My friend Mark D. Swendsen, Sr. and I share ideas about communication, including those dealing with politics. Mark has been a California attorney for four decades and a former hostage negotiator. He has published books and lectured on the law, including a lecture to the Inner Circle of Advocates, a national trial lawyer’s organization, His training and experience includes Neuro Linguistic Programing as well as psychological insights. His book Target the Unconscious! The Modern Psychology of Rhetoric for the Plaintiff’s Lawyer is a book I’ve recommended and written about before. I have no financial interest in  this book, but having read Mark’s previous book on NLP and persuasion, I began communicating with him on the subject.  He asked me to write the introduction to the book, which is an encyclopedia of all the important techniques of psychological persuasion.

Recently I read an article about Donald Trump’s frequent reference to “my friend Jim”  and things he claimed he had said or done. But, no one could  produce any evidence such a friend existed. I asked Mark if that didn’t seem to be Trump using what is known in NLP as the “quotes pattern.” He agreed and I asked him to write about Trump’s apparent use of these and other communication devices. He sent this to me which provides insight as to how Donald Trump, in spite of apparently violating every rule of  normal political conduct has successfully employed communication devices resulting in his election. This is what Mark has shared:


Donald Trump is generally regarded as either the savior of the American working class and the creator of a renewed nation, or a supremely evil, beastly fraud who will bring about apocalyptic disaster. For us as lawyers, his extraordinary ability to inspire and motivate huge numbers of people is something we should study. We have much to learn from Donald Trump–a very great deal to learn. Sophisticated people laugh. That is an error.

By any conventional standard, he would have been expected to lose. He insults women. He insults the disabled. He insults Latinos. He insults the poor. He insults the rich. He insults Catholics. He insults Muslims. He insults industrial donors. He insults Republicans. He insults Democrats. He insults liberals. He insults conservatives.  He insults the fat. He insults the ugly. He insults the short. He picks a fight with the Pope–this Pope. He insults the newspapers. He insults radio hosts. He insults TV hosts. He admits to multiple sexual assaults–criminal sexual assaults. He brags about the size of his schwanzstucker on national TV in the middle of a formal presidential debate. He insults a Muslim Gold Star family, repeatedly, despite clear advice from his supporters and staff that it is a consciously set trap, which, indeed, it is. He is unable to avoid stepping into that trap, again and again and again, compulsively attacking them whenever they criticize him. He cannot abide criticism. He insults military officers. He insults judges. He insults senators. He insults governors. He insults Hawaiians. He insults Mexicans. He insults Canadians.

Reading is hard for him; he relies mainly on television and personal conversations for information, as if Chance the gardener finally came to life. Born to riches, he became a billionaire, separating himself from most of the people who support him. He got rich cheating his customers. He got richer cheating his contractors. He sues everybody. He notoriously had his wife living on one floor of his tower, and his mistress on the floor below. He is on his third marriage. His current wife shows little interest in being close to him, even in public. He ran a fact-free campaign. His policy briefs could be written on the back of an envelope.  His asserted facts only occasionally comport with verifiable reality. He has no identifiable core beliefs except loyalty to himself. He shows signs of severe mental illness, of a narcissistic personality disorder and an obsessive-compulsive need to defend every slight on his name, a compulsion so strong that it becomes disabling. He craves praise and admiration with a hunger so overwhelming that he is always in danger of being manipulated by anyone, anyone at all, who says good things about him. He is best known for telling people they are fired, which surely is the worst thing most working people ever hear, but no one cares.

No one cares. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

No one cares. News organizations abandon journalism and turn to cynical open advocacy and bald lies. It is all for our own good, of course. All for our own good.

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere  the ceremony of innocence is drowned. Evangelicals march behind the golden banner of a pagan. Out-of-work laborers shout their support for a robber baron. Unemployed coal miners, their lungs black with disease, demand the reopening of the deep hells that have ruined their lives. Republicans ignore a desperate, savage, apocalyptic philippic from their previous candidate, Mitt Romney, and heedlessly nominate a man with no principles at all.

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.

His supporters ignore all, forgive all, and even rejoice in all. Chaos reigns. None of it matters to them.

It was to this man that we chose to give the launch codes that can blow up the world.

It was in this man that the unwashed recognized their doppelgänger. They embraced his candidacy with a berserk ferocity that was bred by their soul-crushing hopelessness and seething anger at being sheep, always led to economic slaughter by the Armani-suited corporate executives, serpents who foreclose on their humble mortgages and ship their miserable jobs to China. At long last they realize that they no longer have a republic, but an auction, an auction at which they cannot even bid,  and their rage is indescribable. They came with torches and pitchforks after the politicians who have been bought by corporations.

The nation descends into naked savagery. Trump supporters wore the red hats and slugged it out with masked anarchists on the way out of Trump’s rallies while police under control of Democratic mayors simply watched. Elderly Trump fans wore the red badge of courage under their red caps. No one is safe. The police take three hours to enter an Orlando nightclub while 49 people are murdered inside. The message for everyone is: don’t bother calling the cops, you’re on your own, so don’t give up your guns. Gun control advocates call for more laws; the general public, unpersuaded, answers with their purchases of a record number of new guns. Bad things have happened, bad things are happening, bad things are predicted, and they want to be prepared.

Their majesties the mob dominate the political scene, on both sides, and their apologists excuse everything, even after riots turn to murder. Five Dallas cops are shot dead, but few care. One who does care is Barack Obama, who delivers a stunning, hypnotic, NLP-filled speech to the Dallas police. Forgive, understand each other, reconcile. We are all Americans. But his light is obscured in the smoke of hate and anger.

Trump claims to be ahead.  Polls be damned, he has great rallies, so the polls must be wrong.

The despair of the unlearned, aware that life will have ruinous things ahead for them, with no pension, no house, no education, no career, and no respect, drove them to scream for this man, even as he insulted them, but they didn’t hear the insults over the groans of their dying hopes.

Sophisticated people laughed.

He ran against eighteen professional politicians, most of whom had better organization, better funding, and better experience than he did, and despite insulting almost every major group in the electorate, he beat them all.

He beat them all. Think about that. He beat them all. Surely some revelation is at hand.

How did he do this? What dark miracle occurred that such a man could alienate so many voting blocs and still win?

There are always multiple reasons for any historical event. Clinton was indeed corrupt. Know it, understand it, grow up about it, own it.  The emails were awful. She had covered for her husband’s sexual assaults. She had defrauded the Haitians. She had sold her office. She was just a terrible speaker, screeching at audiences. She was a robot, making emotional connections with nobody at all except those who had previously decided it was time for a woman, any woman. Her smile was a frozen rictus, her every word memorized and focus group tested, her gestures mechanical. The Russians did something, we are assured, and whatever it was, it hurt Clinton. Democrats stayed home. But there is one factor which has been ignored, and it is an important one.

Donald Trump actually hypnotized his audiences.

In the middle of 2016, very few considered Trump to be a possible victor. The Huffington Post had been covering his campaign in the entertainment section. A Clinton presidency was assured. Surely, the professional savants said, not even the most addled of the rightist booboisie would get behind such a barbarian in sufficient numbers to constitute a threat. President Trump?

Sophisticated people laughed.

One writer who predicted Trump’s victory was Scott Adams, the Dilbert creator who writes about influence techniques, specifically a method of giving hypnotic suggestions in the course of ordinary conversation called Neurolinguistic Programming, or NLP. He recognized that Trump was using NLP, and consequently predicted a Trump victory. How could a cartoonist who studies hypnotism have an advantage over professional pollsters in predicting an election?

Sophisticated people laughed. 

In the middle of 2016, Paul Luvera contacted me and convinced me to present on NLP to the Inner Circle of Advocates. He also very kindly wrote the introduction to my new book, Target the Unconscious! The Modern Psychology of Rhetoric for the Plaintiff’s Lawyer.

We communicated back and forth on the threat that Trump represents, including his use of NLP to overcome his constant outrages, any one of which would sink almost any other candidate’s chances. Unfortunately, neither of us knew any high-ranking Democrats to whom we could sound the alarm: this man is going to get the launch codes unless you understand what he is doing to you. He is going to beat you with something you have never even heard of: NLP.

Only a very few thought he even had a chance of winning. America is our dream, and we wanted to enjoy it. But now we know that years of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a reality show star in a garish gilded tower.

Sophisticated people laughed.

They laughed until about nine o’clock on a Tuesday night. Then it wasn’t funny anymore, and their new hobby was trying to blame somebody, anybody else.

Clinton was doomed, and she never saw it coming. The sophisticated laughter drowned the warnings. Trump’s use of NLP doomed Clinton.

Trump has not forgotten NLP now that he is in office. Those who think his election was a unique event are likely to ignore the real lessons of his victory, and so it will be repeated. He did not defeat such a strong candidate as Hillary Clinton simply because Boris and Natasha, those piroshki-eating, vodka-swilling Russians, somehow tipped the vote. The bumpkinry are not his sole supporters; they are just the only ones not embarrassed to say so. This man is intelligent and powerful and extremely dangerous, and his use of NLP is magic.

So, how does Trump use NLP?

When you read Target the Unconscious!, and then review any of the presidential debates, you will see how he hypnotically  influenced his audience. “Let me be your voice!” implants his voice in the psyche of his listeners. By the standards of academic debate coaches, who count logic and facts, he lost the debates. By the standards of conversational hypnotists, it was all Trump. He set time bombs in his listeners’ unconscious that did not go off until much later. But go off they did.

He had no facts, no evidence, no logic, no principles, shot himself in the foot innumerable times, and still won the election. He stared  down his betters with a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun. NLP can pull your chestnuts from a very hot fire.

Lawyers may be using these same  NLP techniques against you, so be prepared.

Let us take one example: his use of the “quotes pattern.” The quotes pattern is the easiest of NLP techniques to use, and yet, extremely effective.

The quotes pattern is an NLP technique that quotes someone else saying what you want to say. We lawyers do it all the time when we cite cases. But we seldom do it with the kind of emphasis and effect that gives it its hypnotic power. Quoting someone else takes the threat out of a statement, so the listener is less likely to consciously resist what is said. “The judge will instruct you that if you find the defendant is negligent, and that he harmed Paula Plaintiff, you must award full compensation to Paula for each of her harms.” That’s not you saying it. It’s the  judge saying it. You emphasize the italicized words; that is called an embedded command. Award full compensation. That’s the judge talking. The jury need not get their hackles up at you.

Make a selfie video of yourself reading that straight, like you usually do, and then with pauses of a quarter second or less before and after the italicized parts. See how much more effective it is.

This is hypnotic because the conscious mind is lulled into inactivity by the fact that it is someone else whose words are quoted. Once the conscious mind is disempowered or distracted, the suggestion can be given directly to the unconscious. Psychiatrist Milton Erickson worked that out.

You don’t need to put somebody into a zombie trance. You just needed to disempower the conscious mind and go to work on the unconscious, which is where decisions are made.

Trump frequently tells a story, or makes a point, stops midway through the point and goes on to something else, and then something else, and comes back to the second story, and finally the first story, stories that are nested inside each other like Russian dolls. The mental effort necessary to keep track of the stories causes trance, and then you can make the suggestion. See the dog story, “What are you going to do about it?” at the end of Target the Unconscious! for an example of how this is used.

People think Trump talks this way because he is losing his mind and cannot concentrate on one thing at a time.  He talks this way because he is a master persuader. NLP is normally undetectable except by experts, and even then, not often.

Lawyers quote case law and statutes all the time, with limited effect. The key is in the emphasis. The emphasized parts are recognized by the unconscious as separate statements and are taken in without conscious resistance, because, after all, it’s the judge, not you, saying this. And it is in the unconscious that decisions are made.

Trump’s use of the quotes pattern is starting to be picked up in the foreign press.

He uses it both as a hypnotic word pattern, and as an indirect attack (preterition), an NLP technique that goes back to Demosthenes and Cicero.

His use of “my friend Jim” to say Paris is now not an attractive city because of immigration, so bad that his friend Jim no longer goes there, is typical. The press, unaware of the quotes pattern, keeps trying to identify Jim. Jim does not seem to be identifiable.

For those who have read my book, let me briefly list some other techniques he uses. People who haven’t read the book yet will have to reread this once you’ve read the book because I don’t have room for complete explanations. Then you’ll understand. He gave the world a good example of pacing and leading, another NLP technique, when he threatened to bring Gennifer Flowers to a debate with Clinton. He paced the outrage over his own admission of sexual assault, and led his audiences to outrage over Clinton. It was brilliant. People were talking about Clinton’s sex problems instead of Trump’s as the debate started. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. We’ve already mentioned “Let me be your voice.” He uses process persuasion, not data, which gets his audience to fill in whatever they want: “Our foreign policy? We’re going to have the best foreign policy ever, and it’s going to be in your best interest.” What kind of foreign policy is that? It’s no foreign policy at all. But it sells. His gestures, especially his fists,  commonly anchor embedded commands. He gets the audience emotionally riled, then he anchors it, and goes on to something else, and fires off the anchor. He uses embedded commands to encourage violence by his mob: Don’t hurt them when you grab these hecklers. I’ll pay for your defense. I’ll post your bail. He even advanced the technology of NLP with his use of the one word gut punch: “Corrupt Hillary,” “Little Marco Rubio.” He worked with the best known NLP coach in the world, Tony Robbins. I have no doubt that he knows NLP, and that he is intentionally using it to implant hypnotic suggestions in his audiences. There’s just too much of it there to be coincidence. Trump hypnotizes his audience.  People go to his rallies curious and amused, and come out fire breathing dragons. It is not coincidence.

A vast image out of Spiritus Mundi troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert, sword dancers, those wonderful people who gave money to the hijackers just before the World Trade Center fell, surround this man with praise and admiration.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Washington to be crowned?

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