« Reader Photo | Main | Does this really sound like "mocking"? »

Monday, September 26, 2016


On NPR in the car, I heard that James Fallows recommends watching the debates w the sound off. So one can observe visuals undistracted. He predicts much primate posturing and bullying gestures for dominance by a certain person (of the type Jane Gooddall observed) . The interesting thing about his idea is that many people are far more visual than sound oriented. Advertisers have known this for years. Also, pundits and intellectuals analyze speeches for logic, content, debating points. But this is not what is usual when people watch TV. Most are won or lost by the visuals.


Here comes a long one.

I heard the same discussion. Very interesting. I'm glad you brought it up. For a long time, I've understood Trump's appeal in terms of primate group behavior, even referring to him as a silverback gorilla. Although I've held him in contempt for two decades, I didn't come up with that designation as a way to disparage him, but as a way to describe his appeal. I do think his type has more appeal during times of elevated death anxiety, which he plays to aggressively. Death anxiety invites more primitive, warlike responses and tribal cohesion (strength in numbers behind a larger-than-life warlord).

Given that our American sense of tribe is more fluid than that of a tiny homogeneous society, I think we're more fractured in our identity, though even primate groups have factions with competing leadership. Trump's dominance displays will strengthen support with some of us apes, but he'll be the ape that many others want to kill depending on their factional identity.

Only a small number of people are truly movable in their vote at this point because they're more tribally fluid, at least when presented the only two viable options, T & C.

I believe that what Trump says and what H says during the debate can nudge the needle by influencing the perception of tribal affiliation. For example, at the extreme, if he called her the c -word, I'd expect expect a bump in her direction because that's enough of a taboo that 'uncertains' would dis-identify with him in greater numbers than those who would be moved to identify because of Trump using that word. But we're only talking about a few percentage points of the population that could be nudged in their identification, and they won't all nudge one way based on something one of the candidates says. The identification nudge could also come about in a positive way with the right emotional connection between candidate and audience, though this is where I think Hillary is weak on TV. I've actually heard that she's quite warm and engaging one-on-one and in small groups. I've also heard about a few acts of kindness on Trump';s part that haven't gotten publicity. People I know who know him, have told of some nice things he's done that don't tangibly benefit him in any way -- things he really didn't have to do. None of that comes close to offsetting his alarming defects in my opinion. Not for me, any way. I believe I've got a solid read on his character, and I believe he's dangerous.

Funny thing about me and tribal identity. I didn't vote for Bill Clinton in either election. I didn't like him and actively disliked Hilary. At first when the prospect of a Trump nomination came up, I said I would hold my nose and vote for Hillary if Trump were nominated. But my contempt for him and my fear of him have escalated so much that I've warmed more to Hillary. I don't dislike her anymore. I find more reasons to give her a pass on certain matters that bugged me in the past. What I really believe happened is that Trump is so not-me, so alien to me, that I ended up feeling more tribal affiliation with her. We're drawn to the group we believe will best protect us from threat and he's the alien threat for me. If there were a third-party candidate who agreed with me on everything, I think I'd still support her because it's a matter of a viable candidate positioned to actually protect me and mine from the enemy, Donald Trump.

Final matter. I've never been so frightened in my life about the possibility of a particular candidate winning the election. I'm sure it touches on my own primitive death anxiety. I've disliked some candidates very much in the past, but none ever scared the S out of me. Trump does. Hillary doesn't scare me. I don't think she'll destroy the country or do much of anything that I think we'll be better for us collectively, but to me a placeholder feels more like a friend than someone I viscerally regard as a menace to civilized society.

The comments to this entry are closed.