Parsing the Scott Adams – Sam Harris Podcast for Persuasion, Part 6

Read my intro here and some background on belief structures here.

The podcast itself is called “Triggered!

Previous sections: Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5. You might notice some techniques I pointed out in those posts that I don’t point out below. That’s deliberate.

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…

SA: Yeah

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 ]

SH: Yes.

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…

SH: Yes…

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” ]

Parsing the Scott Adams – Sam Harris podcast for persuasion, Part 5

Read my intro here and some background on belief structures here.

The podcast itself is called “Triggered!

Previous sections: Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3, and Part 4. You might notice some techniques I pointed out in those posts that I don’t point out below. That’s deliberate.

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 @Subutai1175  and @ultrappowered for this transcription!

[ 1:00:33 ]

SA: Yeah, I would go even further and say that if you actually knew the secret life of any of our politicians, we would impeach all of them. [ Acknowledging and using the emotional power of Harris’ setup to fuel a reframe using Cialdini comparison principle. ] So the problem is that…

SH: …That’s not true…

SA: …the people tend to be fairly despicable when you drill down. [ Big picture reframe. Trump is not an outlier. ]

SH: Do you really think Obama is trailing things of this magnitude, character flaws, manifest character flaws of this magnitude? [ Trying to establish that Trump is indeed an outlier. ]

SA: Well I won’t name names but I would say it would be more common than not common for the, you know, especially the males have like sketchy, sketchy behavior with the opposite sex. [ Trump is not an outlier. Worded reasonably and hard to disagree with, while still getting the point across. ]

SH: Not this level of sketchy behavior. [ Trump is an outlier. ] I mean this is, again, I’m not gonna go to the Billy Bush groping tape which I think is appropriate to…

SA: Keep in mind that President Trump’s past is far more public than other people’s so you’re gonna see the warts as well as the good stuff, [ You can’t compare Trump to other Presidents because we haven’t seen the hidden lives of others like we have of Trump. Ends the outlier / not outlier frame fight without resolution by saying a valid comparison is not possible. ] but let me stop acting like I’m disagreeing with the general claim you’re making, that he has done things that you and I might not do in the same situation and would disapprove of. [ Agreeing ends the topic of discussion by “conceding” the point, while reducing the extremity of the viewpoint, and leaving that emotionally reduced summary as the last word. ] I would say that is common and would be shared by Trump supporters as well. [ More dismantling of the “virtuous, enlightened, educated us” vs “troglodytic, racist, ignorant them” frame. ]

SH: But then you seem to give it no ethical weight.

SA: Here’s the proposition: he came in and he said in these very words: “I’m no angel, but I’m gonna do these things for you.” Now he created a situation where for his self-interest – if you imagine he’s the most selfish, narcissistic, egoistical human who ever lived, [ pace ] he cares only about himself – he put himself in a position where there was exactly one way for any of those things to go right for him, which is to do a really, really fricking good job. And to imagine that he wants to do anything but the best job for the country now, now that he’s in the position, and probably also when he was running, is beyond ludicrous and I would say… [ Turning the ego / selfish criticism into an asset by aligning it with Trump’s desire to do what is best for the country. Introducing the “best advocate” frame. ]

SH: …Ok stop there, because I will grant you that he cares about his reputation to some degree and his reputation would be enhanced if at the end of four years, or at the end of eight years more likely, he was described as the greatest president we ever had. [ Harris’ consideration of this idea seems a big change from his starting position. ] I mean I think he would like that. If you could give him a magic wand and he could wave it at any direction he would want to leave being spoken of as the next Lincoln or the next Jefferson. So granted, in that sense his interests and the country’s interest would be aligned, [ Concedes the point partially. ] but there are two problems with that idea. One is, there are many ways in which his interests, his personal selfish interests and that of his family, are not aligned with those of the country and there’s real harm to our institutional norms on that basis. [ Trump presented as an outlier again, this time a threat to the norms ] I mean, so we have this family, functioning like that the ruling family in a banana republic now, they’re enriching themselves at every turn. There’s endless reports of the State Department and the Secret Service, paying tens of thousands of dollars to stay in Trump hotels. You’ve got Ivanka hawking her gold bracelet that she was wearing on the first 60 minutes interview, you know, 48 hours after the election. You’ve got the incessant pumping of Trump branded properties with taxpayer dollars, I mean there’s no end to this, right? [ Note that in Harris’ mind the list is literally endless, even if he doesn’t know all the details. Confirmation bias allows him to fill in the list on the fly with anything he encounters by interpreting new events in a way that follows the pattern he perceives. ] And they’re doing deals in dozens of countries. So there’s conflicts of interest that they won’t even acknowledge. We’ll get to Russia, there’s this Russia thing which is clearly not in the interest of the US and may very well be in Trump’s interest to, I would say, court a… again, I mean, I think the word ‘treason’, I’m not using the word ‘treason’ in the technical sense like I think he’ll be convicted of treason, but there’s a treasonous levels of disregard for the interests of our country in how he has been dealing with Russia thus far and the Russia scandal. [ Treason, ruling family, banana republic, “endless” reports, “incessant” pumping of properties – Harris is no longer speaking in reasonable or rational terms. These are all absolutes, absurd restatements, or both. ]

SA: Or he’s just being persuasive and practical. Both of those filters fit. [ Dismissed that whole section with a reframe. The prep work on two movies, etc made this more effective. ]

SH: There’s nothing persuasive about being the first president who will openly, without any caveat, just praise and align himself with a dictator of Putin’s quality, who has just maliciously targeted our country in a way that is totally unambiguous. [ Association to a known “evil.” ]

SA: First of all, I’m sure that we target other countries, so that you know the context is we’re all probably doing it to everybody else. [ Reframe through literal context change. ]

SH: Again this is a move into a kind of amoral equivalence, which doesn’t make any sense to me because of course we seek to influence other countries, but we do it because we actually have our values right? I mean we think our values are good. If we’re trying to influence an election in Iran say. The reason why we think that is legitimate is because we are the good guys there. Now and I mean that in a fairly deep sense, right? I mean we are fighting for democratic values and tolerance of minorities and you know. [ Argument of we need to be the “good guys” and Trump is not one of the “good guys.” This is Harris’ hangup: he believes that one’s values and interpretation of what is good give one the right to exercise power. Of course, the other side believes that their values and interpretation of what is good give them the right to exercise power. ]

SA: I agree, I agree, I agree with all that, I’m just saying that in the in the real world if a country pokes you, you poke them back the same way, that’s just going to happen. [ Reframe from idealism to practicality. Establishes that countries ]

SH: Ok but we have a president now who says nothing but good things about a dictator, who we know jails and kills his political opponents and jails and kills journalists. [ More association of Trump and Putin. ]

SA: Let me, let me, let me refer you to… There was some CIA analysts recently, who said – retired ones I guess – who said that they were worried that Trump could be easily manipulated by his ego through flattery, and that foreign leaders are looking at his tweets and his personality and saying, “Hey we can totally persuade this guy to do what we want, by using this flattery thing.” [ Pace ] Now we’re watching president Trump flatter not only the North Korean dictator by calling him a smart cookie for staying in power, but also Putin and also the Chinese leadership. You’ve seen him flatter the 3 leaders that we’d most want to persuade. [ Presents Trump as someone who turned the tables on all the foreign leaders who thought they could manipulate him, by manipulating them. Reframes the Putin association from admiration to persuasive flattery. Simultaneously counters another common fear that Trump is a crazy manipulatable chump out of his depth. ]

SH: But I’ve seen him play both sides. I mean in one Tweet he’ll bash the Chinese leadership and he was bashing the Chinese leadership throughout the campaign and he’ll bash Kim Jong-Un in another Tweet. He’s both sides of it. It’s not one thing or the other, it’s the chaos of his own personality and his problems with impulse control made manifest. [ The “Trump is chaotic, scary, has no impulse control, he’s gonna get us all killed” narrative. ]

SA: Is it, has he bashed them since he was President? Cause there are things that he did on the campaign trail. Which case are you talking about? [ Separating the contexts. Reducing the objection by the amount of incidents that can be explained by a context that naturally makes them appropriate. ]

SH: Well just tweets about how obviously we can’t count on China anymore and warning Kim Jong-Un that there’s gonna be a massive penalty to be paid for.

SA: Ok those. Let me explain both of those things. Warning Kim Jong-Un that there’s going to be a massive penalty is not saying something about the individual. Right, he’s just saying the same thing that any president would say in that situation. The situation with China which I wrote about extensively, is that the smartest persuasion that he could do in that situation is to set China up as the adult in their neighborhood who for some reason can’t control their own backyard. So that’s the setup he gave them. He said, “You guys are great! You know, why don’t you take care of this North Korea stuff, we’ll take a step back. Get this done.” Then, when it didn’t get done, he didn’t say “You guys are assholes,” ‘cause that would have been a big mistake. He said, “Well we tried, you know, China’s great. They didn’t get it done, you know. Maybe next time.” That is exactly the right persuasion, and exactly how I would have played it, because that gave him a free pass to do something that China doesn’t want him to do, if he needs to do that, ‘cause he said publicly, “We trust you guys, you guys can take care of this.” Then he waited and in fact they increased, apparently they increased trade with North Korea and so he pointed it out factually – correctly – and said “Well I guess that didn’t work.” And that gives him a moral free pass because he just gave them the opportunity to fix it themselves first. [ Pointing out the strategy and intelligence of Trump’s approach. The strategy is coherent and again counters the Trump as crazy / incompetent / chaotic narrative. There is more to this as well; do you recognize it? ]

SH: Well I’m not claiming that that was the wrong communication at that point, it’s just that, it all has the character of a haphazard ejaculation of whatever he’s thinking [ OMG what a visual ] or the product of the last conversation he had. So when he met with the China’s leader, he said after ten minutes he was convinced that, you know, the trade thing is not what he thought it was, right? Meanwhile he’d campaigned on the trade thing being one way for months and so there’s something about the fact that he pretends to have it all worked out until the next moment where he has to reverse course completely without ever acknowledging that he’s reversed course. Without ever giving an intelligent account of why it happened. And you’re attributing this to some kind of real method to his madness but in most cases it just looks like madness or it just looks like a lack of understanding of what he was gonna have to think anyway. [ Good summary of the interaction. ]

SA: Yeah I think there are probably several things going on. One of them is a learning process and the people who supported him and voted for him, I think everybody had their eyes open that you plump a non-politician into this job whether it’s, you know, Barack Obama with a little bit of experience or Trump, they’re going to be learning and evolving fairly quickly on the job, so there’s some of that, you know, genuine changing of opinion. There is some: the situation changes so he pivots, but he also says clearly and often that he likes being unpredictable, and he likes setting his adversaries off balance. You know. Are you my friend? Are you my enemy? Are you gonna slap a tariff on me? Are we, do we have a treaty? And persuasion-wise that is brutally effective, because it makes everybody search for, you know, the one thing they can depend on, and if he offers it, they’re gonna grab it. So keeping people off balance until you offer them your solution is actually pretty standard persuasion. [ 1: Outsider quickly learning on the job, which we expected. 2: changing his approach based on changing circumstances. 3: using an unpredictable persona as a negotiating tool. Combined, they provide a set of effective explanations of strategy underlying what on the surface can appear to be madness. ]

SH: I mean he’s persuaded something like half the country to vote for him. [ Harris has stated this multiple times now. He has completely accepted Trump as effective persuader for at least some people. ] As I’ve said I’ve never found him persuasive even for a moment and he’s clearly not persuaded the other half of the country and now his approval ratings are whatever they are. You know they’re as low as things can get, [ Counter-example: if he’s persuasive, why are his approval ratings so low? ] given that there’s a certainly a quorum of republicans who will never disapprove of him even, as he said, if he shoots someone in Times Square. I get that he’s President right? He got elected, so his persuasion, or whatever it was, got him that far. I think that it says less about him frankly than about the state of the country, and our relationship to fame and reality television and an advertisement of wealth as opposed to, you know, the reality of being wealthy. Obviously the fact that the con worked I’ll grant you means something. It doesn’t mean something great about him. It means something that I perceive as a symptom of a problem in our relationship to politics and our relationship to facts in this case. [ Changed the argument. Now the argument is: OK Trump is persuasive to half the country, and that’s a bad thing, and the people who were persuaded are bad, and our country is bad for allowing that situation to occur. ]

SA: But don’t you think we are, or at least maybe we want to be, or should be past the point where the President is the role model for our children, and he’s more like the lawyer that you hire because he’s the best lawyer, even though the last job he did was to represent the mob or something? You know, don’t you want the best lawyer, the best plumber? [ Moving out of the role model frame and into the “best advocate” frame. If you accept the framing, the obvious answer is yes. ]

SH: But it’s so far beyond this. [ Harris again presenting the frame that Trump is a uniquely bad person in all regards. ] I don’t have any illusions about how good the person needs to be to be President and I don’t have any illusions about how the system as it’s set currently setup sort of selects against many of the people we would want. [ Now it’s the system’s fault. ] I mean it’s just such a hassle, to try to become President and you have to slog through so much dirt to get there, that it seems to be selecting for people who are a little bit more narcissistic than we would want, a bit less principled than we would want, a little bit too eager to sell themselves to other interests than we would want. [ By “people” he means Trump. Effective indirect association. ] But still, he’s a unique case [ Pushing the Trump as outlier frame again. ] of someone, again based on everything that he advertised about himself before he ever mentioned that he wanted to be President going back twenty years, he’s a unique case of somebody who, to my eye does not have the ethical core, the intellectual interest, the experience, no, really nothing that would suggest that he would be a good representative of this country or model for our children as you put it. [ Harris conflates the “role model” frame with the “best advocate” frame. To him, they are the same thing. ]

SA: Let me describe what I call my “perfect life arc.” And that would be: you’re born as a little baby and you’re helpless and you’re completely selfish, because you have to be, that’s the only way you can survive. Other people got to do it for you. As you’re a kid you maybe you help out with some chores but you’re still mostly selfish. By the time you’re an adult, especially if you’ve had children, you end up giving more than you’re taking. And if you have done everything right and you’ve taken care of yourself and your family and you’re old and you’re seventy one years old, the last thing that you should be doing is giving back more, and the very last thing you do on, at the moment of your death, is transfer 100% of your assets to other people. [ Everyone can validate the logic of this with their own observations. It’s not universal but it fits many cases. ] So the perfect life is perfectly selfish and trying to improve every year until you’re perfectly giving. If you look at Trump’s arc, you can see the perfectly selfish part and it was really part of his brand – through his primary working years, the Trump University years and all that – and we see especially with a young son and a new wife [ New transformational life events ] he’s reached a certain point in his career, he’s turned over his company and in my opinion – and again this would be making the mistake of, you know, imagining I can tell his inner thoughts – but I have talked to people who know him and have talked to him personally about this stuff, and the reports I get, is that he’s actually doing this for his son and for the country. And, to your point, he knew – he’s not a neophyte to, you know, the public life – he knew that running for President, as a Republican especially, was gonna get his reputation just destroyed. The amount of arrows this guy signed up to take, is hard to explain in selfishness. You know, if you put the selfishness filter on that, then he’s crazy too because he did something that clearly would be awfully painful for him and his family. They’re risking physical death. [ Another new frame / paradigm. Presents Trump as following a natural, observable human pattern of becoming less selfish over time. Presents all the bad stuff Harris brought up, particularly the Trump University stuff, as part of the past, in a more selfish stage of life that Trump is now past. Creates double binds on Trump being selfish given what he knew would be done to him and his family. ]


Parsing the Scott Adams – Sam Harris podcast for persuasion, Part 4

Read my intro here and some background on belief structures here.

The podcast itself is called “Triggered!

Previous sections: Part 1, Part 2 , and Part 3. You might notice some techniques I pointed out in those posts that I don’t point out below. That’s deliberate.

My notes in blue. The green is for you to fill in, if you want to learn even more.

Note that there may be a difference between my own opinion and my parsing of what the persuasion is communicating.

And thank @Subutai1175  and @ultrappowered for the transcription!



SA: I agree that analogies are excellent for explaining a concept for the first time. So if you say, a zebra if you have never heard of a zebra, it’s like a horse but imagine it has some stripes on it. So, I don’t, you know, there are lots of cases where it…

SH: Yeah that gets me a long way [ ] to a zebra.

SA: Right, but it doesn’t make a zebra a horse, right, and never can. So that’s my only point. [ Explaining analogies and when they are appropriate to use. This inoculates the discussion from devolving into debates over the merits of the analogy itself. ]

So back to whether it’s bad that we’re all talking about politics. I’ve actually been screaming and talking and blogging about this very point. That we have collectively as a society, learned more about each other, the nature of you know truth, reality, persuasion in particular, you’ll see lots of people talking now about cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, persuasion. [ Cialdini social proof. ] These are important concepts for people’s happiness and understanding of their condition, that we never had before. And in fact before the election, I had said several times publicly, [ Skin in the game means credibility ] that what Trump was going to do was not just change politics, which he did – I mean, he changed everything – but that he would rip a hole in the fabric of reality and let us peek through. [ Trump has a strategy, and part of it is to change how we think. Interesting visual here. More trance via overload: what does that mean to rip a hole in the fabric of reality? ] And that hole is what, is what we’re peeking through right now, which is that two, that people can sit in the same theater watching a different movie, and that there’s a reason for it, we know what the reason is, it’s confirmation bias, it’s cognitive dissonance. [ Some people, often those who work in science-related fields, need to know how something works before they can believe it. Explaining cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias provides a “how.” ] And that, you know, that understanding goes a lot farther than, “Hey your facts are wrong, you lied about this, you didn’t pass my fact checking.” You know, if you’re locked in that smaller, less aware world, where you think that people make decisions on logic and facts, because you think they should, you’re missing the biggest part of life, which is that people don’t. [ Fear of missing out, creating strong negative associations to not accepting the idea of perceptual subjectivity. ] Yeah I would agree with you, if you said to me, “Scott, I think we should use reason and facts, that we should never depart from that.” I would say “Sure, that’s great!” We should, but we can’t, ’cause we’re not built that way. We humans don’t have that capacity, in general. We can in very constrained ways, like science, but in general no. [ Pacing objection. Acknowledging one exception and showing its irrelevance for this context. Working on opening minds to the new frame / paradigm by creating different ways of understanding for different contexts. ]

SH: Ok, let’s plant a flag there, [ ] cause that’s an interesting topic, that is obviously bigger and deeper [ ] than this political topic and maybe we’ll get to it and that’s actually the topic in some measure of your first book or your last book that I have been reading, I mean if we have time I’d love to touch that [ ] but, I just want to come back, I mean again, I have this creeping feeling [ ] of confusion or bewilderment [ This aligns with what we see in his rambling words, and what we would expect from the belief changes. ] that I want you to sort out for me, and it comes down to this two movie analogy because I don’t see [ ] how they’re actually different movies. I get [ ] that in the other theatre, the fans of Trump don’t care about certain things that are appearing on the screen and I care very strongly about those things, but I don’t get [ ] how they’re actually not seeing [ ] these things or that they’re see them differently. I want to take you back just to what you said before when I when I went full exorcist on you. [ Is it at all surprising that Harris doesn’t GET what others SEE? ]

SA: Well can I, can I, can I interrupt ‘cause I think,

SH: Sure.

SA: there’s been some news reports recently, that said that Trump, Trump supporters know exactly what’s true and what isn’t, and there isn’t much difference between the two sides. [ Trump supporters are not delusional. You can’t use that explanation to keep your old mindset. ]

SH: I’ll give you an example, this is what, the kind of thing that’s in my movie. There’s literally a hundred things I can mention here, but I’ll just mention a couple. [ Another exaggeration. ] So, just so I… It seems to me that everything you need to know about Trump’s ethics, were revealed in the whole Trump University scandal right? So this is a guy who’s having his employees pressure poor elderly people to max out their credit cards in exchange for fake knowledge. [ Harris takes the most extreme case and presents it as the typical case. Worded for maximum emotional impact. Sounds very bad. ] And as unseemly…

SA: Well hold on, now you understood that to be a licensed deal right?

SH: Well yeah, but I understand that to be the kind of thing that he would have to know enough about, to know what he was doing. If he only found out about it after the fact, it’s not the kind of thing that you would defend; it’s the kind of thing that you would be mortified about and you would apologize for and you would pay reparations for, if you’re this rich guy who has all the money you claim to have. [ Double bind setup by Harris: either Trump isn’t rich like he says, or he’s ethically unacceptable. ] I mean it’s like…

SA: Unless, unless you were a master persuader who knew that if you ever back down from anything, people would expect you to back down in the future from other things. [ There is a legitimate alternative explanation for Trump’s behavior, when you consider it in the master persuader frame. ]

SH: But what you are describing is a totally unethical person, [ “Totally” borders on absurd absolute. ] right? I mean, this is the problem for me. [ Harris tells us where he is at the moment. He tells us exactly how to persuade him. ] So let me just give you a little more, a couple of more points here. But I would say to you that they’re false equivalencies around this kind of thing, so that… I mean… people will say that all politicians are liars, or all politicians have something weird in their back story but, there are very few politicians walking around, with something THAT ugly in their back story that they haven’t repaired [ Harris is pacing an objection and neutralizing it using Cialdini comparison principle. Also framing other politicians’ dirty laundry as “weird” and Trump’s as “ugly,” two different categories. ] and…

SA: Let me, let me just clarify [ ] though, when I said it was a license deal as opposed to a business that he was actively running. [ Creating the distinction that matters. ] In the Dilbert world I do a lot of license deals, [ credibility ] and have in the past [ history of performance – setting up a pattern ] and the nature of those is that you’re sort of giving your brand and your name, and then you’re not really paying attention to the actual management of the company. So if, there are, so there are two possibilities here. One is the one you described, which is he knew the details, and he was ok with it, which would be problematic for me and I’m positive it would be problematic for 100% of Trump supporters. [ Pace ] If that was the case. Now if it was a typical license deal where you don’t really know exactly what people are doing and you’re not paying attention ‘cause you got, in his case I think 400 companies with his name on them. [ Good argument for Trump not being aware of the details. ]

SH: Well yeah [ agrees ] his whole life is a license deal for the most part, even his real estate empire is a licensed deal. 

SA: Yeah, so if it were the case that he was treating it like every other license deal, there is a high likelihood, far more likely than not, that he didn’t know about the details until it was too late. Now, once he found out the details, how he handled it in court or whatever is yet another separate case. [ Compartmentalize and dismiss ]

SH: But as a separate case, even granting you that it’s a separate case, that says everything about the man’s ethics. [ Absolute ] I’ll give you two more examples.

SA: Wait, Wait, but it, it, it says everything about his ethics, IF he was aware of it at the time. [ Forcing Harris’ global conclusion into a conditional conclusion. ]

SH: Well no, no, if you’re aware of it, in the aftermath, I mean if I created some deal – if I created you know, Sam Harris, you know, Waking Up Podcast University and I licensed it – I mean first of all, the fact that he would license it, license it out to other con men, right, who were unscrupulous and not do proper vetting there but claim you had, I mean there’s a whole commercial of him talking about how these are the geniuses that, that will be instructing you in this incredibly expensive but profitable enterprise. If you did all that, you’re already a schmuck, right? But imagine I had done that, but I’m so busy, I’ve got 400 different businesses, and I just didn’t really understand, I got lured, I got conned, say, and I, I got lured into doing this with people I didn’t totally vet. [ More double binds by Harris: Trump is either unethical, or incompetent for not vetting, or a sucker who got conned. ] In the aftermath, I would be horrified, if I found out that someone, you know, had their life savings ripped [ ] from them by con men who I had licensed. Right? And I’m this billionaire, I would atone for that as much as could possibly be done. I mean that’s just like a, you have to do that. [ Harris made a huge credibility mistake in this paragraph. What was it? ]

SA: Now say, when you say you would atone for it. Let’s talk about the financial part of that atoning. [ Paces Harris by offering to address part of his argument. ]

SH: Yep.

SA: Would you then negotiate with the people who are complaining to figure out, you know, what was an appropriate payment? Would you do that?

SH: It would be obviously indefensible and I would immediately pay back everything that was lost and probably more because there’s just all the pain and suffering [ ] associated with it. You have, you have to make people whole. [ ]

SA: But, but would you give them whatever they asked for? Just like, “Hey give me 10 million dollars.”, “Ok.” [ Pointing out the nonviability of Harris’ first take on how to make it right. ]

SH: Well. No, there has to be some, you know, rational consideration of what the actual cost is. [ Walks back ] But again you know the spirit in which he defended this. Right? He’s hasn’t admitted that this was a sham. It’s of a piece of everything else that he’s represented about himself. He’s a genius who’s done nothing but help the world, and the world is so ungrateful they can’t recognize it, and all the rest is fake news. I mean, it’s just, he’s 

SA: But let me ask you this again – and by the way I wanna be very clear [ ] that there’s nothing about Trump University that I defend. [ Making himself non-targetable ]

SH: But that should mean something to you. [ Presupposition that it doesn’t, presupposition that that’s bad. ]

SA: …Hold on, hold on. But I also think it needs to be put into its clearest [ ] context. And the clearest context is, there were people who used the legal system for their complaints, and Trump used the legal system the way it is used: to negotiate. And part of that negotiation is: “Hey, I’m taking you to court.” “Well, go ahead, I’ll take you to court.” So that’s how you negotiate in the legal context. When it was done, he paid them back as the legal process probably was gonna come out that way no matter whether he got elected president or not. [ Reframing the legal fight as negotiation, not avoidance of responsibility. Noting that he did pay them back. ]

SH: It shouldn’t have had to have gone to court. The fact that it had to go to court is a sign of his litigiousness, his defensiveness, his not owning the problem. [ Harris counters the reframe by presenting the lawsuits as evidence of Trump having character flaws. ] And who knows how many other scandals like this are in his past where the people couldn’t afford to go to court, right? [ Reveals his confirmation bias. ] We actually know a lot about the way he build buildings and in so far as he actually built them and he screwed hundreds if not thousands of people. These are people who couldn’t afford to take him to court. This guy’s reputation is so well known!

SA: Have you ever been involved in a big construction project? Because I’ve done a few [ credibility ] and what do you do when a subcontractor doesn’t perform the way you want them to perform? [ Reframe to lawsuits as a reasonable approach based on what is typical in the industry. ]

SH: That’s one description of what has happened, but again, you’re ignoring the fact that he has a unique reputation for screwing people, [ More painting Trump as an egregious outlier ] and this is something that journalism didn’t do its job before the election to get this out…

SA: Weeeell but yet I would agree he has a reputation but what is the source of that reputation? It’s the people who didn’t get paid, right? [ Effective credibility attack. ]

SH: But again, the fact that Trump University exists and the fact that he handled it the way he did, tells me everything I need to know about him, literally everything, Scott. [ More absolutes. This boils down to “despite what we’ve talked about, I still think the same thing, even though I don’t have any arguments at hand to explain why.” Absolutes plus no argument is a tell for belief change. ]

SA: Did you just change the subject? [ Harris gave a summary, not a subject change. Yet this was absolutely deliberate by Adams. What for? ]

SH: No, no. I’m just saying that I can see his real estate career through the lens of Trump University. [ That was very powerful persuasion. The change of perspective, made plausible and understandable by a familiar action, is literally what people will do in their minds in order to understand Harris’ words. ] If you give me Trump University I can tell you what kind of developer he’s gonna be and how he’s gonna treat his subs.

SA: Well that’s another analogy problem, that Trump University is an analogy. [ Not the most effective reframe here, but it does tie in to his previous setup on analogies. ]

SH: No, it’s because people’s ethics tend to cohere. If you think you can screw someone mercilessly when they’re under your power in one context, you’re the kind of person, I will predict, will be screwing people who are under your power in other contexts. Unless you’ve got some kind of multiple personality disorder. [ Double bind. ]

SA: Are there no stories, which you’re aware of, in which President Trump has done things which he was not required to do which were considered a kindness? [ Counter-example. Working against the pattern and confirmation bias setup. The question format gets the audience themselves searching for any stories. ]

SH: Well let me tell, I’ll give you two other points which I think aren’t entangled with these wrinkles which kind of make the same point to remind people why we’re here. I’m talking about what it’s like for me to see my movie and how I don’t understand people who are watching the other movie find a charitable way to see these things as they hit [ ] the screen.

So the other example I would give you is… two, and these are so disparate but each say [ ] a lot about the man, they’re each something which if you and I did them, that’s more or less game over, right? So take [ ] his career as a beauty pageant host and owner and the stories well-attested, endlessly well-attested at this point of him being the creep who keeps barging into the dressing rooms so he can look at the beauty pageant contestants, right? These 18-year old girls who are essentially his employees, so that he can catch [ ] them naked. So there’s that moment, right? Doing that over and over again. And then at his career as a pseudo philanthropist, here’s a great example. There’s this ribbon cutting ceremony for a children’s school that was serving kids with AIDS back in the 90s and he pretending to be one of the big donors and just to get a photo op with the mayor of New York and I think the former mayor of New York and the real donors to this charity, he jumps on stage pretending that he belongs there at the ribbon-cutting. He never gave a dime to this charity, no one knew he was coming, he literally crashed the party [ ] to pretend that he was this big time philanthropist. Now you might say: “Well this is brilliant PR, right?” It’s completely immoral PR, [ Pacing objection and neutralizing it ] like if I have done this, you wouldn’t be on this podcast. If you found out these things about me: “Listen, Sam Harris pretends that he gives to charity when he doesn’t and he barges into the dressing rooms of his teenage employees so that he can catch them naked and he’s got this thing called Harris University that he had to get sued in order apologize for, in fact he never apologized for.” Those three things about me, you wouldn’t be on this podcast and for good reason. But yet you’re saying you would elect me President of the United States.  [ Selects emotionally powerful narrative-fitting events to create a pattern for confirmation bias. Great visuals: jumping on stage, barging in. Highly effective. Also creates a disjointed juxtaposition of two ideas that are presented as contradictory. 1:00:33 ]

Parsing the Scott Adams – Sam Harris podcast for persuasion, Part 3

Read my intro here and some background on belief structures here.

The podcast itself is called “Triggered!

My notes in blue. You might notice some techniques I pointed out in Part 1 and Part 2 that I don’t point out below. That’s deliberate and it means you are learning, aren’t you?

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.

Harris: Sure…

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]

Parsing Part 2 of the Scott Adams – Sam Harris Podcast

Richard Bandler, who was one of the original codifiers of Milton Erickson’s techniques, still teaches seminars. At one seminar, a student asked him a question. “These hypnosis and persuasion techniques are powerful. What is a good way to make sure you don’t cause damage to other people when using them? How do we know we are using them ethically?” Bandler then told a story about a young hypnotherapist he taught. When this young therapist first started out, a client came to him with an issue. He knew he could solve it but the technique would be invasive and a difficult experience for the client. He asked the client if the approach would be acceptable to him. “Well,” said the client, “if you would do this to a family member or loved one in a similar situation, then that’s good enough for me. But if not, you need to take a different approach.” Once the young therapist took that attitude he felt much better about use cases, and he kept that guideline in place until he had much more experience with persuasion and hypnosis. Bandler ended his story by reassuring us that the young therapist successfully solved the client’s issue. And as the student at the seminar who had asked the question said, “Thank you for the answer” and sat down, I realized I might have just learned something useful.


Read my intro here and some background on belief structures here.

The podcast itself is called “Triggered!

Previous sections: Part 1. You might notice some techniques I pointed out in that post that I don’t point out below. That’s deliberate.

My notes in blue.

Note that there may be a difference between my own opinion and my parsing of what the persuasion is communicating.


Part 2: minutes 20 – 35.

Adams: So you see that process in a number of ways.[ Visual ] [20:20]You saw that when he talked about fighting ISIS. He said we’re going to go back to waterboarding and maybe kill the families of the terrorists, and a lot of people said “Oh my god, you can’t do that, that’s going too far,”[ PACE ]and there’s lots of, plenty of good, practical reasons why you don’t do those things.[ Beautiful pace. We don’t know what people’s reasons are; and we don’t care. Yet this still paces them all. ]Then he became president,[ PACE ]and what did he do? He got pretty tough on ISIS,[ Pace. Plus “Hey I like that.” ]and I would argue that civilian casualties probably have gone up, as a result of that extra toughness, but we’re not, you know we’re not seeing the big outcry, because he’s been successful apparently, against ISIS on the battlefield.[ Pacing the civilian casualties objection ahead of time, framing it as a necessary part of being tough on ISIS, and giving instruction to not object to it. Also giving a plausible “Cialdini because”: because we are winning. ] So we see this pattern which he has broadcasted for decades.[ Presenting a pattern with a long history that we can verify visually. ]He actually wrote a book on it, The Art of the Deal, in which he talks explicitly about using hyperbole – in other words things that don’t pass the fact checking – and making big first offers to give him lots of room to negotiate toward the middle.[ Reframing “lies” as “negotiating hyperbole.” Weakening the chaos and crazy narratives by showing how it’s part of a pattern. Weakening the fact-checking objection. ]So that the thing that his supporters believe that his critics do not, is that he is emotionally and intellectually on their side, and that he will work out the details when he needs to. So that’s what his supporters believe, [ Presenting a plausible, reasonable perspective of a Trump supporter. They are not racists, or insane, or monsters. This both weakens the hatred of Trump supporters and provides a possible path for listeners to agree and change sides. We will see more of this. ]and I think we’ve seen a pretty unbroken pattern of exactly that happening.[ More visual, to reach the majority of people. Most people are highly visual. Note that Harris is NOT primary visual – Harris is mostly auditory and kinesthetic. But Adams isn’t talking to just Harris. ]And I predicted this pattern long before he even got nominated because he has that skill set, he repeated that pattern often, and it was the was the only rational thing that I could see, unless he was, you know, unless you imagined he was actually, literally insane, [ Presenting the “Trump is insane” narrative as unreasonable.] it was the only thing I could imagine happening.[ In other words, inevitable. Working on breaking through the shock and denial here. ]And sure enough, it’s happening just as I predicted.[ Keep on building the master predictor narrative. We will see later why this is critical. ]

Harris: OK well there’s a lot in there that strikes me as fairly strange ethically. For instance, this idea that he’s making this first offer that is extreme, that then he walks back to something more reasonable, and that this is a technique for which he pays no penalty, is just an unambiguously good technique that his fans recognize[ Harris starts reasonably, then ends with absurd absolutes before Adams cuts him off. ]

Adams: Let me interrupt you. I would never say he doesn’t pay a penalty.[ Calling out Harris on a complexly worded absurd absolute here. ]This is a technique that absolutely by design has a penalty. So in other words he’s saying “This is going to cost me because the fact checkers are going to be over me, and blah blah blah, I’m going to do it anyway.”

Harris: I guess I’m emphasizing something else here.[ Switches the argument. Classic tell for belief change. ]It’s not so much the lying part, or the failing the reality testing part, it’s more like: if I’m going to say to you, “You know what I think we should do?” – let’s just say this on the podcast – “You know I think we should round up those 12 million people and deport them.” If I commit to that position that’s my position.[ Harris frames the stating of hyperbolic statements as committing to a position, which is in contrast to Adams framing them as an opening offer in a negotiation. Harris’ ethics argument right here depends on them being committed positions. Remember, he hasn’t been given time to process everything, given the live format, so he’s working from an internal model that now has contradictions still needing to be resolved. ]Well, when you unpack that position, that commits me to some things which I really must have thought about or at least am pretending to have thought about, which are fairly unethical. It gets much worse than what you describe. It’s not just the fellow gang member or very close to being a gang member who gets deported along with the convicted killer. It’s the mom of you know an 8 year old kid who is an American citizen, right, so you have these just, just families broken apart.[ Powerful visual –> kinesthetic persuasion here by Harris. Great reframe, elicits a lot of feelings. His best persuasive moment so far. ]And so if I’m going to pretend to be so callous as to happily absorb[ kino ]those facts like, “Yeah send them all back. You know, they don’t belong here in the first place” or if I’m going to take the ISIS case I’m going to say “Yeah we’ll torture their kids we’ll kill their kids. Doesn’t matter, right? Whatever works.” If that’s going to be my opening negotiation I am advertising, I’m going to advertise a level of callousness and a level of unconcern for the reality of human suffering all around me that will follow upon[ kino ]my actions that should I get what I ostensibly want it’s like in these 2 cases a nearly psychopathic ethics that I’m advertising as my strong suit, right? So how this becomes attractive to people, how thisresonates[ Auditory ]with their values… I mean I get[ kino ]what you said about people are worried about immigration, they’re worried about jihadism. I share those concerns. But when you cross the line with this opening overture that has these extreme consequences on its face – I mean you don’t have to think deeply on this, right, these are the things that get pointed out in 30 seconds when he, whenever he opens his mouth on a topic like this – I don’t understand how that works for him with anyone.[ Presenting anyone who agrees with Trump as someone who likes breaking up families with kids, someone who must also have psychopathic ethics. Conflation. Very effective with Harris’ supporters. ]

Adams: Let me give you a little thought experiment here. Uh we’ve got people who are on the far right, we’ve got people on the left. In your perfect world would it be better to move the people who are on the far right toward the middle, or the people on the far left toward the middle? Which would be a preferred world for you?

Harris: Oh I don’t know. Now things have gotten so crazy on the left that that is actually is a genuinely hard question to answer. But I think moving everyone toward the middle certainly on most points would be a very good thing.

Adams: So what you’ve observed [ Visual evidence in the past. Hard to object to. Also a pace. ] with President Trump through his pacing and emotional compatibility with his base, is that prior to inauguration day there were a lot of people in this country who were saying, “Yeah yeah round them all up! Send all 12 million back tomorrow.” When was the last time you heard anyone on the right complaining about that? Because what happened was, immigration went down 50-70 percent, whatever the number is[ Not letting anyone object on pedantic number grounds ], just based on the fact that we would get tough on immigration. And the right says, “Oh ok, we’re, you know, we didn’t get nearly what we asked for but our leader, who we trust, whom we love, has backed off of that and we’re going to kind of go with that because he’s kind of doing some good things that we like. And we don’t like the alternative either.” [ Now the audience has experienced what it’s like to be a Trump supporter. Harder to hate or despise someone once you’ve been in their shoes for a moment. Powerful neutralization of the “righteous, intelligent, educated us vs. racist, stupid, ignorant them. Note that the description makes sense and includes positive words like “love,” “trust,” “good things.” ] So this monster we elected – this Hitler/dictator/crazy guy – he managed to be the only person who could have – and I would argue always intended to – move the far right towards them middle. You saw it, right? [ You might have seen it in the news. But more important, you just saw it in your mind as I just described it. ] You know we can observe it with our own eyes. We don’t see the right saying, “No no I hate President Trump. He’s got to round up those undocumented people like he said in the early campaign or else I’m bailing on him.” None of that happened. He paced them and then he led them towards a reasonable situation, which I would say we’re in.

Harris: Well, I don’t know that I would notice if they were complaining about it. I got to think I’m in kind of an echo chamber. You might notice more than I would. [ This is the exact point where Harris’ concept of Trump is broken. 1) This is completely new to Harris – the first plausible explanation of a new concept of Trump – and this caught him off guard. He and the audience are trying to reconcile this plausible explanation of an incredibly brilliant technique and strategy with their notions of Trump as Hitler/crazy/unethical/psychopath. 2) Harris (and the audience) are afraid of the idea that Trump is actually competent, and even more afraid that the man they had thought was a buffoon has fooled them. It contradicts their “I am smart” self-concept. 3) Harris is also trying to object to Adams telling Harris he saw it with his own eyes. Note that Harris uses mostly auditory and kinesthetic language, while Adams uses visual, so Harris has to translate highly visual language into his preferred auditory/kino terms to fully understand. He might be objecting more because he doesn’t “see” things so well in his mind – he feels and hears them – and is objecting to the literal description because it doesn’t match what is going on in his head. Or, he could be objecting to this new concept of Trump as brilliant communicator and strategist. Or both. He begs off rather weakly here to mentally regroup. Watch in the next section as Harris jumps from subject to subject.

Adams of course knows Harris’ sensory language preference, but remember, Adams is not talking to Harris, he’s talking to the audience, the majority of which will be primarily visual, which is the most common.]

Adams: I promise you I would notice it because I am totally, I’ve got one foot in both sides and the number of people who are talking about that – even just talking about rounding up everybody and just sending them back, just stopped. It’s completely done.[ Commands for each listener to stop talking about mass deportation (internally and externally) and put that argument to rest permanently. Note how “…just stopped – it’s completely done” sounds suspiciously like “just STOP! It’s completely done!” And, on another level, these are also commands for people to stop fighting the change in their concept of Trump and accept it. ] And by the way, that’s a big deal. He brought a lot of people to his positions.[ People like you, the listener. Cialdini social proof. Lots of people are now thinking of Trump this way, so it’s ok for you to do so too. When you break their beliefs, people often get scared and angry. This gives them a sense of safety. ]

[ Harris is now internally flustered. Note the retreat into exclusively kinesthetic thinking and how his words could plausibly line up with his own internal objections to the new Trump concept: chaos, giving up one’s own values, Putin. ]

Harris: Again, whether that was his intent or in fact the effect his actions I don’t know. I mean, there’s so much other chaos for people to be complaining about and worrying about [ literal description of Harris’ internal experience at that moment ] but I take [ kino ] a related point here which you could be making which is that there is something else going on there is the fact that people will follow onto terrain [ kino ] that is quite different from the terrain they claim to want to occupy [ kino ] and so they will kind of run roughshod over [ kino ] their own stated principles and I’m noticing this with establishment Republicans who once they grab[ kino ] his coattails it seems they are willing to follow him anywhere even into something that looks like treasonous level of fandom of Vladimir Putin. I’m sure we’ll talk about that. Before we continue down this line I want you to describe this analogy which you’ve made [ kino ] which I think is very useful. You have this “two different movies” analogy and I just want to put that in play [ kino ] for listeners because I think it’s a good framing.

Adams: Yeah there are 2 concepts that people need to understand to have any idea what is happening in the past 2 years. One is confirmation bias – I’m sure you’ve talked about this a number of times on your podcasts and your books – which is the tendency for humans to see all evidence as supporting their side even if it doesn’t. We’re all in confirmation bias pretty much all the time. Nobody’s immune from it. Nobody’s smart enough to see past it. It’s just the human condition. [ Even the smartest people can be wrong due to this. Including the audience. ] The other part that people have to understand is this thing called cognitive dissonance, which I’m sure you’ve also talked about, and that’s the idea that if our mind is set towards a specific reality, especially if it involves ourselves, you know, some self-image, and then we find ourselves doing something or learning something that violates what we’re sure had to be true, we just reinterpret what we saw and spontaneously create essentially an illusion, an imaginary world that explains all the things that wouldn’t have been explained without that hallucination. So what happened was, on Nov 8, 2016 there were a handful of people, including me, who saw things going just the way they imagined they would go. Now, that creates no trigger for cognitive dissonance, because everything was consistent: I thought I was pretty smart, I thought I could predict what was going to happen, I did predict what was going to happen. But for a lot of the country, they thought this was an impossible outcome. They’ve been in their echo chambers and they saw that there was just no way that this could happen. There are people who have never even met a Trump supporter, much less imagined that he could be elected. They looked at the polls. They saw that it was 98% likely that Hillary Clinton would win and then the results didn’t go that way. That’s a perfect trigger for cognitive dissonance. And I described that election as a cognitive dissonance cluster bomb and what it did was it split the United States and some extent the rest of the world into what I call two movies that are running simultaneously on one screen. So if you imagine we’re all in the audience, but half of the audience is looking at the same screen that you and I are and half of them are seeing one movie, and the other half are watching an entirely different movie. And one of the movies we had just elected Hitler or something like it and people were taking to the streets to day, “Oh my god!” you know, “The world is going to be on fire” and the other half of the country were going “Hey we got a guy who’s probably going to be pretty good on jobs and maybe he’ll tighten up the borders and, you know, do some business like systems in government that we like” and that’s all they saw.[ Another “Trump supporters are reasonable people” example. Same points as before: pace and lead to a Trump supporter point of view, not appropriate to hate them, now you see their side and possibly agree with some of it. More of Adams the predictor. ]And the other side saw something completely different, an entirely different movie. Now I had predicted prior to the inauguration that because of that setup, which I could see coming from a mile away, that we would experience the following arc. We would the first of all there would be huge protests because people thought that some Hitler character got elected but after a few months of President Trump acting like a normal president who was using the normal mechanisms of power and is getting some stuff done, and moderating his positions as presidents do, that the Hitler illusion would start to dissipate and that it would eventually give way by Summer. That was my prediction. And it has, largely. The Hitler stuff is largely dissipated for a lack of confirming evidence and it was replaced with, “Well he’s not a Hitler but he’s definitely incompetent. He’s so incompetent. There’s chaos in the White House that he can’t get anything done.” And I predicted that by the end of the summer he would in fact get things done. But the criticisms don’t stop because that’s just not the way it works. People don’t change positions like that. They simply change the reasons that they oppose them. And I predicted that the reasons would change from, you know, “he’s Hitler” to “he’s incompetent” to “alright, he did get a lot of things done and they were the things he said he was going to get done, and they do match, you know, Republican positions, but we don’t like it,” alright. “He is competent, he does get things done, he’s effective, but we don’t like what he’s doing.” So I think that’s where he, where it’s going to be by year end. And it seems to be heading that way. [ This whole section was a giant pace and lead. Adams as predictor extraordinaire. And here we see one of the most valuable aspects of this narrative: now he’s telling the audience what to think next, and they believe him because they accept that he was right about so many other predictions. ]

Harris: One thing I want to point out that strikes me as a strange emphasis that I’ve heard from you here, but I’ve also heard this just quite frequently from other Trump supporters so I just want to flag it.[ kino ]I don’t know what, if much turns on it.[ kino ]But for instance in your description of what created the cognitive dissonance, you talk about the failure of people who don’t like Trump to predict that he would win the election, so that everyone was just blindsided by the fact that he won and this put them into this “the other movie theater” where they are seeing just civilization unravel. I mean, for me it was never a matter of being sure that Hillary Clinton was going to win. In fact, the last poll I looked at that I thought was actually informative, Trump had a 20 or 25 % chance of winning and I, you know, I’m statistically educated. I know how often a 20% chance of winning comes up. It’s not a tiny probability, so it’s not the surprise that is worth emphasizing here, it’s the horror at the fact that we have elected someone so obviously wrong for the job. This two movies analysis still works whether you predicted anything or whether anyone else predicted anything. Even if everyone thought it was a horse race until the last second and there was a 50% chance of either candidate winning, I think you would have the exact same outcome in terms of a repudiation of this choice that our nation made.[ Another good argument by Harris against the argument as stated. He tries to undermine the cognitive dissonance explanation by saying it wasn’t the surprise but the horror. The way Adams explained it here, the surprise was the big factor with the “unwanted” aspect implied, but in practice horror is an equally effective trigger for cognitive dissonance. You generally don’t go into cognitive dissonance when you get surprised with a very positive situation. ]

Parsing the Scott Adams – Sam Harris Podcast for Persuasion, Part 1

Read my intro here and some background on belief structures here.

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.

My notes are in blue. Thanks to @RolyPolyIsTaken for transcribing this section.


Harris: I am here with Scott Adams, Scott thanks for coming on the podcast.

Adams: Thanks for having me.

Harris: You are an interesting guy who has written a very interesting book that I will have properly described in the intro and I will link to it on my website. We aren’t going to get into your life or other work unless it becomes relevant to the political discussion we’re planning to have. I’ll just tell my listeners that I’ve been reading your book, the title is “How to fail at almost everything and still win big” and it’s very interesting, very useful, surprising, and our conversation will not do it justice at all today […] you give a lot of good advice on how to get what you want out of life. I haven’t finished it yet but it’s thus far advice that I agree with. I just wanna heap some praise on you before we move on to other topics.

Scott: Thank you. Let me just put some context on that. The book you’re talking about is essentially how to program yourself to become more successful in whatever way you want. But the new one that’s already available for preorder is about how to persuade other people, and it’s available in October.

Harris: That… is a book I’m sure we will be getting some preview of in this conversation. Cause it obviously related to what we will be talking about. I’ll put a link to that on my blog.

So let me just set up the conversation so that everyone understands the context. [ Pre-suasion: Harris says he’s open minded and not a partisan. ] As our listeners are aware, I’ve been attacking Trump since before the election, so it’s safe to say I am not a fan. I am sure I’ll have some more impertinent things to say about El Presidente over the course of the next hour. But I’ve encountered a fair amount of criticism from people in my audience who like Trump or at least feel that he was the best choice for president in 2016. Many of these people complain that I’ve created a bit of an echo chamber here on the podcast because I’ve only been talking to Trump’s detractors, and I certainly can see how they might think that, although I’ve pointed out that the people I’ve been speaking with who criticize Trump have been Republicans, for the most part. So the idea that these conversations have been an expression of political partisanship really makes zero sense. There’s zero partisanship coming from someone like David Frum or Ann Applebaum, or me, for that matter on this topic, because for instance none of what I’ve said about Trump would apply to Mitt Romney, and I’ve also never been shy to point out all the terrible things about Hillary Clinton.

So if it’s been an echo chamber, it hasn’t been a left wing one, but in the meantime I’ve been asking Trump supporters for months who I should bring on the podcast to represent the other side of the story, and to help me recover from this much diagnosed “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” which many people say I have. And I appear to have a whopping case of it. And you [Scott] are the one who has been most often recommended to me. So I’d congratulate you on that.

Scott: Well thank you. It’s a lot of pressure on me, but ok.

[ Setting the frame of low expectations and some sympathy ] 

Harris: I want to say just one other thing at the outset to set the table here. Having seen a few crazy comments online from, obviously, Trump supporters anticipating this podcast and wondering whether or not I would be fair to you, I just wanna tell you how I view conversations like this, and also tell our listeners, and I’m telling you now something that I tell most of our guests. And I don’t think I’ve ever left it in an interview. And this is certainly something that I tell any guest with whom I am likely to disagree. I don’t do gotcha interviews. My goal is never to get you to say something that makes you look bad. In fact, if at any point in this conversation you put your foot in your mouth, or I put my foot in there, you should feel free to take it out, and we’ll cut that part out, and this could apply to a whole section of the conversation. SO if we get to a topic for five minutes and you say at the end, “you know that whole bit we just did on racism” or whatever, “I’m worried about how that will make me look,” well then we’ll just cut it. So we can edit as we go, if need be, because my goal is – and this doesn’t just apply to you – my goal is always to be dealing with the best version of the other person’s case. I want you to be happy with what you’ve said on the podcast. So this is the opposite of a gotcha interview. And I don’t think that many people understand that and, having been on the other side of literally hundreds of interviews at this point as I know you have, I think we both can say that almost no one operates this way. Journalists deliberately don’t because they want to reserve the right to catch you saying something embarrassing. This completely perverse ethic that seems to have been enshrined in journalism where, if you say something is off the record before you say it, well then they’ll generally keep it off the record but if you say that about something you regret saying just two seconds ago, something that didn’t come out right, well then they won’t let you take it off the record after the fact. This has always struck me as a less than ethical way to deal with people, and their ideas. [ This is excellent framing by Harris. Fair and conciliatory, claiming ethical high ground, and also eliminating post hoc excuses ahead of time. Harris is not new at this. ] 

Scott: Yeah I agree. Um, but, I wouldn’t worry about me because like you, I’ve done a few of these. [ Don’t treat me with kid gloves. Also, in a clever move, claiming for himself some of the ethics/fairness halo that Harris just elicited in the audience ] 

Harris: Yeah. I just want you to know that, I want our listeners to know that. I guess that the other thing I should say as setup is that, while I think you and I will disagree about a lot here, I don’t view this as a debate. I consider myself genuinely persuadable on certain points and genuinely ignorant of other points. Now it’s true that there are some things where I don’t see how you could conceivably change my mind. I mean if you’re going to argue that Trump doesn’t lie, for instance, that’s going to be a very difficult thing to sell to me. But, I genuinely count myself ignorant of how people find him appealing, so I view part of your job in this conversation as really educating me on how that is possible. I guess to start, what I’d like to do is have you clearly state what your view is of trump, because it hasn’t been entirely clear to me beyond just admiring his talent as a persuader. Much of what I’ve seen you say is more in the vein of explaining how Trump got elected, and it’s not really an argument that his election was a good thing or that he’s a good person or that he’s likely to be a good president. So just what is your view of Trump at this point? [ I really didn’t appreciate Harris’ framing enough on this the first time around. Harris already won the crowd on Trump lying. That belief is now unassailable. Also saved his own reputation – Harris doesn’t “lose” in any way if he changes his mind now. He’s not being inconsistent, he’s being open-minded. He’s preventing his fans from turning on him in the event that he changes an opinion. ]


[ Now for Scott’s framing and pre-suasion. This is stacked with persuasion, so I’m going to list the whole paragraph in black and then copy it below with interpretation so we can read the whole thing at once and then open it up piece by piece. ] 

Scott: Well I should tell your listeners first of all that I have a background as a trained hypnotist, and I’ve been studying the field of persuasion all of my adult life as part of my job, it’s part of what a writer does, it’s part of a cartoonist needs. SO, when I saw trump enter the race, I noticed fairly quickly that he had the strongest set of persuasion skills I’ve ever seen. He has what I call a skill stack, a complementary set of skills that, if you looked at any one of those skills you’d say, “well that’s good, that’s better than most people, but that’s not any world class particular special skill.” But when you put them together, they’re insanely effective. You know, as we can see, because he’s president. He made it against all odds. And, my view on the politics of it is that my political preferences didn’t align with either side in the election. I consider myself an ultra-liberal on social stuff, meaning that even liberals don’t recognize me, because I’m more liberal than liberals. I can give you some examples to fill that in if you want. And then on the big stuff, you know the international stuff, the “how do you beat ISIS?” and, what’s the best thing to do with North Korea? My view is that none of us really know the answer to that. Because we don’t have the information the government would have, and we don’t have the full context that they would have. SO generally I don’t have a firm position on the big international stuff, and on the smaller local stuff, the domestic stuff, I am in favor of people doing whatever they want as long as it doesn’t affect me.

[ Restating the paragraph ]

Scott: Well I should tell your listeners first of all that I have a background as a trained hypnotist, and I’ve been studying the field of persuasion all of my adult life as part of my job, it’s part of what a writer does, it’s part of a cartoonist needs. [ 1) Establishes Adams as being an expert and authority (“trained”) in a skill set that ALMOST NO LISTENERS have, and certainly Harris doesn’t have. The typical listener does not have any basis from which to evaluate the claim, so it is provisionally accepted. 2) Here Scott is eliciting a variety of responses that he can use. a) Attention 1: An unexpected development forces the listener to pay more attention. b) Attention 2: “A hypnotist and persuasion master? He can’t hypnotize me, I’m too smart! Watch – I’ll check for all the signs to prove to myself he’s not doing it to me.”  c) Uncertainty: they thought they knew the whole story, but this elicits uncertainty, as in “Hmm I don’t know about hypnosis. Does that change things?” d) Curiosity: “Hypnosis? There’s something to it, because I’ve heard it does some neat things with stopping smoking, weight loss, and hilarious stage hypnotist shows.”  And thus the audience attention gets directed inwards, which is a trance phenomenon, and takes up some of the mind’s working memory, which makes the person more suggestible. This continues for the entire discussion. ] So, when I saw trump enter the race, I noticed fairly quickly that he had the strongest set of persuasion skills I’ve ever seen. [ The persuasion expert, whose expertise nearly all of the audience lacks the knowledge to evaluate, evaluated Trump as having a skill set they hadn’t considered. Another new idea. More confusion, more attention. And because he says “I noticed…,” instead of “Trump has…,” he leaves no room for someone to contradict him. Nobody can say that Adams (the expert) DIDN’T notice it. If a listener didn’t, that’s understandable because the listener is probably not an expert. By being unable to argue against Adams having noticed, most also don’t argue against Trump having the persuasion skills. They conflate the irrefutable nature of the “I noticed” statement with irrefutable nature of WHAT Adams noticed. Also note the use of “so” here. It connects the previous assertion of Scott having persuasion skills with Trump having persuasion skills. In order to understand how the two ideas are connected by cause and effect from the word “so,” you HAVE to assume the first part is true. And as most people have no ideas with which to dispute Scott as persuasion master, when they “provisionally” accept it, it never gets revisited. At this point Scott is the undisputed persuasion master. ] He has what I call a skill stack, a complementary set of skills that, if you looked at any one of those skills you’d say, “well that’s good, that’s better than most people, but that’s not any world class particular special skill.” But when you put them together, they’re insanely effective. [ A third new idea. More curiosity, a mild trance as people try to comprehend it. People’s conscious minds are starting to get overloaded with processing. More trance. ] You know, as we can see, because he’s president. He made it against all odds. [ This is a “because” persuasion a la Cialdini. He has a skill stack (“what? Unproven”) BECAUSE he is president. (“Oh, yes I do know that he is president, as I can visually verify, against long odds, so ok he does.”) Plus, the way Adams phrased the statement as “You know,” in order to disagree with it, the person must say, “No I don’t know” which Harris’ audience of people who enjoy thinking they are smart are highly averse to saying. So Adams uses what he knows about his audience to double bind them into accepting it as true. Also frames Trump as underdog and somewhat heroic. And it taps into the widespread belief amongst anti-Trumpers of “How could this happen?” They’ve been looking for an answer for months and here it is. It has the immense psychological convenience of ending the angst, so in the absence of any conscious objection it gets accepted for its utility in that regard. And that isn’t going away because for it to go away, they would have to face the pain and angst of the how could this happen thing again, which they won’t do. And the new idea further cements people’s vision of Adams as an expert. ]   And, my view on the politics of it is that my political preferences didn’t align with either side in the election. I consider myself an ultra-liberal on social stuff, meaning that even liberals don’t recognize me, because I’m more liberal than liberals. I can give you some examples to fill that in if you want. [ Adams immunizes himself from becoming a proxy target for people’s Trump hate (which he knows will soon be unleashed as he destroys people’s anti-Trump beliefs). He doesn’t give any examples here, but commands the audience to fill that in on their own with the embedded command “Fill that in if you want.” Pay attention to the tonality he uses for that phrase. Does it change from the rest of the sentence? He is now relatively immune from the audience attacking him personally. Also, more confusion: “Wait — how can that be? Isn’t he defending Trump? Who is this guy?” ] And then on the big stuff, you know the international stuff, the “how do you beat ISIS?” and, what’s the best thing to do with North Korea? My view is that none of us really know the answer to that. Because we don’t have the information the government would have, and we don’t have the full context that they would have. So generally I don’t have a firm position on the big international stuff, and on the smaller local stuff, the domestic stuff, I am in favor of people doing whatever they want as long as it doesn’t affect me. [ We are not going to talk about international affairs or local affairs today in this debate. Irrefutable because/so reasons given. ] 

Harris: So again I should say, I haven’t seen or read everything you’ve said on this topic. I’ve read some of your blog posts and I’ve seen some of your periscope videos, which you’ve been doing quite regularly about Trump. It seems to me that you are sort of having it both ways here because you seem to delight in his ability to get away with doing… at least questionable things. I would say bad things. But certainly dishonest things. Because you admire his talent as a persuader, but, to my eye it very quickly begins to seem like a defense of the bad things he’s doing or at least a denial that they are bad, or a denial that he’s doing any harm to our civil discourse or to our politics by lying to the degree that he does. So where does your appreciation of the artistry grade into actually thinking he is good and liable to do good things?

Adams: The way I like to frame it… is that I’m helping people see him clearly without the filter that the opposition is putting on him. [ Telling you his frame, then framing it. Hard to consider it bad to help people see clearly. ] Cause he has a set of skills and a talent that we’ve never seen before, meaning that nothing like this has been in the political realm that we’ve seen. So what he can do is probably different from what a regular politician can do, both on the upside and the downside I would think. [ 1) Reframes from “Trump does bad things” to “Trump’s high persuasion skill includes some risk.” Also, in order to understand this, one has to provisionally accept, for a second time, that Trump is a master persuader. Repetition eventually means truth to the subconscious mind. 2) This is new this is new this is new! So, therefore, old filters and systems of measurements don’t apply. This leaves a void of “well, how DO we evaluate him?” Next, he tells them how. ] And so I’m not discounting that there’s greater risk under a president Trump than under a vanilla president. [ Reframe: Trump isn’t bad; he’s risky. Risky bad or risky good? The second part reframes Trump as exciting and interesting, rather than a boring predictable safe “vanilla” president. Also uses the Cialdini comparison principle. ] Uh, but I think his supporters have said explicitly and often, “we’ll take the risk, we’ll take the chaos, that’s the price of change.” So there’s a lot of that that his supporters accept, and I see my role in this as clarifying, and if they like that choice, if that’s a risk profile that they appreciate, then at least they can see it a little more clearly. * [ Trump isn’t scary because he does bad things; he’s risky, and risk is the price of change. Hard to disagree with if you want the current system to change. And Scott reinforces that he is not a Trump cheerleader; he is crucially outside of the picture showing other people what’s going on inside the picture. If you show someone something more clearly, you are not in the picture. ] 

So let me, let me speak about the lying part. Because I think that’s probably central to your problem, would you say that’s true?

Harris: Yeah.

Adams: So here’s now I frame that. It is unambiguously true, and it is clear to both his supporters and his critics, that he says things fairly frequently that do not pass the fact checks, and you would agree with that right? So I think we’re starting from the same factual starting point. [ Pace on what he has correctly calibrated from Harris’ intro as Harris’ biggest objection. Again, keep your target off me because I agree with you! Major pace of both Harris and the audience. ] 

Harris: It understates it for me, but yes, I’m with ya. [ Adams secured a public acknowledgement of agreement. ] 

Adams: Now obviously, his supporters would say “Well, that one thing he said wasn’t so wrong,” you know, so there would be a lot of disagreement in the grey areas. [ Acknowledging there is room for disagreement. Pushing the audience away from absolute yes/no evaluations of true/false, because they might be in the frame of “if anything about it is false, the whole thing was a lie.” But rarely is anything that cut and dry.] But there’s no question that there are a lot of things that he said that don’t pass the fact checking, and everybody agrees with that. [ PACE ] Here’s the part that I put on top of this that I think is helpful. [ Now the lead ] When you understand persuasion at the level that he does, and at the level that I’ve come to understand it through my own work over the years, the truth is not as useful as it should be, because it doesn’t change people’s minds, and the job of politics is often to change peoples’ minds, their hearts, their emotions, what they care about, what their priorities are. So if you were to look at the types of things that the president said that didn’t pass the fact checking—and that’s the way that I’m going to prefer to say it – is, that they are almost always emotionally true. Or they are emotionally compatible with what his supporters are already thinking. So there is an emotional and directional truth to what he does that’s independent from the facts being completely wrong. So for example when he said “there were Muslims dancing on the rooftops or in the streets after 9/11,” that does not pass the fact checking. But it is unambiguously true that his supporters, and even his critics, would say, “I’m a little concerned that there are some people in the Muslim faith who are not as unhappy about 9/11 as they should’ve been.” So in other words, what he said was technically, specifically, factually incorrect – as far as we can tell, you know, unless something new comes around. But it still fit what we were thinking, it fit the general truth that we all accepted as probably true, and I would think that you probably accept that as well, and, what you see in persuasion is something called Pacing and Leading. [ Adams is doing this to Harris and the entire audience as he describes it, yet they don’t realize it. Then moving on to the second point without allowing a break between sentences for Harris to interrupt or object ] It’s a very important concept in persuasion. The pacing part is where you become compatible with the other person that you’re trying to influence. You’re trying to match them in some way that’s important. And if you match them long enough, called “pacing”, eventually they will let you “lead”, because you are one of them, they’re comfortable with you, they agree with you, they feel the same way you feel, they trust you emotionally. And that’s the way people need to trust you. Because trusting somebody factually is sort of a non-starter. It doesn’t help that much. But trusting somebody emotionally says, “Yeah, I can let you do things that I don’t think are right, but I know that you’re heading in the right direction, I know that you have more information than I do, I trust that if you have to pivot because it doesn’t work out that you’ll do that, because you and I are emotionally on the same page. We want generally the same thing.” [ This paragraph is a great lesson in persuasion in and of itself. Harris has different epistemology that his identity as a super smart rational is tied into. He can’t understand this. ] 

Similarly with, take immigration. One of the things that President Trump, and before that Candidate Trump, was saying that was emotionally compatible with a lot of people was that, “Hey there is an immigration issue, it brings with it some amount of crime that we wish we didn’t have, and it brings with it some risk of terrorists slipping in which we wish we didn’t have, and those things scare us, and we would like to have less of it.” Now that’s the emotional truth that is common to both sides of the conversation right? Everybody would like less of those things. [ pace pace pace ] Now the way he does it, of course, is with his typical hyperbole of coming in with the biggest first offer we’ve ever seen, which is of course that “I’m gonna ship back 12 million people who are undocumented in this country.” Now when you heard it, and when people on the other side heard it, they quite reasonably said, “holy hell, there’s no way you can do that first of all. It would be cruel second of all. It would cause riots in the streets, it would cause civil war practically. I mean it’s such a big, hard-to-do bad thing.” [ Pace pace pace. Pacing people’s irrational fear about societal upheaval that underlies a great many of their conciliatory positions. Also shows the strategy and thus weakens the Trump is crazy narrative. ] But when I heard it, I said to myself – and I said publicly a lot of times – he doesn’t mean that. [ Here’s the LEAD. The word “but” counters the previous section about upheaval. This is also process instruction for the listener to say to himself “he doesn’t mean that” a lot of times when faced with a provocative statement Trump makes. The new process is: 1) hear a “crazy” Trump statement 2) say to yourself and to others multiple times “he doesn’t mean that” 3) (implied) feel less fear or discomfiture about the outlandish Trump statements ] He’s making a big first offer that gives him lots of room to negotiate back. So now as we watch him as president, and what he’s doing is I guess ICE is rounding up a lot of people who have committed crimes while in the country, after coming into the country they committed additional crimes. And probably there are some cases I think almost surely, some cases where ICE breaks down a door and there are a room full of people and 3 of them have been in a serious gang violence situation, so of course you wanna deport those guys, but then there’s guys who are just members of the gang, who, you know, you don’t have any proof that they did anything that was an additional crime, but what are they doing in the room? So let’s say those two guys get shipped back too because they’re sort of in the grey area, they’re so far into the grey that they’re dark grey – [ Everybody agrees on deporting criminals. This section gets people to see non-criminals who also get deported as grey or dark grey in their mind. It’s hard to care much about anything you see internally as grey or dark grey, so this is instruction to not care about the issue of non-criminals also getting deported along with criminals. Brilliant. ]  well you don’t have any proof. Now when you see that story, [ Read this as “Well you don’t have any proof now when you read that story.” ] and I’m sure that story is going to be trickling out in different ways, [ Future pacing. Look for this in the news. ] and people compare that, they contrast it to what they imagined could have happened, which is 12 million people rounded up and shipped home, they say to themselves “Well, I wish we wouldn’t deport people who we haven’t seen for sure committed additional crime, but that’s not so bad compared to what I thought was gonna happen.” [ When you do see a news story about non-criminals getting deported, make the comparison to all 12 million getting deported so it doesn’t seem bad at all. Cialdini’s comparison principle again. ]  

So you see that process in a number of ways. [20:20]


That’s the end of the first section. Questions welcome. If this is helpful let me know in the comments so I know if I should keep going!


Beliefs: What They Are (and Aren’t)

As I mentioned before, the Scott Adams – Sam Harris podcast is a masterclass on belief change. So before we dig into it, some useful ideas about beliefs themselves.

Beliefs, concisely stated, are generalizations of our experiences that save us mental processing time. They also serve a behavioral purpose in addition to serving as a processing shortcut.

Beliefs can be considered feed-forward mechanisms. A feedback mechanism tells you what results you have received, usually so you can make adjustments. A feed-forward mechanism is you communicating what you want to happen so things can adjust to you. More on this in a moment.

Remember, BELIEFS ARE NOT REAL. They delete, distort, and generalize information we take in. They are essentially hallucinations created to approximate the lessons from prior experiences. Consider this: are your most strongly held beliefs the ones that you had the most rational support for, or the ones that had the strongest emotions tied into them?

Also, BELIEFS DO EXIST. Beliefs filter out that which contradicts our beliefs so effectively that they define the realities that we experience. When faced with evidence that contradicts our beliefs, the mind tends to reject the new information rather than update the beliefs. This can be unsettling until we learn to use it to our advantage.

So how can one evaluate beliefs? Most of the world thinks beliefs are true or false. They engage in endless debates talking past each other, occasionally stumbling into a shared reality. Beliefs are NOT true or false; that dimension doesn’t apply to beliefs. Some say beliefs are accurate or inaccurate, but that’s not quite right either. A very good way to evaluate beliefs is if they are USEFUL or not.

So how can we use what we now know about beliefs to our advantage? As we can discover, when you set up your beliefs in ways that support you, not only will your experience change, but your reality will change as well. This means removing limiting or destructive beliefs and adopting helpful and empowering ones. For example, does a belief make you more resourceful, resilient, etc. or the opposite?

Be somewhat careful when adjusting beliefs. Only remove limiting beliefs, not supportive, expansive ones, until you know what you are doing, because removing beliefs without providing proper support can cause unpredictable effects. Confusion and anger are common.

In general, if you aren’t highly trained or experienced enough:

  • leave other people’s religious and sexuality-related beliefs alone. Feel free to alter your own.
  • Don’t alter other people’s identity beliefs, but you can do a lot of good addressing beliefs of capability
  • Political beliefs are generally fair game.
  • Ethics and morality are fair game.

Finally for now: if beliefs determine one’s reality, and all beliefs are in effect hallucinations, how can one find accuracy and avoid being in a bubble built by a set of beliefs that filter out opposing experiences? Great question! When you can try on different belief sets temporarily to evaluate a situation, and take them off at will, you can develop a powerful set of perspectives that you can use to “triangulate” a pretty good idea of what’s really going on. I counted one time and I have at least 17 different “filters” I can evaluate things from. One way to do this is in my FAQ post.

Next up: the first 20 minutes of the Scott Adams – San Harris debate, with my notes of the “level 1” techniques employed.