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Trump's Presidency

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



[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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