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.


See also Steve Becker’s blog.


10 thoughts on “Truth or Dare?

  1. It is about time the Washington Post and the NYT have seen the light, but you are very right. It’s because they refused to see it sooner, and gave this Cheeto-colored Jackass SO much adoring coverage, that he won the damned election. Now that he’s spraying his orange colored bile on them and has declared them, and all media, “enemies of the people”, they wake up. I just hope it is not too late, but I’m very much afraid it just may be. W. Bush was interviewed by Chris Wallace the other day and he made SENSE! George friggin’ W made sense to me with what he said about Cheeto Man. If this isn’t a sign of the end of all things, nothing is.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It is too late, I’m afraid, Jeff. Even if he and his death-loving coterie were removed now, as they should be, the lasting damage to our country and society, in multiple areas and ways, is done.

      But yes, the longer they remain in power, the deeper and more extensive our quagmire is going to be. Which is what many — though not all — of his most ardent supporters wanted in the first place.

      The enduring lesson from this is not to elect narcissistic psychopaths to positions of power. We will learn it in the future Human Society 2.0 that our survivors will build upon the ashes of this one. (Yes, I am trying to remain optimistic.)

      Liked by 3 people

      • Emma, I’m trying so very hard not to get depressed. My circumstances would never allow me to move out of the U.S., but there are times when I read the daily administration happenings I would do exactly that if circumstances allowed. And that’s saying a lot.

        I have NEVER been so depressed, so upset, so disturbed by what my government is doing to this country.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I know. But don’t get depressed, my dear Nan — get angry. Raise hell in whatever ways you can. Be that special snowflake that Trump/ists like to complain about.

        This disintegration may (key word, sigh) be positive yet — in a long (very long) run perhaps, but still.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I see Trump and his ilk not as “narcissistic psychopaths,” but simply as sociopaths; in other words, people obsessed with malevolent impulses who can generally function in civil society. As I commented on another related WP blog (see [highly recommended]:

    >>> “Decades ago, psychiatry responded to criticisms of over-diagnosis by downgrading sociopathy from a condition of mental illness. I believe this was a terrible mistake, and the subsequent normalization of sociopathic behavior at the societal level is in large part responsible for America’s current state of demise.”

    The complex issue of what is and what isn’t mental illness is of paramount concern. For obvious reasons, we Americans need to get a handle on it very soon. While sociopathic behavior probably gave some humans an evolutionary advantage in our past, it is incongruous with modern civilization which is dependent upon cooperation. It is my lay opinion that although sociopathy might be considered as “normal” in disperse primitive cultures, it must be treated as abnormal in today’s populous and technologically-advanced global society.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good points, Robert.

      Some minor caveats: There is no evidence, I don’t think, that psychopathy / sociopathy — the main feature of which is a severely impaired or missing conscience — was considered normal in so-called “primitive” cultures. If anything, there is some evidence that those cultures have been often more effective in dealing with it (by physically eliminating psychopaths from their midst) than our contemporary world, where we champion and reward psychopaths with power and its perks.

      It has also not been seen, generally, as a mental illness, although way back when psychiatrists used the term “moral insanity” for it. Usually it fell under the category of disorders / defects (which it is). It is profoundly pathological, but not an illness — just like being born without a leg would be seriously pathological but not an illness.

      The removal of psychopathy from DSM as a diagnostic category was sinister in effect, yes; but, on the plus side (srsly), we can talk about it now without running afoul of the danger of misdiagnosing those affected with medical disorders / diseases (which is what the Goldwater Rule is about). I realize it may sound like splitting hairs, but it’s a benefit, of sorts.

      The “narcissistic” adjective in Trumpian psychopathy is necessary, I’d say, because it better describes his specific problem and its manifestations (and prognosis) than “plain” psychopathy. His narcissism is what’s most apparent to people anyway, and many do not stop to look for a (missing) conscience.

      Malignant narcissism, which I use interchangeably with NP, encompasses psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism, and sadism — and is generally qualitatively different (and also much worse, more dangerous) than “plain” psychopathy (or sociopathy, which is same thing).

      Dr. Burkle’s paper makes this point as well, stressing that narcissism mixed with psychopathy is what makes it especially dangerous in political leaders (though not only).

      But (enter my inner Banacek), there is a Polish saying, Jak się zwał, tak się zwał, byleby się dobrze miał, which, modified for my immediate purposes, means, in a nutshell, that whatever the name, it it what it is — and we know what it is. Or should by now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We may be splitting hairs here; although, my non-credentialed college education in sociology and human psychology tell me that there is a distinct difference between sociopathy and psychopathy. From:

        The term “sociopath” has a distinct meaning from “psychopath,” “psychotic” and other “psych” names that get tossed around in the media, by forensic specialists and on TV shows about murderers.

        But there are differences that distinguish sociopathy from psychopathy. Both are a form of antisocial personality disorder, says the American Psychiatric Association in its DSM-5 manual. These disorders share the following traits: propensity for violence, a remorseless mind, indifference to others’ rights and not caring about ethical behavior or laws. But, there are differences.


        The sociopath can be thought of as the rudimentary or undeveloped psychopath. The psychopath simply cannot form emotional bonds with humans. They lack empathy. But they can sure trick people into thinking completely the opposite with their charm and superior intelligence. They’re skilled at behaving the way they should, but inside they’re empty.

        Due to their brains and skill at manipulating people, they usually have college degrees and often hold down good jobs. They frequently have spouses and kids — with nobody suspecting a thing. And, as mentioned, crimes by psychopaths are well-planned, making capture difficult.

        While it’s believed that psychopathy is the result of faulty brain “wiring,” the consensus among experts is that sociopathy is the result of “bad upbringing,” including abuse (not surprisingly, considering the nature of sociopaths). Since “genetics” isn’t responsible for sociopathy, these individuals do possess the ability to empathize and love, but with limited capacity.

        The term psychotic is often confused or interchanged with psychopathic, but there’s a saying: “Psychotics haven’t murdered as many people in the past 50 years as teen psychopaths have with knives in the past 12 months.” Psychotics are disconnected from reality, while psychopaths and sociopaths are fully connected; hearing voices instructing them to kill is not a feature of psychopathy or sociopathy.

        Sociopaths aren’t nearly as dangerous as psychopaths because at least the former can still associate emotionally with humans.

        * * * * *

        These delineations between sociopathy, psychopathy, and psychosis, can be applied to infamous megalomaniac politicians such as Trump, Stalin, and Hitler, respectively. Our social inability to address these psychological “disorders” (to borrow your term), as well as their social consequences, was precisely the point of my original comment. A year and a half ago, the U.S. Congress – surprisingly – took up a bill in response to the growing mental health crisis afflicting America (see:

        Regarding your assertion that there is no evidence of primitive cultures normalizing sociopathy, I’d have to ask for further clarification. Our tortuous human history is replete with such examples.

        Thanks for your thoughtful input, and I apologize for this lengthy comment.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hey, don’t apologize for your wonderful comment, Robert! I much appreciate it But, as always, the long and/or thoughtful ones require a proper and time-consuming response, which means that I cannot always write back right away.

        Yes, some make the distinction between sociopaths and psychopaths, based, mainly, on the severity of impairment of conscience and/or origin of the disorder (i.e., acquired, in sociopaths; or inborn, in psychopaths).

        I don’t make these distinctions because, starting with the latter, we rarely, if ever, can tell what the true origin of the problem is.

        And the sociopaths, who are not fully psychopathic, are not the people I focus on here (much). It’s the psychopaths — those essentially conscience-free — who cause the most damage to humanity.

        But if someone wants to go with the socio-/psycho- distinction, I have nothing against it — it’s just that I don’t find it particularly useful (and will make it known, unfortunately, probably too insistently and too often for anyone’s good 😉 ).

        Psychosis is a different thing altogether — and it is a mental illness. Psychopathy is not an illness, but a disorder. Psychosis is to psychopathy like (*roughly*) pneumonia to a missing leg. (Roughly.)

        Trump, Stalin, Hitler are/were character disordered — narcissistic psychopaths (or malignant narcissists). They were not mentally ill — i.e., psychotic, certainly not early in their political careers. But malignant narcissists in power typically grow more paranoid with time (and paranoia is mental illness), and become even more dangerous — as if they weren’t already enough.

        As to the primitive cultures “taking care” of their psychopaths, see this:

        In a 1976 study anthropologist Jane M. Murphy, then at Harvard University, found that an isolated group of Yupik-speaking Inuits near the Bering Strait had a term (kunlangeta) they used to describe “a man who … repeatedly lies and cheats and steals things and … takes sexual advantage of many women—someone who does not pay attention to reprimands and who is always being brought to the elders for punishment.” When Murphy asked an Inuit what the group would typically do with a kunlangeta, he replied, “Somebody would have pushed him off the ice when nobody else was looking.”

        That’s a good link, BTW.

        And thank you for yours! It’s very good. I talk some about these issues here, too.

        Comment away, any time. Thanks again!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I found it interesting that the scientist who termed the Narcissistic disorder now says that Trump does not demonstrate the illnesses of his medical ailment. Instead, he indicates that Trump is simply a very bad person who chooses to act out against others. I didn’t think I could feel less empathy, but I do.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Isn’t it interesting?

      Yes, Allen Frances, who came up with the diagnostic criteria for NPD, insists (correctly, IMO) that Trump is not mentally ill (obviously, I’d say) and does not have NPD.

      That last part tends to raise everyone’s — laypeople and professionals’ alike — eyebrows. Because if Trump does not have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, then who does?

      The rub is in the diagnostic criteria (as currently defined) which say that to diagnose a person with NPD (or other personality disorder), we must find evidence of distress and impairment in various areas of life caused, in the person, by the disorder. Since Trump is not distressed (talk about an understatement) by his profound narcissism, nor it has caused him much trouble in life — on the contrary — we cannot diagnose him with NPD.

      The problem here is self-evident, of course, because, by these criteria, the worst humans ever — like many serial rapists and murderers — may not be considered pathological as their sick activities do not cause them distress or any other major problems. On the contrary — they often bring pleasure and satisfaction.

      This diagnostic “glitch,” such as it is, gets off the hook of mental disorders all psychopaths and most narcissists — people who cause the most damage to humanity. It is absurd, of course, to not see them as pathological; but Frances has a point that they should not be called mentally ill — because they are not.

      For some reasons, however, Frances does not go far enough with respect to Trump, because he describes him as just a garden variety “bad hombre” with some autocratic tendencies and tells us we shouldn’t focus on his psychology.

      That’s most peculiar — and incorrect, since Trump’s psychopathology has a name, and well described symptoms and prognosis. He’s not just your regular bad person (whatever that would mean), but a narcissistic psychopath / malignant narcissist — yet we don’t have this diagnosis in DSM.

      And maybe for the better, because this allows us to speak more freely (theoretically at least) about Trump’s character defect, without getting bogged down in the language and ethics of medical diagnoses.

      Frances missed dangers of Trump from the very beginning, by the way, seeing him as a bumbling fool with no chance for presidency. This is where the blindness of experts becomes a fascinating (or maybe not, depending) subject in and of itself. It’s certainly something to pay attention to and draw lessons from.

      That rant aside, what do you mean by “I didn’t think I could feel less empathy, but I do”?

      I don’t question your feeling, just don’t understand how — or if? — it comes about from knowing that Trump does not have a medical ailment. (And sorry to be so dense. It happens to me on days ending with a -y, I notice.)

      Liked by 1 person

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