SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2020
David Brooks clings to a lane: On the one hand, we agree with every word David Brooks said.
Then again, we don't exactly think he should have said it.
We refer to Brooks' column in Friday's New York Times. In print editions and online, the column ran beneath a somewhat clumsy headline:
At His Core, Trump Is An Immoralist
Is Donald J. Trump an "immoralist?" If we want to be honest about it, "immoralist" is barely a word in the English language at this point in time.
In fairness, it isn't that hard to see what Brooks means. He uses the term just once in his column. As he does, he offers a basic picture of Trump:
BROOKS (10/2/20): People who feel themselves under threat have a high tolerance for cruelty in their leaders: A little savagery to defend the homeland might be a good thing. But the crucial thing about Donald Trump is that he is not a nationalist who uses immoral means. He is first and foremost an immoralist, whose very being was defined by dishonesty, cruelty, betrayal and cheating long before he put on political garb.
In this presidential campaign, Trump’s nationalist platform—trade, immigration—has faded into the background while his immoral nature has taken center stage.
"First and foremost," Brooks says, Trump's "very being" is defined by dishonesty, cruelty, cheating—by immoral acts. Those behaviors emanate from the commander's "immoral nature."
We agree with Brooks' assessments of Trump's jaw-dropping behaviors. But is the gentleman, first and foremost, an immoral person? Is that Trump's basic "nature?"
Or is he actually, first and foremost, simply a sociopath?
We agree with every word as Brooks assesses Donald J. Trump's string of jaw-dropping behaviors. At the same time, we don't think we've ever seen a major journalist work so hard to stay in a lane—to keep his analysis within the bounds of a standard safe mandated framework.
We have argued, for some times that Trump's behaviors are so odd that they probably need to be understood within a psychiatric / psychological framework. We first offered this suggestion all the way back in February 2016, when Trump staged an extremely peculiar if harmless event on a triumphant Tuesday night after winning several primaries.
Trump's extremely peculiar behaviors have long since ceased to be harmless. But as his dangerous conduct has continued to devolve, our journalists have refused to consider an obvious possibility:
They've refused to consider the possibility that Trump's bizarre behaviors are so bizarre that they can't be explained within the framework Brooks' (perfectly accurate) column is struggling to maintain.
In 2017, Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a Yale psychiatrist, begged the press corps to build a discussion around the commander in chief's apparent mental illness.
Lee edited a best-selling book, The Dangerous Case of Donald [J.] Trump. In Lee's book, several dozen psychiatrists argued that the man who was authoring all those immoral behaviors was doing so because he's severely mentally ill.
According to the leading authority on the topic, "the book was an instant New York Times Best Seller." In truth, that doesn't necessarily mean a whole lot, given the limited number of non-fiction books which actually get bought and sold within our failing culture.
Still, Lee was advancing a plea. In January 2018, the Times' airheaded editorial board responded as you knew they would:
The board decreed that journalists mustn't discuss such a possibility. Given the cult-like nature of our upper-end press corps, the upper end fell into line and Dr. Lee disappeared.
Not unlike the commander himself, our high-end press corps thus agreed to ignore the prevailing state of medical science.
Yesterday, Brooks published a column which savaged Trump's behaviors as immoral. We agree with every word Brooks said—that is, with every word he said about those behaviors.
But what might explain those astounding behaviors? Brooks clung to the safe and familiar framework of "morality." We've never seen a journalist work so hard to avoid the framework of mental illness.
What does it mean to be "mentally ill?" You're asking a very good question!
Within our cultural horizons, the very term is a bit of a metaphor, built upon a comparison to straightforward physical illness.
Some people even say that "mental illness" doesn't exist—in effect, is a conceptual hoax. Our journalists have agreed, for the past several years, to color within those lines.
Donald J. Trump's immoral behaviors have truly been astounding. But uh-oh:
Like earlier, more "primitive" people refusing to admit that Pharaoh or the Inka was dead, our journalists have refused to consider the possibility that this remarkable state of affairs may best—indeed, may only—be explained within a psychiatric framework.
Within that framework, the commander's astounding behaviors result from mental illness. Within this framework, the behaviors themselves are profoundly immoral. The commander is "mentally ill."
We agree with every word Brooks wrote in yesterday's column. Indeed, we'd already voiced two of his basic assessments:
Tuesday's debate let the public see Donald J. Trump as he actually is. Also, "the crust of civilization is thin."
We agree with every word Brooks wrote. To the columnist, though, we make this plea:
David Brooks, the Inka is dead! Long live the Inka, who is, almost surely, some version of mentally ill.
Important full disclosure: Every journalist knows this is true. Like earlier, more "primitive" people, they've also agreed not to say it!