Although Donald Trump had already amassed his billions and was famous when it happened, his celebrity status took off when he became the star of The Apprentice. This gave him an incredible media platform. Were we uncomfortable with his brashness, his crudeness and aggression? Yes we were. Did a number of other businessmen and women point out that such an abrasive hire and fire style was actually out of tune with the real business world? Of course they did.. When he took to twitter with capitalised rants were we also a little uncomfortable with that? To be sure we were and yet we tolerated it and soaked it up? Why? Well the escuses were as follows
- It’s entertaining, it pulls in the ratings and the follows.
- It’s a bit of an act, a projected persona for affect. Of course if you get to know the real man …
- He’s a maverick, a one off. Donald will be Donald. We have to make alloweances
I hope you are seeing the pattern now. People found ways to excuse, justify and turn a blind eye to unhealthy, bullying and narcissistic behaviour. Where did such appeasement end up? It end ed up with the man losing the Presidential election by a wide margin but holing himself up iin the Whitehouse making even more lurid and ludicrous claims, operating a scorched earth policy on the basis that id democracy would not deliver for him then he would toxify democracy.
Then this week, we had the horrific scene of thugs invading the Capitol Hil home of Congress to intimidate, disrupt proceedings and try to stop the verification of Joe Biden’s election. Trump had incited this encouraging his supporters to march, throwing about wild conspiracy theories accusing those of being on the side of democracy of all sorts, even trying to intimidate his own Vice President with threats. It started with us enjoying the spectacle of him pointing the finger to deliver marching orders and saying “You’re fired.” It ended with him pointing the finger towards Capitol Hill with an order to march and shots being fired. People have paid for our tolerance of this man’s narcissism with their lives.
This should be a warning. Trump was very much part of a toxic culture where his supporters and opponents alike lost the ability to engage in respectful discourse replacing it with wild rumours and abuse. Sadly, he was even backed and supported by evangelical leaders who would normally have challenged his character but saw him as useful ally in their own culture wars. I hope that this week they are taking time to reflect.
I hope we learn the lessons. You see what we have seen is what happens when you give a platform to people who should not be given a platform. We have seen what happens when you turn a blind eye to bad -especially abusive, bullying and narcissistic behaviour.” You would hope that we would learn from this.
The problem is that this isn’t the first time that we have had the opportunity to learn these lessons. Frequently some of us have warned about the online behaviour of certain prominent men only to be told “it’s just them being them. They are a bit of a maverick, they are probably very different off line” Yet over the last year or two we have seen these ignored warning signs blow up into full scale scandals.
Still we continue to see people give social media platforms and the support of those with influence and resources behaving in these aggressive, bullying ways. Still we are told that we should just put up with the situation, the behaviour cannot be helped.
When will we learn?