A recent survey by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, confirms what most people who follow the news would have expected: the incidence of hate crimes has increased.
According to the study, person-directed hate crime has increased 26.7% over the past five years. All hate crime has increased 20% in that same period, while violent crime overall increased only 3.3%. Figures for the 10-year period to 2008 show that the total number of hate crimes has increased, even as both crime in general and violent crime overall have declined.
It isn’t hyperbole or “fake news” to attribute much of that increase to the rhetoric of Donald Trump.
In a recent issue of Salon, Chauncy DeVega interviewed a CIA psychologist about Donald Trump’s “damaged personality.” The interviewee’s credentials were impressive.
Dr. Jerrold Post is the founding director of the CIA’s Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior. As the CIA’s head psychological profiler, he served under five American presidents of both political parties. Following his 21 years of service with the CIA, Post became a professor of psychiatry, political psychology and international affairs at George Washington University.
Post is the author of 14 books. His latest (co-written with Stephanie Doucette) is “Dangerous Charisma: The Political Psychology of Donald Trump and His Followers.”
Asked to “make sense” of Trump, Post responded with an analysis that gave me chills–but is also consistent with the observations of other mental health professionals who have expressed concerns about Trump’s mental state.
A famous Canadian psychoanalyst observed, “The leader is the creation of his followers.” This is a very powerful relationship. Indeed, many people have been puzzled, given Donald Trump’s extremism, that the support and the dedication of his followers to him has been not hugely diminished. Trump’s rallies, in particular, show an almost frightening intensity of the power of Trump’s charisma and influence over his followers.
For a core of his base Donald Trump provides them with many things, including permission to hate. It is a striking phenomenon. (emphasis mine)
In the three years since the 2016 election, I have become more and more convinced that hate is at the very core of the Trump base–that his appeal is primarily, if not exclusively, to White Christian heterosexuals, male or female, who believe that White Christian heterosexual men are supposed to dominate society and who see that rightful hegemony being eroded by black and brown people and uppity women.
They see their tribe being diminished, while “those people”–Jews, LGBTQ folks, Muslims, African-Americans–are demanding and receiving a place at the civic table, and they are enraged. Social conventions that have prevented them from expressing that hostility (conventions they sneer at as “political correctness”) infuriate them further.
And along comes Trump, who says: it’s okay to hate those “others.”
It reflects Trump’s crying out to his crowd at his rallies and granting them permission when he says things like, “Hey, you want to smash this guy in the face, don’t you? And I’ll pay all legal costs.” The Charlottesville hate riot was another interesting example of how Trump has positioned himself vis-à-vis the far right. Trump finds a resonance with them. He stimulates the crowd with chants such as “Lock her up!” and “Build the wall!” These all become powerful incentives for his followers to move to the extremes. It’s almost as if Donald Trump is inciting these feelings. Donald Trump is connecting to feelings in his crowd — feelings that he is stimulating…The danger is that such feelings, which are usually beneath the surface, are now being stimulated by Donald Trump.
There was a good deal more in the interview, and it was enlightening, but to me, it was the “permission to hate”analysis that most rang true.
I never doubted that there were people like Trump’s base in the U.S. But in my darkest times, I never thought there were so many of them.
The 2020 election will tell us whether ours is a country where most citizens believe in working toward a society of civic equals, or a country in which a majority of our neighbors were just waiting for someone who would give them permission to hate.