Yesterday, there was a massive number of boots on the ground against the newly-inaugurated President Trump. These events were organized under an umbrella called the “Women’s March” and happened in a number of different cities across the country and around the world. I wanted to see it up close and find out whether it was persuasive to me or not. So I went and applied the persuasion filter that I’ve learned over the past year. I was in something of a disguise, saying that I was a neutral observer whose only interest was in whether the message was persuasive. Knowing about pacing and leading, it’s obvious I wouldn’t have been able to make any headway should I have gone in my MAGA hat, though it would have been far more entertaining.
Here are my notes from the adventure (these originated as a forum post so may not be up to the level of quality of my typical writing).
Overall, there were lots of people. Last year when I went to one of these things, there was basically no one. That wasn’t the case yesterday. It had big turnout with many thousands at least.
One old woman who I questioned and was talking about confirmation bias to started hallucinating that General Flynn was in contact with Russia for some nefarious purposes, such as over sanctions. When I asked why, she mentioned “Trump’s stance on health care, human rights” (blah blah). When I pointed out that she co-mingled things that have nothing to do with each other but used them as justification for her confirmation bias solely because she had a negative opinion about Trump (in essence that she made up facts, as I started out by saying we don’t make our decisions as people based on facts), she doubled down on her hallucinations. What I said evidently went way over her head. It’s also worth noting that I dissipated the “pussy gate” shit by saying what girls do when they’re into you coupled with him saying “they let you do it.” That wasn’t on tape, unfortunately.
One guy and me had somewhat of an OK conversation. I poked some holes in his narrative on Mexicans (as I’ve done elsewhere with other people), so that subject turned fast. He seemed to be primarily there for LGBT people or some reason. I then relayed a story that one girl I know who’s Muslim from the Caucuses (not Middle Eastern) said something to me that was way worse than anything Trump’s said about gays, and also that she was excited somewhat about Trump, or at least not concerned. That rattled him. A conversation on “white privilege” came up with him also. He was Asian, so I said Asians have a higher median income than whites, so he had to go to the “top 1%.” I didn’t bring up that many of the people in question are Jewish (who to some people aren’t “white”), given what I was attempting. While acknowledging that people do have a point on something resembling “white privilege” when it comes to hiring and criminal justice, I did rattle him very badly when I said it was actually the Obama administration, not Trump, who took down the LGBT/civil rights pages from the White House website, explaining that because he had a negative opinion about Trump, he filled in the blanks (that’s what I knew at the time, now it appears the truth is a mixture – hey, I have my own confirmation bias, too). I also explained to him that if his goal was to stop Trump through getting people to “resist,” he better use some other language because “white privilege” will make people just ignore you, explaining that using different words to explain the exact same concept can have a markedly different emotional effect. Overall he was an alright guy and we exchanged email addresses. I also pimped Stumped a bit. (I was basically doing pacing and leading, with some considerable degree of success.)
Others were far more comical. One girl that seemed to be some kind of organizer talked “fascism,” and I broke out what word-thinking does. She quickly went off but butted in to the above mentioned conversation by trying to stick some rose in my face or in front of my camera. I brushed it all off. It was like a little kid trying to get your attention.
Another one shouted at me (but timidly) that I was “mansplaining.” That was a highlight. I just calmly turned my head and went back to the above mentioned conversation.
One 17 yer old girl draped in a gay flag started to talk about her being “assaulted” which we know is now basically a way to magnify whatever bad thing happened to you or for you to hallucinate something benign into making you a victim which is these people’s currency. I wanted to dissipate that, but she was assisted by “fascism” organizer who told me that “being a straight white guy…” blah blah you know the drill. I patiently responded that that attitude was exactly why her team was going to keep losing. That shut organizer girl down fast.
One older Indian(?) woman then talked about healthcare and the like. I said that that was something actionable but that her team wasn’t really organizing around that and instead organizing around these things that were going to dilute whatever power they had to move their goals forward. She seemed to recognize this and was consequently civil.
That was all at Columbus Circle. Outside Trump Tower, you can see that most of them don’t know why they’re there. They’re protesting to have a good time. One group was chanting the same exact phrase for at least 20 minutes and jumping up and down.
One fat slob wore something around her neck that said “nasty.”
A few of the girls around the vicinity were reasonably attractive. It would be a fun atmosphere to run contrary troll game on them but you gotta watch out in these places and you know why.
One of these slobs is topless. Fortunately I didn’t get any video of that.
A few of them were wearing vagina cardboard cutouts around their ears so it looked like their heads were coming out of vaginas.
One had a sign that said “pizza roles, not gender roles.”
There was a smattering of more potent stuff that demeaned Trump’s masculinity and organized the words “resistance” around a picture of Princess Leia with the word “hope” (“resistance begins with hope” or something). That was OK. Star Wars is iconic and this use of it in politics (at least from this front) looked new to me.
As I’ve said, I am just as irrational as everyone else, so here’s something a bit more “objective” in terms of standards of persuasion than just my notes.
The overarching strategic objective we can say that the “Women’s March” had was to stop Donald Trump’s agenda.
In my mind, the only way you can do this is to dissipate Donald Trump’s base. They are the source of his power. That means that you need to first prevent that base’s expansion and then slowly whittle it away afterward. You need to in turn box President Trump in in his ability to reach and communicate with that base in part by constructing a persuasive counter-narrative.
So, how effective were these “Women’s March” events in dominating that space and moving that agenda forward?
If you read the Masculine Epic, you’re probably familiar with Robert Cialdini’s classic 6 principles of influence, but if not, I’ll lay them out here and go by them.
- Reciprocity (if someone gives to you, you feel obligated to give something back)
- Commitment/Consistency (the human mind feels a need to complete something once a commitment has been made)
- Social proof (people do things that other people do)
- Authority (people find things that authority figures say truthful)
- Liking (people will more easily be persuaded by things or people they like)
- Scarcity (if something is rare, whatever it is, it is more desired)
Reciprocity and scarcity are largely inapplicable to events like the “Women’s March.” What about the others?
The “Women’s March” events had the social proof, full stop. That’s inarguable.
The “Women’s March” reinforced consistency and commitment in the people that came out. To the extent that it brought new people out to the streets, those new people have now made a commitment they’re more likely to follow through in the future. However, that commitment probably didn’t extend to Trump’s base, and because of these events’ total lack of focus (see below), the commitment won’t be as strong as it could have been. So this one is a mixed result.
With regards to authority, the “Women’s March” was severely lacking. Elsewhere from what I saw in New York City, this principle of influence was dominated by Hollywood blowhards. These highlights included Michael Moore ripping up a paper (how edgy), Ashley Judd ranting like a madwoman, and Madonna going off the rails in a way that has opened her up to a Secret Service investigation. These are not figures authoritative to Donald Trump’s base, which dovetails with the next principle.
When it comes to liking, the “Women’s March” was a total failure. To be persuasive you have to be liked, and there wasn’t much of that. We saw displays like women wearing cardboard cutouts of vaginas around their heads and disrupting commuters in Grand Central. More importantly, there was the doubling down on SJWism and Year Zero tendencies from more than a few of the people involved. These displays will not be liked by Donald Trump’s base. As I said, you can present the same concept using different words and people will have totally different reactions. The gatherers at the “Women’s March” have no concept of pacing and leading. In terms of branding, labeling yourself “nasty” is about the last thing you want to do.
There was also the complete lack of focus, as I charitably pointed out to a few. People just went to these “Women’s March” events to complain about whatever it was they wanted to complain about, but that leaves their forces dispersed and unable to dominate any space on the Go board. Law 23: Concentrate Your Forces.
There were a few things that showed promise and could potentially be A/B tested with success, like the associations with Star Wars and attacks on Trump’s masculinity (primitive attacks are always effective), but there just wasn’t enough of that to catch fire. Again, the forces were too dispersed.
The biggest victory for the “Women’s March” was potentially bringing new people in, but it failed to catch much traction. To quote Wutang on RVF:
I’m starting to recall shades of Occupy Wall Street. When that went down a few years ago, media was all over it and we also got the usual celebrity endorsements and people on social media constantly pushing the event. After about 2-3 months, everything suddenly stopped. People simply packed up and went home after they got their fill of feeling virtuous.
I see lots of progressives and anti-Trumpers gloating about the size of the crowds but let’s see how things are in 3 months. As other people on this forum have pointed out from looking at the signs the protesters are carrying and even in some cases actually talking to protesters, their mental processes seem to be scattered all over the place. You see people marching not just about “women’s issues” but for everything to Black Lives Matter to climate change to defending Muslims, basically just a huge mish mash of basic bitch progressive causes. What this shows me is that they aren’t organized or focused and that after the initial endorphin rush overload they’ll go back into their bubbles and complacently watch what is going around them with only the occasional tweet or Facebook post to make it feel like they are accomplishing something.
This may be a bridge too far, since Donald Trump serves as a potent visual symbol of opposition for them that didn’t exist for Occupy Wall Street, the dispersal of messaging we did see at the “Women’s March” was almost the same.
The “Women’s March” could have brought in some new people, but it certainly didn’t reach Donald Trump’s base. In terms of stopping him it’s likely to prove a big failure.