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Donald Trump: Pandering to paranoia but his poll ratings just go up (Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 3.0)

To frighten, menace, terrify, alarm, overawe, subdue, unnerve — all synonyms for the verb “to bully”. In the 16th century, though, the word meant “sweetheart”, deriving from the Dutch word “boel”, meaning “lover”. In time, through over-use, it came, like “wicked” and “sick”, to mean its opposite. By the 17th century, a bully was simply a “harasser of the weak”.

Bullying is big these days. It affects women in the workplace, trans men and women in jail, children at school; it’s rife in politics, the army (131 deaths in training in the past 15 years), and perhaps the most bully-prone arena of all, social media. Cyber-bullying makes it so easy to be vicious. The bullies don’t have to see their victim’s face.

In the US, 160,000 students a day skip school because of bullying. Should you be overweight, disabled, asthmatic, lousy at sport, unpopular or, dare I say it, ginger, you’re probably in for it. In my day a teacher could pull the bully out of class by one ear and clout him on the other. Now the bully is liable to be offered mindfulness lessons and anger management counselling. “You can’t talk to me like that,” said one such school thug. “My mum pays your salary!”

Kids learn from what they watch, and   television is one long assault course in ritual humiliation. The infantilised are judged by the inane: “You have nine seconds to complete your task! 9, 8, 7, 6 . . . PUT DOWN YOUR OVEN GLOVES.” Or: “You let me dahn. You let your team dahn. You’re innumerate, you’re not telegenic and you’re faaaared!” When asked to appear on such programmes I turn all such offers dahn on the grounds that I would a) cry and b) remodel the nose of my critic live on air.

Meanwhile, that nice-guy Mr Corbyn — who voted 500 times against his own party (bringing a new and kinder politics to our sceptic Isles) allegedly fires, by phone, a member of his cabinet who disagrees with his views. An MP who voted in favour of the UK bombing Syria is threatened on social media with being bombed in her home. The former wives of Simon Danczuk blast each other in print as to exactly how disgusting their ex-husband is, was or might be. Sir Tim Hunt may leave the country after being savaged by the PC mafia for a jokey observation on the sexes. Freedom of speech is abandoned on university campuses because Germaine Greer expressed an opinion. And God help Charlotte — “maybe black actors didn’t give award-winning performances this year” — Rampling’s nose in the Oscar stakes.

Nigel Farage, who one might think of as  an oppressor, not a victim, is convinced someone loosened the wingnuts on his car. Certainly a wheel flew off his Volvo on a French motorway, and the mechanics declared, without irony, that there was simply a screw loose. Donald Trump unabashedly flaunts his racism, panders to paranoia and his poll ratings just go up.
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