When political archvillain Dominic Cummings architected Britain´s exit from the
European Union, not only was he appealing to a section of the British public who
felt disenfranchised with modern politics, he was also awakening a beast that had
been lurking in wait ready to divide and devour public opinion. Collective narcissism is a creature ripped on a high-octane diet of social media, and the
ideological belief in a nation’s superiority.
In Britain, collective narcissism has been awoken by political discontent, stoked by
the tabloid media, sports, and the selective remembrance of historical events. So,
when 52% of the public voted in favour of something far too intricate and
complicated for the average schmo to comprehend the simple yet cunningly
devised slogan “Vote leave, take back control” triggered the fervid patriotic
response needed to get the vote across the finishing line. It appealed to
nationalists countrywide who saw the EU as a malignant superstate, threatening
the fabric of national sovereignty and Brexit became a symbolic counterattack
along the battlements of traditional British values, emotionally charged by the
misty-eyed nostalgia of quaint villages, green pastures, and Woolworths pick ‘n’
Stateside, collective narcissism has driven politics to the brink, The Donald´s
campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” has tapped into the psyche of a
voting population desperately in need for the recognition of their greatness.
Trump´s politics differ from his predecessors, he is less focused on asserting US
dominance over other nations, and more focused on ensuring the nation gains
the recognition it is entitled to. American collective narcissists perceive good old
American values, both moral and religious, to be under threat by left-wing
conspiratorial forces, and it is their moral duty to defend them to the end. There
is also a growing consensus that Washington governing elites are corrupt, in the
pockets of major corporations and no longer serving the interests of the average
Joe. These voters nostalgically yearn for simpler times, a mythologised movie
filtered version of how America had been in the 1950s and how the country could
somehow be magically restored to former glory.
Collective narcissists do not, however, bother to devote their energy to
contributing to their nation´s betterment. Instead, they engage in monitoring
whether other culture recognises and acknowledges their entitlement and any
threat to their ideology can turn them into frothing beasts ready to mobilise and
protest or attack via social media. Surprisingly enough they do not necessarily
possess individually narcissistic traits; instead, they have a high opinion of their
tribe, and they judge others by their own cultural values.
On both sides of the pond collective narcissism has been legitimised by celebrity
politicians looking to gain popularity through aggressive rhetoric that speaks to
their inner vulnerability and fragile self-esteem, because collective narcissism is a
creature that feeds upon negative emotional states. To combat this perpetual
state of hysteria, we need to invest in our psychological wellbeing to vanquish the
beast, question patriotic rhetoric and let common sense prevail.