Why it’s more important for you to feel right than to fix this mess
Do you really think sending Mike Pence into Hamilton the same day that a President-Elect is settling a major fraud lawsuit wasn’t a planned controversy? When else did Trump manipulate the media into talking about what he wanted?….and why am I craving tacos right now?
The liberal need to be right is at the core of Trump’s truest and most brilliant revenge. Not only were we so very wrong on Election Day, we were caught in complete shock about how wrong we were. And Trump knew how important it was for liberals to be right and used it to his advantage throughout his campaign.
We’ve seen this pattern of trolling by purposefully throwing distracting clickbait in front of real fires over and over again. While the story was breaking about Trump being fined by the IRS for paying off Florida’s Attorney General to not sue him over the Trump University scam, we instead focused on what we considered a hilarious gaffe: taco trucks. While the RNC delegation was in shambles and debating a floor vote against his nomination, Trump not only planted the “accidental” plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s speech the first night with Melania, but when they made one of Trump’s ghostwriters apologize for the “mistake” the next day they probably broke the law in order to do it and then lauded all the publicity that came with it. Trump’s manipulation of the liberal need to be right while also being entertaining enough to be “news” or meme-worthy is as brilliant as it is evil.
The need to be right is just an extension of verbal abuse patterns and the type of conversation that floats to the chaotic surface that we call our national political landscape. The need to be right is a defense mechanism — one that profits off the psychological need for continued abusive argument that defies logic. And platforms in turn profit off of that feedback loop. It’s engagement after all!
Why do we keep falling for it? Wanting to be right is a reactionary response to gaslighting, a common abuse tactic by the King of the Trolls of doing one thing and later denying its existence, in an attempt to make us feel crazy and dominated. When dealing with patterns of abuse, victims often become rightfully afraid of their abuser’s unpredictable and aggressive behavior. To be wrong for any reason thus becomes a liability. To be right is a defense against incessant attack. Psychologists have been expressing their concern for the general welfare of the public since Trump was chosen in the Republican primaries. Especially given concerns about Trump becoming a walking trigger for many after audio tapes were leaked of him bragging about sexual assaulting women.
Beyond all the terrifyingly authoritarian and white-nationalist-friendly moves he continues to pull, people are worried and anxious for good reason. He is a textbook example of a narcissistic abuser.
How is it not obvious that every single thing Trump says — every absurd accusation he throws out — is a reflection of what he finds true about himself? Who is really crooked? Who allegedly committed actual crimes that deserved to put him in jail? Who is guilty of rigging when calling on foreign hackers to do his illegal bidding? Was the election actually rigged/hacked?
His understanding of how metrics work along with user psychology across industry was also equally brilliant and evil. In campaigning, success metrics are usually contained to fundraising deadlines. As in, how much money did this campaign raise this quarter? Trump didn’t need these metrics to succeed. He was able to transcend one industry and use all the metrics in his favor — attention (or media clicks) most of all.
Trump has manipulated us through his understanding of the psychology of entertainment and trolling.
Don’t get distracted by the very real bait he throws us. When they casually bring up the potential validity of internment camps, settle major fraud lawsuits, court open bigots as future Cabinet members, and strong-arm foreign diplomats into staying at his hotel all in the same week as creating and commenting on a “controversy” of whether or not people should boo in a “safe space” that seems much more delicious & ripe for argument, DON’T get distracted. This conversational behavior should not be normalized and neither should the terrifying tactics, ideologies and proposed policies that continue to happen behind the scenes.
Trump continues to feed the media need for scandal with clickbait-and-switch tactics that then ignores — and in turn normalizes — the core of what makes the movement of support behind him so terrifying.
Beyond being right, Trump also knew how important it is for college-educated folks to feel smart, by calling other people dumb. By objectifying and isolating the real problem of racism to “racists” instead of seeing how the oppression bleeds into institutions and everyday interaction. Liberals would rather be right about THE solution being the need for more welfare programs instead of acknowledging the rise of Trump’s movement being based in hate, racism and xenophobia. And in instances in the public where there is both economic disenfranchisement and Trump support, it’s time to recognize that the key ingredient needed to assuage conservative anxiety about taking government welfare is still bigotry.
We know now that the false equivalency of “fair coverage” during the campaign only propelled a legitimized defense of people spewing bigotry and dangerous ideology. And now we are seeing it legitimized potentially at the highest levels of office.
Pretending that the ideology is not based in a long history of hatred is not ok and should not be normalized. Neither are the seeded arguments that only propel abusive clickbait behavior and distract us from the very real and terrifying issues at stake.
IT ALL NEEDS TO STOP. NOW. Don’t fall for it.