. Best case scenario is that 40% of the country want you dead when it’s all over. Not good.

So what does a President Trump do when he is in an impossible situation?

According to the Hitler Filter, he does more Hitler stuff, such as being more extreme than anyone expected with his recent immigration declarations. That filter accurately predicted that he would be “worse” once elected. Sure enough, his temporary immigration ban is more extreme than most people expected. If things never get worse from this point on, we would have to question the Hitler Filter. But if things get worse still, the Hitler Filter is looking good.

Compare to the Persuasion Filter. This filter says Trump always opens with an extreme first offer so he has room to negotiate to the middle. The temporary ban fits that model perfectly. On the immigration topic alone, both the Hitler Filter and the Persuasion Filter predict that we get to exactly the point we are at today. Let’s call that a tie in terms of predictive power. The hard part is predicting what happens next.

The Persuasion Filter says Trump is negotiating with his critics on the extreme right at the same time as he is negotiating with his critics on the left. He needed one “opening offer” that would set up both sides for the next level of persuasion. And he found it. You just saw it.

The left sees Trump’s executive orders on immigration as pure Hitler behavior. That gives him plenty of room to negotiate to the middle. The initial orders are too broad, and clearly target too many of the wrong people. As he fixes those special cases he will be moving away from the Hitler model toward the middle. And people are more influenced by the DIRECTION of things than the absolute position of things. As long as he is moving away from the Hitler analogy, people will chill out, even if they think he was too close to that position before. Direction matters.

Trump’s temporary immigration ban set a mental anchor in your brain that is frankly shocking. It will make his eventual permanent immigration plan (”extreme vetting”) look tame by comparison. The Persuasion Filter says that’s his strategy. Because that’s ALWAYS his strategy. He acts the same way every time. He wrote a book about it. He talks about it publicly. Then he does it right in front of us, over and over. And no matter how many times he does it, half the country still thinks the opening offer is the real one. 

I’ve mentioned in this blog a few times that persuasion works even when the subject of the persuasion recognizes all the techniques as they happen. This is a perfect case. The left has been watching Trump make big offers and dial them back for the past year. And yet they still think this time it will be different. The Persuasion Filter says that 70-year old Trump will act the same way today as he has for the past several decades: Big first offer, then negotiate.

But what about Trump’s critics on the far right who want more extreme immigration? Trump needs to negotiate with them too. And he is. He did that by showing them that his temporary offer was so extreme that people took to the streets. The system (America) is actively trying to eject Trump like some sort of cancer cell. And the worse it gets, with protests and whatnot, the more leverage Trump has to tell his far right supporters that he has gone as far as the country will let him go. He needed that. The protests are working in his favor. He couldn’t negotiate with the extreme right without them.

Are Trump’s temporary immigration plans chaotic? Yes. Do they hurt innocent people who were minding their own business? Yes, temporarily at least. Did he scare the pants off of half the country? Yes. Will there be lots of unintended damage from Trump’s immigration orders? Yes. No honest person should deny the cost component of the equation. It’s ugly. But don’t stop with a half-pinion. If you want a full opinion on immigration you have to compare those costs to the potential benefits that include fewer terrorist acts and avoiding Europe’s refugee problems. Are people making that comparison?


On Twitter I am seeing lots of well-meaning liberals tweet charts showing that no one from the banned countries has ever been a terrorist in the United States. But Trump isn’t trying to solve the PAST. He’s trying to reduce risks in the future. And the future has risks that are unlike the past.

If you want your president to solve only problems that have already happened in the past, we can ignore any potential climate change issues too. Human activity has never warmed the planet too much in the past, so why worry about it in the future? The point is that we try to stop problems before they happen, not after. Terrorism and climate change are similar in that one narrow way. They are both problems of the future, not the past. You can’t look to history to figure out how to solve either one of them. Dinosaurs didn’t drive cars and ISIS didn’t always have hobby-sized drones that can drop bombs.

On a related topic, President Obama and past leaders have gone out of their way to avoid labelling Islam as the problem behind terrorism. That makes sense on a rational level because only a tiny percentage of Muslims are terrorists. Obama wanted to avoid causing a religious war that pitted Christians against Muslims. So he avoided saying “radical Islamic terror,” for example. One could make a good case that Obama’s approach was the wisest path. It allowed us to stay on good relations with our Muslim allies and it probably depressed recruitment for the terrorists, at least a little bit. Smart, right?

Now we see Trump doing exactly the opposite. His words and actions seem to be intentionally mixing the Muslim “brand” with the terrorist “brand.” How does that make sense with the Persuasion Filter? I’ll tell you how.

President Obama’s approach was to give a free pass to Islam in general and to any Muslims that were just minding their own business. But the unintended consequence is that Muslims have less incentive to police their own ranks. Trump changed that. Now if you want to stay out of the fight against terrorism it will cost you. 

So Trump has created a situation – or will soon – in which the peaceful Muslims will either have to do a lot more to help law enforcement find the terrorists in their midst or else live with an increasingly tainted brand. Trump is issuing no free passes for minding your own business. His model makes you part of the solution or part of the problem. No one gets to sit this one out.

I’m not smart enough to know whether President Obama or President Trump have the best strategy in this regard. But both strategies are rational.

Scott Adams

Co-founder of WhenHub

Author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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Outrage Dilution

I’m having a fun time watching President Trump flood the news cycle with so many stories and outrages that no one can keep up. Here’s how the math of persuasion works in this situation:

1 outrage out of 3 headlines in a week: Bad Persuasion

25 outrages out of 25 headlines in a week: Excellent Persuasion

At the moment there are so many outrages, executive orders, protests, and controversies that none of them can get enough oxygen in our brains. I can’t obsess about problem X because the rest of the alphabet is coming at me at the same time. 

When you encounter a situation that is working great except for one identifiable problem, you can focus on the problem and try to fix it. But if you have a dozen complaints at the same time, none of them looks special. The whole situation just looks confusing, and you don’t know where to start. So you wait and see what happens. Humans need contrast in order to make solid decisions that turn into action. Trump removed all of your contrast by providing multiple outrages of similar energy.

You’re probably seeing the best persuasion you will ever see from a new president. Instead of dribbling out one headline at a time, so the vultures and critics can focus their fire, Trump has flooded the playing field. You don’t know where to aim your outrage. He’s creating so many opportunities for disagreement that it’s mentally exhausting. Literally. He’s wearing down the critics, replacing their specific complaints with entire encyclopedias of complaints. And when Trump has created a hundred reasons to complain, do you know what impression will be left with the public?

He sure got a lot done.

Even if you don’t like it. 

In only a few days, Trump has made us question what-the-hell every other president was doing during their first weeks in office. Were they even trying? 

For a fun party trick, ask your most liberal friends if they think the Federal government should have a say in whether a woman gets an abortion or not. When they say the Federal government should stay out of that decision, inform them that President Trump shares their opinion. He doesn’t want the Federal government to be in the business of making health care choices for women. He prefers leaving that decision to the woman, her doctor, and state laws. 

Many of you have thought of different uses for WhenHub because those situations keep popping up in your life. It’s hard to avoid them.

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Should Twitter and Facebook be Regulated as Utilities?

The Constitution guarantees every citizen the right of free speech. But what happens when the most effective channels for that speech are corporations such as Twitter and Facebook? Does the government have an obligation to make sure those companies are not limiting free speech for some classes of users?

My sketchy understanding of the law is that the government is only responsible for making sure the government itself is not abridging free speech. I think most of us agree that we don’t want the government volunteering for any more work than the constitution says it should be doing.

But shouldn’t the federal government get involved if a few monopoly corporations start to control the national conversation by filtering out voices that disagree with them? 

That seems to be the situation right now. For example, Twitter is apparently “shadowbanning” me because of my past Trump tweets, or so I assume. That means my tweets only go out to a subset of my followers. The rest don’t know I tweeted. My followers tell me this is the case. They have to visit my timeline to see my tweets.

@ScottAdamsSays Your tweets are not at all showing up in my tweetfeed. 😠

— Roopa Dudley (@ArtRoopaDudley) January 26, 2017

Realistically, can I quit Twitter and be a successful media personality without it? Not in today’s world. The only way I could make that work is by having a huge presence on Facebook or Instagram.

But that might be a problem too. Instagram (owned by Facebook) just removed my girlfriend’s (@KristinaBasham) blue verification badge – on inauguration day – without explanation. Was that politically motivated? She has 2.7 million followers and lots of imposters pretending to be her. The blue verification badge was invented for situations like hers. We have no way to contact anyone at Instagram to fix it. 

The same thing happened a few months ago and we worked through a friend-of-a-friend to get her verification badge back. The official explanation was that removing it the first time was just a glitch. This time my contact didn’t reply to my email.

I can’t be 100% sure that Twitter is shadowbanning me to limit my political speech. They might have a bug in their system, for example. But it would be a big coincidence if they are not, given how many Trump supporters were targeted by Twitter in the past year. 

Likewise, I can’t be 100% sure my girlfriend is being punished by Facebook/Instagram for her association with me. But it seems like a big coincidence that she lost the verification on Inauguration Day. That lack of transparency is just as much of a problem as an actual abridgement of free speech. if I can’t know whether my freedom of speech is being limited by corporate overlords, how can I have trust in the Republic? And without trust, the system falls apart.

I want to trust my government, but without freedom of speech, I find that impossible. That’s why I support creating a law requiring the government to audit the major social media sites to certify that freedom of speech still exists for all classes of users. (Within reason.)

You might think there is not much risk of losing the right of free speech in the United States. But keep in mind that I have already lost my free speech in a practical sense. The social media tools you take for granted are not available to me in their full form.

If that doesn’t scare the shit out of you, it should.

A number of you have asked me whether I have been predicting recent political events with spooky accuracy or actually causing them with my own persuasion. You might get some insight into that question by watching what happens on this topic. My intention is to influence.

How am I doing so far?

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Building My Podcast Streaming Studio at Home

A number of you asked what equipment I’m using to build out my home podcasting studio. I put that tutorial in a WhenHub Whencast (my company’s startup) so you can see an example of how WhenHub works for sort of thing.

In this application the dates are unimportant except for ordering of steps. In a future release we’ll have an option for displaying no dates, just an ordering.

The advantage of the Whencast is that you can clone it and modify it and reshare. For example, if you were a manufacturer selling a different type of video capture card you could just replace the one I show in the example with your product, change the link, and  the Whencast serves as a commercial for your product with a click-to-buy button built in. Best of all, as you update it, the updates flow to all the Whencasts connected to it anywhere in the world.

This visualization style is good for tutorials, but WhenHub has lots of different looks for different applications.

This is just one of a zillion things you can do with Whenhub. You’ll see more examples over time. I’ll try to make the topics worthy of your attention so it isn’t purely commercial. I trust all of you to be smart enough to know that blogs usually have commercial intent no matter what else they have. 

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