Trump’s Latest Rage Attack

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I’m sure the Twitter act was orgasmic!” wrote my psychiatrist friend in an email discussing Trump’s latest pivot from a narcissistic psychopath to a malignant narcissist (the distance is zero, in case you wonder).

Those impressed last week by Trump’s ability to read from a teleprompter for about an hour without mocking the disabled (though he came close by exploiting a grieving widow of a soldier who died as a result of his desire to appear commander-ish-in-chief) or grabbing whatever, may perhaps re-evaluate their cheery estimates of the man. Or perhaps not, because if there is one thing — among oh-so-many — we learn from Trump/ism it is that being a pundit means never having to say you’re wrong. Or sorry.

Here’s what happened (for those who were inexplicably not focused on our national nightmare): After his Tuesday speech, which no doubt created a much needed sense of victory in him, Trump and his cabinet members were faced with new accusations of improper contacts with the Russians during his campaign. Damn the fake media.

Dark circuses ensued.

Jeff Sessions suddenly realized these were not the Prussians he thought he talked to; Carter Page (who, you ask? I know — nobody knew) underwent what appeared to be some form of an existential crisis in public, leading him to question the nature of reality and his place in it; and everyone was reminded that we should have paid attention to Paul Manafort as his behavior begged us to. Sadly, attention is not among American strengths.

And at the center of this chain of matrioshka dolls was a solid Soviet apparatchik named Sergey Kislyak.

Our so-called president, meanwhile, went ballistic on his staffexactly as predicted — blaming them for not stanching the truth as he demands of them (that’s their no.2 job; no.1 being soothing his tender ego — though the two are closely related). He stormed off to his “Southern White House,” another weekly trip costing taxpayers gadzillions of $$, leaving Steve Bannon crushed, to the extent a cheap imitation of Darth Vader is crushable.

BTW, those among Trump’s associates and external observers who believe that Bannon controls Trump should give up that illusion as well. It’s time. Really.

Then, in the quiet hours of early dawn, when most of America was still asleep, Trump unleashed a torrent of jaw-dropping tweets accusing President Obama of spying on him and, essentially, causing the whole TrumPrussianGate.

Here I will quote my psychiatrist friend, whose analysis is spot on (slightly edited for clarity):

(…) No narcissistic rage attack ever goes unanswered and MUST be answered in a fashion over and above how it impacts the narcissist — that is why such attacks lead to [violent] actions (all justified in their eyes) even as murder!

We both know that he lost sleep, became more vengeful and angry and could not go on until he acted. None of these actions ever make sense, but to hear them as I have they all make perfect sense to the narcissist. He turned to sources that have in the past provided succor to his vengefulness and without question grasped onto the Breitbart story, rushing in glee to Twitter, to blame Obama, whom he despises because he is so admired and is brighter than him. He is even more angry that his political colleagues insisted he admit that Obama is a citizen. I’m sure the Twitter act was orgasmic!

The rationalizations on the TV are so tragic. 

Yes, they are. But they are a necessary part of our tyranny in progress, the part where we normalize it and pretend there’s really nothing to see here, move right along, straight into an abyss.

You may be, um, pleased (?) to learn that this weekend’s crisis was resolved by the resourceful White House staff helping Trump prepare a new travel ban for Muslims — because nothing soothes the pain of a malignant narcissist’s injured ego like inflicting suffering on the weak and innocent, a.k.a The Others. It is an act of “unwounding,” discussed by Dr. Lynne Meyer in Richard Greene’s post.

This time the ban sufficed; but, as his rage escalates, such mild (ha) moves won’t be enough. The sadistic drive to punish and destroy is a malignant narcissist’s modus operandi. And given his lack of inhibitions — a result of a missing conscience — we should expect to see more dramatic and hurtful attempts to satisfy that drive.

For more on Trump and narcissistic rage, see Hell Hath No Fury Like a Narcissist Scorned.

Fundamental Things, from C.G. Jung

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Currently reading Gary Lachman’s “Jung the Mystic” and nodding my head over the pages describing Jung’s secret mission, partially aided by the CIA, to diagnose Hitler as mentally ill and remove him from power. (Spoiler: He failed.)

It takes me over to his (Jung’s) “Civilization in Transition,” published in 1964*, which reads as though written today, proving that despite our so-called progress, our nature and our pressing developmental tasks continue to remain unchanged.

One relevant fragment (though it’s really hard to choose), pp. 242-243:

“The struggle between light and darkness has broken out everywhere. The rift runs through the whole globe, and the fire that set Germany ablaze is smouldering and glowing wherever we look. The conflagration that broke out in Germany was the outcome of psychic conditions that are universal. The real danger signal is not the fiery sign that hung over Germany, but the unleashing of atomic energy, which has given the human race the power to annihilate itself completely. The situation is about the same as if a small boy of six had been given a bag of dynamite for a birthday present. We are not one hundred percent convinced by his assurances that no calamity will happen. Will man be able to give up toying with the idea of another war? Can we at last get it into our heads that any government of impassioned patriots which signs the order for mobilization should immediately be executed en bloc?

How can we save the child from the dynamite which no one can take away from him? The good spirit of humanity is challenged as never before. The facts can no longer be hushed up or painted in rosy colours. Will this knowledge inspire us to a great inner transformation of mind, to a higher, maturer consciousness and sense of responsibility?

It is time, high time, that civilized man turned his mind to fundamental things. It is now a question of existence or nonexistence, and surely this should be subjected to the most searching investigation and discussion. For the danger that threatens us now is of such dimensions as to make this last European catastrophe like a curtain-raiser.”

*The original article, “Epilogue to ‘Essays on Contemporary Events,” was first published in 1946. This explains “the fire that set Germany ablaze is smouldering and glowing.”

Uber Narcissists at Work, Continued

Uber narcissists‘ (yes, double entendre, if you will) most unfortunate workplace adventures continue, as they are wont to do.

A female engineer employed by Tesla, run by a notorious narcissist Elon Musk, accused the company of:

(…) ignoring her complaints of “pervasive harassment”, paying her a lower salary than men doing the same work, promoting less qualified men over her and retaliating against her for raising concerns.

Again, this is typical for organizations run by character disordered — narcissistic and psychopathic — leaders. The workplace culture is shaped by the boss, and reflects his or her values and behavior.

Also this just happened:

(…) Bloomberg News published dashcam video of [Uber] CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with his own Uber driver over the company’s treatment of drivers, prompting a mea culpa from him on Tuesday night.

The video, reportedly taken 5 February, shows Kalanick riding in the back seat, wedged between two female friends, shimmying his shoulders to the strains of Maroon 5.

When the ride ended, driver Fawzi Kamel took the opportunity to share a common driver complaint: “You’re raising the standards, and you’re dropping the prices.”

The pair discussed the state of the ride-hail market for a few moments before Kamel drove his point home. “People are not trusting you any more,” he said. “I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you … You keep changing every day.”

Kalanick denied that the prices for Uber’s high-end service, Uber Black, have fallen that much, saying, “Bullshit.”

Then he got personal with Kamel.

“Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit,” he said. “They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!” Then he slammed the door.

After the video went public, Kalanick issued a note of not just an apology, but a profound apology — to his employees — saying that:

By now I’m sure you’ve seen the video where I treated an Uber driver disrespectfully. To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement. My job as your leader is to lead…and that starts with behaving in a way that makes us all proud. That is not what I did, and it cannot be explained away.

It’s clear this video is a reflection of me—and the criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.

I want to profoundly apologize to Fawzi, as well as the driver and rider community, and to the Uber team.


The apology is instructive in the workings of narcissism, of course, as it takes place only after the narcissist’s offense has been made public. Without that video, we wouldn’t necessarily be the wiser about Travis’s interactions with other people — although it’s easy to guess — especially those underneath him on the social ladder, and those are the ones that matter most.

It is also notable for its over-the-top-ness* and drama, both narcissistic giveaways suggestive of disingenuousness.

Travis does not need “leadership” help, but humanness help, first and foremost, and it remains to be seen whether he will get it as he promises. Depending on the extent of his narcissism, such help — if he finds it** — may or may not be effective. Proof, as always, will be in the pudding, i.e., the man’s changed character as manifested in his daily interactions with others, especially the powerless ones, his subordinates and/or his critics.

Meanwhile, PBS Newshour had a segment about Kalanick’s recent woes, titled, Why Snapchat and Uber are under intense scrutiny over values, reminding everyone that in the American society values matter only if they can be monetized — i.e., to the extent they affect profits.

Part of the exchange with an invited expert went as follows:

HARI SREENIVASAN: And this is also a company that is not public yet, but when it goes, if it goes, the valuations are staggering — $70 billion is currently where it’s at.

Does this call into question perhaps the temperament of this individual and whether he is the right person to run such a big global company?

MIKE ISAAC: Yes, I think that’s right.

I suppose we will have to wait just a bit longer for the PBS Newshour pundits to ask this question about the person running the most powerful (so far) nation on Earth. But, as no immediate monetary losses for the ruling class are involved — on the contrary — there is no need to rush.

Though maybe we shouldn’t wait too long, because, as Kalanick so presciently warned us, with the kind of spot-on projection that narcissists excel in,

Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!

Yeah, we’re gonna need that.


*Anything in human interactions that falls in the over-the-top, bigger-than-life, too-good-to-be-true (duh) category is strongly suggestive of narcissism.

**It is likely he’ll seek “help” from other narcissistic business gurus and similar types, which will result in further entrenching his narcissism and just learning to manage his image better. This is what such “interventions” among the powerful narcissists amount to, ensuring that the systems they run remain essentially unchanged, save some cosmetic “improvements” on the margins. Image over substance is the motto of narcissists everywhere.


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.

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


*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 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.

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


“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



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.


[1] From unpublished diaries of Peace Pilgrim.