One year ago, Scott Adams published his theory of Donald John Trump’s success: The Master Persuader Hypothesis. Adams argues, persuasively, that Trump’s success is a result of his exceptional persuasion skills. Shortly thereafter, Mike Cernovich wrote that he recognized Trump’s exceptional mindset, marketing and personal branding ability. Cernovich has since used his own mindset, marketing, and branding skills to become one of the most influential voices in this election.
Are Scott Adams and Mike Cernovich credible authorities on the subject of communication, marketing, branding, and persuasion? Their impact on this election suggests they are. As proof, imagine this election without Scott Adams and Mike Cernovich:
- Trump’s persuasion skills are not on anyone’s radar
- Voters and pundits don’t even have the vocabulary to talk about one of Trump’s great qualities
- The establishment media is free to push their Clown Hitler narrative without any viable antithesis
True, hundreds of news-readers and word-count machines in the legacy media have greater reach than Adams and Cernovich. But in terms of impact, originality, and thought leadership, these two are definitely among the top five most influential. Maybe even the top three.
But there’s a problem. Adams and Cernovich are two of the most skilled persuaders in America right now. Epistemologically, this means we should be very careful about believing their arguments: skilled persuaders can convince you to believe things that aren’t true, thus we should be skeptical of everything they say. So, in the interest of objectivity, let’s examine all possible hypotheses for Donald Trump’s success, and consider which contributed most to his success:
Hypothesis #1) Donald Trump is popular because he is a quintessential American success stories
Trump embodies the work ethic, risk-taking, ambition, and resilience in the face of adversity that represent the best of the American ideal. Born into moderate wealth, Trump chose to work hard and take risks, turning a moderate fortune into a massively successful business empire.
Many of Trump’s detractors have trouble understanding this. They think that Trump was “born rich” and so his wealth and success are unremarkable. This belief is common among people with limited ambition and life experience, for whom there is no conceptual difference between millions and billions of dollars: both amounts are inconceivably stratospheric.
In reality, many hundreds of people are born into comparable wealth every year. How many of them have built an empire comparable to Trumps? The majority are content to live off the interest. Trump chose to live a life characterized by hard work, high risk tolerance, and grand ambition.
Hypothesis #2) Donald Trump is a Leader
The clearest example of President Trump’s leadership is his family. How many children of comparably rich and famous celebrities have turned out as well as Trump’s sober, industrious, loyal, and effective children? Even his ex-wives seem to regard him with warm respect.
Trump, as demonstrated in L’affaire Lewandowski and others, has demonstrated an unyielding loyalty to his employees and allies in business and politics. Trump’s hesitancy – until now – to go for the Juanita-jugular of his golf buddy Bill Clinton may have been a maladaptive expression of this noble trait.
More importantly, Trump is loyal to the American people. He is risking a substantial fraction of his fortune, his pride, and his legacy by taking the side of the most hated cultural and ethnic group in the world today –Vaisya, Borderer, Gun- and Bible-Clinging, Redneck, Mittelstand, Verkrampte Amerikaners. He has suffered the wrath of nearly every one of his peers; given up the earthly rewards of subservience to the globalist elites; and most costly of all, he has burdened his children by irrevocably associating them with rebellion.
This is why Trump can attract tens of thousands of passionate supporters to his rallies: He reeks of loyalty and sincerity. Les Deplorables can sense Trump’s deep commitment to their well-being, and repay him with a loyalty of which establishment Republicans could only dream and salivate.
Hypothesis #3) Donald Trump represents American interests
The insanity of [Current Year] is best shown by the controversy surrounding Trump’s basic, common-sense advocacy of policies that benefit the people of the United States of America:
- Stop illegal immigration
- Restructure trade deals and create middle-class jobs
- Protect Americans from Islamic terror
- Avoid WW3 with Russia
- Don’t get distracted by political correctness
The pitched cacophony of anti-Trump kvetching is telling. All of Trump’s alleged sins – sexual license, obscene wealth, financial opacity, rough manner of speaking – are run-of-the-mill in the upper ranks of American politics, business, and culture. His unique trait, which singles him out for establishment hatred, is his advocacy of pro-American, anti-Globalist public policy.
Hypothesis #4) Donald Trump is an American
Donald John Trump is an American. I don’t mean he has a US passport, or that he lives in New York, or any other superficial markers of 21st-century national identity. I mean that Donald Trump is an American.
This point is missed by the same people who fail to understand how Trump’s nouveau-riche inheritance is a pittance compared to the true landed classes of the world: “How can Trump be anti-establishment? He’s a billionaire!”
But for all his wealth, Trump is a red-blooded American Vaisya in his heart. He eats at McDonalds. He loves football and professional wrestling. As John Mulaney jokes, “Trump is not just a rich man. He’s like a hobo imagines a rich man to be.”
This is a good joke because there’s an element of truth; Trump lacks the subtlety and refinement of traditional American elites. He rejects the Jantelagen reverse snobbery of driving a 10-year old Subaru and having attended college ‘in Boston,’ in favour of gauche, loud-and-proud, in-your-face riches. Trump is a Middle American with a lot of money. Contrast with, e.g., Marco Rubio, the quintessential striver, a broke advocate for globalist billionaire policies.
Rubio and Trump – a deadbeat and a billionaire, each a traitor to his class.
If this portrait of Trump as ‘local boy done good’ doesn’t ring true to you, there’s a good chance you would learn something from Paul Fussel’s Class: A Guide Through The American Status System.
Hypothesis #5) Donald Trump is a Master Persuader
President Trump writes very clever tweets. Trump : Twitter :: FDR : Radio.
Trump is a very good off-the-cuff public speaker.
Trump has done a fine job of distilling his core messaging into sound bite snippets that rapidly procreate through human minds.
Most impressively, Trump is a master of manipulating the dying mainstream media: creating memorable stories, keeping them afloat through multiple news cycles, seasoning his campaign with baited ‘gotchas’ that later turn out to be carefully-orchestrated stunts. A more courageous Ryan Holiday would be using this election as a masterful case study of everything he described in his admittedly brilliant Trust Me I’m Lying.
Hypothesis #6) Donald Trump is perceived as a Master Persuader
The Master Persuader Filter has transformed this election.
The Master Persuader Filter contributes to Trump’s ability to shrug off all manner of controversial statements, by introducing the element of uncertainty, negotiation, and calculated ambiguity to all his public statements. It has changed the rules of the game that Mitt Romney lost with the phrase ‘binders full of women.’
The Master Persuader Filter gives closeted Brahmin Trump supporters a plausibly deniable line of questioning to use in their personal and professional lives:
“I haven’t been following the election much, but I’ve heard all kinds of awful things about Trump. How is he winning? Is he just really good at marketing himself? Is he much smarter than he’s pretending to be?”
Most of all, the Master Persuader filter has offered an opportunity for smart but wavering Americans – notably the sort of broken but ultimately redeemable #NeverTrump-leaning Conservatives, and old-school Democrats who actually believe their speaking points about protecting manufacturing jobs – a #MAGAlite halfway house between political correctness and outright Trump support: the concession that Trump is indeed smarter than he the WaPo editorial board would like you to think.
What fraction of Trump’s success is explained by each of the above factors? I’m going to make a bold claim:
Donald Trump’s persuasion ability is the least important.
Yes, Trump is a top-tier persuasion specialist. Yes, this has been helpful throughout his campaign.
But I find it easy to imagine Trump’s current success without his persuasion skills. I do not find it easy to imagine Trump’s success absent his remarkable personal qualities; no amount of linguistic kill shots could have elevated a weak-minded, risk-averse, pro-amnesty globalist hack to the Trumpian fervour of overflowing stadia and worshipful embrace of 4Chan Traditionautists. Trump’s legions of devoted followers are motivated by something far more primal than eloquence; their passion stems from something simpler, and more meaningful: a Truth so unspeakably terrifying, that even we on the Neoreactionary Right recoil from it: Trump is a Great Man.
Trump is a flawed hero in the American pantheon: an avaricious and lusty man, full of pride, impulsive and temperamental, entering the twilight of a materialistic life. These are the extent of Trump’s sins, and they are all completely irrelevant in the face of his great redemptive third-act crusade to save what’s left of Western civilization for one more generation. Trump’s virtues – industry, persistence, loyalty, and courage – are what’s needed in our present era. His flaws, whatever they may be, are irrelevant in an election with so much at stake.
Thesis: Trump’s persuasion skills are top-notch. However I suggest they are a minor element in the quasi-spiritual Trumpian rebellion against the globalist elite. The true critical success factors are Trump himself, and the principles he stands for. Adams and Cernovich are the True Master Persuaders. These men, heroes in their own right, have constructed a crucial rhetorical and epistemological antechamber for hesitant Trump supporters to rest their eyes while they adjust to the light:
“Suppose…that someone should drag him…by force, up the rough ascent, the steep way up, and never stop until he could drag him out into the light of the sun.’
‘The prisoner would be angry and in pain, and this would only worsen when the radiant light of the sun overwhelms his eyes and blinds him.”
One year ago, America was not ready to take a leap of faith from Trump the Clown Hitler to Trump the American Hero. But they were willing to take a more timid step toward believing in Trump the Master Persuader; Trump the Hypnotist; Trump the ironic God Emperor; Trump the wielder of Meme Magic; Trump the master of 5-D Scattergories.
We’re all fortunate to be living through one of history’s great pivots, immersed in the blogs, tweets, shitposts, Periscopes, and rallies of the great Carlylean Heroes of our time. The Great Persuaders of the Late American Empire have carried us a long way. Now – with one month, one debate, and one election to go – America’s centipedes-in-waiting are free to take the final step into the Light.
If you think Trump has a Winner’s Mindset, you’ll probably enjoy Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich.
If you learn from your mistakes, you may want to read How To Fail At Nearly Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams.
Lots of very smart people are following me on Gab.ai/Thumotic