Bogus Trump focus group

This clip where Triumph the Insult Comic Dog stages a fake focus group in which supporters of Donald Trump are assembled to give feedback on proposed campaign ads has got wide play. The ads that the Trump supporters are shown are, of course, fake and are increasingly outrageous.

I have to admit to feelings of ambiguity about such pranks. They are undoubtedly funny but the idea of tricking ordinary people into making themselves look foolish before a potentially huge audience is problematic, especially when so much power is in the hands of the hoaxers since they have final editing control.

What puzzles me is that I am pretty sure that the people invited to be on such things have to sign waivers allowing themselves to be shown. How much are they told about what is going on? Do they sign general waivers at the beginning that prevent them from backing out when and if they find they have been tricked? Are they eventually told the truth that it was not a real focus group but agree to appear anyway because people so like to be on TV?

There is also the well-known problem of groupthink in such situations. Studies have found that people hesitate to be the first one to voice discomfort if they think that the silence of others implies agreement with what the authority figure in the room, in this case the focus group convener, is saying. It is found that if you plant just one person in the group who speaks up against the authority figure, others quickly join in. So the silence of some may not be that they agree with the speakers but that they lack the confidence to express their dissent.


  1. Menyambal says

    Hmmm. Excellent point.

    What you say about someone being the first to speak out might be especially apt in the case of people who like to follow leaders. Which seems to be the case for Trump supporters -- that they are followers.

    Which makes me wonder how they pick their leaders.

  2. raym says

    I watched part of the video a few days ago, but decided it couldn’t possibly be real. It must be a spoof. Please tell me it’s a spoof.

  3. Mano Singham says

    I was especially struck by the woman wearing glasses who wants to use a bogus vaccination campaign to insert items that will shock people when they cross an invisible fence and later suggests that we lower the IQ of the Chinese by putting paints and other solvents in their water. Could she be real?

    Incidentally, from the locations mentioned by them, all these people are from the Cleveland area. Strongsville and Pepper Pike are suburbs, the latter being very affluent, while the Clark Avenue area has a significant Hispanic community.

  4. says

    They’re also “testing” subjects that probably score high on the authoritarian follower inventory.

    I think there should be human factors regulations over such things; people should know in advance how any media collected is going to be used and presented, etc. The Penn and Teller “Bullshit!” show allegedly was pretty careful about making sure their victims knew what was going on, but I have trouble believing it, given some of the mockery they were subjected to by smug libertarian Penn.

  5. John Smith says

    These guys could also be paid actors doing improv for all you know. While I can believe people are that stupid, the paints in water thing is a bit much. That’s a supervillain idea.

  6. Holms says

    I bought the idea that this was a genuine prank being played on unknowing Trump supporters, but the testimonials at the end caused me to doubt this. Instead, I think it possible that the entire group is in on the joke, and are simply acting out the part of the Trump rube. But Can’t quite come down firmly on that side either; Trump’s support base might actually be that stupid.

  7. says

    I think it’s a lot like The Daily Show. People know what that show is. They know what they’re getting into. But they get to be on television and get an audience for what they’re saying so they do it anyway.

  8. drken says

    Ever watch cops? If the person getting hauled away for beating their spouse or dog or whatever crime that reveals the level of horrible human being they are doesn’t have their face blurred out, that means they signed a waiver; and a lot of them sign a waiver. In fact, more than a few of them ask the TV crew “when is this going to be on?”. Chuck Barris (creator of “The Gong Show”) said it best: “People will do anything to get on TV.”

  9. Mano Singham says


    No, I haven’t watched the show. But what about those times in the news when people are being escorted to and fro while in police custody but they hide their faces with a coat or something. If their faces could not be shown without them signing a waiver why do they bother to do that? Is it that they don’t know the law?

  10. drken says


    I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not familiar with who is and isn’t required to sign, or if there is any legal precedence that defines such things. But, a brief Google searched revealed the waivers are required by the insurance companies to minimize risk of lawsuit. Network news departments generally have large legal departments for just such occasions, so they can show faces with less worry. Personally, I’d rather have the law decided by judges than insurance actuaries, but here we are.

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