Press "Enter" to skip to content

Unmanned: Smallness Fuels Trumpism and ISIS

What do Trumpy men like Neal Tapio and Al Novstrup have in common with Osama bin Laden and radicalized Muslims?

This is not a joke. This is an observation by sociologist Michael Kimmel, author of Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, who tells the UK Guardian that the angry manly rage that fuels both ISIS and Trump stems from a sense of smallness:

He-Man pre-transformation
Wish I could take off these tights and go beat up some bad guys!

One of the most prescient observers of violence I’ve ever read, James Gilligan, wrote a book called Violence. He argued that shame and humiliation underlie basically all violence: “Because I feel small, I will make you feel smaller.”

In my interviews with extremists, both “actives” and “formers”, I have found time and time again that they have experienced that sense of humiliation and shame.

In his famous statement, Osama bin Laden talked about how the west had humiliated the Muslim world … that conservative Muslims have been humiliated by hyper-modern society and the cosmopolitan McDonaldization of the world. For them, restoring the seventh-century caliphate is their way of reinstating traditional masculinity.

I call this “aggrieved entitlement”. If you feel entitled and you have not gotten what you expected, that is a recipe for humiliation.

…The camaraderie of the community validates their masculinity, and – even more importantly than that – gives them a sacred mission. That is really powerful for these guys [J. Oliver Conroy, “‘Angry White Men’: The Sociologist Who Studied Trump’s Base Before Trump,” UK Guardian, 2017.02.27].

When a group—for example, South Dakota Republicans—goes looking for someone to pick on—for example, refugees, gay parents, non-Christians, environmental protestorslow-wage workers—that’s a fair sign the group has some issues of its own it needs to work out… preferably in some way other than passing offensive legislation or electing an unqualified President.


  1. Porter Lansing 2017-02-28 11:31

    TurdStrup Group’s (Tapio – Curd – Novstrup including you know whom, from FreePress comments) hate for Muslims isn’t about Muslims. It’s about hating somebody long enough to distract from the fact that they’re really hating themselves. Hating themselves for their fear of the unknown and their inability to change when change is so necessary, right now. Hating themselves for their fear of women and especially women’s rights. Hating themselves for their lack of ability to build anything worthwhile and lasting. When your only skill in Pierre is cutting spending eventually the state ends up so far behind the blue states that it’s only hope is to beg more money from Washington just to pay it’s bills. Elect someone with the skills to build and build with fiscal propriety. South Dakota deserves to be respected among it’s peers.

  2. Richard Schriever 2017-02-28 11:55

    It’s really the coupling of that feeling of “smallness” or humiliation with a profound lack of capacity for sympathy that makes the Trumpists a threat.

  3. bearcreekbat 2017-02-28 12:00

    Richard, perhaps a lack of empathy is also a critical factor.

  4. Richard Schriever 2017-02-28 12:01

    And it is the capacity for sympathy that is the central lesson of the Christian story. Those that lack a capacity for sympathy have a great deal of trouble in implementation of Christian principles. In fact, I have found many of the strongest proponents of Trump and Trumpyness to fall into the category of those Corey mentions earlier here denigrating the Lutheran Social Services folks providing assistance to refugees. Not only do they lack a Christian capacity for sympathy – they hate those that do.

  5. jerry 2017-02-28 12:06

    It’s all about the money. Follow the money always. They speak about hate while they line their pockets with the windfalls their masters. Why do you think they killed the IM22? This is about money and corruption.

  6. Troy 2017-02-28 13:05

    You guys are hilarious. Your crackpot phycho-analysis says more about yourselves than anyone.

    Group hugs, group think, and affirmation in your smallness. Feel better? Need a trophy too?

  7. Porter Lansing 2017-02-28 13:11

    It appears we’re a little to close to Troy’s opinion of himself. His comment is text book projection.

  8. Roger Cornelius 2017-02-28 13:20

    When I saw the title of this post that included Trumpism and smallness I thought it would be about 45’s tiny little hands.

    Wouldn’t 45’s daily chorus of lies and alternative facts also propel this hatred that has taken over the country?

    One of Trump’s lies today, and we have his speech to look forward to, was on FOX & Friends this morning where he is now claiming that President Obama is behind all the raucous town hall meetings.

  9. Roger Cornelius 2017-02-28 13:26

    Without realizing it Troy has proven the point of this article by going on the attack against people he vehemently disagrees with, he too is an angry white man.

  10. Richard Schriever 2017-02-28 13:31

    Right – because no one else could possibly have the same experienced a level of humiliation Troy has. His is a unique and irreplicable life. It is closed off to full understanding, as is – he imagines, everyone else’s. Projection is, of course, the precise opposite to sympathy (recognizing others’ sufferings in one’s own life).

  11. Kristi 2017-02-28 13:39

    It goes beyond just the idea of shame/humiliation/feeling small; ithis has a lot to do with how we view masculinity — and white masculinity especially — culturally. Masculinity is traditionally defined by dominance — physical, financial, or political — so a large part of this movement of “angry white men” is coming out of them seeing others gain the same sort of privileges they have always enjoyed and calling that “oppression.” For example, Dale Spender did research in Australia that looked at how much different genders talked in conversations. When Spencer asked students to evaluate their perception of who talked more in a given discussion, women were pretty accurate; but men perceived the discussion as being “equal” when women talked only 15% of the time, and the discussion as being dominated by women if they talked only 30% of the time. Basically masculinity is a zero-sum game and we can see the direct effects of that ideology in politics right now even beyond the hate-mongering of statements like “all Mexicans are rapists and criminals” but by the rise of hyper-partisanism.

  12. Porter Lansing 2017-02-28 14:04

    Excellent , Kristi and Richard. The people who read FreePress are the best ad the brightest.

  13. Darin Larson 2017-02-28 14:49

    Troy, I’ll channel Cory here and ask why you won’t address the merits of the article that Cory cited or the article that Super Sweet cited?

    Do you have an answer to the question of why certain Republicans overreact to the prospect of well vetted refugees entering our country? Do you have an answer to the question of why Mr. Novstrup said that a city in Michigan was operating under Sharia law? Do you have an explanation for the mindset of the guy in Kansas who shot the two engineers from India? He also shot an American who stood up for the guys from India who thinks that Trump should address the issue:

  14. mike from iowa 2017-02-28 15:14

    Group hugs, group think, and affirmation in your smallness. Feel better? Need a trophy too?

    Famous words someone should have beat into the cheeto faced, mangled apricot hellbeast bawl baby Drumpf.

    Even a Troy can almost get it right on occasion.

  15. Donald Pay 2017-02-28 16:32

    The authoritarian personality has been studied since the end of World War II. I remember reading some of the first research on this in a sociology class at Augustana. The idea of studying the syndrome came from trying to understand how Germans fell in line behind Hitler and did or allowed such evil as the Nazis did. I think a feeling of weakness deepens the syndrome. I found a recent article on this, which referred to a redefinition in the 1980s.

    Here is an excerpt:

    “In the early 1980s, Bob Altemeyer, a professor at the University of Manitoba, refined the work with the F-scale and came up with a new definition of the authoritarian personality. Altemeyer renamed the authoritarian personality ‘right-wing authoritarianism’ (RWA) and defined it as having three related dimensions. These were: a submission towards authorities, endorsement of aggressive behaviour if sanctioned by authorities, and a high level of conventionalism – that is conforming to old traditions and values.”

    The article is interesting, and it points up that a major part of the problem is not the authoritarian leader, but the follwers. Far more scary to me than Trump, are Trump’s supporters. Trump can be impeached, but the authoritarian syndrome will live on in much of the population. I think it explains a lot, including terrorist sects and gang behavior.

    What’s important, I think, is that a person with an authoritarian personality doesn’t necessarily have to act out in mean or vicious ways, unless the behavior is approved of, or at least not disapproved of, by authority figures. In normal times, authoritarian personalities are more likely to follow church leaders, upper level military leaders, or corporate CEOs. Yeah, not people I want to follow, but generally not evil. When the authority figures, such as Hitler, al Zarkawi or Donald Trump, encourage various kinds of evil and give it an underpinning of patriotism, and/or religious zealotry, it becomes all the more potent to the authoritarian personality.

  16. Jana 2017-02-28 16:34

    Troy’s just channeling his inner authoritarian and love of Putin. The good news for Troy is that over at the FAKE news blog, John Thune is boasting about Wilbur Ross as Sec of Commerce.

    I do believe that this is the same guy who has strong ties to Russia (imagine that in a Trump administration) and his leadership of the Bank of Cyprus. But hey, Ronald Reagan is dead and we no longer have to be afraid of Russia…except for spending $54,000,000,000 on making sure we are staying ahead of the evil empire. He is an expert at bankruptcy, so good bye national debt.

    But I’m sure he went through extreme vetting like Flynn. Sigh.

    Good job John Thune. Please let us know where you are going to find that $54B while still masquerading as serving the people of South Dakota.

  17. Porter Lansing 2017-02-28 17:19

    That’s very perceptive, Jana. Troy and the TurdStrup Boys have grown overly conservative and possessive. They no longer dream of creating new ideas or projects; their identities are set, their habits congealed, and their rigidity makes them easier targets. Everyone knows their next move. Instead of demanding respect they elicit boredom: Get off the stage! We say let someone else, someone younger, lead us. When locked in the past, the powerful look comical—they are overripe fruit, waiting to fall from the tree.

  18. Ryan Deplorable 2017-03-01 08:32

    “Hating themselves for their fear of women’s rights.” – Porter Lansing

    That comment makes zero sense. These senators calling for extreme vetting of refugees, refugees coming from countries that literally treat their women as sub-humans. Explain to me how that correlates to their fear of women’s rights.

  19. Troy 2017-03-01 09:46


    Why should I reply when the assertion premise is people who support Trump are angry or suffer from an “ism” or are some type of “ist.” Anything which generalizes to that degree is not worth responding to. Unlike you folks who talk about conservatives, I actually know them and talk to them. I think the guy who wrote those articles loves to smear those with whom he disagrees.

    How about you respond to the assertion that the reason liberals raise “self-esteem” all the time isn’t because of sympathy but instead it is empathy because they all suffer from self-esteem issues? Or respond to the assertion that you advocate on behalf of the poor not because you care about them but are actually assuaging your guilt because you don’t care about them? Be the same thing idiocy as the author of those pieces.

    CH, not sure I’d be proud to be that predictable. :)

  20. Daniel Buresh 2017-03-01 09:56

    Where is the clapping emoji for Troy….He deserves it.

  21. Richard Schriever 2017-03-01 10:54

    To summarize Troy – “I know you are, but what am I?”

  22. Daniel Buresh 2017-03-01 11:09

    Richard, that’s the only response warranted when responding to toddlers.

  23. Darin Larson 2017-03-01 11:56

    Troy, I asked your response concerning the conduct of “certain Republicans” and how that might relate to the articles Cory and Super Sweet cited. I did not paint every supporter of Trump in the same manner and I fail to see how this is not a subject for serious discussion.

    Trump supporters are varied. Some support him just because they want conservative justices appointed to the Supreme Court. Others support him for his pro-business policies or promise to cut taxes. But a certain portion of Trump supporters–let’s call them the Deplorables ;-) — are clearly xenophobic and hateful people. They have a need to hate other people. There is no logic or reason to their position concerning refugees.

    An infinitesimal number of refugees have committed terrorist acts, but it serves Trump’s political purposes to serve them up as red meat to his Deplorables. As a percentage of the population, we have a much higher percentage of home grown terrorists than terrorists that were refugees. Not only is the number of terrorists who were refugees infinitesimal, but the magnitude of the terrorist acts committed by these folks is infinitesimal. I think your chances of being killed in a terrorist attack by either homegrown or refugee terrorists is less than your chance of being struck by lighting twice in your lifetime.

    If you listen to the experts on messaging with regard to the war against radical Islamic terrorism, Trump’s rhetoric plays right into the narrative that the terrorists are trying to portray–that is the West is at war with Islam. This rhetoric by Trump and many of his right-wing followers has made us less safe. In the age of Trump, home grown radicals can be more easily seduced to follow the notion that America is at war with Islam and that they are called to Jihad.

    Explaining the mindset of Trump and his Deplorables is a serious discussion. You can argue that his policies aren’t based upon his character flaws or that his policies are in fact effective at fighting the war on terror. However, you can’t seriously dismiss the discussion of these issues as if they were the equivalent of name-calling. These Trump policies have been questioned by many national security experts and the psychiatric underpinnings of his policies are certainly fodder for debate. If Trump and his ilk can question Obama’s legitimacy 7 years into his presidency, I think Trump’s psychological condition and motivations are fair game as well.

  24. Troy 2017-03-01 15:35


    Before I answer your questions, I need to know how many liberals are compensating

    1) For their hatred of women by voting for the liberal feminist agenda and being soft on the anti-women Muslim countries?
    2) For their hatred of the poor by relishing and supporting the liberal poverty programs which are making poverty worse?
    3) For their envy and lack of personal ability to hold down a job are socialists because they will be taken care of?

    Plus, don’t forget my self-esteem assertion from before.

    And, before we get into the head of Trump, I’d like to get some answers about Hillary. You know she presents some markers for being a battered woman and because she is intelligent she is better than most at masking and rationalizing the manifestations of being battered.

    Or maybe you can just quit trying to psycho-babble and assuming those with whom we disagree are suffering from some psychosis. It makes you look small.

  25. bearcreekbat 2017-03-01 15:56

    If this helps, these are my answers to Troy’s questions based on the preponderance of the evidence that I have been exposed to:

    (1) none
    (2) none
    (3) none
    (extra credit) not battered.

  26. Troy 2017-03-01 16:35


    While we are psycho-babbling, I wonder what we can psycho-analyze from the fact Trump last night referenced himself 60% less than Obama did in his first address. Obama the “narcissist in chief?” Trump, “Mr Humility”?

  27. Troy 2017-03-01 16:52


    Perfect article for the subject. That Eric Alterman sure comes across as angry, pathological, irrational, and small. I’ll bet he also never took a logic class because he is having trouble sticking with only one logic fallacy. The guy uses multiple logic fallacies which contradict with himself in the prior and following paragraph. Takes some serious pathology challenges to pull that off.

  28. Darin Larson 2017-03-01 16:54

    Troy, my answers to your questions are the same as bcb.

    I disagree with many conservative commentators about many issues: the effect of trickle down economics/supply side economics, the effect of the minimum wage on low-wage earners, and the existence and effect of climate change, to name a few such issues. However, I don’t usually question their mental state. On the other hand, I find conservatives routinely accuse liberals of acting on emotion and impulse rather than reason and logic.

    I don’t assume that someone I disagree with is suffering from psychosis, but Donald Trump is no ordinary head case. He seems to have acquired many of the worst characteristics that a leader could be endowed with: hubris, egomania, narcissism, lack of empathy, selfishness and prolific dishonesty, to name a few.

    I don’t think it is small minded to examine the possible motives and mental states that inform an understanding of what makes Donald Trump tick. He is the most powerful man in the world with the capacity to press a button and destroy the world. I think it is my business and entirely proper to delve into the mental state of a man who could change the course of humanity for a number of reasons. Heck, there were many Republicans before the election that didn’t think that Trump was fit to be president. Some of them were even willing to vote for Hillary Clinton, rather than Trump, because of their concerns about his temperament and mental fitness. Now, you are telling me that questioning Trump’s mental processes makes me look small. Well, then I guess I am tiny.

    P.S. If you want to argue about Trump’s policies, I have invited you to explain how discriminating against Muslim refugees makes America safer and how Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims makes us safer. You haven’t taken me up on defending Trump’s strategery.

  29. mike from iowa 2017-03-01 17:00

    Troy on “Unmanned: Smallness …”: Bear/Darin, While we are psycho-babbling, I won…

    Typical Troy, bragging about winning because he is arrogant, small minded and a wingnut.

  30. Darin Larson 2017-03-01 17:08

    Troy, I understand. If the Democrats had elected a narcissistic, xenophobic, misogynistic, casino mogul with a penchant for grabbing women’s crotches and walking out on his bills, I would not want to talk about them either. Carry on!

  31. leslie 2017-03-01 17:08

    troy, the democratic party is “angry, pathological, irrational, and small.” republicans stole ANOTHER election! Your response sounds like a trump response.

    btw, you are a financial guy, … why is trump insisting for our national security eurpeans pay 2% gdp, but he and you republicans are protecting the 1% yahdahyahdah from paying taxes? Sure is expensive protecting billionaires, as grieving window is forced into prostitution to the republican party at the SOTS address.

  32. leslie 2017-03-01 17:16

    Seal widow

  33. Troy 2017-03-01 17:27


    I reject your premise. I don’t think Trump is discriminating against Muslim refugees nor do I think his rhetoric is anti-Muslim. And I answered that despite you psychobabbling various “ics” about Trump.

    Not being small is really hard for you liberals isn’t it? You can’t even avoid it when it is the subject at hand.

  34. leslie 2017-03-01 17:28

    determined that those service members have violated the spirit and intent of applicable DoD regulations concerning the Seals flying of trump flags and the apparent endorsement of political activities. Administrative corrective measures were taken with each individual based on their respective responsibility.”
    [A special warfare unit was spotted flying a Trump flag in public. Now the Navy is investigating.]

    a combat correspondent based at the Navy Annex in Arlington, Va.:
    “Ooh-rah comes from the places in our hearts … conceived in sweat, nurtured with drill. It is raw determination and gut-wrenching courage….”
    The Navy, generally satisfied with its own time-proven “aye, aye, sir!” —

  35. Darin Larson 2017-03-01 17:29

    Here’s a good psycho-analysis case for you Troy: why is Trump considering giving up operational control of some dangerous missions? Well, the buck doesn’t exactly stop at his desk. The generals were really responsible for the death of petty officer Ryan:

    It is probably best if Trump can just take credit for successful missions and not have to explain missions that are not successful.

    See a practical effect of our narcissistic President! The Pentagon is learning to only win and that any losses are not attributed to Mein Fuhrer!

  36. Darin Larson 2017-03-01 17:36

    Troy, Thank you for telling me that you don’t think that Trump’s language is anti-Muslim. But tell that to the Muslims and the national security experts who do think that Trump’s rhetoric is a problem.

  37. bearcreekbat 2017-03-01 17:38

    Troy, when you say:

    I wonder what we can psycho-analyze from the fact Trump last night referenced himself 60% less than Obama did in his first address.

    this raises these questions, among many others:

    (1) Assuming your statement is factually accurate, did you make that count by going over the transcripts of each speech to count and compare the self references, or did you just keep track in your head after hearing each speech and remember the count?

    (2) Can you provide any context for the 60% comparison self references, such as comparing the self reference quality of comments like:

    “I want to thank so and so and I want to thank my family” (3 self references – “I, I, my”); with

    “I had the biggest, and greatest, most fantastic wonderful crowds ever” (only 1 one self reference – “I”) type self-references?

  38. Troy 2017-03-01 18:46


    It was an article I saw. And you are right a review of the methodology would be warranted to assess its accuracy. Which is exactly my point. The very original post CH referenced also needs to be analyzed but since it fed the liberal bias, no critical analysis was done, you all jumped on it as Gospel and then said I should address the point.

    Psycobabble Is not going to do anything but isolate the two sides in their own bias.

  39. Troy 2017-03-02 05:48


    Yes we learn a lot about his Tweets. How well he understands how to cause liberals to go apoplectic and look deranged to those in the middle. You liberals are easy to play like puppets.

  40. Darin Larson 2017-03-02 08:52

    Troy, it is funny that you make your derisive comments about liberals and playing people like puppets when you have been criticizing the tone of arguments on here. You basically haven’t addressed anything of substance in this entire thread.

  41. Troy 2017-03-02 10:12


    Everything I have said is using sarcasm to highlight the foolishness of the psycho-babble and attempt to psycho-analyze a conglomeration of people.

  42. bearcreekbat 2017-03-02 11:49

    One of my favorite aspects of Cory’s posts is the frequent encouragement to think about various topics and to discuss the merits of ideas with other readers. This post is no different.

    Those who choose to respond to the discussion by name calling, sarcasm and questioning the appropriateness of even having the discussion, may be missing a great opportunity to either convince others of a different position or perhaps actually learn something new from other commentors.

  43. Roger Cornelius 2017-03-02 13:33

    “Somebody told me that”, Donald Trump lying about his Electoral College landslide.
    “It was an article I saw”, Troy responding to Bear about the number of times Trump and President Obama saying “I” in a speech.
    Sounds pretty much like the same thing, don’t you think?

  44. mike from iowa 2017-03-02 17:27

    Good read, Bear. Thanks.

Comments are closed.