In a blog post, Adam's defined his view as follows:
When you are trained in the ways of persuasion, you start seeing three types of people in the world. I’ll call them Rational People, Word-Thinkers, and Persuaders. Their qualities look like this:
Rational People: Use data and reason to arrive at truth. (This group is mostly imaginary.)
Word-Thinkers: Use labels, word definitions, and analogies to create the illusion of rational thinking. This group is 99% of the world.
Persuaders: Use simplicity, repetition, emotion, habit, aspirations, visual communication, and other tools of persuasion to program other people and themselves. This group is about 1% of the population and effectively control the word-thinkers of the world.
If you’re a trained scientist, engineer, or other technical person, you might use data and reason sometimes, especially while others are watching and checking your work. But off-duty – and when it comes to anything important – we’re all irrational creatures who believe we are rational. At least that’s how trained persuaders see the world.
You can easily spot word-thinkers when they talk about politics. Their go-to strategy involves identifying enemies and fitting them into whatever category matches their biases and cognitive dissonance. Look for this form:
Examples: Person X is liberal, or not
Person X is a conservative, or not
Person X is an insider, or not
Person X is a racist, or not
Persuaders know that most people are word-thinkers, so a big part of political persuasion involves defining people to be in or out of a certain category. This creates a substitute for thinking that the public likes. It makes them feel as if they used data and reason to form opinions.
Social psychology pretty much confirms most of what Adam's is asserting (see Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind). When it comes to thinking about abstract matters (such as politics), people tend to be "irrational creatures" governed by sentiments and other emotional biases and proclivities (many of them colored by innate predispositions). However, people in civilized societies like to put a logical veneer on their irrational sentiments, so they make use of labels and word definitions to convince themselves that their opinions are based on "reason" and evidence rather than on deep-seated emotional inclinations.
Rand was very much aware that individuals allowed their political inclinations to be determined by emotion, and she often railed against such emotionalism. "Emotions are not tools of cognition!" she would insist. Rand thought of herself as one of Adam's "Rational People." In her writings, she would frequently praise "reason" and rationality, while denouncing the horrors of the irrational and the mystical. Nonetheless, Rand's belief in rationality (particularly her own rationality) is largely illusory. The category she fits in -- and fits in quite comfortably -- is that of Word-Thinker. Her epistemology, with its emphasis on concepts (i.e., meanings ) and definitions (which she claimed, in defiance of all evidence, could be true or false), constitutes a perfectly rationalized version of the Word-Thinker creed. So much of her philosophy involves labeling views she didn't like, often accompanied with shoddy and ill-informed rationalizations. Rand is a Word-Thinker with a vengeance wrapped in a pretense of rationality.
Rand sought to be a Persuader as well, but because she did not experience the same kind of emotions that most normal people experience, and because she was not rational (and, even worse, clueless about human nature), she was very bad at persuasion. Given the intensity of her following, this might seem anomalous, if not blatantly untrue. However, it must be kept in mind that the number of people whom Rand persuaded is, relatively speaking, very very small. She appeals mostly to be people who are emotional outsiders like herself. But a Persuader must reach more than a handful of fierce acolytes. Donald Trump persuaded enough people to get himself the Republican nomination for President. Rand, with her miserable persuasion shtick, would have trouble persuading enough people to get her elected dog-catcher.
Rand's attempts at persuasion, if judged from Adam's point of view, are really quite dreadful. Her categories are too jargonistic. They're based on pseudo-philosophical categories that don't resonate with anyone outside of the narrow confines of Objectivism. A glance at some of the insult-words she used to pigeonhole her enemies will show how useless they are as instruments of persuasion: anti-conceptual mentality, concrete-bound, social-metaphysician, second-hander, moocher, altruist, appeaser, pragmatist, collectivist, socialist, fascist, Attila, Witch Doctor, mystic, mystics of muscle, mystics of spirit, Byronic, non-entity.
As instruments of persuasion, most of these laughable. Imagine calling someone a social metaphysician in a debate! No one but a few Rand acolytes would know what on earth you were talking about. The only half-way decent insult-category in that list might be "moocher." The mere sound of the term conjures up something low and disagreeable. However, the class of people this term is designated to describe constitutes, at least in part (and probably in large part), those who are considerably less well off than the majority. In a society dominated by egalitarian and humanitarian sentiments, it's just not very effective to target such people. And this can readily be illustrated by examing how easy it is to deflect such targets. President Obama easily deflected the moocher charge (in terms of emotional persuasion) when he said, "And then you’ve got cold-hearted, free market, capitalist types who are reading Ayn Rand and think everybody are moochers." Of course, Objectivists will complain that Rand never said "everybody," and that, therefore, Obama is wrong. But Obama is speaking rather loosely: he doesn't literally mean "everybody," and so complaining about the term "everybody" means you're trying to score points on the grounds of a pedantic technicality, which tends to alienate people, as pedantry is generally frowned upon.
"Non-entity" was one of Rand's favorite terms of abuse; but as a category of emotional persuasion, it simply won't do. A term like "fascist" has become sort of cliche: it's overuse has greatly lessened its resonance. The same could be said, though on a smaller scale, of such terms like "appeaser," "collectivist," "socialist." "Altruist" and "mystic" are generally seen as positive or neutral terms, not necessarily as negative.
Perhaps the least effective term in the list (other than the jargonistic terms hardly anyone understands) is pragmatist. If you're an Objectivist, it's an insult to be called a pragmatist. For some people outside of Objectivism, it's possible that the term conjures up lack of principles or even machiavellianism; but for the majority of people, especially in an age when partisanship is increasingly seen as a liability, pragmatism conjures up someone who is results-orientated and doesn't allow artificial principles to take sway over the demands of reality.
Pragmatism is, curiously, a term Objectivists seek to apply to Donald Trump. As Yaron Brook inveighed:
He is a pragmatist. He is a philosophical, unequivocal, pragmatist. And as a consequence he will fold as president, he will fold. He will not get anything done.... Donald Trump is the ultimate in being a pragmatist.
As an attempt to persuade people by using labels, this is really very ineffective stuff. To many non-objectivists, chastizing Trump for pragmatism and claiming this pragmatism will cause Trump to "fold" and "not get anything done" doesn't make any sense. When people are confronted by claims that don't make sense (on an emotional level), their gut reaction is to think: these are crazy people. Given that the common perception in the world at large of Ayn Rand and her beliefs is that they are outside the mainstream (and hence perhaps "crazy" or "unbalanced" in some way), if you are trying to spread Objectivism, you want to do everything you can to avoid reinforcing this common perception.
I realize that Objectivism has it's own narrative about pragmatism which seems to support the charge against Trump. But if the claim does not have emotional resonance with the non-Objectivists you're trying to persuade, then it's counter-productive to make it. Even worse are those Objectivists who think that the claim is fine as long you try to explain it. But if you have to explain it, you've already lost.