Excusing the racism, sexism, and general bigotry that undeniably rests at the center of Donald Trump and his campaign, there is an idea as deceptively simple as it is insidious: that someone’s out to destroy your way of life. It doesn’t matter who–in fact, the less specific the better–because all you need to know is this catastrophe has already begun to take hold. The infidels have infiltrated and systematically corrupted everything you hold dear, all right under your nose. You might not have noticed, but that’s because they don’t want you to, the faceless masses whose humanity seems only secondary to their malicious intent.
Sound familiar? Authoritarians and hate-mongers have been using this line of thinking to manipulate the populace for millennia, each time pointing an accusatory finger at a different “enemy.” To Hitler it was the Jews, to the KKK Catholics and immigrants, to the Japanese the Chinese, and finally, today we have Trump’s distaste for Muslims.
Considering his popularity in the polls, it’s obvious that others have taken to his fantastical–albeit wildly inaccurate–vision of what the world presently looks like. According to him, crime and debauchery have run rampant, and that’s due in part because of Mexico “sending us their rapists” and the obvious threat of radical Islam. Disregarding the fact that crime has been steadily decreasing and immigrants are less likely to commit violent acts than native born Americans, Trump’s illusion of a dystopia is shared, oddly enough, by his enemies in the Old World: ISIS. You see, fundamentalist Islam (which is entirely different from the peaceful message of the greater Islamic faith) preaches that their way of life has been undone by capitalism and American intervention. Massaging the doctrine of the Quran allows radicals the freedom to validate any and all measures considered necessary to take care of that threat.
This shared vision and mutually assured bigotry isn’t even the biggest comparison between Trump and ISIS, though. What really links them is the use of propaganda and easily understood bites of information that allow insecure men to put a face on the growing resentment they have towards the world. And it is always disgruntled, usually young men who take to this ideology. People are naturally drawn to perceive themselves as the underdog, and when things don’t seem to be going well, it’s easy to take to conspiracy theories asserting that someone specific is to blame for our plight. ISIS attracts young men who want to believe that all the horrible things the group does in the name of God is, ultimately, for a righteous cause. ISIS is the real underdog, misunderstood by the mainstream because of their unconventional methods. They cater to this demographic by publishing recruitment videos shot and choreographed similarly to those made by the Armed Forces, intended to evoke a feeling of pride and instant sympathy in the viewer.
Similarly, one of Trump’s biggest adversaries is the media, rooted in his belief that they portray him in such a unanimously negative light on account of his speaking “the truth”–a truth they don’t want you to hear because of its potential to shake the “establishment” (as opposed to, y’know, most reporters possessing some common sense). Trump’s constant repetition of the idea that his values are being undermined by a “weak” and “bankrupt” society directly hits the same people ISIS would have luck recruiting. All these particular men want to do is fight for and be a part of a cause, one that promises to alleviate some of their pain by taking it out on those believed to be responsible. Whether they’re suffering from family issues, depression, or any myriad of social or psychological conditions, Trump and ISIS will prey on the vulnerable with the assertion that they belong to a secret group of like-minded people who know the “real” truth.
There’s a running theme in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns that suggests the reason all the supervillains in Gotham have such an inexhaustible supply of young lackeys is because they’re all directionless and angsty, prone to follow anyone they feel is strongest or has the best claim to the throne of the city’s underworld for lack of anything better to do. I think this is an apt comparison to the world we live in today, where the key to truly knowing–or beginning to understand–our enemies as well as our allies is to look deep within ourselves. The actions of ISIS are obviously unconscionable, and the rhetoric of Donald Trump is notoriously vain and hate-filled, but at their center is a creed which sticks clearly in one’s mind: that you belong, and that your aggression towards the world is not unfounded.
Which isn’t to say that all Trump supporters fit into that specific demographic either; rather, it’s that his staunchest and most rabid fans tend to fit a mold consistent with those of the members of ISIS, the Neo-Nazi movement, and other organizations centered around intolerance. As difficult as it may be to hear of another terror attack, or to see a report on what crazy remark Trump has made recently, the most important thing to do is keep a level head and practice patience and self-control, because if you give in to hate and reciprocate it in turn, you play right into the hands of those on the other side “pulling the strings” (as it were).