The Underestimation of Donald Trump
We are being lulled into believing that Donald Trump is a clown, an egotistical, self-centered, narcissistic bully, an ignoramus.
Trump may be some of those things, but he isn’t neither stupid nor ignorant. He is in fact a very sophisticated, highly intelligent manipulator of people and events. More to the point, we’ve been calling Trump a showman, but he’s much more than that. He’s a master salesman, a world-class flim-flam man, who has been selling his myth to anyone who was willing to listen to him FOR DECADES, and he does it with some very interesting slights of hand. Here are a few:
Trump has read “How to Master the Art of Selling,” by Tom Hopkins, a multi-million copy best seller about, well, how to master the art of selling, and that’s one of the hints right there.
In his book, Hopkins tells his students – of which there are millions around the world – to tell your customer what you’re going to tell him, then tell him what you want to tell him, and THEN tell him what you told him (or her as the case may be.)
Hopkins also advises neophyte salespeople to tell the customer about the problem the customer doesn’t know he has, then tell him why the other guy’s solution to his problem won’t work, and finally tell him how you’re the guy who explained the problem and therefore you’re the guy who has the solution, without even selling the solution. You sell the perception, not the resolution. Sound familiar? That is Trump’s technique in two sentences, a technique that other politicians can’t even use because they don’t have Trump’s bombastic personality, which was once an affectation but has now become the essence of him.
This triple repetition of campaign bullet points is found in virtually every public statement that Trump has made. He tells you what he wants you to remember, then he makes a more or less outrageous statement, and then he repeats it to make sure you remember what he said….but what he’s selling is the messenger, Donald Trump, rather than the message he happens to be using at the moment.
Some clues that make it clear that he’s using salesmanship skills: Notice the number of times he uses the words, “unbelievable,” “amazing,” and “incredible,” and “fantastic” as superlatives. Hopkins recommends this practice for two reasons: they are essentially deniable sentiments, and they don’t actually mean what they appear to mean. In fact, their real meaning is the exact opposite of their perceived meaning.
“Unbelievable” seems to be a positive sentiment, but it is really just a lie. A lie is something that is unbelievable. It is also deniable because it isn’t exactly clear what you mean when you say something is unbelievable. All of these words, and there are many others in this class of words, are actually negatives.
Why do this? It is called setting the limits of negative expectations. It is a subliminal device (also discussed in the literature of neurolinguistic programming) that predisposes the weak-minded listener – and specifically someone who is wired to counter-example everything they see or hear (also known as contrarian) – to accept the thing that is being said precisely because it has been labelled “unbelievable” by the speaker.
People who are prone to counter-exampling are in fact the same people who fall for conspiracy theories, and Trump’s constituency is replete with conspiracy theorists. So, in effect, Trump is using these techniques to troll for and get his hooks into essentially weak-minded people who are easily swayed by emotional arguments that are not supported by facts, but are in fact charged up with covert references to the “conspiracy theory orientation” that disaffected voters often suffer from.
This is just one element of Trump’s technique, but it is by far one of the most effective weapons in his verbal arsenal.
If you watch the July 17 episode of 60 minutes during which Lesley Stahl interviewed (in a horrendously bad example of first person journalism, by the way) Donald Trump and Mike Pense, you will see evidence of Trump’s technique up close and personal.
If you have the stomach to watch this segment again, pay attention to the manner in which Trump asks himself the questions he wants to answer, and then answers those questions rather than the ones that the interviewer asked. It seems like he’s answering the questions, but he almost always avoids a flat statement of fact because flat statements of fact are not deniable and he knows he could be tripped up by such statements.
Also note that Trump NEVER speaks in complete sentences. Instead, his statements consist of a series of parenthetical phrases in which one thought interrupts another so that it becomes difficult to figure out (a) what he is actually saying and (b) what it means. By speaking in this manner, he basically mirrors the mental behavior of his victims (and they are victims because these are highly manipulative techniques used by con men all over the world.)
This is called “pacing and leading,” another technique promoted by Hopkins and discussed at great length in neurolinguistic programming. You gain rapport with your audience by tempering your language, your choice of words, to reflect the language as it is spoken by your target audience. This generates a feelings of comfortability between the operator and the audience. Another word for comfortability is trust. The process of emulating the speech patterns of your customers is precisely how to gain rapport. The leading part is when you use that rapport (and notice how I am using these techniques in this article itself!) to ask the customer to follow your train of thought to the conclusion you want them to reach.
This is actually a hypnotic induction technique, used by stage hypnotists and hypnotherapists (and, yes, I am a trained hypnotherapist which is why I know all this shit) to gain rapport and control over their subjects.
Adolph Hitler was one of the most effective hypnotists we’ve ever seen. He used these same techniques in his speeches, and in his written works. His genius, if I can you that word to describe such an abomination, was that he figured these things out before Tom Hopkins or neurolinguistic programming were born.
Like Hitler, Trump employs several techniques to generate a favorable impression among his customers. He is brash. He interrupts people. He says outrageous things that are so outrageous that we don’t even bother to contradict him, often because we can’t get a word in edgewise.
These characteristic all generate the same net effect: they make Trump seem powerful, and that’s what he’s aiming for, to create the impression of strength.
But it is also interesting to look around to see what other public figures are using these techniques and one comes to mind immediately, Vladimir Putin, who has been using the same techniques to keep himself in power, creating an impression of strength and invulnerability.
These are the techniques of a despotic dictator in the making, someone who emphasizes his personal strength as proof that he can do what mere mortals can’t. Donald Trump is a con man playing the role of the Uber Mensch and we are all too dumb to see it.
Now, about that Lesley Stahl interview: Stahl took a dive during that interview when she failed to challenge Trump when he called Hillary Clinton a criminal. Hillary Clinton as never been indicted for any crime, and has certainly never been convicted of anything….except in the media where the Republican machine has spent more than $500 million over the past 30 years to vilify her.
Because Hillary Clinton is a public figure, slander laws do not apply to her. The political class is the only group of people in the United States who cannot sue for slander, and so Trump slanders her over and over again.
The only time you can call someone a criminal is when that person has actually been convicted of a crime, but Stahl simply smiled her “deer in the headlights” and ignored the gross untruth that Trump had just uttered while she was in the process of actually trying to nail Trump down on some of the false things he had said.
So, there we are. A reporter is sitting right in front of Trump while Trump lies right to her face….and she does nothing about it, doesn’t challenge the statement, doesn’t contradict him. All she did was to give the camera a sick smile and go on about her business.
Why? There were terms and conditions attached to this interview and it is very clear that an agreement was made that Stahl would not challenge Trump if he were to make such a statement.
Someone asked me how I could prove that Donald Trump ever read, “How to Master the Art of Selling.” Here’s the answer: Tom Hopkins was a real estate broker, and the book was originally about selling real estate.
When all is said and done, the bottom line on Donald Trump is that we live in the age of entertainment, and Donald Trump is an entertainer, and he was more entertaining than any of the other candidates in 2016. He’s also really bad at estimating the true cost of things, which is why so many of his businesses have gone belly up, so – if there’s one thing Donald Trump knows – it’s how to win big by underestimating the cost of things and sticking your partners with the bill.
In this case, however, the partners he going to stick with the bill happen to be US.
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