I’ve started reading “Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter” by Scott Adams. And it’s about Donald Trump. Mainly.
I suspect that Scott couldn’t fill a whole book boasting about how he called it right and how Donald Trump is a Master Persuader, so he talks a bit about being a trained hypnotist and he brings in some ideas about how people aren’t as rational as they think.
I’m having trouble with the book for two reasons: One, just being right about an outcome doesn’t mean that one is completely right about everything that led one to predict that outcome, and two, Adams seems to be using a lot of his persuasion techiques to convince us of Trump’s mastery.
Adams may have called the election correctly, but it doesn’t logically follow that his reasons were sound, in much the same way that correctly predicting that Stephen Bradbury would win the skating gold medal all those years ago doesn’t mean that you were right when you said, “He’s going to win because he looks like a guy I went to school with who won lots of raffles, so Bradbury is bound to be lucky too!” Similarly, Trump may have won through a combination of persuasive skills and luck. If the FBI hadn’t released a statement about investigating Hillary’s emails in the week before the election, would Donald have still won? And if he hadn’t, Adams assertion that he was a Master Persuader would look a little overcooked.
Of course the book was written earlier in Trump’s presidency and some of Adams’ assertions about Trump pulling back from his more extreme positions during the campaign don’t sound so convincing. He asserts that while Trump said that he’d deport all the undocumented immigrants, he’s changed his position and it’s only those with a criminal history who’ll be sent back. Trump’s recent performance on the DACA legislation makes that claim look more than a little foolish.
Perhaps, Adams would have us believe that his use (or non-use) of the word “shithole” was a deliberate strategy to take focus away from the fact that he changed his mind about the deal.
As I’m reading I’m also aware that some of the techniques described are being used by the writer himself. He suggests that it’s a good idea to find a point of agreement or similarity with the person you’re trying to win over and to use that to help win him over on other issues. So I have to confess to being a bit cynical when Adams tries to establish his “liberal” world-view and tells us that he doesn’t agree with Trump politically. Later on, he tries to justify the Trumpster’s position on climate change being a conspiracy made up by China by suggesting that really China is the country benefitting most from the Paris Treaty. There are a few other times when I notice that Adams is doing exactly what he tells us Trump does.
The book does make some good points, however, so I’ve kept reading. For a start, it makes the point that being wrong about something isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it sucks the oxygen out of other issues and focuses attention on the topic where your opponents are asserting that you’re mistaken. Take, for example, the recent brouhaha about African “gangs”. While the Victorian Government and Police have been at pains to point out that statisitically speaking, this is only a small part of crime in the state, that doesn’t matter because it’s focusing attention on a law and order debate. The Liberals would much rather this than if we were talking about healthcare or education.
And, of course, I realise that I fall into that trap over and over again. I talk about, I write about, I think about the mistakes in what politicians are saying, believing that pointing out their inaccuracies and inconsistencies will help raise the awareness that rather than having the adults run the country, we have a group of whining, complaining toddlers who chuck their toys out of the cot every time something doesn’t suit them. Rather than acknowledging that judicial independence is one of the cornerstones of a free democratic country, we hear complaints about judges ruling in accordance with the law. Who could forget the wonderful oxymoron “vigilante litigation”?
We should be talking about improving health and education systems. We should be looking at better solutions for homelessness. We should stop thinking that simply putting on a white ribbon once in a while fixes domestic violence. We should be asking why Centrelink takes over an hour to answer the phone.
Whatever, we should start setting the agenda and talking about what we see as important, and not let politicians distract us with their talking points.