The presence of narcissists permeates our society like secondhand smoke, poisoning public discourse. Wherever you looked—newspapers, websites, podcasts, social media, or cable TV—your behavior dominated the headlines in 2022, becoming increasingly normalized and even celebrated. Though in vastly different camps, men like Ye (formerly known as Kanye West), Elon Musk, Donald Trump, Johnny Depp, and Sam Bankman-Fried will forever be linked by this ignominious trait.
True narcissists are self-centeredly ignorant of the needs of others and care little about annoying matters like consequences.
true narcissists self-centeredly ignore the needs of others and care little about annoying issues like consequences. They can also tend to be manipulative, arrogant, grandiose and hungry for admiration. always busy inventing fantasies of unlimited power or brillianceNarcissists delight in attracting others to play supporting roles in dream worlds, where they are always the stars.
Why have they gained so much power and influence? Why are so many people enslaved every time they open their mouths or shoot tweets? Are they the problem or a symptom of something bigger than their own egos?
The truth is that our society races Narcissists We put them on pedestals and get a strong vicarious hit of pleasure when they misbehave.
And they are definitely acting. For the past 12 endless months, America has witnessed the rantings of Ye lover of Hitler; Musk’s Edgelord trolling on his new toy, Twitter; Depp and his toxic TikTok fans; and Trump being Trump on any given day.
Then, just when we thought we’d hit Narcissistic Peak, crypto brother Bankman-Fried appears, all in their 30s, taking the stage with his alleged party fraud. Merry Christmas!
The young Bankman-Fried has been accused of committing a scam who redirected billions from his FTX cryptocurrency exchange to his personal piggy bank and sister company, Alameda Research. Lots of people lost huge sums of money when FTX blew up, and some didn’t have that wealth to spare. They include FTX employees, who were encouraged to invest their earnings in the company.
A privileged son of two Stanford law professors, unarmed Bankman-Fried with his wayward mop and «schlubby» T-shirt and shorts uniform. While he’s apparently not vain like Ye or Depp or outright bully like Trump and Musk, he nevertheless exhibits traits that hint at something sinister behind the «just a normal guy» persona.
Bankman-Fried practices the dark arts of narcissistic manipulation, presenting himself as a guy who avoid material things. However, his most recent home address (prior to his arrest in a Bahamian jail) was a Marble-clad penthouse in one of the world’s most exclusive resorts overlooking a mega-yacht marina. It’s not exactly discreet.
If what the Justice Department prosecutors are saying is true, this is a guy who runs away from responsibility like the plague (“I received bad legal advice”) and resorts to minimization (everything was just an accounting error), all the while playing on people’s heartstrings («I am, and for most of my adult life have been, sad).”
So are people who have lost their life savings.
Bankman-Fried embodies the narcissistic altruist. He claimed that all of his actions were designed to help others. That helped divert attention from his antisocial antics. Psychologists call this the “White Knight Narcissist”, a person who hides selfish agendas behind flowery displays of do-gooder. Here is a man who does not miss an opportunity to proclaim the philosophy of «effective altruism,» which holds that he must earn as much money as possible to save the future of mankind, but bankrupt charities he pledged money.
Effective altruism is what happens when you take utilitarianism, the theory that actions are right if they benefit the majority, and hand it over to pretentious tech bros. (Musk is also reportedly a fan..) Described as a “ideology of hubris”, is really just a bland belief that the rich know better and that money can magically translate into salvation.
Like all of his narcissistic brethren, Bankman-Fried likes to down his own Kool-Aid, deluding himself that he’s one of the good guys, but forgetting to treat people with basic respect. “The altruistic thing is to riskBankman-Fried once said, omitting the part about taking them with other people’s money.
Self-serving statements like these will flood our ears as we ring in the new year, along with gems like “We have to stop insulting Nazis all the time.” (very grateful, Ye); “A massive fraud of this type and magnitude allows the termination of all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” (don’t say it, Donald); “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci” (way to go, Elon); Y «I’ll fuck his burned corpse(thanks Johnny).
This is narcissism on a scale. But where do we go from here? To try to turn these vile statements into action, or persuade someone else to do it.
That’s what the House January 6 committee spent 18 months explaining that Trump did with the insurrection. Just a few days ago, one man attacked another in New York’s Central Park, shouting «Kanye 2024!» Police are investigating it as a possible anti-Semitic hate crime. Spurred on by his narcissistic heroes, maybe someone will go after Dr. Anthony Fauci in real life instead of trolling him. He or kills his partner instead of joking with a friend. (One in 3 women in the US experiences violence from a domestic partner.)
All of this is incredibly dangerous, to say the least. But how do we get there?
All of this is incredibly dangerous, to say the least. But how do we get there?
On the one hand, our society teaches children to be toxic. From their earliest days in daycare, daycare, or preschool, boys see very few men in nurturing roles. At school, they learn to interact with others through competition and domination. This model engenders «heroic soloists», author Margaret Heffernan warnsthat suppress the instincts of empathy and insight all through the lens of «what’s in it for me?»
Being the winner becomes the most important thing. In college, young men find fraternities that associate masculinity with demeaning women, drinking more than their peers, and cheering each other on. Social networks reinforce the yo-yo-yo instinct: my aspirations, my clothes, my vacations, my life. See me! broadcast me! The more extreme you are, the more attention you get.
Boys (and girls) grow up idolizing movie stars, rap gods, and politicians who gleefully validate their worst instincts. They enter a workforce where they regularly see the boss putting profit before all human values. Meanwhile, the fear of being losers in a ruthless capitalist system haunts them. If they manage to achieve power, some become men who, like Economist Robert Reich describes Trump and Musk, “wield mallets to protect their fragile egos” and live to “wield raw power over people.” Otherwise, they can take their grievances out on the women, groups and ethnicities believed to have stolen their power.
At the very least, they can intimidate indirectly. One key thing about narcissists: They operate in the realm of fantasy. Everything is a game to them, and they are eager to take others for a ride.
But there are some hopeful signs. When conspiracy facilitator Alex Jones squirms at Ye’s anti-Semitic musings and shock jock Howard Stern calls Depp a «big narcissist”, you have to wonder if the narcissists among us have finally gone too far, even for America. Right now, Bankman-Fried is a man in disgrace. under house arrest at his parents’ house. Trump seems to be losing groundand Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee finally removed their “kanye. Elon. TriumphPeep. Musk asked Twitter users if he should resign as CEO, and they voted “yes.”
Unfortunately, until we address the root causes, there will always be another bullying bully, another Trump, another Ye.
2022 Ended This Rogues Gallery (Fox News Host Dishonorable Mention) Tucker CarlsonSilicon Valley con artist Elizabeth Holmes and, if we’re going global, the Russian president Vladimir Putin). But as you start a new one, perhaps it’s time to consider how to promote pride in characteristics and values that are socially beneficial, such as honesty, helping others, and empowering yourself through self-control. We can remind ourselves that democracy depends on sharing power and resources, in the sense of a common destiny.
Remember, a society with more equality is a society with less narcissism. Perhaps building one of those is the best New Years 2023 resolution of all.