How Trump Won. Part 4: Pathos

Aristotle teaches that the second step for someone who uses rhetoric, after ethos, is pathos or emotion.

Ethos is about the persuader’s character.

Pathos is about the customer, the voter, and the people.

The goal is to generate emotion.

The more powerful the emotion and the more intensely stimulated the better.

Powerful emotions, especially in a democracy, are fear, anger, resentment, envy and hatred.

Other emotional and psychological needs are the need to be respected, to have status, pre-eminence and power.

However, despite generating fear and anger, people need a sense of hope and optimism.

The most powerful and useful emotion in a democracy is fear; secondly, resentment; thirdly, the desire for power and status.

Fear and resentment leads to anger and hate.

Desire for power, meanwhile, leads to ambition.

A good persuader, like a good preacher, firstly lays out a tale of woe: a tale of darkness, despair, desperation, degradation, disillusion, disappointment, and, of course, death.

However, as Marx says, the point of the enterprise is not to leave man without “hope or consolation” but to “break his chains” and “cull the living flower.”

So, the second step is to provide “Hope and Change” or make “America Great Again”.

The aim is to cause people to turn away from something, or wish to escape something, and move towards something — the thing the persuader wants.

The preacher urges the people in the pew to hate sin, to turn away from darkness, and to turn to virtue, to turn to the light.

Again, fear is the most important emotion in persuasion.

During the election, Hillary Clinton, and the media’s pitch was based on fear.


Fear was also used in the Brexit referendum vote:

The Clinton campaign and the media’s strategy was to basically paint Trump as Hitler. Hitler is scary. Hitler is bad. Don’t go to Hitler!

Go to Hilary!

Trump’s pitch, meanwhile, was immigration, jobs and Islamic terrorism. Overall, his pitch was that America has been failed by its politicians.

Islam, however, provided him with a golden opportunity.

Trump’s speech on Islam is really something remarkable. I felt chills watching it. It was intense. The emotions generated were fear and anger, but also excitement — excitement and exhilaration because it was deviant — “deviant” as defined by the oligarchy.

Never underestimate the power of “deviancy” in democracy.

Scott Adams claimed that one of Trump’s persuasion techniques was “pacing and leading” (a technique from hypnosis); here is Adams:

“Pacing and Leading: Trump always takes the extreme position on matters of safety and security for the country, even if those positions are unconstitutional, impractical, evil, or something that the military would refuse to do. Normal people see this as a dangerous situation. Trained persuaders like me see this as something called pacing and leading. Trump “paces” the public – meaning he matches them in their emotional state, and then some. He does that with his extreme responses on immigration, fighting ISIS, stop-and-frisk, etc. Once Trump has established himself as the biggest bad-ass on the topic, he is free to “lead,” which we see him do by softening his deportation stand, limiting his stop-and-frisk comment to Chicago, reversing his first answer on penalties for abortion, and so on. If you are not trained in persuasion, Trump look scary. If you understand pacing and leading, you might see him as the safest candidate who has ever gotten this close to the presidency. That’s how I see him.

First, you identify a person, a group of people’s key emotion — something that they care about. Then, you match (pace) their emotional state. In fact, in politics, you heighten it, you go further than anyone else by increasing that emotion.”

For example, Trump said: “a total shutdown on all Muslim immigration.” However, this evolves to “extreme vetting.”

“Total shutdown” is clear, simple, unambiguous and visual.

“Extreme vetting” is vague — it can mean anything.

If Trump started by saying that he would use “extreme vetting” then it would get one big yawn.

In other words, it resembles the standard negotiating technique called the perceptual contrast principle.

Basically, you start you with a large, bold, perhaps even ridiculous demand, then you moderate your position; the result is that you get to what you really want.

Adams, furthermore, claims that the vast majority of journalists cannot grasp Trump’s method. The reason is because Trump is a negotiator, a salesman; Trump thus views politics as dynamic, fluid and open to open change. Unlike, apparently other politicans. It is, however, possiable, that they actually understand this and resist him all the more.

See this, more recent post by Adams, on Trump’s strategy: +

Consider, furthermore, the following overlooked point.

Trump has killed any effective LGBT “bigotry” or opposition to gay marriage from the GOP.

Right after the Orlando massacre —the worst mass-shooting in American history — where Muslim purposefully slaughtered gay men, Trump came out and gave a talk on how he will defend “all Americans.” He said something like “who love who they want to love.” Subtext: the LGBT people are American people and Trump is for all Americans.

Or, consider that Peter Thiel, a billionaire entrepreneur (who is also gay) gave a speech at the Republican Presidential convention and not a peep was said in protest.

Because he “paced” the Republicans on what they really cared about, he was able to lead them to a different, more “progressive” position because they trusted him.

Of course, there is politics here. Islam has it in for gays; the Dems are supposed to love gays; Muslims, however, kill gays; so Repubs move to protect gays to break up the coherence of Dems.


Trump brands people. Again, this I learned from Scott Adams, who called it “linguistic kill shots.” (LKS.)

“Lying’g Ted”. (Edward Cruz.)

“Low-energy” Jeb.

“Crooked Clinton” (Hilary Clinton.)

The LKS should be memorable, simple and something which picks out a characteristic of the person. For example, Jeb looks pretty calm, laid back, authoritative. However, he could be accused of being effete, patrician and disconnected. “Low energy” Jeb when debating “high energy” Donald was a killer.

Crooked Clinton, however, was a master stroke. The real point, according to Adams, is that a LJS sets up confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when we believe something and then we find or go and find something which confirms our pre-existing beliefs. We don’t look for evidence that proves our belief wrong.

Clinton has been dogged by scandal after scandal for decades.

During this election cycle, she has had to contend with emails, and investigations surrounding the Clinton foundation. Trump branded her “crooked “early on and, sure enough, over the course of the campaign there was a drip, drip, drip of emails, foreign donations, “Wall street” speeches and foundation investigations.

If you believe Clinton is crooked, then you will see evidence of this everywhere. And every new bit of information just confirms your belief. Even if you didn’t think she was crooked, the repetition of the brand — the “linguistic kill shot” — and the drip, drip of scandal may convince enough people that she is untrustworthy. There is no smoke without fire after all.

Trump has used confirmation bias so many times. For instance, he said they should “blow up the oil trucks”. Reports came out that they bombed “oil trucks”. Trump takes the credit.

Trump says they (Europe) should “pay more to NATO”; then reports came out that NATO countries are going to pay more.

Trump says the “system is rigged” and sure enough news leaks out that election fraud is occurring.

Let’s suppose Trump lost the election. If Trump had lost the election, then his clever branding of the media (dishonest), the political system (rigged) would have provided a convenient scapegoat.

The best example, however, was ISIS.

Trump said that, countries like France, and cities like Brussels are no longer the “same”; that you wouldn’t want to “go there”. He even called Brussels a “hell”.

Then what happened?

ISIS blew up the airport in Brussels.

Trump —straight-out-the-box — comes on Fox for a phone interview and says basically “I Told You So.”

Trump’s ability to successfully use the media troubled, not only the Clinton campaign but the establishment. Usually, a candidate must actually appear in person or on camera to give an interview. Trump, however, was able to phone in interviews. Why? Because he was hot, he was desirable, if not FOX then some other network would use him. This is the consequence of Trump’s Ethos.

The result was that Trump was able to set the pace (pace and lead) and he framed the story: the world was out of control (fear); that he understands the issues, (trust) and that only he can fix it (winning); Trump repeated this message again and again.

The result is that people come to believe and vote for him.

He was fearless, honest, charismatic and commanding in pointing out time and time again the dangers of Islam and the need for America to be “tough”. From everyone else, however, all we heard was the same old tired message.

Personally, I started out a skeptic, but on this issue of Islamic terrorism alone, and Trump’s brave stance, I would have voted for him. In truth, I came to really like the man. But then, I like New Yorkers.

Repetition is key to persuasion. Trump throughout the campaign claimed that he was proven right about this or that problem, and it created that brand or aura of being right or being “smart.”

Repetition, of course, was used his slogans – MAGA but also “build the wall” and the one liner:  who is going to pay for it? Mexico. For foreign policy he had “America first”; for Washington he had “drain the swamp”.

These slogans become almost tribal war chants – creating a them and us dynamic.


Finally, Trump has been criticised for his use of simplistic language.

The purpose of language, however, is to communicate: to ask questions, to command, to instruct, to describe something and to convey emotions. The more effective (successful) and efficient (fastest, cheapest and simplest) way of doing this will tend to outcompete other approaches.

Would you rather have a Windows PC, or an Apple IPad?

Would you rather read a four-hundred page book, or a forty page, or forty paragraph, essay that gives you all the necessary information?

Trump speaks in short, simple sentences.

Trump uses strong, visual language.

Trump uses repetition.

“Pouring across our borders.”

“I hate it. I hate it.”

“It’s terrible. Terrible.”

“We’re out of control. We’re out of control.”

“Chopping of heads.”

“We will build a wall. And we will have a nice, big, beautiful door in the middle.”

“I would bomb the shit out of them.”

“We will make America safe again. We will make America strong again. We will make America great again! And we will win. We will win big time. Bigly. Believe me.”

And it works.

Simplicity and Sam Harris V Trump.

Sam Harris, an author, PhD and public intellectual, is a smart cookie.

Sam Harris despises Trump. A lot.

Despite what you might think, Harris is more like Trump than he would ever imagine. (Harris would hate this.)

Harris, however, is an INFJ, Trump is an ESTP. They are exact opposites, and these psychological types tend not to like each other:

“It might be of interest that the ESTP is the unrepressed, or “alternate universe” version of the INFJ, if you will, because while the INFJ represses Se and has less developed Ti, these are the more dominant traits for the ESTP, who alternatively represses Ni and puts less focus on Fe. Relationships between the INFJ and ESTP can therefore be interesting, to say the least. Historical figures of these types have demonstrated a certain mistrust, frustration, or even disgust of each other, and this could likely be attributed to the fact that each represents the other’s repressed side, the side that always trips them up and confuses them the most. Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson found each other less than agreeable, and Churchill’s disgust of Gandhi is well-known (and of course Churchill vs. Hitler – ed.).”

ESTP communicating style is utilitarian (get the job done) and concrete (factual, visual, simple, down to earth and tactile.) INFJ communication style is abstract (conceptual and theoretical) and cooperative (values harmony with others).

Harris is right in many things; however it is what he is mistaken about that is most important: politics is not the arena of rational discourse, but the struggle for power. Persuasion matters more in politics than simply having a command of the facts or using logic. So his complaint about Trump’s use simple language completely misses the point. Indeed, the irony is that by using such studied simplicity, Trump actually demonstrates how smart he actually is.

Harris dislikes Trump because he thinks Trump is a simpleton. People dislike Harris because they think Harris is a (philosophical) simpleton.

Both Harris, Trump and Steve Jobs are examples of what Adams calls “Wizards” Or master persuaders:

The following is, according to Adams, the tells for a “Wizard.”

Wizards succeed in an enterprise, despite not having any formal background or experience. (Trump for President, Harris for philosophy. Jobs in, well, everything he did.)

Wizards generate extreme criticism from others. Trump got hammered by President Obama, the Pope, and all the Press. Harris takes flak from scientists, journalists, leftists, feminists, philosophers and religious people.

Wizards are capable, however, of withstanding withering criticism, without backing down or running away. This is Trump and Harris and Jobs to a T.

Here is, for instance, Harris holding his own among a group of top scientists:

Wizards are often accused of narcissism and arrogance. Trump probably has the biggest ego in the world, and now after actually winning the Presidency, he might think he’s invincible. Harris is often accused of solipsism and arrogance (by Massimo Pigliucci, Robert Wright, and Scot Atran); Jobs was also seen as an egomaniac.

Adams, however, thinks Wizards are just fearless and are actually in control of their ego; they seem egotistical because of the desire to do what they need to do, or say what they need to say.

Wizards have a gift for simplification. Trump we have covered. Harris has gifts for focusing on the core of a complex issue, then expressing his point in a way that is unique, insightful, funny and, as one would expect from an INFJ, subtly layered with emotional resonance.


It is time we admitted that we are not at  war with “terrorism”. We are at war with Islam. This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims, but we are absolutely at war with the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran. The only reason Muslim fundamentalism is a threat to us is because the fundamentals of Islam are a threat to U.S.” (The End of Faith.)

Clear, simple arresting claims; subtle, nuanced, distinctions and calculated to garner an emotional reaction from naive liberals.

From my point of view, compatibilism is a little like saying: a puppet is free so long as it loves its strings.

An entire position in philosophy refuted and mocked in one sentence. It would take me a paragraph or two to explain this using analytic philosophy; so, I will point you towards the Epsilon in Brave New World who simply “love” operating the elevators (lifts) because they have been genetically and behaviourally designed to do so — they have the same “free will” as everyone else.

Wizards drive the literati —the “herd of independent minds” —  mad. The clue, according to Adams, is in finding cognitive dissonance. Finding cognitive dissonance is, according to Adams, the biggest tell that a Wizard is operating.

The biggest tell for cognitive dissonance, according to Adams, is multiple explanations for the same phenomena.

Many, contradictory explanations have been given for Trump; most explanations for Trump involve the economy, or identity, or PC (Political Coherence), racism or whatever.

Very few focus on the fact that Trump truly is a highly skilled operator.

Adams says that Trump’s “talent stack” is the following:

1: Public Speaking.

2: Branding.

3: Humour.

4: Strategy.

5: Hiring and Firing.

6: Persuasion.

Adams notes that while Trump might not be the best in 1-4, he is, however, excellent in 5. For 6, Adams claims that Trump is the best in the world.

And, of course, these talents are things a good leader needs.

Given the powers that Trump took on – the Modern Structure.  I find it hard to disagree with this assessment.

Trump slayed the Bush dynasty; the Clinton family; successfully carried out an insurrection against the Republican Party; annihilated the Democrat Party and is now shaking up the entire World.

He succeeded because:

A: He understands rhetoric and persuasion.

B: He is an entrepreneur at heart – he saw what people needed.

C: He is independently wealthy – therefore he did not have to toe the “Party line”.

D: He had built a reputation, an ethos of success.

E: He knew how to “play” the media.

F: He is a fighter. He’s a “counter-puncher.” (To me, this is probably the most impressive thing about Trump: the fuck you attitude. Of course, much of this is perception (persuasion), but it was brilliant. The trouble with conservatives – Mitt Rommney say – is that they are too “nice”. Politics is the struggle for power. It’s dirty, and not for scholars or gentlemen. Trump, however, had that magic, that ethos of aggression and dominance – kingly authority.

Even when he “apologises”, he does it in style. See the following for an asute take:

So far, we have focused only on Trump.

Next, we will look at the external situation; the political and social realities that allowed Trump to Triumph.

For more on Trump and persuasion see Scot Adams:

(I have been intrested in persuasion for over ten years, as a side interest. Adams, however, has many smart things to say, and I found his work very useful.)

See also:




Influence The Psychology of Persuasion. Robert Cialdini.

(Adams considers Cialdini to be “Godzilla” – the master on the art of persuasion. I read this book many years ago, and I found it fascinating for many different reasons.)

The Art of Woo. G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa.

(An excellent book on all aspects of persuasion.)

The Art of the Deal. Donald Trump.

Trump 101: The Way to Success. Donald Trump.

(I think this book has much better insight into Trump than “Art”.)








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