The podcast itself is called “Triggered!”
My notes in blue.
Note that there may be a difference between my own opinion and my parsing of what the persuasion is communicating.
And thank @theTinkerBelles and @ultrappowered for this transcription!
[ 1:15:00 ]
SA: Because he did something that clearly would be awfully painful for him and his family. They’re risking physical death.
SH: That’s a naïve or incomplete picture of what selfishness entails. [ Backing into a chunk-up reframe ] I think most people who are selfish, we’re all selfish to some degree and most of us manage to do many things that in retrospect seem unwise or needlessly incurring of hassle in the spirit of trying to get what we want out of life. [ Pacing objection ] But here I think you have someone who is so malignantly selfish [ Trump as an outlier ] that yeah, he will do things that seem completely crazy and counterproductive, even by that yardstick because… Take for example the Russia hacking of our election [ Emotionally loaded language ], I think we should talk about that because it is so important and it’s a place where I think Trump’s interests, as a candidate, and as a president, diverge radically from our nation’s interests and the world’s interests. But, take what would have been a completely sane response to the Russian hacking by any other president. Even if it was clear that Russia’s influence had helped him, as it is, and probably tipped the balance among other things that tipped the balance toward getting him elected. We’re talking about in some cases, 70,000 votes, so if anyone was influenced by Russian bots, or the Podesta leaks, it was enough to put him over the line. Even if there was the fear, the understandable fear, that this made his presidency seem illegitimate. [ Pace and lead ] You know a sane normal person would turn on a dime, rather than say “this is fake news” or “it never happened” or “I don’t agree with 17 intelligence agencies. I’m going to take Vladimir Putin’s word for the fact that he didn’t do anything.” Right? Or maybe, it was a 400 lb teenager in his mother’s basement, you turn on a dime and you say, “Listen we have to get to the bottom of this. It’s completely unacceptable for a foreign power to hack into, be to my political rival’s database and leak this information. And we’re living in a world now where cyber espionage and cyber war, these are among the greatest threats to the smooth functioning of civilization and we have to get to the bottom of this and Russia has to pay a penalty for what they did and I guarantee you I’m going to get to the bottom of this.” Now, you take yourself out of the equation, but all he has done is defend himself in more and more preposterous ways, lying about everything, [ absurd absolute ] until the facts come out [ future pace ]. And the thing is, he’s surrounded by surrogates who are forced to do this as well. Everyone is forced to compromise themselves trying to make sense of his latest lie or his latest tweet. [ Absolutes and absurd wordings: everyone, forced ]
SA: Yeah, let me put some context on that as well. [ Co-opting Harris’ reframe ] So I think you’d agree that the credibility of the presidency matters, [ Pace and moving to larger chunk size at the same time ] and that a president, whether it was President Trump or any other president, who came into office and knew it wasn’t really going to change – in all likelihood, he will serve out his term, I think you will agree. More likely than not, right? [ Pace, then lead. Getting agreement with a low threshold for agreement. ]
SH: At this point, I don’t know whether it’s more likely than not, at this point, I would grant you as of a week ago, it was much more likely than not. [ Essentially an agreement ]
SA: Alright, so under those conditions, the country is best served by feeling that their president is legitimate. [ Big picture reframe ] So whether we like that or not, [ Pace ] the fact is that we are best served by thinking that he is legitimate enough to do the job. Secondly, he has a lot of competing things he has to balance. [ Reframe by “looking over someone else’s shoulder” at the situation. ] One is that you can’t let Russia get away with this. And the second is you can’t piss them off when you need them as much as we need them right now. So those are two competing things. My assumption, and you know you can test this against your own assumption, is that we’re not letting them off the hook and that we’re going to f*** them as hard as we can.
SH: But wait…
SA: And the CIA, through the CIA we’re probably going to mess with their cyber. We have probably…
SH: The CIA that you just publicly said that you don’t trust to analyze the situation? Rather you trust Putin? [ Confirmation bias hallucination. ] And then you send out a tweet which says we’re going to form a Joint Cyber Command with Putin to figure out how to deal with cyber? I mean, it’s insane. It’s not principled. It’s not strategic. It’s just a madman on Twitter. [ Hallucination ]
SA: But let me ask you this. Do you think it is likely or unlikely that our intelligence agencies are planning, or have already responded forcefully? [ Asking a question with an obvious answer. ]
SH: Well, I certainly hope that’s the case. But I’ll tell you what is also likely, or in fact certain…
SA: But if you don’t know, why do you think he’s not doing his job? [ Calling out the confirmation bias ] The very best way to play this, in my opinion, would be to publicly support Putin, the way Putin is publicly saying they had nothing to do with the election, while under the hood, Putin probably did have much to do with the election. And Trump is probably f***king him as hard as he can under the hood.
SH: But he’s f***ing himself too. [ In order to be f***ing himself too, it must be the case that Trump is also f***ing Putin under the hood. Harris has now accepted that concept. ] Don’t you understand [ evidence of frustration – almost pleading ] he’s been f***ing himself this whole time because he has so alienated our intelligence apparatus. We have career service intelligence people who are risking their careers, and in some cases probably risking prison time, leaking against him. [ Credibility play: skin in the game. ] So all of these leaks that are coming out of our intelligence services are illegal, and they’re being provoked by the fact, that he has taken the wrong side in a geopolitical contest against a known adversary. [ Mindreading from a distance. There is no way Harris could know the motivation for the actions taken by spy agencies. ]
SA: Well, I just told you that in all likelihood he’s doing exactly what we want him to do but we wouldn’t know what’s happening with the intelligence services, what’s happening in cyber. We wouldn’t know. [ Pointing out Harris’ (and the audience’s) mindreading. ]
SH: But we know about the leaks against him. We know about how much chaos is being caused over this Russia investigation and how it’s being dragged out and how everyone is lying about it. [ More absolutes: “everyone.” ] I mean, it’s a disaster.
SA: So we’ve been watching for two years as the so called mainstream media has painted him as a crazy Hitler. So it is perfectly understandable that the intelligence agencies, just because they’re human, and they happen to be on a side, and they have been convinced that he’s a monster that needs to be taken out. That all makes perfect sense to me. [ Reasonable alternative explanation. ]
SH: Wait, it makes perfect sense to you that he would… Just take the tweet of, now it’s probably ten days ago, where he tweeted that there’ll be a Joint US-Russia Cyber Alliance to figure out how to protect us going forward from cyber espionage, and people immediately joked “Yeah, when is the ISIS-US Alliance gonna protect us from terrorism?” And then he tweeted, you know, an hour later or a day later, essentially “Just kidding” or “Of course it’s impossible but we’ve got to ceasefire in Syria.” You are describing those kinds of things as the actions of a master manipulator or persuader but these are so obviously counter-productive. I mean yes, they’re destabilizing. If you’re going to say, as a general rubric, if… [ example of “chaotic” behavior ]
SA: Let me tell you what I think happened, as in the most likely explanation for those things which you just described. Now one explanation, and again any explanation fits the past, so that’s always dangerous stuff. [ Weakening the certainty in our retroactive explanations.Making room for new explanations. ] So your filter on it fits, which is he’s crazy, unstable, he sends one tweet that doesn’t make sense, and then another one that cancels it out. [ Pace, and reducing the unlimited general case (“just a madman on Twitter”) to a single specific event. That reduces the emotional intensity. ] So the filter that says he’s crazy, unstable, whatever, fits those facts. [ Pace ] Here’s another one that fits. [ Leveraging the multiple movies frame again to weaken certainty and emotional intensity. ] He tries a lot of stuff. He does a lot of A/B Testing, including with the public. He probably thought about this idea and wondered if there was some way in which we could work together without creating any unnecessary risk. It took probably twenty four hours for the people who do this stuff to say “No, there is no way to do that even though, maybe commonsensically, it seems like there might be, some corner, some parts in the margin that we could work together. If we did, we wouldn’t want to tell the public, and we wouldn’t want to do anything important.” So then he says “Well, we talked about it, but it can‘t happen and it won’t happen.” That’s what his second tweet said. So to me, that fits the filter as well. A person who was open to an idea, who was out of the box, which is why his supporters support him because he does think out of the box, [ Reframing negative “crazy” to positive “thinking outside the box” ] in part. He considered it for a day. He got expert advice. It didn’t make sense. He told us. Is that as crazy as it sounds? [ Another reasonable alternative explanation. Also laying out one of Trump’s strategies in a simple and easy to understand format, and portraying him as taking advice of experts. This sends Harris into major cognitive dissonance. ]
SH: I mean the problem is Scott, everything fits that filter. [ In the vacuum left by his previous belief, he adopts the most recent suggestion by Adams above ] If he takes his pants down in the Rose Garden, and starts screaming, [ Visual imagery ] that will still fit the filter. He tried something, he’s A/B Testing, he’s destabilizing everyone. [ Pace pace lead by Harris here. ] Look everyone’s talking about that and not the oil pipeline he just rammed through [ visual / kino presentation ] or the climate change agreement he just cancelled or whatever. And you could always do this post-hoc, look it’s just all…
SH: …all theater and it’s working for him until he’s impeached. Only impeachment would be a counterpoint here. [ More absolutes: destabilizing everyone, everyone’s talking, it’s all theatre, only impeachment. ]
SA: Let me agree with you as hard as I can because that’s the same point I was saying that you can always explain the past with a variety of different filters as we just did. [ Adams notes the Harris adopted his point ]
SH: That’s not true of everything I’m saying. There’s no explanation of him as an actually ethical person, as an actually honest person, as an actually well-informed person, that you can run through the data. It’s impossible. [ Changing the subject, back to the ethics accusation ]
SA: Am I trying to do that? I’ve never once tried to do that. [ Points out the hallucination. Confuses Harris, whose target just disappeared. ]
SH: Well no I’m just saying that my analysis of him, my filter of him, is falsifiable. [ Changes argument completely. ] I mean the claims I’m making about it, that he lies to an unprecedented degree, that he is clearly uninformed where he should be informed and failing to learn on the job the way we would want him to be.
SA: Well, most of that both sides would agree with. [ Pace ] So what you’ve said so far is that he plays loose with the facts. [ Pace with emotional reduction ] Both sides agree. That his, if you look at his past ethical conduct, both sides would scratch their head and say “Mmm. I don’t think I would have done that in that situation.” [ Pace with emotional reduction ] So we’re in complete agreement on those things. [ Pace ] But he also said “I’m no angel. And I’m going to do for you, the country, what I’ve done to make myself so rich and successful and, by the way it’s a pretty public job and you can watch all along the way. [ Countering again with the “effective advocate” frame. ]
SH: And by the way, I’ve been lying about how rich and successful I am by a factor of 10 and that’s why I’m not releasing my tax returns. [ More mind reading on why ]
SA: But I’ll bet he’s worth ten billion dollars now. (laughing) [ Could be pointing out the difference between the psychologically powerful “name it to claim it” (i.e. creating something in your mind first is the first step to creating something in reality) and Harris’ definition of saying anything that isn’t scientifically validatable is a flat-out lie. ]
SH: Yeah, but that’s proving my point. That’s the horror of the situation. He managed to make good on the con, to make it a non-con in the end, really. I will grant you that, but again… [ This is starting to devolve into a debate on ethics itself ]
SA: And that is exactly the skillset, which he explicitly promises to use on our behalf. Just like a lawyer’s… [ Effective advocate frame again using a familiar example. ]
SH: But it’s not on our behalf. Take climate change, right? This is not on our behalf if you think climate change is a problem, right? And if you don’t think climate change is a problem, if you think you are your own climate scientist because you did some google searches [ Absurd restatement ]. Well then, you’ve just migrated away from a fact-based discussion about reality. [ Fits Harris’ narrative about Trump being crazy, but hallucinates that there is no legitimate skeptic case. ] And this is not good for the country that we have a president who’s done this. Take Infowars. We have a president who has dignified Alex Jones as essentially better than, not only equal to but better than, the mainstream news media, right? [ paces some on the right ] And Alex Jones is someone who has been telling the world that the Sandy Hook Massacre was a hoax so that Obama could come take our guns away. Absorb the ethical implications of that, and the experience of the parents who are getting death threats for having faked the deaths of their children. And then you have Trump sitting down with him, as if he’s Ted Koppel. [ Presenting extreme case as the typical case. Strong emotional association: Jones said something, and other people did crazy things, and Trump meets with Jones. ] It’s insanity that we have a president who’s behaving this way, and you’re painting it as something that is just, has no cost, right? [ Hallucination. Adams has already explicitly stated it does have a cost ] It not only has no cost, it’s probably a good thing because it’s in our interest. [ Hallucination. Adams never said it was a good thing. ]
SA: (Tone of Voice goes very deep/serious) Now, do you remember I interrupted you the last time you said “no cost.” I’m explicitly saying it has a cost. [ Calls Harris out on it ]
SH: It has a cost to him reputationally, you said. It’s a bad thing for everyone that Alex Jones has the President’s ear. It’s insane. [ Repeating insanity accusation ] And take climate change. What’s your view of… Forget about what you think whether you think the climate change agreement we walked away from was going to do much of anything. We can debate that, but in terms of the importance of…
SA: Isn’t that, that debate’s largely over, right? It turns out that when people looked at the climate agreement that it didn’t do much. It just cost a lot of money. [ Using past tense and consensus. Consensus is the primary argument supporting climate change, so that is extremely effective here ]
SH: The narrow focus on that agreement is not the thing. The focus is on getting the entire developed and developing world on the same page that we have to address a global problem that no nation can address on its own. [ Reasonable explanation. Climate change is a perfect “wolf at the door” to make friends of strangers, only with individual nations. ]
SA: Alright, let’s just look at it one part at a time. He famously called climate change, or climate science I guess, or global warming a hoax. [ Pace ]
SA: It turns out the agreement, the centerpiece to the whole discussions, was closer to a hoax than a useful agreement. I would say that characterization was still hyperbole. It was more like, an agreement that didn’t do much, as opposed to an actual hoax. But when we had been sold, I know I had been sold, [ we are in the same group here ] that that agreement would actually do something…
SH: Well, no, you’re equivocating on what is the hoax here. He said that climate change is a hoax.
SA: Yeah, we’ll get into that next.
SH: That the consensus… I mean, forget about the agreement, [ Giving up that argument and trying a new one ] the problem is we have a president who will say “Climate change is a hoax cooked up by the Chinese to harm our manufacturing base.” [ Effective. Sounds ridiculous ]
SA: Well, hold on, hold on. Now, if you assume that he is under-informed, and is in the process of becoming more informed, [ pace ] then I would that say he’s doing the smartest thing I’ve ever seen a president do. [ Bold statement to entrain attention ] And I know you’re going to hate that. [ Pace ] Because, I talk about in the book you’re reading, I talk about systems being better than goals. One of the systems that is coming out of his administration from the EPA, is the idea of this Red Team/Blue Team discussion on climate science, which would have the benefit of educating the public. And here’s the brilliant part. [ Confirmation bias from the bold statement entrains attention even more ] If it turns out that the consensus of scientists are spot on, and everything they’re saying we should have listened to them harder, this Red Team/Blue Team thing is going to surface that, and it’s going to allow the administration, including President Trump, to side with science once it has been completely communicated and vetted in a way that the public and the administration can understand. [ Explains Trump’s climate science strategy. This reframes Trump from being a “denier” to executing a pace and lead move on the public ] Cause the alternative to that, is for him to pretend he understands what science is saying and I think that that is the big “dope trap” that any of us think we, well in your case maybe you can understand the science. The average person doesn’t have any hope of looking into this field and penetrating it. [ Weakening the belief in the audience that they can know what the details are ]
SH: But they don’t have to. The point is it’s not our job to vet all of the specific sciences that the scientists working in that field are doing nothing but vet themselves. And so, when it’s like, people do things with climate science that they would never do with oncology, or with anything else. It’s like, you’re not an oncologist, right? And when 97% of oncologists say that smoking causes lung cancer, you wouldn’t be tempted to go on the internet, and after an afternoon of Google searches, come to your own opinion about whether smoking causes lung cancer. That’s not a move that people tend to make because, for whatever reason, that’s just not what people are politically divided about. [ Emotionally powerful analogy ]
SA: Let’s use another example. Let’s say the government’s food pyramid 20 years ago.
SH: Yeah, that’s a famous area where the science is unsettled [ Pacing objection ] and also where the incentives to do science… where everyone’s, you’ve got the Sugar Council doing their own science. It’s basically like Big Tobacco funding their own research so… [ Adams’ argument here is so strong that Harris’ objection pacing has to be extensive to the point of making Adams’ case for him. ]
SA: So you would say there are examples, in our common experience, in which the experts who had some career-related incentive to fudge things, fudged things, and fooled us for years that the consensus was right, when in fact, it was completely a hoax. Would you agree with that statement? With the food pyramid? [ Everything in this statement is true to people’s experience. If it can happen once at such a large scale it can happen again, which devastates the certainty of the consensus ]
SH: With food, I had Gary Taubes on this podcast which proved to be surprisingly controversial. It’s amazing how heated people get around this issue of food. I would grant you that in the area of diet and I’m sure, there probably could be some other areas we could think of, the consensus is unusually confused, [ portraying those examples are outliers ] and has been for decades and there’s a lot to do to untangle the sources of people’s confusion and undoubtedly, there are bad incentives and/or research getting involved. [ Complete back down from the consensus argument ] But again, the cure for that is clearly more science. It’s not a non-scientist getting a vibe by putting his finger to the wind, or doing some internet research.
SA: But that’s a strawman, because there’s nobody who is opposed to more science.
SH: That’s not true. Because this Red Team/Blue Team has already been done in the science. When you’re talking about whether climate change is an issue… [ attempt to portray the Red Team / Blue Team process as irrelevant and not having any new information ]
SA: The Red Team/Blue Team thing, as I understand it, is a military process…
SA: …which does not have an exact analog in peer review or anything like that. So it would be on top of the science. [ Framing Red Team / Blue Team as a completely new thing ]
SH: But my point is you’re taking something from science, about which there is very little controversy and whatever controversy surround it, it’s at the margins. It’s not about this basic issue, right?
SA: Well, if that’s your statement, that there’s very little controversy, and you point to the economic model that tells us both the costs and benefits, and when we should invest and what way we should invest to deal with the climate. The economic model is the one that tells you what to do, how hard to do it, and when to do it. The science doesn’t. [ Framing the difference between the science and the attempts to determine the correct action ]
SH: The economics of it are important to get as right as we can get them. And this is one of the real travesties of Trump’s messaging here. I mean Trump’s talking about bringing back coal mining. Trump is the kind of president where Elon Musk has to resign from his Advisory Council for how embarrassing it is to be hitched to him. [ Mind reading someone else’s inner thoughts from afar ] So where’s the future? With 75,000 coal miners? Or with the 500,000 people in California alone who are in the alternative energy sector? [ Cialdini comparison principle ]
SA: So as I mentioned before my background is I have a degree in economics. I have an MBA from Cal Berkeley so I tend to filter things that way as well. [ Credibility ] And with the situation with climate change, one of the things that you always have to decide is when to start. And I had the same situation with my house, when I built my house, I had to decide whether to put solar panels on my roof. Now they said “If you put these panels on, they’ll pay for themselves in seven years.” Whatever it is, 15, whatever. And I said “Well, that’s a terrible deal.” Do you know why it’s a terrible deal that I would spend some money and that it would definitely pay back in 15 years? The answer is because if I waited three years to install these things, the cost of installing them would drop so much, that I could pay for them in far less time. So economics is not always “Hey, there’s a bad thing coming. So we have to do some obvious thing right away.” Lots of times it’s more nuanced than that. Sometimes the best thing to do is to wait for your technology to improve your visibility on the situation… [ Strong example, also a “metaphoric journey” ]
SH: … Yeah, but then you have to improve the technology, but here we have a president who’s cutting funding into basic R&D science…
SA: … Let me finish on the coal. The economist way of viewing this stuff is that when the economy in general is doing well, which almost entirely means jobs, you know, jobs equals economy for the most part, [ complex equivalence ] that you have the freedom and the flexibility to solve all kinds of problems. If your economy is doing well you can do healthcare – that saves people. If the economy is doing well, your military is strong – that saves people. So to say that having coal might, or even reducing research which seems like a bad idea to me too, that those things have this straight line negative impact in the future is just ignoring everything that economists know, which is that building stronger economy, and jobs is a big part, gives you all kinds of options – it’s a better system. [ Overall a “chunking up” reframe ]
SH: But there’s only 75,000 jobs in the entire coal industry, there’s not even that many coal miners, it’s everything, I mean this is talking about people working in the back office. And there are tenfold that many jobs, nearly tenfold that many jobs in cleantech in a single state, right? Everything is backwards here, we should be… [ Ignoring the better system argument without addressing it. Going back to the numbers example ]
SA: …No, no, no. Here’s the persuasion filter on this. [ Presenting, not contradicting. People can resist contradictions but it’s harder to resist new information ] Do you remember before the inauguration when Pence and Trump went off to try to claw back those jobs from Ford and Carrier and then, you know, sounded like they did but then the news came out: “Well maybe that wasn’t really what we thought it was”. But what happened was they did what I call the ‘New CEO move’ and that is before anybody even catches the breath on your first day you make some big changes that essentially brand you for who you are. That was their way to brand them as the “We’re gonna do anything to keep jobs in this country”. That is the sort of psychology that drives economy. Because if you think things are gonna be good tomorrow, you invest today. And it turns out that’s all it takes for a good economy. So the psychology of the economy – President Trump and vice president Pence have absolutely nailed, and you can see that in consumer confidence, you can see that in stock market. So you’re right that doing these little things with Ford, little things with Carrier, they might not even be the way they’re reported that the saving a few jobs in coal… You’re right that the number of people isn’t important, but when you see your President clawing to keep people employed, clawing to keep jobs in this country, you say to yourself: “This is a country I wanna invest in.” [ Showing the persuasion strategy in that move ]
SH: But again, it cuts the other way entirely for me and for half the country and I think for anyone who’s informed about the issues and he could secure that exact same gain the other way. He could say: “Listen, I’m now president, I understand both how dangerous our situation is with respect to climate change and how much opportunity there is to make trillions of dollars if we seize this opportunity. Do we want China to be building all the cleantech or do we want to build it? I’ve just invited Elon Musk onto this advisory board, I’m gonna be in close consultation with him and everyone like him to figure out how we can ram through the 21st century in few short years. And yes, there are coal miners who will lose their jobs but here there are 75,000 of them and we can easily retrain them or find some other way to compensate them for the loss of these jobs, [ pacing an objection ] but clearly the future is getting our power from sunlight and in breathing clear air not having tens of thousands of lung cancers and people dying emphysema needlessly in our cities, because we can’t figure out how to transition to electric cars.” [ Stark contrast with strong imagery: either clean air, or people dying by the tens of thousands. Cialdini comparison principle ] I mean forget about climate change, you can sell this entire thing on the basis of clean air but no, we have a president who is gutting the EPA, right? We have a president who is, contrary to what you’re saying, not seizing the economic opportunity. We should be doubling our R&D on everything related to the future of energy technology and we’re not doing it. And he could do the exact thing you say he’s accomplishing by championing the cause of coal miners, he could do the exact same thing in clean tech frame. [ Strong redirect – Harris applies Adams’ economic argument towards “clean energy” ]