Election 2020

'Flag Persuasion': Why American Flags Are Popping Up in Your Twitter Feed

(Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

If you’re wondering why American flags are suddenly popping up all over your social media timelines — not posts about Old Glory, but big, beautiful pictures of just the flag itself — I can tell you why it’s happening and who’s behind it.

“Flag persuasion” is a very partisan get-out-the-vote scheme and is the brainchild of Dilbert creator Scott Adams. According to Adams, a self-proclaimed expert on persuasion tactics, images of Old Glory stir powerful patriotic feelings in Republicans, subconsciously nudging them to go out and vote in greater numbers.

Don’t laugh. Scott Adams identified Donald Trump as a master persuader in 2015 and boldly predicted he would win the presidency when virtually no other pundit on the right or left was taking him seriously. Adams says it’s because no one else in the race came close to Trump’s skill set.

Adams is a libertarian who voted for Obama and “leans to the left of Bernie Sanders on social issues,” but these days he calls the Democrats “the party of violence.”

“Based on science, it’s been shown that people who have seen a picture of the United States flag, once they’ve seen the flag, get primed to vote Republican even if they weren’t inclined a minute before they saw the flag,” Adams explained in a recent Periscope. “The flag has this weird power over Americans that just biases them to vote Republican.”

Adams suggested that people begin their flag persuasion efforts on Sunday and insisted that nothing else be included in the posts but the American flag.

“No words, nothing around the flag that has any meaning whatsoever,” he said, pointing out that a tweet showing rows of American flags in a cemetery is an example of doing it wrong.`

“Cemetery … dead … is the worst thing you can combine for this purpose,” Adams explained. He argued that any message on the flag post detracts from its power.

In an earlier Periscope, Adams cited New York Times and Wall Street Journal writer Robert Cialdini’s 2016 bestselling book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, as his inspiration, explaining that the book discussed studies on how the American flag influenced people.

“The point of this is to make people think about America,” he said, arguing that images of the American flag are a motivational symbol to Republicans and an anti-motivational symbol for left-wing Democrats.

Images of the flag can elicit a powerful emotional response in patriotic Americans, Adams explained, bringing them to tears, giving them goosebumps, etc. He said it has the opposite effect on liberals.

“There probably is no stronger symbol for Republicans and probably independents as well, than the American flag,” he declared.

Adams advised flag persuaders to use a variety of images, such as flag clip art, a photo of a flag, a close-up of the flag, and a flag being raised.

“You want variety — it’s all flag, but different pictures so the mind doesn’t get blind to it,” he said.