August 3, 2016

Slate and the Solitary Ethnographic Diagram

While his style and message does not resonate with me at all, I've always thought that Donald Trump's speeches were highly-structured rhetoric. He seems to be using a form of intersubjective signaling [1] understood by a number of constituencies as communicating their values in an authentic manner. Specifically, the speeches have a sentence structure and cadence that can be differentiated from the literalism of contemporary mainstream society or more traditional forms of doublespeak ubiquitous in American politics.

This is why the most recent challenge from Slate Magazine was too good to pass up. The challenge (which has the feel of a Will Shortz challenge): diagram a passage from a Donald Trump speech given on July 21 in Sun City, South Carolina. The passage is as follows:
"Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us"
Okay, here you go -- an ethnographic-style diagram [2] based on one man, but perhaps instructive of an entire American subculture (click to enlarge). The diagram focuses on the relationship between John and Donald Trump (context-specific braintrust) and a specific worldview of power wielded through nuclear weapons, financial ability, and persuasion.

[1] In this case, intersubjective signaling could be used as a mechanism to reinforce group cohesion, particularly when the group's belief structure is defined by epistemic closure.

[2] Perceived lack of agency shown as red arcs terminated with a dot.

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