That guy in the image to the right? That’s the so-called ‘King of Instagram’ and self-proclaimed playboy Dan Bilzerian. Before I go any further, I recommend you find a puke bag. Bilzerian recently showered presidential hopeful Donald Trump with praise. To his more than 1 million Twitter followers, Bilzerian said:
In an age of pussified political correctness, you have to respect the people who remain unfiltered @realDonaldTrump
When I first read this Tweet, I felt the exasperation swell within me. For months now, I’ve read who knows how many comments from people who say they like Donald Trump bc he is “unfiltered”, “speaks his mind”, isn’t “politically correct”, is “honest with his thoughts”, or some such bullshit. I’ve wondered for a while now why people think these are positive character traits. To be sure, they can be a good, depending on the situation, but it isn’t inherently a good thing that someone (for instance) speaks their mind. In the case of Donald Trump, speaking his mind often leads to some bigoted rhetoric. But I had an ‘AHA!’ moment while reading Bilzerian’s B.S.
Bilzerian’s whining is emblematic of a particular mindset among many of the people who support Donald Trump. Many of them bemoan a perceived “culture of political correctness”, which they think prevents them from speaking their mind “honestly”. They’re the people who think college students wanting safe spaces on university campuses free from racism, sexism, homophobia, and other social ill are coddled and want protection from everything. These folks think that being asked to moderate your language to avoid offending people who belong to marginalized communities is some sort of violation of their free speech rights. In my experience, they seem to think that free speech allows people to say what they want, when they want, to whom they want, and how they want–without repercussions, consequences, or pushback.
As I’ve said in the past, it is this perception that I believe drives many of the conservative complaints about “PC culture” (while there are liberals who voice opposition to “PC culture”, this post is about the people who support Donald Trump and most of them are conservative). Time was, if someone wanted to express homophobic opinions-whether mild or extreme-they weren’t met with much social opprobrium. People could make offhand comments about the “proper place” or the “proper role” of a woman, and they’d find much support and little opposition. You could make comments about Mexicans, immigrants, African-Americans, or Asian people and nary a word of criticism would be uttered in response. Because back then, uppity minorities “knew their place”. But all that changed with the Internet, and specifically the advent of social media. Previously silenced individuals or those who felt alone in a world that loathed and persecuted them now found they could share their thoughts with others. On top of that, they found communities of like-minded individuals. Over time many of them came together and formed activist groups. They lobbied politicians, the media, and corporations, pushing for progressive reforms. In addition, they spoke up in online spaces. Where once conservatives could say what they want, how they wanted, when they wanted, to whomever they wanted-without any consequences, *NOW* there were consequences. Now there was pushback.
And that’s something critics of so-called “PC culture” have a difficult time coming to grips with. Freedom of speech is a right we *all* have. Conservatives have free speech. No one has taken that right from them. Indeed, for all their complaints about being unable to openly speak their mind, it isn’t hard to find everyday examples of people saying the most outrageous, offensive, heinous things imaginable. But these people now have to face the consequences of their speech, bc freedom of speech works both ways. They can say what they want and their critics can criticize them, try to persuade them to behave differently, or tell them to go to hell. No longer does their privilege afford their views protection. The world has changed and they are finding their grip on power diminishing. It makes sense they would rally behind Donald Trump-a man who’s views were not being stifled by “PC activists” and who, in spite of anything and everything he has said, continues to hold onto his social, political, and economic power. Through him, they can live vicariously.
Donald Trump entering the presidential race provided conservatives with an outlet. Where they felt their free speech rights curtailed, here was a wealthy, influential white man who spoke his mind and was unafraid of any pushback. He has been unfazed by complaints that he’s sexist, misogynistic, or racist. And he really doesn’t seem to care that he’s had contracts with companies cancelled. I can see what is appealing about this ‘devil may care‘ attitude and if it wasn’t paired with near-fascist, socially conservative, regressive beliefs, it might even be admirable. Unfortunately, Trump’s ‘I don’t give a shit’ attitude is paired with awful beliefs. And that’s the other component of why so many people like him.
In addition to the vicarious thrill granted by Trump, many people in this country love him bc he shares their views on a variety of social issues. And those views are abominable. His opinions on Mexican immigrants (they are criminals and rapists), his views on Black Lives Matter activists (they’re troublemakers), his thoughts on gun control (“If I’d been in Paris, we’d have found a way to stop the terrorists”), his opinions about women (see his comments about Megyn Kelly)–these are all things that a great many of his followers also believe. He is speaking to the mindset of many people in this country. He echoes their thoughts, but does so on a national stage. By unabashedly sharing his opinions, Trump gives regressive assholes nationwide the confidence to openly share their bigoted, prejudicial views. Moreover, his comments have also emboldened many people, as seen in the violence against activists at several of his rallies, as well as the increase in traffic to white supremacist sites. He is normalizing beliefs and opinions that have been relegated to the fringes of society, which in turn has led to radicalized individuals stepping out of the shadows. The ‘Trump Effect’, if you will.
In Trump, conservatives not only see one of them (a heterosexual, cisgender, white male), but the kind of guy they want to be (a heterosexual, cisgender, white male with money, influence, and power), who acts the way they want to act (a heterosexual, cisgender, white male with money, influence, and power who speaks openly with no worry of any pushback). Trump is their hero because he embodies what they want so badly. For Trump’s supporters, he is the ideal man. With these folks feeling their power and influence in society waning, Trump is the kind of man they desperately want to be. And if they can’t be him, they’ll join him.