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Talking Like a Fourth-Grader (Part of my Trump Persuasion Series) - Dilbert Blog

Talking Like a Fourth-Grader (Part of my Trump Persuasion Series)

You probably saw one of several articles describing a study that says Donald Trump speaks at a fourth-grade level. Your first reaction might have been to chuckle at his lack of verbal intelligence. 

I was laughing too. But if you have been reading this blog lately, you know I was laughing for a different reason. You and I have a front row seat to a movie that Aaron Sorkin hasn’t even written yet. I’ll outline it for you. 

Act One: It is the summer of 2015. We see dumb-old-Donald Trump being a babbling buffoon, full of hot air and insults, running for president as usual. In a comic twist, a study indicates that Trump literally speaks at a fourth-grade level. Clearly we are dealing with an idiot. And yet his popularity increases.

In the B-story, we listen to two characters make an analogy to Ronald Reagan’s second term. Mental health experts say Reagan showed signs of cognitive decline. We are led to believe a Trump presidency would give the United States a second president with impaired mental function.

Meanwhile, rogue nations are testing nuclear weapons. The stakes are high!

Act Two: No one saw it coming, but Trump’s popularity starts to grow. His simple language – which we are sure is nothing but bluster and branding – is somehow, inexplicably, catching on with the public. Pundits, desperate for an explanation of Trump’s success, say the public wants an outsider this year. Maybe that’s it. 

Trump dominates in the polls. The media hates him for being anti-intellectual (unlike them) and for bullying the news outlets throughout the campaign. 

The media universally predicts that Trump’s idiocy will become transparent in time, and a traditional candidate will emerge to win the presidency. It always happened like that in the past. 

At the end of Act Two, Trump wins the presidency in a landslide. The press is catatonic. Pundits proclaim the country is doomed.

Act Three: Trump, the idiot, now has to actually govern. The world is going to hell on all fronts and the President of the United States is mentally incompetent thanks to some combination of ego disorder and willful ignorance. This is the unsolvable third-act problem. The entire world is at risk. Catastrophic failure is assured.

In a foreshadowing scene, an expert on persuasion explains to another character that sometimes simple language is intentional. Most public speakers aim for a sixth-grade level because that is the most persuasive level at which one can speak without sacrificing ego.

But is talking below the sixth grade level even more persuasive? 

Yes, says the expert in the movie. It could be. But you never see it tried in the real world because only a person with no ego could pull it off. Everyone would think that person is a fool for speaking in such simple sentences.

In the final scene of the movie, we see Trump behind closed doors, talking to his wife. The topic is not important. We simply observe a husband and wife having a conversation.

At a college level of speaking. 

Credits roll.

You’d watch that movie. I predict that someday you will.

I remind you that I am not smart enough to know who would be a good president. I write about the Master Persuader Hypothesis so you can compare its predictive powers to the standard view of Trump. This is for entertainment only.

For more on persuasion, start by understanding our Moist Robot nature as I describe it in my book. Or see the entire Persuasion Reading List I compiled for you.