Culture

This Is How Trump Won Mindless Loyalty From Millions of Americans

The simple, surefire formula for sycophants.

Photo Credit: Evan Guest / Flickr

Many Trump supporters are proud of their absolute faith in him. You see it in the way they beam proudly when they tell reporters that they’d support him no matter what he does. Now that’s unconditional love!

We have mixed feelings about absolute faith and unconditional love. Sometimes we regard them as the highest virtues. Sometimes we think such commitment is pretty dangerous. Unconditional? Would you still love a partner who turned into an ax murderer?

On the receiving end, absolute faith and unconditional love are pretty handy. Gaining that kind of unconditional respect means you can do no wrong, which frees you to do all the wrong you want.

So if you’re into that sort of thing, here’s all it takes to get it. And if you’re not into that sort of thing, here’s what to watch out for.

  1. Target people who can’t stand uncertainty: Go for the hungry, anxious, eager to believe; people who have had their fill of uncertainty and can’t stand anymore.
  2. Target people who don’t notice the downside of absolute faith: These are people who get all dewy-eyed when thinking about faith, the kind who either ignore a faith they regard as wrong-headed or will tell you that wrong-headed faith is not really faith.
  3. Get their guard down: You’ll want people who see you as the answer to their prayers, people who want to align with you for a boost in their morale, status and prospects. Charm them. Listen to them and feed them whatever will satisfy them. The hungry are the easiest to feed.
  4. Make bold, vague statements that speak directly to them. (Trump’s “Make America Great” is a great example.) Great how? Your targets can fill in whatever comes to mind. Likewise, you can court someone personally with a line like, “Wow, I can really tell that you’ve got talent for understanding what’s going on!” Bold, flattering, vague. Suckers line right up.
  5. Include them in your “winner’s circle” with talk about the idiots "out there": Nothing wins faith like disparaging others. You see it at rallies where the speaker riles the audience by ridiculing everyone outside your circle. You can hear it in the way people flirt by confiding in you (yes you, because you’re wonderful!).
  6. Speak as though you are the absolute final, neutral judge of reality. Don’t ever qualify what you say; it’s not your opinion, it’s truth. That will annoy careful thinkers, but they’re not your targets. It will win gullible thinkers, but only if they agree with you already. They’ll agree with you if you’re sufficiently vague (see #4).
  7. Dog whistle: Keep your pandering to your targets and your attacks on others under the radar, so you can always deny them if challenged.
  8. Make it easy to align with you, costly to break with you: Don’t ask your targets to make sacrifices. Once you’ve hooked them they’ll make all sorts of sacrifices. Make all of their first encounters with you self-affirming fun for them and make the alternative, not aligning with you, seem like nothing but a hassle.
  9. Appear invincible: Your targets want to believe you, so make it easy for them. Prove you are right, absolutely and always (by your “authoritative” standards). Remember, there is absolutely nothing that can’t be mocked, attacked or vilified. It’s easy. Just pick apart anything that suggests you’re wrong.
  10. Heads you win, tails you lose: Any good news affirms that you’re right. Any bad news affirms you’re the victim of persecution.
  11. Avenge tenfold: Be savage. Be relentless. Don’t let anyone get away with saying anything bad about you. Make sure that anyone who tries has at least 10 times more bad things said about them. Gaslight like crazy.
  12. Police morality as though you’re a crusader for reality: Above all you are always the morality police. If you hate immorality in others, the gullible will believe that you must be morally pure.

What’s nice about these rules is that it doesn’t matter what you know or think. Following them frees you from careful thought. That’s the beauty of it! You can apply these to win absolute faith and unconditional love from the gullible in support of anything. It doesn’t matter whether you offer anything for them to have faith in, since your targets are the kind who have faith in faith. Remember, they consider it a relief to no longer have to keep an eye on things—a relief from dreaded uncertainty.

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Jeremy Sherman Ph.D. researches how the living interpret, from their cradle at the origin of life to our current grave situation.
 

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