Dilbert cartoonist thinks Trump's branding of terrorists as "losers" is brilliant, "weapons-grade persuasion"

The Dilbert cartoonist has always had a bizarre fixation on Donald Trump, but even this is a bit much

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published May 24, 2017 2:50PM (EDT)


Scott Adams, the cartoonist behind the popular strip "Dilbert," has a longstanding fixation with President Donald Trump that has been well-chronicled by my Salon colleague Amanda Marcotte.

Yet even for Adams, the claim that Trump branding Islamist terrorists as "evil losers" is "weapons-grade persuasion from the most powerful Master Persuader of our time" is shockingly hyperbolic.

Adams' argument can basically be summed up as follows: Trump chooses demeaning nicknames for people/entities he dislikes in order to draw people's attention to their perceived weaknesses, which in turn are magnified in order to better serve whatever goal Trump happens to be working toward. It's pretty silly to think that one must be a "Master Persuader" in order to come up with this tactic, but then again, Adams has a long history of attributing Trump's behavior to persuasion techniques instead of good ol' fashioned demagoguery.

Hence his half-baked theory that Trump is trying to "kill the ideas" of Islamists with his "loser" epithet.

"What kinds of people join the Losers? Mostly young males," Adams writes. "And you know what brand young males do not want on them? Right: Losers."

Adams goes on to argue that, while terrorists might like being called monsters and wouldn't be fazed by being called non-Muslim, "loser is different. No one joins the Loser movement."

Adams' theory falls apart for three reasons:

1. There is zero evidence that Trump has ever studied persuasion, at least in the sense that Adams is describing it.

2. There is zero evidence that Trump referring to Islamist terrorists as "evil losers" will have any impact on their self-image, in large part because it's highly doubtful their self-esteem is tied to Trump's opinion of them.

3. Perhaps most important of all: "Loser" is one of Trump's go-to insults. He's used it against Rosie O'Donnell, Cher, Mark Cuban, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz... even against this very website. Last time I checked, they're all doing fine.

Adams concludes by presenting a hypothetical scenario in which major browsers automatically converted the names of terrorist groups to Evil Losers, which he is convinced would ultimately "end recruitment for Losers."

"An hour ago you believed there was no way to stop the spread of the ideas behind terrorism," Adams concludes. "I just told you how to do it by the end of the week."

This is because, as Adams insists, our "Commander in Chief is also a Master Persuader."

A word of advice to Adams: Repeating the same word over and over again doesn't convince people of its intrinsic truth. Whether it's Trump calling everyone a "loser" or you constantly bringing subjects back to "persuasion," the act of repetition says far more about the person making those statements than it does about their targets.

It's also incredibly annoying.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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