Sunday, June 11, 2023

Body Language Analysis №4696: Body Language Surrogates - and the Painting Trump Chose (Indicating his Mindset) During His Response to his Most Recent Indictments


Why did Donald Trump give his response-to-his-federal-indictments speech in front of a painting of Kaiser Wilhelm II? 

The background, paintings, photos, people, etc. some choose to include in their public appearances very much are representations of their psyches.

Sometimes these are subconscious/edge-of-consciousness choices (think of these as sorts of reverse-Rorschach tests) — and other times these are very deliberate and not-so-subtle messages.


This is a print (not the original) of a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris of a meeting-negotiation-argument between Teddy Roosevelt and Kaiser Wilhelm II — regarding “The Venezuelan crisis of 1902–1903”.

The Venezuelan Crisis of 1902–1903 was a naval blockade imposed collectively by Germany, Great Britain, and Italy — against Venezuela from December 1902 to February 1903 as a result of Venezuelan President, Cipriano Castro, refusing to pay damages as well as foreign debts suffered by Europeans during the recent Venezuelan civil wars.

Germany also threatened possible occupation of Venezuela — which Roosevelt would not permit (and certainly ran counter to “The Monroe Doctrine”).

This was, by many accounts, when Teddy Roosevelt’s “Speak softly and carry a big stick” policy came into being — at least on the world’s stage.

Roosevelt had considerable cultural sensitivity (he had lived in Dresden as a teen). He had never made public his threats against the Kaiser — and thereby most probably prevented WWI from occurring 12 years earlier.

But one small detail — this meeting never happened. Teddy Roosevelt and Kaiser Wilhelm II never met until 1910 — well after Roosevelt left the White House and, of course, years after the resolution of the Venezuelan Crisis.

During the Venezuela Crisis, Roosevelt and Wilhelm had corresponded via letter, their ambassadors, and their emissaries — but not in-person.

And although they were purported by some to be friends, anything resembling a ‘personal relationship’ was probably much closer to common political hyperbole — and, if so, occurred well after Roosevelt’s Presidency.

While Jean Leon Gerome Ferris was indeed a skilled technical painter (i.e., accuracy of faces, clothing, land, etc.) — he often dramatically oversimplified historical events, and in this case, he blatantly lied with his paint brush.


What’s most obvious in this painting, is the Kaiser’s twisting of his mustache. This MAP (manipulator, adaptor, pacifier) is so classic as to be an absolutely cliché. We all can recall scenes of cartoon villains twisting their mustaches.

Such mustache-twisting conveys the thought-emotions of surreptitious and nefarious intent — as well as the making of clandestine plans. Note all the while, the person doing this (the Kaiser) is perched just above and behind Trump’s right shoulder.


Immediately thereafter, we notice what’s probability the key reason (along with the identity and personality of the person who’s displaying it) that Trump chose this painting to stand in front of — the Kaiser is flashing what in America has recently come to mean “White Power”.

Of course, in 1902 and 1903, this (conventionally termed) “okay” hand gesture (with or without the mustache twisting) lacked this specific meaning, but this simply gives Trump (or Steven Miller, who’s mind the idea was likely hatched) plausible deniability.


The Kaiser is also, along with turning his body away (disrespect) is giving President Roosevelt the “side-eye”. We don’t look directly at those whom we don’t like, don’t believe, don’t respect — as well as those with whom we don’t want to emotionally escalate.

With the exception of perhaps 2 seconds (3:17–3:19), we cannot see Roosevelt’s face — and if we didn’t do a little digging (or we weren’t art historians), we’d never know Teddy was even in this painting.


But we *can see* Abraham Lincoln’s portrait over Wilhelm’s head and his right shoulder (the painter, Ferris, implying that this fictitious meeting also occurred in the White House) — the first Republican President.


While Roosevelt’s hand is on the globe, covering Venezuela, Kaiser Wilhelm is turning his back on President Roosevelt — and the World — while he’s making nefarious plans (or so the Artist is implying — again, this meeting never took place).

I’m not offering up a definitive set of diagnoses for Kaiser Wilhelm II — however, historians often cite that he had Histrionic Personality Disorder, Megalomania, Manic-Depression, and that he was Psychotic.

Trump obviously admires Kaiser Wilhelm II — a man who, while not solely responsible for World War I — his temperament, actions, and choices certainly helped to start it.

It’s crucial to note, that regardless of the skill of the painter, a painting is never actual body language or behavior — and in this case, it distorts history.

(“The map is not the territory.” Alfred Korzybski)

A work of art only represents the end-work of the artist — which itself may or very well may not be an accurate representation of reality — or importantly, the real thought-emotions experienced and/or displayed by the subjects of the art.

SUMMARY: Trump chose to stand with Kaiser Wilhelm II (another megalomaniac) over his right shoulder, thus honoring him.

Kaiser Wilhelm II is a man, who whilst twisting his mustache, is planning obvious nefarious acts — turning his back on Teddy Roosevelt and the rest of the world — and thus together these two despots are dissing Roosevelt’s “Speak softly and carry a big stick” leadership style.

And although its newest meaning in American culture was displayed in this manner 111 years ago, the obvious signal of what the American far-right commonly use as the gesture for “White Power”, the ominousness of Trump’s use of it here, via-surrogacy, cannot be over-stated.

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This post and others accompanying it, serve as a reference source for the art and science of Body Language/Nonverbal Communication. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the author. In an effort to be both practical and academic, many examples from/of varied cultures, politicians, professional athletes, legal cases, public figures, etc., are cited in order to teach and illustrate both the interpretation of others’ body language as well as the projection of one’s own nonverbal skills in many different contexts.