Temper Tantrums: Don’t Appease the Angry White Men

We all recognise it. The red-faced fury, curled lip and stomped foot of the toddler tantrum. Their whole being overtaken by an unfathomable fury they can’t control, sometimes even causing them to lash out at those around them. The removal of a toy or refusal of a treat enough to reduce them to a mass of unbridled destructive emotions. Thankfully, as time passes, with guidance, the little ones learn how to express themselves rationally, how to control the negatives feelings rather than being controlled by them, and how to share the things they have with others rather than losing their minds. They become fully-functioning members of their communities and society.

It is becoming increasingly apparent however, that some little boys (and yes, I do mean boys) do not fully develop beyond the tantrum stage, and as adults that is proving to have truly horrifying consequences. And to make matters worse, there are others who suggest we pander to the angry demands of those who feel slighted rather than accepting none of their nonsense and stating firmly that they need to grow up and learn how to share.

One obvious example of a public display of privileged victimhood and resulting tantrum is Brett Kavanaugh. At a hearing in which he was supposed to exude the cool, level-headedness and rational thinking of a judge worthy of the US’s highest court, he instead became indignant that he was a victim of ‘a circus’ and ‘a calculated and orchestrated political hit’. This defensive anger and self-pity came in the face of credible and powerful accusations that he had committed sexual assault. His outrage was matched by other men on the confirmation committee, such as Senators Lindsay Graham and John Cornyn, appalled that a man of Kavanaugh’s elevated position should be asked to address such accusations at all, calling it ‘a national disgrace’ and ‘hell’.(All the Angry Men of the Kavanaugh Hearings). Kavanaugh and his supporters argued that his reputation was endangered by a woman accusing him of sexual assault, that he was the real victim in the situation and therefore justified in his ire, merely lashing out in self-defence. Kavanaugh claimed that, ‘my family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed’ and Cornyn reassured the judge that his tantrum was justified, telling him, ‘You’re right to be angry’. Of course, there are countless examples of men facing down accusations of sexual assault by claiming victimhood, equating damage to reputation with the mental and physical trauma suffered by sexual assault survivors. Whether it’s Weinstein, Ailes, Clinton or Trump, such men will do whatever it takes to protect the position in society they see as rightfully theirs; countering women who bravely come forward to recount the most painful experience of their lives with anger, verbal attacks, belittlement or the use of their power to silence them.

The theme of men protecting what they see as rightfully theirs is all-pervasive. Even on International Women’s Day, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison could not entertain the idea of men relinquishing any power to aid women in their battle for equal rights and recognition. He made it clear in his, tone deaf at best, assertion that any societal progress made by women should in no way damage men’s status or position of privilege. “We want to see women rise. But we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse. We want everybody to do better, and we want to see the rise of women in this country be accelerated.”

This sense of male entitlement reaches a horrendous extreme in the cases of the killers self-identifying themselves as ‘incels’ (involuntary celibates). In the dankest corners of the internet, the incels spew hatred towards women and the men that women choose to have sex with, in fact railing against anyone who prevents the incels from getting the sexual attention they feel they deserve. This has had deadly consequences, with six fatalities in an incel-perpetrated killing in 2014 in Isla Vista, California, which then in turn inspired the murder of ten people in Toronto Canada in 2018 by another man who saw himself as a footsoldier in the war against women who denied him what he wanted. Canadian psychology professor, YouTube philosopher and doyen of men’s rights activists, Jordan Peterson, explained that such violence was inevitable because, “the masculine spirit is under assault”. Peterson, who in most circumstances rejects any redistribution interventions as Marxist, seems to agree with the incels that enforced monogamy is required to ensure men’s success, stabilise society and prevent male violence. Speaking specifically about the murderer in Toronto, he explained; “He was angry at God because women were rejecting him. The cure for that is enforced monogamy. That’s actually why monogamy emerges.”

And it’s not just women that these dangerous men-children see as threats to their status. The President of the United States is indignant that the co-equal branches of government are able to conduct investigations into his election campaign, his potential profiteering from the highest office in the land, and potentially illegal activity by his business, his foundation and himself. Feeling cornered, he has been lashing out angrily at anyone he sees as a critic or a threat in a true adult tantrum. From petted-lip complaints about being picked on by comedians, to attacks on Congress, the media and the judiciary for investigating him, to veiled threats of political violence against opponents, the President seems to be having regular roll-around-on-the-floor moments of self-absorption. He has taken to justifying his behaviour in office and protecting his presidency by claiming that his removal would cause civil unrest;
“I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad”
and on being asked about his potential impeachment during an interview in the Oval Office, he said, “I think that the people would revolt if that happened.”

This type of rhetoric, attempting to justify bad behaviour when people do not get their way, is dangerous. It has also been present in the UK, where Brexit negotiations have seriously faltered and a smooth exit from the EU is highly unlikely. As some call for politicians to realise the folly of the venture and return the final decision on a deal back to the people in a second referendum, those pushing for Brexit under any circumstances have argued that any other outcome will result in far-right violence and therefore Brexit-at-any-cost is required to appease them. Pro-Brexit politician Chris Grayling caused controversy when he warned, “There’s already a nastiness and unpleasantness in our politics, more people with extreme views, more people willing to behave in an uncivilised way,” and cited the English Civil War. Blaming those who don’t give violent people what they demand rather than blaming the perpetrators of violence is a dangerous political road to take.

We cannot succumb to this kind of appeasement and justification of violence. An appalling example followed the terrorist attack in Christchurch, which specifically targeted Muslims during worship and was perpetrated by an Australian-born white man with connections to white supremacy groups. In Australia, Senator Fraser Anning, known for his inflammatory opinions on immigration, including a maiden speech calling for a “final solution” to Muslim immigration, sent tweets and released an official statement condemning the violence but blaming it on immigration rather than white nationalism: “The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place”. While Anning is one of the more extreme examples, politicians and media in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US have all stoked a fear of immigration and of Islam for political gain, ideas then reinforced in social media echo chambers. Anti-immigration messages have been used to drive support for Brexit, Trump and his border wall, and Australia’s off-shore detention centres, where asylum seekers, including children, are being held for years without hope. Politicians and powerful media figures have created, and capitalised on, concerns that any help and opportunities given to people trying to escape the world’s worst war zones, will result in a loss of opportunity and privilege for others. And this ‘othering’ of asylum seekers is also applied to all people of colour, including the indigenous peoples of those nations. The discrimination and attacks against them by white people are driven by an unjustified fear that advancement for the marginalised will somehow cause the white population to lose out, and perhaps, as the Christchurch terrorist believed, even be replaced. Rather than condemning these racist ideas, people like Anning resort instead to victim blaming in an attempt to justify white men’s uncontrollable anger when they feel they are being robbed of what is ‘rightfully theirs’, and of being ‘replaced’. And Christchurch is just the latest example of how deadly this appeasement of white supremacism can be.

For children younger than four, tantrums are common and a natural way to deal with the frustrations of being unable to communicate what they need. “However, if children have learned that tantrums are an effective way to get what they want or avoid what they do not want, tantrums may remain a significant problem for parents and teachers.” (National Association of School Psychologists). Pandering to an older child’s tantrums only leads to further selfish behaviour and a false sense of entitlement. “Giving the child what he or she wants will likely end the tantrum (much to the relief of parents and teachers) but will also teach the child that having a tantrum is an effective means of getting his or her way.” Similarly, we cannot appease the angry men, who perceive themselves as victims, trying to protect their position of privilege by denying opportunities to others. They cannot be allowed to justify their mistreatment, attacks on and murder of anyone they perceive to be a threat; be it women or other gender identities, people of colour and indigenous communities, or adherents to religions other than their own. We must ensure that such behaviour is never normalised, justified or accepted as a reasonable way for angry, violent white men to demand they be given everything they want.

22nd March 2019

Jacqueline MacDonald




Update – Immigration: Those Closing the Doors Behind Themselves


In January, in Immigration: Those Closing the Doors Behind Themselves, I wrote about attitudes towards immigration, citizenship and nationhood, prompted by Trump’s insistence that Canadian-born Ted Cruz was not a ‘genuine’ US citizen. Trump has continued onwards with his rhetoric of exclusion: he has questioned a federal judge’s impartiality due to his heritage, calling him “Mexican” because of his parents’ place of birth despite the fact that he himself was born in Indiana; he has repeatedly called for bans on Muslims entering the US while advocating the monitoring and profiling of Muslims already in the country, US citizens; and only secondary to his “Make America Great Again” slogan, is one associated with ultra-nationalism, “America First”.

Such blatant xenophobia is closely echoed in the UK where a toxic pall of ugly nationalism hangs over the upcoming Brexit referendum. Thomas Mair, who killed Labour MP Jo Cox on the streets of her constituency last week, reportedly yelled “Britain First” as he committed the act and gave his name in court as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”. Many of those in the Leave campaign and the public on the streets of the UK, when asked why they support the move to leave the EU, state that they “want the country back”. As James O’Brien asks in his much-viewed response to Jo Cox’s murder, “back from whom?”. What is it that people feel has been taken from them by the rest of Europe in the years since the country became part of the EU? And what do they think will be returned to them if the UK leave again?

People seem to be feeling a nostalgia for a pre-Globalisation world where the citizens of countries all held common values, borders were closed and each nation was self-sufficient, i.e.a world that has never existed. The ship has already sailed on isolationism and we live in a globally connected world where trade and business are conducted worldwide, borders are porous, migration commonplace and actions have international consequences. This has been the reality of our world for several hundred years now and it is a world more easily navigated through cooperation with other nations. However, in times of economic hardship it is easier to whip people into a flurry of fear and paranoia that what they have is going to be taken from them by ‘outsiders’, be they EU bureaucrats or Syrian refugees, and the media and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic have done a very efficient job of this since the Global Economic Crisis.

Nigel Farage, fearmongering

Nigel Farage, fearmongering


The results of the upcoming Brexit referendum and US Presidential election will tell us whether the fear-mongering of Nigel Farage’s UKIP and Donald Trump has succeeded or whether we want a society in which we use acceptance, openness and cooperation to solve our problems rather than a world of exclusion, restriction and fear of others.

20th June 2016

See also Global Migration, Global Responsibility


Immigration: Those Closing the Door Behind Themselves


Donald Trump is planning to build a wall around the USA. His claims that the majority of people crossing the border from Mexico are murderers and rapists, and his plans to stop all Muslims from entering the country until he ‘works out what’s going on’, have seen his poll numbers steadily rise. Proud of making headline-grabbing comments on controversial issues, his latest foray into patriotic defence of the nation has been his questioning of Ted Cruz’s eligibility for the position of Commander-in-Chief. Constitutionally, eligibility is described as a “natural-born citizen” which has been defined as anyone born to a US citizen. In Cruz’s case, he was born in Canada to a US American mother but Trump seems willing to question the citizenship of anyone not born on US soil. In January’s GOP debate in South Carolina, Cruz, in defending himself against the charges of ineligibility, raised Trump’s own heritage and his Scottish-born mother. Trump revealed his true feeling on the matter when he countered with, “but I was born here, big difference.” Of course this is not Trump’s first incidence of questioning a candidate’s right to the Presidency, with his prominent position in ‘the birther’ movement which demanded Obama make his birth certificate public in order to prove his citizenship. Obama was shown to fulfil Trump’s high standards of being “born here”, although conspiracy theories surrounding forged certificates still abound.

The concept of citizenship being linked solely to the geographical location of a person’s birth is a difficult one. In today’s globalised world with it’s long history of migration, many people can trace a heritage containing forebears of various origins and races. A person may have grandparents from four different nations, be born in a fifth and then choose to live their life in a sixth. How does one define citizenship in such cases? For some, rather than attempting to untangle such webs or revelling in the diversity that such instances bring to cultures, it is easier for them to hold onto the ‘born here’ definition of citizenship. A few years ago in New Zealand, t-shirts showing the country’s map and boldly emblazoned with “Born Here” had a summer of popularity, and although the t-shirts have now faded and been worn out, the attitude they exhibited is still very much apparent. In a recent discussion with a couple of middle-aged, white New Zealanders, they visibly bristled when I classed myself as a ‘Kiwi’. As someone who has lived in the country for 11 years and chosen citizenship of a place I love, in their eyes I could never be a ‘real’ New Zealander. This was by no means the first time I had encountered such an attitude from within the same demographic, themselves descended from migrants to the country sometime within the last 200 years. It points towards a desire to close the doors of immigration after themselves, just as Trump, who so highly values his own status of being born in the USA, is ready to deny citizenship to all US-born children of illegal immigrants.

Such negative attitudes towards immigration held by some in New Zealand was further evidenced last week when I broke my own rule and made the terrible mistake of reading the comments section on an internet news report. The story concerned the arrival to New Zealand of the first 80 Syrian refugees of the 750 the country has pledged to receive.  Against the background of a 5-year conflict which has claimed 250 000 lives and made 11 million people homeless, there were examples of typical myopic parochialism with comments such as, “why help others if we can’t help ourselves first?”. Then came the examples of outright discrimination:
Most of those Syrian’s are terrorist. get refugees from other countries, but not syria (sic)”,
take the Christian refugees. They are genuine refugees and get killed by the Muslim Syrian refugees“,
Escort them back home. Let them fight for their country” and
We don’t need Muslims in New Zealand“.
Perhaps the comment which showed the greatest lack of empathy for the refugees’ suffering and eligibility for a life in New Zealand was one bemoaning the trifling inconveniences of their own migration to New Zealand. Again the ‘I’m here, now let’s not make it easy for anyone else’ attitude.
Absolutely agree [we should not accept Syrian refugees].. When I applied visa for my holidays, they asked tons of questions n juz issued 1 month special visa.. And also when I made enquiry about my relocation n migration there, many many forms have to b filled up.. 😒😖. I love NZ n wish to spend rest of my life here .. But they are funny.. They have so many bars to the person who love their country n wish to contribute knowledge..(sic)”

The ultimate hypocrisy of the ‘birthers’ movement and ‘born here’ proponents can be seen in their attitude to the indigenous peoples of their countries. The same European-descended New Zealanders who questioned my right to citizenship in a proud display of their own ‘born here’ status were unwilling to extend bonds of national fraternity to Maori, who can date their presence in the country back more than 500 years before the Europeans. They openly espoused a desire for Maori to “get over the past” and “stop relying on handouts” while expressing concern that new Maori residents in the area were “disrupting the neighbourhood”. Such disregard for the indigenous people of the country, while viewing themselves as more Kiwi than those who come after them is a clear example of white nationalism. In the US, Trump is currently being endorsed by some in the white supremacist movement, who see his hard stance on immigration as a possible way to avoid the white population becoming a minority. Trump also has a terrible record when it comes to Native American issues spanning the last 25 years. Recently he has supported the Keystone XL pipeline, which is being challenged by Native groups fearing its potential damage to their sacred sites and water supplies. He has also pledged, if he becomes President, to reverse Obama’s renaming of Mount McKinley in Alaska to Denali, calling it, “a great insult to Ohio” (President McKinley’s home state). When asked his opinion on the rebranding of Washington’s NFL team to remove the logo and the Redskins name, Trump stated, “Honestly, I don’t think they should change the name, unless the owner wanted to…. I know Indians that are extremely proud of that name.

Countries such as the US and New Zealand were built on the foundations of colonial land grabs, subjugation and, in some cases, slaughter of the lands’ earliest residents. Now, the majority of the population of these nations are immigrants or descended from immigrants, many of whom were escaping atrocities elsewhere in the world, others who made the move in search of a better way of life or economic gain. It would seem that some of those are content with the idea that the “huddled masses” are no longer wanted and now is the time to draw in the welcome mat and securely bar the doors to prevent any new interlopers from sharing in the benefits they themselves have enjoyed.

25th January 2016