Monday, August 17, 2015

The Bully Appeal

How do loud, obnoxious, mean spirited people gain a following? I've wondered about this since watching the playground bully in elementary school. There is a certain level of appeal and it transcends the playground into adulthood. The best evidence is how well Donald Trump is doing in his run for president and the successes of people like Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern.
These three are not what I would consider good neighbor material. Most people would be very upset if their child's teacher talked and acted like any of these 3, and yet, they have a following that is significant. While we may wish to dismiss the phenomenon as crazy, most of us have friends and family that are enamored with these guys. And we live on the same planet.
So, I find myself looking back at the playground bully days. The bully always had a loyal pack of followers who wanted to appear as big and bad. Then there were the "neutrals" who tried to stay distant and uninvolved. The neutrals sometimes snickered with the bully and pack hoping they were not going to become targets. And then there were the targets that the bully and pack attacked while the neutrals stood back. The power of the bully depends upon neutrals. They are the largest number.
Inevitably, the bully and pack stepped on someone the neutrals could not avoid defending and the tables turned. Loud, obnoxious and mean spirited is not so funny when someone you care about is the target. Why is it EVER appealing?
It's appealing when we think it is a sign of strength. It seems a very basic caveman thing. If you fear a lion is about to attack, you want the strongest person to intervene. The best way to scare off a lion is to be loud, obnoxious and downright mean!
That explains the pack loyal to the bully. They really believe there is a lion about to attack. But what about the snickering neutrals? And the non-snickering neutrals at the other end of the spectrum closer to the targets? The snickering neutrals are probably a bit convinced of the lion threat. The non-snickering neutrals are probably a little more afraid of becoming the bully target.
One day - some day - on some planet - we will finally understand that bullies are not needed. Lions have no threat. Targets are not needed. And neutral is not possible.

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