The Dark and Rotten Election

    Yesterday I told you why Clinton’s label of “dark” for Trump’s convention speech was such a well-designed linguistic kill shot. It is so good, in fact, that I speculated it was designed by the Godzilla of persuasion – who I did not name. 

    Dark is a fresh, unusual word (for politics). And it lets you fill in the details with whatever scares you the most about Trump while conveying a general tone of evil and negativity. Dark is no common insult. It originated from a master persuader. 

    Don’t believe me?

    Doubt me if you will.

    Then read this.

    Meanwhile, Trump was trying out his new linguistic kill shot by calling his opponent Hillary Rotten Clinton. Her actual name is Hillary Rodham Clinton, so it works as a play on words, and that helps memory retention, which is a persuasion trick. But it’s more than a clever play on words.

    Rotten – like dark – is a fresh, unusual word (for politics). And it is general enough that people can fill in their own details with whatever they find to be rotten about Clinton. If you think Clinton looks unhealthy, perhaps she is rotting from the inside. And if you think the primaries were rigged for Clinton, that sounds like a rotten situation. Likewise, Clinton’s email problems sound rotten. 

    Rotten cleverly incorporates all of Trump’s best labels for Clinton, including “crooked” and “no stamina.” And it put Trump back in the news cycle during the Democratic National Convention.

    Both rotten and dark are labels that work as accumulative confirmation bias traps. Watch how many times Trump does something that you could interpret as dark, and how many times Clinton does something you could interpret as rotten. The labels will pick up strength over time.

    If you’re new to persuasion, Trump and Clinton probably appear to be two adults hurling random insults at each other. But once you see under the hood, you realize these insults are anything but random. They are the work of Master Persuaders, operating at the highest level. 

    Godzilla, meet King Kong. 

    If you think policies are more important than persuasion, or vice-versa, you might love my book.