Melania Trump has failed to earn the media's sympathy for her recent declaration that she is the world’s most bullied person. And rightfully so. She is definitely not the most bullied person. That dubious distinction goes to her husband.
Melania may have been correct, though, had she complained of being the most bullied woman.
How do we determine who is the most bullied person? One way is to examine how much they are insulted, ridiculed, and attacked in the news and entertainment media. There’s no contest. President Trump holds the Number One place hands down.
Why the President is the most bullied person
There is a simple reason President Trump is the most bullied person in the world: The more powerful and famous you are, the more people are going to want to criticize, ridicule, attack, hate, and even destroy you.
The media and the general public don’t care about the flaws of the average John or Jane Doe. It is the rich, famous and powerful who are on the radar of the media, constantly on the lookout for the titillating information we crave to spice up our mundane, dreary existence.
With the possible exception of despotic dictatorships, the most bullied person in any country is its leader. In the U.S., it’s always been our president, even the most popular of them. And since the U.S. is still considered the world’s leading power, the president is the most bullied individual on the planet.
This is not to say that the President is only a target of bullying. The President is also the nation’s most respected and supported person. But that does not negate the fact that he/she is the most bullied. There may be other famous people who temporarily move into the Number One position when they become the focus of worldwide negative media attention. (Think Harvey Weinstein.) But as soon as the novelty wears away, the president reclaims the lead.
And if the president is a married man, the most bullied woman is likely to be his wife, the First Lady, especially if she assumes a public role, as many have done. The media will examine her through a microscopic lens, searching for any imperfection or blunder to publicize in order to enhance their own ratings.
There are exceptions to the First Lady being the most bullied woman. Other women who hold top positions of power may be contenders, such as Hillary Clinton, especially during election season. But generally, it is the First Lady that holds the position of the most bullied woman during the years of her reign. And this is especially true for Melania because of her association with the man commonly referred to as our Bully-in-Chief.
The Obamas were also the most-bullied
The Obamas were also the most bullied people when they occupied the White House. Barack was a recipient not only of praise; he was constantly despised and attacked by a sizable portion of Americans. And so was Barack’s wife. As reported in the New York Daily News:
During her eight years as First Lady, Michelle Obama withstood an onslaught of personal attacks and racist insults, with her critics seizing on her skin color and physical features – and repeatedly comparing her to a monkey in a bid to diminish her and tear her down.
The bullying of Melania
We feel sorry for children whose clothing is made fun of in school. Well, how about Melania Trump, whose wardrobe is a regular target of media ridicule. Her clothing was ridiculed only a few days ago: “Twitter goes after Melania Trump's unusual ensemble at the 2018 White House turkey pardoning.”
You may recall the worldwide attacks she suffered because of a coat she wore bearing the imprint, “I don’t really care, do you?”
Imagine: You have achieved the coveted status of First Lady of the United States, a position that should make you the object of veneration. Then someone posts an almost-nude picture of you from your previous career as a model, accompanied by a vulgar caption, and it goes viral. This has produced an unprecedented situation: It is the first time in history that we can all see what our First Lady looks (looked?) like naked.
But the most serious barrage of bullying Melania has been subjected to is over the mission she has taken upon herself as First Lady: to combat bullying among children. She calls her campaign, Be Best, urging children to treat each other well. The media has had a field day with this, lampooning her as a hypocrite because she’s married to our Bully-In-Chief. How ironic to be bullied for taking up the anti-bully cause!
President Trump may be rightfully attacked for his public bullying behavior, unbecoming of a person in his exalted position. He has even been accused of causing an escalation of bullying among children: Donald Trump Has Unleashed a New Wave of Bullying in Schools. A highly publicized recent scientific study supports this contention.
Yes, the president fits the image of a classic bully. So it can certainly seem preposterously hypocritical for his wife to be taking up the anti-bully cause.
Our own hypocrisy
But there is something we tend to forget when we ridicule the Trumps. Bullying did not start with Donald and it won’t end with him. The bullies are not “them.” They are “us.”
Bullying is in our nature. As much as we attack the president for engaging in bullying, we enjoy being perpetrators and spectators of bullying as well, and we don’t want to stop. We enjoy it too much. The Trump presidency has been the best thing ever to happen to Saturday Night Live. Comedians’ careers have had new life breathed into them thanks to Trump. Trump has provided reporters, bloggers, and even psychologists with a steady stream of material, and the rest of us eagerly partake of their offerings. They give us something exciting to talk about at the water cooler, in the bar, on social media, and at our dinner tables.
No, the Trump presidency is not a cause of our bullying but a mirror of it. We are highly attuned when he bullies others but conveniently oblivious when we do it to him. And we do it to him much more than he does it to us. Jesus popularized the idea that we are adept at “seeing the speck in others’ eyes while failing to see the plank in our own.” Does anything Donald has said about anyone rival the malevolence of Kathy Griffin’s appearance with a bloody replica of Trump’s severed head?
In fact, are not the things we routinely say about Trump far worse than what he says about us? Sure they are. It’s because we live in a democracy, and Trump knows that if he offends us too much we will vote him out of office. However, thanks to freedom of speech we can insult him all we want and, unless we work for him, there’s little he can do about it. While Kathy Griffin would have literally lost her head had she pulled such a stunt in a dictatorship, she is now enjoying renewed success as a result of Trump's attempt to ruin her career.
Furthermore, we don't even realize that when we call Trump a “bully,” we are engaging in bullying. Since bullying psychology has given the term “bully” a veneer of scientific legitimacy, we tend to think of it as a diagnosis. But it isn't. “Bully” is an insult, in line with terms like wimp, idiot, jerk and slut. Unless we are actually conducting a valid diagnostic “bully” test on someone, or unless the individual considers “bully” a compliment (and some people do), when we call a person a bully, we are insulting them. Would you like it if someone called you a “bully”? Well, neither do most of us. And “Bully-In-Chief” is unquestionably an insult.
We may justify bullying the rich, powerful and famous by rationalizing that they deserve it, or that it is the price one pays for celebrity status. But it is easy to forget that celebrities are also human beings with feelings, just like the rest of us. While on the line at the grocery store, our gaze may be drawn to the humiliating stories and photos of celebrities that grace the covers of gossip magazines. But do the celebrities enjoy the way they are depicted? Do they deserve to be publicly disgraced? Do we compassionately share their pain, or do we revel in the guilty pleasure of schadenfreude?
If we are to learn anything about bullying from the Trump presidency, it’s that the bullies are not “them.” They are “us.” As long as we enjoy the bullying of Donald, Melania, and others in positions of power, we cannot expect Trump to stop engaging in bullying, either. We may protest that he started it, but doing it back makes us no different.
Izzy Kalman is the author and creator of the website Bullies2Buddies.com and a critic of the anti-bully movement.