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Persuasion

How Donald Trump, Elon Musk, and Gwyneth Paltrow Short-Circuit Your Ability to Think Rationally

The sketchy rhetorical tricks of politicians, celebs, and con men—and how they work.

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Illustration: Pete Sharp for Bloomberg Businessweek

I’m not saying only total losers would skip this story, but a bunch of people did warn me. If you read on, you’ll discover how only I can protect you from the shadowy groups peddling lies to control your children.

If a version of this message sounds familiar, it’s because it contains some of the most common techniques deployed by the authoritarians, con men, bosses, and questionable cultural figures swirling around us. Donald Trump. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Even Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy, Elon Musk, and Gwyneth Paltrow have inadvertently used some of these methods. (Respectively, prejudice, scare tactics, and faux intimacy.)