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Assume Half of What You Hear About the Candidates is True - Dilbert Blog

Assume Half of What You Hear About the Candidates is True

This is a fun election. Trump and Clinton have provided us with one juicy rumor/scandal after another. But how do you know which rumors are true? I have taught you in this blog that even smart people are routinely fooled by confirmation bias. You think you can use your “common sense” to sort out what is true and what is an illusion, but it doesn’t work that way. Humans don’t have that sort of self-awareness. 

So what do you do?

I’ll help you sort out truth from fiction using the Persuasion Filter plus some pattern recognition.

I have a different window into the election scandals because I’ve been semi-famous for a few decades. In my experience, about half of what you read about me is true, and half is complete nonsense. The interesting thing is that you can’t tell which half is which. The only person who knows the truth with certainty is me, and I’m not credible because I’m the subject of the rumors. 

Extrapolating from my own experience, I think it is fair to assume that about half of what you hear about Trump and Clinton is true. The other half is nonsense. But here again, you can’t tell which half is the real part. I’m here to help.

Here are two current examples of false rumors, one for each candidate.

1. Rumor: A Wikileaks email says Clinton allegedly “hates everyday Americans.” The words on the page do say that, but the context is that she hates the label “everyday Americans.” This rumor is false.

2. Rumor: In the leaked Access Hollywood tapes, Trump allegedly admits to kissing and touching women against their will. But on the same recording Trump clearly says, “When you’re a celebrity, they let you do anything.” The word “let” implies permission, verbal or otherwise. Therefore it is not true that Trump confessed on the tape to sexual abuse. (It is a separate question whether Trump did inappropriate things. Here I’m only talking about the rumor that he admitted inappropriate actions on the leaked tape.)

You can see my judgements on which rumors about the candidates are likely to be true on this recent blog post.

As I said, for any individual rumor, assume a 50% likelihood of it being true. But when you have several rumors around a theme, you only need a few rumors to be true to prove the theme. For example, about half of the rumors/leaks about Clinton being crooked are likely to be true. You don’t know which half are the true ones, but clearly there are enough examples to prove the theme even if half are false. Likewise, half of the Trump rumors about kissing and groping are likely to be untrue or exaggerated. But that still leaves enough rumors as true – although we don’t know which ones – to make me endorse Gary Johnson. (Johnson only touches himself. That’s a good quality in a president.)

To recap, assume any individual rumor has a 50% chance of being true. But where there are multiple rumors around a theme, you probably have enough true ones in the mix to prove the theme. You don’t need to know specifically which ones are true. 

My advice for those of you who vote is to assume that all of the major scandal/rumor themes about the past are true for both candidates. But don’t conflate that with your predictions of what will happen in the future. As any investment professional will tell you, past performance does not predict future results. That applies to stocks as much as it does to humans.

We would hope and expect that people as old as Clinton and Trump have “improved” since they were younger, becoming wiser and more enlightened. I would also expect that an imperfect candidate would try hard to be a good role model once in office because that’s the smartest strategy in the long run. If you assume both candidates are in it for themselves first, you also have to assume they need to do a good job for the country to serve their own interests. Their past misdeeds are unlikely to tell you how they will do in office.

I don’t think American voters want to associate their personal reputations with either Clinton or Trump. But one of those two imperfect creatures is likely to be President. My advice is to assume the worst about their past behaviors but don’t assume their pasts necessarily predict their futures. 

Before you start sobbing at the fact that Clinton and Trump are the best this country has to offer, I predict that all future presidential elections will be this nasty. Thanks to whistleblowers, hackers, and hot mics, we now have the means to see/read/hear the actual inner thoughts of candidates in ways that were never before possible. And if you learn enough about a human being, you’ll almost certainly hate that person. Expect future candidates to rival Clinton and Trump for unpopularity. That’s the new world we live in. We have the means to know too much about people. 

To prepare for this new world of too-much-disclosure, I suggest we abandon the idea that presidents should be role models for our kids. Let’s treat the election like we are hiring for any other type of job. A candidate either has the right skills and motivation or doesn’t. Their rotten inner souls aren’t necessarily an indication of future job performance.

Clinton and Trump are in the so-called basket of deplorables along with 100% of American voters. We’re all flawed. I suggest voters pick the job applicant they think can best do the work of President and leave the role-modeling to mom and dad. 

You might love my book because mom and dad.