Thursday, April 2, 2020

Our Dunning-Kruger president: Trump's arrogance and ignorance are killing people

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a term that describes a psychological phenomenon in which stupid people do not know that they are in fact stupid.

Writing at Pacific Standard, psychologist David Dunning — one of the social psychologists who first documented this type of cognitive bias — describes it in more detail:
In many areas of life, incompetent people do not recognize  —  scratch that, cannot recognize  —  just how incompetent they are, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Logic itself almost demands this lack of self-insight: For poor performers to recognize their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack. To know how skilled or unskilled you are at using the rules of grammar, for instance, you must have a good working knowledge of those rules, an impossibility among the incompetent. Poor performers  —  and we are all poor performers at some things  —  fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack. What's curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.
The Dunning-Kruger effect manifests in the form of the drunk at the bar who weighs in on every conversation with unwanted advice, the online troll who monopolizes comment sections, or the person who reads one book (or perhaps the introduction) and then acts like an authority on the subject.

Visionary science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov signaled to the Dunning-Kruger effect with his famous observation in 1980: "There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'"

Donald Trump is the Dunning-Kruger president of the United States.

But he is also something much worse than that. Donald Trump is an almost perfect living, breathing example of the Dunning-Kruger effect: a president in a time of plague whose ignorance and stupidity are amplified through apparent and obvious mental illness as well as cruelty, compulsive lying, grand immorality, corruption and evil.

Americans have already died because of Trump's false claims about the novel coronavirus pandemic. Many more will die in the weeks and months ahead.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Donald Trump, the coronavirus and the power of white male privilege

Racism hurts black and brown people. But it hurts white people too. In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, this is true on a very literal level.

To this point, Donald Trump's regime and its propaganda machine have turned the coronavirus pandemic into a debacle that will likely kill Americans in large numbers.

Trump and his sycophants have systematically lied about the threat to public health, safety and order posed by the coronavirus. Trump himself called the epidemic — or at least the media's coverage — a hoax.

The Trump regime has purged scientists and other experts who were deemed insufficiently loyal. These are the very same experts and career government officials who are essential to protecting America from the coronavirus pandemic and other threats.

Fox News and other parts of the right-wing echo chamber have circulated lies to their public about the coronavirus, downplaying its threat and encouraging behavior that will actually spread the lethal disease. Why? Because in the twisted reality of TrumpWorld, showing loyalty to the Great Leader is more important than public safety.

Trump and his cabal have repeatedly shown that they possess no belief in public service or the common good, and have no genuine feeling of care and concern for the American people.

Trump is being advised by Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller, a slumlord plutocrat and a white supremacist, respectively. Neither are scientists. Neither have any experience managing a public health crisis.

Vice President Mike Pence is leading Trump's coronavirus task force. Pence is a right-wing Christian fundamentalist. He does not believe in science. He believes that a person can somehow "pray the gay away." As governor of Indiana, Pence failed to respond when the HIV epidemic hit his state in 2015. In the normal world of facts and reason, faith does not supersede empirical reality and science. One cannot pray away the coronavirus or other fact-based challenges and problems. To believe such a thing is to believe in magic.

Forced by the circumstances, the Trump regime has now — several months too late — accepted that the coronavirus is real and that it poses a great threat to the American people. But instead of mobilizing properly against the threat, Trump and his followers have instead chosen to attack the Democrats as somehow responsible for a public health crisis.

None of this would be happening if Donald Trump were not president of the United States. The virus might be here, of course, but what we face now would not be nearly as bad.

And how did Donald Trump become president of the United States? Racist white voters.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

White Victimology: Trump’s "Lynching" Comments Are a Reminder of the Relationship Between His Lawlessness and White Supremacy

Historian Ibram X. Kendi believes Donald Trump is the second most racist president in American history, ranking only behind Andrew Jackson. Based on Trump’s ongoing behavior, Kendi may need to re-evaluate that assessment.

On Tuesday, America’s racist in chief managed to combine his lawlessness and white supremacy in a single tweet:
So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!
In the worst of ways, Donald Trump has shown himself once again to be a deft multitasker of ignorance, hate and authoritarianism.

Lawlessness: Donald Trump does not believe in the rule of law or the U.S. Constitution. He has said as much, describing the Constitution as “phony.”

Impeachment is also one of the most important elements of the Constitution because it is the ultimate protection against a tyrant. Trump and his regime, of course, do not believe that any substantive restrictions on the president’s behavior exist — as long as the president is Donald Trump or another Republican.

White supremacy: At least 4,000 black Americans were killed by white mobs and individuals in the extrajudicial killings known as lynchings across the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries. This political terrorism was not confined to the South. Black people were also lynched in states such as Indiana. The goal of white-on-black racial terrorism was to intimidate and control black people who desired, struggled for and demanded their full human rights as citizens of the United States. Racial pogroms and lynchings — especially what are known as “spectacular lynchings,” attended by hundreds or even thousands of white people — were a for of terrorism used by whites to intimidate and control black Americans.

Trump’s comments on Tuesday are also a reminder that lawlessness and white supremacy are not discrete and separate from one another. They have a complex and contradictory relationship.

White supremacy is maintained through the law: Racists ignore the law when they need to, and invoke the law when it serves their purposes.

White-on-black lynchings were not vile acts perpetrated by outliers in white society, people who were exceptionally barbarous compared to the “ordinary” white person. Lynchings were part of a regime of racial terrorism with the goal of maintaining white control over black people in all areas of American life. This culture of racial terrorism that Trump references so casually was central to American society. That ethos of racism as violence against black people specifically, and against nonwhite people (including Latinos and Muslims) more generally, continues through to the Age of Trump. This violence has “evolved” to fit the sensibilities of the post-civil rights era.

In his book "Trouble in Mind," historian Leon Litwack writes about America’s culture of lynching:
Neither crazed fiends not the dregs of white society, the bulk of the lynchers tended to be ordinary and respectable people, animated by a self-righteousness that justified their atrocities in the name of maintaining the social and racial order and the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race. The mobs who meted out "summary justice” were pronounced by one Georgian as "composed of our best citizens, who are foremost in all works of public and private good”…. Drawn from all classes in southern white society, from the "red-necks” to the best people,” lynchers came together in an impressive show of racial and community solidarity …. 
But white solidarity almost always prevailed. Townspeople closed ranks to protect their own kind, thereby becoming partners in the crimes committed. Eyewitnesses refused to testify, and grand juries refused to bring indictments against easily identifiable mob participants; even if they had, juries would have refused to convict, whatever the evidence.
Trump defenders, as they always do, have summoned ridiculous defenses. They note that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said, some decades ago, that he was a victim of a “high-tech lynching.” They claim people are too "sensitive" because of "political correctness.” They claim that lynchings don’t necessarily have anything to do with race. of course, they insist that Trump is not a racist; he is misunderstood or being persecuted by Democrats and the "liberal media.”

Like almost all defenses of Trump’s behavior, such claims are easily dismissed by honest and ethical human beings.

The racism of Trump’s comments about lynching is easily exposed through several basic questions.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Mind Control and Cult Expert Steven Hassan Warns That Donald Trump's Movement is a Dangerous Cult -- And Even If Trump is Removed From Office His Followers Will Remain a Threat to American Society

A new Gallup poll finds that at least 50 percent of the American people want Donald Trump to be impeached and removed from office. That's three times higher than the percentage of Americans who supported impeaching Richard Nixon during the early stages of the impeachment process. Trump could become the first American president to run for re-election after being impeached in the House of Representatives.

On the surface, at least, it would seem that Donald Trump’s continual torrent of lawbreaking, his disrespect for the Constitution and democracy, his corruption, racism, nativism, misogyny and overall debasement of human morality and human decency have finally reached a point where he will be held accountable by the Democrats in Congress and then at the polls in 2020.

But what of the 39 percent (or so) of Americans who continue to support Donald Trump? His popularity among Republican voters continues to be remarkably high and stable (87 percent per Gallup’s most recent poll) given his many failures of policy, including policy decisions that directly hurt his most enthusiastic “white working class” supporters. Indeed, Trump’s base of stable support remains the highest among American presidents in the history of modern polling.

Despite — or because of — Trump’s apparent criminal behavior and obvious inclinations toward fascism he has a cement-like hold on his supporters. Trumpism can be understood as right-wing political extremism transformed into a cult. This is not just a metaphor. Trump’s lies, his assault on reality, his threats of violence, his cruelty, his demand of absolute loyalty, his manipulation of willing subjects who choose to escape empirical reality, and his shared state of collective narcissism with his followers all fit the definition of a cult. From that realization follows another: Trump’s removal from the White House, by electoral defeat or any other means, remains unlikely — unless his opponents can fully mobilize to overwhelm and defeat Trump’s zealots.

Is it possible to deprogram Trump’s political cult members and return them to normal society? Should good Americans isolate Trump supporters and refuse to interact with them? In what ways does Trump fit the profile of a cult leader? How is his apparent and lengthy history of sexually predatory behavior typical of a cult leader? If Trump is removed from office, will his supporters respond with violence?

In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Steven Hassan, one of the world's foremost experts on mind control and cults. Hassan is the author of several bestselling books, including "Combating Cult Mind Control" and "Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs." His new book is “The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control.”

Steven Hassan is the guest on this week's episode of my podcast The Truth Report.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Cruelty is Trump's Guiding Principle — But Democrats Can Use It to Defeat Him

It is possible to hurt a person without ever meeting them. Donald Trump and his regime have done that millions of times in the almost three years he has been president of the United States.

Cruelty, especially against nonwhite people, is one of the Trump regime’s guiding principles. Trump, his supporters, and enablers take great pleasure in hurting the weak, the sick and any other people they deem vulnerable. This is a function of "social dominance behavior," a trait that is common to conservative-authoritarian personalities.

As I explained in an 2017 essay at Salon, Republicans and conservatives widely believe:

... that those who seek assistance from society have no right to receive it. If people do not have the resources to provide adequate health for themselves and their families, that's their own fault. Most important, the sick deserve their illnesses; the healthy and strong have earned their advantages. 
Once again, the repeated efforts by the Republican Party to repeal the minimal protections offered by the Affordable Care Act serve to remind us that conservatism is a type of socially-motivated cognition that minimizes any sense of human obligation and connection to other people, outside a narrowly defined kin or other peer group. 
Today's version of American conservatism is also a celebration of selfishness — and a belief that true freedom and liberty are based on a perverse individualism with little sense of common decency or linked fate with someone's fellow citizens. Today's American conservatism also embraces an extreme form of neoliberalism whereby human worth and dignity are determined by profit-and-loss statements, and capitalism and democracy are confused with one another. Ultimately, American conservatism is a value system that is antisocial, anti-democratic and anti-freedom.
In keeping with those values, the Trump administration recently proposed deporting critically ill immigrants who are receiving medical care in the United States.

Earlier this week the New York Times reported that on Aug. 7:
... the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, without public notice, eliminated a 'deferred action' program that had allowed immigrants to avoid deportation while they or their relatives were undergoing lifesaving medical treatment. The agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, had sent letters informing those who had asked for a renewal, which the immigrants must make every two years, that it was no longer entertaining such requests. The letters said that the immigrants must leave the country within 33 days, or face deportation.
Because of public outrage at the wanton cruelty of sending sick people — including many children — back to their home countries to die, USCIS announced a temporary pause in the deportations:
On Monday, the agency said in a statement that while limiting the program was “appropriate,” officials would “complete the caseload that was pending on August 7.” The statement said that deportation proceedings had not been initiated against anyone who had received the letter. However, it did not say whether it would continue to grant immigrants extensions to stay in the country or whether the program would be continued after current applications are processed. When asked for clarification, an agency official said the agency “is taking immediate corrective action to reopen previously pending cases for consideration.”
This should be no comfort for the people who are in the United States under the "deferred action" program. Moreover, the safe and reasonable assumption should be that the Trump regime will resume its efforts to deport immigrants receiving lifesaving medical care once the controversy and resulting public and media attention subsides. This is part of the Trump regime's fascist strategy of creating controversy through its "shocking" and "surprising" assaults on democracy, the rule of law and human decency. Predictably, the public and news media react to the outrage of the day, week or month. In response, the administration then appears to back down.

Testing the limits of societal norms is one of the primary ways through which fascists and other authoritarians break a democracy and in so doing train the public into a state of constant distraction, exhaustion and learned helplessness.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Patriotism, truth and fascism: Donald Trump is creating a subjective reality where dissent is not allowed

At some point in high school, Donald Trump’s new White House press secretary and communications director Stephanie Grisham must have read George Orwell’s "1984." Instead of understanding Orwell’s book as a warning about totalitarianism, however, Grisham took it as a "how to" guide.

This is from a profile of Grisham, published last week in the Washington Post:
Does Grisham think Trump ever lies? After all, as of Aug. 5, The Washington Post Fact Checker had documented 12,019 false or misleading claims made by Trump during his presidency. 
“No,” she responds without hesitation. “I don’t think they’re lies. . . . I think the president communicates in a way that some people, especially the media, aren’t necessarily comfortable with. A lot of times they take him so literally. I know people will roll their eyes if I say he was just kidding or was speaking in hypotheticals, but sometimes he is. What I’ve learned about him is that he loves this country and he’s not going to lie to this country.”
Despite the thousands of documented lies Trump has told since becoming president, his media sycophants at Fox News and elsewhere continue to claim that he is an honest and truthful person. Because they are authoritarians who are comfortable with their leaders lying to them, Trump’s voters and other Republicans also believe that he is honest.

Grisham’s recent comments to the Post are also another example of a very dangerous overlap between Donald Trump’s subjective reality, politics and truth. When Grisham says, "What I’ve learned about him is that he loves this country and he’s not going to lie to this country,” she is asserting that patriotism — always a subjective and normative quality — is a litmus test for the truth. Given his egomania and narcissism, Trump certainly agrees with her. Objective reality is to be made secondary, if not wholly replaced and usurped by, the whims of a mercurial, unstable authoritarian.

The real world is swallowed up by TrumpWorld; Trump’s critics and other detractors are then excluded from reality itself — which in turn legitimates their silencing by any means available.

In total, Trump's lies, and the media and political machine that disseminates and sustains them, are antithetical to democracy. This is not a precondition for fascism. It is fascism in action.

Moreover, those people and organizations who aid, abet and enforce his lies are also enemies of a good and humane society. Philosopher Hannah Arendt warned of this in her 1971 essay “Lying in Politics”:
[T]he historian knows how vulnerable is the whole texture of facts in which we spend our daily life …. [I]t is always in danger of being perforated by single lies or torn to shreds by the organized lying of groups, nations, or classes, or denied and distorted, often carefully covered up by reams of falsehoods or simply allowed to fall into oblivion. Facts need testimony to be remembered and trustworthy witnesses to be established in order to find a secure dwelling place in the domain of human affairs.
The Washington Post’s profile of Stephanie Grisham also reveals the worldview and collective character of the Trump regime and those people willing to serve it. In Grisham’s comments about her job as press secretary and communications director there is no mention of a commitment to public service, the common good or the well-being of the American people. Loyalty to Donald Trump is all that matters. The framers of the United States Constitution rejected the divine right of kings and queens and the idea of a hereditary nobility in America. Donald Trump is the human exemplar of why the framers put safeguards in the Constitution to remove such an authoritarian.

Donald Trump’s lies are a tool. They help him to assault the rule of law, cut away at democracy, profit from corruption and greed, normalize his illegitimate regime, and stay in power by distracting the American people and the news media from his political agenda, which presents a dire threat to the existence of America’s multiracial democracy.

Donald Trump’s lies represent another type of threat as well. Philosopher Henry Giroux demonstrates in his new book “American Nightmare” how Trump and his movement imperil the American people’s relationship to history and reality:

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Chauncey DeVega Show: A Conversation with Dr. Justin Frank About How Donald Trump's Mental Pathologies are Encouraging A Plague of Right-wing Violence and Hatred Across America

Dr. Justin Frank is a former clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center and a physician with more than 40 years of experience in psychoanalysis. He is the author of the bestselling books Bush on the Couch and Obama on the Couch. His newest book is Trump on the Couch. Dr. Frank's work has appeared in Time magazine and the Daily Beast and he has appeared as an expert commentator and guest on MSNBC, CNN, PBS and other outlets.

Dr. Frank explains how Donald Trump's many mental pathologies give permission for the violence, hatred and terrorism of his supporters and why the massacres in El Paso and Dayton -- and his reactions to them -- reveal Trump's lack of empathy for other human beings and how the president is likely a sociopath. Dr. Frank also warns that Donald Trump hates to see happy families and this is why he does not care about seeing nonwhite children and their families suffering in his concentration camps. Dr. Frank also sounds the alarm about how the right-wing terrorism and other political violence that Trump has encouraged and commanded through stochastic terrorism and scripted violence will spread across the country like an epidemic.

Chauncey DeVega is angry that after only three years of so-called "resistance" that too many people have already surrendered to Donald Trump, the Republican Party and their fascist regime. Why? Because they are "tired" and "frustrated". This is because of a lack of historical perspective and understanding about what true struggle looks like in America and around the world. Chauncey also shares several news stories and commentaries about Donald Trump's post El Paso and Dayton "victory" tour of human depravity including a raid by ICE brownshirts which stole hundreds of Latino and Hispanic parents away from their crying children on the first day of school.

At the end of this week's podcast Chauncey reads a wonderful animal friends story about an honored elder who adopted an amazing senior cat.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Truth Report: My Conversation with Tim Wise About White Rage and Donald Trump's "Race War" in America

Tim Wise is one of America's and the world's leading experts on white privilege and racism. He is the author of numerous books including his most recent Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America.

Tim Wise explains why three years into Trump's presidency there are still so many journalists, reporters and other political observers who are "shocked" and "surprised" by his blatant racism and authoritarian behavior. Is Republican strategist Rick Wilson correct in his assessment that Donald Trump wants a "race war" in America? And in what ways isthe recent mass shooting in California by an apparent Nazi -- as well as a very large increase in right-wing political violence more generally in America -- the expected outcome of Donald Trump's presidency?

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A Conversation with MSNBC's Joy-Ann Reid About How Donald Trump Represents Everything Wrong With America

Joy-Ann Reid is the host of AM Joy on MSNBC. She is the author of several books including Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons and the Racial Divide as well as We Are the Change We Seek: The Speeches of Barack Obama. Her new book is The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story.

Reid explains how Donald Trump has betrayed American democracy, why his violence, racism and other vile behavior is appealing to his supporters, and how he is the human embodiment of America's cultural and social ills.

Joy-Ann Reid also reflects on how best to make sense of this confusing and disorienting moment in American history and a Republican Party and Donald Trump which are committed to restoring American Apartheid and total white rule over an increasingly diverse country.

On this week's show Chauncey DeVega ponders why so many journalists, reporters, and the American people as a whole, are still surprised by Donald Trump's racism and his newest exercise in presidential white supremacy -- the slurring of four nonwhite Democratic congresswomen (most notably Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) as somehow being inherently "un-American" and who should be kicked out of the United States if they do not bow in fealty to Trump's racial authoritarian regime.

Chauncey also shares several news items which highlight Trump's war on America's multiracial democracy and his campaign of cruelty against nonwhites and then asks you, the listeners, to connect the dots.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

"Two years ago I compared Trump to Hitler. People didn't believe me": Dr. John Gartner Explains How Donald Trump's Poor Mental Health is Grounds for Impeachment

Dr. John Gartner is a former professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School. Gartner is also the founder of the Duty to Warn PAC, an organization working to raise awareness about the danger to the United States and the world posed by Donald Trump.

He was a contributor to the 2017 bestselling book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. Gartner along with two other expert mental health professionals, is the author of the recent and widely-read USA Today op-ed "President Donald Trump's poor mental health is grounds for impeachment".

Dr. Gartner explains why there is no mass resistance to Donald Trump's movement and his assault on American democracy and freedom. He also answers the following questions.

Why have so many Americans chosen to surrender? How can psychology help to explain Donald Trump and his movement's assault on reality and why so many Americans have been seduced by this malignant reality? How has the Mueller Report empowered Donald Trump and fueled his apparent public mental illness and other dangerous behavior? What must be done to force Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party to impeach Donald Trump? Will there be violence from Trump's supporters if he is forced to leave office?