As one of the few reasonably famous people to predict Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, Scott Adams deserves to feel vindicated. It makes sense, too, that as author of several books, he wants to write about the reasons for his successful and unlikely prediction. And he did write about it, at length at the time, on his blog. Unfortunately I found little new in the book besides a slightly ratched-up level of gloating and self-congratulation.
His one big idea, that people are “moist robots” who are easily fooled, is not all that original, and is more compellingly told by many of the experts he admires: Robert Caldini, Dan Ariely, Daniel Kahneman, Nassim Taleb, and others. But he applies it to Trump (“the Master Persuader”) in an cleverly-written analysis full of easy-to-remember terms:
- Linguistic kill shot: how Trump successfully labels his enemies in memorable ways that define them into boxes difficult to escape (“Crooked Hillary”, “Low Energy Jeb”, “Pocahontas”). The device is brutally effective,
- Thinking past the sale: Hillary’s ads that portrayed Trump as a President backfired, because even though she tried to paint him as dangerous, she got people imagining him as President.
- Cognitive dissonance: how people stubbornly re-write history to conform to their preconceptions.
I especially liked his so-true summary of how to spot cognitive dissonance, whether on Twitter or in real life. If somebody responds with this pattern, you know you’ve won the argument:
[a mocking word ] + [ an absurd absolute ]
“Ah” + “So you think toddlers should have guns too”
“I get it” + “You want all women to stay home with the babies, right?”
“Okay then” + “Now any guy can just say he’s ‘trans’ and that gives him the right to watch women in the bathroom”
But if you’ve already seen his blog, you already know all of this. There are no new insights, and — worse, for a book trying to sell itself as coming from a guy who correctly forecasted the future — no predictions for what happens next.
Given the heat Scott Adams took for his unpopular prediction, the urge to gloat is understandable, but this book offers nothing more than a summary of his previous ideas.