SOCIOPATHY AND ITS DISCONTENTS: The dangerous limits of human discernment!

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2020

The commander's same old clothes: Anthropologically speaking, we humans can have a very hard time seeing what's right before us. 

Hans Christian Andersen captured this limit to human discernment in his famous fable, The Commander-in-Chief's New Clothes. (We're translating from the Danish.)

Early this morning, we thought of the limits of human discernment as we perused Slate's new offerings. It was just an amusing colloquial headline. But the colloquial headline said this:

POLITICS

Trump Just Killed the Stimulus Talks. Is He Out of His Mind?

By JIM NEWELL and JORDAN WEISSMANN

OCT 06, 2020 6:27 PM

Is the commander "out of his mind?" Some headline writer had tossed it off as an entertaining bit of snark. 

But that is precisely the (obvious) question which has relentlessly gone undiscussed as the nation's upper-end press corps has gazed on Trump's puzzling raiment.

In the article bearing that headline, Newell and Weissman engaged in a lengthy debate about the commander's recent tweet, in which he seemed to put the kibosh on covid/pandemic relief talks. 

As everyone on the planet could see, it seemed like a crazy thing for Trump to do. So why in the world did he do it?

(Hours later, needless to say, Trump aggressively flipped.)

As you will see if you read the piece, the youngish analysts went around and around, at substantial length, contemplating an endless array of possible motives lying behind Trump's tweet. To our ear, they seemed to assume, all the way through, that Donald J. Trump is a rational actor, or that some other rational actor stood behind the decision to issue the politically disastrous tweet.

Maybe Art Laffer got him to do it? So the discussion proceeded.

At one point, the writers even wondered, if only briefly, whether Trump is a rational actor. But that exchange went like this:

WEISSMANN (10/6/20): My concerns are twofold: One is that we’re assuming the market will keep dropping. That seems like the safe bet to me, but it’s always possible investors will find some optimistic narrative that stabilizes things a bit and the carnage won’t be terrible enough to budge Trump. (I still think the politics would be pretty miserable for him, but not *as* miserable, and not in the visceral way he feels whenever the Dow drops.)

My second fear is that ever since he returned from the hospital, Trump has been in single-minded own-the-libs mode. It’s like he nearly died at Walter Reed and the doctors rebuilt him slower, dimmer, and more vindictive than ever before.

Do you see any indication that we are currently dealing with a rational actor?

NEWELL: It seems like a more acute episode of the irrationality that’s plagued his entire administration, which is that base politics alone is all he needs, since he won that way in 2016. It may not occur to him until too late that his 2016 model was a fluke. This is only rational if, as you said earlier, he’s hoping to kneecap the Biden presidency. But, as you also said earlier, there’s no way he thinks he can lose. It gives me a little trepidation about the transition period if he does lose, when he’ll openly announce his plan to kneecap the Biden presidency.

Or maybe it’s simpler than that: He’s just trying to change the news cycle from him having COVID-19 because it makes him look “weak,” and he’ll do anything.

At that point, "just to play devil's advocate," Weissmann asked if Laffer may have persuaded Trump to adopt this stance during a recent chat.

At this point, can we talk?

When they spoke about "rational actors" and "irrationality," the writers seemed to be thinking about political players whose judgment was very poor. In their formulation, it still may not have occurred to Trump, or even to his advisers, that he will need more than his base to win re-election!

A wholly different possibility never seemed to intrude. Neither Weissmann nor Newell, and certainly not the headline writer, seemed to have considered the possibility that the commander may be fundamentally impaired, whether cognitively or psychiatrically.

It never seemed to enter the writers' minds that the commander actually may be "out of his mind," and not just in a snarky, colloquial sense. That he may be "out of his mind" in a dangerous clinical sense.

Could Donald J. Trump be in the grip of a major "personality disorder?"  Could he be some serious version of "mentally ill?"

Could he be a sociopath? Even worse, could he be a sociopath currently hopped up on drugs?

Could the commander in chief possibly be dangerously disordered, as an array of psychiatrists tried to argue in the 2017 book, The Dangerous Case of Donald [J.] Trump? Could he be (dangerously) "out of his mind" in some clinical sense?

This seems like an obvious possibility, but the possibility didn't intrude on this long rumination at Slate. The headline writer had some fun with the idea that Trump may be "out of his mind," but no one raised that possibility in the technical medical sense. 

Dr. Bandy X. Lee and her gaggle of shrinks might as well have published their book about Trump on Mars or Uranus. Amusing headline to the side, the thought that Trump may be some serious version of mentally ill simply doesn't exist in this piece at Slate.

To our eye and ear, the commander has seemed deeply disordered for some time. (We recommend that such people be pitied.)

Currently, that would make Trump a disordered person on steroids. (But with the nuclear codes!)

In that sense, yesterday's peculiar tweet seemed a great deal like an episode from this emperor's familiar old clothes. That said, human discernment is very limited, and the men and women of the upper-end press have spent the past however many years refusing to consider the possibility that Dr. Lee and her fellow psychiatrists were actually right about Trump.

The adults in Hans Cristian Andersen's fable couldn't see their emperor as he actually was. It was left to one lone child to discern the true shape of reality. 

So it seemed to go as we plowed through the long piece at Slate. This helps explain why this news report about Facebook and QAnon is, at least in theory, the day's most important news item.

Long ago, it was actually hard to gain exposure to crazy factual claims. 

Rubes like us got  to choose between Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley. Neither man was crazy or nuts. Neither man was partisan in a ridiculous way.

Today, The Crazy is very big business. Like a thousand other orgs, QAnon is spewing The Crazy on a round-the-clock basis—and due to the limits of human discernment, a very large number of QAnon faithful can't see that they're getting conned.

Yesterday, Facebook banished QAnon, dispatched their work to the outback. There will be no way out of our current cultural/political mess until some such actions, across the culture, make it very hard, once again, to gain access to crazy assertions and claims.

Our mainstream press corps has struggled, for years, to suppress an obvious possibility about the commander's peculiar wardrobe. 

In that way, our nation's elite display their lack of discernment. Meanwhile, we rubes have been displaying our own lack of discernment by believing every damn fool claim which comes down the pike. 

This happens with Them, and it happens with Us. Tomorrow, we'll offer examples.

Tomorrow: From both sides now


33 comments:

  1. Replies
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  2. "Could he be a sociopath? Even worse, could he be a sociopath currently hopped up on drugs?"

    Jeez, dear Bob. So much mindless, incomprehensible drivel.

    Could you be a falling-apart TDS sufferer? Sad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mao, what are you going to do for a living there in St Petersburg when your troll gig is over? It's going to be soon, you know.

      Delete
  3. One termer crackhead Trump is about to get spanked so hard. He deserves it. He sucks. He dropped the ball on Covid. He's a fool.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Manufacturing a reason to walk away from a deal is just a negotiating tactic.

    Both Somerby and Slate are reading far too much into this. Trump just thinks he will get better terms this way. It is old-school negotiating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "It is old-school negotiating."

      Yep, old-school, Rome circa 64 AD.

      Delete
  5. Here is one of the stupidest things Somerby has said in a long time:

    "Long ago, it was actually hard to gain exposure to crazy factual claims."

    I consider it crazy to accuse the Secretary of State of being a Communist, but that is what we heard during the 1950s.

    Then we heard that LBJ had assassinated JFK in order to become President.

    And Nixon told us that he was not a crook. 'Memba that? His wife wore a cloth coat.

    And Ronny said that if you've seen one tree, you've seen them all.

    There has always been craziness floating around in easy reach of anyone who looks for it.

    David Neiwert's new book, Red Pill, Blue Pill, dicusses the role of the internet in radicalization and domestic violence, but I don't think that is what Somerby is talking about. Somerby wants to convince us that our press has abandoned us to craziness recently, so we cannot trust anything written in our favorite paper or said by cable news. Somerby is promoting his own conspiracy, not trying to help us figure out what is true and what is not.

    Somerby is the problem, along with his "anthropologists in caves" who created the idea of "cultural Marxism" and "multiculturalism" and "PC culture" which Somerby rails against, foretelling liberal doom. These are rightwing inventions, a conspiracy theory as vile as birtherism or the trilateral commission or Q-Anon. Somerby's view of the left comes right out of Breitbart and Rush's propaganda mill but Somerby pretends to be "liberal" so that he can criticize from the Left (supposedly) while mouthing canards that have nothing to do with liberal belief or behavior.

    Somerby is a tool of Trump and his puppetmasters.

    Here's my theory -- now that Trump is losing, Trump has outlived his political usefulness and Somerby is trying to label him crazy so that the right (e.g., Russia) can cut him loose and move on to another figurehead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Somerby is a tool of Trump and his puppetmasters."

      Totally makes sense.

      Delete
    2. Somerby really really wants you to forget that he massively muffed his recent, and false, AMT assertion.

      Delete
  6. Trump is a leader. He led. Any leader that is a leader would never of not done what Trump did as a leader, which is lead. (Being that he is a leader.)

    Led the word in deaths.

    ReplyDelete
  7. After admonishing the press yesterday for focusing on Trump’s latest tweet, today Somerby focuses on...Trump’s latest tweet.

    But using this particular one, about shutting down stimulus negotiations, as evidence of Trump’s so-called mental illness seems misguided, when it is clear that the House passed a bill almost 5 months ago that McConnell has blocked. The Senate is currently not in session, and their priority when they return seems to be a Court nomination.

    Now, if Somerby would like to acknowledge that Trump’s (momentary) hostility to a stimulus package merely reflects standard Republican policy of doing nothing, then that would imply that Trump’s position on this is not a crazy outlier.

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Trump is an expert on negotiation. Jim Newell and Jordan Weissman are not. When they don't understand Trump's negotiating move, that doesn't mean he's crazy. It just means that they lack Trump's sophisticated understanding of negotiation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bwahahahahahaahahhaha

      Parody, yes? Otherwise, just laughable.

      Delete
    2. You can judge the skill of a negotiator by the results. Where are Trump's results?

      Delete
    3. Before Trump got in the casino business, the house always won. Trump breaks norms.

      Delete
    4. David, Isn't Trump more accurately an expert at playing an expert in negotiation on TV? What expert negotiations has Trump made recently ... or ever?

      What Trump is is the most dangerous criminal in the history of the world.

      Delete
    5. David is going to apoplectic when he finds out Bob Marley never did jail time for shooting a sheriff.

      I'll help by claiming Marley got away with it, solely because he was black.

      Delete
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