In this episode of Uprising!!! The Podcast by Scott Goodson, we look at the Donald Trump movement. Why has it grown so quickly? What helped the uprising spread and become a one MASSIVE phenomenon? When you break it down what can we learn from this success? In this episode we speak with the primatologist Frans De Waal, professor at Emory University about what is happening in this political movement by comparing innate human behaviors with primate society. What chimpanzee challengers do when they want to overtake an alpha male? Do facial snarls intimidate or attract individuals in the chimp community? What does a winning male do to succeed in chimp politics. For more ideas on Uprising and movements, cultural movements and movement marketing,
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Uprising Interview transcript
Announcer: Welcome, to Uprising.
Each episode looks inside what it takes to lead the most dynamic and successful cultural movements. Some of them in the business world, some in the social realm. Some in politics, and some in between. To see why people start uprisings. What gives those initiatives the momentum, and keeps them going? And most important, what lessons can you learn from these movements, and how to apply them to your business, and even personal life? Let’s explore the secret to sparking movements that move people into action.
Man Voice 1: Passionate ideas.
Woman Voice 1: Controversial ideas.
Man Voice 1: Uprising ideas.
Woman Voice 1: The power is now in the hands of anyone.
Man Voice 2: To start a cultural movement.
Man Voice 1: Your movement.
All Three Voices: To move the world.
Scott: Hello, I am Scott Goodson. Donald Trump made a decision to do something that is almost as old as the United States of America. He began the quest to become the President. It has been a campaign unlike anything we’ve seen before. He psyched out his opponents. He’s outwitted the GOP. He’s ignited a massive movement of followers across the country that continues to gain steam, feeding off fears and insecurities. At last reckoning, he seems unstoppable. Donald Trump. Love him, hate him. What can we learn from him?
I’m really fascinated by the Trump movement. How do you see humans in this primary? Their innate behaviors and interactions when you compare it to all your research on chimpanzees? This is primatologist Frans De Waal, from Emory University. He knows a lot about primate behavior.
Frans De Waal: Chimpanzees are very good for divide and rule strategies. So an alpha male, for example, will always try to undermine the coalition of his rivals in order to maintain his own coalition as the dominant force. If you study the __(2:00)__ Chimpanzees goes, there’s a lot of, in the challenging phase, there’s a lot of blistering and intimidation going on. That’s where Trump is really special. He intimidates his opponent, nothing seems to phase him, he insults them right back if they insult him. And of course political commentators for the longest time in this country they have thought it was going to be about who has the best plan for the economy, who has the best arguments. But I’m not sure that arguments are what is settling this. It’s who has the biggest mouths, that’s what’s going on at this moment…
Frans De Waal: And chimpanzees, that matters also. Who is the least intimidated by others and who intimidates them the most. In that regard, Trump is a wonderful, blistering monument of uncertainty, and a big mouth. Whether he can translate it into leadership, that’s something else. I think that is what he would want to do if he’s elected, but I don’t think that’s a prayer at this moment.
Scott: The Republican candidates have been squaring off in some heated debates, and Trump’s facial snarls seems to be gaining more and more followers.
Frans De Waal: The body language of Trump is also very interesting. The body language is, “I’m not afraid, no one can scare me,” basically. And another strategy that he uses is having a common enemy.
Scott: The question is why. Why create an enemy?
Frans De Waal: That is why people rally around him. He’s showing them that he’s very strong, not afraid of anybody. But he has also created an enemy image. In this case, it’s the immigrants. So there’s an enemy that everyone rallies around in order to confront the enemy. These outside groups, like immigrants or Muslims or whatever, he rallies everyone around him and his enemy. And sometimes it’s political candidates. But most of the time, it is people who are far away and probably after the election you won’t care about the issue anymore.
Scott: Female voters don’t seem to be flocking to Trump as much as males. And in fact, women suggested in some polls are intimidated by him. Obviously some women are very positive. If you look at chimp colonies, how do the females respond to a male or dominant male challenging a leader?
Frans De Waal: The females in a captive colony are very important. In the wild, females are dispersed and don’t get much involved. They try to stay out these brawls because it is not really to their benefit to get much involved. In captivity, where the females have nowhere to go, for example the __(4:52)__ colony, they live on a very large island, all the females are present. They do get involved because it is in their best interest of who will be the alpha male. The females may all band together. Usually there is an elite female, an alpha female who keeps them in line, so to speak. An alpha female has a favorite male, let’s say females are behind that male, or at least not against that male. The female supports one particular male, and that’s a very important factor in deciding who becomes the alpha male. And that’s also why male chimpanzees when they are fighting for positions, they try to be in favor of the females. That is why they groom the females, they play with their children. They normally are never interested in infants. When they are challenging each other for positions they are all of a sudden they develop an interest in infants. Just like human politicians, they hold them up in the air. The chimpanzee males will tickle the infants in front of their moms, to show how reliable and male they are, they’re wonderful with kids and all of this. So, that same sort of strategy is going on.
Scott: There is a commonality between how human women are responding to this and the chimps, it’s interesting…
Frans De Waal: Female politicians, like Hillary Clinton…I collect pictures of politicians making certain faces and doing certain things. I have a ton of pictures of male politicians holding babies in the air, like Obama or…well, I haven’t seen Trump do this yet, Bush did the same thing holding babies up in the air. For Hillary Clinton for example, I have not a single picture like that. And I think the reason is that we all assume that females can handle babies, and we all assume that she will be good with babies, especially a female who is a mother herself. And so she doesn’t need to prove that she can hold a baby, right? Male politicians need to show us that they are good with kids, and that’s a way of gaining female support.
Scott: The New York Times reported that Trump is thriving despite objectifying women. What role does sex play in chimp community, and how do you compare it to what’s going on?
Frans De Waal: Everything in evolution is regulated by reproductive success. If you reproduce well, you’re doing well. If you don’t reproduce, your genes will not travel to the next generation. So reproductive success is everything for females. For males, it is a very different ballgame than for females because males can increase her reproductive success with mating opportunities. If you mate with a lot of females, you have more offspring, whereas females cannot do that. Females will have one offspring at a time regardless of how many men they mate. So for males, there’s a connection between access to females and dominance. And that’s why chimpanzee males when they fight for positions, it is about access to females, and the alpha male has more access than anybody else. And the females are also attracted usually to alpha males, and so it work both ways basically. So, high-ranking males will have a higher reproductive success than a low-ranking males. So in that sense, there is always a connection between power and sex.
Scott: Is disrespecting females, respected by females?
Frans De Waal: Male chimpanzees often do, and this is sort of counterintuitive because as I mentioned earlier, they try to carry favors for females, but they also beat up females. And partly they do that to show to other males, because it is safer for them to beat up a female than another male, it is partly to show them what they could do to them. So they show their physical prowess by being negative towards females, and then later they reconcile with those females, and they intimidate everybody that way. And so the males need to prove, they are so desperate to prove that they are strong and physically fit, that they may even attack females under those circumstances.
Scott: When building a movement to dominance, how important is it having a number two, a prominent supporter?
Frans De Waal: I think among the male sense, it’s extremely important. The female support is important, but the females are not going to feel too bad for you, necessarily. They may support you, and they may console you half the race if you lose. They have a voice in all of this, but when it comes to real physical fights, especially when a female may have a baby chimp on themselves, they’re not going to get involved in a real physical fight. That’s not in their interest, and won’t make an enormous amount of difference necessarily. So to have a few male bodies, especially one sort of “satellite” male that will help you is extremely important. And the males are very opportunistic, Chris Christie may be in sync with that, the male chimps are very opportunistic if they think another partner is a better partner for them, they may shift the legions. And they can do it from one day to the next, basically.
Scott: So it’s fascinating that you have Trump, and when he has Christie supporting him, he almost rises even stronger in the community because of that first supporter coming in, the number two.
Frans De Waal: What you do with these coalitions is that you show them off, basically. And chimpanzee males, for example when they have a coalition, they walk together. So it’s not just that you know this male supports that male. You see them walking together, grooming together, doing things together that gives an image of unity. Some species, like dolphins where the males form also coalitions, they surf together, they jump together, they completely synchronize, and so from a distance it almost looks like one dolphin is jumping out to completely synchronize to intimidate the neighbors to tell them we are united.
Scott: I’m really intrigued by the recent attacks by Trump’s enemies in the Republican party who have come out against him. What do you make of this?
Frans De Waal: Yeah, I’m very interested in that because I have always used the primaries as an example of the need for reconciliation. For example, even Bush and McCain, George Bush and McCain had the dirtiest fight against each other. In the end, they embraced each other. There’s a very famous image of McCain embracing Bush and it looks extremely awkward. I’ve always used it as an example because chimpanzee males are exactly the same. Once a male becomes the alpha male, then everyone sort of closes rank, everyone reconciles and submits to that alpha male, and then they have a peaceful relationship. And so, the primaries in the U.S. are a wonderful example of strategic reconciliation, where you have to reconcile, otherwise the party will fall apart. So for example, Sanders and Clinton, whoever wins, they will have to reconcile, otherwise the Democratic party will fall apart. And since it has to happen amongst the Republicans, and the way things are going at the moment, I am curious because it may not happen.
Scott: We talked about how creating an enemy motivates people to join a movement. After the election is over and done, can millions of people forget what has been said about Mexicans and Muslims? Is it possible to reconcile?
Frans De Waal: Trump has made the calculation that at least the illegal immigrant he doesn’t need, and maybe the Hispanics he doesn’t need. He has made that calculation. So, I don’t know what he’s going to do from the election, but reconciliation is more of what happens between the players, so to speak. So in chimpanzees, that’s very common. There are all these battles going on and intimidations going on. And by the end of the day, they’re going to be reconciling. For example, chimpanzee males need to be united against the neighbor male. The same is true in a larger human society like the American society. Whatever the political parties do, at some point you’re still going to need each other in order to have a functioning government.
Scott: Are you worried about what he sees?
Frans De Waal: He has opened a can of worms, very ugly worms. I think we all knew that they existed but they all have come out it, and I’m not sure we know how to get them back in.
Scott: Thank you for joining our uprising today, and listening to our show.