The podcast itself is called “Triggered!”
Note that there may be a difference between my own opinion and my parsing of what the persuasion is communicating.
And finally, thanks to Jayant Golchha (@GolchhaJ on Twitter) for the transcription!
Part 3: 34:42 – 47:20
Adams: But, Sam, let me ask you this, at what point in the process did you decide that he was incompetent to be President? [ Turning “he is” back into “I decided” for Sam. This changes the assertion from an objective fact to a subjective decision, which can be changed.Also brings back the idea that there does exist a time/state in Sam’s mind in which he did not think Trump was incompetent to be President. ]
Harris: That is a great question. That is – I love that question. That is my favorite question ever asked of me on this podcast. [ Seems a little extreme here. Potential sign of emotional upheaval. ] I guess let’s focus on the Master Persuader idea. [ Harris then answers a different question. ] Here’s the movie I’m in. [ Accepted Adams’ framing here. ] You’ve said that Trump is the greatest persuader you’ve ever seen – I think you actually you wrote – I think I saw this in a blog post of yours – you wrote that if Steve Jobs was a 10, Trump is a 15. OK, so, here’s the movie I’m in, and this predates this election by at least a decade. I find Trump one of the least persuasive people on Earth. Long before he ran as President, he struck me as nothing more than an odious con man. He strikes me as an absolutely despicable person.
Adams: Wait – wait a minute – wait a minute. Can I get a clarification? When you said he was odious con man, did you mean that he was good at being at conning people, or bad at conning people? [ Trump is good at something. Setting things up for a skill reframe from con to persuasion. If Harris says Trump is good at being a con man, Harris publicly declares Trump is good at something. ]
Harris: Well he was clearly conning some people, I’m saying that he’s not conning me. And so, the, the question is – the mismatch – [ Knowingly or not, Harris supplies the audience with a perfect self-reinforcing defense mechanism against the threatening belief that Trump is competent and effective: “Oh but he’s not conning ME. I’M too smart for that.” Harris (and his fans) has a self-concept of being intelligent so this will stick. We see this again and again in the Twitter conversations. ]
Adams: Can I interrupt you again? ‘Cause, this is just really important. He was conning, apparently, according to your frame of things, prior to the election, it seems probably to you, that he was conning enough people to do the things he needed to do. Which was, you know, build buildings, keep his fortune high, and become a reality TV star, and, all that stuff. [ Reframe from “insane” to “has successfully implemented a strategy before” ]
Harris: Yeah… But that, but that was it. He was a reality TV star, who had, I mean… I viewed him, actually I viewed him as, I mean, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about him, but I assumed that most people were in on the joke, right? That he was a kind of punchline. [ Ridicule: one way to internally defuse a mental threat without evaluating it or addressing it. ] It was like a punchline lived over the course of a profitable life. But he was, this was not somebody who was, as he was billing himself to be, a truly great business man, or anything else. [ Harris catches the reframe and tries to reframe it back to con by saying Trump misrepresents himself (not a “truly great businessman”). ]
Adams: Sam, there’s an important point here that I don’t wanna lose by going too far past… your understanding of him at the time was that he could con some people and apparently it was enough of the right people he was conning, to use your word [ Adams paces Harris’ viewpoint without entering it or agreeing to it], to effectively do the things he was trying to do. Would that accurately state your opinion? [ Setting up Harris for the public declaration of this opinion (Cialdini consistency principle). Also, subtly getting Harris to accept the frame that Trump has a strategy and is not “insane.” ]
Harris: Well, yeah, but the things he was trying to do, bore no relationship to becoming president, or becoming somebody who is actually shouldering significant responsibility… [ Adams secures Harris’ agreement ]
Adams: Right, right. I agree with that, [ effective dismissal of Harris’ other words here ] but we’re just talking about the tools of persuasion. And what you just said, if I heard it right, is that even early on, you realized he had the tools of persuasion, which you would characterize as a con man; just a different word for essentially the same set of tools. It has more to do with the intention I guess. [ Starts with a skill set which Harris has agreed Trump has (good at being a “con man”) and reframes it as persuasion, with the difference being intention. Note this idea. It will come up again soon. ]
Harris: But the crucial difference here, again I’m not… I’m just trying to describe what it’s like to watch my movie, as opposed to your movie, or the movie watched by half the country. [ Again uses Adams’ frame. Multiple ways for Adams to win here. ] I can see that he must be persuading somebody… I mean, he fully persuaded half the country to be president. [ This is another big turning point: Adams secures the admission that Trump is good at persuading. Humans generally take time to come to terms with a major belief change when the old belief had a lot of emotions tied into it. Look for them to come bursting out, now that they are no longer assuaged by his emotionally protective belief that Trump is incompetent and unpersuasive and is therefore not much of a threat. Side note: in a different context I would provide a mechanism or more time for them to process and integrate and have their emotional releases, but the live podcast format does not allow for that. ] But, there is never a moment where I find him persuasive. When I look at him… I see a man, I mean it’s really uncanny, it’s like a … I see a man without any inner life… I see the most superficial person on Earth, it’s like… it’s a guy who’s been totally hollowed out by greed, and self-regard, and just delusion. [ Harris is describing literally how he sees Trump in his mind. If he changed his internal images, he would change how he would think about Trump. Also – great example of someone going into their non-preferred system in trance ] I mean, the way he talks about himself, is so…. [ back to auditory ] It’s like, I mean, if I caught some sort of brain virus, and I started talking about myself the way Trump talks about himself, I would throw myself out a fucking window. I mean… it’s like, that barely overstates it, you remember that scene in the end of The Exorcist, where the priest finally… he’s driving out the devil from Linda Blair, and the devil comes into him, and he just hurls himself out the window to end all the madness. Well, it’d be like that. Right? [ Harris’ response is outsized in its intensity. The released emotions starting to come out. ]
Adams: Uhhhhh… Yeah, we’ve gone full exorcist on this. I’ll tell you, one of the things that I write about, and, Periscope about, is, the triggers, y’know, or the tells, for cognitive dissonance. How do you tell that you’re in it, versus somebody else is in it.
Harris: Did I just give you one of my tells? [ Harris assumes cognitive dissonance tells are personalized, like poker tells, but the tells and triggers Adams describes here are universal. ]
Adams: Yeah, you did. [Chuckles] The most classic one is to imagine that you can know somebody’s inner mental processes. So, if you imagine that in his mind, he’s thinking this, or that in his mind he’s hollowed out, or in his mind there’s no depth. If you imagine that those are in there, I would say that is entirely imaginary, and almost certainly a tell for cognitive dissonance. And, by the way…
Harris: Well… no, it…. But it’s not…
Adams: Hold up, hold up. Let me finish the thought.
Adams: And the trigger, so what I look for for confirmation is there’s gotta be a trigger, and then the second thing, which is the tell. So I just described the tell, which is describing somebody’s inner thoughts that you couldn’t possibly know, and, I mean, nobody could, and the trigger, you also described very clearly, the trigger was there’s something about his manner, the way he speaks, that bugs the fuck out of you, and, and, that’s your trigger. [ Paces Harris’ trigger. ]
Harris: You’re just misinterpreting a couple of things here. It’s not the way he speaks, and it’s not that I’m engaging in a mind-reading exercise, it’s based entirely on what he says. It is actually the thoughts that come out of his mouth. It’s not how he says it, it’s what he says!
Adams: But wait, you said 2 things that are in contradiction now. You said that he’s a con man and always has been, but that the things he said are a good reflection of what he’s thinking. You kinda have to pick one. [ Classic Socratic double bind. ]
Harris: Well, no, it’s just he is a… [ pause ] a liar, who will lie whenever it suits his interests, and even when it doesn’t suit his interests. He will lie with an alacrity that I have never seen before in a public person. [ This unreasonable statement (“even when it doesn’t suit his interests”), is an absurd absolute, and a tell for an emotionally palliative hallucination. ]
Adams: I think, yeah, I think you have to break that into 2 categories. The things you’re calling the lies… maybe 3. There are some things which probably he thinks are right and he just gets wrong, which would be typical of any… [ By chunking down, he can “de-generalize” the “Trump = liar” complex equivalence. ]
Harris: I’ll forgive him many of those things, yes. [ Gets one concession. Already the amount of “lies” has decreased. ]
Adams: There are some things which are clearly just hyperbole, which he knows are not exactly factual, but it works better, to, y’know, make the big first offer. [ 2nd category: negotiating hyperbole ] And then there’s another category which is the hardest for anybody to understand, and, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to sell this to anybody here, [ This is the hardest point of understanding for many people because it requires a paradigm shift, and Adams knows this. ] but if you are a trained persuader, you have such a low regard for some types of facts, that you just don’t care if they’re right or wrong, cos they really aren’t ever gonna matter to the outcome. They won’t matter to decisions, and they won’t matter to the outcome. Now, I believe, having been watching him through this filter now for a couple of years, that he can definitely tell the difference between all those categories, and that, I haven’t seen him tell the lie that, that causes, uh, y’know, the country to be harmed in any way. They all seem to be either trivial, and he just doesn’t care, and, y’know, and there’s no point apologizing, ‘cause that’s bad persuasion too in many cases, or, they’re… emotionally correct. So, there, my filter on this, that he’s actually a skilled persuader, and he knows exactly what he’s doing, and those things which are clearly just mistakes tend to be trivial, that is what I used to predict the outcome that got us exactly where we are.
[ New topic follows. This section is another credibility enhancer. ] And, my starting point was, everybody can “hind-cast,” everybody can say, “Ohhhh, the way he won was, here’s my reasons…”. CNN listed 24 different reasons why the surprising result of his election happened. And, they’re all different reasons. So, as you know, confirmation bias, blah blah blah, allows you to explain what happened in the past with any number of stories, and they all fit. That’s why we have, y’know, trials and lawyers, and all their stories sound good, and the jury has to sort it out. But what I did early on is, I said, I’m so sure that these tools are real and consistent and he knows what he’s doing, that I’m gonna risk my entire fucking career to predict that he’s gonna win it all and win it big. [ Skin in the game means more credibility. ] And not only did he win it big, but y’know, he won in the Electoral College, he won the only way that it mattered, he played the only game that they were playing, and he won. Now, some people will say, “Well, he lost the popular vote.” And I would say, “You’re right! He did lose the game he wasn’t playing.” [ Pre-emptively reframe a common objection. ] He never played that game. So, if you look at the predictions, [ visual ] and if you see that they seem to be hitting all the right notes, [ auditory ] that is a little more persuasive than saying, “Well, I’m gonna look at it in the past, and apply these, y’know, 25 different filters that all pretty much work.” There’s lots of different explanations of how things work in the past.
Harris: But, Scott, the emphasis on him successfully persuading doesn’t deal with the fact that what he would be persuading someone toward, or the country toward, may not be a good thing. [Shifts argument to the effects of Trump’s persuasion, not whether he is or is not persuasive, showing acceptance of Trump as a persuasive person. Harris has now shown acceptance of the following Adams points: two movies analogy, Trump is competent, Trump has a strategy and is thus not insane, Trump is a successful persuader ] I mean, so, for instance, he is someone who is morbidly selfish, and again, this is not me with a crystal ball, this is me looking at how he’s lived his life – the kinds of things he’s done, the kinds of things he says about himself. He’s put himself first to such a pathological degree, that I think he’s capable of committing treason, or something like treason, without even noticing…
Adams: … but, but…
Harris: … there’s no sense at all that he has the public good in mind, when he’s acting. [ Harris probably thinks this was his own idea – that intention matters with persuasion –but this is exactly what Adams suggested to Harris just a couple of minutes ago. It’s unlikely that Harris came up with this independently because his adamant belief that Trump was unpersuasive leaves no room for conjectures about what would be the case if Trump WERE persuasive, because to conjecture those scenarios would force confrontation of the unpleasant emotions. Harris’ emotional outburst above revealed the high level of emotion he had tied into Trump being unpersuasive. ] So, the fact that he’s a good persuader, even if I were gonna grant you that, [ He has shown that he has already granted that, but hasn’t fully come to terms with it yet. ] and there’s one thing I wanna flag here that you just said that I think is manifestly not true, which is, that, none of his lies have harmed our society. I think all of his lies have harmed our society. I think the fact that we have a president who lies and everyone knows it, and no one can really trust what he has said until the facts come out, I think that has done immense harm to the world, frankly. [ This is a really good reframe by Harris: lack of transparency harms the entire society. ]
Adams: In, in, what quantitative way is it – would the stock market be at even higher record levels? [ Identifying the “convincer” ]
Harris: The stock market is the wrong metric here. [ Implies that he has accepted the use of metrics. ]
Adams: Well, would ISIS be reconstituting if he had been a little more forthcoming? Would North Korea have, not have launched that last nuke? [ Double bind. In order to address these points individually, Harris would have to admit that those positive developments did indeed occur since Trump became president. ] What exactly would be the evidence that something that he said has harmed the fabric of society? [ This would have been the point for Harris to use his previous reframe, but it seems to have been lost. ]
Harris: The fact that all of us are talking about politics – the fact that politics is so much a part of our lives now…is toxic, is a sign that something is wrong with our society. [ This is borderline nonsensical. He could not have meant the current extreme partisanship because that started long before Trump. ] If things were good we would not be talking about politics. We’re talking about politics 10 times more than we ever have in the lifetime of any person hearing this podcast. I could list a hundred other bad things but that’s one symptom. [Exaggeration and hyperbole. Harris is showing signs of reaching for evidence to keep his previous beliefs intact. ]
Adams: It’s a very good thing, and I’ll tell you why. So first of all, going back to the 2 movies on one screen. The people on the right, the people who are supporting Trump, are having the best 2 years of their lives. I mean, I have never seen such joy and happiness coming out of that segment of the public. [ It’s great to be a Trump supporter! It’s a good option, if you’re starting to realize your old beliefs aren’t viable. ]
Harris: But again, that’s an amoral claim. That would have been said of, to take the extreme example, the burgeoning enthusiasm for the Thousand Year Reich, you know, in 1938. I mean, it’s just like, you get nothing with that claim.
Adams: Did you go full Hitler analogy?
Harris: I went full Hitler analogy conscious of how it would be received.
Adams: [Laughing] Can I declare victory at this point? [ Referencing Godwin’s Law: The first one in an argument to bring up Hitler loses the argument. Humorously pointing out again how Harris is veering off the tracks of rationality. Also needling Harris a bit to add to the emotional triggering. ]
Harris: No, no, I think that’s actually a bad meme. Is that Godwin’s law? I think that’s a bad meme that we have to quash somehow.
Adams: I’ve actually been writing, I write this in my new book, that when somebody retreats to analogy, whether it’s a Hitler analogy or not, it’s because they’ve run out of reasons. Nobody uses an analogy if they have a reason because a reason is way better than an analogy. [ It isn’t the winning side who retreats. Also, since Harris used an analogy, he must be out of reasons. Great framing here. ]
Harris: No, no, well, ok that’s interesting, [ No. I mean yes. ] I think I disagree with that too, [ apparently I’m not sure] but we’ll, let’s move on. [ Doesn’t move on. ] Analogies are tools of communication. If you’re not getting what I’m saying but I know you’ll get this other test case that I think is actually isomorphic with what I’m talking about, well then I go to the analogy. It’s only bad if it’s a bad analogy. But nothing hinges on this. [ kino. Also note that given that Harris can’t take a break to integrate internally during the podcast, he is actually doing a pretty good job of recovering from some sizable changes. ]
Adams: No because all analogies are approximations by design, so you’re not talking about the same topic. Anyway. We can talk about analogies some more. [47:20]