On “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump”

Pleased to announce that The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump is coming out in a few weeks. Yours truly is privileged to have contributed a chapter there, on “Tyranny as a Triumph of Narcissism.”

Here’s Bill Moyers‘ early review of the book and interview with Robert Lifton.

Also, Duty to Warn is organizing various events — marches, lectures and meetings — around the country on October 14, 2017. Come to one near you!

 

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“Now More Than Ever:” On Straitjacketing Trump

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The phrase Now more than ever has been used liberally in our media since November last year, more often than not to sell something. The New York Times uses it to push subscriptions, for example, and it is not alone in this. Now more than ever did not matter, though, when the NYT had an opportunity to alert America to the clear and imminent dangers presented by the GOP candidate in 2016. The paper, like all others, disregarded repeated explicit warnings sent to it by mental health professionals who described Trump’s fixed, inflexible character defect with its predictable manifestations and consequences for the country and the world.

Another phrase one hears often these days is “future historians” — as in, future historians will be perplexed trying to figure out why America elected the least qualified and most dangerous person in the country for president.

There are solid reasons why this happened, and some of them have been touched upon in the public discourse. The most important one, however, the American narcissism which Trump/ism both represents and reflects to the still unseeing like a glaring mirror, remains a taboo. Trump/ism is here to remind us urgently that we must change: we must dismantle and transcend our grandiosely deluded notions of ourselves and build a better, more just and equal world. America is at a crossroads and has a chance to turn this crisis into an opportunity for meaningful growth. But first it must save itself and the world from imminent danger posed by its inherently destructive leader.

Now more than ever we need future historians and psychologists, to bring this nation to its senses or whatever is left of them. One hopes against hope that they would be able to explain to the sizable portion of the American population in thrall of the evil unfolding around it what’s in store for them if the catalyst of that evil remains in power. Presumably, those future experts will know ways to open people’s minds enough to change them. One hopes against hope.

We’ve just witnessed the most Trumpian of Trump’s performances yet — and our pathocracy is still young. For those of us who were raised on Hitlerism, the Phoenix rally was sickeningly familiar, especially in the relentless scapegoating and unloading of narcissistic rage on The Others. “They are trying to take away our history and our heritage,” he bellowed, inciting hatred and bloodlust, as did the other leader in 1930’s Germany and as did all leaders like them in our human history. Some things never change.  This is not a dog whistle but a bullhorn. Not surprisingly, the Nazis applauded.

In Phoenix, Trump reveled in his ceaseless streak of lies and personal grievances delivered in a tone of someone who practices his speech in the mirror for the audience of one. No accident, that, since Trump is THE designated audience of his performances. People who attend his rallies are just props filling his echo chamber of self-adulation. It doesn’t matter that they many of them are fake fans, as evidenced by, among other things, their behavior. Early on, a man just  behind Trump held a sign “Women for Trump,” giggling and feigning (?) surprise when it was pointed out to him. He weaponizes his own rage by spreading it onto his followers who are only too eager to take on what they perceive as a shared cause of aggrieved entitlement.

Back at Mar-a-Lago, Trump will watch his rally repeatedly and demand his handlers to affirm how great he was. His public performances have the aura of hypnotic theatricality because almost none of he says is real in the sense of being grounded in human values or facts.  He does not write his speeches nor understands most words in them, save those that express his pathological desires for power (“win,” “losers”), adulation and revenge. Those he enunciates with the kind of relish that makes non-psychopathic people cringe.

His rallies, like his presidency, are adulation-and-power garnering acts — there is nothing solid or true about them, not in the sense normal people — people with a conscience — understand. They are vehicles for his pathological emotions, just as the other guy’s rallies were, and as such human occasions always are. Groups are always more pathological than individuals, which is one reason why character disordered leaders and followers form such a strong bond: it allows them to normalize and enact their sick impulses  without a fear of judgment.

There is logic and predictability in this pathology, as there always is in cases of human behavior (future psychologists and historians should explain it one day to everyone’s satisfaction). There is a reason, for instance, why this horrific lie-and-hate-fest came a day after a more somber, praised by some journalists, speech on Afghanistan. It is the same reason why Trump delivered his jaw-dropping “fire and fury” threat to North Korea looking as though he was straitjacketed.

Many people wondered about his seemingly defensive posture of crossed arms and petulant demeanor as he spontaneously issued a stunning death threat to another country. His body language expressed how constrained he feels by the presence of the seemingly competent adults around him, those generals who remind him of his military school days and supposedly can reign in his misbehavior. Whenever Trump is forced to act like a human being with a conscience rather than freely show his narcissistically psychopathic self, he experiences it as an unbearable imposition, a wounding which he must undo — unwound — in order to feel like his old “winning” self. And he unwounds best by wounding others, 10 times as hard, as we have been told.

That’s why any attempts to tame or civilize him are futile: he is a walking wound in a perpetual need of unwounding — the harder, the better; such is the pathology of narcissistic psychopaths (a.k.a malignant narcissists). We should ask his former teachers and siblings — they would tell us if they had the courage to tell the truth. He cannot stand to be forced to pretend to be a normal human being.

Any self-serving delusions we may cultivate about our mighty generals controlling Trump should be dissolved quickly, for everyone’s sake. The generals most likely know it already, unlike many of our journalists who are still mired in the swamp of denial. While Trump may partially and superficially submit to his handlers’ guidance, his demeanor says it all: he resents any and all interference with his vengefully grandiose plans and will do what he can do subvert it. And he can do a lot of evil,  and nobody will stop him.

This was shown in the unprompted “fire and fury” announcement accompanied by a resentful and defiant straitjacketed posture, and now in the horrendous display of his insatiable id (not as though there is any other kind) during the Phoenix rally which followed his fake somber (and still unacceptable) Afghanistan speech. Whenever Donny is forced to pretend to do something right, he will have to  — yes, it’s a compulsion — undo it to feel better.

People with Trump’s character defect never do anything good or even decent. This is not a demonization, this is a fact, difficult as it may be to understand and accept for some. Bereft of a conscience, these individuals are incapable of recognizing higher values and have no internal correspondence for positive affective states associated with them. If anything, they look with contempt upon values and people who try to live their lives accordingly. In their eyes, those people are “suckers” to be used and abused. If something that a man like Trump does appears good or decent, you can be certain that it is either an accident — which he will try to undo ASAP — or part of a larger, nefarious agenda meant to benefit him and harm others. If there is one thing everyone, and especially the members of our media, should know in these times of Trumpism, it is this.

Tragically, our journalists are still unable to see and understand it, although some may be slowly opening their eyes. The Afghanistan speech was followed by another batch of journalistic pronouncements of Trump’s non-existent near-virtues. Apparently he was that close to the ever elusive pivot. Why, even as the Phoenix rally was going on, the WaPo editorial board praised Trump’s “welcome self-correction” in his supposed Afghanistan stance (as if he understood anything about the country and its needs).

Steeped as they are in their own narcissism and blinded by the proximity to power, many journalists do not grasp the danger awaiting us. Maybe our future historians and psychologists can explain what is going on more clearly to them, one of these days after the dust of our inevitable mayhem finally settles.

Our future experts may also issue a word of warning to those who expect that Trump’s inevitable demise (tyrants always fall) will make America great again. Nothing is further from the truth. Trump has not caused the disorder we witness, he has merely revealed it and brought it to our attention, as we refused to see it for far too long. Some, those who expect that the removal of Trump would fix everything, continue to do so. It is a mistake.

Narcissistic psychopaths have a knack for violently, sadistically pulling scabs off people’s individual and collective wounds, unveiling the sickness that festers underneath. It is painful and horrifying, but also potentially healing if the revealed sickness is properly diagnosed and attended to. America’s process of (maybe positive) disintegration has just begun, for worse and possibly for better once we get through the worse part and learn from it, if we do.

Meanwhile, now more than ever let’s remember the following and act before our Destroyer-in-Chief fully comes into his own:

What we know about malignant narcissists is that they psychologically decompensate once they achieve the ultimate position of power. They worsen in every possible way: become more grandiose and paranoid, more aggressive and demanding, and progressively less in touch with reality (and Trump has never been fully in touch with it).  We can expect his narcissistic rage to intensify in proportion to his growing grandiosity and paranoia. His handlers will have to resort to increasingly more “creative” ways to placate and subdue him — and it will work, for a while, until it doesn’t. There’ll be blood, symbolic, if not literal, as he’ll fire and destroy his previously “trusted” associates, maybe even in rapid succession and without any rhyme or reason. His demands for adulation will also become more intense and bizarre, and we’ll be witnessing idiotic and quite possibly dangerous displays of his “superiority” and might, likely military as well. This is where the possibility of him starting a war or two just to satisfy his ego becomes quite real. It’s not only that he will never get better, but it is certain that he will get worse. There has never been a case of a malignant narcissist in power whose pathology improved, or even remained stable: they always deteriorate, and often rapidly, as they become drunk on (what they see as) now unlimited power and adulation.

Alexandria & San Francisco: Thoughts and Prayers

Originally published June 15, 2017 at Eat Pray Vote

Yesterday morning we had two mass shootings. In one several people were injured, in the other several died. The former has been reported widely, the latter barely at all. Like all American papers, The New York Times featured an extensive coverage of the first one, while the other merited a brief mention hidden on the bottom of the page.  By the end of the day, the details of the first incident, including the private life of the perpetrator, have been analyzed in all media, but we still don’t know the basic facts about the second case and seemingly no one is curious about them, not in major news organizations and outlets.

The difference between reporting of those two events could not have been more glaring. We could call it the tale of two shootings perhaps, except the second one, which happened at a UPS facility in San Francisco, does not really have a tale.

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Sometimes Life Is Bearable: Lilacs

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‘Tis the time of lilacs again, the heavenly treat that comes unbidden and without fail mid-spring, one of my favorite things in life. Their fragrance fills the house and takes me back to my childhood days spent on our działka, a little piece of land on the outskirts of our city, and to my father who was my best companion during those days. The lilac bushes by my house now are from his garden here, in America.

The memories are bittersweet, as always, and now especially as in a few days we’ll commemorate the 5th anniversary of his death. The fragrance, though, is infused with the force and love for life somehow, maybe on its own or maybe because of the associated memories — likely both — making it worth living.

In a couple of weeks there will be another glorious and short-lived gift of spring: lilies of the valley. Life is bearable sometimes.

Springtime for Twitler: Truth a la Trump

The human mind is not able to disprove every single falsity which has been suggested to it.

Andrzej Lobaczewski, Political Ponerology.

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On the 90th day of Trumpism, Our Leader gave to us: lotsa flip-n-floppin’,  60 bombs exploding, one Southern White House, much kleptofascism, a missing armada, botched legislations, conflicts of interest, Russian collusion, a bunch of Nazis gloating, dozens lost attorneys, journalists a-leaping, Steely Smile Spicer, and a sense of unreality.

To name just a few of his many accomplishments.

The sense of unreality, compounded by chaos and associated anxiety, is slowly but surely becoming our default state of existence as it always is when pathocracy — a rule by psychopaths and narcissists — spreads in any more or less normal so far society. Norms and laws are being set aside and/or redefined, while (the healthy part of) the public watches in horror and disbelief, and organizes protests and anti-pathocratic movements trying to stop the progress of this malignant social disease.

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Wargasm, or How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria

Their cheeks reddened with excitement and their eyes glistened as they gushed over the spectacularness of the event.  Some on that spring evening were moved to wax poetic over the images unfolding before our eyes; while others proclaimed, without a hint of irony or self-reflection, that the illegal and unauthorized act of aggression against another country signified a much needed positive development, both in the President’s popularity and stature, and America’s standing in the world. Also, it made us safer, somehow.

As the bombs hit (or missed, as the case often is) the obscure targets in the faraway land, the media experienced a collective wargasm of the kind that should warrant at least a trigger warning.

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Quote of the Day, by Erich Fromm


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The highly narcissistic group is eager to have a leader with whom it can identify itself. The leader is then admired by the group which projects its narcissism onto him. In the very act of submission to the powerful leader, which is in depth an act of symbiosis and identification, the narcissism of the individual is transferred onto the leader. The greater the leader, the greater the follower. Personalities who as individuals are particularly narcissistic are the most qualified to fulfill this function. The narcissism of the leader who is convinced of his greatness, and who has no doubts, is precisely what attracts the narcissism of those who submit to him. The half-insane leader is often the most successful one until his lack of objective judgment, his rage reactions in consequence to any set-back, his need to keep up the image of omnipotence may provoke him to make mistakes which lead to his destruction. But there are always gifted half-psychotics at hand to satisfy the demands of a narcissistic mass.

From The Heart of Man, 1964

The Leader of the World Meets a Petulant Antisocial Toddler, Embarrassment Ensues

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So this happened after today’s meeting between this cool, classy and composed adult woman who is one of the few non-psychopathic leaders of the world left, and our so-called president:

Trump, totally in line with his character pathology, pretends not to see, hear, or understand Merkel’s and journalists’ requests; his sheepish facial expression, however, tells us that he is ignoring them on purpose. Because of course.

The man is so grandiosely arrogant that he believes he can bend reality to fit his perceptions and pathological needs — and, sadly, this dangerous delusion has worked for him so far. Mainly because people are too stunned and/or afraid to confront him about it.

Our preposterously obliging press is part of that cowed crowd. When reporting this incident, Time captured the video with a caption:

Angela Merkel Asked President Trump to Shake Hands. He Appeared to Ignore Her

They know — or one hopes they still do — that he did not “appear” to ignore her, but did ignore her in the most breathtakingly rude manner. It’s too bad the writers cannot bring themselves to state the obvious. Being too afraid, or maybe confused, to trust one’s eyes and speak the truth is what plays directly into the ethos of post-factual unreality purposely propagated by Trump/ism.

In the classical for any narcissist, and particularly a malignant one, fashion, Trump can “disappear” inconvenient facts and people from his own and everyone’s field of vision — or at least awareness. It’s a feat of magical thinking, typical for toddlers — and while it can be charming and amusing in toddlers, in adults not so much. In adults who run the world, it is downright dangerous.

This is not the first time we’ve witnessed this behavior in public in recent weeks: on multiple occasions, Trump has simply ignored questions posed to him, pretending he did not hear them. If there is anyone left who believes this behavior is normal or harmless, especially in a president, this person should take a long vacation somewhere warm and safe, to recover their senses and sensibility.

Watching the Merkel-antisocial toddler press conference shows so well the difference between a mature, psychologically intact adult, and a developmentally arrested, dangerous, and petulant toddler-man. His body language and facial expressions speak volumes of his fear and contempt — for Merkel, for the press, and for the entire world which dares to still insufficiently champion his greatness. But that’s going to change soon, if he can help it, as he always has. It’s up to us to make sure that this time he does not succeed. For the world’s and everyone’s sake.

By Their Budgets You Shall Know Them

Trump released his budget proposal that elicited praise from other psychopaths and gasps of horror from normal people, proving that Trump/ism remains as reliable a test of a person’s character as it ever was. It is frighteningly easy, for better and for worse, to tell who is conscience-deficient, and usually in what ways, by knowing where folks stand on matters Trump.

Here’s one useful visual of the proposed changes (not included in this “skinny budget” are health care programs and Social Security):

Unveiling of this proposal was followed yesterday by an appearance, during a press conference with Melissa Sean “Steely Smile” Spicer, of Mike Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who explained what’s what.

If you didn’t watch it, you may want to, since it is notable for several interesting occurrences. Among them was Mulvaney explaining that food programs for hungry children and seniors will be slashed because they do not bring desired results.

When asked by incredulous journalists just what exactly such results should be, Mulvaney repeatedly emphasised that denying food to poor seniors was “a compassionate thing to do” because it stopped wasting  money. Same thing with depriving hungry kids of their government rations, although here he gave an explanation of the missing results. Turns out, as he said, that feeding poor kids does not appear to improve their academic performance. A waste of money then.

He may have a point there, I suppose. If Making America Great Again is about turning it into The Hunger Games (as suggested by yours truly on this very blog months ago, during our age of innocence), then it’s best to start the process of natural selection early.

Let the young ones from the slums learn to fend for themselves as soon as possible — they don’t need education anyway, that’s for the kids of rich people — so we can cull the herd to retain the strongest specimens, most able to serve as soldiers in the bloated military that Our Leader is preparing for his many war adventures. Let them eat bootstraps if that’s what it takes.

And those who have a misfortune to nevertheless survive being a cannon fodder and grow old(er) will be eliminated by the lack of health care. If that doesn’t work, we’ll starve them. See? The GOPers have it all worked out. That’s what Paul Ryan calls “mercy.” And he too may be on to something, for death sooner rather than later will seem merciful in the Great Again America prepared for us by Trump&Co.

Let’s face it: the GOP’s vision of MAGA is a version of eugenics designed to eliminate the weak and undesirable members of society to make more room and a much pleasant atmosphere for the wealthy.

Robert Reich calls Trump’s budget “bonkers” and in his post An Orgy of Unnecessary Cruelty describing Trump’s presidential actions to date, he asks, twice:

Why is Trump doing this? He has no compelling justification. 

Not if you are a normal person. Because if you are a narcissistic psychopath who lacks a conscience and is driven by unbridled and sadistic (key word) grandiosity and a desire for power, which makes you see other people, at best, as objects of need- and wish-fulfillment (if you notice them at all), then this is exactly the kind of budget you’d create.

More from Reich on the budget’s specifics: