Neither Trump nor ISIS is going away soon
There are three things most young men want – need really – so much so that it’s seemingly part of their DNA: 1) to feel relevant, to have status of some sort; 2) to be able to give vent to their aggressive tendencies, up to and including sometimes, killing; 3) to have sex, pretty much by any means possible. In civilian society, there are a limited variety of ways to eventually get to a place where these three urges can be satisfied; mainly they involve succeeding at something either pretty high profile or that is inherently violent to begin with like say, law enforcement, the military, or pro football (Ray McDonald – late of the San Francisco 49’ers and Chicago Bears – was recently arrested for raping a woman he thought was dead). Otherwise, music (seen “Straight Outta Compton” lately) and other entertainment industry pursuits often seem to fill the bill, as well as business success. Between them all, there are enough scandalous anecdotes on the wires to start your own tabloid.
So where do ISIS and Donald Trump fit into this equation?
Let’s begin by stipulating that it would be worth a lot – perhaps even another world war – to obliterate ISIS. They have megalomaniacal ambitions; they operate across borders and are a barbaric threat to destabilize several countries; they kill wantonly in the most brutal fashion; they obliterate cultural patrimony; they force women into sexual slavery; they commit terrorist atrocities. That a world-wide armed operation hasn’t risen up to cauterize them from the body Earth is a testimony, sadly, to their current locale – the Middle East, where we’ve grown accustomed to both conflict and atrocity, and comfortable with the delusion that trouble there doesn’t threaten Western civilization (only its relics) – and the evolutionary divisions of 21st Century politics.
I’m going to further stipulate that I am not equating Donald Trump with ISIS and therefore not calling for a world war to have him obliterated. However, it’s pretty clear that just about everyone has underestimated the staying power of both. Both are doing something that people did not expect – drawing people to them like a giant magnet – because both have tapped into something fundamental in the mass psyche – our motivational trifecta. Admittedly, with Trump (entertainingly megalomaniacal in his own way), it’s not limited to young men (as are not, exclusively, those impulses themselves); the tea party crowd has adopted these aggressive motivations, from grey-haired ladies to soccer moms, to screeching adolescents, to feel relevant and give vent to their aggressive tendencies. Has there been anything more aggressive in his campaign than Trump’s calling out an entire nationality as rapists and murderers or calling for the mass deportation of 11 million people. What better way to feel relevant than being in the vanguard of cleansing your country and “restoring its greatness.” As for the sex, well, you can choose your poll, women rank confidence and power interchangeably one/two for on the sexy scale, and as for the men, maybe it’s the vicarious identification of being the guy with the supermodel wife.
Just as clearly, ISIS has tapped into something so fundamental in the psyche of young Islamic men, that God only knows what percentage of them you’d have to eliminate to destroy its farm system. ISIS goes a conventional military one better in providing for our core motivations. Any military will convey status: even a private wears a uniform and carries a gun for his country, and those upper ranks system, don’t get me started. Venting your aggressions? Check and double check. But the only organization on Earth that offers virtually instant gratification in all three arenas is….ISIS.
First, join up and you’re in a perpetual state of war (battle is actually the point) and not just any war – the war for world domination promised in the book. Sure, some ISIS recruits come on board because they fervently believe in the brutal, ultra-conservative Islamic brand “Caliph” Baghdadi is peddling, and the glory of the Caliphate I’m sure stirs the imagination of more than a few. After all, their dreary lives as marginalized young men in various Western European or Third World countries don’t offer much to stir their emotions – as with the un- and under-employed white people backing Trump. Join ISIS, and you’re an instant soldier for the cause, conferring instant status. Your friends back home, suffering through school, toiling in dead-end jobs, surviving on petty crime – who are they compared to you? Do you want news of them, or do they want news of you?
But just as powerful, I’m sure, is the promise of a high caliber automatic weapon. Come to Syria, be a soldier for the cause, and tote an AK-47, or a nice, American AR-15 looted from the Iraqis, or better yet, a .50 caliber mounted on a pickup truck. (Donald Trump, by the way: “I’m a big Second Amendment guy”) You, young man, get to shoot at, maim, and kill people with impunity. You are Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt and Napoleon Solo, and whoever Vin Diesel is this week, and if you’re blood is really up – yes, you may even get to cut off someone’s head. Rare air indeed.
Don’t think that’s a big psychological draw? Re-examine movie billboards. There is not one TV program or movie, that can possibly support the logic of an image of a weapon, that does not include one. Ever. Speaking of Vin Diesel, notice how the Fast and Furious franchise graduated from hot girls, guys, and cars, to a prominent display of weaponry as we got to “Fast Five” and beyond.
But here’s the icing on the cake; here’s where ISIS puts the U.S. Army and the NFL to shame. You get to be a gun-toting warrior for the cause, and it comes with your own sex slave. You don’t have to worry about your parents narrow ideas of sex before marriage, meeting someone, overcoming resistance, moral qualms, societal taboos, the law, the cops – you can get a sexual slave and get laid all the time. It’s sanctioned, dude. The Caliph says it’s in the book. This is even better than Trump, who merely disparages and degrades women, though admittedly, that seems to be working so well across his supporters’ demographics, he hasn’t yet needed to up the ante.
And just as Trump makes it okay for the disaffected class to support someone more like Romney than they promised themselves they would ever put up with again, ISIS makes it okay to indulge those base, secret longings you always suspected were the core Islam now been validated by a rogue revolutionary that has actually claimed and held real estate – as Trump has claimed and held political real estate, despite the worst examples of public behavior in recent history for a mainstream candidate.
If you need it in simpler terms, here it is from one Roger Stone, who worked with Nixon, Lee Atwater, and at one time, Trump, and the author of the still unpublished, “Stone’s Rules for War, Politics, Food, Fashion, and Living.” Rule: “hate is a stronger motivator than love.” By the looks of things, he knows what he’s talking about, and while a case can be made that for Trump, it’s more disdain than hate, it’s why we can expect both ISIS and Trump to be with us for quite some time.
Mitch Paradise is a writer and producer living in Los Angeles.