My all-time favorite movie is “Casablanca,” and one of my favorite lines from it is when Capt. Louis Renault says he’s “shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on” while
collecting his personal gambling winnings. As a psychologist, whenever people tell me they’re “shocked” by something that hasn’t shocked them in the past, I suspect that there’s more to the story. In Capt. Renault’s case, it was pressure from a Nazi officer to shut down a casino after many of its patrons voiced support for Allied France in World War II. But what about the many present-day anti-Trump politicians and media personalities who say they’re “shocked, shocked to find that a president may’ve been unfaithful to his wife a decade ago”?
I’m calling this “Trumpic Shock Syndrome,” and several years ago, after a slew of public figures excoriated celebrity chef Paula Deen for allegedly having uttered a racially-insensitive word decades prior, I coined another term “Deening.” To “Deen” someone is to make a big show of how “shocked” you are by the person’s words or behavior when you’re really not shocked — you’re just trying to show how virtuous you are in comparison to that person. (Since then, this phenomenon has been discussed in social-science circles by a more scientific name, “virtue signaling.”) But if you’re going to “Deen” someone successfully, you generally need to have a history of being consistently “shocked” by similarly “shocking” words or behaviors. “Trumpic Shock Syndrome” sufferers generally don’t seem to have that history.
They don’t seem to have been similarly “shocked” by revelations of JFK’s infidelity while president. Is that simply because JFK lost his life in the service of our nation, so now they’re loath to besmirch his memory? Apparently not, because they don’t seem to have been similarly “shocked” by revelations of Bill Clinton’s infidelity while president either, and Clinton’s alive and well. If President Trump went around preaching about how to be a morally-exemplary husband/human, then they could understandably be “shocked” by the hypocrisy in that, but Trump really hasn’t claimed to be a model of morality. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, on the other hand, has gone around preaching about morality, yet they don’t seem to have been similarly “shocked” by revelations of his infidelity either.
Lest anyone get me wrong, having conducted forensic psychological assessments of many profoundly-untrustworthy people, from white-collar criminals to murderers, I actually do think that someone’s untrustworthiness at home is reason to doubt his or her trustworthiness at work. It’s rare that someone is profoundly untrustworthy in one venue and profoundly trustworthy in all others. What’s more, politicians’ infidelity puts more than their marriages at risk — it exposes them to blackmail, which puts all of us at risk. But oftentimes — as much as it pains me to write this — our elections don’t present us with simple choices between trustworthy candidates and untrustworthy candidates. All too often, if we vote, we’re forced to choose between two untrustworthy candidates or between an untrustworthy candidate who promises to do everything we want and a trustworthy candidate who promises to do nothing we want.
So, if those who now claim to be “shocked to find that a president may’ve committed adultery a decade ago” really aren’t so shocked, and they’re not “Deening” the president, then what’s the “more” to their story? While I don’t presume that it’s necessarily exactly the same for all of them, I think that many of them are afraid — afraid that this president is actually succeeding, on national defense, on border security, on public safety, on taxes, on employment, on healthcare…; afraid that Donald J. Trump, imperfect though he is, just might prove that things they’ve said for decades can’t be done can be done; so afraid that they’re grasping at salacious straws which they themselves have belittled as petty and irrelevant in the past. Now that’s some shock-worthy hypocrisy.
Brian Russell wanted to learn how people could live together as peacefully and prosperously as possible, so he studied what makes us tick (and got a Ph.D. in clinical psychology), how public policy keeps us in line (and got a law degree), and what motivates us to do our best (and got an M.B.A.). Then, he put theory to the test, practicing both psychology and law, starting his own small businesses, consulting with business leaders and lawmakers, and traveling the world comparing what does and doesn’t work in 40 societies. Now, he shares his expertise in people, public policy, and productivity on national television and radio, in his book, "Stop Moaning, Start Owning: How Entitlement Is Ruining America and How Personal Responsibility Can Fix It," and here on Newsmax. Learn more at DrBrianRussell.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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