Trump and social media have normalized public expressions of anger

Trump and social media have normalized public expressions of anger

The Observer reports:

Last week a video showing 60-year-old Peter Abbott screaming abuse at TV producer Samantha Isaacs gained a viral audience, after Abbott was found guilty at Poole magistrates court of “using threatening words or behaviour to cause alarm, distress or fear of violence”.

In the phone-filmed video, Abbott is seen snarling and shouting as he presses his face up against Isaacs’ car window. He looks as if he’s channelling the Harry Enfield character Angry Frank, so cartoonishly aggressive are his contorted facial expressions and confrontational behaviour. Not only did he hammer on Isaacs’ car but he also called her a “slag” and a “whore”.

When another male driver pointed out the terrible optics of bullying a woman, he replied: “She’s a fucking bloody annoying woman.”

Is the image of Abbott’s dyspeptic face just a freeze frame of a freak incident or a reflection of an unpleasant and growing aspect of modern life? Aaron Balick, a psychotherapist and author of The Psychodynamics of Social Networking, believes that new technologies have ushered in an era in which “there are more ways to express anger” and there is less shame attached to its expression. He also attributes this cultural shift to politicians such as Donald Trump who have “normalised” anger.

According to the Gallup Global Emotions Report, anger around the world has been rising since 2016, with 23% of respondents now feeling angry on any given day – figures are understandably much higher in war zones.

In the UK in recent years shop workers and service staff have reported sharp rises in customer abuse in recent years, and one study showed criminal violence in GP surgeries had doubled in five years (this was back when it was possible to get an appointment in a GP surgery). Reported road-rage incidents also increased by 40 per cent from 2021 to 2022 (although lockdowns would have played a part).

Anger, aggression, abuse and criminal violence are, of course, all different things. There is also a psychiatric classification of “intermittent explosive disorder”. Abbott, who now faces a prison sentence, didn’t claim to be a sufferer, but in his defence he did argue that being angry was not a crime. Psychologists draw a distinction between anger (an emotion) and aggression (a behaviour). Clearly the judge decided that Abbott had crossed into the behavioural category. [Continue reading…]

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