OscarDecember 12, 2016 Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog


The Cult of Trump


Can’t understand why a loved one would vote for Donald Trump? Let the experts who spend their lives studying cults help break it down.
America was watching, the world was watching, and Donald Trump needed everyone to understand just how dire the straits really were.


“Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation,” he proclaimed ominously as he officially accepted the Republican nomination for president at the party’s convention in Cleveland last month. It was a grim portrait of America, a once-great nation ravaged by terrorism, “poverty and violence” at home, “war and destruction” overseas.


The solution? Not God. Or patriotism. Or casting aside party loyalty to come together as a nation. No, politicians had rallied under those virtuous banners before, and where had it gotten us? Instead, the newly crowned nominee offered a more messianic promise: that Trump—and only Trump—can get things back on track.


That’s the moment, says Rick Alan Ross, America’s leading cult expert, when he realized Trumpism had striking similarities to the fanatical groups he studies.


Like many moderates in the party, Ross, the executive director of the Cult Education Institute and a lifelong Republican, had watched Trump’s rise with mounting distaste. But Trump’s rhetoric at the RNC—“I alone can fix it”—clicked the pieces into place. “That kind of pronouncement is typical of many cult leaders, who say that ‘my way is the only way, I am the only one,’” Ross says. “That was a very defining moment.”


When I called Ross, I cut right to the chase, asking, “Is Trump a cult leader?” I didn’t get more than a few words in for the next 20 minutes as he dove into the evidence: the nominee’s deep-rooted narcissism, his lack of transparency, many of his supporters’ blind, full-throttled adoration. A week later, he left me two voicemails outlining the warning signs of narcissistic personality disorder in the candidate, and a week after that, followed up with another batch of e-mails expounding on Trump’s similarities to the cults he studies. There was a lot to dig into.



The New Republic  | October 15, 2016


Donald Trump’s Campaign Has Become a Cult


By Jared Yates Sexton


Friday’s rally in Charlotte took Trumpism to a frightening new level.


The Trump campaign has turned into something new: a cult.


The fact hit me a few minutes after I entered the Charlotte Convention Center on Friday night and heard supporters openly blaming the women who’ve recently come forward to accuse Donald Trump of sexually assaulting them. The Trump faithful were more than ready to cut down anyone standing in their leader’s way.


“They’re gold diggers,” I heard an old woman say.


“Let’s call them what they are,” said a woman in a “Proud Deplorable” shirt. “They’re whores.” 


Throughout the night there were similar strains of the same conversation. Everyone was in agreement that there was no veracity to the women’s claims, that it was just another dirty trick by “Crooked Hillary” to defeat Trump, a man so good, another woman explained, holding out her quaking hand, “It makes me shake to think they’d hurt a man like that.” 


But the questioning of the women’s accounts didn’t stop at skepticism. In a cult, when confronted with conflicting evidence, it’s oftentimes necessary to go to extreme lengths to sustain the shared narrative. Here, in Charlotte, they were more than ready to go to those lengths.


One man noted to his friend that it was suspicious that Trump was accused of sexual improprieties just as former Fox News head Roger Ailes has been. “You reckon Fox is in on it?” he asked aloud.


But the most disgusting suspicion concerned the accusers’ attractiveness.


“Trump dates models,” a woman in a red-white-and-blue blouse said, “Did you see that woman?” she asked, referring to Jessica Leeds, who says Trump groped her on a plane in the 1980s. “You think he was so hard up?”


Trump has continued to feed that same narrative by mentioning how unattractive he finds the women . . .



Why “Macho” Leadership Still Thrives


Authoritarian, narcissistic leaders are on the rise.
Posted Apr 4, 2016 by Ray Williams


Global economic uncertainty and the spike in terrorism has created a resurgence of the populist attraction to authoritarianism and male “macho” leaders. This trend is evident both in politics and in business.


Narcissistic personality disorder, sociopathy, and psychopathy have one thing in common: they are disorders whose primary personality trait is the obsession with control, domination of, and power over others, whether that is people, animals, the environment, systems, or organizations.


Kevin Dutton, author of The Wisdom of Psychopaths, argues “Traits that are common among psychopathic serial killers—a grandiose sense of self-worth, persuasiveness, superficial charm, ruthlessness, lack of remorse and the manipulation of others—are also shared by politicians and world leaders. Individuals, in other words, running not from the police, but for office.” Such a profile allows those who have these traits to do what they like when they like, completely unfazed by the social, moral or legal consequences of their actions.


In their book, Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work, Paul Babiak and Robert Hare, argue while psychopaths may not be ideally suited for traditional work environments by virtue of a lack of desire to develop good interpersonal relationships, they have other abilities such as reading people and masterful influence and persuasion skills that can make them difficult to be seen as the psychopaths they are. According to their and others’ studies somewhere between 3-25% of executives could be assessed as psychopaths, a much higher figure than the general population figure of 1%.


Manifred Kets de Vries, a distinguished Clinical Professor of Leadership Development and Organizational Change at INSEAD has completed some research and published a paper on the subject. He calls the corporate psychopath the “SOB—Seductive Operational Bully”—or psychopath “lite.” SOBs don’t usually end up in jail or psychiatric hospital, but they do thrive in an organizational setting. SOBs can be found wherever power, status, or money is at stake, de Vries says: “They talk about themselves endlessly; they like to be in the limelight. In some ways they are like children, believing that they are the center of the universe, unable to recognize the needs and rights of others. They appear to be charming yet can be covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their “victims” merely as targets and opportunities; like master and slave, they try to dominate and humiliate them. For them, the end always justifies the means.”


Populist authoritarianism can best be explained as a cultural backlash in Western societies against long-term, ongoing social change.


Over recent decades, the World Values Survey shows that Western societies have been getting gradually more liberal on many social issues, especially among the younger generation and well-educated middle class. That includes egalitarian attitudes toward sex roles, tolerance of fluid gender identities and LGBT rights, support for same-sex marriage, tolerance of diversity, and more secular values, as well as what political scientists call emancipative values, engagement in directly assertive forms of democratic participation, and cosmopolitan support for agencies of global governance. This long-term generational shift threatens many traditionalists’ cultural values. Less educated and older citizens fear becoming marginalized and left behind within their own countries. This fear spawns a desire for someone to take control.


In the United States, evidence from the World Values Survey perfectly illustrates the education gap in these types of cultural values. Well before Trump, a substantial and striking education gap can be observed in American approval of authoritarian leaders. The WVS asked whether Americans approved of “having a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with congress or elections.” Most remarkably, by the most recent wave in 2011, almost half — 44 percent — of U.S. non-college graduates approved of having a strong leader unchecked by elections and Congress.


Many of today’s challenges are too complex to yield to the exercise of leadership alone. Even so, we are inclined to see the problems of the present in terms of crises and leaders. Our growing addiction to the narrative of crisis has gone hand in hand with an increasing veneration of leadership—a veneration that leaves us vulnerable to the false prophets, the smooth operators, the gangsters, and the demagogues who say they can save us . . .



When Bad Is Good:
Adopting the Psychopathic Lifestyle


    The attitudes and behaviors of individuals with many psychopathic features are systemic, a natural and pervasive part of their general lifestyle. In a sense, they are what they are. However, there are others whose nature is less psychopathic than pragmatic; they adopt some of the trappings of a “psychopathic lifestyle” in order to succeed or excel at their work or profession. They are encouraged in this process by all sorts of pop-psych self-help books that promote a philosophy of aggressive greed, self-entitlement, and “looking out for number one.”
    In his book What Would Machiavelli Do?, Stanley Bing, perhaps tongue in cheek, tells how to get what you want when you want it whether you deserve it or not. Without fear. Without emotion. Without finger-wagging morality. The following are some of his exhortations:


* Be cold-hearted: Replace decency and thoughtfulness with insensitivity and hardheartedness.


* Work hard to become bad: Most people aren’t naturally horrendous . . . but with work we can improve.


* Be narcissistic: View others solely as a function of your needs . . . You have enormous selfishness within you . . . Let it out.


* Be unpredictable: Very nice. Very mean. Big, big swings. Gigantic pleasure. Towering rage.


* Be ruthless: For your competitors and those who would bring you down. “Crush them. Hear their bones break, their windpipes snap.”


    Of course, the more psychopathic one is, the easier it is to follow Bing’s road map to amoral personal and corporate success. For most of us, though, social brutality and predation are somewhat more difficult. Even if Bing’s book is viewed as a satire, it reads like a blueprint for a psychopath.


From Snakes in Suits, Chapter 3: What You See May Not Be What You See (pp. 42-43).



Machiavellian: Conduct or philosophy based on (or one who adopts) the cynical beliefs of Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) whose name (in popular perception) is synonymous with deception and duplicity in management and statecraft. Born in Florence (Italy), Machiavelli was its second chancellor and (in 1513) wrote the book The Prince that discusses ways in which the rulers of a nation state can gain and control power. Although The Prince contains some keen and practical insights into human behavior, it also displays a pessimistic view of human nature and condones opportunistic and unethical ways of manipulating people. One of its suggestions reads: “Whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature.”



Sex, Power, Money, and All of the Above


Who will win in the search for sex, power, and money?


By Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.
Psychology Today | Sept 21, 2013


Freud may have believed that all humans are motivated by illicit motives, but research on the “Dark Triad” of personality suggests that some of us have stronger cravings than others. The Dark Triad refers to the set of three personality traits or personal dispositions generally recognized as undesirable – hence the term “dark.”


The first of these Dark Triad traits is “Machiavellianism,” named after the 16th century Italian author whose treatise, “The Prince” advocates the use of power to achieve political ends, even if this means lying and using others to get what you want.  People high in Machiavellianism, then, are calculating as well as deceitful.


The second Dark Triad trait is psychopathy, a term you might be familiar with or if not, with the related concept of “sociopathy.” People high in psychopathy are unable to empathize with others, tend to be shallow and glib, and have a lifestyle characterized by impulsive, possibly criminal, acts. They also are supreme manipulators of others in order to get their own way, and they tend to have a glorified sense of their own abilities.  


Finally, the Dark Triad personality includes the trait of narcissism, named after the Greek youth Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in the water, only to drown as a result. People high in narcissism have an exaggerated sense of their own importance or “grandiosity.” Underneath this grandiose exterior, according to some theories, they feel vulnerable and insecure.


People high on dark triad traits may not think of their personalities as being dark, and they may even like getting turned on by the rewards they seek. However, the people who are the target of their manipulative and exploitative tendencies sooner or later learn to avoid or at least be wary of them. Being high on dark triad traits hardly makes you a great romantic partner. However, you may be very successful in finding others to succumb to your sexual powers. The “sex” in the sex, power, money reward game, then, is the no-commitment or hookup variety, not the truly intimate.


With this background in mind, University of Calgary psychologist Kibeom Lee and colleagues (2013) examined the correlations among the Dark Triad qualities and the “outcomes” (though correlational) in the tendencies toward exploitative sexual liaisons (“Sex”), to dominate and exploit others (“Power”), and to be motivated toward materialistic ends and conspicuous consumption (“Money”). They also looked at the opposite of the Dark Triad qualities in the personality traits of “Humility-Honesty.” As the term implies, people high on humility are modest and demure, and those high on honesty would not lie, cheat, or swindle to get their way.



Is The Root of Evil … The Psychopathic Mind?


by Randall Clifford
May 30, 2012
from ActivistPost Website



As such a useful tool of exchange, money is not inherently evil.


Money can be a springboard to such evil as bailout-begging banks too monstrous to fail gambling with taxpayer wealth – you know, private profits, public risk. Casino financing with taxpayers as a backstop. The $700 billion TARP bailout actually being a $23.7 trillion bailout. But the root of all evil is the human brain.


New research has exposed, shall we say, the root of the problem.


 Pathocracy is its flower.


    Definition: pathocracy (n).


    A system of government created by a small pathological minority that takes control over a society of normal people (from Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes, by Andrew Lobaczewski).


A small minority of people are born psychopaths; they inherit a genetic deviance linked to certain structural abnormalities of their social brain.


The physical dynamic that exposes psychopaths is a reduction of gray matter in the anterior rostral prefrontal cortex and temporal poles. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is able to image this deviation fundamental to psychopathy. Potential benefits to humanity are immense; imagine something like a TSA screening (without the bureaucracy, groping and humiliation) to keep psychopaths from boarding the flight to power.


Psychopaths enjoy a perverse advantage over normal people in ascending pyramids of power.


Unfettered by conscience, empathy, morality…some might say, without the weight of a soul, psychopaths readily rise to the top in a society turned upside down by pathocracy. Lying, cheating, stealing, backstabbing – without remorse, psychopaths can claw for power in ways that make a person with a conscience recoil.

It’s not so much that power corrupts as that the corrupt seek power.


Politics and investment banking are prime waters for psychopaths to school. If people enjoying great power over others were screened for social-brain deviations with an MRI scan, and the psychopaths were weeded out, renaissance might occupy Capital Hill and Wall Street.


Judging from our current state of politics and financialization, there certainly would be many vacancies to fill in such a furthering of the humane.


It truly is right in our hands, an opportunity we may never see again.


But… possessing the means of physically detecting  psychopathy  and correcting the blight of psychopathic “leadership” may be irrelevant in the face of pathocracy fully entrenched. Psychopaths in power would never volunteer to have their social-brain deviations revealed, would never allow legislation regarding a brain MRI as a prerequisite to holding any elective office.


Perhaps it’s true, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.


Technology offers us the way – the key to identifying the human brain’s physical roots of psychopathy. The question becomes whether or not the American public has the will to force holders of great power over others, and seekers of such power, to bare their soul… or lack thereof.


Legislation requiring some “newfangled, junk-science” brain scan for leaders could only be forced from below. But our influence down here in the 99.99% is withering toward nothing but voting for a red psychopath, or a blue one, in elections controlled by unlimited corporate cash, and fraud.


And there’s: “Either with us, or against us”. Criminalization of dissent is plodding toward any questioning of entrenched pathocracy becoming “domestic terrorism”.



The Atlantic | June 2016




By Dan P. McAdams


Narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity — a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency: “Imagine Donald Trump in the White House. . .”



The New Yorker | July 2016


Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All


By Jane Mayer


“The Art of the Deal” made America see Trump as a charmer with an unfailing knack for business. Tony Schwartz helped create that myth—and regrets it.



Tony Schwartz: The Truth About Trump | Oxford Union Q&A | Nov 4, 2016


“I wasn’t much older than most of you are today when I wrote The Art of the Deal. At the time I told myself that doing it wasn’t that big a deal and wouldn’t have any enduring consequences. Ha.


The truth is, that decision – the book and my association with Trump – has quietly haunted and dogged me for thirty years. . .”



Insane Clown President: Matt Taibbi Chronicles Election of “Billionaire Hedonist” Trump


Democracy Now!
Jan 17, 2017


As a new study by Oxfam finds the world’s eight richest men control as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity, the group says it is concerned that wealth inequality will continue to grow following the election of Donald Trump, whose Cabinet members have a combined wealth of nearly $11 billion. We look at the rise of Trump, and those joining his administration, with award-winning Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi. His new book comes out today, titled Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus.







23 things Donald Trump has actually said about women


The US President, ladies and gentlemen…



By and | June 30, 2017



HUFF POST | Aug 23, 2017


What Mental Health Experts Can Say About The Presidency


By Bandy X. Lee, M.D., Contributor

Co-authored by Dee Mosbacher, M.D., Ph.D. and Nanette Gartrell, M.D.


“Now that he has won the presidency, why wouldn’t he just ‘pivot’ and become more normal?” Why would he say things in public that are destructive to him and the nation?” Why stir things up unnecessarily?” “The chaos and incoherence are much worse than expected.”


These are some of the questions and concerns that have been raised about President Trump by persons who are untrained in how mental impairment can manifest. Indeed, the vast array of healthy human behaviors makes it difficult for the ordinary person to detect disability other than in the most obvious cases. Further, the more impaired the individual, the more likely he or she is to deny pathological behavior and insist that it is by choice. In our culture, mental impairment, unlike other medical illnesses, still connotes a moral failure—leading to its denial or use only in epithets. Yet it can afflict anyone, it is nonpartisan, and we can identify it through objective criteria.


The Goldwater rule, which specifies that psychiatrists cannot diagnose a public figure without a face-to-face evaluation, has contributed to the lack of discourse and education about Mr. Trump. An expansion of the rule by the American Psychiatric Association in March 2017 further compromised that possibility.



New Scientist



DAILY NEWS | January 20, 2017


Manipulative, dishonest and lacking in empathy – the traits that describe a psychopath aren’t particularly pleasant. But the idea that they are also fiendishly clever – as often portrayed in films and TV – isn’t quite true. In fact, in general, psychopaths seem to have below-average intelligence.


You have probably met a psychopath at some point in your life. They make up around 1 per cent of the population, says Brian Boutwell at St Louis University in Missouri. A person is classified as a psychopath if they achieve a certain score on a test of psychopathic traits, which include callousness, impulsiveness, aggression and a sense of grandiosity. “Not all psychopaths will break the law or hurt someone, but the odds of them doing so are higher,” says Boutwell.


Because many psychopaths are charming and manipulative, people have assumed they also have above-average intelligence, says Boutwell. Psychologists term this the “Hannibal Lecter myth”, referring to the fictional serial killer, cannibal and psychiatrist from the book and film The Silence of the Lambs.


But Boutwell wasn’t convinced. “Psychopaths are impulsive, have run-ins with the law and often get themselves hurt,” he says. “That led me to think they’re not overly intelligent.”


Not so smart

To investigate, Boutwell and his colleagues analysed the results of 187 published studies on intelligence and psychopathy. These papers included research on psychopaths in prison as well as those enjoying high-flying careers. They also included a range of measures of intelligence.


Overall, the team found no evidence that psychopaths were more intelligent than people who don’t have psychopathic traits. In fact, the relationship went the other way. The psychopaths, on average, scored significantly lower on intelligence tests. “I think the results will surprise a lot of people,” says Boutwell.


Matt DeLisi at Iowa State University hopes that the findings will help put the Hannibal Lecter myth to rest. “The character promulgated the notion that psychopaths were highly intelligent, and there were real offenders that embodied this, like Ted Bundy,” says DeLisi. “But I have interviewed thousands of offenders, some of which are very psychopathic, and I have found that the opposite is true.”








When they have a problem, they focus on making it an opportunity to do more evil to as many people as possible.


I’ve noticed that psychopaths rarely have just one goal. They layer their goals. The first step is always to gather minions who will do their bidding. Whether the psychopath wants sex, money, power or just needs drama, he will bring his players together like a conductor at a symphony.


It’s not uncommon for psychopaths to bond their minions by polarizing all their hatred on a scapegoat.


Most all organic disorders that do not involve deliberate choices of actions and behaviors, or wanton depraved indifference (in regards to the legal definition) can actually be managed. Schizophrenia, BiPolar Disorder, and others can be successfully managed through medication + counseling.


Psychopathology, on the other hand, cannot be managed in any capacity. There is no medication, treatment, therapy, surgery, herbal remedy, or spiritual epiphany that can effect a meaningful change in the ways that these individuals process the world around them. In “Their World,” they are the only occupant – they are the emperor/empress, citizen, dungeon-master, judge, jury, and executioner. All other human beings that travel through their Universe are seen as tools or objects, literally.



A collection of scholarly works about
individual liberty and free markets.


Lord Acton writes to Bishop Creighton in a series of letters concerning the moral problem of writing history about the Inquisition. Acton believes that the same moral standards should be applied to all men, political and religious leaders included, especially since, in his famous phrase, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (1887):


“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which the negation of Catholicism and the negation of Liberalism meet and keep high festival, and the end learns to justify the means. You would hang a man of no position, like Ravaillac; but if what one hears is true, then Elizabeth asked the gaoler to murder Mary, and William III ordered his Scots minister to extirpate a clan. Here are the greater names coupled with the greater crimes. You would spare these criminals, for some mysterious reason. I would hang them, higher than Haman, for reasons of quite obvious justice; still more, still higher, for the sake of historical science.”


About this Quotation:


There is much more to these letters than just the occurrence of Acton’s most famous phrase that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The context is the question of how religious historians should handle the corrupt and even criminal behaviour of many Popes, and the appalling treatment of dissidents and heretics during the Inquisition. This leads Acton to talk about the universal nature of moral principles, the requirement for historians to use such principles in the assessment of historical figures, the tendency of these powerful historical figures to be “bad men”, and that it was the function of historians to “hang them” (whether he meant this literally of metaphorically is not clear). In the third letter to Creighton, Acton quotes with some approval a conversation he had with John Bright, one of the leaders of the Anti-Corn Law League, who stated to him that “If the people knew what sort of men statesmen were, they would rise and hang the whole lot of them.”



Loaded Language


Watch for loaded language any time you hear a politician speak; you’re sure to hear lots of it!


There’s no denying President Trump repeatedly uses his words to convey powerful messages. Take a scroll through his 20 Most Frequently Used Words.



Don’t Be Trumped by Doppelgängers


By Paul Morantz | May 26, 2017


Author of Escape: My Lifelong War Against Cults (with Hal Lancaster) and From Miracle to Madness.


A group is extraordinarily credulous and open to influence…anyone who wishes to produce an effect upon it needs no logical arguments; he must paint in forcible colors, must exaggerate, and he must repeat the same thing again and again…(The group) wants to be ruled and impressed, and to fear its masters … And, finally, groups have never thirst after truth… They are almost as influenced by what is not true as by what is true… A group is an obedient herd, which could never live without a master. . .”


–  Sigmund Freud


“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”


“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”


– George Orwell


All that Freud and Orwell asserted about groups and political language has been proven anew with the improbable ascendancy of Donald Trump to President of the United States, an apparent doppelgänger of Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard—from his hair to flair for revenge.


In a few short months of campaigning and governing, the pride of Mar-A-Lago has seemingly wiped out the last vestiges of civility, honesty and common sense in presidential politics and turned the Oval Office into a Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey side show.


And yet, after all the lies, position flip-flops, erratic behavior, brazen conflicts of interest, childish, thin-skinned attacks on the media, offensive comments about minorities, women and the entire Middle East, not to mention the investigations into his curious relationship with Russia that has led to the doorstep of impeachment, many of those who voted for him still maintain their unflagging support.


For the love of sanity, how is this possible?


I’ve been repeating that phrase for many months now, after each unconscionable act, events that would have torpedoed any other political campaign. And yet, here we are, on the precipice of calamity, with Trump eviscerating regulations that will loose the beasts of Wall Street and the energy industry, threatening to build a wall that will waste billions of dollars, spreading chaos in health and education, proposing massive cuts to programs that benefit the poor and promising to shut down any program or agency that could protect us from climate change and environmental abuses. Do you remember the megalomaniacal general played by Sterling Hayden in Dr. Strangelove? Don’t look now, but he’s President and commander-in-chief, the man with his finger on the button. Isn’t that a sobering thought?



THINK | Dec 8, 2017


Is Donald Trump’s mental health becoming dangerous?


By Bandy X. Lee, Forensic psychiatrist, Yale School of Medicine


Medical experts weigh in.
Medicine is an equalizer, and the president may find that he cannot outrun his own condition.


A group of us put our concerns into a book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. That book became an instant New York Times bestseller. Within days, it was out of stock at the big outlets and sold out in bookstores around the country. One of the nation’s largest publishers could not keep up with the demand for weeks. Clearly, our concerns were resonating with the public.





Bella Depaulo | Dec 8, 2017


I study liars for a living. I’ve never seen one like President Trump.


I spent the first two decades of my career as a social scientist studying liars and their lies. I thought I had developed a sense of what to expect from them. Then along came President Donald Trump. His lies are both more frequent and more malicious than ordinary people’s.


In research beginning in the mid-1990s, when I was a professor at the University of Virginia, my colleagues and I asked 77 college students and 70 people from the nearby community to keep diaries of all the lies they told every day for a week. They handed them in to us with no names attached. We calculated participants’ rates of lying and categorise each lie as either self-serving (told to advantage the liar or protect the liar from embarrassment, blame or other undesired outcomes) or kind (told to advantage, flatter or protect someone else).


At The Washington Post, the Fact Checker feature has been tracking every false and misleading claim and flip-flop made by Trump this year. The inclusion of misleading statements and flip-flops is consistent with the definition of lying my colleagues and I gave to our participants: “A lie occurs any time you intentionally try to mislead someone.” In the case of Trump’s claims, though, it is possible to ascertain only whether they were false or misleading, and not what the president’s intentions were.


By telling so many lies, and so many that are mean-spirited, Trump is violating some of the most fundamental norms of human social interaction and human decency. Many of the rest of us, in turn, have abandoned a norm of our own – we no longer give Trump the benefit of the doubt that we usually give so readily.



PEOPLE OF THE LIE: The Hope For Healing Human Evil, by M. Scott Peck, MD (1983)


From Chapter 2 – A LIFE-AND-DEATH ISSUE – pp. 42-43


. . . It is a reflection of the enormous mystery of the subject that we do not have a generally accepted definition of evil. Yet in our hearts I think we all have some understanding of its nature. For the moment I can do no better than to heed my son, who, with the characteristic vision of eight-year-olds, explained simply, “Why, Daddy, evil is ‘live’ spelled backward.” Evil is in opposition to life. It is that which opposes the life force. It has, in short, to do with killing. Specifically, it has to do with murder – namely, unnecessary killing, killing that is not required for biological survival.


Let us not forget this. There are some who have written about evil so intellectually that it comes out sounding abstract to the point of irrelevancy. Murder is not abstract. Let us not forget that George was actually willing to sacrifice the very life of his own child.


When I say that evil has to do with killing, I do not mean to restrict myself to corporeal murder. Evil is also that which kills spirit. There are various essential attributes of life – particularly human life – such as sentience, mobility, awareness, growth, autonomy, will. It is possible to kill or attempt to kill one of these attributes without actually destroying the body. Thus we may “break” a horse or even a child without harming a hair on its head. Erich Fromm was acutely sensitive to this fact when he broadened the definition of necrophilia to include the desire of certain people to control others – to make them controllable, to foster their dependency, to discourage their capacity to think for themselves, to diminish their unpredictability and originality, to keep them in line. Distinguishing it from a “biophilic” person, one who appreciates and fosters the variety of life forms and the uniqueness of the individual, he demonstrated a “necrophilic character type,” whose aim it is to avoid the inconvenience of life by transforming others into obedient automatons, robbing them of their humanity.*


Evil, then, for the moment, is that force, residing either inside or outside of human beings, that seeks to kill life or liveliness. And goodness is its opposite. Goodness is that which promotes life and liveliness.



* Erich Fromm, The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil (Harper & Row, 1964)



Salon | June 25, 2018

News & Politics


Is Donald Trump truly incompetent? Not nearly as much as liberals hope.


Liberals keep underestimating Trump, but he’s been effective at enacting his racist agenda and trolling the left.


By Amanda Marcotte


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately it must be said: Donald Trump knows exactly what he’s doing.


To be clear, I’m not saying the man is a super-genius or even particularly intelligent. By most measures, Trump is likely of below-average intelligence. He’s incurious, half-literate and would almost certainly be flummoxed by a basic math problem or a grade-school reading comprehension test. He ran his business into bankruptcy multiple times because his sense of his own talents grossly outstripped what nature had given him. None of this is in dispute.


But when it comes to Trump’s true passion in life — being an abusive, bigoted bully and troll — he is highly competent and extremely successful. As I argue in my book, Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself, Trump’s voters elected him to do two things: 1) Impose his white supremacist vision on America and 2) Troll liberals into madness.


A year and a half into his presidency, we can say that by those measures, the Trump presidency has been a smashing success.


For some reason, there’s widespread resistance among progressives to the proposition that Trump might actually be competent, at least at the goals he set out to accomplish, i.e., liberal tears and white supremacy. New York Times reporters like Maggie Haberman keep portraying him as a dim-witted and lazy old man, not a person who has become an accomplished sadist after a lifetime of practice. Many liberals are eager to buy into that because the idea that the orange moron in the ill-fitting suit might actually be getting over on us is painful to accept.


So liberals keep chalking up certain horrors of the Trump administration to incompetence, when the likelier explanation is that Trump and his cronies are doing these things by design.


I usually agree with Salon columnist Heather Digby Parton, but her recent piece on this topic misses the mark by ascribing the fallout from both the Muslim travel ban and the family separation policy to incompetence. I would argue instead that things rolled out exactly how the administration wanted.


Digby writes that the administration “hadn’t thought through the logistical ramifications” of the Muslim travel ban, “resulting in confusion and chaos everywhere.” Similarly, she argues that a plan “for clear identification of the children and their parents, so they can easily be tracked and identified for reunification at the end of the process, was overlooked.”


She also argues for political incompetence, writing, that Trump officials “failed to anticipate how people would react” to “taking babies from their mothers.”


Michelle Goldberg, writing for the New York Times, makes a similar argument, writing that there’s “a multiplier effect” to “Trump’s incompetence and malevolence,” crediting that combination as the cause of “the White House’s catastrophically inadequate response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico” and “the cavalier way the administration took thousands of children from migrant parents with no process in place to reunite them.”


From where I’m sitting, there’s no reason to assume incompetence in any of this. Trump is a racist and a sadist, and both have been well-documented for decades. What more could a person with those qualities want than trapping Muslims in airports, destroying the lives of Puerto Ricans, separating Latino immigrant children from their parents and then “losing” the paperwork necessary to reunite them? This is the Trump who talks about immigrants from “shithole countries” being “animals.” Using assumed ineptitude as pretext for dishing out pain sounds about right to me.




• abusive and violent partners and family members
• abusers of people in care
• bullying neighbours, landlords, authorities, etc
• confidence tricksters and swindlers
• (religious) cult leaders
• child bullies who are impervious to corrective action
• racial and sexual harassers
• sexual abusers and pedophiles, especially operating

  from a position of trust or untouchability
• rapists
• stalkers
• arsonists
• violent offenders, including serial killers


The common objective of these offenders is power, control, domination and subjugation, the only difference being the way they express their violence. Offenses committed by people in this list are typically regarded as criminal and arrestable.


One possible explanation for investigators and fellow managers being so easily manipulated by a serial bully appears in the research paper by Clive R Boddy, entitled “Corporate Psychopaths, Bullying and Unfair Supervision in the Workplace” (2011):

“The cold-heartedness and manipulativeness of the psychopath are reported to be the traits that are the least discernable to others and this allows them to gain other people’s confidence and facilitates their entry into positions where they can gain most benefit for themselves and do harm to others (Mahaffey and Marcus, 2006).”



Do Democrats really believe that Russia influenced Americans to vote for Trump?


Lee Thé, works at Retired/working on a Novel
Answered on Quora May 19, 2018


I worked as an advertising copywriter and account executive for six years. During that time I studied the profession, and one thing I found was that the people most influenced by advertising sincerely believed—and with absolute certainty—that they weren’t affected by advertising in the slightest.


Republican voters have been proven to be highly susceptible to propaganda—just as the teens of Veles, Macedonia, could tell you. They make their living from fake news websites, but found that for Americans only the sites aimed at Republicans made them money. Reputable pollsters have found the same thing. Republicans will believe anything bad about Clinton and anything good about Trump, no matter how preposterous.




Does Trump act like a president, or does he act like a cult leader?


Edward Donner, Concerned Citizen
Answered on Quora Sep 15, 2018


Below is a list of fifty characteristics of cult leaders taken from “Dangerous Cult Leaders”. Read ‘em. Keep track of how many apply to Trump.





The Gentle Souls Revolution Blog


The Trump Cult




If you can defend ripping kids from parents, you are in a cult.



In May, 2017, I posted this: Gaslight, USA! Today’s Trouncing –Your Healthcare.


In the post, I quoted cultic studies guru Robert J. Lifton: cults see themselves as “…agents ‘chosen’ to carry out the ‘mystical imperative’ … which must supersede all decency or immediate human welfare. Similarly, any thought or action which questions the motives of the higher purpose is considered … backward, selfish and petty in the face of the great overriding mission.


Today, the Daily KOS posted this: Trumpism is a Cult. You may be interested in reading it. I suspect it will ring familiar.






July 2, 2018


The Trump Administration’s Family Values


The policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border was the purest distillation yet of what it means to be governed by a President with no moral center.



See: POLITICAL PONEROLOGY: A science on the nature of evil adjusted for political purposes, by Andrew M. Lobaczewski



Baudolino Aulari
Useful Idiots – Part 1 & Part 2



Former KGB Agent, Yuri Bezmenov

Deception Was My Job


Warns America



Malcolm Nance

How Russia Is Destroying Democracy



Andrew Cooper-Sansone

   Meeting Our “Enemies” Where They Are   



Bill Press

The Case Against Trump



Ronan Farrow

The War On Peace



The Washington Post | June 4, 2012


How Mark Felt Became ‘Deep Throat’
By Bob Woodward
June 20, 2005


In 1970, when I was serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and assigned to Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, the chief of naval operations, I sometimes acted as a courier, taking documents to the White House.

One evening I was dispatched with a package to the lower level of the West Wing of the White House, where there was a little waiting area near the Situation Room. It could be a long wait for the right person to come out and sign for the material, sometimes an hour or more, and after I had been waiting for a while a tall man with perfectly combed gray hair came in and sat down near me . . .



The New York Times | Sept. 4, 2018


President Trump and his administration have been unsettled by Bob Woodward’s book Fear, which will be published next Tuesday.  Doug Mills/The New York Times


By Mark Landler and


WASHINGTON — President Trump so alarmed his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, during a discussion last January of the nuclear standoff with North Korea that an exasperated Mr. Mattis told colleagues “the president acted like — and had the understanding of — a ‘fifth or sixth grader.’”


At another moment, Mr. Trump’s aides became so worried about his judgment that Gary D. Cohn, then the chief economic adviser, took a letter from the president’s Oval Office desk authorizing the withdrawal of the United States from a trade agreement with South Korea. Mr. Trump, who had planned to sign the letter, never realized it was missing.


These anecdotes are in a sprawling, highly anticipated book by Bob Woodward that depicts the Trump White House as a byzantine, treacherous, often out-of-control operation — “crazytown,” in the words of the chief of staff, John F. Kelly — hostage to the whims of an impulsive, ill-informed and undisciplined president.




James Devlin



Nothing more than most people expected. Yet to read it from a world-renowned journalist of Bob Woodward’s caliber makes it all the more unsettling. The republicans are selling out America to get court picks. They well know Trump is insane, and yet are willing to play along with this lunacy of a presidency based upon lies so long as they get their agenda rammed through. That’s not politics, that’s shameful and morally and criminally corrupt.


Beware the insidious nature within.


“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.” — Cicero



Psychology Today | Aug 23, 2018


What is Truth?
An overview of the philosophy of truth.


By Neel Burton M.D.


Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. –Thoreau


When Truth Isn’t Truth

Today, God may be dying, but what about truth? Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trumps personal lawyer, claimed that “Truth isn’t truth,” while Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s counsellor, presented the public with what she called “alternative facts.” Over in the U.K. in the run-up to the Brexit referendum, Michael Gove, then Minister of Justice and Lord Chancellor, opined that people “have had enough of experts.”


One way to understand truth is simply to look at its opposites, namely, lies and bullsh*t. The liar must track the truth in order to conceal it. In contrast, the bullsh*tter has no regard or sensitivity for the truth, or even for what his or her audience believes.



Hollywood Reporter | Sept 5, 2018


Michael Moore Plays His Trump Card:
A New Movie, Modern Fascism and a 2020 Prediction


By Gregg Kilday


He’s America’s most successful documentarian and one of the few on the left who predicted the 2016 election upset. Now, as Moore readies his anticipated polemic ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’ for its Toronto film festival debut, he takes aim at Trump (and Nancy Pelosi … and Harvey Weinstein …) and those actually responsible for the president’s rapid rise to power (hint: Gwen Stefani).


The first time Michael Moore encountered Donald Trump, the filmmaker uncharacteristically held his tongue. The two had been booked as guests in 1998 on Roseanne Barr’s afternoon talk show, The Roseanne Show, taping at New York’s Tavern on the Green. Trump’s The Art of the Deal had been published in 1987 while Moore had already earned a reputation as a cheeky provocateur out to puncture capitalism’s balloon with his 1989 doc Roger & Me, and so when Trump spotted Moore, he threatened to walk.



Fascism is defined as a system of government

where a dictator has complete control.




(usually uncountable, plural fascisms)

  1. (historical) A political regime, having totalitarian aspirations, ideologically based on a relationship between business and the centralized government, business-and-government control of the market place, repression of criticism or opposition, a cult leader exalting the state and/or religion above individual rights. Originally only applied (usually capitalized) to Benito Mussolini’s Italy.
  2. By vague analogy, any system of strong autocracy or oligarchy usually to the extent of bending and breaking the law, race-baiting and violence against largely unarmed populations.

1. [F-] the doctrines, methods, or movement of the Fascisti
2. [sometimes F-] a system of government characterized by rigid one-party dictatorship, forcible suppression of opposition, private economic enterprise under centralized governmental control, belligerent nationalism, racism, and militarism, etc.
3. a. a political movement based on such policies
    b. fascist behavior

  1. often Fascism
    a. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, a capitalist economy subject to stringent governmental controls, violent suppression of the opposition, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
    b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.
  2. Oppressive, dictatorial control.



Psychology Today | July 24, 2018


Trump Card Cults


By Jeremy Sherman Ph.D.


Winter of ‘78: Jim Jones and his cult followers had just drunk their poison Kool-Aid in Guyana– 900 dead. And I was off to Guatemala with my spiritual commune to do poverty relief work. My family was worried.


They were also annoyed by what I had become, a know-it-all, confident that I could beat any challenge to my smug, all-knowing spiritual truths. I had fallen for the cult mindset, that heady sense that you hold all the cards, a high so self-aggrandizing that people are willing to drink the Kool-Aid.


Aid is the operative word. Though my commune was wholesome, I pretended it fool-proofed my life, like it had issued me a deck of trump cards to trump all challenges to my humble spiritual authority, the greatest aid any of us could ever crave.


Life is an anxious affair. We all fear failure and therefore might be tempted by the fake trump-card aid that cults provide – I once was lost but now I’m found instead of I once was lost and could be still.


Today we wonder whether the GOP has become the Trump cult. All cults are trump-card cults, issuing to members the same deck of fake get-out-of-fail-free cards. Cults don’t brainwash, they head swell. People throw all in to cults so they can keep all self-doubt out.



npr KQED
Sept 27, 2018
All Things Considered


NPR’s Audie Cornish talks to Joanne Freeman about her new book The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War.


CORNISH: You spent years researching this book. How did you start to see this history in a new light as attention focused more intensely on how polarized Washington is today?


FREEMAN: Right. I do think there are a number of different moments in American history when we’re particularly polarized, when the American public becomes particularly distrustful of national institutions like Congress and of each other. Part of what I saw in working on the book was that pattern. Given what we know of what happened in the past with these kinds of incidents, it makes me want to keep telling people, wait; be careful. You don’t want to be that divisive with your rhetoric.


At the end of the book, there are a lot of people saying, be careful with your words because words could cause bloodshed in the House. And I sometimes feel the same way. Not that we’re on the cusp of a civil war, which I don’t believe. But I suppose the part that doesn’t feel reassured is the part that realizes the implications and the impact of a divisive America much like the one that we’re looking at now.



Salon | Nov 13, 2018


Psychiatrist Justin Frank on Trump’s “God complex”: He is “erotically attached to violence”


By Chauncey DeVega


Donald Trump is an authoritarian in waiting who acts as though he believes himself to be God. How does he convince himself that the rules do not apply to him? What is the role of violence in Trump’s appeal and power? Is Trump responsible in some ways for the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and the other hate crimes and acts of violence which have taken place during his campaign and now presidency? What role does violence play in Donald Trump’s cult of personality? How do his apparent mental pathologies help him to manipulate his supporters and the American people at large?


In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Dr. Justin Frank. 



With the recent elections and Trump’s behavior this past week, is there any indication that his solid support might be waning?


Bruce Spielbauer
Answered on Quora Nov 14, 2018


A significant portion of Trump’s solid support will never waver. (Especially the white supremacists, and the Evangelicals, and the 1% who support him for those tax cuts he gave to the rich and the corporations). Those who follow him as a cult leader. They will never waver, no matter what.


The same thing was true with Nixon, and Watergate. Even after the whole world heard the “smoking gun tapes,” there were those who still stood by their criminal. I have a cousin, who is one of these. He argued at the time that “well, all politicians do it!” I last spoke to him three weeks ago, and he still maintains that same support for a known criminal.


Trump’s disapproval rating (in polls), though, is the figure to watch. It has been higher than any other president since modern polling began.


And, that has not changed, since the day he put his hand on some book and pretended to swear some oath, in January, of 2017.

(Sidenote — when Nixon resigned, the last polls taken a few days before, showed him at 24% approval rating. Almost one fourth of the nation did not care that he was a criminal. They still “approved” of their criminal. But Nixon’s DISAPPROVAL rating was the second highest in polling history. The only president with a higher disapproval rating was, of course, a guy by the name of Donald Trump.)



The New Republic | Dec 14, 2018


Escape From the Trump Cult


Millions of Americans are blindly devoted to their
Dear Leader. What will it take for them to snap out of it?


By Alexander Hurst


On December 20, 1954, some 62 years before Donald Trump would be sworn in as president of the United States, Dorothy Martin and dozens of her followers crowded into her home in Chicago to await the apocalypse. The group believed that Martin, a housewife, had received a message from a planet named Clarion that the world would end in a great flood beginning at midnight, and that they, the faithful, would be rescued by an alien spacecraft.


Unbeknownst to the other “Seekers,” three of their group—Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter—were not there to be saved, but to observe. Psychologists from elite institutions, they had infiltrated the pseudo-cult to study Festinger’s recently elaborated theory of “cognitive dissonance.” The theory predicted that when people with strongly held beliefs were presented with contrary evidence, rather than change their minds they would seek comfort and “cognitive consonance” by convincing others to support their erroneous views.


Festinger’s prediction was right. When neither the apocalypse nor the UFO arrived, the group began proselytizing about how God had rewarded the Earth with salvation because of their vigil. His subsequent book, When Prophecy Fails, became a standard sociology reference for examining cognitive dissonance, religious prophecy, and cult-like behavior. What the three researchers probably never predicted, though, was that over half a century later Festinger’s theory would be applicable to roughly 25 percent of the population of the United States and one of its two major political parties. Nor could they have foreseen that the country’s salvation might well depend on its ability to deprogram the Trump cult’s acolytes—an effort that would require a level of sympathetic engagement on the part of nonbelievers that they have yet to display.





Personality cults are a hallmark of populist-autocratic politics. The names of the various leaders are practically synonymous with their movements: Le Pen, Farage, Duterte, Orbán, Erdogan, Chávez, Bolsonaro, Putin. Or if we were to dip farther back into history: Castro, Franco, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin. Like religious cult leaders, demagogues understand the importance of setting up an in-group/out-group dynamic as a means of establishing their followers’ identity as members of a besieged collective.


Trump, like the populist authoritarians before and around him, has also understood (or, at least, instinctually grasped) how indispensable his own individual persona is to his ultimate goal of grasping and maintaining power. Amidst his string of business failures, Trump’s singular talent has been that of any con man: the incredible ability to cultivate a public image. Of course, Trump did not build his cult of followers—his in-group—ex nihilo; in many ways, the stage was set for his entrance. America had already split into two political identities by the time he announced his campaign for president in 2015, not just in terms of the information we consume, but down to the brands we prefer and the stores we frequent. And so with particularly American bombast and a reality TV star’s penchant for manipulating the media, Trump tore pages from the us-against-them playbook of the European far right and presented them to a segment of the American public already primed to receive it with religious fervor.


In an interview with Pacific Standard, Janja Lalich, a sociologist who specializes in cults, identified four characteristics of a totalistic cult and applied them to Trumpism: an all-encompassing belief system, extreme devotion to the leader, reluctance to acknowledge criticism of the group or its leader, and a disdain for nonmembers. Eileen Barker, another sociologist of cults, has written that, together, cult leaders and followers create and maintain their movement by proclaiming shared beliefs and identifying themselves as a distinguishable unit; behaving in ways that reinforce the group as a social entity, like closing themselves off to conflicting information; and stoking division and fear of enemies, real or perceived.


Does Trump tick off the boxes? The hatchet job he has made of Republican ideology and the sway he holds over what is now his party suggest he does not lack for devotion. His nearly 90 percent approval rating among Republicans is the more remarkable for his having shifted Republican views on a range of issues, from trade, to NATO, to Putin, to even the NFL. Then there are the endless rallies that smack of a noxious sort of revivalism, complete with a loyalty “pledge” during the 2016 campaign; a steady stream of sycophantic fealty (at least in public) from aides in the administration and its congressional Republican allies; and an almost universal unwillingness by Republican congressional leadership to check or thwart Trump’s worst instincts in any substantive way.


As for disdain, or disgust even, for nonmembers, who include “globalists,” immigrants, urbanites, Muslims, Jews, and people of color? “I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate / He stirred up that bloodroot of human hearts,” Woody Guthrie sang in 1950 about Fred Trump’s discriminatory housing practices. Those words could just as easily apply to Fred’s son Donald, as The New York Times details, about his birtherism, his view that dark-skinned immigrants come from “shithole countries,” his frequent classification of black people as uppity and ungrateful, his denigration of Native Americans, his incorporation of white nationalist thought into his administration, his equivocation over neo-Nazis. The “lock her up!” chants of his rallies are less about Hillary Clinton individually, and more about who belongs and who doesn’t, and what place exists for those who don’t. In perhaps the pettiest form of their disdain, Trump’s supporters engage in “rolling coal”—the practice of tricking out diesel engines to send huge plumes of smoke into the atmosphere—to “own the libs.”


Trump sold his believers an engrossing tale of “American carnage” that he alone could fix, then isolated them in a media universe where reality exists only through Trump-tinted glasses, attacking all other sources of information as “fake news.” In the most polarized media landscape in the wealthy world, Republicans place their trust almost solely in Fox News, seeing nearly all other outlets as biased. In that context, the effect of a president who lies an average of ten times a day is the total blurring of fact and fiction, reality and myth, trust and cynicism. It is a world where, in the words of Rudy Giuliani, truth is no longer truth. “Who could really know?” Trump said of claims that Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “It is what it is.”


Reason rarely defeats emotion—or, as Catherine Fieschi, an expert on political extremism, told me, gut instinct. If it did, right-wing populist movements from Brexit to Bolsonaro would be on the retreat, not in the advance. Those caught in the web of Trumpism do not see the deception that surrounds them. And if scandals too numerous to list have not dented faith in Trump, those holding out for an apocalyptic moment of reckoning that suddenly drops the curtain—the Russia investigation, or his taxes—will only be disappointed. In all likelihood, the idea that Trump is a crook has been “priced in.”


When presented with his actual record, which has often fallen short of what he promised on the campaign trail, Trump supporters time and again have displayed either disbelief or indifference. As a Trump supporter explicitly stated in reference to the president’s many, many lies, “I don’t care if he sprouts a third dick up there.” What actually is doesn’t matter; what does is that Trump reflects back to his supporters a general feeling of what ought to be, a general truthiness in their guts.


Amidst the frenetic pace of disgrace and outrage, Trump’s support remains stable among too large a chunk of the American public to just ignore. Trump, who insisted on the presence of voter fraud by the millions in an election he ultimately won, and a coterie of prominent Republicans spent the week after the 2018 midterms delegitimizing the very notion of counting all the votes in key races in Florida, Georgia, and Arizona. Trump’s claim that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and still retain the loyalty of his followers is jokingly referred to as the truest thing he’s ever said, but it’s less funny that 52 percent of them would hypothetically support postponing the 2020 election if he proposed it. What happens when a man who has already promoted political violence, and whose most hardcore supporters have shown their willingness for such violence, finds on election night two years from now that he has just narrowly lost? Do any of us truly believe that Donald J. Trump and his followers will simply slink away quietly into the night?


So, how do we get those caught up in the cult of Trump to leave it?





Daryl Davis has played the blues for over 30 years, including with the likes of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. He’s also spent 30 years talking to Klansmen, over 200 of whom have quit the KKK as a result of their conversations, handing over their robes to Davis—who is black. “When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting,” Davis told NPR in 2017. “I didn’t convert anybody,” he explained. “They saw the light and converted themselves.”


Davis’s success is more than a cute, feel-good story. It involved the real-world application of techniques that scholars advocate employing to help individuals leave cults. A 2011 study by the RAND Corporation concluded that, “Factors associated with leaving street gangs, religious cults, right-wing extremist groups, and organized crime groups” included positive social ties and an organic disillusionment with the group’s beliefs or ideology. As psychologists Rod and Linda Dubrow-Marshall write in The Conversation, it’s extremely difficult for people to admit they are wrong, and it’s crucial for them to arrive at that realization on their own.


The debate over how to deal with Trump’s anti-democratic following has largely avoided the question of engaging it directly. These days there is no shortage of articles and books dealing with radical-right populism, despots, democratic backsliding, and the tactics that authoritarian leaders deploy. Dozens of experts have pointed out that liberal democratic institutions need constant attention and reinforcement in order to be effective bulwarks. But most of the solutions on offer are institutional in nature: maintaining the independence of the judiciary, thwarting a would-be autocrat’s attempts to grab hold of the levers of justice, maintaining a legislative check on executive authority, enshrining political norms more clearly into constitutions.


In their 2011 book, Defeating Authoritarian Leaders in Post-Communist Countries, Valerie Bunce and Sharon Wolchik conclude that democratization in Eastern European nations like Croatia owed much to assistance from transnational pro-democracy networks, civil society, and energetic election campaigns run by a united opposition. In some ways this analysis offers us a modicum of hope: Trump, despite his desires, commands far less power over the political system than did any of the autocrats that Bunce and Wolchik studied, and the United States enjoys many of the elements they cite as critical, like robust civil society, energetic elections, and a mostly unified opposition. But at the same time, the very things responsible for the success of democratic transition are under near constant assault from Trump and his Republican abettors.


Democracy, especially liberal democracy, has always been dependent on the trust and belief of the self-governed. It is one thing to implement tangible measures to prevent the decay of bedrock institutions, and when it comes to voting rights, elections, the courts, and restraints on executive power, we know what these measures should look like. It’s another, far tougher thing to figure out how to maintain the legitimacy of these same institutions—and how to restore it once lost.


Javier Corrales, a political science professor at Amherst College and expert on the Chavez regime, has written that one lesson from Venezuela’s experience is for the opposition to avoid fragmentation within the broader electorate and, when possible, polarization. When it comes to Trump, he told me that rather than pursuing impeachment, which could backfire by polarizing institutions and the general environment even more, “the opposition needs to focus on strengthening institutions of checks and balances, and embracing and defending policies that produce majoritarian consensus rather than just cater to the base. The more defections they can get from voters that would otherwise side with the illiberal president, the better. If the opposition can get the other side to split, they win.”


When it comes to helping individuals leave cult-like groups, many sociologists agree: Positive social factors are more effective than negative sanctions. Lalich counsels using dialogue to ask questions and reinforce doubts, rather than “to harp” or criticize. Testimonials from former cult members can be particularly helpful in fueling disillusionment, she says.


On a nationwide scale, this would probably look a lot like a field called “conflict transformation.” John Paul Lederach, professor emeritus at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, laid out the basics of conflict transformation in his 1998 book, Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies. He argued that outsiders should work with mid-level members of the community who could simultaneously engage ordinary people and their leaders. He also called for an “elicitive approach” whereby solutions were developed by people themselves, in accordance with their own specific cultural contexts.


Of the places in the world where conflict transformation has worked, Northern Ireland probably most approximates the United States, in the sense that it was part of a wealthy nation with a democratic tradition (though in the 1980s, Northern Ireland was in a far worse situation of political division and communitarian violence).


Maria Power, a researcher in conflict transformation studies at Oxford, sees strategies from Northern Ireland that could be deployed on the other side of the Atlantic. She cited the example of dialogue-building between Unionist and Republican women, who faced much tougher obstacles to reconciliation since they were “risking their lives” every time they met in East Belfast during The Troubles. She said that the peace effort in Northern Ireland hinged on incredibly tough, person-to-person groundwork carried out by dozens of organizations and ecumenical groups. She emphasized above all the importance of investing effort and time into building trust, first within, and then later between, identity groups.


Power said that conflict transformation in the United States would likely involve local, grassroots community development in the areas that Trump likes to hold rallies. “I don’t mean that progressives should go to these communities and start knocking on doors,” she explained, “that would be the worst thing that could happen to exacerbate tensions. I mean that there should be a focus on real community development in these areas.”


Individuals would be led through a “single identity dialogue,” a safe-space where someone who has gained the community’s trust can guide them through discussion of their identity, why they feel threatened, and why they feel the need to otherize those they see as different. This does presume some legitimacy to their fears; as The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer, among others, has written convincingly, Trumpism is not primarily a story of globalism’s dispossessed, but rather one of identity politics. But there is reality, and there is perception, and the truth is that Trump voters perceive themselves as victims who have been culturally dislocated, disdained, and in danger of being left behind.


Power said that, in the mid-1980s, Northern Ireland had some 300 of these single-identity groups. She added that there was a tough balance to strike between allowing people “to become comfortable enough with their own place in society that other people don’t seem to be a threat,” and “dripping” in truth in such a way that avoided a reinforcement of their existing beliefs.


Only once that step had been undertaken on a local level were people able to have cross-community conversation, and eventually to engage with each other through social action projects—schemes to bring people together, not over political discussion, but in tasks beneficial to their communities. Power lamented that overall this is quite a long-term process, perhaps even a generational one.


That sentiment was echoed by Emma Elfversson, who researches peace and conflict at Sweden’s Uppsala University. Elfversson told me that because trust in the state and institutions is often crucial to reconciliation, democratic backsliding in the U.S. is worrying. “Important work to overcome divides is done at the grassroots level—through NGOs, religious initiatives, social service programs, schools, at the workplace, etc.,” she said, adding, “Civil society organizations that cut across identity borders can promote reconciliation and reduce conflict.”


Such an approach might seem fuzzy to those who seek to buttress qualitative observations with hard data, but there are concrete examples of places where community-based peace building has been effective. Fieschi thinks that the way to short-circuit populism is to create an environment where people can think. “Populism encourages every fiber of your being not to think,” she told me. “In fact, it pretty much posits that if you have to think you’re not to be trusted. We need to create those spaces and times that offer the opportunity to exercise agency, to think things through.”


The problem for the modern left is that none of this is emotionally satisfying. It’s just hard, hard work. Push too hard, and you risk fostering even greater resentment and reaction. But let people off the hook, and the myths they perpetuate about race and national identity might never get punctured.


Above all, it also rings as profoundly unfair. Why should a group that still enjoys the momentum of historic privilege, and is still afforded outsize political weight, be handheld through an era of demographic change? And why should minority groups, who continue to suffer from oppression, be the ones to extend that hand?





After the end of the Vietnam War, Thomas Robbins and Dick Anthony, two researchers of cults, wrote, “There is a recurrent sequence in American history in which sectarian (and sometimes rather authoritarian) religions emerge and elicit tremendous hostility.” The decline of Cold War orthodoxy after Vietnam, the two noted, had produced a crisis in American civil religion, resulting in “the proliferation of cults as well as the growth of anticult demonology.”


We can understand Donald Trump’s rise as a civil religion giving way to its cultic expression. Con man, cult leader, populist politician: Trump is all of these, rolled into one. He has become all-encompassing, even to nonbelievers. We all feel the fatigue of merely existing in the Trump era, the rapid-fire assault on all of our political and social senses. We want immediate solutions to the Trump problem. We want to beat reason into his followers, until they recognize how wrong they are, or at the very least, submit. We want to blame them—justifiably—for perpetuating his sham.


I want these things. I want them in my gut. But I also know that the cult’s pull is so powerful that it risks destroying its opponents, by eliciting a counterproductive reaction to it. If we want to bring members of the Trump cult back into the mainstream of American life—and there will be plenty of those who say we should move on without them—resistance means not only resisting the lure of the cult and exposing its lies, but also resisting the temptation to punish its followers.


“When the cultic behavior is on a national scale, [breaking it up] is going to take a national movement,” Lalich says. Such an approach promises no immediate gratification. But it also might be the only way to move forward, rather than continue a dangerous downward spiral. Andrés Miguel Rondón, a Venezuelan economist who fled to Spain, wrote this of his own country’s experience of being caught up in an authoritarian’s fraudulent promises: “[W]hat can really win them over is not to prove that you are right. It is to show that you care. Only then will they believe what you say.”




Read More:



Salon | Feb 22, 2019


Yale psych prof: If Trump weren’t president he would be “contained and evaluated”


By Chauncey DeVega


At the center of the chaotic maelstrom that is the Trump presidency is the question of Donald Trump’s mental health. His public behavior (and, by most accounts, his private behavior as well) is that of a man who is a compulsive liar and malignant narcissist, is paranoid, lacks in impulse control and lives in an alternate reality of his own creation.


Donald Trump has recently declared a “national emergency” in order to further expand his power and gut American democracy and the Constitution in the service of his radically destructive right-wing agenda. But in reality it is Donald Trump who is the actual national emergency, an obvious threat to this country and the entire world.


Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe recently revealed that officials in the Justice Department discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from power. Yet it also may be true that Trump’s apparent mental health problems are actually helping him to remain in power and to control his supporters.


How are mentally unwell leaders more dangerous than leaders who are “merely” criminals? How have the American people become so numb to Trump and the Republican Party’s assault on American democracy and the common good? How is dangerous behavior normalized in an unhealthy society — such as ours? How are Trump and his movement affecting negatively the mental and physical health of the American people?


In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Dr. Bandy Lee. She is a psychiatrist at Yale University and a leading voice among the growing number of mental health and other medical professionals who have been trying to raise public awareness about Donald Trump’s mental health.





Politics & Society | June 24, 2019



Are We Living in 1984? George Packer Revisits Orwell’s Dystopian Novel for The Atlantic.


1984 – George Orwell’s seminal work – has enjoyed a cultural resurgence in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency.



NBC News | July 12, 2019


The Pedophile, The Prosecutor, And The President


Former US Attorney Joyce Vance, WaPo’s Ashley Parker, former Assistant Director at the FBI Frank Figliuzzi, Move On’s Karine Jean-Pierre, and Bloomberg’s Tim O’Brien on Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta’s resignation despite Trump saying he had given him his full support.



The Atlantic | Dec 2019




A tectonic demographic shift is under way. Can the country hold together?


By Yoni Appelbaum


Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election. Ideas and policies would be contested, sometimes viciously, but however heated the rhetoric got, defeat was not generally equated with political annihilation. The stakes could feel high, but rarely existential. In recent years, however, beginning before the election of Donald Trump and accelerating since, that has changed.


“Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice, and rage,” Trump told the crowd at his reelection kickoff event in Orlando in June. “They want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.” This is the core of the president’s pitch to his supporters: He is all that stands between them and the abyss.


The United States is undergoing a transition perhaps no rich and stable democracy has ever experienced: Its historically dominant group is on its way to becoming a political minority—and its minority groups are asserting their co-equal rights and interests. If there are precedents for such a transition, they lie here in the United States, where white Englishmen initially predominated, and the boundaries of the dominant group have been under negotiation ever since. Yet those precedents are hardly comforting. Many of these renegotiations sparked political conflict or open violence, and few were as profound as the one now under way.





Trump’s Acquittal Shows The GOP Senate Acts Like A Cult



WhaleRiderMay 11, 2020 Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog


“…he is actually testing people’s loyalty to the ‘laws’ of his mind over the laws of nature, or even impulse for survival. The more he abuses them, the greater their devotion grows, since the psychological cost of admitting their mistake is ever higher — and so it becomes easier to dig a well of unreality than to see the obvious truth.


Mental symptoms do not discriminate between levels of intelligence. What we are seeing is what mental health experts warned would happen if we left a severely impaired person in an influential position without treatment, and what others have described as a cult.


But what I find most insidious is the contagion of symptoms: prolonged exposure…causes you to ‘catch’ his worldview, and even the healthiest, soundest people turn ‘crazy,’ as if afflicted with the same condition.


This is a known phenomenon I have encountered a great deal from working in underserved settings. It is interchangeably called ‘shared psychosis,’ ‘folie à plusieurs’ or ‘induced delusional disorder.’ The cure is removal. Then, quite dramatically, an entire afflicted family, street gang or prison cell-block that seemed almost ‘possessed’ returns to normal.


When experts call out abnormal signs, it is not a diagnosis but important information… It is not up to mental health experts to say how it is to be done, but it is our responsibility to say what must be done, based on our best assessment. Our prescription is removal.”


~ Dr Bandy X. Lee, on testing loyalty in the cult of Trump.





The coronavirus pandemic has made Trump’s psychiatric issues clear. We should remove him for our own safety


Bandy X. Lee 
Yale University | Mar 24, 2020


We knew this presidency would be deadly. We were not exaggerating when, three years ago, we put together the public-service book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. We meant in part that the president would be dangerous to civic life, to democracy, and to the nation’s mental health — but we also meant that he would endanger lives.


Politics did not concern us. We are health professionals. Everything falls secondary to life and death, including politics.


After we got together to write the book, hundreds, and later thousands, more mental health professionals gathered from all over the country and the world with their shared concerns. Together we formed first the National Coalition, and then the World Mental Health Coalition, to organize around our goal of societal safety.


Through consultation with Congress members, letters, petitions, and education of the public, we tried to emphasize that mental impairment in the office of the US presidency is a serious matter.


“Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were—they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” an intelligence official recently said about the lack of mobilization around the now deadly coronavirus pandemic.


His behavior is exactly what we expect of someone who is dangerously lacking in mental capacity. Just when surveillance was needed, he was more preoccupied with “keeping the numbers low” than testing and containment. And when behavioral change would decide the scale of the eventual calamity, he defiantly appeared in crowds, shaking hands and touching surfaces all the more.


As his rallies were canceled, he used daily press conferences for his emotional compulsion to create a desired, alternative reality, through delusional-level distortion and misinformation, rather than working to save lives. The pandemic makes stark the deadliness of his symptoms, and if we believe those around him will be able to contain or go around them, we are mistaken.


Here we enter the realm of pathology. What is truly dangerous is not the overt symptoms — even a psychotic patient wearing a tinfoil hat is not very dangerous — but the denial and the extent to which one would go to cover up symptoms. And this also goes for the president’s handlers, by extension. We call this “loss of insight.” It is the loss of ability to take care of oneself or to see that one has a problem, which diminishes all the more in those who need intervention the most.


On top of this, mental symptoms such as denial, projection (blaming others for what one is doing), and the inflation of non-realities while suppressing reality will be all the more unrelenting and non-negotiable when severe. Not only that, but where there is prolonged exposure to severe symptoms, previously sound individuals will start losing their own grounding in reality and take on similar symptoms.


Disease is unlike normal variation. It brings damage and death, which is why we treat. Just as with the viral pandemic, early signs may be difficult to detect, and warning signs may not always be visible to the untrained eye. But those who have seen similar cases in the past can recognize the signs early, know how serious will be their course, and bring greater precision to needed management, even if the circumstances are novel. In other words, expertise makes a difference. Without it, the danger of minimizing and normalizing pathology is too great.


Normal choices are flexible, adaptable, and life-affirming. Pathology is rigid, stereotypical, and follows very closely other cases of disease. No matter the immediate, accidental advantages — which the president calls his “gut”, when they are actually symptoms — the course is destructive: whether we look at healthcare, domestic tranquility, global security, pandemic preparedness, or an artificially bloated economy, pathological decisions have one eventual trajectory. It is the definition of disease.


As the death toll from coronavirus mounts, we have a decision to make. We have learned from the pandemic that prevention is key. A leadership worse than its absence can mean the difference between a contained outbreak and a catastrophe.


There will be many more critical junctures in not just the coming months but days and even hours as the crisis deepens. A president’s mental incapacity, at this level of severity, is not an issue that non-experts can grasp or handle. Whether it is impeachment, the 25th Amendment, or an ultimatum on resignation is for the politicians to decide, but our prescription is removal. It is a prescription for survival.



The Atlantic | Sept 4, 2020


Why Trump Supporters Can’t Admit

Who He Really Is


Nothing bonds a group more tightly than a common enemy that is perceived as a mortal threat.


By Peter Wehner


. . . In just the past two weeks, the president has praised supporters of the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon, which contends, as The Guardian recently summarized it, that “a cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires runs the world while engaging in pedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of abused children.” Trump touted a conspiracy theory that the national death toll from COVID-19 is about 9,000, a fraction of the official figure of nearly 185,000; promoted a program on the One America News Network accusing demonstrators of secretly plotting Trump’s downfall; encouraged his own supporters to commit voter fraud; and claimed Biden is controlled by “people that are in the dark shadows” who are wearing “dark uniforms.”


Trump believes his own government is conspiring to delay a COVID-19 vaccine until after the election. He retweeted a message from the actor James Woods saying New York Governor Andrew Cuomo “should be in jail” and another from an account accusing the Portland, Oregon, mayor of “committing war crimes.” The president is “inciting violence,” in the words of Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan. Trump defended 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a supporter who is charged with first-degree homicide; and stated that if he loses the election in November it would be because it was “rigged.” At the same time, the second-ranking House Republican, among other of the president’s supporters, has shared several manipulated videos in an effort to damage Biden.


This is just the latest installment in a four-year record of shame, indecency, incompetence, and malfeasance. And yet, for tens of millions of Trump’s supporters, none of it matters. None of it even breaks through. At this point, it appears, Donald Trump really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his voters.



The Washington Post | Sept 3, 2020


What’s the worst that could happen?
The election will likely spark violence – and a constitutional crisis


By Rosa Brooks


We wanted to know: What’s the worst thing that could happen to our country during the presidential election? President Trump has broken countless norms and ignored countless laws during his time in office, and while my colleagues and I at the Transition Integrity Project didn’t want to lie awake at night contemplating the ways the American experiment could fail, we realized that identifying the most serious risks to our democracy might be the best way to avert a November disaster. So we built a series of war games, sought out some of the most accomplished Republicans, Democrats, civil servants, media experts, pollsters and strategists around, and asked them to imagine what they’d do in a range of election and transition scenarios.



The Atlantic | Sept 11, 2020


Donald Trump Is Waiting for You in First Class
‘I Moved on Her Very Heavily’: Part 3


By E. Jean Carroll


In her 2019 memoir, What Do We Need Men For?, E. Jean Carroll accused Donald Trump of rape, in a Bergdorf’s dressing room in the mid-1990s. After the president denied ever meeting her and dismissed her story as a Democratic plot, she sued him for defamation. Carroll was not, of course, the first woman to say that Trump had sexually harassed or assaulted her, but unlike so many other powerful men, the president has remained unscathed by the #MeToo reckoning. So in the run-up to the November 3 election, Carroll is interviewing other women who alleged that Trump suddenly and without consent “moved on” them, to cite his locution in the Access Hollywood tape. “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet … And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy.”



Los Angeles Times | Sept 11, 2020


Why nothing matters to Trump voters


By David Lauter | Washington Bureau Chief


WASHINGTON – President Trump’s recorded interviews with Bob Woodward, in which he admitted to deliberately downplaying the danger of the coronavirus, blasted through the presidential campaign this week. His words dominated discussion and diverted the candidates from any other topics they had planned to focus on.


What they probably did not do is change many minds.


The same goes for the previous week’s eruption — the Atlantic magazine article quoting anonymous officials who said Trump had disparaged military service members as “losers” — and the one before that, and the one before that and so on.


Many Democrats find the lack of reaction baffling. Surely, they say after each new revelation, this piece of evidence will be the one to cause Trump supporters to abandon their candidate en masse.



The Atlantic | September 2020 Issue


How the Pandemic Defeated America


A virus has brought the world’s most powerful country to its knees.


By Ed Yong


Updated at 1:12 p.m. ET on August 4, 2020


Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here.


. . . Beginning on April 16, DiResta’s team noticed growing online chatter about Judy Mikovits, a discredited researcher turned anti-vaccination champion. Posts and videos cast Mikovits as a whistleblower who claimed that the new coronavirus was made in a lab and described Anthony Fauci of the White House’s coronavirus task force as her nemesis. Ironically, this conspiracy theory was nested inside a larger conspiracy—part of an orchestrated PR campaign by an anti-vaxxer and QAnon fan with the explicit goal to “take down Anthony Fauci.” It culminated in a slickly produced video called Plandemic, which was released on May 4. More than 8 million people watched it in a week.


Doctors and journalists tried to debunk Plandemic’s many misleading claims, but these efforts spread less successfully than the video itself. Like pandemics, infodemics quickly become uncontrollable unless caught early. But while health organizations recognize the need to surveil for emerging diseases, they are woefully unprepared to do the same for emerging conspiracies. In 2016, when DiResta spoke with a CDC team about the threat of misinformation, “their response was: ‘ That’s interesting, but that’s just stuff that happens on the internet.’ ”


[ From the June 2020 issue: Adrienne LaFrance on how QAnon is more important than you think ]


Rather than countering misinformation during the pandemic’s early stages, trusted sources often made things worse. Many health experts and government officials downplayed the threat of the virus in January and February, assuring the public that it posed a low risk to the U.S. and drawing comparisons to the ostensibly greater threat of the flu. The WHO, the CDC, and the U.S. surgeon general urged people not to wear masks, hoping to preserve the limited stocks for health-care workers. These messages were offered without nuance or acknowledgement of uncertainty, so when they were reversed—the virus is worse than the flu; wear masks—the changes seemed like befuddling flip-flops.


The media added to the confusion. Drawn to novelty, journalists gave oxygen to fringe anti-lockdown protests while most Americans quietly stayed home. They wrote up every incremental scientific claim, even those that hadn’t been verified or peer-reviewed.


In March, a small and severely flawed French study suggested that the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine could treat COVID‑19. Published in a minor journal, it likely would have been ignored a decade ago. But in 2020, it wended its way to Donald Trump via a chain of credulity that included Fox News, Elon Musk, and Dr. Oz. Trump spent months touting the drug as a miracle cure despite mounting evidence to the contrary, causing shortages for people who actually needed it to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The hydroxychloroquine story was muddied even further by a study published in a top medical journal, The Lancet, that claimed the drug was not effective and was potentially harmful. The paper relied on suspect data from a small analytics company called Surgisphere, and was retracted in June.**


Science famously self-corrects. But during the pandemic, the same urgent pace that has produced valuable knowledge at record speed has also sent sloppy claims around the world before anyone could even raise a skeptical eyebrow. The ensuing confusion, and the many genuine unknowns about the virus, has created a vortex of fear and uncertainty, which grifters have sought to exploit. Snake-oil merchants have peddled ineffectual silver bullets (including actual silver). Armchair experts with scant or absent qualifications have found regular slots on the nightly news. And at the center of that confusion is Donald Trump.



RAW STORY | Sept 21, 2020


Expert on cult movements: Trump’s attempts
to falsify reality follows ‘pattern of the Nazis’


By Igor Derysh, Salon 


A prominent psychiatrist who spent years studying Nazi Germany has called for mental health professionals to speak out about President Trump’s “falsification of reality” ahead of the election, warning that his attacks on the truth echo those of the Nazis.


Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, distinguished professor emeritus at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a leading psychohistorian who has written extensively about doctors who aided Nazi war crimes, has long called for mental health experts to defy warnings from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and speak out about Trump’s mental health. Lifton recently published a book entitled “Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry” and was one of the 27 mental health experts featured in “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” the bestseller edited by Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee in which mental health professionals assessed the president.


Lifton told Salon that the book and a Yale conference on the topic began the movement of “psychologists and psychiatrists speaking out against Trump.”


“I spoke about what I called malignant normality that was being imposed on us, and the need to be witnessing professionals who told the truth and oppose the malignant normality,” he said in an interview last week.


Lifton said that Trump’s supporters and enablers exhibit the same “cult-like behavior” that he has studied, adding that the current administration has “Trumpified” every part of the federal government, in much the same way that the German government was “Nazified” under Adolf Hitler.