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Trump’s First Ad (Master Persuader Filter) - Scott Adams' Blog

Trump’s First Ad (Master Persuader Filter)

All the buzz today is about Trump’s new ad. Some people on Twitter asked for the Master Persuader filter on it.

Note: For new readers of this blog, I don’t endorse Trump, or anyone else. I’m not smart enough to know who would be the best president. My interests are in Trump’s persuasion skills. I have a lot of background in that area.

My overall grade for the ad is A++++. It might go down in history as one of the best political ads of all time. I’ll break it down.

1. It is horrifingly racist FEELING to some people, and scary, and that is enough to keep it in the news and click-worthy forever. Literally. Your great-grandkids will be studying this ad in history class. This is an intentional part of the ad’s design, and perfectly executed.

2. The best part of the persuasion is cleverly concealed in all that noise. The most active part is the part you probably think is nothing but bad writing. It sounds too folksy, and out of place against the seriousness of the background images. That’s why those words stick out like a dollar on the sidewalk. Here is the active part of the persuasion:

“…until we figure out what’s going on.”

If you have been reading my Master Persuader series, you might recognize that as the High Ground Maneuver. It works every time, unlike weaker forms of persuasion. “Works every time” doesn’t mean it instantly changed your mind, but it does mean it nudged it. And you can’t go back. The High Ground Maneuver is a sign of a Master Persuader. 

The low ground on the immigration topic (the weeds) is where everyone else is. That includes endless chatter about the vetting process, the visa process in general, statistics, our national brand, terror recruitment, and on, and on.

 Weeds.

The high ground is that this is a complicated topic full of disagreement about just about everything except that the risk is greater than zero. So Trump says the one thing that everyone can agree: Collectively, we need to better understand our enemies. But in the short term, let’s lock the front door while we figure it out.

Who disagrees with that way of thinking? In other words, first you apply the tourniquet, then you figure out why the car crashed. You don’t do those things in the other order.

That’s the high ground maneuver. He moved the focus from the weeds – where everyone disagrees – to the high ground where everyone agrees:

1. We all want our fellow citizens and our government to better understand the terrorists’ motivations. (But personally, we think we already know.)

2. We all solve problems in the same order (tourniquet first).

But there is even more “work” in Trump’s sentence fragment, and that’s the magical part. You don’t often see this kind of layering.

In hypnosis class, we learned to avoid introducing any thoughts that a subject would reflexively find disagreeable. For the same reason, Trump isn’t giving us the answer for why we are under attack. He is letting you fill in the question with your own answer. Why?

Because you always agree with yourself. You’re a genius that way. 

None of this persuasion technique will flip the average Democrat, but a Master Persuader only needs to persuade 20% of the other side in order to win in a landslide. And a person with Trump’s skills can persuade 20% of the public of anything.

You will see lots of fuming and hatred about the ad, because it intentionally invites that response. It is part of the design. You can’t ignore it.