Updated: Feb 21, 2020
Even into a tragedy like the Manchester bombing, President Donald Trump inserts bullying language. His statements reflect a male-female dichotomy in which the terrorists are men who have failed and the victims are women who need protecting. He demeans the victims by categorizing them all as weak, “beautiful” people who could not protect themselves.
United States culture too often values women based on their looks and men based on their power, prestige, and wealth. President Trump is applying those metrics to the Manchester bombing as though he were the high-value man who wanted to protect vulnerable women from other low-value men. Trump is reinforcing these stereotypes by using that bully language.
Trump uses bullying language.
Bullies use particular language to label and categorize individuals and to undermine their self-esteem. Bullies label women as “not beautiful” men as “losers” to undercut their self-esteem. Victims of bullying cannot rebut those labels because they exist in the eye of the beholder, and as long as they internalize those labels, those labels will affect them. In other words, individuals with internal loci of self-esteem will not succumb to conclusory labels, but individuals who derive their self-esteem externally may suffer from those labels.
When Trump labels the Manchester bombing victims as “beautiful,” he does not enhance their self-esteem, of course, but only trivializes their complex and rich lives that the terrorists destroyed. And labeling the terrorists as “losers” does not undermine their self-esteem because the terrorists derive their self-esteem from the terrorists around them. Terrorists often join organizations to feel a sense of belonging. Unless those terrorists consider Trump part of their group, Trump’s language will roll off their back. The terrorists gain self-worth from the other terrorists who laud their actions and give them the power and prestige they seek.
Thus, President Trump uses a bully’s language to advance his objectives without obtaining any meaningful objective. His statements trivialize the victims’ lives while failing at his attempt to undermine their self-esteem. Trump’s statements normalize bullying language and techniques.
*Hat-tip to Lauren Attard, @LaurenAttard, for suggesting this post.