So the Donald is back from his trip. He produced no huge surprises. Though, as usual, he ruffled feathers by saying and doing embarrassing things, especially in Europe.
There is an interesting word that characterizes what Trump does. He “goads” people on. A goad is, in fact, a spiked stick that cowboys used to poke cattle, causing enough pain to keep them moving.
The word has taken on a broader meaning. To goad is to provoke a reaction by doing annoying things. And whether you like Donald Trump or not, he is an expert goader. He is good at getting under people’s skins. Indeed, he seems to thrive on it.
The question arises why some might think that this might be attractive behavior in a world leader these days. What value added do we get from Trump’s incessant goading?
The answer is more complex than you might think. Goading does not appear to serve any immediate purpose. It is easy to spot it as anti-social and irrational. But goading has other effects. It stimulates the amygdala. It creates a fight or flight response that can be manipulated. And Trump is having that effect on lots of people.
Not too surprisingly, this is what media barons did before the first war. They goaded people on to take seriously prejudices against national rivals. And one should not be overly surprised that an arms merchant like Basil Zaharov even bought newspapers to do this more so that he could goad governments into buying more weapons from him. One of the richest men in the world in his day, Zaharaov died of old age in 1936.
My point —- we may or many not succumb to Trump’s goading tactics. But whatever happens, I do hope that we will see it for what it is. The emotional ploys that he uses have little to no connection to any coherent policy idea. We need to keep repeating that to ourselves and our loved ones. Sort of like “It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie. ” Now “It’s only Trump. it’s only Trump. ”