By Dr David Laing Dawson
Donald Trump’s reference to Sweden at his rally in Florida has been met with much astonishment and satire. He has tried to explain that he meant to reference more of a trend of refugee crime in Sweden than a single recent event. His supporters repeat this. His detractors roll their eyes.
But what he actually said and how he said it and the manner in which he absorbed the source material are, as usual, very telling. They speak to his attention span, how he is influenced, how he formulates thoughts, his limited vocabulary, and the superficiality of his cognitive processes. Here is his statement: “..you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”
The source of this remark is a Fox News report he watched the night before. Hence the “last night”. His thinking process collapses the time he watched the report and the time of supposed “events.” The television screen that he watched was split screen. On the viewer’s left a talking head reports an immigrant inspired crime wave in Sweden. This information was apparently gleaned from particular face book rants. But on the right half of the screen we watch videos of unidentified violence and crime: fires, vandalism, assault, riots.
The spoken information is not sourced from government data or first hand reporting but from Facebook tirades and a filmmaker with an agenda. The visual information (always more potent than words as we know) is of unknown origin and time frame.
This makes an impression on Donald Trump. He says, “You look at what’s happening…who would believe this?” So he has not taken in words and images and formulated and judged them, thought about them, considered them, reflected on their meaning – no, instead he simply excitedly points to them, “You look…”
“They took in large numbers.” He conjures an image of swarms of refugees rather than any considered look at numbers, programs, origins, and the problems of integration and settling.
And then, using a kind of vague hyperbole, “They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”
Trump frequently falls back on these kinds of qualifiers and exaggerations. They create an emotional impression without any kind of actual description, identification, or assessment. His favorites are: “You wouldn’t believe.” “Unbelievable” “Like they never thought possible.” “Like you never thought possible.”
Of course I may be wrong. Such speech patterns may not reflect the patterns of his thought; they may not indicate he has the cognitive processes of an excited 14 year old. Perhaps it is an act, a ploy, a strategy. Perhaps in private he can think and talk as a responsible adult.
Now that is a really frightening thought.