Author`s name David R. Hoffman

The folly of loyalty in Trump's America

Several years ago, I worked as an adjunct (part-time) instructor at a local college. During that time, I received excellent evaluations from both my students and peers, I was given a prestigious award for my contributions to the college, and my department chair repeatedly expressed her desire to hire me full-time. 

Thanks to these encouragements, and the fact that I enjoyed teaching and worked hard to give my students a quality education in my area of expertise, I was very loyal to the college and especially to this department chair.

So, when several full-time positions arose, she not only asked me to apply, she was also in charge of the committee responsible for selecting and interviewing candidates.

You can imagine my surprise when, a couple of months after applying, I was told I had not even been selected for an interview. I later found out from another member of the committee that this same department chair had actually circulated an e-mail saying it might be expedient to give me a pretextual interview since, in her opinion, maintaining the illusion I could eventually obtain a full-time position would keep me a "loyal, part-time instructor."

I'm sure that many, if not most, readers could share similar stories about a friend, relative, colleague, lover, and/or employer who would routinely pontificate about "loyalty," and yet stabbed you in the back the minute the opportunity arose.

I thought about this after the January 6, 2021 Trump incited insurrection against the United States Capitol Building. I wondered how many of these insurrectionists, out of a misguided and inexplicable loyalty to a corrupt, mendacious, racist, self-serving conman-who promised to "lead" them to the Capitol, but then conveniently retreated to the White House, leaving them to do his dirty work-might still be sitting in prison cells years from now while Trump sips martinis in his mansion or is on the golf course. (Although some commentators are concerned that, in a final act of corrupt defiance, Trump might actually pardon these insurrectionists. But if he does it will not be due to him possessing even a modicum of loyalty, because, according to a report in The Independent, Trump's primary concern was not with the destruction and death that transpired thanks to his bidding, but instead that these insurrectionists appeared to be too "low class" for him.)

In numerous Pravda.Report articles, I discussed how many politicians, including Trump, utilize Hitler's "great lie" theory.  For those unfamiliar with this, the premise is simple: While people might reject "little" lies told by their leaders, because such lies are easily recognizable, they will often willingly and obsequiously accept "great lies," especially when they are incessantly repeated and reduced to simplistic slogans.

The flaw in the "great lie" theory is when people decide to research and seek evidence to determine the truth for themselves. In fact, I honestly thought, at its inception, that the rise of the Internet would mean the fall of the "great lie" theory, because when research can be accomplished at the touch of a button, great lies can be quickly dispelled.

But, as I stated in my article The Internet-Gateway to Stupidity (December 21, 2020), the opposite has occurred. Since the Internet is essentially a buffet, people can readily ignore anything on it that does not comport with their preconceptions, and only consume what substantiates their beliefs, no matter how spurious that information might be.

So, when you fuse the power of the Internet with unscrupulous people willing to disseminate great lies, and combine this with platitudes about "loyalty," it is easy to see that the Trump inspired siege on the Capitol was not a matter of if, but when.

Yet, what has always puzzled me is how, particularly in an allegedly individualistic culture like America, so many people can be so deliberately blind and obediently deaf to not understand that demagogues like Trump are always more than willing to exploit the loyalty of their followers, but not so eager to reciprocate it.

I have developed four theories that I believe might explain these self-inflicted sensory deprivations that create the folly of loyalty.

The first is the Catalyst Theory. Those who practice this theory are not necessarily loyal to a person, but to ideologies, and thus they will display fealty to any leader who shares, or pretends to share, their views; thus, people like Trump become a catalyst for them to engage in violence, but not the sole reason.

The second is the Enabler Theory. Under this theory, loyalty to a leader is actually self-serving:  Lackeys feign loyalty in the hope they will reap some reward or benefit.

America is currently reaping the repercussions of this. Numerous politicians and administration officials who spent years with their lips firmly implanted on Trump's flatulent behind are now denouncing him.  And those who continued to play the "election fraud" game, like the despicable Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, (who dreamed of becoming "heroes" in Trump's alternate reality) have now deservedly become pariahs.

The third is the Reverse Psychology Theory. This theory posits that the more frequently and intensely people are told they are being foolish for supporting a particular leader, and/or that their personal interests are actually being hurt by this leader, the more loyalty they devote to him or her.

Think of this analogy, which I'm sure a lot of gamblers have felt at one time. You are playing a slot machine and have already lost $1,000-the limit you budgeted for gambling. If you walk away, you feel foolish for losing this money, but if you continue to put more money in, hoping to recoup your losses but failing, you fear you will feel even more foolish.

The difference is that walking away is an admission of finality: You've basically acknowledged your folly.  On the other hand, spending more money retains a thread of hope that, if you do hit the jackpot, you can claim you acted wisely, and if you lose you can invent some excuse, no matter how ridiculous, to rationalize your actions.

The fourth is the Investment Theory. This theory works hand-in-hand with the Reverse Psychology Theory.

I experienced a real-life example of this when I practiced law. I was defending a client accused of attacking another person. Prior to trial, I showed the deputy prosecutor pictures of the wounds my client had suffered in the attack; a report that proved my client had called the police immediately, while the alleged "victim" waited more than two hours before making a complaint; and I played answering machine recordings of how the alleged "victim," during this two hour gap, repeatedly called my client to threaten and boast about assaulting him. Even the investigating officer told this prosecutor that my client had been the victim, not the aggressor.

But, for every piece of evidence we displayed, this prosecutor invented some excuse to discount it, and her explanations were so ludicrous that it became evident she was so deeply and emotionally invested into convicting my client that nothing, no matter how factual, was going to change her mind.

Applying this same obstinance to loyalty, it is easy to see how the Reverse Psychology Theory lures people into rationalizing their support for a demagogue like Trump, and how the Investment Theory instills in them an illogical and rabid unwillingness to later admit their loyalty was misplaced.

This is demonstrated by the fact that, in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection, many of Trump's followers tried to claim that it was "leftist" activists disguised as Trump supporters that committed the carnage, despite the fact that the social media footprints of many, if not most, of those arrested contained extreme right-wing viewpoints and some even admitted they were responding to a Twitter request from Trump. In addition, the FBI flatly stated that there was no evidence that any leftist groups had participated.

When the truth be told, there is nothing wrong with people respecting and admiring leaders. But giving fanatical, unwavering, and misguided loyalty to another human being can be, and often is, an invitation to exploitation and/or betrayal.

The late, great anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko once said:

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

Thanks to the inane, ego-driven, and now deadly antics of Trump, the second most potent weapon is loyalty.

Topics