Donald Trump is a tough guy and he wins because he’s such a tough guy. If you don’t believe that, just ask him … or any tough guy…. (More)

Mythellaneous Part I: ‘Tough Guys’ and Losers

This week Morning Feature contrasts some common myths with reality. Today we begin with swaggering, blustering ‘tough guys’ and research that suggests most are actually losers. Tomorrow we’ll see myths that were spawned to justify the use of atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Saturday we’ll conclude with The Better Deal Myth being pushed by opponents of the Iran nuclear deal.

“Then he’ll lose it”

The National Review hasn’t been kind to Donald Trump. John Fund called Trump a petulant bully, and Rich Lowry called him a whiner:

By Trump’s own account, he’s the baddest, smartest thing going, except if you ask him a challenging question, in which case he kicks and screams and demands to know how anyone could treat him so unfairly.

Trump followed up his shaky-at-best performance at the first Republican-candidate debate, hosted by Fox News, with days of complaining that he hadn’t been afforded the respect he deserves.

According to Trump, he’ll bring Vladimir Putin to heel. He’ll make Mexico pay for a border fence. He’ll take the Middle East’s oil. Assuming, that is, no one says a discouraging word to him. Then he’ll lose it.

“I am the most fabulous whiner”

Never dissuaded by criticism, Trump turned that around in an interview on CNN:

“I am the most fabulous whiner. I do whine, because I want to win,” Trump told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, referencing conservative author Rich Lowry’s National Review column where he called Trump a whiner.

Trump continued: “I am a whiner, and I’m a whiner and I keep whining and whining until I win. I want to win for our country, and I’m going to make our country great again.”

“Join me and win again”

You might think an admission like that would deflate Trump’s ‘tough guy’ image. But Trump’s poll numbers are holding strong. At Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall quotes a reader email exploring that attraction:

Do you feel like a loser? Well, guess what, you should. You are losing. We are losing. To the Mexicans. To the Chinese. To Iran. To bossy women. To Everybody. It is not morning in America; we suck right now. You suck.
[…]
Are you tired of it? Are you fed up with being a loser? Are you tired of getting pushed around and getting your ass kicked? Do you want to win (again)? Instead of losing, would you rather kick ass, be the boss, sleep with models and get rich? Then vote for me. I win. I kick ass. I get rich. I marry models but kick them out if they give me any lip. I tell people I don’t like to shove it on a daily basis and I never, ever apologize.
[…]
You are losing. I win. Join me and win again. powerful, seductive, and very hard for the GOP to counter. Like many others, I’m really starting to wonder how or if they can.

“Low-status males increase female-directed hostility”

It’s not surprising that Trump’s base lies in working class white men. He’s a billionaire who speaks and acts in the language of aggrieved entitlement: the cultivated feeling that white men deserve and would have more, if only government and other ‘elites’ weren’t giving so much to undeserving women and people of color.

And new research suggests that’s why Trump’s ugly, misogynistic attack on Megan Kelly resonated with his followers:

Here’s a research finding that should surprise no one: The men most likely to harass women online … are the men most likely to have their own problems.

That bit of validation comes courtesy Michael Kasumovic and Jeffrey Kuznekoff, researchers at the University of New South Wales and Miami University, respectively. For their latest study, published in the journal PLOS One last week, the duo watched how men treated women during 163 plays of the video game Halo 3.
[…]
As they watched the games play out and tracked the comments that players made to each other, the researchers observed that — no matter their skill level, or how the game went — men tended to be pretty cordial to each other. Male players who were good at the game also tended to pay compliments to other male and female players.

Some male players, however – the ones who were less-skilled at the game, and performing worse relative their peers – made frequent, nasty comments to the female gamers. In other words, sexist dudes are literally losers.

You can read the full study report at PLOS One:

We show that lower-skilled players were more hostile towards a female-voiced teammate, especially when performing poorly. In contrast, lower-skilled players behaved submissively towards a male-voiced player in the identical scenario. This difference in gender-directed behaviour became more extreme with poorer focal-player performance. We suggest that low-status males increase female-directed hostility to minimize the loss of status as a consequence of hierarchical reconfiguration resulting from the entrance of a woman into the competitive arena. Higher-skilled players, in contrast, were more positive towards a female relative to a male teammate. As higher-skilled players have less to fear from hierarchical reorganization, we argue that these males behave more positively in an attempt to support and garner a female player’s attention.

In other words, ‘tough guys’ like Donald Trump and his avid fans aren’t really tough at all. They’re losers – note Trump’s four bankruptcies and the business partners who dumped him after his incendiary remarks on immigration – who try to manufacture ‘tough guy’ standing by venting their bile on women and people of color … kissing up and kicking down.

Men who succeed by combining talent, training, tenacity, and timing … don’t have to act like ‘tough guys.’ And most men who succeed that way don’t mimic Trump’s bombast and bluster. To paraphrase the iconic 1970s Smith Barney ads, they get respect the old-fashioned way: they earn it.

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Photo Credit: Phoenix House

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Happy Thursday!