A view from Dave Trott: The politics of humiliation
A view from Dave Trott

The politics of humiliation

Everyone is struggling to understand the rise of populism in politics.

When Donald Trump is so obviously awful, how can his base still support him with all the evidence against him?

Trump understands this effect – he said: “I could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and I wouldn’t lose a single vote.”

Democrats keep repeating how awful he is, and how stupid his followers are.

They humiliate his supporters and expect them to admit they are thick and  ignorant.

Then they wonder why this argument doesn’t persuade them to change their vote.

The blue collars may not like Trump, but they hate being humiliated by people who think they are superior.

Michael Sandel, lecturer on political philosophy at Harvard, has written a book called The Tyranny of Merit.

His point is the myth of a meritocracy is what’s brought us to this point.

The myth that anyone with a college degree is more intelligent, more hard-working, better informed than anyone without.

This leads to the politics of humiliation, and it also breeds a massive backlash.

In America the smug, educated left-wing bred the indignant Trump supporters.

After the USSR fell, the West humiliated Russia as losers, which lead to the rise of Putin the “strong man”, who would restore Russian pride.

After World War One, the Armistice was a chance to reconcile both sides.

But the treaty of Versailles put all the blame on Germany, humiliating and bankrupting them.

This lead directly to the rise of Hitler, to “restore German pride”.

Intellectual arrogance is so assured of its own rightness, no other opinion is possible.

So the other side are treated as deluded fools.

Consequently a backlash is created.

As Nelson Mandela said: “There is nobody more dangerous than one who has been humiliated.”

It’s important for us to know the seductive danger of intellectual superiority.

Our target market will often be people who are not like us.

At university, we learn our purpose is to educate the world to a woke agenda.

It’s a noble quest and anything else is ignorant and stupid.

We bring this into advertising and believe that is the whole purpose of our job.

We believe everyone is like us and must see the correctness of our opinion.

But 60% of the UK doesn’t have a university degree.

They’ve never been to university, so they may not (gasp) think like us.

This disparity between those making the advertising and those viewing it results in advertising like the Gillette commercial on “toxic masculinity”.

Where a brand of razor decided to lecture all men on how they should behave.

How did this marketing by humiliation work out?

Gillette had to cancel the advertising, wasting millions of dollars, and apologise.

Patronising arrogance led to Kylie Jenner stopping a riot by handing a policeman a Pepsi.

Pepsi had to cancel the advertising, again wasting millions of dollars, and apologise.

As Sandel says, “The Tyranny of Merit” leads to the intellectual smugness of thinking the sole job of advertising is to propagate a woke agenda.

Believing that every right-thinking person must think exactly like us.

Those who don’t think like us are wrong and therefore not worth considering.

They can safely be ignored.

Even if they are the target market.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three