PT 3 | False Equivalence


Seeking truth and deciding who and what to believe or not is a common predicament for anyone. In this episode, Bill Stierle and Tom continue their mission on weighing the truth and knowing if we can rely on our nation’s leaders or not. As they talk more on how Donald Trump has continually used labeling in his campaigns to bring down anyone who disagrees with him, they also share their sentiments on why his presidency is problematic and how false equivalence has paved its way to the minds of many. Bill and Tom also touch on how the elephant’s brain agrees with anyone that fits its identity to someone who has established an emotional connection or empathy.

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False Equivalency

Since our show last time, there’s been a Bill Maher Show that’s been on.

I saw it.

I’m sitting there watching it and I got pissed, aggravated and angry because one of the things that I noticed with the right-leaning or the right person that they put in there, all those guys do is come on the show with basically a very simple objective. They’re going to insert one or two or three talking points or things into the conversation almost naturally hoping that no one sees it and the right-leaning guy did it. What he did was he said, “When Barr said this, there’s spying and surveillance, but what’s the difference between those two things?” I was sitting there and I was thinking, “If I’m on the panel and you do that while I’m there, I am going to call you on it.”

That’s important, Bill. This is a question that a lot of people have in their minds in terms of how did Trump succeeded in getting elected? It comes back to that. Isn’t it what we would call a false equivalence or they’re trying to change the definition of terms? I thought the same thing when I heard Barr say in front of Congress and of course, he was stuttering a whole lot and I don’t think he delivered it with a lot of integrity and authority.

It was on purpose. Let me show you why. In our sales cycle, if we’re trying to sell something, there’s a reward, there is anticipation and there’s uncertainty. When the person hmms and huhs and goes back and forth, they’re actually creating uncertainty or dopamine inside the body inside the people they want to. It freaks the other side out and they don’t know what to do with it. Even the Democrats go, “Mr. Barr, are you sure that you’re putting spying next to this?” He goes, “I’m kind of.” That’s an uncertainty moment. The people that are rooting for him are going to vote for him and say, “Those things are the same. They convolute those things.” The biggest thing in truth and in propaganda and propaganda is to propagate a message is I want to set the message that I liked that’s unfamiliar or that’s maybe not accepted next to something that is accepted. I want to put them very close to each other.

If I want to get women to smoke cigarettes and it’s during the time of the women’s suffrage and they’re trying to get to vote, why don’t I set cigarettes smoking next to voting? Why don’t I do that and say, “This is women’s rights. This is women’s freedom. This thing and cigarettes are the torches of freedom.” That’s exactly what Edward Bernays and the cigarette companies did. They went to the Macy’s Day Parade, they paraded women’s suffrages, they had packets of cigarettes in their belts, they reached around and he put the press all in front of him, “There it is, torches of freedom.” Cigarettes as the torches of freedom.

It made it not only acceptable but they wear it with a badge of honor. “I’m going to be free. I’m going to be able to vote and you’re not going to tell me I can’t smoke.”

The easiest way to do dehumanize a person is to label them. Click To Tweet

That’s exactly what happened. Literally, millions of women died over that moment.

Fast forward to April 2019, Attorney General Barr was sitting there making legal surveillance with a FISA warrant, which a judge or a court has to approve, which is an investigative tool now being equated with or put on the same level as spying.

That’s what he did. He was not the first, but him and then Trump picked up and reinforced it, “I am going to make those things.” Spying is an easier word to understand than surveillance. You’re doing the same thing. You’re looking into somebody but it’s not without due cause and without a very legal mind looking at it as a judge. There were only six of them. I believe that there are only six FISA judges. There’s not a lot of them that specialize in, “We’re not going to do this unless there is some evidence for it,” and there was evidence for it. It doesn’t mean that the person was doing anything bad. It just means that there was evidence for. Enough to warrant us to look at this and say, “There might be something illegal and criminal going on here. Judge, could you give us permission to go look at this? This doesn’t look very good.”

If it was truly a fishing expedition with no basis to justify it, then the judge would not have approved that FISA warrant. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right?

That’s correct. Now, all of this intellectual talking that we’re doing creates understanding and clarity. All of this stuff bounces off of the elephant’s brain. It does not register. The rider of the brain has already chosen to say, “Barr’s my guy. He’s calling them the same thing. I trust him. I don’t trust Mueller.” Because he’s in charge of Mueller, he is in charge of the truth now because our people know the truth whereas those people don’t know the truth. When you create an enemy image of somebody like a Democrat or even a Russian, if you create an enemy image or Bush frame it as the axis of evil. That is a deliberate reward and a deliberate imprint of labeling North Korea, Iraq and Iran. We’re going to pick off the axis of evil. This is problematic because who’s going to be next in the military hunt to spend military money? I’m feeling sadder for Iran a little bit because you guys have oil or Korea because you’re giving us a good reason to come in there because of it. Even if you don’t have the thing that we’re accusing them from, clearly by Iraq, we’re going to go in and pretend that you do have the thing and then discover and say, “I’m sorry. You don’t have weapons of mass destruction.”

I can actually go back myself to 2002 where I’m having a discussion with someone who was very much of the belief that the government would find the weapons of mass destruction. I said, “We’re not even sure they have them.” “They’ll find them,” was what he said and then years of war and trillion dollars later, there was nothing.

The elephant brain wants to get hijacked into something it knows or you vote for the team. The appropriate response to a person putting a talking point or inserting a near narrative like that between this surveillance piece and this spying piece is to separate it slightly and say this one is a legal thing, this one’s not a legal thing. Now once you separate it slightly, you need to call the person on what they have done. It might’ve sounded like this, “Mark, I hear that you said the sentence that spying and surveillance are very same and you can’t tell the difference. I feel curious and a little irritated. Number one, is this something that you came in and planned to do and insert into this conversation? Number two, are you repeating what Barr said or what the president said because you drank the Kool-Aid to say that those two things are the same? Number three, are you trying to rationalize what your team has said because it’s not helping America.”

You gave the answer before I could ask it. I was going to ask you, “What would you do in that situation if you’re on that panel and that guy said that?” You delivered it. You did it. There’s a lot of fear in about half of America about who is possibly going to be a candidate, who can go up against Trump and have success in a debate moment? What you’re talking about here, what happened on that show this past week where somebody tries to draw a false equivalency or associate these two things and change people’s beliefs about what spying is. I would argue that they still think spying is bad, but now what they’re saying is the surveillance that was legal is bad. They question everything going back to, I’m sure this so-called witch hunt now, they’re saying, “It was a witch hunt because it was bad.” Who could go up against Trump and have the skills to fight back when he calls people Crooked Hillary, Little Marco or Lyin’ Ted? He labels these people and that’s not even changing beliefs, it’s more labeling.

Labeling is a very effective way to instantly brand somebody and minimalize them and put them in a box. The easiest way to do dehumanize a person is to label them. I’ll do it very simply, “You’re an addict.” I just called somebody that is struggling with a mental health issue. I labeled them and reduced him into a box. That’s a bad thing. Even if you go to a psychological label, it’s problematic. “He’s a narcissist.” I just put him in the box because now the person says, “I’m not.” They can actually build the narrative that is a separate narrative because as soon as you put a person in a box or a label, if the person in their side does not believe that label, even though they’re doing all the elements, it runs off of the elephant brain. How we know this to be true is because of Kellyanne Conway’s husband that posted the diagnostic of what it was and you read through the diagnostic and you go, “He’s done all those things.”

Why does that not seem to stick to this president that much? He’s been called a narcissist by what appears to be a lot of rational people and certainly his actions, like you said, based on the definition of a narcissist would seem fit. Why does that box not hurt him? We knew that before the election.

We’re going to get into how the truth is constructed. My team or my identity as a Republican or my guy that I voted for, I’ve put my bet on this person. I have voted and put my bet in. When a person puts a bet on something, something very significant happens inside the brain, the elephant brain starts moving in that direction. All you got to do is keep tapping it to keep it going in the same direction. When you want a small group of folks that are undecided to come on your side, all you need to do is keep messaging a minor message that’s right next to create enough doubt to either go inactive where the elephant sits down or to slightly move in their direction and not believe the other side. That’s one part. The way to do it is actually and it’s going to be a weird thing to say is give empathy for the person and what the person is saying. If I give empathy for what the person is saying and even though I don’t agree with it, what happens is I’m actually reducing the emotion of what the person has said and I’m also helping the other people get clearer in their own mind that I’m not the enemy. You be President Trump and say build the wall and watch what I say next.

“We’re going to build the wall.”

PT 3 | False Equivalence

False Equivalence: Intellectual talking creates understanding and clarity.


You feel confident about providing security for Americans, is that correct?


You’d like to make sure that Americans are safe?

Absolutely, yes.

I hear that you would like fairness for the Americans that are here so that we protect our jobs. Is that correct?


Let’s see if we can get fairness regarding jobs and get the safety that we need, that would be an alignment with the budget. Would that work okay for you too?

Sure, if we’re not spending more money.

It’s interesting you went there. He wanted to throw $6.8 billion.

He wants to spend more money on the wall.

He wants the number and he wants the fanfare that he wants to say that he did it and he’s actually trying to create the fanfare with nothing there. He did the same thing with his airline. He did the same thing with his steaks, the same thing with his casinos. Even when they were failing, he came on and said, “No, they’re not and here’s what it’s doing,” as the thing was falling apart. It’s about how a person messages branding and marketing and stays on point from the place of, “Here’s a reward, something you want, here’s the anticipation of getting that thing you want and here is the uncertainty on whether or not the other side is going to give it to us.” The winning is getting them to do it and it’s uncertain if I can get them to do it.

Do you think that’s intentional on his part where he says, “We’ll see what happens?” Is that an intentional injection?

That’s what he’s learned in practice to do as a language person. He’s learned to speak in very small sound bites. He’s learned from the uncertainty place be noncommittal to doing the thing. Meanwhile, he’s getting people to do everything from rip people off, steal things, to write contracts, to pay off people. There are some ethical problems and there are some moral problems for them as well as some legal problems for them. The way the brain wants to do is it wants to be in agreement with people that fit our identity of somebody that has moved us emotionally. This person has moved a group of people emotionally. It’s the individual that says, “The way it’s working is not working for me.” I have a lot of compassion for that because it’s not working for them. Here’s a guy that was on TV. TV gives people a lot of respect.

It’s America’s royalty.

Once you start facing truth, your emotions shift instantly. This is where the heart of empathy is. Click To Tweet

Celebrity has a royalty piece to it. We’re not worshiping our politicians and our congressmen like, “Wait until I get to see that congressman. I can’t wait to hear them talk.” That’s not what’s happening. I will listen to JLo and anybody else. What do they have to say?

Let’s take Oprah for instance. I think Oprah is seen very much that way. I actually saw her interviewed and she again was asked, “Are you going to run for the presidency?” She’s like, “I have no interest in running for president. I will get behind somebody who I believe in and try and help them become president, but I would not be a good fit to be president.” There’s a coveted endorsement I’m sure though, because she’s someone of influence.

There’s also the thing that happens with affluence and money. There’s a push on that, that we give a lot of respect and recognition to the person. It’s also the person that’s accomplished things. In the past, the PhD got a lot more respect and recognition. The letter grades in school, “Your son is an A student.” The problem with that is that when that respect and recognition goes to that person, what winds up happening is that person believes that they’re better than the others rather than different than the others. There are many A-students. They can’t socialize with others out of a paper bag. There are many PhDs that have a hard time articulating things but there are a lot of great C and D students that can literally run committees and run shows and run companies very fine. Thank you very much.

They don’t need the A. They’ll hire all the people from Harvard and stuff to work for them because they got the smart people but quite frankly, those folks don’t have enough social skills to gather teams together to work collaboratively, which is what the C and the D student has. They don’t have that. They can’t do it because of their thinking style and things like that. Looking back around to this narrative of, “You said one of these three things, you said this sentence, was it because it was a talking point and you pre-came in here with it? Are you just drinking the Kool-Aid and saying this thing back or are you just rationalizing what this person has done and said because he’s on your team? Tell me which one of those three that you came in and do so I can have an adult to adult conversation.”

Do they have to choose one of those three?

There’s no other choice. I already boxed them in. They’re in trouble because it’s not their own idea. This was my own idea. It was Barr’s idea. They can’t say, “This is the way I see spying.” No, it’s not your own idea. It’s clearly not your own idea. Either you preloaded this idea, you are repeating the talking point unconsciously or you’re trying to rationalize bad behavior. This is the weird part. It’s like eating a cookie even though five minutes before that you said that you were on a diet. That’s the way rationalization works. My team or my taste buds say that this person is on my side and I’m going to hand a piece of cookie to the base and I got hired to do this and they said I’m going to be on the show. I’m the person that’s up.

I think it’s more the third thing you’re saying or it could be the second or third. Either it’s the talking point and they’re a good soldier and they’re going to deliver it and defend their team no matter what or they end up trying to rationalize it because they couldn’t stomach arguing or aligning themselves with that belief.

The next question is a hard question, “Are you going to advocate the chipping away of a legal precedent right now? Are you going to say spying and surveillance are the same things because the legal precedent is this is what surveillance too? We want to support the concept of surveillance in case somebody is trying to do something that we don’t like and that’s trying to undermine our primary constitutional values. Are you going to be a part of that? Because that is not helping America, it’s hurting America.” I want to acknowledge and this is what I would say to him, “I can appreciate your conviction to fight for what your side is interested in doing, which is protecting the belief structures of your organization. Many organizations fight and do tragic things to protect themselves. It’s a safety response and what you’re doing is providing protection for Barr and Trump and the different people that have been convicted and also the belief that they should be pardoned. You’re promoting that spying and surveillance or the same thing, then that allows when the pardon to take place that there’s not a lot of kickback. This is problematic.”

You showed them empathy.

I did.

You did it. It does come back to empathy, doesn’t it?

It does because empathy’s underneath. The context language we speak is up here and then empathy sits below it. The false or the partial definition of empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes but that’s not quite it. That’s putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and get stinky feet because now you feel as crappy as they do. That definition is not as strong as a more solid definition of empathy when a feeling word and a need word are connected and agreed upon. Then you get empathy is that I feel doubtful because my need for truth isn’t met. That almost resonated throughout me and you. “Do you mean that when I’m feeling doubt is when the truth is up?” “Yes, that’s right.” Start answering truth and then doubt goes away. Once you start facing truth, the emotion shifts instantly. It does. That’s where the heart of empathy is. I’ve got to find what the activator is. Trump is running with pretty much seven needs: protection, safety, respect, recognition and identity. There’s not a lot of them. He’s not running for collaboration. He’s not trying to promote harmony. Those needs are not on his list and that is really problematic.

PT 3 | False Equivalence

False Equivalence: When a person puts a bet in on something, the brain starts moving in that direction.


That’s so true. When you were talking about the false equivalency and the three choices that you would come back to that person with, are you this, this or this? The third one was, “That’s my team.”

“That’s my team. That’s my identity.”

I’m rationalizing it. Let’s flip it from the current and take it to the past on the other side because I think we see this happening all over the place. I remember Bill Clinton running for office in ’92 and Gennifer Flowers comes out and says, “I was his lover for all these years.” I’ll use myself as an example saying, “What they do in their personal life and if they have an affair or whatever, that’s personal and it doesn’t affect their ability to be president.” I probably was rationalizing that because he was on my team.

Bill Maher did the same thing. He kept saying, “Come on,” and then he had someone on his own show and says, “I’m big enough to do this. I was wrong and you were right. He is and was that guy.” This is a part of his character flaw. If you think about character flaws, all of us have them.

Isn’t it unrealistic for us to think that our elected officials supposed to be this perfect picture of a person?

It surely didn’t affect the people that voted for Ted Cruz. We have character flaws as human beings. The key thing is that we want it to appeal to our voter’s elephant brain to say, “We’re on your side and we’re generally in the right ballpark for your values and your moral sets.” It’s generally close to that. There are these outliers that you get to rationalize away, affairs and things like that. What would have made the difference when we speak truth to power? What happens is that we’ve got to do it from the place of empathy. You’ve got to be compassionate for what the person is saying even though you don’t like what the person’s saying.

As the Access Hollywood tape came out, there needed to be an action towards that with Hillary during the debates, there needed to be action towards it and it needed to be a compassionate response to that. “You were in the moment, Mr. Trump. You were joking around with a buddy and you were talking about women’s sexuality and you were talking about how you approach women in a joking and a locker room way.” I think you said it was a locker room talk. Did I hear locker room talk correctly?


I guess having a fifteen-year-old or a fourteen-year-old discussion about women’s sexual parts is something that you’re okay with.

Imagine if that’s what happened instead of Hillary saying, “No, we all know it wasn’t locker room talk. We know you meant it.” Then that’s an argument between them.

It’s an argument. It’s not empathy or compassion for what happened was Trump partly has a fifteen-year-old mindset around sexuality and intimacy and how he talks and interacts with women. The person that’s listening to this from a Republican place or the one that had voted for this or a strong staunch supporter would say, “Bill, you’re the other side.” No, I’m not on the other side. I can pick on the Democratic side too. I have a list of people. Would you like to hear what so-and-so said and what he meant by that? That’s one of the powers of connecting with what is happening underneath the language or underneath the behavior or what someone’s doing. People say things and we’re flawed human beings and it doesn’t mean that the government needs to wait for the perfect leader or pretend that the leader they have is perfect and can’t make any mistakes. We’ve got actually go, “This was a mistake and they need to clean it up and not pretend that they didn’t say it.” That’s one of the dangerous pieces that we’re in right now. When somebody pretends they don’t say something that they’ve said, that actually creates uncertainty and muddies the water and allows them to get away with the next ten messages.

That’s interesting because that’s something that we actually see happening a lot right now. Maybe that’s a subject for future episodes where we can take a deeper dive. Trump is asked about the arrest of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, “What do you think about that and how do you feel about that?” “I don’t know WikiLeaks. That’s not my thing. I don’t know anything about it.” Meanwhile, all the media, all they have to do is go into the tape archives not too far back where he says, “I love WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is coming out with this and that.” Now, he’s trying to have the audience believes that, “This WikiLeaks thing he is not really paying much attention because it didn’t have anything to do with him.”

What it does is it creates this dynamic called nice dead person, monster person. The next thing we’ll take a look and put our arms around is what’s the difference between here’s this monster person and here’s this nice dead person and then the nice dead person turns into a monster person then monster person turns into a nice dead person. It’s one of the things that the language does, because as soon as he does the WikiLeaks, it inflames media and it blows them up into the monster person and that creates the boogie man, “See those Democrats, see media, see those evil people? They’re being monster people again. All I said is I don’t know this. I’m the nice guy over here,” and then he says something and then all of the sudden it’s like, “Oh my gosh.”

It’s the way language is being used and there’s a response that media needs to start using when he starts saying things like that and when any politician goes down the path of changing their narrative to get a dopamine hit, to get a rise out of the opposition so they can demonize the other side. This is the difference between how do you deal with a five-year-old doing a tantrum. It happened at adult to adult conversation because even on both sides, there’s tantrum going on in both sides that is very much a part of the dynamic between monster person and nice to that person. Tom, I feel delighted to talk to you next time about that one because that one’s a big piece.

I look forward to it and I’m sure our audience will too. Thanks so much, Bill.

Thanks a lot, Tom.

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