FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Emperor’s New Weirdness

by

For those people who are able to find humor in virtually any circumstance or situation, no matter how gruesome or dire, wouldn’t it be funny if the U.S. President were mentally ill?

And we’re not speaking here of a president who is merely destructively stubborn (LBJ), or repulsively cocky (George W. Bush), or basically full of crap (Reagan). We’re speaking of a president who displays the obvious and disturbing signs of a low-level pathology.

Of course, one can argue that imaginative historians have trafficked in “amateur psychology” for centuries. Not only are unconventional accounts of behavior far more titillating than the boilerplate stuff, but sometimes a bizarre explanation is the only one that suffices.

Consider: Caligula was considered certifiably “insane,” Catherine the Great was labeled a “nymphomaniac,” Uganda’s Idi Amin was said to have “lost his mind” due to tertiary syphilis, and Richard Nixon was portrayed as a classic “paranoid.” (Speaking for myself, I always thought Senator Jesse Helms was “touched,” but that’s another conversation.)

Still, as lurid and melodramatic as some these accusations have been, there is no reason to automatically assume they aren’t true. There is no compelling reason to believe that in a political system, like ours, based almost entirely on sound bites and campaign money, you couldn’t accidentally elect a person who was mentally ill. And that would be even truer of an “undemocratic” system where people became leaders via heredity, military coup, or decree.

Accordingly, in 1999, a couple of Cornell University psychology professors (Dr. David Dunning and Dr. Justin Kruger) developed a theory which inevitably came to be known as the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.”

Broadly speaking, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is defined as “a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability to recognize their [own] ineptitude.” It’s internal, and it’s physical, so in a sense, it’s a case of one’s mental circuitry going haywire.

Obviously, this condition is way more serious than some annoying eccentricity or obnoxious personal habit. What makes D-K so alarming is that it is all-encompassing and life-altering. A mindset that not only inhibits people from objectively assessing their own abilities and skills but results in dumb or inexperienced people becoming convinced they’re not only “qualified,” but “experts.”

Decades before Professor Dunning and Kruger codified their observations into what became a respected academic theory, British philosopher Bertrand Russell summed it up thusly: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

Which brings us to Donald Trump. Is it possible that this man is more than the swaggering egotistical buffoon he appears to be? Could he actually be “sick”? After all, Trump seems to believe he knows more about intelligence than intel people, more about commerce than trained economists, more about women than Gloria Steinem, and more about the Civil War than actual historians.

All of which is making people—including diehard Republicans in the same White House—increasingly uncomfortable. And by “uncomfortable” we mean “scared.” Even if we don’t completely accept the D-K hypothesis, something clearly ain’t right. At this point, I’d almost be relieved to find out he was a nymphomaniac.

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 28, 2017
Diana Johnstone
Macron’s Mission: Save the European Union From Itself
Jordon Kraemer
The Cultural Anxiety of the White Middle Class
Vijay Prashad
Modi and Trump: When the Titans of Hate Politics Meet
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Efforts to Hide Palestinians From View No Longer Fools Young American Jews
Ron Jacobs
Gonna’ Have to Face It, You’re Addicted to War
Jim Lobe – Giulia McDonnell Nieto Del Rio
Is Trump Blundering Into the Next Middle East War?
Radical Washtenaw
David Ware, Killed By Police: a Vindication
John W. Whitehead
The Age of No Privacy: the Surveillance State Shifts into High Gear
Robert Mejia, Kay Beckermann and Curtis Sullivan
The Racial Politics of the Left’s Political Nostalgia
Tom H. Hastings
Courting Each Other
Winslow Myers
“A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind”
Leonard Peltier
The Struggle is Never for Nothing
Jonathan Latham
Illegal GE Bacteria Detected in an Animal Feed Supplement
Deborah James
State of Play in the WTO: Toward the 11th Ministerial in Argentina
Andrew Stewart
Health Care for All: Why I Occupied Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Office
Binoy Kampmark
The European Commission, Google and Anti-Competition
Jesse Jackson
A Savage Health Care Bill
Jimmy Centeno
Cats and Meows in L.A.
June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail