WASHINGTON: Loserthink may be Scott Adams’ eleventh book, but his career as a cartoonist and writer has been a 30-year assault on the untrained minds ruining America. Hence, the subtitle of his new book, Loserthink. We’ve seen it ourselves in his Dilbert cartoons ubiquitously pinned up in so many workplaces.
“For almost three decades I have been getting direct reports from managers of big companies telling me they changed or avoided policies because ‘We don’t want to end up in a Dilbert comic.’ or words to that effect.”
Mr. Adams’ ambition in Loserthink, however, is not to embarrass or shame people we perceive as idiots. It is to provide effective strategies for countering what we perceive as their bad ideas in ways that at least open the possibility of converting them to our own way of thinking.
We can do that most effectively by not alienating other people the way we so often do on social media, or perhaps better put as micro-media.
“Loserthink is about unproductive ways of thinking,” Mr. Adams tells us.
And it takes as many forms including:
- Literally interpreting political hyperbole.
- Attacking opponents “by acting as dumb as they are. It might feel good, but it isn’t a winning strategy.”
- “Focusing on the past when the present offers sufficient paths to success.”
- “Reaching a general conclusion about a big topic by looking at anecdotal evidence.”
Some things in public discourse sound impressive at first, but when parsed their incompleteness becomes apparent. Scientific modeling provides just one example.
Writes Mr. Adams:
“Prediction models are not science. They are an intelligent combination of scientific thinking, math, human judgment, and incomplete data.”
In an era in which accusations of “fake news” echo through micro and mass media it becomes difficult to discern what is real and what isn’t.
Mister Adams calls “political warming,” the press business model that rewards brand manipulation over accuracy. It is a model that draws our attention to “everything that is going wrong” around us.
“We live in a world in which it is dangerous to ignore the advice of experts, but it is almost as dangerous to follow their advice. The trick is to know when the experts are the solution and when they are the jailers of your mental prison,” Mr. Adams tells us.
When right- and left-wing news sites are reporting the same story, it is likely true, he explains. However, when only one side reports something as fact, there is a good chance that it may not be entirely true.
But here’s another tell:
“When you see an unbelievable story in the press that is based on interpreting someone else’s meaning, it is generally fake news.”
For those of us desperately grasping at the bars that encage our thoughts, Mr. Adams offers a plan for escaping mental prison. (Had we even been aware of our self-imprisonment?)
“It is more productive to pick a path to success and take it. In the long run, nothing persuades like success. We all have the option of living in a mental prison of the past or creating the future we want.”
Here he offers the salient example of Kanye West, no friend of the Republican Party, but certainly a friend of President Trump.
“Kanye West is one of the most important public figures on the planet. He isn’t just succeeding across multiple fields—he’s destroying Loserthink and modeling how to escape cultural gravity,” which he defines as each culture’s feeling about success.
Several times over the course of 245 pages, Mr. Adams tells us of his devotion to persuasion, but also that he is “a trained hypnotist.”
His point in doing so escapes this reader, and there’s no evidence of his use of other Jedi mind tricks, though the tricks he offers readers can be mind-changing when practiced.
However, there is no trick to creating space for more productive conversations.
“If members of your own group discourage you from listening to opposing views, it’s time to plan your escape.”
David Alan Coia is a writer, editor, and educator based in Arlington, Virginia.
[Scott Adams. Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Running America. 2019. NY: Portfolio/Penguin, 245 pages, $27]