Well, the first two weeks of Trump’s presidency bore no real surprises: the Butthurt Baby in Chief acted exactly the way you would expect a narcissistic psychopath with a fascist agenda to behave. Quite aside from the lack of organization, the total inability to grasp what governance is or ought to look like, executive orders pouring out like water from the fountains of the Nile, including the objectively illegal ban on Muslims entering the country (except, coincidentally, from those countries where Trump has business interests); indeed, there has not been a single terrorist attack committed by a refugee from any of the banned countries within the US since at least 1980. (One writer has suggested this ban is a “headfake” to test the loyalty of various departments, and the limits of what the courts will permit Trump to get away with.) We also have his infantile need to bring a cheer-leading squad along when he gives a press conference or a speech. He has declared the New York Times to be “fake news” for their failure to be his obedient and unquestioning mouthpieces, and has essentially put the Breitbart propaganda outlet in charge of the National Security Council, while removing persons with actual experience in and with intelligence. I mean that last in all the less flattering ways you can construe it. With regard to the non-voter fraud lie that Trump revels in spewing, the fact that such fraud is essentially non-existent is a matter of no concern for Trump: he doesn’t need facts, because the slack-jawed who swallow whatever lie that is spoon-fed to them by the paid professional liars at Fox “News” agree with Trump, so that makes it all true. This is so mind-numbingly childish that is seems to give it more credit than it merits to point out that it exemplifies the fallacy of the argumentum ad populum. And don’t even get me started on the Twitter storms …
What kind of a “man” does this? (And yes, I use the term “man” guardedly, because I take the word to mean something more than merely an adult featherless biped with a penis.) Well, I’ve already said a fair amount about how and why Donald Trump is a fascist. I’ve made it clear that I do not use the term casually, or as a throw-away fallacy. But what about the other terms I’ve been using? I’ve characterized Trump as a narcissist for a while now, and have recently shifted from describing him as a sociopath to a psychopath. What sort of legitimacy can I give those terms, especially since I’m not really qualified to make such a diagnosis with any expertise?
Right off the bat, if I did have the expertise to make such diagnoses and give them clinical weight, then the act of making such diagnoses public would be considered a serious breach of professional ethics. This is due to what is known as the “Goldwater rule.” The Goldwater rule holds that, “it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures they have not examined in person and obtained consent from to discuss their mental health in public statements.” It came about when some psychiatrists publicly commented on Barry Goldwater’s mental condition during the 1964 presidential election. Goldwater sued the journal that published the remarks for libel and won. It has since been encoded as a profound breach of ethics for any psychological professional to comment on the mental state of any individual (generally, a public individual, of course) whom they’ve not personally interviewed and/or examined. This has not prevented some professionals from crossing that line, but their doing so raises serious questions.
I am not a psychological professional of any stripe – my APA is the American Philosophical Association. Consequently, the ethical issues attendant upon any professional authority simply do not exist. On the other hand, I can still articulate a reasoned conclusion with regard to my choice of descriptions of Donald Trump’s character. Still, there is something dubious, even rude, about presuming to pontificate upon another person’s psychological state. I know for myself that I tend to become deeply offended when others do it to me, and have even lost friends on that account. (In my defense, the event was an especially egregious violation.) But here’s the thing: Donald Trump is not my friend, is never going to be my friend, and would never be my friend even if (per impossibile) he inexplicably wanted to be my friend. So, together with my lack of professional standing, any reasoned comments or conclusions I make in this direction do not – and, indeed, cannot – qualify as any kind of personal or ethical violation.
So, taking the last as first (something Donald Trump will never do), I have long favored the word “sociopath” to characterize Trump, but this is a linguistic fight I cannot win, and so I will surrender to standard usage within the psychiatric profession and commit to calling Trump a psychopath. There is some significant overlap with these concepts. Quoting from Scott Bonn in Psychology Today, these can include:
- A disregard for laws and social mores
- A disregard for the rights of others
- A failure to feel remorse or guilt
- A tendency to display violent behavior
Dr. Bonn goes on to note that the two differ in that the sociopath is often poorly educated, living on the fringes of society, tending toward the disorganized, and unable to form any kind of stable personal attachments. Sociopaths will often be unable to keep a steady job, or live in any one place for very long. Psychopaths, however, while incapable of empathy, can nevertheless be charming and highly manipulative. They will often be well educated with steady jobs. Quoting again from Bonn, “Intelligent psychopaths make excellent white-collar criminals and “con artists” (my emphasis) due to their calm and charismatic natures.” While late night, histrionic twitter storms do not speak well for anything like a “cool” or “calculating” mind, given these criteria, it seems fairly clear that Donald Trump is a psychopath, not a sociopath.
As for Trump’s narcissism (which, at this point, is of almost legendary proportions), signs of narcissistic personality disorder include (quoting from the Mayo Clinic, who quoted from DSM-5):
- Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
- Exaggerating your achievements and talents
- Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
- Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
- Requiring constant admiration
- Having a sense of entitlement
- Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
- Taking advantage of others to get what you want
- Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
- Being envious of others and believing others envy you
- Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
With regard to Trump, what more can one say beyond quod erat demonstrandum?
Trump’s psychopathy demonstrates itself in things like his endless business failures – seriously, who loses almost a billion dollars, that’s $1,000,000,000.00 on real estate during a booming real estate market? Yet the con man aspect of the psychopath has enabled Trump to continually gull credulous rubes into giving him more money. Examples of Trump’s narcissism are almost too many to bother to mention, though the preceding includes links to examples from just this last week. So in characterizing Trump as a narcissistic psychopath, I do not trample over any ethical boundaries, while at the same time I present a coherent argument as opposed to a mere opinion.
And we still have the twitter storms (on an unsecured phone!) to remind us that the Butthurt Baby in Chief is not going to develop anything like adult maturity anytime soon.