A Letter from an Educator

January 16, 2018

Dear Ms. Mika,

I am an educator. After the 1999 Columbine High School shootings, I spent over a decade doing research in order to find out “why.”

Of the over 400 psychology books I read, fully one quarter pertained to “why” of the Holocaust.

I discovered that the reasons 38% of German voters cast ballots for a charismatic demagogue in 1932 mirror the reasons why 38% of American voters today comprise the ardent base of our leader.

The Germans who supported their demagogue all had fathers whose every trait was exactly like him, even including his theatrical rants. One exception:

This new father never blamed them for causing all problems, as their own parents had done.

Instead, he blamed others for every societal problem.

This token of parental love, never given by their own parents, engendered absolute, hungered devotion.

The same is underway in America today. Unloved children, even decades later, gravitate toward someone who will give them permission to release pent-up, unconscious hatred toward their parents, for the mistreatment received, upon innocent scapegoats. Unloved children, unless helped by a teacher or another adult, are the origin for racism and all hate.

Robert L.

Pathological Narcissism and Sociopathy in Political Leaders Are More Pervasive Than You Think

The text below is a rejected op-ed submission to The Washington Post from October 17, 2016 — one of several on the subject which met the same fate that year. After Trump’s election, The WaPo put “Democracy dies in darkness” as its slogan in the masthead.

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PATHOLOGICAL NARCISSISM AND SOCIOPATHY IN POLITICAL LEADERS ARE MORE PERVASIVE THAN YOU THINK

by Frederick Burkle

Millions of Americans plan on voting a narcissist into the White House next month, and large numbers of narcissists of every ilk seek political power and cutthroat business dealings in the world and in our own society today. Historically, narcissists in power are always a grievous problem — so how did we get into this current dilemma? What made us more vulnerable today and what are the risks we face when one governs?

The end of the Cold War brought with it many protracted internal conflicts and wars that have lasted for decades and whose persistent volatility lies at the heart of both chronic nation-state and regional instability. Responsibility for these chronically failed states has been attributed to multiple unresolved political root causes within troubled countries. With previous governance and parties to power no longer trusted or acceptable, the vacuum of leadership in many cases has been filled with “bad leadership”. In a number of cases, opportunistic leaders, suffering from character (personality) disorders of severe narcissism and various degrees of antisocial behavior, have emerged first as saviors, then as despots; or as common criminals claiming to be patriots, sharing a psychological framework that differs little from those responsible for WWII and the Cold War that followed.

Character disorders are not mental illness nor are they treatable by traditional medical, psychiatric or psychological means. The identifying characteristics of this unique and poorly understood subset of the population (about 4%) are levels of narcissism that can reach pathological proportions, manifested in grandiosity, lies, fabrications, and unstoppable need for admiration that is characteristic of a petulant child, now grown up physically but not emotionally.

The narcissism varies over a wide spectrum of behaviors. While we may encounter people every day with lesser degrees of narcissism-driven behaviors that are nothing more than annoying, those who evidence more severe and pathological degrees of narcissistic attitudes and actions cause major problems for every society, especially if they are challenged or shamed. All have difficulties in personal relationships. While they are appreciated by many as being ‘smart’, they are not ‘bright’. Their concrete black or white view of the world and their place in it belies a lack of reflection, abstract reasoning, sound judgment, intuition, and sincerity in their thinking and decisions that may be tolerated in a spoiled child, but remains fixed no matter what age they are. Their constant and insatiable need for power, total lack of empathy, entitlement and inability to handle any criticism leave them easily shamed, which often leads rapidly to excessive rage and contempt. These individuals are driven by impulsive and callous aggression and boldness to seek the ultimate opportunity to control, dictate and live out their fantasies of power on the world scene.

Their presence in the world as heads of state has remained unabated in the 21st Century with many at the helm of current conflicts and dictatorships. Vladimir Putin’s history of contemptuous behavior toward both national political rivals and international leaders is one worrisome example. During the Cold War years, as head of the KGB in East Germany, he investigated Angela Merkel revealing her fear of dogs. In their first meeting years later, when he was Russia’s President and her Germany’s Chancellor, he purposely brought large dogs to the meeting to intimidate her. His pattern of assassinations of his political rivals is legendary, the last being completed symbolically on the steps of the Kremlin. Kim Jong-un is another disturbing example as he has in his possession nuclear weapons which he could easily deploy in a rage, feeling justified by the most insensible of provocations. These pathological leaders are never amenable to conventional diplomatic interventions, negotiations, mediations or international sanctions as evidenced by Serbia’s Milosevic’s invasion of Kosovo after being charmed by Western leaders for signing the Dayton Accords.

The list of narcissists in power, living and dead, is long; the destruction they cause fills countless history books.

We are at the cusp of our first chance at global governance wished for by the emerging millennial generation who see themselves more a global citizens and less as nationalists. By not strongly speaking out with every violation and taking every opportunity to educate through the world stage of communication available to us today, we seriously risk being seduced into losing much of our democracy, freedoms we cherish and an opportunity for global governance that makes sense and addresses humanity’s urgent needs.

Professor Burkle is a Senior Fellow & Scientist at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Senior International Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC and author of “Antisocial Personality Disorder and Pathological Narcissism in Prolonged Conflicts and Wars of the 21st Century,” Disaster Medicine & Public Health Preparedness, 2016.

 

Wargasm, or How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria

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

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

Full text.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Those Trump’s Tax Returns


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You’ve heard no doubt about this Holy Grail that wasn’t, which is a good example of how our narcissistic media enable the Narcissistic Psychopath in Chief and his march of destruction.

Tuesday evening social media went abuzz with BREAKING NEWS! of Rachel Maddow promising to show everyone Trump’s tax returns. This is her tweet announcing the event:

America, at least its tweeting portion, held its breath for a fraction of a second before unleashing a frenzy of outsized reactions, from announcing Twitler’s imminent demise to awarding Maddow Pulitzer AND The Presidential Medal of Honor (from our future president, should we have one).

On her program, Maddow had David Cay Johnston who explained that the two pages of Trump’s 2005 tax returns were sent to him by an unknown person, and then both of them pondered the significance of this pretty much insignificant document as though it had such.

It doesn’t. Seriously.

What’s more, it was likely released by Trump himself — by which I mean Bannon & Co — something that Johnston acknowledged. It came to public attention at the same time as a rehash of Paul Ryan’s disavowal of Trump from last fall. Both “revelations” just happened to coincide with the major s…tuffstorm that’s Obamacare replacement known as #DonTCare, the fallout from Trump’s insane wiretapping accusations leveled at Obama, and his deepening Russia scandal, among several other developments in the TrumpSwamp.

Trump was “outraged” over this breach of decorum and tweet-screamed — you guessed it, or maybe simply saw it — about nasty media with its fake news, which in this case was nearly justified. His son and some supporters thanked Maddow for proving that not only Trump’s willing (yeah!) to share his tax returns, but that they show what an upstanding gazillionaire he is. Oh, and at the same time Trump, via Breitbart, has managed to prepare the ground for his disavowal of Ryancare (a.k.a #DonTCare), to keep his own hands clean when it collapses.

Meanwhile, Trumpists attacked Maddow and Johnston, while anti-Trumpists rose to their defense, praising Maddow for her (kid you not) heroism. A predictable frenzy followed, as it always does when you throw a piece of meat to a pool of piranhas. It will probably continue for the rest of the week, if not longer.

All in all, a great feat of propaganda.

The winners here are Trump, of course (as usual so far), who may not know much but can, with a little help from his friends, effectively manipulate the masses, including (especially) the supposedly hostile to him media; but also Maddow and MSNBC, and possibly Johnston.

Our media and Trump are each other’s nemeses locked in a love-hate relationship. While they profess contempt for each other, they cannot really live apart. Their existence, these days particularly, depends on the other’s attention — Trump’s more on the media’s than the other way around, but still. They are also similar in some crucial respects. Like all narcissists, both prize image over substance and ratings over truth. Ratings equal money, and money is really what matters most to them and close to everyone else on our planet.

But to really matter, both actors in this depressing spectacle depend on a willing audience which always obliges because we, humans, love our narcissists more than we hate them. The 24/7 news cycle has created hordes of addicts consuming the manufactured dramas to fill voids in their lives, provide some excitement, and a fake (narcissistic) sense of importance, along with an illusion of belonging to something greater than themselves.

And as the narcissists on both sides sit back and glory in their soaring ratings and/or throw sludge at each other, cheered on by their armies of minions, we are left to ponder whether we will be able to afford our food AND medicines a year from now. That is those of us who still can, a number growing smaller each day, and one which, under Trump’s psychopathic budget, will soon shrink greatly — and tragically — as our national nightmare deepens.

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.”

Truth or Dare?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Narcissistic blindness is totally a thing.

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See also Steve Becker’s blog.

All The King’s Experts, Part 1


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

to be continued

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