Today I will explain why Trump insults people. As usual, I will use the Master Wizard filter. That doesn’t mean this explanation is right. But compare it to the alternatives and see if the hypothesis fits the facts better. I remind you this is for fun, not insight.
If you don’t apply the Master Wizard hypothesis, you are probably confused why a grown man keeps insulting people in public. That seems like exactly the opposite of what Trump should be doing to appear presidential. What’s going on here? I mean, Trump seems reasonably smart, but according to 99.99% of the public, he is doing the same dumb thing over and over: insulting people.
Most of you probably assume he’s a big, dumb, racist, loose cannon, spouting off at his enemies, both real and imagined. Crazy!
Over at Reason.com, Nick Gillespie, writes that Trump’s insults are an example of “negging.” That’s what pick-up artists do. The idea is to tear down people’s egos and make them want to try hard to win your respect.
Frankly, I don’t understand the negging explanation. To me, it doesn’t make sense in the political context. But if I am being objective, I am also not the editor in chief of Reason.com, so the problem might be on my end.
Over at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin describes Trump’s actions in the context of bullying. But that doesn’t sound right to me because even his critics acknowledge that he is a counter-puncher. By my way of thinking, the person getting attacked first is not the bully.
The Master Wizard Hypothesis says Trump’s insults are not random, not negging, and not bullying. It is about math. I shall explain. But first, a story.
Back in my corporate days, I had a coworker who was famous for complaining loudly about the intelligence and competence of anyone who got in the way of her plans. She would talk about the low-performers to everyone who would listen, including that person’s boss, and the boss’s boss too.
On the other hand, if you did good work, she would often go to your boss and recommend that you get a raise or a promotion. And her opinion mattered because she was famous for hating dumb people. If she endorsed you as a capable employee, people took that seriously. She had credibility. (She also became the inspiration for my Alice character.)
Now let’s do the math.
If your baseline happiness is a 7 out of 10, and you get praised by someone important in your world, your happiness might go up to a 9, at least temporarily. That’s a two-point improvement.
But if someone insults your competence in front of your boss, that might take you down to a 5, which is a two-point decline. So the difference between a compliment and an insult (in front of your boss) is a full 4-point gap.
If Trump did not insult people, but sometimes praised them, he would be working with only a 2-point potential swing in how happy people can be when they please him. But if insults are a potential outcome – and Trump makes sure you know they are – you have a 4-point gap between pissing him off and pleasing him.
Trump is quick to point out that he only insults people who start it. (Although one assumes there are exceptions.) The result of Trump’s quick counter-attacks is to establish the 4-point gap between pleasing him and annoying him. No one wants a 4-point gap enemy.
Trump also has one weapon that no one else has: He is Trump. He has cultivated a persona for decades that allows him to be over-the-top without risk. So what works for Trump is not something you can use at home unless you have first established yourself as a tough-talking New Yorker. In that context, Trump’s insults sound almost normal.
If you are keeping score, this is one more situation in which the Master Wizard Hypothesis explains the data better than the alternatives. The Master Wizard hypothesis says Trump is a master of persuasion and sets up the 4-point gap intentionally. But are people really that calculated and that consistent with insults over a lifetime?
All I can tell you is that I am. Intentionally.
Ever wonder why I go hard at my haters online instead of ignoring them like a sane adult? Same reason. I want a 4-point gap to work with. The trade-off is that I look like a petulant child while responding to haters. I accept that trade-off in return for maintaining my 4-point gap.
Does it work? Actually, you are good judges on that question.
You have seen me eviscerate idiots in the comments on this blog. And you have seen me compliment people who make smart or funny observations. Do my compliments feel more powerful because you know the opposite could have happened?
To be clear, I distinguish between the insults that are usually counter-punches and the Linguistic Kill Shots that are engineered for strategic purposes. The latter have different purposes, according to the Master Wizard Hypothesis.
Bonus thought: After reading some of Bernie Sanders’ policy ideas that sound good on paper but don’t pencil out for the budget, I think the best kill shot for him would be “confused.” To be fair, every politician will be recommending impractical policy ideas, including Trump. But see how the word “confused” seems to fit Sanders more than it does any of the other candidates? That’s what makes it sticky. And you have never seen that word used in a political context, so it has no baggage of its own.
In Top Tech Blog, now you can “feel” a prosthetic limb. If that works, I might want to replace the ones I have and go full bionic.
Have I mentioned my book? It is full of words and sentences and whatnot. If you read it, I will love you. If you do not read it, you are a terrible person. (See what I did there?)
Update: This is my Google Analytics map showing people reading this blog an hour or so after posting today. Normally there would be traffic from all over the globe no matter the time of day. My blog traffic is up about five-fold since I started discussing the Master Wizard Hypothesis, but obviously this is not resonating overseas. I apologize to my non-U.S. readers for this Trump diversion and I hope you circle back when this silliness subsides. Not sure when he will stop entertaining us over here.