FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2022
Tucker and Trump (and Kari Lake), oh my: For those of us in the blue tribal camp, this headline in today's New York Times is asking the relevant question:
Why Aren’t the Democrats Trouncing These Guys
For us, that's the current relevant question. That said, we harken back to the iconic Saturday Night Live skit from October 1988 (!).
In that iconic SNL skit, Dana Carvey, playing Candidate Bush, offered an utterly vacuous statement during a mock presidential debate. Jon Lovitz, playing Candidate Dukakis, offered a famous reply to Jan Hooks, playing Diane Sawyer:
Diane Sawyer: You have fifty seconds left, Mr. Vice-President.
George Bush: Let me sum up. On track, stay the course. Thousand points of light.
Diane Sawyer: Governor Dukakis. Rebuttal?
Michael Dukakis: I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy!
That was 34 years ago, when SNL still had its moments. Today, members of the anti-Trump world are asking a related question.
To our ear, today's headline doesn't quite capture the essence of the David Brooks column it tops. At the end of his column, Brooks isn't wondering why Democrats seem to be losing. He ends by saying this:
BROOKS (11/4/22): [Today,] people don’t just see difference [between the red and the blue political tribes], they see menace. People have put up barricades and perceive the other class as a threat to what is beautiful, true and good. I don’t completely understand why this animosity has risen over the past couple of decades, but it makes it very hard to shift the ever more entrenched socio-economic-cultural-political coalitions.
Historians used to believe that while European societies were burdened by ferocious class antagonisms, Americans had relatively little class consciousness. That has changed.
Brooks says he doesn't quite understand the source of today's animosity. We would assume the following, which seems to be blindingly obvious:
We would assume that the animosity stems from the rise of "culture war" marketing as a round-the-clock, very major big business. The animosity is sold as a product—by "cable news" and talk radio programs, but also all over the Internet, all over social media.
Then too, we've suffered the rise of the goblin class. Starting with Donald J. Trump, where have these goblins come from?
Within the past week, blue tribe pundits have marveled at a set of behaviors from figures on the right. In the wake of the vicious attack on Paul Pelosi, those major figures responded with jokes, and with crazy invented claims.
As always, our blue tribe pundits have been "shocked, shocked" by this disordered behavior. This is a script to which they return at all such moments as this.
What explains the behavior of these ghouls? Today, we'll return to two topics we've discussed in the past. We do so in an attempt to jog our failing tribe's [attempts at] thinking:
The goblin Donald J. Trump:
What makes Trump behave in the ways he does? How about Donald Trump Jr.?
What makes people like Kari Lake welcome this leadership style with such open arms? What explains the fact that certain tribal leaders behave in such transparently disordered ways?
There could, of course, be various answers to that question. Briefly, we'll return you to the basic question of psychiatric / psychologic disorder on the clinical level.
Why do these goblins behave in these ways? According to modern medical science, a substantial percentage of American adults are fundamentally afflicted.
Here's Bill Eddy, presenting some basic statistics in Psychology Today:
EDDY (4/30/18): Personality disorders are a significant, but barely recognized, public health problem in the United States and around the world. Two personality disorders, in particular, cause a great deal of disruption in the workplace, conflict in marital relationships, and are prevalent in criminal populations. And they appear to be increasing.
In 1994, the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published (the DSM-IV)...Regarding sociopaths (the DSM uses the equivalent term Antisocial Personality Disorder or ASPD), it said that overall prevalence “in community samples is about 3% in males and 1% in females.”
Between 2001 and 2005, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the largest study ever done regarding the prevalence of personality disorders in the United States. Structured interviews were done with approximately 35,000 people who were randomly selected to be representative of the U.S. adult population in a variety of ways including age, income, gender and region. This study found that...3.7% would meet the criteria for ASPD (5.5% male and 1.9% female).
According to those studies, a not-insignificant percentage of people are diagnosable as "sociopaths." That's a very fuzzy term, but it isn't hard to connect the behaviors associated with that term to the behaviors of our current class of very high-profile goblins and ghouls.
(For additional background, click here.)
Many people in our public life behave in ways which comport with the outlines of this affliction. That said, our upper-end journalists agree that this state of affairs mustn't ever be discussed in the political context.
Many of these famous stars went to the finest schools. Despite that fact, they agree that this (admittedly complex and imprecise) branch of modern science must be disappeared.
They refuse to discuss this (complicated) state of affairs—but almost surely, this is where many of our current-day, high-profile goblins come from. Our journalists, and their corporate owners, have agreed:
We the people must be shielded from such troubling thoughts.
The goblin Tucker Carlson:
To our eye and ear, Tucker Carlson is becoming more unhinged with each passing unit of time.
We aren't going to claim that he's a "sociopath." Instead, we'll suggest that you ponder this (tragic) report from the New York Times:
CONFESSORE (5/1/22): The talk-show host who rails against immigrants and the tech barons of a new Gilded Age is himself the descendant of a German immigrant who became one of the great ranching barons of the old Gilded Age. Henry Miller landed in New York in 1850 and built a successful butcher business in San Francisco; along with a partner, he went on to assemble a land empire spanning three states...
Over the years, the Miller fortune dispersed, as great fortunes often do, into a fractious array of family branches. Mr. Carlson’s mother, Lisa McNear Lombardi, was born to a third-generation Miller heiress, debuted in San Francisco society and met Richard Carlson, a successful local television journalist, in the 1960s. They eloped to Reno, Nev., in 1967; Tucker McNear Carlson was born two years later, followed by his brother, Buckley. The family moved to the Los Angeles area, where Richard Carlson took a job at the local ABC affiliate, but the Carlsons’ marriage grew rocky and the station fired him a few years later. In early 1976, he moved to San Diego to take a new television job. The boys went with him—according to court records, their parents had agreed it would be temporary—and commuted to Los Angeles on weekends while he and Lisa tried to work out their differences.
But a few months later, just days after the boys returned from a Hawaii vacation with their mother, Richard began divorce proceedings and sought full custody of the children. In court filings, Lisa Carlson claimed he had blindsided her and left her virtually penniless. The couple separated and began fighting over custody and spousal support. Mr. Carlson alleged that his wife had “repeated difficulties with abuse of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines,” and that he had grown concerned about both her mental state and her treatment of the boys. On at least one occasion, he asserted, the boys had walked off the plane in San Diego without shoes; the mother’s own family members, he said, had urged him not to let her see the children unsupervised. He won custody when Tucker was 8, at a hearing Lisa did not attend: According to court records, she had left the country. She eventually settled in France, never to see her sons again. A few years later, Richard Carlson married Patricia Swanson, an heiress to the frozen-food fortune, who adopted both boys.
For many years, Tucker Carlson was tight-lipped about the rupture. In a New Yorker profile in 2017, not long after his show debuted, he described his mother’s departure as a “totally bizarre situation—which I never talk about, because it was actually not really part of my life at all.” But as controversy and criticism engulfed his show, Mr. Carlson began to describe his early life in darker tones, painting the California of his youth as a countercultural dystopia and his mother as abusive and erratic. In 2019, speaking on a podcast with the right-leaning comedian Adam Carolla, Mr. Carlson said his mother had forced drugs on her children. “She was like, doing real drugs around us when we were little, and getting us to do it, and just like being a nut case,” Mr. Carlson said. By his account, his mother made clear to her two young sons that she had little affection for them. “When you realize your own mother doesn’t like you, when she says that, it’s like, oh gosh,” he told Mr. Carolla, adding that he “felt all kinds of rage about it.”
Mr. Carlson was a heavy drinker until his 30s, something he has attributed in part to his early childhood. But by his own account, his mother’s abandonment also provided him with a kind of pre-emptive defense against the attacks that have rained down on his Fox show. “Criticism from people who hate me doesn’t really mean anything to me,” Mr. Carlson told Megyn Kelly, the former Fox anchor, on her podcast last fall. He went on to say: “I’m not giving those people emotional control over me. I’ve been through that. I lived through that as a child.” One lesson from his youth, Mr. Carlson told one interviewer, was that “you should only care about the opinions of people who care about you.”
Carlson's abandonment by his mother wasn't part of his life, he once said. Later, he said he had "felt all kinds of rage about it"—possibly, the same weirdly disordered rage he currently vents on his nightly TV program.
Carlson has become increasingly disordered on his Fox News show. We can't help wondering if we're seeing the latest act in a lifelong psychodrama—a psychodrama one might describe as "the drama of the [abandoned] child."
We feel sorry at times for Donald J. Trump. By all accounts, he was raised by a deeply disordered father. That was the (bad) luck of the draw.
We're also struck by the terrible burden which may have been placed on the child who never saw his mother again—who was abandoned by his mother when he was 8 years old.
Having noted these facts, we'll also note these:
A substantial percentage of American adults are diagnosable as "sociopaths." Beyond that, a significant number of people may be living out psychodramas visited upon them when they were eight, or maybe even six.
If these people surface as goblins, they need to be stopped, above all else, from doing harm to others around them. But in a more rational world, that basic question—Where do all these goblins come from?—wouldn't be retained by cowardly journalists as an impenetrable mystery ride.
Donald J. Trump had an evil father. Carlson was abandoned by his mother—never saw her again.
As for our journalists, many went to the finest schools. On MSNBC, they cling to corporate, blue tribe stylings, for which they're paid millions of dollars.
They're paid to make us viewers feel good. They sign onto that deal on the bottom line.
Regarding the question with which we started: Why aren't Democrats trouncing these guys?
Our favorite TV stars, with their pathetically limited list of "issues," may not be providing much help.
These stars may be a bit disordered too. As with red tribals, so with us:
We tend to have a very hard time seeing this about them.
Still coming: Goblins of the disappeared past! A mainstream cable star came close to getting a journalist killed—in 1999!