Truth or Dare?


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In a September 2016 post, The Red Herring of the Candidates’ (Physical) Health, I wrote:

If / when Trump is elected and proceeds to dismantle our democracy (yes, we know this is a very real possibility, thanks to correct diagnosis, as chaos and destruction are assured by his character defect; but he also said so, should there be any doubts), will we perhaps revisit and rethink the Goldwater Rule? If we have that chance, of course, and a courage and desire to do so.

The dismantling of our democracy is in full swing now and proceeds according to schedule.

Make no mistake: What we are witnessing is not some incompetent bumbling of governmental novices, but purposeful and vengeful destruction of our government, country, and possibly — if the pathocratic Trump/Bannon cabal is allowed to remain in power — the world.

Destruction and mayhem, in addition to an autocratic rule, are guaranteed when a pathocracy led by a malignant narcissist takes over a government of any nation.

Yet we still cannot, will not, do not want to acknowledge the Destroyer’s-in-Chief character defect and its predictable consequences and prognosis even as they unfold in front of our very eyes, step-by-every-unsurprising-step.

We — some of us, who tried to alert the media and America of the upcoming dangers — have warned about Trump’s reign of destruction early on, predicting his rise to power and its disastrous consequences based on his pathology and the socio-political conditions of the country and the world.

Our warnings were dismissed; instead, the media, in deference to and with support of professional organizations like the APA, engaged in a sort of kabuki theater of denials and obfuscations, not very different from those we see daily from the Trump administration (and typical for narcissistic blindness and the defense mechanisms employed in its service).

The past two weeks have brought a new group of professionals publicly concerned about Trump’s mental unhealth. There is often (though not always) a distinct and understandable caution in the voices of those who suggest that our commander-in-chief may not be fully in command of reality and his own behavior; and one — but not only — reason for it is the inevitable and always aggressive and/or contemptuous pushback that follows.

However, as close as those rightly concerned come to an accurate diagnosis of the problem — and many of them do, with exceptions of some outlandish propositions like syphilis or amorous narcissism  —  they unfortunately misdefine it as mental illness, eliciting the customary now, and not entirely unjustified, criticisms from others.

Interestingly, those professionals who insist that there is something wrong with Trump are met with accusations of launching politically motivated attacks. Those accusations come from both laypeople and other experts.

Yet somehow no one — not in official discussions at least — suggests that those who deny Trump’s character defect may perhaps be politically motivated and unable to see what’s apparent to most because of their own biases. It obviously does not occur to Trump’s defenders.

As usual in this most interesting human enterprise that’s seeking truth, gathering knowledge and shaping it for public consumption, what’s true is being determined not so much by objective facts, but by the acceptable status and visibility of the speaker. To be sure, post-factualness is part of the human condition, rather than something ushered in by Trumpism. Trumpism only fans its flames, spreading it faster and wider, and with vengeance characteristic of its pathology. And yes, it is a pathology.

I see the WaPo‘s new slogan in their masthead, Democracy Dies in Darkness, and the NYT newest ad posturings about the importance of truth, with their bombastic list of what truth is (did their former star Judith Miller approve?). And I view both as profoundly ironic because neither of the papers was interested in the truth and preventing the darkness when it was still possible. Now they act shocked and holy. No wonder they have no credibility with “the people” and Trump can mock them so easily.

Narcissistic blindness is totally a thing.

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See also Steve Becker’s blog.

Uber Narcissists at Work


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Susan J. Fowler, a former Uber engineer, wrote a blog post that’s making a news splash for its description of sexual harassment she and other women were subjected to at the company — a problem that, in a classically abusive fashion, was repeatedly minimized, ignored, and eventually blamed on her.

Her story is notable not just (ha) for the sexual harassment she endured on the job, but also for a depiction of what is or should be already recognized as a toxic workplace culture that develops in any organizations — families, businesses, countries — run by character defective individuals: narcissists, psychopaths, and malignant narcissists (narcissistic psychopaths).

Here’s what Susan writes about working at Uber, aside from its coddling of sexual predators:

In the background, there was a game-of-thrones political war raging within the ranks of upper management in the infrastructure engineering organization. It seemed like every manager was fighting their peers and attempting to undermine their direct supervisor so that they could have their direct supervisor’s job. No attempts were made by these managers to hide what they were doing: they boasted about it in meetings, told their direct reports about it, and the like. I remember countless meetings with my managers and skip-levels where I would sit there, not saying anything, and the manager would be boasting about finding favor with their skip-level and that I should expect them to have their manager’s job within a quarter or two. I also remember a very disturbing team meeting in which one of the directors boasted to our team that he had withheld business-critical information from one of the executives so that he could curry favor with one of the other executives (and, he told us with a smile on his face, it worked!).

The ramifications of these political games were significant: projects were abandoned left and right, OKRs were changed multiple times each quarter, nobody knew what our organizational priorities would be one day to the next, and very little ever got done. We all lived under fear that our teams would be dissolved, there would be another re-org, and we’d have to start on yet another new project with an impossible deadline. It was an organization in complete, unrelenting chaos. 

This is a spot-on description of what goes on in any human enterprise led by narcissists and psychopaths, and that includes our disorganized and inept White House — or as the King of Chaos puts it, “a fine-tuned machine.”

As we  know by now — and see proven daily on a national and international stage — narcissistic psychopaths are inherently destructive — they cannot help it as their character defect makes it impossible for them to recognize and create anything of value. Driven by compulsion to meet their own primitive goals — power, greed, sex, and adulation, in varying order of importance depending on circumstances — and unencumbered by empathy, guilt and shame that would give rise to inhibitions and scruples, they use other people as objects of their need- and wish-fulfillment.

Normal people cannot function within such organizations for long, and their attempts to fit in will lead to a host of negative mental and physical problems like poor job satisfaction, bad work behaviors, high levels of stress, demoralization, depression and even suicidality. Their attempts to address the organization’s toxic culture will be met with hostility and revenge, since hell has no fury like a narcissist scorned.

In a recently published study, Abigail Phillips and her colleagues from Alliance Manchester Business School, found out that

as the levels of psychopathy and narcissism increased among leaders, so too did the prevalence of workplace bullying, counterproductive work behaviour, job dissatisfaction, psychological distress and depression among subordinate employees.

Interestingly, they also discovered that the toxicity of the character defective bosses infected the whole workplace by normalizing bullying among employees. Compare this again with the effect that our Narcissistic Psychopath-in-Chief has not only on his staff but the entire country.

It goes without saying, of course, that any organizations run by narcissistic psychopaths and their ilk will be permeated with misogyny, which is a “natural” feature of this character defect. Sexual harassment is nearly guaranteed.

Ian Hughes of Disordered World has more on narcissistic bosses.

All The King’s Experts, Part 1


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It is Saturday, Day 679 of Our Great Leader’s Ascension to The Throne, which means it is time for another fairy tale*:

Once upon a time, in a land far away, The People elected The Leader who was unlike any other they have seen before — not in Their Land. Other peoples Elsewhere had their share of such leaders time and again, and so they knew what it meant, but The People didn’t and wouldn’t listen to Elsewherians when they tried to warn them. Well, to be accurate, some did — but will get to that later.

The Leader was everything The People wanted and then some. His spectacular and flamboyant daily doings and undoings — though the latter were less visible — mesmerized and occupied The People’s minds and were subject of endless, heated debates.

Some believed the un/doings were exactly what Their Land needed, while Others vehemently disagreed. The chasm between Some and Others grew wider each day, and The People were at loss to understand why.

As time passed, and chaos and violence grew in Their Land and Abroad, what with The Leader’s wars as foreign policy and his desire to show himself The Mightiest Leader of All, more and more of The People started to notice things about The Leader that they did not see before.

He would say unusual things — like, for example, that the sky was purple; and His Henchmen ran into Town Squares and Twitter to assure each other and The People that the sky was as purple as Italian plums.

The People looked at the sky, and even though it still seemed blue to most, they were not really sure now. Because if Everybody sees purple, who am I to question that? went the Average Person’s reasoning.

Or, soaking wet from rain during one of his triumphant, though scary as hell rallies, The Leader would declare this to be The Sunniest Day ever on account of his Magnificent Speech. (#truefact)

He would say that the health care he gave The People was the best, but it was hard to hide any longer that more people than ever were dying from treatable and preventable diseases because they could not afford to see a doctor. Or he said that his job creation programs and environmental policies were Making Their Land Great Again, when more and more of The People found themselves in perpetually jobless despair, unable to find free drinkable water and clear air to breathe. (#alsotruefactsoon, #freemarketrules)

Little things like that started to add up in The People’s minds.

Some also began to notice that as the disorder in Their Land intensified, The Leader’s life and that of His Henchmen grew more lavish and carefree.

It didn’t seem right, but there was no good explanation for what they saw. After all, The Leader was the greatest ever — he said so himself and they believed him, even as their doubts grew in spite of their Proper Judgment (TM).

As it is often the case in such times of confusion in Their Land, The People started to ask, WTF?, and, naturally, turned to The Experts for explanations.

to be continued

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*This is a fairy tale, obvs. So any possible similarities between its characters and situations, and those of actual people and their increasingly wtf-ish reality are purely coincidental, totally unintended, and, seriously, just imagined by you, dear reader. The sky is still pur… blue and the wars have not started. Yet. Now go take a deep breath, if you still can.

Donny vs. Scottish (and not) Resistance

Today is the “Day Without Immigrants” nation-wide boycott, and the National General Strike is planned for tomorrow:

Alexandria Neason’s very good piece Is America Ready for a General Strike? looks at the history and possible future of American and not only strikes.

And here’s how Scots do it — resist Trump, that is:

Oh, and don’t forget if you’re in FL (and not only):

To Chuck Todd on Trumpian Necrophiliacs

Just when one gets her hopes up for Chuck — who on MTP today followed, quite remarkably, the Nazi specter of Stephen Miller with Bernie Sanders, brilliantly juxtaposing the darkness of fascism with the light of its opposite — he manages to disappoint:

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, I say two things, right now we are in a pivotal moment in American history. We have a president who is delusional in many respects, a pathological liar, somebody who is trying to–

CHUCK TODD:

Those are strong words.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS:

–divide us up.

CHUCK TODD:

Can you work with–

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS:

Those are strong words.

CHUCK TODD:

Can you work with a pathological liar?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS:

Well, it makes life very difficult, not just for me. And I don’t mean, you know, I know it sounds, it is very harsh. But I think that’s the truth. When somebody goes before you and the American people, say, “Three to five million people voted illegally in the last election,” nobody believes that. There is not the scintilla of evidence.

What would you call that remark? It’s a lie. It’s a delusion. 

Chuck still cannot see the pathology in Trump’s blatant lies, proving that this country, and the world, is way overdue for a serious discussion on mental health and its lack.

But never mind that now or the rest of the bizarro-inane punditry (is there any other kind?) that came afterwards.

We shall focus — because we must, this blog being a public service ‘n all — on highlighting a peculiarly unpleasant but crucial aspect of Trump/ism: its narcissistic worship of death and destruction, manifested not just in its ideology that informs its actions, but in the characters involved. Not surprisingly, of course, as our beliefs flow directly from our characters, showing to the world, though usually much less effectively to ourselves, who we are.

Enter Stephen Miller:

Gulp.

Miller made Sunday talk show rounds and there is no doubt that Trump chose this individual on purpose to represent him this morning, following the last night’s humiliations of the SNL parodies.

If you do not feel a cold shiver running down your spine when you watch Miller on TV, you should probably see your doctor.

Afterwards, please do read Erich Fromm’s The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, especially the chapters on malignant aggression. There, Fromm delineates several destructive character types and discusses their psychopathology, along with their characteristic appearance.

One of those types is a necrophiliac, a term Fromm uses to describe someone who is enamored with and motivated by death and destruction, as opposed to love for life and creation. Ideologically, necrophiliacs are typically associated with fascism, which provides the “proper” outlet for their desires to control, dominate, and destroy The Others:

Many necrophilous individuals give the impression of constantly smelling a bad odor. Anybody who studies the many pictures of Hitler, for instance, can easily discover this sniffing expression in his face. This expression is not always present in necrophiles, but when it is, it is one of the most reliable criteria of such a passion. [I would attribute it to narcissistic contempt for and distrust of others — Emma.]  

Another characteristic element in the facial expression is the necrophile’s incapacity to laugh. His laughter is actually a kind of smirk; it is unalive and lacks the liberating and joyous quality of normal laughter. In fact it is not only the absence of the capacity for “free” laughter that is characteristic of the necrophile, but the general immobility and lack of expression in his face. One can observe that such people in reality never “laugh” but only “grin.” While watching television one can sometimes observe a speaker whose face remains completely unmoved while he is speaking; he grins only at the beginning or the end of his speech when, according to American custom, he knows that he is expected to smile. Such persons cannot talk and smile at the same time, because they can direct their attention only to the one or the other activity; their smile is not spontaneous but planned, like the unspontaneous gestures of a poor actor. The skin is often indicative of necrophiles: it gives the impression of being lifeless, “dry,” sallow; when we sense sometimes that a person has a “dirty” face, we are not claiming that the face is unwashed, but are responding to the particular quality of a necrophilous expression.

(There’s more — see Fromm’s book, it’s a good read.)

I would add to this description their dead, unseeing eyes, a feature that Fromm describes in a later chapter on Hitler; and, in men, peculiar, effeminate (for lack of a better word) mannerisms (e.g., Richard “Watch my right pinky” Spencer).

There are no doubt common neurological underpinnings of these characteristics, linking them to stunted emotional and moral development that manifests in attraction to fascistic and fundamentalist ideologies of all kinds. Curious neuroscientists should look into that.

Tyranny 101: Shock and Awe


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“I was going to hit one guy in particular, a very little guy. I was going to hit this guy so hard his head would spin, he wouldn’t know what the hell happened.”

Candidate Trump at a campaign rally in Davenport, Iowa, July 2016

“When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it. Just don’t worry about it.”

President Trump at the National Prayer Breakfast, Washington D.C., February, 2017

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“States are as the men are; they grow out of human characters.”

Plato, The Republic, Greece, ca. 380 BC

“Character is destiny.”

Heraclitus, Greece, ca. 450 BC

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Shock

Tyrants. Can’t live with them.

Can’t even see them coming — and that’s as they announce themselves loudly, clearly, and repeatedly.

Raised on dystopian fiction, steeped in virtual reality overrun with aliens and shenanigans in galaxies far, far away, and preoccupied with power games of imaginary empires, we do not notice our homegrown tyrant’s climb to power until he signs a gaggle of executive orders undoing what we believed were our inalienable rights.

We have come to expect our tyrants to be clad in long capes and black helmets, breathing heavily in and out as they issue death orders — and if they must be more realistic, then at least they should have mustaches — so having one who looks like everyone’s obnoxious rumpled uncle, wearing ill-fitting suits and breathing heavily only on the intake, throws us off.

He is so familiar — has been part of our collective TV-shaped consciousness for decades — and we are so used to making fun of him that we are shocked to discover that all this time when we ridiculed him, he plotted his payback and waited for the right moment to unleash it, on a scale commensurate with the gargantuan size of his rampaging id. Derided as a clueless child or insane clown (he is none of those), like a school-shooting loner whose character defect he shares, he too has come to claim what he believes is his due: revenge and glory.

Some are dismayed to discover how brute and unceremonious he is — why, we’d never! It almost feels like a personal insult. Don’t we deserve a tyrant who’d fit our narcissistic ideas of ourselves? Surely we could manage one better dressed and quoting Nietzsche or at least Bukowski. He is so anti-climactic, so out of line with our post-modernist expectations that many still cannot decide whether he is a greater affront to our aesthetics or to our democracy — to the extent they can tell a difference between the two. For autocracy’s sakes, he could at least pop a few tic-tacs before grabbing our Constitution by its articles.

Others still can’t see him for who and what he is, and persist in half-denial, half-stupefaction, creating endless theories of “How could it happen?” and almost coming to understand how he operates — but then always taking a step back, because the truth, even staring them in their faces, continues to be unacceptable. They bemoan that “there is no blueprint” for what’s happening, as if wholly unfamiliar with the tragedy of human history marked by these very same processes time and again.

Many are the same people who did not take him seriously nor literally (and it should have been both) — and some persist in that approach.

Acting from the framework of perpetual irony, if not cynicism, they have come to expect that everyone lies, in politics especially, so they have assumed — against all available evidence — that his authoritarian posturings were just a ploy to win the election, but nothing more sinister. A “bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused,” as the NYT wrote of a similar leader in 1922 Germany. Once in office, he’d pivot, you know — mellow under the responsibility that will dawn on him and no doubt grow that missing conscience.

As David Frum writes in How to Build an Autocracy,

If this were happening in Honduras, we’d know what to call it. It’s happening here instead, and so we are baffled.

A few, however, do see him clearly, and some members of that group surprise.

One of many profound ironies of our rapidly developing kleptofascist unreality is the sudden emergence of what appears to be a good judgment — and maybe even a semblance of conscience? — in people who eagerly served another leader with a very similar, albeit less pronounced, character defect.

Former members of the Bush cabal are issuing warnings about Trump’s presidency, some of them remarkably prescient, making one wonder why, if they can see evil so clearly, they readily cooperated with it just a few years ago? What, if anything, is responsible for this appearance of their moral discernment now, while not that long ago they themselves constructed, aided and abetted a pathological regime that destabilized the world and created ongoing human suffering?

Surely if they have retained some semblance of a conscience, they must understand that Trump’s developing tyranny is just a continuation, by slightly different means, of their own grandiose Project for the New American Century, and likely its closing chapter. Bush’s reign, followed by Obama’s mightily imperfect attempts at stanching the flow of the misery it produced, was a prelude to Trump’s full-on destruction already in progress.

If these sudden prophets do possess a conscience, we would see some expressions of guilt and shame, and attempts to take responsibility for their part in creating this disaster. But so far there are none. This makes their motives suspicious and renders their warnings about Trump, correct as they are, unintentionally ironic at best.

It also makes them tainted and easy to dismiss by Trump/ists, who are only too eager to point out the political and moral failures of previous administrations. Unfortunately, they do have a point: war-mongers and murderers by proxy (and not) do not have a moral standing to criticize the new autocrats who follow them into power.

These peculiar — tragically absurd, really — twists of our political and not only fate vividly illustrate one of the eternal human problems brought to the forefront of our awareness today: that of the dangerous malleability of our conscience crippled by narcissistic blindness and uniquely vulnerable to corruptibility by power. This is an issue central to the establishment of tyranny, which is spurred on by a specific character of one person, but forms only through eager (and not) cooperation of others.

Once we understand the tyrant’s character, which at its core is universally recognizable regardless of a historical era and socio-cultural differences, we can see how tyranny forms, grows, and eventually falls, as it always does. That’s because the oppressive socio-political regime is mostly the tyrant’s psychopathology writ large, augmented by narcissistic collusion with similarly defective individuals in power around him, and infecting the whole society and the world.

As tyrants go, so do tyrannies

In her paper, Why Tyrants Go Too Far: Malignant Narcissism and Absolute Power, late Betty Glad used Aristotle’s definition of a tyrant as

one who (1) rules without law, (2) looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects, and (3) uses extreme and cruel tactics — against his own people as well as others.

(…)

Lacking concern for elementary considerations of justice, he needlessly creates enemies and sets himself on a path that leads to increasingly chaotic behavior on his part. In short, the tyrant is one who seeks and exercises powers for his own rather than the general interest, does it outside the law, and creates a political order based on extreme cruelties and distrust.

Glad’s otherwise excellent article, in which she discusses the tyrants’ psychopathology using detailed examples of Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein, has two minor weaknesses.

One is her view of the decompensation and de-evolution of The Tyrant’s character as “paradoxical,” while even her own analysis shows that there is nothing paradoxical about it, as it flows logically and consistently from The Tyrant’s pathology and its predictable consequences on his psyche, his relationships with others, and the world at large. The other are her suggestions on dealing with tyrants, which we’ll get back to later.

All tyrants, past and present, suffer from the same essential character defect — a severely impaired or missing conscience, combined with an insatiable drive for power and adulation. There is a name for it: narcissistic psychopathy or malignant narcissism (used interchangeably here). You will not find it in DSM, and, in fact, there are mental health professionals who do not see it as pathological.

It is not mental illness — although some forms of mental illness, most frequently paranoia, are typically associated with it, particularly as The Tyrant grows in power. Paranoid tendencies are a built-in feature of narcissistic psychopathy, due predominantly to the faulty reality testing and sadistic projections which are central components of this character defect.

The progress of tyranny generally mirrors the progress — or de-evolution, to be accurate — of The Tyrant’s personal pathology. It is a largely predictable process, with individual variations that do not invalidate its universal and repetitive pattern.

Not understanding his character defect and its effects on others, even experts under- and overestimate the tyrant-in-the-making, and not a few remain in complete denial about his emergence, despite the sound of his and his sycophants’ marching boots, literal and/or symbolic, reverberating throughout the land.

The underestimators may characterize him as a cheap huckster, for instance, not seeing the malevolence lurking behind the buffoonish, over-the-top facade.

The overestimators see signs of political astuteness in his primitivism, mistaking the eruptions of his id for rational and calculated maneuvers. They try to divine what they suspect are cunning grand designs for the world hegemony from ongoing expressions of his personal vindictiveness.

It is helpful to understand his pathology to know that The Tyrant almost never has well-thought-out world (or any) designs, even though in his grandiosity he likely nurtures hopes for such in his black-and-white, inflexible mind. A one-dimensional being with no ability for abstract thought and rational planning is incapable of playing three-dimensional chess. Might is right, here and now is more his style.

Yes, he has an overarching vision of the world, which reflects his pathology: it is a dark, brutal realm populated by winners and losers, with a special place reserved by gods / destiny for him, soon-to-be The Grandest Winner of all, with all the perks that come with this superior position to which he feels naturally entitled.

In that world, pathological ends justify any and all means. As Trump’s surrogate Michael Flynn boasted,

we will do whatever it takes to win… If you are victorious, the people will judge whatever means you used to have been appropriate.

One is reminded of Niccolo Lucci’s [1] observation that

The problem is not how to get rid of the enemy, but rather how to get rid of the last victor. For what is a victor but one who has learned that violence works? Who will teach him a lesson?

Unable to understand and predict other people’s motives and actions beyond the most primitive, based on violence, fear, greed, or lust, The Tyrant continually fumbles and overreaches. It cannot be otherwise. Conscience-free individuals drunk on fantasies of their own grandeur and power do not reason clearly, if at all.

His primitivism, however, seen too often as “charisma,”manages to inspire a large enough following of conscience-deficient individuals to propel him, legally and not, to the position of ultimate power and help him stay there for a while.

If he possesses some capacity for abstract reasoning and planning, it is distorted by his irrepressible need for adulation and immediate gratification of his primitive power drive, along with his sadism manifesting in an impulse — not to be thwarted under any circumstances — to punish his critics and opponents.

When he engages in any long(er)-term planning, it is usually with the help of his sycophants, who are ego-like extensions of his id augmenting its wishes, and whom he will discard in a blink of an eye when they stop fulfilling that function. They always serve at his pleasure and they better do what he says or else.

So even though The Tyrant indulges feverish and intensifying dreams of glory, we rarely can discern a rational grand design to speak of within his rule.  Instead, we find bumbling, vitriolic, step-by-step, trial-and-error (and more error, as learning is impaired and not desired anyway) plodding based on the whims of The Tyrant’s id, fueled by narcissistic rage. It is the audacity of dope.

His sycophants, who are often more rational and in touch with reality, but usually as conscience-deficient as he is, may have some long-term designs of their own and try to put them into action through their influence on him. But that influence is more limited, time-wise, than they realize, because as the tyrant grows more paranoid — and he always does — he will dispose of them as he does of his adversaries and enemies. He is a destroyer-in-chief, after all.

In the beginning of his rule, however, The Tyrant, high on his victory, is usually positively predisposed for a while and rational enough to try to placate The People by giving them a little of what they want, while consolidating his personal power and already secretly enriching himself and his cabal through behind-the-scenes deals and machinations. Should any of them come to light and become a cause for potential public outrage, he’ll divert The People’s attention with some form of circuses which may involve a war or two.

Wars and ongoing conflicts, international and domestic, are inevitable anyway, because of The Tyrant’s tendency to induce chaos and discord wherever he goes. Nothing satisfies his sadism and thirst for power like killing and mass destruction. And, as Aristotle wrote, “the tyrant is inclined constantly to foment wars in order to preserve his own monopoly of power.” He “is also fond of making war in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader.”

The Tyrant has no difficulty spilling other people’s blood, even as he assures The People to the contrary and may put on performances of sorrow over fallen soldiers. Remember, for a narcissistic psychopath other people are merely objects of wish- and need-fulfillment.

His violence is all the more acceptable as it is directed at The Others at first.

The Tyrant, like all narcissists and many psychopaths, including most of his followers, suffers from an inner split into grandiose and devalued parts of self. Consequently, he divides the world and people, via projection, into black and white, the good me/us and the evil not-me/them categories. (The good ones are those who fulfill his needs for power and adulation through submission and flattery.)

This process allows for scapegoating, which is the unloading of projections of the repressed, negative, devalued parts of his psyche — all of his unglorious vices — on The Others and therefore justifying the inevitable mistreatment and violence against them.

Part of The Tyrant’s appeal to The People is that open willingness of his to scapegoat The Others. It gives The People a permission to do the same, allowing them to purge their pain and sense of misery, narcissistic and not, through the hate directed at The Others. The bloodbath — or a so-called victory — that typically ensues as a result of scapegoating restores a belief in The People’s, as well as The Tyrant’s, might and superiority, which is necessary for the narcissists’ and psychopaths’  sense of well-being and group cohesion. (Team sports serve a similar function in less bloody ways.)

As The Tyrant’s rule progresses and his paranoia grows, the circle of the devalued Others widens in his mind and encompasses his, soon to be former, associates and even family members. He won’t think twice, or at all, before sending them to a gulag or the gallows when they displease him.

It is crucial to remember something seemingly obvious but consistently forgotten — that no tyrant ever runs and comes to power on the platform of genocidal tyranny. Each and every one of them gathers the support of The People by promising them a better life, along with restoration of law and order, old-fashioned values, and healing of their wounded national and personal pride. The latter is a key element in forming the narcissistic collusion between him and The People.

The Tyrant, bereft of conscience and poorly cognizant of objective reality, has no desire or ability to make good on those promises, and particularly those that may sound as though rooted in higher values; but, true to his character defect, he always tells others what they want to hear without any regard for truth.  And to his most ardent followers, it does not matter since

His irresistible pull lies not in any specific policies he may be promising (and being blissfully unacquainted with reality, he is always short and/or vague on those), but in the feelings his words engender in his followers, specifically a narcissistic identification with the strongman, which compensates for his followers’ inadequacies; and narcissistic rage, which the strongman embodies and already unleashes on the nation through inciting chaos and violence. The only promises that matter are those which bring in a possibility of revenge for the real and imagined hurts of his followers.

If he possesses some remnants of a conscience and superego, The Tyrant may even believe in a good-sounding ideology rooted in what may appear as higher values. If that’s the case — and even when not — his speeches will be peppered with references to such values (peace, equality, progress, love, care for the forgotten people); but examining his behavior and life quickly shows that his personal understanding, respect for, and adherence to such values is non-existent. For instance, his repeated invocations, with a distinctly fake concern, of his care for the forgotten people ring hollow when we witness how quickly and easily he forgets his own wife when rushing to the limelight and his throne.

The signs of truth, along with portents of things to come are always firmly there, visible in The Tyrant’s actions and life story — we just need to pay attention to them.

Radovan Karadzic’s narcissistic psychopathy with its blood-thirsty strivings was chillingly clear in his award-winning poetry, for example, and confirmed early in his behavior. It should have been obvious that this poet and psychiatrist (yes) was not a person to place in any position of power. But he told The People ready for a “change” what they wanted to hear, and, by electing this “one of the most prominent sons of our Lord Jesus Christ working for peace” as the Greek Orthodox Church declared Karadzic in 1994, they got what they wanted — and more.

It is worth noting the Western journalists’ disappointment upon discovering how untyrannical, according to their imaginations, Karadzic was when they met him for an interview titled, instructively, He Didn’t Seem Like a Psychopath. One hopes that this would be a lesson, so urgently necessary, that The Tyrant’s pathology does not necessarily manifest in his appearance and face-to-face demeanor, but in his deeds and speech (which is a deed as well), reflecting the blackness of his soul. And manifest it does — always, without exception, which makes it tragic that we continue to elect such leaders, and then remain unaware of what they have in store for us, despite ample warning signs.

Whether it’s The Slav Guest, Mein Kampf, or The Art of the Deal, The Tyrant’s-to-be pathology is on full display in his words and actions, present and past; but we either do not see it or don’t want to see it, ignoring, minimizing or excusing its obvious existence.

With tyranny in progress, every political development is a function of The Tyrant’s disordered ego, or more accurately, his id — which is driven predominantly by Thanatos (death instinct) and not Eros, as some claim — and as such it serves his personal pathological needs.

While The Tyrant is blissfully free of the constraints of our common reality with its pesky facts and values, his own reality — which is the only one there is — is based on three major principles:

1. I am great.
2. People unfairly malign me.
3. I will show them (they will pay).

Those are not just beliefs — they are facts etched deep in his psyche, and they evoke corresponding emotional states of 1. grandiose pride, 2. sense of victimhood and resentment, 3. desire for revenge, all of which form the core of his sense of self and motivate his actions.

Each political decision of The Tyrant — every single one — stems from or is heavily colored by these “facts” and the emotional states they activate in him.

We can trace grandiose pride, a sense of victimhood, and sadistic desire for revenge in all of his pronouncements and interactions with others. This makes him quite transparent, predictable, and easy to manipulate — to a point. Because of course he won’t stop before annihilating his opponents when he discovers they’ve tried to game him — or when he merely imagines so, something his paranoid tendencies make frighteningly easy.

After The Tyrant achieves ultimate power, his grandiosity is no longer constrained by the need to pretend to be more benevolent than he is in order to bring The People to his side. His win provides the validation of his specialness that he very much expected. With this boost to his already overblown sense of self-worth, he is confirmed in his belief that there are no limits to his power and glory.

This frees him to become more openly violent, as primitive aggression is his modus operandi, and his rule becomes more destructive. That in turn fuels his sense of power, and his grandiosity soars too.

The People are treated to ever-more-bizarre displays of his glory: parades and pageants extolling his awesomeness, grand palaces and other structures built in his name, demands of worship that may include having his portraits displayed in every household, reciting poetry glorifying his greatness, creating national holidays in his name, and so on.

The bombast serves two main purposes: self-glorification and deflection of The People’s attention from the mayhem and disorder he sows in the world, as well as his own growing corruption and instability.

But like a balloon that will eventually burst when overinflated, his expanding grandiosity and the sense of invincibility it creates usually (not always) lead to a collapse. No tyrant seems to remember that “Pride goes before the fall,” nor does he want to hear it or anything else that might pierce the bubble of his grandiosity.

Never keen on facts and objective information, with time The Tyrant becomes even more withdrawn from reality. His “knowledge” and inspiration that inform his decisions increasingly come from his own fantasies, isolating him even more from his formerly close associates, confidantes, and family members who do not share his pathology (and there often are some remaining), and thus from opportunities for a corrective, reality-based intervention. The number of those able and willing to risk such an intervention rapidly dwindles with time, however, as no one wants to be demoted, sent away for “re-education,” or killed.

As his reign progresses, his pathology — grandiosity, aggression, paranoia, inner split (fragmentation), and disinhibition — grows. With time, his corruption too will become more apparent and eventually impossible to hide. And it’s usually the corruption rather than any of his inhumane and murderous policies, which are a given but easily overlooked when directed at The Others, that becomes a major factor in his collapse and that of his regime, as it will provoke jealousy and rage of both The People and his rivals eager to replace him.

His downfall is precipitated by increasing paranoia that leads to more fantasy-based, irrational behaviors, many of which turn out to be self-defeating and even openly self-destructive. His grandiosity prevents him from seeing the grave error of his decisions, and looking for ways to protect himself from the inevitable revenge of his enemies and/or that contingent of The People who finally have enough and are able to effectively mobilize against him.

Glad writes that

The particular finale to the tyrant’s story, however, will depend on the political structure in which he operates and the vicissitudes of fortune. If his extreme behavior leads to the creation of opposing alliances, new boundaries may keep his potential for fragmentation in check. But if he has undertaken a path that permits no face-saving exit, he may take a route that risks the structures he has built.

This is where a possibility of a total annihilation of the world as he knows it, sometimes with himself in it, becomes a “reasonable” option in The Tyrant’s mind.

Glad also offers suggestions on dealing with the tyrants (“maintain clear, firm, but non-provocative boundaries;” don’t compromise, because “compromise with him is likely only to whet the appetite;” avoid humiliating confrontations as those would lead to eruptions of destructive aggression), concluding that

Short of keeping such a person from ever coming to power, the creation of countervailing constraints that are both clear and impersonally used may be the best alternative available.

Glad’s suggestions appear to be directed at the diplomatic personnel dealing with foreign tyrants; and, in what is a second minor weakness of her paper, she does not mention — maybe because it would be superfluous — that such interventions did not work with the three tyrants she discusses at length. The conclusion, for the reader, is inescapable: there are no good answers to the question of How do you solve the problem of The Tyrant? Who will teach him a lesson?

More shock

In their WaPo essay, Dan Zak and Monica Hesse ask, Shock. Outrage. Resistance. Repeat. Is this the new normal in Trump’s America?

The answer is yes, as this sequence is a mirror of The Tyrant’s personal pathology and its effects on others, and it marks the beginning of his rule and its enforcement.

Repeated shocks to our individual and collective systems are meant to sow fear and confusion, and cow people into submission. Frightened and confused people are easier to govern (= accept The Tyrant as their savior).

The shocks also serve as the means of making the abnormal normalized and acceptable by habituation and inevitable fatigue, a process we are witnessing now and confirmed by historians familiar with tyrannical regimes of the past.

Tyranny, true to the demands of The Tyrant’s insatiable id — freed of the constraints of his ego that provides effective reality testing, as well as those normally imposed by superego with its scruples, and conscience with its empathy and higher values — starts with and depends on squashing dissent and eliminating truth, at least from the public sphere and discourse. The Tyrant himself is not bound by reality and facts; his “truth” is determined by his changing feelings reflective of his id’s desires:

Living in a reality of his own making, a narcissist is unconcerned with truth or objectivity. Honesty and consistency are for mere mortals or losers; he is not bound by them in any way. What is more, he will glibly manage to convince you that he is correct in whatever opinion he is voicing at the moment. Those who live with a narcissist are prone to fall for his reality distortions and may have difficulties after a while telling truth from fiction, even as it pertains to their own perceptions, feelings, and thoughts.

This — attempts to pull the entire nation into The Tyrant’s unreality — is what we are witnessing now.

It is best accomplished by a steady stream by paralogisms and paramoralisms, or what Kellyanne Goebbels calls “alternative facts,” which are as shocking and awe-inducing, though more insidious in their effects, as The Tyrant’s assorted decrees that violate established norms and laws.

The lies, distortions and obfuscations are always accompanied by attempts to shame and guilt the truth-tellers into silence; followed by intimidation, threats, and other means of marginalizing and delegitimizing them; and then elimination — from their positions and/or life when the time comes.

Seasoned tyrants at the peak of their power don’t bother with threats, but go straight for physical elimination of their critics, something our tyrant-in-the-making appears to approve, at least tacitly so far.

Some observers ask whether these shocks are intentional or signs of incompetence perhaps; the answer, strangely and not, is neither — and both. It is like asking whether the destruction caused by an avalanche could be classified as intentional or indicative of incompetence. Just as with avalanches, framing the destruction caused by tyrants in these terms somewhat misses the point.

Tyrants are both incompetent and intentional in the mayhem they inflict because they cannot be anything else. They have no choice. Their pathology makes them inherently destructive and blind, archetypal instruments of fate.

And awe

The awe today comes from witnessing the upsurge of humanity revolted by The Tyrant-in-the-making and his pathological rule. This is not your grandfather’s revolution, especially since it is populated and led so heavily by women. However, we have seen this happen in response to tyrants of the past and present in every society. Street protests and demonstrations only go so far, and The Tyrant knows it, no matter how dim he may be.

Unpleasant as it is for him to see, with time he stops being concerned about the “little people” rising against him, because he knows he can squash them through legal and not means. And he will, unless there is a concerted effort of people of conscience using all available peaceful means to prevent it — but even that may not stop him. He has an arsenal behind him, among other things.

It is easier to describe and explain The Tyrant and the general progression of his rule than find effective ways to thwart it. But whatever happens and whatever we do, we have to always remember that this is not normal, no matter how insistently the propaganda masters want to convince us otherwise.

Predictable, yes, and, unfortunately, probably inevitable as well — but not normal. And definitely not healthy; although there are positive aspects to it — side-effects, if you will — one of them the moral and political awakening of humanity on a global scale in response to the threat to its existence.

Those who make claims to the contrary, and who aid and abet the tyranny-in-the-making are either blind or corrupt, maybe both. Time and history will sort them out and put their role in this sorry enterprise in the proper perspective, if that’s any consolation. Meanwhile, we persevere and nevertheless persist remembering that this is not only a test of our democracy, but also of our values — not just American, but human.

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[1] From unpublished diaries of Peace Pilgrim.

Donny Does Diplomacy


[image source]

Ah, the sickly smell of pathocracy in the morning. And afternoon. And evening.

Our Killer King Donny is doing his best to exceed his daddy’s expectations of him, and continues his raging bull rampage through the Jiina shop of the world. It is his Jiina shop now and he can do with it whatever he wants, just in case there were any doubts.

The White House leakers, may they be blessed, leaked the contents of Donny’s, erm, conversation with Australian PM where he:

(…) blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

So there.

After the story made the news, Trump tweeted with his usual combination of bombast, inanity, and sadism, trying to mitigate the damage from the leak and pretending that he was in control of these developments. As if.

We also learned that he threatened to invade Mexico and somehow punish Iran. All that in the span of just a few days, in addition to all his other “accomplishments,” a productive leader — and true to his word — that he is. And he is just getting started, in case you  wondered.

Meanwhile, pundits continue not to get it as evidenced by their commentary:

Trump’s behavior suggests that he is capable of subjecting world leaders, including close allies, to a version of the vitriol he frequently employs against political adversaries and news organizations in speeches and on Twitter.

Oy.

It is not that he is capable of bullying and sadistically tormenting foreign leaders as well as domestic adversaries, it is that he is incapable of anything else. His character defect makes him rigid, inflexible, and unable to learn, as well as sadistic. So, for better and for worse, with Donny you get what you see and you see what you get.

Yes, he can, and does on occasion, try to fake civility and a semblance of concern for anything other than himself, but those laughable attempts do not fool — or shouldn’t fool  — anyone. The man is congenitally incapable of empathy and sows chaos and destruction the way others breathe. His red made-in-Jiina campaign hat should have read, “Inherently Destructive,” which is a far more accurate slogan than MAGA.

Kellyanne Goebbels denies that the leak came from the White House, but Australians say it did. Who are you going to believe, mate, Mrs. “Alternative Facts” Goebbels or the harmless Aussies?

The presence of leakers suggests that there may be some normal people left in the administration — or perhaps those are the members of his cabal who despise him and his closest handlers enough to try to muck up their game.

In any case, it is certain that the Trump’s White House is mired in rage, chaos, and intrigue, as those are the effects that malignantly narcissistic and psychopathic leaders always have on their closest circle as well as their countries and the world.

Mrs. Goebbels also said something remarkable a few days ago (among a slew of similarly remarkable things):

We turn the other cheek. If you are part of team Trump, you walk around with these gaping, seeping wounds every single day, and that’s fine.

Oh, the martyrdom of Trump and his cabal.

Just as there is no force more destructive in the human universe than narcissistic rage, no pain can compare to that of a narcissist — in her or his own mind.

Theirs is the grandest, most profoundest suffering imaginable. They are not just paragons of all virtue, turning their other cheeks and heroically accepting their sorrowful fate, gaping, seeping wounds ‘n all, but they do so for the good of humanity — even as they destroy the said humanity with every deed of theirs. That’s because they are the ones inflicting pretty much all gaping wounds and traumas on others, on an individual and social scale.

The spectacle of Mrs. Goebbels whining about being scrutinized by the press, scrutiny that’s a routine part of her job and privileged position in life, acquires an especially darkly ironic tone coming right after her blithe dismissal of the suffering caused by Trump’s immigration ban. When talking about the refugees and immigrants affected by it, she minimized their uncertainty, fears, and very real dangers to their lives by calling them “travel headaches” and comparing their plight with her own inconvenience of going through the airport security.

Her behavior is as illustrative of narcissistic pathology as Anders Breivik’s complaints that he did not get a band-aid for his finger cut (caused by a jammed gun) right away from the emergency personnel summoned to deal with his massacre of 69 (77 altogether) people in Norway in 2011. This hero of alt-righters everywhere moans even today about his cruel and unusual punishment, now in his confinement. Apparently he does not always get pens and meals of his choice.

Narcissistic psychopaths are remarkably alike in crucial respects, most of all in their “natural” objectification and dehumanization of others, and perpetually aggrieved entitlement: to power, glory, and sex, the order of those goals varying in different circumstances.

They always reveal their pathology — in their deeds of course, but also in what they say and how they say it. Their casual dehumanization of people slips out in ways, subtle and not, they talk about them — for example, using that for who (e.g., Immigrants that refuse to cooperate, instead of Immigrants who refuse to cooperate, etc.).

Or see Kellyanne Goebbels’ interview with Chris Wallace, where she offers a positively chilling example of such objectification:

It’s a routine screening process that they’ll go through.  If they’re not dangerous, if they’re not a threat, then they will be disposed of on a case by case — their situations will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Another revealing instance is Tom “Soft Sensuality” Barrack’s remark about exporting (around 7:13) refugees as if they were things.

That’s no accident, since to individuals with an impaired or absent conscience other people are no different from things — and it shows in the way they talk.

No matter how much they may try to cover their lack of conscience with a flowery language full of “proper” expressions of emotion, their callousness and casual disregard for the suffering of others always surface (e.g., see Barrack’s When we’re talking about refugees going everywhere, which is the saddest situation in the world — around 6:55 — the glibness of the first clause invalidates the purported “sadness” expressed in the second; the remark about refugees being exported, which follows, confirms the tendency to objectify others and the superficiality of emotion). Barrack’s mild-mannered and cultured demeanor, so very different from that of his boss, along with a patina of reasonableness and a diplomatic way of ingratiating himself with his audience (and opponents) do not make up for his missing conscience.

And these are the people in charge of running our country and the world today (and not only).

Leonard Cohen, who passed away the day before American election, titled his last album, released shortly before his death, “You want it darker.” The chorus in the title song goes,  “You want it darker … we kill the flame.” Yes, we do that.

While on the subject of Donny’s brand of diplomacy, we must mention his outreach to those foreigners known as African Americans. He had a “listening session,” where he subjected a group of representatives of that mysterious demographic to tales of his glory, interspersed with perfunctory nods to some big names, including a guy named Frederick Douglass, apparently a famous football player. During that hellish session, Donny was accompanied by his favorite (and only) African Americans: Ben “Brain surgery is definitely NOT rocket science” Carson and the resplendent Omarosa Manigault, his “Apprentice” alumna.

Omarosa’s pre-election words of narcissistic threat promise are worth bringing up again:

Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.

You want it darker — we kill the flame. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Updated 2/5/17.