Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Neo-nazis, thugs, and little boys.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In our history psychiatry overplayed its hand. As the theories of Freud, Jung, Adler and others caught on, some psychiatrists and psychologists thought we might have something to offer society as a whole. Perhaps psychological intervention could reduce violence generally, and even prevent war and promote peace.

This was overreach. And we are all aware now, I think, that the tools of psychiatry/psychology are more apt to be misused by the state (The Soviet Union), the CIA, Casinos, and by marketing, or building a better soldier, creating brand loyalty, selling junk food to kids, keeping a scholar or athlete focused.

For the most part the profession of psychiatry retreated to being a medical specialty engaged in the treatment of mental illness.

I was thinking of this while watching neo-nazi Christopher Cantwell on his Youtube video. He was an organizer and marcher in Charlottesville, and then a social media hit when he alternately ranted and sobbed on a self-produced video, after hearing there might be a warrant for his arrest.

Why any young and not-so-young American (or German or Canadian for that matter) might proclaim himself a Nazi today is a puzzle. As has been pointed out, they did not grow up watching their fathers lynch Negros or blame Jews for a recession. Where on earth does this come from?

But watching the performance of Christopher Cantwell it occurred to me that I had seen this many times before.

Troubled boys between age 14 and 17. Some ADHD, some labile emotions, and some developmental/cognitive immaturity. Within a half hour they might talk prison talk full of expletive laden revenge, need for respect, blame, threaten, and then cry, weep, apologize to me and their mothers. There is a frightened little boy inside that would-be thug.

They are trapped developmentally, still children dependent on adults, angry their needs are not immediately satisfied, experimenting with male roles of toughness, power, strength, (often borrowed from gang, drug, and prison cultures), ultimately terrified of adulthood and its demands for skills and responsibility.

Most get through this. Good parenting, time for the brain to develop and mature, some boundaries and structures that promote skill building and confidence, more self-reliance, less blaming of others. Sometimes pills for either ADHD or anxiety or both are required.

That is where Chris Cantwell is. I don’t know how much he truly believes what he says, but he is still, developmentally, 14 to 17, at once angry, blaming, playing a macho role, labile and fearful.

So yes, good parenting, some accessible mental health services, the right school system, opportunities to develop skills and confidence, could reduce the number of young men who become neo-nazis, or terrorists for that matter.

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Trump’s Great Service to Americans – But Time To Go

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The unraveling of Donald Trump is nigh. And if it happens soon, and if the reaction he has provoked has staying power, then, surprisingly, Donald Trump will have performed a great service for America. Perhaps the reaction to Donald will bring about a better America.

Donald has brought to light the simmering racism, the unholy divide, and the hypocrisy that is America. It has always been there of course, addressed politely from time to time, but recently not so overtly, so publicly that it could not be ignored by others.

To be fair though, the credit probably goes equally to Barack Obama, for it may be this unusual sequence of a first black president, and a very good one, followed by a Donald Trump that so ignited the fires of white supremacists and then lifted the fog of denial from the eyes of liberals.

All of them, the KKK, the Nazis and neo-nazis, the white supremacists, they all quietly nursed their wounds and hatred during Obama’s eight years. Now Donald has set them free.

On Tuesday, August 15, off the teleprompter, peppered with questions, Donald Trump revealed Donald. He was of course full of himself, referring back to his successes, even to his riches, boasting of his holdings, taking credit for an improved economy, defending his first statement after the events in Charlottesville, even taking it from his pocket and reading it again, even shamelessly claiming he received praise from the mother of the woman killed.

He became combative with the press, calling them fake news, stating he is more attentive and truthful than they are.

But most of all this exchange revealed his brittle narcissism and the extent to which he cannot tolerate any criticism, any possibility that he may not be the smartest, the best, the most successful person in the room, that he may have been imperfect this one time. And it revealed how his ego overshadows any concept of country, democracy, history. Asked if he would visit Charlottesville he told us he owns a house and a golf course there, the biggest, thus demonstrating his confusion between being president of a democracy and the emperor of all he surveys.

And it gave us a hint of how mad (this word meant to be read both ways) he will become when he is finally cornered and dethroned.

Do it soon. Do it carefully. Do it with a safety net in place.

“I Think Anthony Will Do Amazing.”

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In his brief sojourn in public life Anthony Scaramucci managed to provide hours of material for the late night shows and many columns of commentary by serious pundits.

It is all so troubling and disturbing. A man so obviously unqualified to be a Communications Director quickly drops the tenor of the office to the level of teen boy locker room talk in an under founded school system.

He has come and gone.

But within all the inaccuracies, lies, egoism, and stupidity of Donald Trump’s statements in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on July 25, this particular use of language stood out for me:

“I think Anthony will do amazing.”

There is a time in one’s development of intellectual and linguistic abilities when nouns and adverbs and adjectives get all mixed up, when the brain cannot yet formulate explanatory secondary clauses, and when the brain does not yet notice the misuse of words, catch this, and then explain further.

That age is about 13, 14, 15. (and younger than this of course)

13, 14, 15 is the age at which I hear kids use the phrase, “will do amazing.”

By 17, if they say “will do amazing” they catch themselves and explain further in a second clause, such as, “I mean, like, I think he will get really high marks.”

By university level they realize that the quality of being amazed belongs to the observer, not the doer, and the whole thing is phrased differently.

And all through the transcripts of recent interviews and off-the-teleprompter speeches it is clear Donald Trump does not catch his own absurdities, his own unfinished thoughts, his own deviations from logic, and his own outrageous boasting.

I hear the same from 14-year-olds in my clinical practice. By 17 or so, most have the ability to hear what they have just said, to notice when it veers from truth or logic.

My American friends, your president is a very narcissistic entitled 14 year old.

Though, I must admit, as damaging as he is to the reputation of America in the rest of the world, he may be less dangerous than many Republican alternatives.

Might I suggest a strategy to keep us all safe: Every other leader in this fragile world of ours should send Donald Trump an effusive Valentine card four times a year, at least.

“Is Donald Trump Human?”

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Men in Black, from 1997, with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, is full of good moments. The particular moment that came to mind, for reasons that will become apparent, follows the recruitment of Will Smith to the very small and select team. Tommy Lee is showing Will Smith the ropes. He suggests they “check the hot sheets”. They stop by a News Stand to pick up a couple of tabloids, each with a lurid headline.

“These are the hot sheets?” asks Will.

“Best reporting on the planet,” says Tommy. “Go ahead, read the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes.”

Smith spells out the gag: “I believe you are looking for tips in the supermarket tabloids.”

Their headlines include: “Pope a Father”, “Top Doctors baffled, Baby Pregnant”, “Man Eats Own House” and “Alien Stole My Husband’s Skin.”

The scene is played straight.

It is a very funny moment, I thought.

And I have always assumed that anyone reading these yellow sheets is engaging in a guilty pleasure. They are titillating themselves with implausible stories. Today those titles would be called ‘click bait’.

The publishers of these magazines, when they deal with celebrities, are marketing to our schadenfreude. Ah, how we enjoy reading that the lives of the rich and privileged may be as fraught with conflict and unhappiness, sin and regret, as our own.

But we know that when the story is not an outright lie, a gross exaggeration or invasion of privacy, it is still merely trivial. At least I thought we all understood that.

Hence the entire audience in the theater watching Men in Black got the joke.

But not, apparently, Donald Trump.

It is very distressing to learn that he and the publisher of The National Enquirer are good friends who influence one another. And that this publisher is thinking of buying Time Magazine.

There is a strange slippage afoot. I’m not sure whether we should be boning up on George Orwell or Lewis Carroll.

And I notice another thing entirely by accident. These Men in Black, American enforcement officers for true aliens, extraterrestrial aliens, of all shapes and sizes, some cute, some grotesque, some “legal” and some “illegal”, treat these aliens with much more decency and respect than Donald Trump and ICE treat human “aliens.”

Dump Trump

By Dr David Laing Dawson

If a doctor, teacher, manager, administrator of 70 years of age emailed, announced, or tweeted what Donald Trump just tweeted I would immediately suspect alcohol or frontal lobe dementia. Besides being relieved of his office, or license, his family would take him to a family doctor who might then refer him to either an addiction service or a psychiatrist/neurologist. It would be a striking failure of judgment only plausibly explained by frontal lobe impairment.

With Donald Trump though, this kind of behaviour is not new or unusual. But even a narcissistic misogynistic sociopath might recognize that in the context of being POTUS such a tweet would bring only shame upon his head and reduce, not enhance, his status.

So we have to conclude that either Donald Trump is the same Donald Trump he has always been plus he now has some early dementia, or, his personality disorder is so severe, his ego so fragile, that he cannot stop himself from engaging in a playground (age 14 maybe) retaliation, even when it would be so obviously damaging to him, his family, and his country.

Either diagnosis bodes poorly for the safety of our planet. Please, Republicans, understand this man will take you down with him. It is time to act.

Although, while Trump may be a threat to all things good and sane, from what I see and read, the Republican party in its current form may be an equal or bigger threat to democracy.

Short Unofficial Profiles of the People Around Trump.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Sessions: Obsequious little man who hides his hatred beneath an endearing smile and a soft southern drawl. Iago comes to mind. But Donald is not Othello. Think Richard III instead.

Kushner: Unreadable age, temperament and intentions. A Mona Lisa smile. No apparent anxiety, worry, puzzlement, or humour. That degree of control and confidence in what should be overwhelming complex human situations can only be explained by psychopathy. If this were a kingdom and he were next in line for the crown he would be plotting the death of the King already. Perhaps he is.

Bannon: I know this man, but not in a position of power. Intellectually brilliant, alone in his squalid rooming house, paying no attention to hygiene or diet as he pores over history and its many conspiracies, iterations and cycles to arrive at his own nihilistic philosophy in which mankind destroys itself and he can then look upon the rubble knowing that he is close to being a God.

Pence: A child-like belief in God and destiny, so much so that he can forgive the most egregious sins and comfort himself that it must all be part of God’s plan, even if it elevates him to a position for which he is not remotely qualified, and even if it casts him among sinners.

Ivanka: Though perhaps a little smarter than her father and perhaps slightly more empathetic, she has otherwise inherited or absorbed his tone-deaf sense of entitlement. I can hear her say, when told the peasants have no bread, “Let them eat cake.” Or at least, “Tell them to architect their own destiny as I have.”

Tillerman: A blunt and successful force in the business world, he became depressed when confronted by the daunting task of being Secretary of State for a naked emperor. He, alone among the group, realizes he has much to learn about government and nations. He will soon have a crisis of conscience. He knows he is on stage in “The Scottish Play”.

Spicer: Sean is a lost soul approaching the gates of hell. He knows it is too late. Ignominy awaits if he rejects Satan now. Ignominy awaits if he continues on this path. He will one day die the Death of Ivan Illych, tormented by his cowardice and his failure of conscience.

Conway: Kellyanne is Madam Bovary, trading on looks and charm, attaching to the man in the room who is most likely to bring her fame and fortune, luxury and TV time. She will happily say whatever pleases this man, easily convincing herself that truth is an overrated commodity. As her looks fade she will have to trade more on her willingness to flatter and lie. And she knows that when her Lord falls under the knives of impeachment she will be a welcome guest on all the talk shows.

Paul Ryan: A career politician since his days as student council president. The gift of a hollow smile and a brain always calculating the vectors of power. Honesty, ethics, morality, reality all fall beneath the sword of political expedience.  He is something of an Ayn Rand libertarian, which really means, “Let no agency have power, unless it is I.” and “I’m all right Jack; so bugger the rest of you.”

 

 

Standing By Trump – Or Not

By Dr David Laing Dawson

As social scientists point out, it is a prime directive for homo sapiens to maintain standing in their community (power, pecking order, value); it is not a prime directive to listen to reason and apply educated perceptual and deductive processes to arrive at a truth. Hence the amazing displays of twisting, selecting, avoiding, diverting, and denial coming from Republican law makers when asked to comment on a particularly stupid, childish or even incriminating comment by Donald Trump.

In the Hans Christian Andersen story it is only a child who is free to blurt out, “But the emperor has no clothes.” The lords, the noblemen, the ladies, the merchants – they all have much to lose. As does the emperor himself.

This emperor, The Donald, likewise has much to lose should he ever admit either ignorance or failure. His whole narcissistic edifice would crumble. He would find himself staring at a reality he has never allowed himself to see before.

And perhaps some of those Republicans do not have law degrees or other marketable skills, and rely on their Government salaries to support five children, an invalid wife, two aging parents, and a large mortgage. These I forgive. They should keep their heads down and avoid microphones. But there are others I am sure who have many options. They would lose but the ephemeral status of a title and invitations to the old boys club.

Yet none speak up.

It is disappointing to learn that in an old democracy an incompetent man can be elected President on the basis of misdirected anger, show business glitz, and ridiculous promises, all flavored with misogyny and racism.

But it is more disappointing to see that not one nobleman, not one lawmaker, is able to overcome the prime directive from our days in the jungle – not one has the courage to put his standing in his community at risk and announce, as the child would, “The emperor has no clothes. The emperor is lying. The emperor is incompetent. I can no longer support the emperor. I resign.”

What To Do When King Donald Goes Mad

By Dr David Laing Dawson

In November of 2016 I wrote the piece that follows. Predictions for the Trump Presidency. As Donald himself might say, “Who knew impeachment was so complicated?” So, I got that wrong. It will be a long and messy process. If only they had a parliamentary system and could simply call for a vote of non-confidence.

And I did not guess the extent to which Trump would  incriminate himself with both his careless tweets and his loose boastful talk in both the Russia affair and the obstruction of investigation into the Russia affair.

Other than that though, my predictions are depressingly accurate. And I still think the danger for the U. S. of A. and the rest of the world is that Donald Trump, unlike Nixon, will not go gentle into that good night. The sane and rational leaders of America need a plan. As the bad news mounts; when Trump’s counter attacks and deflections begin to fail; when he is cornered, he will lash out. They must make sure he cannot bring the temple down.

Predictions for the Trump Presidency

By Dr David Laing Dawson (Nov. 24, 2016)

The good news:

Donald Trump has neither the knowledge nor patience to figure out how to repeal parts of Obamacare, renegotiate NAFTA, build a great wall, prosecute Hillary, create the mechanisms to actually find and deport 3 million immigrants, or even change the tax system.

He won’t interfere much with climate change accords, because he doesn’t really care one way or the other and this is also a very complicated endeavor. He will continue to contradict himself from day to day, responding to his immediate impulses and his (I must admit) well honed intuitions about his public.

He can interfere with the TPP because all he has to say is, “Not gonna do it.” China can take the lead and a trade deal will be struck with all countries on the Pacific excluding the USA. I have no idea what that means for the USA or Canada.

Anything that requires a great deal of work, attention to detail, building a consensus, formulating a complex plan, he will not do.

The bad news:

Within a few weeks of his presidency Donald Trump will manage to mix his business dealings, his self-aggrandizement, and his petty peeves with his presidency, with his representation of the people of the United States, to such a degree that the democrats and a few republicans will start an impeachment process. In the ensuing hearings his business dealings around the world and at home will be exposed. He will respond with anger and outrageous accusations. This will convince others to support the impeachment.

As it becomes clear that Donald J. Trump will be successfully impeached he will become a raging bull. He will not simply announce, “I am not a crook.” and board the helicopter in disgrace. He will rage. He will suffer an extreme blow to his narcissism. He will rage and lash out.

This will fuel the racist fires at home and cause great anxiety abroad. He could well bring the temple down.

Sane American leaders need to be thinking about a contingency plan.

Perhaps the fully sane leaders of the rest of the world could form a club and plan a contingency of their own. What to do when King Donald goes mad.

Analyzing Trump Gibberish

By Dr David Laing Dawson

When speaking to someone, perhaps answering a question, most of us occasionally go off on a tangent, we find the first clause of our thought and sentence has triggered a parallel thought. Many of us find at times that the thought, the idea we were expressing, requires a change of format, a change of sentence structure in the middle of the utterance in order that it make sense. At that point we pause, and then either find a link such as “about which” that will work, or we start over and restructure from the beginning. Sometimes we realize what we said was not clear, and then reformulate the thought with, “What I am trying to say is…”. Sometimes the whole sentence is verbalized before we realize that it doesn’t quite work as a logical thought.

But always, or almost always, we notice this ourselves, during the time we are talking or immediately after. That is, we listen to ourselves.

And this is one of the things perplexing about Donald J. Trump. He either doesn’t listen to himself or he doesn’t care what comes out of his mouth.

A recent New York Times article called it gibberish and indicative of some sort of derangement.

We are all capable of gibberish at times. What worries me is that Donald Trump does not seem to notice he is speaking gibberish. This may explain the ease with which he lies and contradicts himself.

I don’t really understand this. His narcissism, yes. His short attention span, yes. His lazy grandiosity, yes. But what does it mean when the President of the United States does not listen to himself when he speaks? What does it mean when he does not listen to himself and notice the inconsistencies and contradictions in his speech, when he loses his way mid-sentence? Apart from being dangerous for the rest of us?

In a state of mania a rapid stream of consciousness occurs, a flight of tangential thinking, “pressured speech” as we call it, random thoughts and exhortations, sometimes linked only by rhythm and rhyme. But President Trump is not manic.

I have spent many years listening to delusions. Clear, simple, “fixed” delusions (as we call them) contain an inner logic. Trump’s speech patterns do not contain an inner logic. By inner logic I mean that if one accepts the hypothesis that the Martians are controlling me, then all else that I assert on this subject is plausible, if I can logically link it to the central idea.

Fractured, unsettled, probing, scanning, disorganized delusional thinking is different. It is a brain frantically looking for an organizing principle. This comes closer to Trump speak, but he does not appear in any other way to be psychotic.

Sprinkling random observations into the middle of an exchange and then forgetting you have done this can be a sign of dementia.

“The snow is on the ground.”

“Mother, it’s July.”

“I know that.”

“Then why did you mention snow?”

“I didn’t say anything about snow.”

This is probably not the problem afflicting Donald Trump, but time will tell. If it is some form of dementia it will get worse.

And then, just recently in the Oval Office while holding a conference with some members of Congress, he announced, in relation to the battle for Mosul, and specifically the involvement of American troops, “they are fighting like they’ve never fought before.” He said this with a particular tone and prosody, and a smile of pleasure, of good news and high expectations.

It is an interesting phrase in that context, rather meaningless and perhaps somewhat insulting to the veterans of the Iraq war and many other wars. Except if you take the phrase and the contextual information together, the unspoken portion of this thought ends with, “because I am an inspiration to them.”

It is similar to other favorite phrases of his, such as “like you’ve never seen before”. “It will make your head spin.”

It is empty salesmanship, a promise of nothing really, and a way of taking credit if something good happens, a way of congratulating himself in advance.

And it shows a paucity of complex thought beyond that of a 14 year old.

Linguists point out that the ability to compose and utter a sentence consisting of several clauses, with a premise supported by observations, leading to a logical conclusion, is a product of reading. Prior to written language all we required was something like, “Lion come, run.” But Trump’s performance with the teleprompter demonstrates that he can read, he just doesn’t read much. This leads some pundits and scholars to point out that we are in a post-print age. That much of Mr. Trump’s base do not read either.

Still, one would think Mr. Trump would notice when he is talking gibberish. And I would think it is the moral duty of all those who get to interview him, to point it out.

We live in a new age, when the spoken words (and tweets) of one man are instantly shared with the world, and because of his position of power, they have impact, they have weight. But while the world is listening to this man, he is not listening to himself.

The silver lining to this is, I think, that the Merkels, Mays, Trudeaus of this world have figured it out: that all his utterances, lies, contradictions, illogical constructions, and gibberish, can be translated as, simply, “I am great and you are not.”

But this also means he can be easily manipulated by the Putins and Bannons of this same world.

 

Please, America, Please

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I have always looked to our south, like many Canadians, with a little disdain, a smidgen of envy, a touch of awe, and no small sense of superiority. When you repeat over and over again, ad nauseum, that America is the Greatest country on earth, I want to politely shout, “No, you are not.” Perhaps by one measure out of twenty you are, but that’s it. One out of twenty. Maybe two. Military force and entertainment. Maybe three: military force, entertainment, and some of the sciences.

You got the atomic bomb first, with the help of a few imported scientists, but Canada was second in having the knowledge and technology to build one, and it did not. Perhaps this was a much more significant accomplishment.

You can see our relationship has been complicated.

Traveling in Europe we quickly identify ourselves as Canadian, not American. I know some Americans who do as well.

But I was in Paris when the twin towers came down, and we spent four days there watching the news. And I found, out on the street, that suddenly I too was American, North American.

How dare these primitives, these semi-civilized thirteenth century people, attack the greatest city on earth, the showpiece of my America? How dare such primitives, such pre-enlightenment Neanderthals attack this beacon of light, this democracy, our democracy?

At that moment the civilized enlightened world was with you, America. You had a free hand to go hard after Osama Bin Laden. Instead you invaded Iraq. And as the war drums grew I found myself saying, “No. They won’t do that. Nobody could be that stupid.”

But you were. And then you did it badly, ignoring history and everything we know about collective human behaviour, about what happens when you take away stability, structure, organization.

And once again I became a disdainful Canadian watching you torture yourselves (and others).

Of course, with your own disdain of regulations and oversight, you also allowed a financial crisis to assail the world, and for the gap in wealth to grow to outrageous proportions. The very rich got richer, the poor got poorer.

And then we had 8 years of Obama, a man who proved to be, if a little indecisive, at least sane, intelligent, kind, thoughtful, knowledgeable and responsible. It looked like America had a chance again and might one-day regain a fourth or even fifth category of greatness.

Four or five out of twenty wouldn’t be all that bad. Education? Health care? Quality of Life? Women’s rights? Racial equality? Literacy? Scientific literacy? Standard of living? Clean air? Clean water? Mental health care? Less primitive corrections system? Modern transportation system? Banking regulations? Maybe you would even direct that famous American energy and ingenuity toward preventing the calamity of climate change?

But no.

Instead you took a mighty step backwards. You elected a child as president and a raft of 19th century idealogues to Congress. The arguments I hear on CNN about that whole list one paragraph above are silly, stupid, primitive, ill informed. With each of them the push is backwards: women’s rights, health care, EPA, great lakes, mental health care, climate change, education, science, corrections, regulations, wealth equality, race relations.

Please, America, Please. Those of you who are enlightened, educated, worldly, kind, sane, responsible – those of you who have empathy for others, who have outgrown or at least come to terms with your past – those of you who care about the real future – the future for yourselves, your children, your grandchildren, and the rest of the world for that matter – you need to resist; you need to turn the tables.

I could simply go on feeling superior and disdainful, but America is too important, even the idea of America is too important. We, the whole world, need a sane, stable, educated, advanced, involved, compassionate America.

And now I shall watch CNN again and cross my fingers.