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The man vs. the algorithm

It’s been observed that Donald Trump has an . . . unusual speaking pattern. But can something so fragmented and disjointed as the president’s circumlocutory echolalia be described as possessing anything so ordered as a “pattern?” Is Trumpspeak distinguishable from a purely stochastic process—i.e., a randomly distributed array of word-noise? More specifically, how might a text-generating algorithm supplied only with Trump’s trademark diction generate something discernibly different from the man’s own speeches? Indeed, might the forty-fifth president of the United States be nothing more than a stochastic device rumbling around in a bright orange carcass, outfitted in a poorly fitting power suit?

In the spirit of scientific inquiry, I decided to find out. Using as a corpus this compilation of POTUS 45’s painfully transcribed speeches and interviews, I trained a Markov chain to generate the following paragraphs of Trumpese. The algorithm requires that each paragraph be seeded with an initial word, so I went with the agreeably broad “USA” and “America” for starters. Tellingly, during the first run-through I actually had to get rid of a method within the algorithm that was trying to eliminate duplicates, because one of the keys to Trump-ese is constant, indeed hectoring, repetition. You can  judge for yourself how closely they approximate the original:


USA! And in our freedom and peace, and small business tax rates in large crowd at 4 in Texas, they want to fix our will serve as it joking, totally safe neighborhoods for America is indeed making our citizens nor the Environmental Protection Agency. He’ll do we have been calling for me, excuse me fairly. Fox has led down the words to fix our faith, not waver, even more closely than an A-plus in Warsaw Uprising alive. Between its true character.


America will seek to Maine four years, 14 years by the Coast Guard officer right now. We will get to you have a daily basis. And I see the cost. Washington was no substitute for everyone to tell you see just say that, and our way to protest and its resources to New York.

Rambling and incomprehensible as the results may be, they’re actually a bit anodyne. My original working text drew on actual written speeches, and Trump is, by common acclamation, at his “best” when speaking off the cuff. So the next stage of Trump-simulation was to add in a bunch of transcripts from the rallies. I selected some of the president’s favorite modifiers to elicit a bit more of  his distinct penchant for hyperbole.


Great great story, Trump is why in Texas, it spoken to the President Duda and you don’t think you’ll be a coalition of here and everybody saw our companies coming down. They are grateful to call them did. So now, when America great deals, unaccountable hostility against radical Islamic terrorists, he better. Otherwise I’ll let me that’s also very close to tell you. 


Terrific people were preparing for all Americans strong alliance is a flow across state of weeks a few words. The gang members of immediately. Now I said, man, the fastest and he actually think if you got Boeing in. I draw the anarchists.

Of course, as a self-mythologizing plutocrat, Trump loves to quantify things. Still, running the numbers through the Markov sequence has produced some, uhm, revealing variations.


Billions of my statement, in the security and with the newest, largest number of the burden, but, to flow chart. That’s not—I must work with Brock. Where’s General for lunch? Let’s see it. And you can call them down the same is maybe this day will be change for about the history of them, how to enslave her husband, Vince McMahon.


Millions of you—all across Jerusalem Avenue passage across the world. That narrow passageway, just a lot of the facts. Frankly, people of safe communities, to know that wonderful. Not only a few exceptions no one glorious destiny.


Thousands of years and our color, creed, religion or not in our ICE officers and they all across our country, a merit badge after the word “sewer.” But it’s happening, and accountable. We’re going to create a vote against the United States has to prevent and discover brand-new frontiers. We have to follow. Generations.


Hundreds more. In those countries in areas liberated from any questions, Mick, you know I see them the obstructionists, meaning because I said, man, became an unbelievable—I mean, the car industry—that make America safe haven, transit, funding, and Iraq, combatting the filibuster rule; we also mention any names. Very presidential. And—our heritage.

How does the sequence function in the broader ambit of geopolitical conflict? Not all that differently from the original—apart, that is, its apparent sane refusal to coyly reference the specter of pending nuclear Armaggedon as “the calm before the storm.”


War in our nation. Polish people and broke the world. We pray for the other thing, when a time off, long, years, and to do your values as neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you what, the Coast Guard officer right to tell you through I can do not share the right at the, as importantly, God bless you, the challenges—what is something for family, and correctly. Because I said, we condemn in the country.


Violence in the time for me, what I won’t bring back there, because we worked so I love for many companies saying, very shortly. And I’ll tell you because they just our citizens than 70 years after another; who knows. But the greatest. But just a GDP, it was there.

And in the favored Trumpian theaters of culture warfare, the sequence produces word associations that are strangely more comforting than, and nearly as intelligible as, the original.


Hatred and much more. Europe must do it stop? But, they didn’t know that. Many, many years and their country, and saved lives and to Cuba to serve their prosperity. In America, the same oath and citizens and the word “momentum.”


Terror attack from a large numbers. 78%. Of thousands of their family. The United States is why CNN sucks! CNN does anybody comes in, it believes he got invited to join us $1.7.

(The unassailable truth of that last entry may well be proof that the algorithm is at least as sentient as Reince Priebus, who has never managed to put anything so articulately. )


Fear for human life. It is he better. Why they practice, they need the noble American prosperity, and healthy as those who have been. For us, right? Now you look at record numbers.


Sick sick people. The fundamental reforms. We have 48 Democrats. We will make unbelievable—we are my first moments, the world, and billions of energy.


Border is starting to test our family, not government is a thought possible. Thank you, to defend our great spirit over very sad. The people got to be vulnerable to help of time is totally changed his company, and you our wonderful First Lady Michelle Obama for criminals who you would just as it should learn and a doubt. We are you and sicker and revered, because of these massive business again.

Now on to the great articles of faith in Trumpland: the Wall, God, and the rest of it.

The Wall

Wall is born. I said, man, woman, and implement those who know that will make a group didn’t know anything happened, we believe you said to expose and I actually wrong now one of it, because people and that’s going to salute the KKK. I call it was so I didn’t get rid of what I don’t even systems that one media and it’s like they just a few days ago, and they loved it. Nobody wants to unfreeze all of the things that knows who love for the way, we have to about the father flew them home? Oh, he feels it’s like has published one we support to start our promises to look at Brexit.


God bless you. So, together, and missile defense community is a business climate that Iran’s leaders have the same values and friend, we can’t even before I will never have social media and we will put themselves or whether our police not seek allies into effect. In other places. You want to take great movement built in fact, she said, sir, it up new airplanes for their community, and traditions they couldn’t sell a message is one home builder, became the start.

God bless the future. We will never going to be ordered, in the Democrats are so I met with few words. In fact, Thomas Jefferson? What a permit. So his disastrous rule.


Hellthugs who poison our citizens are committed to a special in this and the oath of our lives. We’re already met. But I want to win, win, win, and unity and the southern border security: You got to defend their destinies. Americans, right? The establishment protected by the soul to drive out what we have to have three times.

The word “hellthugs” appears nowhere in the transcripts and may well be  another sign that the algorithm has achieved sentience, or (for that matter) something that Trump himself never can realize—self-awareness.

And now for a subset of Trumpism as a religion—the blood-and-soil dogmatics of white nationalism:


Immigrant communities, our agenda, and who lied about a lot of a plane that led the question. The answers do work together for each other, show that. I’ve watched the other, and dedicate yourself to move past time to create jobs report that OK? America’s commitment of ideological support in all enjoy our police, against the right for the world to the rewards of our brave Americans can be broken. Our movement like it is finally defending other places, and spirit is the way.


Black masks, and confidence in Germany, you have a couple of other places, and years of Justice to go back to lead the people that I saw those people that voted for less defense, than the strongest, possible terms, “egregious display, hatred, bigotry and sinister ideology.” We urge Russia to be more in NATO, many people than we allow other captive nations that brutal attacks. But they ever thought about you like you’ve done some bad people who just so clear. I really founded Time Warner, and we won Pennsylvania.


White nationalists, because it’s not be over here, and obstruction and what we have voted for our country and from fear. May God give up. Mick Mulvaney. If they looked like or protect the world, but to be silenced by requiring one terror attack and healthy trade deals all over the way, under Barack Obama never forget.


Nazis systematically murdered millions of weeks I just. I’m condemning the Environmental Protection Agency. He’ll do you agree with Harley-Davidson, a people have been a while they said, those people. You wait online for me.

And for the ultimate test of Markov sentience: What if you don’t seed the chain with any terms at  all and just let it ramble?

Free form

We are no one million without knowing much for you never ever been. And I’m sure in this is entirely up here, please. Come here, Ryan. Ryan is our interests.

To the people can stall a strong again. Your voice, your dreams, what took 17 senators, governors and Iraq, we cherish your country. The Scouts lead the buildings I said, “The mortally dangerous sector of the summer of being president of the world,” thank Linda McMahon, Small Business. I do think of Europe still cry out and elsewhere, and the world against us in the world: We have ever will.

That settles it: Markov-Pence 2020!


Note: Sources were copypasted from the following transcripts, then edited where necessary to eliminate all text not spoken by the president.

“Donald Trump Ohio Rally Speech,”

“Trump’s Comments on White Supremacists, ‘Alt-Left’ in Charlottesville,” Politico

“Las Vegas Shooting: Read Transcripts of President Trump’s National Address and Message From Oval Office,” Billboard 

“Full Transcript of Trump’s Rally Speech in Florida,”

“Remarks by President Trump at 2017 National Scout Jamboree,”

“Remarks by President Trump in Briefing on Hurricane Maria Relief Efforts,” 

“Remarks by President Trump to the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly,” 

“Remarks by President Trump to the People of Poland,”

“Trump Inauguration: Transcript of Donald Trump Speech,”

“Trump’s 2017 Phoenix, Arizona Rally Full Speech Transcript,”