What do schadenfreude, Trump, politics, and social media have in common? In my opinion, a lot. First, let’s tackle that weird looking word “schadenfreude”. The origin of the word is disputed and debated but most agree that it’s German. The word that refers to the feeling of pleasure from another person’s misfortune.
This concept of pleasure from other’s misfortune can be traced back to as far as biblical times. From the Book of Proverbs mentioning an emotion close to schadenfreude: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displeases him, and he turn away his wrath from him.” (Proverbs 24:17–18, King James Version) to Iago in the play Othello, as he mocks Othello’s suffering. Schadenfreude is even more present today. Just look at twitter for example. Many of the videos that go viral are of someone else’s misfortune. It can be as simple as someone slipping on a wet floor in a humorous way to a less than funny video of an individual finding out they have been cheated on. Look at reality shows like Bad Girls Club. There are numerous instances of schadenfreude being played out in shows like that. Our media in some fashion has been revolving around schadenfreude.
There’s been research done on this phenomenon recently. A recent study from Ohio State University suggests that people use social media to manage their moods. The study found that when people are feeling down about themselves, they start to show more interest in the less attractive, less successful people on social media. So, does this mean that nowadays we love to see other people fail if it makes us feel better about our own failures? Honestly, who knows. I’d personally like to think that regular people aren’t like that but schadenfreude isn’t a new concept. It has just been enhanced with the advent of social media.
Right! Social media. In my opinion, social media helped Trump get elected and that in turn has changed how any future candidate is going to run their campaign. Trump isn’t the first to use social media effectively. I believe that Obama was the first one to use the medium successfully, especially on his reelection campaign. However, Trump’s use of social media was by far more potent. To understand this, you must first understand Mr. Trump’s history and business practices.
To begin, the company that Trump now (used) to run was founded in 1923 by his grandmother Elizabeth Trump and father Fred Trump. The company was called Elizabeth Trump & Son at the time. The company had interests in real estate development, investing, brokerage, sales and marketing, and property management. Before Fred handed the reins of the company to his son in 1971 the company was going through a credibility crisis. Fred had lost millions of dollars to the state of New York. The transition of making Donald president was, in part, because the company needed a new face from the loss of credibility. In 1974 Donald rebranded the company and renamed his enterprise the Trump Organization. At the point of rebranding, the conglomerate comprised of more than sixty separate enterprises. Mr. Trump’s takeover led to a dramatic change in the business strategy of the company. You have to give credit where credit is due and his approach towards publicity was smart. He took his dad’s idea of marketing and put it on ultra drive. Fred was more focused on local real estate, mainly Brooklyn. Mr. Trump had bigger ambitions. Donald’s goal was to transform himself into a living brand. A brand that screamed success and luxury. To that end, he sought out as much media attention as he could get (which he would later use to in the 2016 election). Reasons why you see him in past WWE events and the very reason the apprentice was so successful. Trump knew how to work the media to sell his brand and himself.
Furthermore, I think many of us fail to realize how smart of a man Trump really is. I still think he’s an idiot but just a smart idiot if you catch my drift. If you think a man who used the media to sell his brand did not in some way or fashion use the same platform to help his election you are being disingenuous to the genius of Trump. I’m sure that Trump doesn’t know what schadenfreude is. However, he can thank it for his seat in the oval office and why he has a lot of political power now.
The 2016 election to me was all about schadenfreude, social media, politics, and the infamous remarks Trump made. The remarkable thing about Trump candidacy is the fact that not only were his supporters taking pleasure in it but so were his opponents. Trump’s gaffes and controversial remarks for many was just as enjoyable as watching a fail video. At first, no one took him seriously so there didn’t seem to be any harm in expressing schadenfreude regarding him. I remember at the early onset of the 2016 election all I ever saw on social media was something controversial Trump had said or did. Trump was a walking talking fail video and the media may have taken the number of retweets, views, or clicks on videos of his gaffes as interests. As a result, Trump got a lot of media coverage compared to his Republican opponents. 55.4% of it to be exact. The closest to that number? Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush with around 10%. Yeah small.
Mr. Trump got a lot of free media and in the United States media is king. Trump knew this. The media is how he grew his brand. He knew any type of publicity was good publicity. The media also gave him more of a chance to voice his “policies” as he would phone in many times unannounced to networks voicing his pleasure or displeasure in something. There was even an idea thrown out to have a debate aired between Bernie and Trump. Bernie at the time had no business being in a debate with Trump as Clinton had pretty much already won the Democratic nomination. However, the media kings knew how much viewership and money that would bring. I personally think the media had a love and hate relationship with Trump. Some hated the way he talked but they sure loved the attention he brought. And attention like that equals $$$. And they made A LOT of money off the election and Trump’s controversies. Just google how much these networks made.
In conclusion, schadenfreude, just as in media, is apparent in politics. America is a two-party system ran country. You’re either a Democrat or Republican (that’s slowly changing) and a victory for one side means defeat for the other side. When a member of the Republican party makes a huge gaffe, Democrats report a feeling of schadenfreude and vice versa. This is where things can get complicated as our political climate involves the well-being of others. One side’s downfall can lead to bad consequences for millions of people. Take for example an economic downfall like a recession. Whichever party is in control during it will evidently be blamed for it even if the reason for the economic downfall was due in part to policies that were made by the other party eight years ago. When something spells bad news for one party the other reports a feeling of schadenfreude. As they get some type of joy in the parties’ failings. And I believe we as a nation must very careful about this feeling of schadenfreude. It can become a drug. If it does, just like a drug we will want more and more of it. So, don’t be entirely surprised if someone else like Trump starts getting some political clout. Because we have become a nation of schadenfreude. Just check Twitter and Facebook.