Donald Trump is the King of Chaos. He has lied at least 12,000 times since becoming president of the United States.
These lies are often obvious and lazy — such as incorrectly claiming that Hurricane Dorian would hit Alabama and then forcing scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to parrot his lies. Trump’s lies are made no less dangerous when they happen to be lazy and obvious.
Trump is unapologetic and unabashed in his contempt for American democracy and the rule of law. Many mental health professionals have concluded he is unwell. He lacks impulse control and evidences sociopathic behavior.
Trump acts like a self-styled mob boss — a corrupt bully who forces his subordinates to “kick up” to him.
America’s own spies do not trust our unpredictable president to act responsibly with the country’s secrets.
Trump is mercurial in his cruelty, waiting until people are in dire need to punish them, often based on sheer bigotry and racism. Most recently he has refused to let desperate people from the Bahamas enter the United States after their homes were destroyed by Hurricane Dorian.
He tells his subordinates to break the law as they execute his plans and promises to pardon them if they do so. He fires people on a whim in order to ensure their loyalty. He ignores any restraints on his power as mandated by the Constitution.
In their 2016 article “Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism,” social scientists Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris also locate Trumpism as part of a global right-wing movement that is channeling what they describe as “retro backlash.” This is a feeling “especially among the older generation, white men, and less educated sectors, who sense decline and actively reject the rising tide of progressive values, resent the displacement of familiar traditional norms, and provide a pool of supporters potentially vulnerable to populist appeals.”
Trumpism is doing the work of “accelerationism” — an ideology which holds that the destruction of the existing social order must be hastened, regardless of the human cost, so that a new and “better” world can be created. Trumpism is a means through which a right-wing, reactionary version of accelerationism is being enacted in the United States.
Writing in the Guardian, Andy Beckett summarizes the goals of accelerationist thinkers: “They often favour the deregulation of business, and drastically scaled-back government. They believe that people should stop deluding themselves that economic and technological progress can be controlled. They often believe that social and political upheaval has a value in itself.”
Predictably, white supremacists and other right-wing terrorists have embraced accelerationism because they understand it to be a viable strategy for destroying multiracial society.
In their new award-winning research paper “A ‘Need for Chaos’ and the Sharing of Hostile Political Rumors in Advanced Democracies,” political scientists Michael Bang Petersen, Mathias Osmundsen and Kevin Arceneaux show that Donald Trump’s supporters are attracted to chaos and want to inflict it on others. They reached this conclusion by surveying a representative sample of approximately 6,000 people in Denmark (a country with comparatively low political polarization) and the United States.
The researchers asked the subjects if they agreed with the following statements:
I fantasize about a natural disaster wiping out most of humanity such that a small group of people can start all over
I think society should be burned to the ground
Sometimes I just feel like destroying beautiful things
There is no right and wrong in the world
The answers were compiled in an index that Petersen, Osmundsen and Arceneaux label as “Need for Chaos.” They do not bode well for liberal democracy. Nearly one in four respondents, 24 percent, agreed that society should be burned to the ground, while a remarkable 40 percent agreed with the statement, “We cannot fix the problems in our social institutions, we need to tear them down and start over.” Similarly, 40 percent agreed with the statement, “When it comes to our political and social institutions, I cannot help thinking ‘just let them all burn.’”
In their paper Petersen, Osmundsen, and Arceneaux describe their findings as “staggering.” They write:
The extreme discontent expressed in the “Need for Chaos” scale is a minority view but it is a minority view with incredible amounts of support. … A substantial minority of individuals are so discontent that they are willing to mobilize against the current political order to see if what emerges from the resulting chaos has something better in stock for them.
People who measure high in “Need for Chaos” are also more likely to circulate conspiracy theories online. This is done not out of sincere belief but rather from a desire to cause chaos and confusion.
Right-wing authoritarians — a group that strongly correlates with Trump supporters and Republicans — are also emotionally immature. This is the conclusion of social psychologist Alain Van Hiel and his colleagues in their new paper “The Relationship Between Emotional Abilities and Right-Wing and Prejudiced Attitudes.“ Van Hiel explained his findings to the website PsyPost
The results of this study were univocal. People who endorse authority and strong leaders and who do not mind inequality — the two basic dimensions underlying right-wing political ideology — show lower levels of emotional abilities.
When one includes the findings of other research showing that Trump supporters and other conservatives) are likely to exhibit what psychologists call the “dark triad” of human behavior — Machiavellianism, psychopathy and narcissism — we must consider the possibility of significant political violence if and when Trump is removed from office.