MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Dilbert Creator Scott Adams on Donald Trump's "Linguistic Kill Shots"

Is Trump using powerful hypnosis and persuasion techniques hidden to manipulate us all?

Donald Trump has a way with words—and with people. Yet despite his popularity, he has been a mystery to the media, which have mostly derided his campaign as consisting of nothing more than random insults and ignorant bluster.

Scott Adams, prolific author, blogger, and creator of the massively popular comic strip Dilbert, has a different theory. He tells Reason TV's Zach Weissmueller that the media are being trolled by a skilled manipulator, or in Adams's parlance, a Master Wizard. So exquisite does Adams believe Trump's skills to be that he predicts The Donald will go on to win the presidency.

"What I [see] in Trump," says Adams, is "someone who was highly trained. A lot of the things that the media were reporting as sort of random insults and bluster and just Trump being Trump, looked to me like a lot of deep technique that I recognized from the fields of hypnosis and persuasion."

One such technique is what Adams describes as a "linguistic kill shot," in which Trump uses an engineered set of words that changes or ends an argument decisively. According to Adams, when Trump describes Jeb Bush as low energy, Carly Fiorina as robotic, or Ben Carson as nice, he's imprinting a label you already feel about these people. They're not random insults, but linguistic kill shots that you can never get out of your mind.

Similarly, where the media see random insults, Adams sees Trump creating a significant polling gap between those who attack him and those who compliment him, resulting in chilled aggression from his opponents. Trump, says Adams, uses "anchors," which are big, visual thoughts that drown out any other argument. Think, for example, of the billionaire's florid descriptions of a Mexican border wall.

Adams also describes Trump's use of "linguistic Judo," vagueness, and a carefully developed persona to defend himself against attack and promote the image he desires. "You see apple pie and flags and eagles coming out of his ass when he talks," says Adams.

About 8 minutes.

Produced by Justin Monticello. Shot by Alex Manning and Zach Weissmueller. Music by Arnaud CondéDoug Maxwell, and Kevin MacLeod.

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to ReasonTV's YouTube Channel to receive notifications when new material goes live.

For a longer, wide-ranging discussion in which Adams talks about the power of free markets, "failing toward success," and what to expect in Dilbertgo here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Must vote Trump.

    Must vote Trump.

    Must vote Trump.

    Must vote Trump.

  • MJGreen - Docile Citizen||

    All glory to the Hypnotoad.

  • But Enough About Me||

    ++1.

  • Sevo||

    ++

    XXX

  • Sevo||

    Damn skwerilzs; what happened to my brackets?

  • Eric Bana||

    Hasn't worked on me.

  • Eric Bana||

    Yet.

  • Nick W B||

    Thankfully most Americans are smarter than Scott Adams thinks they are. Trump peaked at around 30% and is now back to the low 20s. Since likely Republican voters make up maybe 50% of the population, that means he has won over 10-15% of the general population. Which is great when there are some 15 candidates out there, but won't win him much in the end.

  • pronomian||

    50% of the population? So that is why we they lost the presidency and can never get anything done in congress, that is when they do win it.

  • meister574||

    Remember that many voters now are independent. Only 23% are actually registered as Republican. So he is only getting support of about 6% of the electorate. I do not think most independents or any Democrats would vote for him in a general election.

    Also, how Adams' "Master Wizard" stance explain Ben Carson.

  • PapayaSF||

    It is still very, very early. Most people aren't even paying attention to the election yet. I think Adams is right that Trump is very underestimated.

  • Lorenzo Valla||

    Irrespective of the polls, I think Adams brings up good points that people are not that reasonable. People make decisions and draw conclusions via a lot of considerations, and 'reason' isn't usually high on the list despite what us members here would like to think.

  • Sevo||

    OIK, but Adams is a cartoonist, so social-science predictions should be well-seasoned.
    BTW, Trudeau has used the last two Sunday strips to bemoan the fact that the media is ignoring the other candidates and 'reasonable debates'. Yep, he turned over two Sundays worth of his own media to gripe that others are doing exactly the same thing.

  • PapayaSF||

    Adams is also a hypnotist and knowledgable about NLP, etc.

  • Sevo||

    Uh, a hypnotist?
    You mean a charlatan? I did not know that. Screw him in that case; I gave him credit for some honesty.

  • Redhead Patriot||

    So if you're that easily swayed by this writer, and you're going to take their word for it, who do you think is the real hypnotist and charlatan?

  • plusafdotcom||

    While Trump mentions Trump incessantly, I did notice that Adams mentions "hypnosis" several times, too.... sounds like when I was in the 'est cult' and est was The Answer To All Problems.

    Adams might not even recognize that he, himself, is behaving like a hypnotized cult member...

    Ironic, eh?

    I guess that can happen when you leave your 'tech industry wheelhouse' and dabble in political and economic issues. (oh, wait, I didn't mean to include Carly in this.... sorry.)

  • Tommy_Grand||

    So i guess the choices are Trump, Hillary and Invictus?

    I'll need to give this some thought.

  • PapayaSF||

    Trump/Invictus 2016! "If we're going down, we might as well make it hilarious!"

  • morganovich||

    so, basically, the donald can "neg" his way to the white house?

    i have real doubts this style can go the distance. in a 10 person field, sure, and let's face it, the guy is media catnip. everyone covers him because everyone, lover and hater alike, clicks on him. but at some point when the noise from the crowd dies down and you have 2-3 contenders, it's going to come down to substance and he will be out of room to tapdance.

    carly nailed him and backed him off. against a crowd, his tactics work, but one on one, they lose a lot of power.

  • George Washington||

    Yeah, I think Carly just on a personality basis knew how to handle his type. The rest of the media makes fun of such a type (egotistical in your face power male) because they are actually intimidated by it, but Carly, who has probably been around such a type I assume for much of her career made him resemble a boy getting scolded by his mother.

    Not and endorsement of Carly, before I get swarmed

  • Suicidy||

    Swarm! Swarm!

  • Swiss Servator||

    +1 shoplifted book

  • Gray Ghost||

    but at some point when the noise from the crowd dies down and you have 2-3 contenders, it's going to come down to substance and he will be out of room to tapdance.

    Aren't the past seven years a refutation of that idea? Especially the 2008 election? What substantive thing did we know about Barack Obama the candidate other than: he wasn't W and a Republican, and that he was black and talked well in front of a teleprompter? I think substantive specifics from a candidate harm them more than they help them, in that it commits people to definitely not vote you, but doesn't help increase the number of voters who definitely will vote for you.

    I think that Trump, unfortunately, is going to have a lot more staying power than his detractors would like. Let's see how Iowa, NH, and South Carolina treat him first.

  • PapayaSF||

    I agree.

  • Redhead Patriot||

    Oh, and don't forget, Biden said Obama was clean and spoke well! LOL! And, pray tell, who do you have on the Democrat ticket?

    Yes, I LOVE Trump because finally we have someone that will do something for America. I'm tired of "We can't do that, we don't have the votes"...these whiney, little people that think they are men!! How about some LEADERSHIP!!

  • Brochettaward||

    It's going to come down to substance? Do we live in the same country?

  • PapayaSF||

    See my post here. I think you are assuming that Trump has one persona, and can't or won't change. I think he might... adjust his manner at the right time.

  • ConstitutionFirst||

    Then you totally underestimate how disaffected the electorate is...
    Look at the margin of his support, everywhere, and think again.

  • SQRLSY One||

    So Trump is turning us into the Trump-Man-Churlishian voters with his Hypno-Powers?!!?!

    I have not yet begun to fight! Bring it ON, I say! I will deploy MY Special Power, which is AKA "Booger Beam"!!! EVERYONE, I mean EVERYONE, runs and hides when I deploy Booger-Beam! Just you wait and see!

  • Jimothy||

    I loved him. He was much better than Cats. I'm going to vote for him again and again.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Is Trump using powerful hypnosis and persuasion techniques hidden to manipulate us all?

    No.

  • Jimothy||

    That's exactly what he wants you to think!

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    You see apple pie and flags and eagles coming out of his ass when he talks,"

    And the lovestruck GOP voter swoons.

  • ace_m82||

    Why is this comment here? What does that have to do with libertarianism?

  • Sevo||

    Turd waves the blue flag every chance he gets.

  • Vulgar Madman||

    Remind me, who did you vote for the last couple of times?

  • pronomian||

    Trump is the worst of the worst, not like the last two presidents who were two of the best. Not like the other neo cons that will be running in the end against either a socialist or a female leftist dictator. Face it, here are no good ones running, they all will be driving us over the precipice, one at 85 mph, the other at 90. Pick which one you think it will be, it really does't matter, the end will be the same.

  • But Enough About Me||

    So, Trump's Nikki?

    Hmmmmm...

  • Swiss Servator||

    Ever seen the two together....hmmmm?!

  • lap83||

    not like the last two presidents who were two of the best.

    Is this sarcasm or are you someone who thinks Bush and Obama were two of the best presidents?

  • RJ The Terrible||

    Half sarcasm. Buttplug things Obumbles the Magnificent is the bomb. Bush is anti-Christ. So when the plug is typing, he is not felatiating the current twit in the oval office.

  • jjjjj||

    Donald Trump is doing pretty well for a political neophyte who has a leadership style suited for reality shows. Negging is a great way to convince someone to go along with you for the short term, but will it work in the long run? His campaign is 4 months along, but he has to go another 4 months just to get to the first primaries and caucuses.

    Now that he actually has been outlining policy he's flattening out. His Mr. Garrison-like immigration policy drew rounds of applause from the hard-liners and his tax proposal is terrible.

  • Redhead Patriot||

    I would like you to explain WHAT about his tax proposal that you don't like. It's easy to sit in your easy chair and pontificate. How about some real suggestions as to WHAT you think the tax proposal should be.

    TRUMP 2016!!

  • RJ The Terrible||

    Stop. You are embarrassing yourself.

  • SIV||

    Why does everyone here want to "Keep America Lousy"?

  • lap83||

    So exquisite does Adams believe Trump's skills to be that he predicts The Donald will go on to win the presidency.

    Trump will win the presidency if he gets the GOP nomination, but it's harder to tell whether he'll get that far. More Republicans dislike him than like him. I do agree with Adams on Trump's persuasion skills, but I think his background in hypnotism causes him to put more stock into it then is supported by reality.

  • SIV||

    More Republicans dislike him than like him
    Not since around July

    Trump's net favorability is still positive. He's doing better than Jeb!

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    I'm not sure what Adams' issue is, but attributing Trump's rise to hypnotic powers is really stretching it. The more obvious explanation is that Trump has maintained a significant media profile for decades, understands how the news cycle works, and knows that pissing on the GOP establishment's foot is going to get him a lot of love from a largely fed-up base who view the party's leaders as complete wimps.

    It looks like right now that his support has leveled off, based on the RCP poll averages, but he's not in serious jeopardy yet. That could change after the first couple of primaries as the other candidates start dropping out and start throwing their resources behind Bush or Rubio.

  • Lorenzo Valla||

    He's not attributing it to hypnosis. He's attributing Trump's success to the powers of persuasion, and some of those techniques are also used in hypnosis. He's just referring to hypnosis in an effort to explain how the technique(s) work.

  • ||

    Kind of like Al Franken's hypnotic glassy stare getting him elected to the Senate

  • LarryA||

    More Republicans dislike him than like him.

    The Republican hierarchy hates his guts. "Not invented here!"

    The Republican base dislikes Trump, but is really pissed off at the hierarchy.

    A lot of the rank-and-file who dislike Trump don't like any of the other candidates either.

    Ditto independents.

    2016 is ripe for a "What the hell, I'll vote for the clown" election.

  • newshutz||

    Jesse Ventura

  • Redhead Patriot||

    Interesting that you call Trump a clown. A man who is exceedingly successful in most everything he has done in him life...including his children! His 3 adult children work for him and work every day...just like Trump. They do not smoke, drink or do drugs...just like Trump. That alone is exceedlngly successful.

    The establishment RNC/GOP despise Trump because they cannot control him. He will upset their pathetic applecart. They will do everything they possible can to bring him down.
    TRUMP 2016!!

  • David_B||

    Yeah great, thanks, now ever time I eat apple pie I'll be thinking of Trumps ass. Not appetizing.

  • jamesnolette||

    I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h… Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link... Try it, you won't regret it!......

    www.OnlineJobs100.Com

  • ConstitutionFirst||

    Go Troll your boiler-room slavery somewhere else.

  • ||

    Let's face it: Trump isn't your "regular" presidential candidate; but then neither was Pisistratus. Trump, in many ways, reminds me of Pisistratus' rapid rise to power in ancient Athens.

    According to the Greek historian, Herodotus: Pisistratus, during his campaign to become Athens' new leader, came into town one day leading a magnificently adorned white horse, pulling an equally resplendent chariot, upon which stood a statuesque woman, looking for all the world to be Athena herself, the goddess of Athens. Who, Pisistratus, hastily explained to the gathering crowds, had just decreed that he should be made king. Whereupon, he was promptly elected Athens' new leader.

    Pisistratus, being the astute politician that he was, realized he actually needed a real power base if he was going to consolidate his rule before his ruse with the woman from the neighboring village was publicly exposed, took the extraordinary step of turning to the common Athenians for support. By reducing their taxes and introducing free loans to allow the people to build up their farms -- undermining the whole hierarchy of aristocrats and political elites of the day along the way -- the Athenian economy grew by leaps and bounds and Pisistratus' claim to leadership was never questioned.

    The same can be said of Trump. Trump is popular with independent, middle-class Americans because it gives them a chance to be their own power base rather than being the base of someone else's power.

  • Sevo||

    As Murray Gell-Mann might have said: So what?

  • Lorenzo Valla||

    Pandering to the masses is hardly a novel idea.

  • ConstitutionFirst||

    This meme was said about Dear Leader with a lot more evidence to back it up.

    Each speech BHO gave in his 2007-2008 campaign was dissembled into it's constitute parts. Each pause was carefully orchestrated to the following cadence: A truth, a pause, another truth quickly followed by a lie. The reasoning? Subconsciously you except a truth: "the sky is blue", "the grass is green", but when you quickly follow two truths with a big lie "You love Communism" your subconscious does not parse out the lie because it is still thinking about the blue sky and the green grass.

    A long and detailed white paper has been written on BHO's hypnotic training by some Hollywood executive. It is a hypnotic technique dating back at least a hundred years.

  • Redhead Patriot||

    Obama's training was by Rules of Radicals! He pauses only when he's not reading his teleprompter. He pauses as he searches for the exact "right" word for his audience. Also, he pauses to make his speech longer so he doesn't have to answer more questions. It takes him 5 min. sometimes more to answer a simple question!!

    I NEVER fell for any of his BS lies!!

  • beyond.reasons||

    I would love to hear his measured postulating on how Obama was able to gain the presidency and how Obama continues to skip through the job saying whatever, doing whatever and getting away with all of it... then we can have another installment about Clinton. How does she continue to get away all these years with "explaining" away all her problems -- yet she continues to have the same problems over and over. How can others go to jail for her same problems yet she runs for president and everyone is looking the other way? Against the backdrop of Obama and Clinton alone (not to mention all the other politicians that get away with all they do) Trump seems like a reasonable guy -- at the minimum he can point to a list of accomplishments in his career something Obama and Clinton just cannot.

  • ||

    Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do...... ✹✹✹✹✹✹ www.buzznews99.com

  • ||

    Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do...... ✹✹✹✹✹✹ www.buzznews99.com

  • ||

    Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do...... ✹✹✹✹✹✹ www.buzznews99.com

  • Redhead Patriot||

    The reason Donald Trump is leading in the polls is...he speaks truth, no reading speeches, no teleprompters, no political psycho-babble, talks like a real person! He gets our attention because he's real. TRUMP 2016!!

  • Conchfritters||

    Trump has to be articulate and use linguistic Judo because he speaks for people like this:

    I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh, people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, or, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian Countries, so we will be able to build up our future [for our children].

  • RJ The Terrible||

    Right now over half the republican base is choosing someone who has NOT held office before. The top three? Trump, Carson and Fiorina. The revulsion in TEAM RED for its own leadership is palpable.

    If you have held office it is a stain this year. The natives are restless, and Shrub II is dead politically. The only question is will the 25% of the TEAM RED base that typically supports what is now called GOPe come out in big enough numbers to win the primaries for a Rubio, Kasich or Christy.

    The non-GOPe types will not coalesce. So will Trump, Fiorina or Carson have more than
    33% of the remaining 75%. The GOPe types will do as they are told and support overt STATIST X. TEAM RED for evuh.

  • ||

    I could be wrong, but I don't think a single Republican has voted yet.

  • TechZen||

    Tell me I'm not the only person to notice how much Donald Trump looks like Howard the Duck.

  • Richard Bennett||

    Make America Sane Again.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online