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Saturday, January 06, 2018

Submitted Without Comment


jimf said...
‘Like, Really Smart’
Charles M. Blow
JAN. 7, 2018

I resist applying clinical diagnoses to people, and that
includes Donald Trump. I’m not a doctor, and a proper diagnosis
would require a personal evaluation.

But I would be basking in false virtue if I simply pretended
that I’m not aware that some of the behaviors displayed by
this man line up with the symptoms of certain personality disorders.

So I must couch my concerns this way: There is no way for me
to know for sure, but all indications lead me to believe that
Donald Trump struggles to fit into the frame of what we call
normal behavior, and he often fails at it in spectacular ways. . .

The devil, you say!

Trump was so bothered by [_Fire and Fury_] that he took to
Twitter over the weekend to defend himself against the
damaging portrait it contains: that of a mentally unstable simpleton.

Trump wrote that “throughout my life, my two greatest assets
have been mental stability and being, like, really smart”
and then upped the self-accolades by writing that being elected
would “qualify as not smart, but genius … and a
very stable genius at that!”

Whatever you say, Wile E. Coyote.

The truth is that it appears that most of the conservative architecture
in this country — members of the administration, members of Congress,
Fox News, the Republican National Committee, and Trump’s die-hard base —
are all engaged in an exercise to defend, excuse, protect and absolve
a man and his behaviors, which may well do irreparable damage to the country.

They have learned to praise him in order to steady him. His weakness
is an unending need for affirmation. Anyone who provides it, he abides.
It’s simple. Also sad. Actually, pathetic. . .

Let’s start here: From everything I have ever read about the man,
he is not particularly smart. This is sometimes hard for people
to understand. They equate financial gain with intellectual gifts,
but the two are hardly synonymous.

Being gifted at exploitation is not the same as intellectualism.
It is a skill, but one separate from scholarship. Being able to see
and exploit a need, void or insecurity in people can be an interesting,
and even lucrative, endowment, but it is not enlightenment. . .

This is the problem we face: We have a person occupying the presidency
who is impetuous, fragile, hostile, irrational, intentionally uninformed,
information-averse and semiliterate. . .

Tsk, tsk, tsk.

jimf said...

> I resist applying clinical diagnoses to people. . .

I was visiting an old friend over the recent holidays, and among
other entertainments we (re)watched a DVD from his collection --
the 1960 movie version of Sinclair Lewis's _Elmer Gantry_ (with
Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons).

This led to a discussion about religious con artists, and
psychopathy. And he said something like "Well, psychopaths
usually don't get very far because they're typically carelessly
self-defeating and tend to get caught.", which led me to mention
that some contemporary observers have claimed that psychopathic
and (clinically-characterized) narcissistic
traits are actually an **advantage** in modern Western
civilizations -- to wit, Donald Trump and the late Steve Jobs and
many, many others who have reached the top of organizational
hierarchies: corporate, political, educational, and religious.

So to corroborate my claim, I suggested we watch a recent
hour-long interview with Sam Vaknin on YouTube:
On Narcissists and Narcissism (Sam Vaknin on Exist Real in NAVSOS, Worthing UK)

Unfortunately, after about five minutes of that video my friend said
"Turn that off. I can't stand to listen to talk like that.
And I can't believe that that kind of talk adds anything useful to
traditional moral discourse."

I should have known better. This is a barrier I've seen us
hit before. He's one of those folks (I guess he's a kind of
"left-wing libertarian") who are **deeply** suspicious of
the very idea that such a thing as "mental illness" exists.

Kurt Andersen mentions this attitude in _Fantasyland_:

p. 179
Not long before Esalen was founded, the main cofounder suffered a
mental breakdown and was involuntarily admitted to a private psychiatric
hospital, where he spent a year. His new institute embraced the
radical notion that psychosis and other mental illnesses were labels
imposed by the straight world on eccentrics and visionaries, that
they were primarily tools of coercion and control, not legitimate
medical diagnoses at all. This was the idea behind Ken Kesey's bestselling
novel _One Few Over the Cuckoo's Nest_, of course. . .

And within the psychiatric profession itself, this idea had two
influential proponents, who both published unorthodox manifestos at
the beginning of the decade -- R.D. Laing. . . and Thomas Szasz. . .
The Esalen founders were big Laing fans, and the institute became a
hotbed for the idea that madness was just an alternative and often
superior way of perceiving reality. . .

It is true, of course, that the psychiatric profession has a lousy
track record when it comes to actually **treating** mental
illness, if you're willing to grant that such a thing exists
in the first place.

I've also read Luke Dittrich's _Patient H.M._, which describes
the author's grandfather's (William Beecher Scoville's)
involvement in promoting the use of psycho-surgical procedures
(lobotomies). Lobotomies were once used on people -- children
even, if you believe victims' accounts, who were characterized
as "delinquent" or "defiant" -- the kinds of kids who today
might be given a diagnosis of ADHD and prescribed Ritalin
or Adderall. Brrr.

I also know somebody whose brother has suffered from schizophrenia
for many years, and I've half-jokingly said to my left-libertarian
friend that if he were to tell this other friend to her face that mental
illness doesn't exist, he might well get a punch in the face
from her. :-/

jimf said...

From the other end of the room:
"Trump claims he's 'a very stable genius'"
Sunday, January 7, 2018

When Donald Trump first announced in 2015, I didn't think he
had a chance. But I was increasingly hopeful as his populist
platform struck a chord with the electorate, and was overjoyed
when he beat Hillary.

This country needs to defend its borders (an issue that not even
other Republicans dared broach before Trump). We needed a lower
corporate tax rate to discourage companies from moving abroad.
We need to force China to practice fair trade. We need a Supreme Court
with more Constitutionalists. We need to support the police,
rather than discouraging them from doing their jobs.

And it's high time someone in a position of power scoffed at the
censorship that political correctness has imposed.

The price we pay for a President with these views is, well,
Donald Trump's personality.

It's a small price to pay, given the issues at stake. But it **is**
a price. . .

In a six-year-old, such childish grandiosity would be cute.
In an adult, it's not. . .

But, once again, a real sociopath would hide his ego behind
a curtain of insincere modesty. Trump seems incapable of that.

I know, it's a little pathetic that at this point I'm defending
Trump by saying, well, at least he's not a sociopath, he's only
extremely narcissistic. . .

But sometimes it takes someone with the ego of a narcissist to
be willing to speak the truth about certain things. And it's
his ego -- as well as a certain impetuousness -- that has allowed
Trump to blurt out things about immigration and so on that many
would not dare to, for fear of being declared an apostate by the
false idols of the media.

It takes a bold, narcissistic personality not to be cowed by their
collective hatred.

So, looking at it from another angle, maybe we should be grateful for
Trump's lack of circumspection.

YMMV, I guess. My dentist feels the same way. ;->

Dale Carrico said...

To gaze upon Trump from any angle, physical, psychical, philosophical, drives one mad -- it's like Kollos in TOS.

jimf said...

> To gaze upon Trump. . . -- it's like Kollos in TOS.

Just remember to wear your visor. David Brooks sure is brandishing
his in today's paper.
The Decline of Anti-Trumpism
David Brooks
JAN. 8, 2018

Let me start with three inconvenient observations, based on dozens
of conversations around Washington over the past year:

First, people who go into the White House to have a meeting with
President Trump usually leave pleasantly surprised. They find that
Trump is not the raving madman they expected from his tweetstorms
or the media coverage. They generally say that he is affable,
if repetitive. He runs a normal, good meeting and seems well-informed
enough to get by.

Second, people who work in the Trump administration have wildly
divergent views about their boss. Some think he is a deranged child,
as Michael Wolff reported. But some think he is merely a distraction
they can work around. Some think he is strange, but not impossible.
Some genuinely admire Trump. Many filter out his crazy stuff and
pretend it doesn’t exist.

My impression is that the Trump administration is an unhappy place
to work, because there is a lot of infighting and often no direction
from the top. But this is not an administration full of people itching
to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Third, the White House is getting more professional. . .

[T]he anti-Trump movement, of which I’m a proud member, seems to be
getting dumber. It seems to be settling into a smug, fairy tale version
of reality that filters out discordant information. . .

The movement also suffers from lowbrowism. . .
The modern lowbrow. . . ignores normal journalistic or intellectual standards.
He creates a style of communication that doesn’t make you think more;
it makes you think and notice less. He offers a steady diet of affirmation,
focuses on simple topics that require little background information, and gets
viewers addicted to daily doses of righteous contempt and delicious
vindication. . .

[A]nti-Trump lowbrowism burst into full bloom with the Wolff book. . .

Paul Krugman, on the other page, seems to have a dimmer view of
the "professionalism" of the Trump administration:
The Worst and the Dumbest
Paul Krugman
JAN. 8, 2018

. . .

Let’s be honest: This great nation has often been led by mediocre men,
some of whom had unpleasant personalities. But they generally haven’t
done too much damage, for two reasons.

First, second-rate presidents have often been surrounded by first-rate
public servants. . .

Second, our system of checks and balances has restrained presidents
who might otherwise have been tempted to ignore the rule of law or
abuse their position. . .

But that was then. . .

When the V.S.G. moved into the White House, he brought with him
an extraordinary collection of subordinates — and I mean that in
the worst way. . .

And while unqualified people are marching in, qualified people
are fleeing. . .

In other words, just one year of Trump has moved us a long way toward
a government of the worst and dumbest. It’s a good thing the man
at the top is, like, smart. . .