Last month, Waleed Aly proclaimed that Donald Trump is no laughing matter, and promised that between then and the election, he wouldn’t joke about the then-presidential candidate.
I don’t think he ever believed that Trump would win, and now his contract with the audience has expired.
Tuesday night on Channel Ten’s The Project, freed by his self-imposed constraints, Aly was once again joking about Trump.
He referred to him as “crazy”. And maybe you could dismiss it as lighthearted banter, but I don’t think that’s an acceptable excuse anymore.
Aly knows better.
He explained to everyone why we shouldn’t call Trump crazy in a segment filmed in New York after the US election last week. But I’m not sure he covered the whole point.
Lighthearted or not. Stop saying it:
Social psychology 101
It’s basic in-group/out-group theory. When we do not agree with another person’s opinions, we paint them as the enemy.
We ascribe terms to them that make them seem less than human. We call them ludicrous, crazed, clowns, and it’s a slippery slope to calling them dogs or pigs. It makes it easier for us to defend our own beliefs of what is right and wrong in the world.
It also serves to polarise them even further.
When we dehumanise others, we deny them attributes that we typically associate with being human – the capacity to think rationally, to have emotions, to reason, to be intelligent. It’s just easier to say, “they’re so not like me, they’re not even human”.
The 60 Minutes smirk
On Monday night, Aly introduced the portion of Donald Trump’s 60 Minutes interview that involved the President-elect’s four adult children.
Tiffany, Trump’s 23-year-old daughter, has recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a major in sociology and urban studies, and is in the process of applying to law school.
This seemed like a bit of a tough pill for Aly to swallow, based on his smirk. Why? Because only humans can get a law degree; and only intelligent and educated humans at that.
Intelligence and education are two qualities that are very important to Aly. Indeed, they are qualities that are core to his identity.
And perhaps it was a challenge for him to acknowledge that a daughter of Donald Trump might have something in common with himself. Because that makes her more like him, more human.
You decide. Watch the intro to the 60 Minutes interview below:’
I’m using Waleed Aly as an example, but it’s not just him.
Last week my social media feed became a platform for moral righteousness, with people preaching messages of tolerance and acceptance. But part of being tolerant and accepting is about understanding that we are all human beings.
Sometimes people have different opinions, sometimes people behave in ways that others might not think are ‘right’, but that doesn’t make them any less human.
People can continue to argue that the presidential election outcome does not suit their ideas of a moral and just world, but we should remain mindful that over 60 million people went to the polls and made a decision to vote for Donald Trump.
That’s like the entire population of Australia going and voting for Trump, twice. And then half of us going out there and voting for him again.
Many of these people had needs that they felt were not being met. Not higher moral needs about fairness or justice, but basic needs for food, jobs and safety. And there must be some morality in seeking to understand their position.
Donald Trump is not crazy
Donald Trump is not crazy. He is not a madman, nor a psychopath.
He is a very clever businessman and he has contested and won the US presidency. He beat one of America’s most successful political families for the top job. He actually beat the politicians at politics.
And he has appealed to more than 60 million Americans who were motivated to vote for him. Are they all crazy too? Or do they have a different opinion about what will better suit their needs at this point in time?
It’s easy to decide that people who have different opinions to your own must be crazy. It’s much harder to understand them.
Dr Melissa Weinberg is a research consultant and psychologist, specialising in wellbeing and performance psychology. You can view her TEDx talk here.