To Chuck Todd on Trumpian Necrophiles

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:


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–


Those are strong words.


–divide us up.


Can you work with–


Those are strong words.


Can you work with a pathological liar?


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:


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 necrophile, 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, necrophiles 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.


15 thoughts on “To Chuck Todd on Trumpian Necrophiles

  1. Just watched, “Look Who’s Back”. Outstanding. Funny, poignant, and a brutal critique of the mentality that put Herr Trump in the White House. BTW, SNL will parody the f**k outta this zombie next week. Love how this stuff burns under the skin of Putin’ orange puppet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it a great movie, Jeff? I’m glad you liked it.

      Yes, knowing that Donny’s seething after every criticism, real and imagined, brings satisfaction, no doubt.

      But we also need to keep in mind that he keeps a tally of those slights and plots his revenge, like every narcissistic psychopath out there. His revenge, however, has a potential to be really, um, spectacular in its destructiveness, unfortunately.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow. Miller – immovable Mask, unblinking eyes. My first thought was Putin. My second thought was psychopath, but psychopaths are usually SOO much better with their masks. My third thought – dead. Psychopath. No idea if that’s correct or not, but scaaaary ….
    It would fit. Who else would survive around the chief psychopath / malignant narcissist?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fromm’s necrophiliacs sound very much like malignant narcissists, although he makes a distinction between the two categories. The difference is in the former preoccupation with death, in Fromm’s mind; but I would say that being driven by death instinct with all it entails (i.e., sadistic desire to inflict pain, destroy, exact revenge) is part and parcel of malignant narcissism (narcissistic psychopathy), so there may not be a need for a separate category.

      All the same, that was Fromm’s thinking — and tying this pathology to necrophilia, literally and symbolically, has interesting implications. We see those themes of deadly destruction in these guys’ preoccupations — Trump’s speeches, for example, are full of references to danger, death, and decay (as were Hitler’s and other types like them).

      Trump’s tone became darker after he fell under the spell of Steve “Dr. Death” Bannon, whose influences are on everything Trump does these days. But it’s not as though he needed to strain himself for this to happen — it’s a natural fit for both men.

      BTW, some people note, correctly, that Trump never laughs in the jovial, life-loving, open (or any) way, which very much chimes with Fromm’s observations. I don’t believe we would ever see such laughter coming from Bannon, Miller, Conway, or any other members of the Trumpian Death Squad either. And there is a reason for that, obviously. Narcissistic necrophiliacs are anti-life.


  3. Oh, and he’s only 32 ish, according Wikipedia. If Trump drops dead of a heart attack, THAT is the scary creature that’s going to take over. And that genuinely is a scary, scary (whatever it is) …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Check out his biography, in the links I included. Scary, scary is right.

      P.S. Should Trump drop dead or become otherwise incapacitated, Mike Pence would take over. Some say this is a reason to pray for Trump’s health. (I’m not among those people.)


  4. I must say, I’m not convinced by Fromm’s analysis here, Emma. The characteristics he describes are associated too with people possessing very high levels of mental concentration: “Such persons cannot talk and smile at the same time, because they can direct their attention only to the one or the other activity.” In fact, it’s impossible to direct attention to more than one activity — so-called ‘multi-tasking’ is an illusion. The ‘sniffing’ and ‘smirking’ expressions — which I read as appearances of aloofness (please correct me if I am wrong) — are also facial characteristics of the one-pointed and inwardly focused mind. These are readily observed in, for example, those practising concentration meditations [e.g. Buddhist ‘Jhāna’, contemplative prayer, etc.] and who then take the developed concentrated mental faculty of such practices out into the street where it’s often mistaken for aloofness and a sense of superiority. It’s neither, rather it’s solely a sign of this interiority and one-pointedness cultivated in the practice, or which is innately present in the individual. I think I’d be more convinced on
    the pathology by the ‘neurological underpinnings’ you allude to, or far moreso even by the words and actions of the individual observed over time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had a longish response for you, Hariod, when a power outage struck. So, gaah, here I go again, hoping for no interruptions.

      First, yes, absolutely we must pay the most attention to “the words and actions of the individual observed over time.” That’s the surest way to gather reliable evidence of his or her character, and discriminate its essence, if you will, from the noise.

      But! (You knew this is coming, right? : ) In our lives, we also rely on quick, intuitive judgment of others — and usually — if not blinded by our own psychological problems — we are correct in it.

      Fromm writes that,

      Anybody who has some sensitivity in judging other people (it is of course much more difficult with regard to oneself) senses whether a person has a sadistic or a destructive or a loving character; he sees enduring traits behind the overt behavior and will be capable of sensing the insincerity of a destructive character who behaves as if he were a loving person.” (p. 252)

      The expression of constantly sniffing something gives one a look of disdain and contempt for others, as much as aloofness, I think. I suspect — but don’t know for sure — that the phrase about turning one’s nose up at something originated from this knowledge about our fellow human beings and ourselves. It indicates prideful rejection, disdain, and contempt; and when contempt is among one’s chief, most frequently experienced emotions, it will likely register, permanently, in one’s face — the way we see it engraved in the Trumps’ visages. We can also easily see haughtiness and cold contempt in Hitler’s photos (or Stalin’s).

      As to doing two things at once — you’re right, we don’t/can’t. I do think, though, that Fromm means what you talk about above: the character of a person showing itself in their overall demeanor over time and observable in repeated contacts. If we saw only one pic of Hitler, it would not be enough; but several photos — and better yet, films — taken in different situations, over a substantial period of time, give us some clue as to what’s cooking within.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thankyou Emma, and I couldn’t disagree with any of that, nor argue with your superior expertise in the field. That said, then our “quick, intuitive judgment(s) of others”, whilst reflexively, intuitively given to us, are far from fallible, which is really the point I was making. I do believe that sometimes a deeply disturbing psychological pathology is evident and somehow writ upon a person’s face — I think of the British paedophile Jimmy Savile as being one very good example — but would remain wary as regards the veracity of most such intuitions. Pol Pot looks a thoroughly decent chap on Google images, for example, and Stalin was a beautiful young man, avuncular too in middle age, as befitting of his soubriquet. I appreciate I’m only dealing here with physiognomy, and not your broader point which includes behavioural traits.

        Liked by 2 people

      • which is really the point I was making

        Oof. Sorry, Hariod, I missed it. I no read so good, obvs.

        Yes, that’s very much right indeed. We cannot tell just by looking at one’s face.

        That’s a good pic of Stalin, isn’t it. Handsome chap. Who knew.

        The signs were there, though, as they always are — not in his physiognomy, of course. And, as usual, we know them best in hindsight.

        But, by now, we should know better. Contempt, grandiosity, aggression, and lack of empathy — the tells of malignantly narcissistic disturbance — can be observed early on, often already in young childhood.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Dandy-esque! Thanks, Clare. Much better.

      “Effeminate,” makes me cringe as it insults women (although it works like a charm when you want to rattle a misogynist / Nazi’s cage).

      I liked that piece, thanks. We are going to need a lot of flies to make the tyrant’s life unbearable.

      Liked by 2 people

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