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Dilbert's Scott Adams Explains How He Knew Trump Would 'Win Bigly'

The cartoonist-turned-political-prognisticator talks about "master persuaders" and winning arguments in a "world where facts don't matter."

In 2015, Scott Adams, the cartoonist behind the massively popular comic strip Dilbert, boldly predicted that Donald Trump would win the 2016 presidential election.

"The reason I can see it coming is because I have studied this field of persuasion," says Adams. "I saw this Trump character and he had the full tool set." The 60-year-old Bay Area resident doesn't agree with Trump on many political issues, but his prediction was enough for his to receive death threats from embittered Hillary Clinton supporters.

Adam's new book, Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter, is both a detailed analysis of how Trump reframed political rhetoric during the 2016 campaign and a guide to how all of us can communicate more effectively and persuasively.

Adams sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie in front of a live audience in San Francisco to talk about his book, his "extreme liberal" views, the popularity of his live broadcasts with followers via Twitter, and why Trump is a "master persuader."

Cameras by Zach Weismueller, Paul Detrick, and Justin Monticello. Edited by Ian Keyser. Music by _ghost, licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 3.0 US.


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  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    "his prediction was enough for his [sic] to receive death threats from embittered Hillary Clinton supporters"

    They follow the leader.

  • SQRLSY One||

    So Scott Adams saw that...

    ...that the Trumpster saw what Hitler told us way back when:

    Lie often enough, loudly enough, and your lies will become the Accepted Wisdom!

    (I hate to be Hinhister about it, but.... Yawn!!!!)

  • BYODB||

    I thought Hitler's shtick was 'The Big Lie'...

  • SQRLSY One||

    Yeah man... "The Big Lie" told often enough, becomes the Truth!

    (Some jack-booted thugs to reinforce your "truth" doth help a LOT, yes, but Uncle Adolf didn't write down that part).

  • BYODB||

    Yes, but the trick was in the audacity of the lie just as much as the frequency of the telling.

    I suspect Mueller and Trump are equally familiar with the concept.

  • Deven||

    I like Nick Searcy's explanation the best:

    The arrival of Trump in politics, continued Searcy, was like the arrival of Hulk Hogan in the wrestling world.

    "[Hogan] would hit the heel back with [objects]," said Searcy — and the audience loved Hogan because "they'd been waiting for this for years." They finally had a wrestler to root for who was willing to employ the same tactics used against him.

    Hogan kicked off the "attitude era" in wrestling, in which matches were less predictable and the personalities of the stars were bigger than ever.

    The arrival of Trump, like Hogan, had people excited, said Searcy, because he was "a throwback to the attitude era" and was willing to fight back and fight back hard.

    "He leads with the chair," said Searcy of Trump. "He starts clocking people before the bell even rings."

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    So, basically, Idiocracy.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    YEAH BROTHER

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Shit. I know shit's bad right now, with all that starving bullshit, and the dust storms, and we are running out of french fries and burrito coverings. But I got a solution...

  • DenverJ||

    Is it the last one? Is it the final solution?

  • BYODB||

    More like a metaphor, but since I never watched wrestling I have no clue how apt it might be. From the explanation, it seems about right. Most true Republicans I know bitch the most about how Republicans never really fight back at all. They say a few words, then roll over (or, depending on your outlook, they slyly get what they wanted all along) which is really starting to infuriate their voters almost as much as the Democrats do.

    You can only win so many elections as a movement before you start to realize that nothing at all is actually changing. I think that the tea party and some of your more conservative-type blue dog Democrats (voter types, not politician types, since all of those politicians are gone now) might finally be close to the same page in enough area's that it spells 'danger' to the establishment types, but we shall see if Trump is a fluke or the tip of a much larger iceberg.

    At the moment, I think the 'evidence' mostly points to 'fluke' but it could just be wishful thinking. Scott Adams seems to think it's just this Trump guy himself, which I put under the 'fluke' category.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The lines are drawn: Reason, tolerance, science, education, progress, and modernity vs. backwardness, ignorance, superstition, and diffuse intolerance.

    I know which side I am on, which side I want to see win, and which side I expect to (continue to) win in America.

    The reason Republicans feel they are losing the public debates is that they are. Throughout my lifetime, America has improved along a course traced by its liberal-libertarian alliance. Unless one believes prayer and creationism are to return to legitimate classrooms, gays are to return to being smacked around in alleys, wife-beating will return to being ignored, abortion is to be criminalized, blacks are to return to segregated institutions, voter suppression will make a comeback, agnostics and atheists will return to being ineligible for public officer, police will be return to being entitled to shoot innocent citizens without being held to account, the war on doobies is going to succeed, general bigotry is going to make a comeback, and black men will be once again compelled to lower their gaze in the company of white women, it's not going to get better for the current iteration of the Republican-conservative electoral coalition.

  • TGoodchild||

    "backwardness, ignorance, superstition, and diffuse intolerance."

    The regressive left is a bane, yes. That you think being Republican (def.?) has anything to do with prayer and creationism underscores how canned and unoriginal your thinking is.

    You should not presume to speak for all black people. Indeed, the non-existent drum you're attempt to beat is what has restricted that community's socioeconomic development and I suspect you, like most people who seem to preach that insecure nonsense, to be projecting "you" problems onto everyone else.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    You can tell that Arthur hates black people because he's always slagging the parts of the country where most of them live.

  • Piliage||

    But... it's got electrolytes.

  • Juice||

    matches were less predictable

    For the audience anyway.

  • The Last American Hero||

    The matches didn't become less predictable until well into Hogan's career.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Actually, it is not true that Hogan kicked off the "attitude era". He had moved on to WCW as part of NWO when the "attitude era" began. It kicked off with Steve Austin, Degeneration X, The Rock and others and was the catalyst for McMahon's decision to call what WWE does as "sports entertainment" as opposed to mere "rasslin'". Ultimately it was the reason McMahon was able to put WCW in the ground.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Did Hogan emerge before or after the 'rasslin promoters acknowledged that their events were fake and scripted (rather than 'athletic competitions?)'

    I knew some 'rasslin fans. They never really accepted the 'it's fake' declarations. I felt sorry for them, until recently.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    I knew some 'rasslin fans. They never really accepted the 'it's fake' declarations.

    Fun fact: People who watch professional wrestling are more likely to vote Democrat.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Does that "fact" survive the recent migration of half-educated rural goobers to the Trump column, or the sharp turn of evangelicals to the Republican Party, or the continuing, decades-long migration of Southern bigots from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party?

  • Mark Question||

    Source? Because I grew up in a very conservative family who still watches wrestling every week.

  • MoreFreedom||

    It wasn't Trump who made it so facts don't matter. Just like it didn't matter that you couldn't keep your doctor, even if Obama told you different. Or that Bush promised a humble foreign policy and attacked a country that didn't attack us. Or that Clinton didn't have sexual relations with that woman and get convicted of perjury. Or that every GOP politician promised to repeal Obamacare, but didn't.

    Sad to see Flake defending decorum instead of speaking out when politicians showed decorum while lying blatantly to our faces and taking our money for their own personal motivations. Except I've not seen Trump employing "the same tactics used against him" other than calling out their lies without much decorum (while Democrats claim the GOP are liars with decorum). And like those before him, Trump made a bunch of promises he can't keep and exaggerated what he'd be able to do. I'd rather see Flake continue fighting as he has on spending.

  • Mark Question||

    Substitute "Hogan" for "Austin", otherwise the metaphor doesn't make a lick of sense to anybody who knows wrestling.

  • completely impervious||

    He got lucky.

    Are we done?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Shut the fuck up, Adams, no one cares you are a certified hypnotherapist. You guessed a coin toss correctly. Maybe if you correctly predict 3 or 4 more things, I will become interested.

  • Deven||

    Coin toss?

    No. Look at the dates.

    It was a pretty impressive, really. Scott Adams is a pretty sharp guy.

  • Illocust||

    Yeah, in this election, he's been calling it correctly the whole time. Maybe he's on top something maybe not, but his analysis had earned the right to be taken seriously and examined for insight.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    So, when the whole Trump thing was starting to get serious I heard about Adams and his predictions and I went and read his blog. He's interesting to read, but if you read through all his blogs he makes many predictions that do not pan out. People overlook those.

    He's not stupid, but he's not a prognosticator.

  • Sevo||

    1) Keep track of where you send the winning prognostications.
    2) Give them a rock-solid one next.
    3) If it wins, start selling the touts.
    4) Gold.

  • CE||

    Yeah, in 2015 the "experts" were saying Trump had "no chance" of even being the Republican nominee.

  • Piliage||

    98% Hillary wins... talk about a sucker bet.

  • Sal Paradise||

    Amusing to read the comments from an article almost 2 years old. Many of the predictions made by the poster PapayaSF have come true.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I wonder if Cytotoxic got puberty yet.

  • Sal Paradise||

    Yep, he is wrong on everything. Looks like a complete tool. Heh.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Going back and reading him was sure something. Before my time, and quite a rabid animal.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Good stuff.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Cytotoxic|5.8.16 @ 3:02PM|#

    Hillary is still going to be the nominee.

    And if you had read what I said-which might be a mean feat for you and your fellow cunt-brains -you would have known that I said that general election polls start becoming predictive in mid-April.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    Cytotoxic|5.7.16 @ 6:33PM|#

    Clinton IS gonna be president. That's decided. Fait accompli. All that can be done is to limit the damage. One of the ways to limit damage is a credible third party candidate. I think Mark Sanford would be perfect, but if he won't step up then the LP will have to. They'll probably fail because they always fail. Still here's the choices:

    1) McCafee: hopeless. The lunatic vote is all going to Trump.

    2) Johnson: almost as hopeless. Terrible campaigner. Douchey and self-absorbed and charisma-less.

    3) Austin Peters: basically winner by default unless someone knows something real bad about him.

    Oh and you have to vote GOP down the ticket unless they're Steve King bad. Hillary will be prez so best to deny her at least the House.

  • Sevo||

    Jackand Ace also totally disappeared after Trump won.
    Trump could start WWIII and I'd still thank him for that.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Jackand Ace also totally disappeared after Trump won.

    I heard his mom found him in his bedroom with a belt around his neck, his dick in his hand, and an endless loop of Hillary laughing/ cackling on Ellen or whatever.

  • BYODB||

    Indeed. Somehow I managed not to post on that particular article, which I'm now glad for in retrospect.

  • Kivlor||

    Ah, to read comments from before the Glibbening...

    I see that this was after Eddie had switched from using the Notorious GKC to the UGCC handle. Man, he posted a lot more prolifically back then. Back when I was almost exclusively a lurker.

    Not sad to see Cytotoxic go. You're making me all nostalgic man.

  • DenverJ||

    DenverJ|5.7.16 @ 8:51PM|#

    Oh I believe Bill set up Trump to win. Which is why, when Trump wins, it will be so ironically delicious.
    I was one of those saying "Trump's a clown, no way he wins the nomination."
    So, here we are. I think that categorically denying that Trump has any chance of winning is badly misreading the mid of the electorate. Yeah, he's bat shit insane, but people really dislike Hillary.

    reply to this report spam
    DenverJ|5.7.16 @ 8:52PM|#

    * set up Trump to run

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    This guy is such a fraud. Drumpf didn't win because of "master persuader" skills, whatever those are. He won because a terrifyingly high percentage of white voters are racist, because the media exaggerated Clinton's manufactured scandals while normalizing Drumpf's behavior, because of Russian hacking, and because of the Comey letter. On the last point, see probability whiz kid Nate Silver: I'll put it like this: Clinton would almost certainly be President-elect if the election had been held on Oct. 27 (day before Comey letter).

  • Cy||

    Yep everyone is racist and dumb unless they do and think how you demand...

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Not all Republicans are racist and dumb. Not nearly.

    Plenty of them are, however. The others merely appease bigotry and backwardness for perceived partisan advantage.

  • NoVaNick||

    Surprised you didn't say that Scott Adams is one of Putin's hacks.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Mueller's investigation is still ongoing. Who knows — maybe Dilbert Guy as a Russian asset is one of the bombshell revelations he's about to unleash.

  • NoVaNick||

    Take another bong hit for me my boy...

  • Headache||

    Clearly, Open is hallucinating, thus injecting not smoking.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Scott Adams did say he had been contracted by a political team and that he wouldn't disclose which team...

  • Sevo||

    Uh, oh! Political something without pay! Illegal contribution!

  • John C. Randolph||

    a terrifyingly high percentage of white voters are racist

    And that's why Obama never had a prayer of winning the presidency, right?

    Fuck off with your guilt-peddling.

    -jcr

  • Leader Desslok||

    An even higher percentage of Democratic voters are racist. Explains a lot about their platform.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Nate Silver: I'll put it like this: Clinton would almost certainly be President-elect if the election had been held on Oct. 27 (day before Comey letter).

    LOL

  • Kivlor||

    Ah, Nate "Hilary is Guaranteed to Win" Silver.

    The tears... You know, there have been many attempts to predict when we would achieve peak salt from progressive tears, but all predictions have been blown out of the water, as every month seems to bring forth even more than the one preceding it. You're killing my families salt mining business in Western Kansas. The market has completely been destroyed by you and your renewable tears.

  • gormadoc||

    Teach us, oh great one. How do you keep people responding seriously to you when you've been a parody account since day one?

  • CE||

    It's called pushing the right buttons.

  • Presskh||

    So, Openborders, you mean that whites who voted for and helped elect the first black rabble-rouser-in-chief are racists or is it the ones who didn't vote for a crooked, lying, cackling hag of a white woman? Hopefully, they will both end up wearing prison stripes when the ongoing investigations peel back their many layers of corruption and collusion. Go back in your race-baiting hole where you belong.

  • Entelechy||

    Fact's don't matter bigly to the First Cartoonist

    https://tinyurl.com/ybsgskxg

  • lap83||

    IMO, Trump won the nomination because Republican voters couldn't agree on who they liked better. After he got the nomination, his "persuasion" skills were more of a factor. Also, the bonus of not being Hillary can't be overlooked.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    the bonus of not being Hillary can't be overlooked.

    I think that's the main reason he won.

  • Presskh||

    Yep.

  • Magnitogorsk||

    I swear I've seen Adams profess to have completely different political views on numerous occasions, from full on Trump supporter to libertarian to "extreme liberal". Maybe he is just playing us with his Trained Hypnotist toolset

  • Paulpemb||

    During the election, his often professed preference was "I'm for Hillary because I live in California, and Hillary is going to win there no matter what I do and plus my neighbors will burn down my house if I publicly say I support Trump. Hell, look at the crazy shit I'm getting just for saying he might win!"

    Personally, I think Scott Adams kept saying the things he was saying about Trump during the election to get media attention and sell books, and he was just as surprised as anybody when Trump actually won.

  • Bubba Jones||

    On multiple occasions he said that he feared for his life if he didn't publicly claim support for Hillary.

    Read into that what you will.

  • Frank White||

    His professed views have been very consistent. Everything he said in this interview was said before the election.

  • Rockabilly||

    I wrote this song in the key of Em - it goes Em to G to Am

    It should'a been U !

    I can remember,
    As t'was yesterday
    T'was November 8, 2016
    A day that will go down
    In infamy

    I was watching the Rachel Maddow Show
    On the color TV
    When she gave me the news
    That Hillary lost.

    I sat dumbfounded
    How could this be?
    How could some one so accomplished lose
    To someone so lame?

    Well I hit the bottle
    That very night
    Twa's a bottle of
    1998 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame
    And that don't come cheap
    But I was a feelin' down
    And could not sleep

    Well I've been angry
    Since that very day
    I even broke up with some friends
    Who wore the MAGA hats

    Oh Lord, when will this feeling end?
    Trump in the White House
    Where Hillary should'a been!

    Oh, I'm cryin' my eyes out
    In misery
    It should'a been U !
    Oh - It should'a been U !!
    Oh Hillary !!!

  • John C. Randolph||

    12:22 I reject Adam's assertion that Trump is "not like anything else". The world is full of blowhards, and this one just happened to get elected because the Democrats nominated the second-most odious candidate in their history.

    -jcr

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Not all "blowhards" manage to tap into popular sentiment and run with it.

  • Juice||

    Wilson? FDR? LBJ? Who's the first?

  • gormadoc||

    While LBJ was bad, Kennedy-style corruption is a bigger deal in my book.

  • SIV||

    receive death threats from embittered Hillary Clinton supporters

    Death threats for Dilbert-guy, cocktail party invites for Reason.

  • n00bdragon||

    Check the tapes people. Trump won 5 states on election night by razor thin margins. Nate Silver was predicting a Hillary victory at about 70% confidence and I'm inclined to believe he was right. Trump got extremely lucky and the cookie crumbled his way every time. I'm not begrudging him that or casting aspersions on the legitimacy of his win, but recognizing that luck was a huge factor in his win. That and being matched against the weakest presidential nominee since probably Harry Truman (who won because everyone just assumed he would lose and didn't bother voting for Dewey).

  • ||

    Trump got extremely lucky and the cookie crumbled his way every time. I'm not begrudging him that or casting aspersions on the legitimacy of his win, but recognizing that luck was a huge factor in his win. That and being matched against the weakest presidential nominee since probably Harry Truman

    ^ This.

  • BYODB||

    Of course, this means Hillary had a 30% chance of losing. Go find a ten-sided die and cast it a few times and you'll get the idea.

    It's ok though, a lot of people put a whole lot of faith in statistics and polling for absolutely no justified reason whatsoever so you're not alone.

    A primer on how dumb statistics are:

    Paul the Octopus with an 85.7% correct guess rate.

    Is the Octopus clairvoyant? Of course not. Our brains are flawed.

  • SIV||

    It wasn't luck. Trump has the innate talent. Trump spent his adult life honing his skills. Trump Seized The Time. Trump hired Brad Parscale.

    Imagine how well he would''ve done if he didn't have to overcome an election rigged against him on all sides.

  • gormadoc||

    The biggest way the election is rigged is in first-past-the-pole. In this way it worked for him, since half the country didn't want Clinton.

  • gormadoc||

    I would also dispute that he has relevant talent or skills. Politicians need and have neither, unless a talent for appeasing a plurality can really be considered a talent.

  • Fucksake||

    Rigged from all sides? Please. Trump lost the popular vote by a couple million and still won the election.

  • SIV||

    Just goes to show how incompetent the Hitlery campaign, #NeverTrumpers, cosmo cucks, the mainstream media, Obama, the State Department, DHS, DoJ and FBI are.

  • Mark Question||

    I know, isn't it great?

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Every time I lose at chess I've found that I have more pieces on the board than the person I'm playing against. Obviously the system is rigged. Having more pieces has to mean I won!

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Trump has talent the way Britney Spears has talent. Or Britney's sister, or Justin Timberlake, or Pat Boone, or the Kardashians, or Paris Hilton. Also, the way the "chefs" who invented Slim Jims, Kool-Aid, Easy Cheeze, the Bloomin' Onion had talent.

    Selling pap to the lesser elements of the public is a talent, but not an admirable or especially rare one. Mostly, it's just a low aim, capital, and some luck.

  • Bra Ket||

    I don't believe Adams has any special insight, just a theory that coincidentally lined up with what turned out to happen.

  • Brian Whittle||

    It's a shame came down to him or her, where none of the above was a better choice.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Trump is a "master persuader" . . . of half-educated, bigoted, economically inadequate, shambling, gullible yahoos who resent reality, evidence, reason, and their betters.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    More Virginia Tech shooters, stat.

  • leninsmummy||

    Wait, 'monster'? How is Trump the 'monster' ?! Does the factor of predictability, of electing your typical soulless government lifer, make people feel THAT much safer?
    Methinks the lady protests too much...

  • reardensteel||

    "Reproductive rights" is such a joke term.
    Gillespie, of all people, should not stoop to using it.
    Makes him seem disingenuous.

    If abortion were illegal, no one's right to reproduce or refrain from reproducing would be affected in any way.
    Every time a person has consensual sex, he/she exercises "reproductive rights" (so, obviously not talking about rape cases here).
    Abortion is simply killing an unwanted baby.
    I can't think of any other situation in which people claim the right to kill another person just to escape the natural consequences of their own actions.

  • ||

    Fact: Scott's book endangered his life. Fact: Scott neutralized the threat with a lie. Fact: Scott later countered the lie with a truth, his support for Gary Johnson, but the threat was over, so he was safe. Fact. Scott also supported some of Trump's policies but is still not a Trump man. Fact: Scott predicts Trump can win a 2nd term.

    Scott knows winning political persuasion techniques. He explained why the best "communicator" always wins. And, sadly, it has nothing to do with reality. I would characterize his explanation of how to win an election as " The art of manipulating the public perception with words". And that may be the only fact that is politically relevant in a delusional world.

  • Voxpo||

    Extremely mildly interesting. I was hoping Reason would ignore Adams. Oh well. Maybe from here on out.

  • Mcgoo95||

    ...so once upon a time he read a book called Frog's into Princes and was able to predict the outcome of the 2016 race. meh.....

  • Sultan Touma||

    Aside from the two factors of Hillary being so bad and the Republican field being so uninspiring, I think Trump does a couple of things that really helped him this time around.

    One, he has decades of experience at being in the public eye and speaking to crowds. Other candidates have this experience but Trump has probably been doing this for twice as long as even Hillary. This probably accounts for something I noticed in his public speeches. He would frequently riff off of something shouted out from the audience, and I don't mean an acknowledgement or a "Yes!", he would go for 1--20 minutes on the topic, its extremely powerful.

    Also, how many times do politicians put on plaid shirts, roll up their sleeves or awkwardly carry a gun or a shovel trying to mimic the working class? This dude puts on a hat that 90% of his own base would eschew as declasse, and then wears the thing everywhere with a suit! Thus the very gaudiness of which he is frequently accused works in his favor (to make it seem like the most genuine thing in the world) while he gives the middle finger to the people his base utterly despises. On an unspoken level again, very powerful.

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