Friday, January 12, 2018

Trump the Spellbinder

The Salvador Dali Painting in Hitchcock's Spellbound

 Minority Whip Dick Durbin's head must have been spinning to the point of whiplash from all that awesome proximity to power in the Oval Office. Because when Donald Trump repeatedly described Haiti and African countries as "shitholes," the senior senator from Illinois apparently did not confront him. He was rendered as mute as a Democrat can be when negotiating how many expulsions of black and brown people might be acceptable without opening up the United States to charges of overt racism and xenophobia.

Just as Trump was ironically issuing a proclamation honoring Martin Luther King Jr. on his upcoming birthday, he found himself in the awkward position of insisting that although his language may have been "tough" during immigration talks, he certainly Did. Not. Have. Verbal. Relations. With. That. Word. Period.

Meanwhile, it's finally become acceptable to call Trump a racist as well as a senile ignoramus. It's even become acceptable to print and say the word "shithole" and for the media to pretend to agonize over all the deep soul-searching involved in finally deciding to print and say the word "shithole," despite the fact that newsrooms all over the country are notorious hotbeds of unabashed profanity.

"It is exceedingly rare," writes the New York Times's Michael A. Grynbaum, "for the country’s biggest news organizations to publish a quote that includes an expletive; usually, they employ a censored or blanked-out version. On Thursday’s network evening newscasts, NBC News was the only organization that quoted Mr. Trump in full. Anchors at ABC and CBS used the word “blank” instead. But several media executives said on Thursday that the news value of Mr. Trump’s remarks, which the White House did not dispute, was undeniable."

Donald Trump is not only the Gaslighter-in-Chief. He is also the Spellbinder-in-Chief, and his audience is behaving like the typical Ingrid Bergman damsel in distress. Just witness the supposedly powerful Dick Durbin's helpless shock and awe in the face of it.

Andrew Lobaczewski, the late clinical psychologist and author of Political Ponerology, the study of contagious societal evil, described the  paralyzing effect that the spellbinding Trumps of the world can have on the people around them: 
'Persons with an innate talent for intuiting psychological situations tend to take advantage of this gift in an egotistical and ruthless fashion. In the thought process of such people, a short cut way develops which bypasses the handicapped (brain) function, thus leading from associations directly to words, deeds, and decisions which are not subject to any dissuasion. Such individuals interpret their talent for intuiting situations and making split-second oversimplified decisions a sign of their superiority compared to normal people, who need to think for a long time, experiencing self-doubt and conflicting motivations.

"Such characters traumatize and actively spellbind others, and their influence finds it exceptionally easy to bypass the controls of common sense. A large proportion of people tend to credit such individuals with special powers, thereby succumbing to their egotistic beliefs. If a parent manifests such a defect, no matter how minimal, all the children in the family evidence anomalies in personality development.

"Subordinating a normal person to psychologically abnormal individuals has severe and deforming effects on his or her personality: it engenders trauma and neurosis. This is accomplished in a manner which generally evades conscious controls. Such a situation deprives a person of his natural rights: to practice his own mental hygiene, develop a sufficiently autonomous personality, and utilize his common sense. In the light of natural law, it thus constitutes a kind of crime - which can appear at any social scale, in any context - although it is not mentioned in any code of law."
In a healthy society, Lobaczewski wrote, the activities of spellbinders can usually be stifled fairly quickly. But in an unhealthy society, riven by extreme wealth and social inequalities, the spellbinder finds that people are amenable to his influence. And all that "normal" people like Dick Durbin can do in response is to moralize and express disgust, rather than do anything concrete to stop the madness. That would necessarily include acknowledging the evil of their own policies, which gave rise to Trump in the first place.

There are many psychopaths behind the scenes who steer and/or enable Trump even as they pretend to condemn his words. Even the "good" Democrats seem  increasingly exhausted by the futile effort of telling the president he ought to behave himself so that the quiet work of the oligarchy can proceed apace, and they can pretend that droning people to death in foreign countries and sending thousands of American troops to Africa is not also a form of hideous racism.

Trump's deviant personality is no more deviant than American hegemony itself. He is simply the exception to the unwritten rule that it's the skillfully discreet psychopaths who, after careful corporate vetting, win high office because, as Lobaczewski wrote, "they have thought-processes more similar to the world of normal people; in general, they are sufficiently connected to the pathological system to provide a guarantee of loyalty."

Since Trump threatens the ruling elites by oafishly ripping the mask right off of them, the only weapons they have left in their arsenal are hapless outrage and helpless moralizing. There's no putting the mask of democracy and freedom and equality back on the face of Ruling Class America once it's been exposed in all its ugliness.

So we ordinary people have to protect ourselves both from Trump and from the equally dangerous, reactionary, self-righteous and ineffectual ruling class reactions to Trump. Our own psychological health as individuals and as members of society depends upon it.

We should be neither the helpless Ingrid Bergman wife in Gaslight nor the hapless Ingrid Bergman therapist in Spellbound. We can't play the part of analysts and critics only to succumb and let our emotions of fear and disgust rise above our intellects. We can't be good citizens if we criticize the villainous Trump one minute, and then besottedly fall for the next slick political marketing campaign and neoliberal savior the next.

Howard Zinn was right: "The really critical thing isn't who's sitting in he White House, but who is sitting in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating? Those are the things that determine what happens."


Jamie said...

So if I called South Africa a shithole in the 1980s I would be racist? Are snowflakes racist for calling Russia a shithole? Should we just excuse the elites of Haiti and the Clinton Foundation's corruption there and pretend it is not a shithole?

Comrade Pinko said...

There he goes again! President No-Filter is bluntly saying in a few short words what professional talking heads take hundreds or thousands of words to dance around but essentially say the same thing. When is Trump going to learn to use pretty words like Obama? Don't they teach pretty word talk at Wharton? They do at Harvard.

Trump's shithole is located in the lower half of his face. The stuff that comes out of there! Ick! Someone from Haiti needs to throw him some rolls of TP, stat.

The Joker said...

There may actually be an upside to Trump's "shithole" remark: I would guess that most of Haiti's voodoo practitioners have since been working overtime to curse the orange demon. Anyone want to place bets on which Trump body part will be the first to shrivel up, or at least quit working? His heart (not that he has much of one)? His brain (ditto)? His texting thumbs (what would he do without them)? His brag-worthy penis (any guesses as to whether Melania would be pleased or displeased at such an outcome)?

And unlike the sixties attempt to levitate the Pentagon, this voodoo could actually work, as a self-fulfilling prophesy, if Trump is at all superstitious, either consciously or unconsciously.

Finally, while I would prefer rational rebuttal of the malevolent and their policies, I have over the years noticed the "spellbinding" effect that Karen writes about here, both directly and referencing the writings of Andrew Lobaczewski (whom I was not familiar with). This argues for for the value of humor and ridicule to break the spell, and so on this occasion I bring readers' attention to some internet creatives' more earthy rebuttal of Donald Trump, Donald Trump as a literal "shithole":

Rebuttal of the whole SYSTEM via humor and ridicule isn't quite as easy, but it is possible, and is out there, and deserves our encouragement and widespread dissemination.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Supplement to the Zinn Catechism:

Q. Who invaded, demarcated, excavated and then filled to the brim the shitholes of Africa and Latin America?

A. Initially and mainly and even unto this day the Assholes of Empire from Europe and North America.

Jokers like Trump, as well as his more serious predecessors, still don't recognize their agency in creating the mess they decry.

Clueless It Seems said...

This is just brilliant. And NOT because I happen to agree with many of the things you've written. trumpf is an idiot and his followers (Zinn was correct) are completely sheeple. They are idiots, too.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Forget the mess US diplomats will be scrubbing at for months to come, or the pearl clutching as it reported that the Big Tweet has uttered another racist thought or two.

Following our compulsory Sunday morning attendance at the network news shows, we might come away thinking, hey, maybe President Trump never did say that naughty word in connection with Africa and Haiti, which word every one else was thereafter slinging around with abandon. Why? Because two Republican senators who were at said meeting crossed their hearts and told the world they never heard Trump using a crude metaphor for certain countries.

In this age of open speakerphones and magic smartphones, why must we rely on politicians to tell us what was or was not said at that White House meeting? Here we are once again square on the Uncertainty Principle because we have nothing more sure from our divided Congress than "He said, he never said."

Through the whole weekend, TV networks agonized over whether they should repeat out loud (sans bleep) the ugly word Democrats say they heard. Early on the weekend it was not a matter of fact but of taste that had journalists over a barrel. As you might expect, all the godless lefty blogs without exception reveled in their endless repetition of that naughty word while explaining how stupid the Prez was in using it.

What is for sure is that about 100 million Americans who follow headlines began using the naughty word quite a bit more than usual this weekend. What we can't be sure about is whether the Big Man Himself used that word. See, you can fake out most of the people most of the time if you're The Donald. He wins again. No such thing as bad publicity.

Will we ever learn over the next three (or seven) years? On reflection, wouldn't all men and women of good will come out ahead if they simply ignore Trump's words, antics, tweets and executive orders?

With apologies to AIPAC for any confusion, I ask that we all sign the BDS petition now circulating: Boycott Donald's Shitstorms!

Comrade Pinko said...

Poor Trump. He flunked euphemism class. He should have used the term 'Third World'. It the diplomatic version of shithole.

Mark Thomason said...

Talking with some young people around here, I got responses to this that are not in the media on either side.

"Yeah, those places are shitholes. Why do you want to pretend they are not?"

We can talk about how they got that way, how they stay that way, and why. We can talk about good, hard working innocent people trapped. What we can't sell is denial that those places really are shitholes.

There is also a strong feeling that all those hard working, innocent victims can't solve their problerm by making it our problem, by coming here, moving Haiti here. They'll have to stay there and fix their own country. Now, I realize they can't, or they would have, and that is largely done to them by others. But "It's not our problem" is as strong as "They really are shitholes."

Trump's own media dare not come right out and say these things. It appears they don't have to. He's looking like a "stand up guy" to these younger voters who hear things they just don't believe.

Trump is a racist and a jerk, but this is being mishandled, handing him an advantage. The self righteous indignation over looks the fact that they look sort of in denial of reality. They could address those realities, but nobody is doing that.