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The Lucky Hitler Hypothesis (Trump Persuasion Series) - Dilbert Blog

The Lucky Hitler Hypothesis (Trump Persuasion Series)

I understand why people are upset about Donald Trump’s racist vibe. He’s spreading racist breadcrumbs all over the place. I shall list a sample.

So far, Trump…

1. Implied that Mexicans are rapists (except for some who are good people).

2. Wants to temporarily ban all Muslims from immigrating until we can figure out “why they hate us so much.”

3. Spoke approvingly about the rough treatment his crowd gave to an African-American protester at his speech.

4. Wants to deport 11 million illegal Mexican immigrants and give them a chance to get back into the country legally.

5. Wants to consider shutting down mosques that might be recruiting terrorists.

6. Is charismatic, and talks about immigrants as a threat to this country, like Hitler, who was a known racist.

7. Has a mouth shaped exactly like Mussolini’s mouth. Mussolini was a fascist, and fascists are basically racists with ambition.

8. Is popular with voters who are racist. They know one when they see one!

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, but that’s enough to make the case. Every single thing on that list is consistent with the Lucky Hitler Hypothesis for Trump. That filter on reality says Trump is a terrible person on the inside – racist, narcissistic, and uncaring – and his success is due to his under-informed base of supporters plus luck. By this filter, no skill is involved except for the Reality TV kind. He was just in the right place at the right time, and loudly, as always. Hence, Lucky Hitler.

But as regular readers know, it is easy to fit today’s data to any hypothesis about the past. Heck, the History Channel has me convinced that those pyramids were designed by aliens. The facts fit! The facts also fit the hypothesis that humans did it all alone. That’s how the past works; data tends to be consistent with a lot of different interpretations.

Our brains did not evolve to serve up a continuous stream of truth. Brains evolved to keep us alive. Your brain is more like an illusion generator than a window on reality. You and I are seeing the world quite differently (I assure you) and yet we both survive. My illusion and your illusion are both perfectly functional. But chances are, neither of us know anything. Except that we exist.

Take for example the many times Trump’s words and policies have revealed his racist inner thoughts. That filter on life explains the past perfectly. Every bit of it fits. 

But you might want to ask yourself if any other filter fits that data too. I’ll toss out a few suggestions to get the ball rolling.

1. Trump is a robot. This filter fits the data because his plans are guided by reason except for a blind spot about how humans feel, especially when you casually mention that some of them might be good people. To other robots, that’s just a true statement. Some people are good, some are bad. The robot doesn’t know it sounds racist. it is just trying to follow the specs in the job description of president. The job description says the president needs to protect citizens from all threats, foreign and domestic. It is silent on the questions of hurting people’s feelings and protecting non-citizens.

2. Trump is consistent. This filter says Trump has a decades-long track record of making a huuuuuge first offers so he has room to negotiate to a winning compromise. He even wrote a bestselling book on the topic. By this filter, Trump is a rational business mogul that created a diverse empire, and he is using the same methods of persuasion he has always used. It sounds racist to you, and he knows it, but he also knows that what he is doing will give him the attention – followed by the power – to get the job done. By this filter, Trump might want to build an Arc de Trump as the doorway to Mexico so he can feed his huge ego, because that would be consistent with his past. But the Hitler path would be out of character with his personal history. His Jewish daughter can explain that better than I can.

3. The Master Persuader Hypothesis. By this filter, a master persuader sends crowds into cognitive dissonance and they in turn generate one rationalization after another for what is behind the phenomenon. Obama is a Master Persuader, and that’s why a big chunk of the public still thinks he is a practicing Muslim. When the top persuaders do their thing, about a third of the public can be expected to literally hallucinate.

Now compare Trump, Obama, and Hillary Clinton. Trump is routinely compared to Hitler. Obama is considered by many to be a Muslim sleeper cell. But Hillary Clinton is generally accused of ordinary flaws such as incompetence, dishonesty, etc. Clinton is not a master persuader. If she were, a third of the country would believe she is a practicing witch. A real one. And no, that is not a joke.

A tell for a Master Persuader is the outlandishness of the criticisms. Jeb Bush is not a persuader, and no one accuses him of anything but running an ineffective campaign. No one believes Rand Paul is really an elf that makes cookies in a hollowed-out tree. But they would, if Paul were a master persuader instead of a policy wonk. 

As I often say, I am not smart enough to know which candidate would be the best president. I’m only interested in Trump’s persuasion skills. And I can’t rule out the Lucky Hitler Hypothesis, or any other hypothesis about Trump, because I don’t know Trump’s inner thoughts. 

So let’s use our different filters to predict the future and see which one does best.