Trump, The World’s Greatest Troll

This title was bestowed on Trump by Nate Silver, a statistician and the best campaign prognosticator.  What makes him the greatest troll is the devastating effect he has had on the American political system.  Trump plays to the mob, and in cyberspace the cyber mob.  Donald Trump has a unique and disturbing leadership style.  Rather than demonstrating gravitas and intelligence with measured remarks and diplomacy, he succeeds with brutal populism and personal attacks.  As Dr. Mary Aiken notes, “ he seems to relish being nasty—even sadistic, at times.”  Dr Aiken continues, “Power no longer centers on leadership but on followership.”  The norms of cyberspace, where cruelty is amplified, escalated, and encouraged, have jumped into politics.

“Trolls” appear to be the greatest attention—seekers online.  They have chosen the appellation, “trolls.”  Dr. Aiken believes that the motivation for trolling behaviors is a combination of boredom, revenge, pleasure, attention, and a desire to cause disruption and acquire power.  On multiplayer gaming sites they test and taunt children and then post video or audio of the children crying.  On dating sites trolls are capable of anything from cyber-stalking to sexual harassment and threats.

Dr. Aiken argues that Trump’s success as a presidential candidate is a vivid example of what she calls cyber-socialization.  “Leading by building followers, he employs many of the tactics of a malicious online bully, from his use of taunts and name-calling of fellow candidates (“Crooked Hillary” and “Crazy Bernie” and “Lying Ted”) to his obsession with physical appearance (“Little Marco”) and special hostility for women (“”dogs,” “pigs” and “disgusting”).

Trump has 8.19 million followers on Twitter and dominates the social media landscape of the election.  Unfortunately, social media have become an environment where pathological behavior is gaining ground and being normalized.  There is a loss of empathy online, a heightened detachment from the feelings and rights of others, which is seen in extreme cyberbullying and sadistic trolling.

Psychologists have found a relationship between individuals who comment frequently online and identify themselves as “trolls” with three of the four components of what is known as the dark tetrad of personality, a set of characteristics that are found together in a morbid cluster:  narcissism (the characteristic not included), sadism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism.  In the case of Trump, HM thinks that narcissism could also be appropriate.  The researchers concluded that trolling was a manifestation of “everyday sadism.”

The concluding sentence is Dr. Aiken’s essay is “Sadly for those of us trying to eradicate cyber-bullying and online harassment, and educate children and teenagers about the great emotional costs of this behavior, our job becomes much harder when high-profile leaders use cruelty as strategy—and win elections for it.

Dr. Aiken’s essay, from which large portions of this post have obviously be taken, can be found at time.com and searching for Welcome to the Troll Election.

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2 Responses to “Trump, The World’s Greatest Troll”

  1. russvane3 Says:

    A lot of psychological techniques are being used to validate the author’s opinion. Ad hominem attacks are interspersed with meaningful content. “Troll” is always an ad hominem attack… which says “if you don’t believe what I believe then you can’t recognize trolls.”

    Nate Silver is a brilliant political prognosticator who uses at least three models for calibrating his predictions, please see fivethirtyeight.com for more info. He is, as I am, biased towards behaviors and beliefs that he likes and historically laces his commentary with offhand, but negative remarks, about Mr. Trump.

    HealthyMemory agrees with pretty much everything negative said about Mr. Trump. It appears that Dr. Aiken has concluded that Mr. Trump is bad for politics and the future of cyber interactions.

    However people are not scalar. Even a murderer may send his Mom a fruit basket for her birthday. A person who effectively uses the media, psychology, sociological preferences, money, or ethics to persuade is just that (however frustrating it may be if I disagree).

    To have a healthy memory, we need to remember, evaluate, and be able to forgive ‘works in progress’ (as Jesse Jackson once so ably said). Not consign people with whom we disagree to the bit bucket.

    If this comes off as holier than thou, let me apologize. I continue to hold HealthyMemory in great esteem.

  2. healthymemory Says:

    Unfortunately, Trump is not a work in progress. Rather he is a national figure who presents an existential threat to the United States. This is not a typical election. Moreover, psycholgists are informed professionals making these assessments. It would be irresponsible for them not to offer their observations.

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