internet porn caused the rise of Donald Trump
Donald Trump is the
president of the
Countless theories have
been put forward to explain this shocking turn of events that took all seasoned pundits by surprise. It
was because the Democrats embraced neoliberalism,
because of misogyny, both outright and internalised, because of low democrat turnout, because of
media bias, because of deeply-embedded racism, and many more factors.
But what if Donald
Trump’s win is thanks to a far more unlikely but omnipresent factor, something
that’s inescapable in today’s society but often deliberately overlooked in political
debates due to its very nature. Internet porn. Is it
Humans learn by observing others. Our
brains rely on the actions of other humans to supply much of the information on
how the world works, rather than have us have to do everything first-hand. And one thing porn definitely involves, is other humans (unless
you have more dubious/illegal inclinations).
However, few would argue
that most porn presents a realistic portrayal of human behaviour.
People seldom offer to pay for their pizza delivery or plumbing service with
intimate physical acts. Previously-heterosexual women won’t suddenly opt to
have sex with each other purely because they can. But pornography often
suggests otherwise. We’d typically not be fooled by such contrived set-ups, but
sex affects our brains on multiple levels, often clouding
our rational thinking and forming weird associations.
exposure to internet porn could distort our understanding of how the world
works, and how we should behave. Given that most pornography is aimed at men and much of it
has “questionable” ethical practices,
this would have unpleasant results. It could give enthusiastic viewers the idea
that women are subservient, and deserve to be, even enjoy
being, degraded, verbally and physically. Contrastingly, men who inflict this behaviour on women are rewarded with sex and deference.
Internet porn is easy to
get. It’s often free, and available at the touch of a button. Something so
“fundamental” (sexual stimulation) being so easy to obtain would set a bad
precedent. Whereas most things we need or want require some or considerable
effort to obtain, internet porn shows that this doesn’t have to be the case.
The human brain takes the easy option where possible;
it only has so many resources to dedicate to everything, so simple answers are
often preferred to complex ones. And internet porn supplies constant examples
that powerful drives and needs can be satisfied with ease and simple solutions.
Ergo, Donald Trump’s questionable claims about ending trade deals and evicting
ALL illegal immigrants etc. don’t seem so far-fetched and unworkable to many
voters who care about such things, so why not vote for him?
Linked to how it creates
a skewed view of the world, internet porn could also make us more susceptible
to “fake news”. Ridiculous set-ups,
contrived scenarios, baffling claims, these are all common in internet porn,
but are also associated with very real rewards of arousal and gratification.
You expose yourself to anything for long enough, our brains will become desensitised, habituated to it,so it doesn’t
really “register” with us anymore.
Constantly seeing people
behave in very intimate ways while a camera is trained on them, that they never
acknowledge, it’s easy to see how that may make us more susceptible to staged “events”, cynically
created to get attention and online traffic. If porn has worn away our ability
to spot and dismiss unlikely claims and scenarios, then it has been of great
help to Donald Trump and his methods.
But isn’t this claim …
Of course it is. No part
of this argument stands up to scrutiny. It’s just a smattering of basic
neuroscience combined with a very simplistic (and somewhat harsh maybe)
portrayal of pornography. People’s sexual leanings and behaviour
varies tremendously, as does porn, given how much of
it there is. Internet porn was no less common during the Obama years, and is
just as accessible in places like
This article just is an
example of how easy it is to create a valid-sounding theory by forming a
conclusion and reverse engineering it, cherry-picking things that
back it up from the vast amount of data available. I cynically picked porn and
Trump because those are two extremely popular search terms right now, so people
are more likely to read it, but it could have been anything: how renewable
energy lead to Labour’s Copeland by-election defeat. How
feminism caused the Oscars announcement chaos.
How Netflix lead to Brexit. They even sound similar!
There are many articles,
blogs, opinion pieces, Twitter threads etc. flying around lately, which
confidently explain major and complicated events in straightforward and
compelling ways, and they’re often shared readily by those who agree with their
conclusion. But over a decade in neuroscience makes one extremely wary of such
an approach. It’s just too like the countless claims about how a certain
specific bit of the brain is responsible for some incredibly abstract and
complex phenomenon (e.g. religious experiences and Apple fandom)
when the truth is it’s actually many different regions working together in
baffling and convoluted ways.
As with the brain, so it
is with society. Millions of people spread over thousands of square miles,
existing in countless different environments and situations, the idea that one
specific and graspable factor explains their behaviour
en-masse is something of a stretch. It’s understandable why people want there
to be one; the human brain really doesn’t like uncertainty,
especially regarding things that may affect the individual concerned. So we
seek out and gravitate towards explanations for complex, worrying events, and
the simpler the better.
But this doesn’t mean
they’re right, no matter how much sense they make in isolation. No doubt
there’s some merit to them, some validity, as there is with the
porn/Trump theory, but it’s just one element among countless others. It’s not
“fake news”, it’s more “selective news”, focussing on the things that back up your existing thoughts
and views. But there’s some overlap between the two.
It’s good to want a
simple explanation for unpleasant events, but it’s important to be aware that
there may be no simple, comprehensive one to be had, so trying to find it can
be counterproductive. It’s fine to argue about exactly why the ship hit the
iceberg, as long as you start bailing at some point.
Monday 27 February
201713.36 GMTLast modified on Tuesday 9 May