Negations and Reversals in Persuasion, Or, Team Trump’s Tweet Trip-up

Today, Donald Trump’s official Twitter account posted the following tweet.

Let’s unpack the persuasion in this tweet from the perspective of associations and negations (I’ll talk about the final leading question in a moment).

First, the negations and reversals. The mind processes negations by understanding the core un-negated idea first, and then negating it. Take the example, “The dog isn’t running.” You have to think of a dog running first, before you can negate it. (I thought of a dog running, and then it abruptly stopped and just sat there.)

So, looking at it that way, “tax cut” is processed as “not tax” and “end the big tax cuts” is processed as “not (not tax).” “Raise taxes” is processed as “tax” because it has no negation. So now we have:

with Nancy Pelosi wanting to not (not tax) and tax

It takes the mind a moment to sort that out.

Now let’s consider the associations. The first sentence qualifies his audience to Republicans, so let’s take that position for this exercise. Assuming they (we) have bad/negative associations to tax and to Nancy Pelosi, and good/positive associations to the rest – energy, excitement, winning, and a strong economy – the associations go like this:

Good. Good, and good. Good, and with bad wanting to not (not bad) and bad, why wouldn’t we win?

Wait, what?

The shift from good associations to bad associations is jarring, as is the shift from easily processed ideas to a complicated thing to sort out. That also muddles the pre-suasion / context for the final question.

Now, if the associations (i.e. emotional pre-suasion) up to this point had been super clear and unambiguous, the “why wouldn’t we win?” question might have been ok because it would be emotionally obvious that he meant it rhetorically. Consider this set of associations:

Good. Good, and good. Good, and with good, why wouldn’t we win?

The context is better.

That ending question is still not a great idea though, because questions demand answers and he probably didn’t want people thinking of reasons why he wouldn’t win.

The tweet is still effective overall, but the way it was structured with complicated negations and confused associations reduced its effectiveness.

The Hidden Structure Behind Kanye West’s Brilliant “Association Collapse” Persuasion

“When you embrace both sides of any polarity – bringing a positive and negative charge together – they cancel each other out. You are left with an empty space of unlimited potential.” – Paul Scheele

Kanye West unleashed a brilliant method of getting the idea of him running for President in 2024 in millions of people’s heads.

Because West is a master persuader, I can tell you how it works.

West has posted dozens of tweets over the last few days referencing such ideas as changing, being excited about the future, spreading love, unity, and rethinking perspectives. Some examples:

Reading these tweets evokes the states that Kanye wants people to experience: hope for the future, love, being willing to learn, breaking out of old thought patterns, letting go of fear, how competent Kanye is, and more.

After three days of this – building interest, positive feelings, and media attention – West introduces a powerful symbol: Trump’s red MAGA hat.

For some, that red hat symbolizes the end of American weakness and apologizing, and a return to the competitive optimistic spirit that made America the most powerful nation the world has ever seen. For others, and perhaps for the majority of West’s millions of fans, that hat symbolizes all that they are afraid of: hate, fear, oppression, and racial tensions. And many of them, thanks partially to the Clinton campaign’s persuasion work and to the mainstream media, associate those same feelings to Trump himself.

But West doesn’t just introduce the MAGA hat; he tweets a picture of himself WEARING that hat. This smashes those negative MAGA hat and Trump associations into the same time and space as all those positive states he spent the last 3 days evoking in people: love, openness to new ideas, optimism, learning, and breaking away from old mindsets. Those two sets of associations can’t exist in people’s experience at the same time, so they integrate and cancel each other out, leaving what Scheele above calls the “empty space of unlimited potential.”

And what does West do with that space of unlimited potential? He fills it with this powerful image.

West masterfully executed a classic pattern on a mass scale: he knew most of his fans had negative associations to Donald Trump and to the MAGA cause, and because of those negative associations they were unreceptive to the new ideas West wanted to spread. So WestΒ stacked a lot of newly evoked good states and integrated them with the stack of existing negative states to neutralize them, and used the resulting space to create something positive: West for president 2024.

Bonus Persuasion: West’s 2024 slogan “Keep America Great” is a persuasion play on Trump’s mission. It presupposes that Trump will “Make America Great Again,” so that West can inherit that mission and Keep America Great.


Black male approval for Trump doubles in one week.

I am now offering a limited number of persuasion consulting sessions if you see the value of learning how to persuade. Contact

How Not to Be Persuasive on Twitter, Part 1: What Message Are You Really Sending?

Recently, Kanye West created a stir when he retweeted several clips of one of Scott Adams’ periscope videos. This caused a huge amount of cognitive dissonance (i.e. “heads exploding”) in some circles and the anti-right twitter trolls went into overdrive attacking Adams and West.

Some of them screwed it up because they don’t understand persuasion.

For example, take this tweet by Jules Suzdaltsev:

Clearly this is an attempt to ridicule and discredit Adams. But look at the tweet and think about what you experience.

You see a 60+ man with a better physique than 90% of young men these days. Humans, like all social primates, respond unconsciously to displays of dominance because position in the social hierarchy determines mating opportunities. Alphas are particularly considered more credible and worth paying attention to than those lower in status. In the retweeted pictures Adams comes off as physically superior, one type of dominance display (others include displays of talent, wealth, wit, and authority). So by Suzdaltsev retweeting the pictures, Adams’ message of dominance and credibility has now been spread to Suzdaltsev’s 58,000+ followers.

Think about that again: Suzdaltsev got persuaded into spreading Adams’ message, while all the time, thinking that he was making Adams seem weaker.

Who was more persuasive here?


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