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Is there a Nexus between Trump’s Wild Conspiracy Theories, Lying, and Abnormal Psychology?

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] A [/yt_dropcap]fter 50 turbulent days or so of “Caligula Presidency,” we have become accustomed to sudden “tremendous” tweet outbursts. Often the evidence for the allegations and the insults they convey is nowhere to be found.

There is never an apology for declaring facts that turn out to be false when fact-checked, or for wild conspiracy theories, or for unsubstantiated ideas, or for fabricated “alternate facts.” If anything, doubling down occurs regularly.

Sometimes cleaner ups (what I call the “sycophantic pooper scoopers”) will be promptly dispatched to clean up the mess or backtrack, but they have strict orders never to apologize, for that may embolden the “detractors.” The strategy is to constantly remain on the attack. There also seems to be an inability to assume responsibility while living in an alternate universe concocted in one’s “brilliant” but slightly exalted mind.

Of course it is rather futile to explain or rationalize what appears crazy and deranged, but perhaps there is a method of sorts to the madness that can be analyzed. For this predictable pattern of conspiracy theory unsupported by facts and evidence has become all too familiar by now. We are expected to patiently grin and bear it, or risk becoming targets of the emperor’s anger, or worse, come under the intimidating range of his vengeful tweeters. Few have so far dared to tell the unadulterated truth and tell it like it is: that the emperor strolls around in splendid apparel but in reality he is naked.

Let’s briefly review a few of these cavalier promotions of conspiracy theories unsupported by any evidence. There is the claim that millions of undocumented migrants voted in the November election, which purports to explain why Trump lost the popular vote at the tune of three million votes. There is the claim that Obama was born outside the US, which has resurfaced recently. There is the claim that the refugees are not unfortunate victims of war but an army of invaders assaulting Western Civilization. There is the claim that Obama tapped Trump’s phone while Trump was president elect.

One of the more bizarre claims is that of the Deep State, which is sometimes called the “swamp to be drained,” consisting of disloyal members of the opposition (mostly Obama’s leftovers) still working in government agencies, in the sector of National Security, Judiciary, Military, the Liberal Media, especially the White House Press, needs to be drained by a drastic purge. All redolent, to be sure, of the purges conducted in the Nazi party and the civil government institutions in the Nazi party of the 30s in Germany.

One exemplar brought forth for dealing with this “swamp” so called, is that of Donald Reagan firing the Flight Controller for violation of federal law in the 80s, never mind that it was such an extreme anti-workers’ measure which began a tragic slide in America toward income inequality, the destruction of unions, the stagnation of middle class wages among workers; all regressions and discontents that came to a head in 2016, of which Trump has taken full advantage of, to win the election with the help of the Russians (for he lost the popular vote by 3 millions) and thus install his fat cats in the White House, the one percenter. Talking of Deep State!

In the field of psychology research has been conducted on people prone to those bizarre conspiracy theories, hence a tentative profile can be hazarded. They are usually the kind of people at the edge of the political extremes. They distrust the government and people in power. They are usually disagreeable, unwilling to compromise and to get along, ready to pick up fights at the slightest provocation or disagreement. Paranoia is rampant: they see enemies everywhere. They have a weak sense of self-worth and need constant adulation and validation. They tend to find the cause for any of their problems outside their own actions. When they feel out of control of their own fate, they appeal to conspiracy theories for a ready explanation. They will assume the posture of knowing it all, while others have no clue.

And here lies the paradox, when it comes to somebody like Trump, arguably the most powerful man in the world, how can he possibly doubt his own ability to make things happen? If we look at his outbursts of anger, at least the ones which have surfaced, it is apparent that Trump finds it quite disquieting that he doesn’t seem to totally control the office of the presidency. It’s not quite like being a business CEO where you lift you hand and say, like captain Picard on the Enterprise, “make it happen.” In politics, the need for total control usually leads directly to dictatorship. Is that what Trump has imagined all along in his alternate universe full of alternate facts?

Psychological research has also discovered that those engaging in conspiracy beliefs in the face of their frustrations and setback are frequently those who are high on narcissism. This is quite apparent in Trump. When feelings of personal superiority are undermined, a scapegoat is sought, to bear the brunt of one’s rage. While in that state of rage the narcissist may sincerely believe that people are out to get him and that he is an innocent victim of unfair attacks. In turn that may produce negative feelings toward powerful opponents, especially those who refuse to be intimidated and are willing to challenge his overwhelming power. It may also produce cynicism about politics (“the swamp to be drained”), about human nature (“survival of the fittest” or the smartest) or excessive pride in one’s country, deemed better than any other.

Does the above explain “crazy like a fox” or is it a mere inadequate rationalization in an attempt to explain the unexplainable? Some insist that with Trump it is all a calculated strategy having nothing to do with psychological determinism or aberration, and we ought to understand it as such. It is simply a way of redirecting the conversation, of sending out a rabbit to distract from an investigation at hand too close for comfort.

So the question persists: crazy as a fox, or just plain crazy? Hard to figure even for a psychologist, but the telling signs are there in public view for anybody to behold and to reflect upon.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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World News

Fight against human trafficking must be strengthened in Ethiopia

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A group of internally displaced people due to the Tigray conflict gather in a site in Ethiopia's Afar region, Ethiopia. © UNHCR/Alessandro Pasta

Throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray, Afar and Amhar regions, women and girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable to abduction and sex trafficking as they flee ongoing armed conflict, a group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts warned on Monday.

The protracted conflict in the three northern regions have heightened risks of trafficking for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict, the experts said in a statement.

“We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places,” they said.

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“We are concerned at the risks of trafficking, in particular for purposes of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.” 

Women and children in crosshairs

Amidst abductions and displacement, the UN experts raised serious concerns over Eritrean refugee women and children being at particular risk of sex trafficking.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent trafficking, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to ensure assistance and protection of all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age or gender,” they said.  

Meanwhile, the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families, especially in the Tigray region, are particularly vulnerable, warned the independent experts.

“The continuing lack of humanitarian access to the region is a major concern,” the experts continued, urging immediate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent all forms of trafficking of children and to ensure their protection.

Identifying victims

They added that sufficient measures were not being taken to identify victims of trafficking, or support their recovery in ways that fully takes account of the extreme trauma being suffered.

“The failure to provide accountability for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes creates a climate of impunity, allows trafficking in persons to persist and perpetrators to go free,” underscored the six UN experts.

They urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that victims of trafficking can adequately access medical assistance, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services and psychological support.

The experts said they had made their concerns known to both the Governments of Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea.

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World News

35 years of Cultural Routes: Safeguarding European Values, Heritage, and Dialogue

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A Europe rich in history, heritage, dialogue and values: the Council of Europe Cultural Routes’ programme celebrates its 35th anniversary, on the occasion of the 11th Advisory Forum in Minoa Palace Hotel, Chania, Crete (Greece) on 5-7 October, with a special event to highlight the relevance of Cultural Routes for the promotion of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and sustainable tourism.

The Forum is organised by the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes, in co-operation with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Hellenic Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Region of Crete, the Municipality of Chania, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Chania, and the Historic Cafes Route. The 2022 edition will be the opportunity to underline the growing relevance of the Cultural Routes methodology and practices in promoting Europe’s shared cultural heritage while fostering viable local development.

Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge will participate in the high-level dialogue, together with Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece Lina Mendoni, Minister of Tourism of Greece Vassilis Kikilias, Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Vice-President and Chairperson of the Greek Delegation Dora Bakoyannis and Chair of the Statutory Committee of Cultural Routes Ambassador Patrick Engelberg (Luxembourg). 

Over three days of workshops and interactive debates, three main general sessions will be explored:

  1. Promoting European Values and Intercultural Dialogue;
  2. Safeguarding Heritage in Times of Crisis;
  3. Fostering Creative Industries, Cultural Tourism, Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Communities.

The Forum will discuss trends and challenges in relation to Cultural Routes, providing a platform for sharing experiences, reviewing progress, analysing professional practices, launching new initiatives and developing partnerships across Europe and beyond. Participants range from managers among the 48 cultural routes to representatives of national ministries, International Organisations, academics, experts and tourism professionals.

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Little progress combating systemic racism against people of African descent

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More than two years since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement, there’s been only “piecemeal progress” in addressing systemic racism, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday, in a new report.While more people have been made aware of systemic racism and concrete steps have been taken in some countries, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights called on States to demonstrate greater political will to accelerate action.

“There have been some initiatives in different countries to address racism, but for the most part they are piecemeal. They fall short of the comprehensive evidence-based approaches needed to dismantle the entrenched structural, institutional and societal racism that has existed for centuries, and continues to inflict deep harm today,” said Nada Al-Nashif, who will present the report to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

Triggering change

The report describes international, national and local initiatives that have been taken, towards ending the scourge of racism.

These include an Executive Order from the White House on advancing effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices in federal law enforcement agencies; an Anti-Racism Data Act in British Columbia, Canada; measures to evaluate ethnic profiling by police in Sweden; and census data collection to self-identify people of African descent in Argentina.

The European Commission has issued guidance on collecting and using data based on racial or ethnic origin; formal apologies issued, memorialization, revisiting public spaces, and research, to assess links to enslavement and colonialism in several countries.

‘Barometer for success’

The report notes that poor outcomes continue for people of African descent in many countries, notably in accessing health and adequate food, education, social protection, and justice – while poverty, enforced disappearance and violence continues.

It highlights “continuing…allegations of discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force, and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent by law enforcement officials”

The barometer for success must be positive change in the lived experiences of people of African descent,” continued Ms. Al-Nashif.

“States need to listen to people of African descent, meaningfully involve them and take genuine steps to act upon their concerns.”

Higher death rates

Where available, recent data still points to disproportionately high death rates faced by people of African descent, at the hands of law enforcement, in different countries.

“Families of African descent continued to report the immense challenges, barriers and protracted processes they faced in their pursuit of truth and justice for the deaths of their relatives”, the report says.

It details seven cases of police-related deaths of people of African descent, namely George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (US); Adama Traoré (France); Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and João Pedro Matos Pinto (Brazil); Kevin Clarke (UK) and Janner [Hanner] García Palomino (Colombia).

While noting some progress towards accountability in a few of these emblematic cases, “unfortunately, not a single case has yet been brought to a full conclusion, with those families still seeking truth, justice and guarantees of non-repetition, and the prosecution and sanction of all those responsible,” the report says.

Ms. Al-Nashif called on States to “redouble efforts to ensure accountability and redress wherever deaths of Africans and people of African descent have occurred in the context of law enforcement, and take measures to confront legacies that perpetuate and sustain systemic racism”.

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