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Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback

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“Humiliation porn” is much about transforming the shame and pain of victimization and powerlessness into some kind of sexual pleasure. If mainstream institutions ignore a large number of people who feel powerless, victimized and angry, that’s easy pickings for a demagogue, who knows that a politician’s campaign promises may not hook a distrusting crowd but that providing them with pleasure—humiliation porn—is enticing and addicting.

We can thank mainstream American institutions—including the Democratic and Republican Parties and the mainstream media—for creating conditions that gave rise to Donald Trump, now the Humiliator-in-Chief. And we can thank the Donald for pissing on all taboos around offensiveness, resulting in reciprocal nastiness and the normalization of psychologically violent discourse. Before getting to the blowback to Trump, a few examples from the Trump humiliation porn collection.

One of the Trump faithful’s favorite “cum shots” is the humiliation of Mitt Romney, who had insulted Trump in the 2016 campaign but who naively believed that he was still seriously being considered for Secretary of State. If you had talked with Trump guys or had listened to their Alex Jones show, you’d know that Trump’s post-election maneuvering with Romney got these guys excited, as they fantasized about what was coming. They were ecstatic when, immediately after Trump instead selected Rex Tillerson, Trump advisor Roger Stone gloatingly told Alex Jones about Trump’s “torturing,” “toying” and “diddling” of Romney. For the Alex Jones brigade, Trump’s humiliation of Romney was his gift to them, providing his faithful with fantasy, orgasm and ejaculation.

At Trump campaign rallies, the cry of “lock her up” drove his faithful into a frenzy, as they visualized Hillary Clinton in prison being humiliated in all kinds of ways. Trump supporters don’t seem to hold it against Trump for his post-election reneging on prosecuting Clinton; as they remain appreciative for Trump providing them with that prison-porn fantasy image.

And then there is the Trump declaration, “I’ll build a wall, and Mexico will pay for it,” which brought the house down at Trump rallies. The first part, “I’ll build a wall,” is pleasurable to this disempowered group as it conjures up an image of a strongman protecting them and jobs, but it creates tension as Trump loyalists hate government spending their money for a wall. And so when Trump completes the phrase with “. . . and Mexico will pay for it,” this is orgasmic delight—tension resolved through humiliating a brown-skinned nation. (To be historically fair to Trump, American politicians have a long history of getting mileage from not only trying to humiliate Mexico but by stealing large parts of it.)

One reason that mainstream Democrats and Republicans were blind to the magnitude of Trump’s attraction is that part of being mainstream involves a denial and repression of raw emotions, including rage and humiliation over powerlessness. Thus, the mainstream view was: It’s crazy to think that Trump, with his never-ending spewing of politically-incorrect insults, could win the Republican nomination, and certifiably insane to believe that he could win the presidential election.

Yet in 2016, most Americans—as evidenced by the rise of both Trump and Bernie Sanders—were feeling powerless, victimized, and angry. Despising Hillary Clinton and the Democratic/Republican establishment was a sentiment shared by both Trump and Sanders supporters. However, beyond the policy differences between Trump and Sanders, the glaring emotional difference was that Sanders didn’t move into humiliation porn, which would not have attracted mainstream Democrats whom Sanders needed to win the nomination. But for the lucky Trump, there were few mainstream Republican voters remaining, and that’s why he gained steam each time he humiliated a mainstream Republican politician from “Little Marco” to “Lying Ted.”

To the dismay of Trump haters, they discovered that facts, reason and fear failed to stop Trump. And so now, anti-Trump forces have fully embraced psychological violence. Some of their efforts, I suspect, will be impotent but some of their violent efforts might well be quite effective.

An example of likely impotent violence is the increasing use of psychiatric diagnosis violence—routinely used in our society to control and marginalize undesirables, and now being used by anti-Trump forces against Trump. So, we see Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California) introducing legislation that would require a White House psychiatrist; as Lieu concludes that Trump might in fact need treatment or a professional assessment regarding his danger to the republic. And recently, a psychologist affiliated with John Hopkins made news by disregarding the professional ethical injunction against diagnosing public figures without spending a couple of minutes with them, and he diagnosed Trump as a “malignant narcissist,” which is as scientific as calling him an “evil, self-centered, exploitative asshole.”

However, if one is trying to get rid of Trump, professional jargon labels are at best useless and maybe even empowering for Trump’s approximately 40 percent support, who may be more energized than deterred by Trump receiving college-level insults from PhDs. One might want to consider the needs of Trump’s supporters rather than focusing on Trump, if one wants to reduce Trump’s support.

A good chunk of Trump voters—even among the Alex Jones alt-right brigade—are not blind to Trump’s meanness and brutalism. They don’t necessarily like him, only the pleasures that he has provided for them. So for them, it is all business, and when someone else better satisfies their needs, they will move on and listen to what they have to say.

So, Trump should be worried about Saturday Night Live and their willingness to use humiliation porn (including women playing key Trump administration men) because SNL humiliations—and those who will ratchet it up even nastier—will attract some of Trump’s audience share, as it is just too irresistible.

By early February 2017, NBC reported that SNL’s ratings were the highest in 20 years, up 22 percent from the same time last year. On February 4, SNL ran a skit with Alec Baldwin/ Trump being pressed by Steve Bannon/Darth Vader to demonstrate to foreign nations who is boss, with Trump appearing as a jerk to one world leader after another; with finally, the strongman leader of Zimbabwe calling Trump, “a little white bitch.” Last I looked, the Youtube video of that skit had over 11 million views. And more famously on that same SNL episode was Melissa McCarthy’s rendition of an out-of-control press secretary Sean Spicer, which on Youtube is now at 23 million views and climbing.

These days, it doesn’t exactly take Lenny Bruce courage for entertainers to be outrageous about the Trump administration, as Trump himself has created a cultural climate by which nothing is over the line because there is no longer any line and nothing is too taboo to spew.

So, what’s next? Knowing some of these Trump guys—I admit it, I’ve been interviewed for an hour on the Alex Jones show—here’s one example of what would be an irresistible SNL skit/Youtube video for them:

It starts with Trump depressed about his growing unpopularity. Bannon (perhaps now played by Rosie O’Donnell who is vying for that role) informs Trump that U.S. presidents instantly get ratings spikes when the U.S. attacks another country, especially if it’s likely to be an easy win. And so Trump decides to attack Australia. His worried cabinet and advisors are informed by Trump’s first wife, Ivana, that the only thing that had snapped Trump out of depression was when she strapped on a dildo and anally penetrated the Donald while giving him a reach around. And so we then see a parade of notable Republican women, including Sara Palin/Tina Fey strapping one on and—doggy style—trying to save America from an insane war. (Note: For the Alex Jones brigade, the naked back of Sara Palin/Tina Fey giving it to Trump from behind would by itself be irresistible). And finally, after an exasperated Palin/Fey also fails to get the Donald erect, Ivana explains that there is one last hope: Trump is turned on by Barack Obama. . .

I’ll stop here, but that’s not where this will stop.

Think this is crazy? Ask yourself what kind of ratings SNL would get for this, and what kind of money there is to be made in increased advertising dollars? And how much pleasure would it give not only to powerless Democrats but to some mainstream Republicans and to even a good chunk of the alt-right Alex Jones brigade?

So, how does this all play out?

Already, many Americans are overwhelmed by anxiety. When the U.S. president has no line, all things seem possible—from a catastrophic trumped-up war, to mass deportations, to an attempt to silence Trump detractors. Would any American be surprised to discover that Trump is ordering his staff right now to find some way of shutting down SNL? I hope Alec Baldwin has good security.

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Bruce E. Levine,  a practicing clinical psychologist, writes and speaks about how society, culture, politics and psychology intersect.  He is the author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011). His website is www.brucelevine.net

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