FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Emperor’s New Weirdness

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

September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
Kenn Orphan
The Power of Language in the Anthropocene
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
Puerto Rico’s Unnatural Disaster Rolls on Into Year Two
Rajan Menon
Yemen’s Descent Into Hell: a Saudi-American War of Terror
Russell Mokhiber
Nick Brana Says Dems Will Again Deny Sanders Presidential Nomination
Nicholas Levis
Three Lessons of Occupy Wall Street, With a Fair Dose of Memory
Steve Martinot
The Constitutionality of Homeless Encampments
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The Aftershocks of the Economic Collapse Are Still Being Felt
Jesse Jackson
By Enforcing Climate Change Denial, Trump Puts Us All in Peril
George Wuerthner
Coyote Killing is Counter Productive
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail