Their cheeks reddened with excitement and their eyes glistened as they gushed over the spectacularness of the event. Some on that spring evening were moved to wax poetic over the images unfolding before our eyes; while others proclaimed, without a hint of irony or self-reflection, that the illegal and unauthorized act of aggression against another country signified a much needed positive development, both in the President’s popularity and stature, and America’s standing in the world. Also, it made us safer, somehow.
As the bombs hit (or missed, as the case often is) the obscure targets in the faraway land, the media experienced a collective wargasm of the kind that should warrant at least a trigger warning.
That was spring of 2003, Operation Shock and Awe, which some of us still remember as though it was yesterday — the beginning of the colossal fiasco that led to hundreds of thousands dead, destruction of the entire country, destabilization of the region, the rise of ISIS, and a growing and deepening refugee crisis. It has also led to Trumpism today, the manifestation of our unacknowledged and repressed collective guilt that makes us run from ourselves and our sins even if straight into an abyss.
We saw the familiar wargasm last week when our so-called president, eager to show the Chinese leader, as much as his own daddy, that he’s a big boy now and must be taken seriously, attacked a Syrian airfield, allegedly wasting 26 out of 59 of our precious missiles and killing several civilians, including children. He did it, as he maintains, to avenge the “beautiful babies” gassed, allegedly, by the Syrian president.
As a narcissistic psychopath with a long and well-documented history of not giving a hoot about any babies, including his own, Trump does not sound convincing there, to put it kindly. When he prattles with the nauseating, and laughably fake, oversized emotion that “no child of God should ever suffer such horror” (does Ivanka write this offensive nonsense?), one cannot help but think of all the children he has killed already with his thoughtless decisions.
This is not and never will be about “the children,” or human beings at all, as they do not matter to narcissistic psychopaths. Such is the nature of their character defect that it turns other people into objects of one’s wish and need fulfillment. Seeing Trump read words written for him as always by someone else to justify this PR stunt only confirmed it. There and then, more than ever, he appeared enthralled, as if in a trance, by his self-importance, the star of the biggest reality TV show, performing for the largest audience yet, but most crucially for himself. Despite his best efforts, you could see how emotionally disconnected he was from the gravity of his actions: that’s always the case when he puts on a show of caring and doing something for others. The gaping chasm between his bombastic words and emotional cluelessness betrays the truth. Narcissistic psychopaths know how to mimic pro-social emotions, but as they cannot experience them, their deception shows. There is no doubt, however, that he keeps re-watching that clip, feeling all mighty and presidential.
The commentators who puzzle over the purpose of that seemingly purposeless strike miss the obvious: the attack, which happened right after the dessert of a “beautiful chocolate cake” shared with the Chinese president, was meant, first and foremost, to impress and intimidate Trump’s guest. This is Trump’s number 1 imperative in all life situations. That’s one reason, for example, why he invites foreign leaders to the garish Mar-a-Lago: The old and plain White House is too boring and not reflective of Our Leader’s grandeur. (His Twitter feed, as it is often the case, gives us a confirmation. Xi Jinping must have been insufficiently supplicating that evening, so Donny had to up the ante.)
Dropping the perversely named Mother of All Bombs on some god forsaken compound in the middle of Afghanistan’s nowhere served a similar purpose: to impress and divert attention from Our Leader’s evil deeds. This is the tyrants’ modus operandi:
This lack of [conscience-imposed] brakes endows him with a kind of perverse Midas touch: he destroys everything he comes in contact with — relationships, projects, organizations, countries. He does not create anything of value; he is either indifferent or hostile to expressions of values in the material world. He may annihilate such expressions — books, works of art, or cherished public spaces — out of spite. Like the Wilde’s cynic, he knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing — and he is proud of it. His compulsion to dazzle and to erect ever greater monuments to his own glory, whether in the form of bombastic poetry or shiny palaces, satisfies his grandiosity; but it is also a way to divert attention, his own and others, from the destruction he sows around him.
We must digress here for a moment to briefly address the peculiar sickness of giving instruments of mass destruction female names. The perversion of calling the biggest available bomb the “mother of all bombs” gives us clues to the pathological mindset of those who do so. They are driven by death instinct that propels them to turn living beings into things, to better control and dominate them. They are what Erich Fromm called necrophiliacs: malignant narcissists suffering from incestuous symbiosis, for whom the need to dominate and destroy is related to
the tendency to stay tied to the mother and to her equivalents–blood, family, tribe–to fly from the unbearable weight of responsibility, of freedom, of awareness, and to be protected and loved in a state of certainty dependence that the individual pays for with the ceasing of his own human development.
Femininity in general and motherhood specifically are seen by the human race as life-giving; but necrophiliacs associate it in their disordered minds with their love of death and destruction. Their need to name their tools of death with female monikers, which is almost always accompanied by not-so-thinly veiled misogyny, reflects that sickness.
There is another curious aspect peculiar to Trump’s aggression: his greatest acts of revenge-by-proxy so far — the Yemen attack that killed at least 25 civilians, including nine children (no, no children of God should suffer that) along with an American soldier, and the Syria strike — were ordered during meals. No word what he ate when giving a green light to MOAB, but we know more about what dishes were served at the time Trump made his decisions than what went on through his mind. Food — paying attention to it, being photographed with it, talking about it — is as important to Our Leader as other sensual pleasures — more important than people, that’s certain — and his growing girth also reflects that. If there is a continuing pattern there, psychoanalysts may have a field day speculating about Trump’s oral fixation, suggestive of incestuous symbiosis, and its role in his desire to manipulate, possess, kill and destroy.
Idle speculations aside, hard facts tell us that our wargiastic fever is spreading and infecting, as it always does, feeble minds of pundits and other media celebrities, with Maria Bartiromo as an Exhibit A. The “interview” — as technically, it was — she did with Trump on Tuesday morning is a good example of our media’s collusion with our tyranny in progress. To say that her comments and questions were softball would be an understatement. Cotton ball rather. Or ephemeral dandelion heads.
Here is a sample:
BARTIROMO: You redirected navy ships to go toward the Korean Peninsula.
What we are doing right now in terms of North Korea?
TRUMP: You never know, do you?
You never know.
BARTIROMO: That’s all (INAUDIBLE)…
TRUMP: You know I don’t think about the military.
TRUMP: I’m not like Obama, where they talk about in four months we’re waiting — we’re going to hit Mosul.
Savor this, please: our commander-in-chief dropping bombs left and right says he doesn’t think about the military — something that’s obviously untrue, as evidenced by his sadistic budget and his wish to have a military parade during his inauguration, but also by the very exchange they are having and its context; however, even if it were true, it should raise a red flag in anyone’s, much less his interviewer’s mind. Instead, the so-called journalist just eagerly confirms it as something apparently widely known. Oof. (Another special moment, among so many, was when Maria asked Trump if he thought the North Korean leader was “mentally fit.” Donny the mental health expert demurred.)
This, too, deserves a special mention:
TRUMP: (…) We’ve just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing.
TRUMP: It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s genius. Our technology, our equipment, is better than anybody by a factor of five. I mean look, we have, in terms of technology, nobody can even come close to competing.
This from the man who doesn’t think about the military. (And neither does Maria, obviously. Genius.)
There is little hope for stemming the tide of destructive post-factualness associated with encroaching tyranny if our journalists are so eager to comfort the comfortable and ignore the afflicted. The celebrity-studded and ratings-driven media are as complicit in Trumpian Victory (TM) as his family members and sycophants. If anything, by normalizing this profoundly pathological and inherently destructive character and aiding and abetting his path to absolute power, the media have been among his greatest sycophants.
There is no excuse any more. In the beginning, one could attribute our media’s confusion to the shock and awe of Trump’s pathology casting its pall upon the nation, but by now anyone who does not want to see what we are dealing with has to be willfully blind — and that’s a generous assessment. All those experts who praise what they see as Trump’s turn toward normalcy — because either war is what they know as normal or (and?) the truth about dangers of Trump’s narcissistic psychopathy is unacceptable to them — show blatant disregard for reality and common sense, and abnegate their professional and ethical duties. There is no “stumbling toward coherence” possible for a person with Trump’s character defect. Understanding, accepting, and disseminating this basic truth should be a task of any journalist worth his or her salt. Alas.
Instead, pundits praise what they see as normalization of our politics now; after all, dropping bombs on foreign countries and non-white people is what they like and know, so it feels normal to them. And, let’s face it, we love war. As Chris Hedges said, war is a force that gives us meaning, particularly when our own lives are not going well. It smoothes over uncertainties and helps us unify, superficially at least, in face of a “common enemy.” It’s also great for business, and that’s always the bottom line, at least as there are still places to conquer and resources to exploit.
Charles Krauthammer who was once a psychiatrist, which is remarkable (or not) given his lack of insight, went unabashedly wargiastic after “America demonstrated its capacity for swift, decisive action” and announced that
the traditionalists are in the saddle. U.S. policy has been normalized. The world is on notice: Eight years of sleepwalking is over. America is back.
The mind boggles, even though it should not surprise. The incomprehension is the condition of the pundits’ existence. It appears they get paid not to see or understand.
Someone on the internets asked why Trump would bother tangling in with Kim Jong Un at this time.
The truth as always can be found in the man’s pathology rather than any rational political and strategic plans which do not and will not exist, no matter how many decorated generals will surround him. There won’t be a pivot nor will this ever become normal, not to mentally healthy people.
Kim Jong Un shares Trump’s character defect which is common to all tyrants in human history and is in a position of ultimate power over his country and its people. Trump, pathologically jealous of all tyrants and trying to become number 1 among them, cannot stand that. This is the kind of power he would like for himself (and, make no mistake, will obtain unless we remove him from the White House).
Trump’s dictator envy is well known: he has repeatedly expressed his admiration for despots world over, alive and not. He even praised Jong Un for killing his family on his way to power, and if anyone thought this was a joke then obviously that person has not seen Our Leader.
Trump is itching for the opportunity to show Jong Un who the world’s boss is, just as he cannot wait to do the same to Xi Jinping (whom he already gave a taste of his power by dropping the bombs on Syria while they shared that beautiful chocolate cake), and, most of all, to Putin. If Vlad thought he could manipulate Donny to his advantage, then he didn’t pay attention — in school, among other places. He would have learned there the details of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact between Hitler and Stalin where the two tyrants pledged mutual non-aggression and support, and lauded each other’s greatness. Only that Hitler had no desire to honor his promise — narcissistic psychopaths never do — and invaded the Soviet Union shortly (and stupidly for him) after. Stalin was so heartbroken over this betrayal that he locked himself away for several days, creating panic among his generals and subordinates in a desperate need of guidance. Even tyrants have feelings — egocentric and shallow, but often quite strong.
Getting back to our own tyrant-in-the-making: There does not seem to be any real understanding among our opinion-makers of the dangers he represents to America and the world despite clear signs of the destruction his reign is unleashing upon us. They didn’t want to listen to early warnings, and now they don’t want to see what’s in front of their eyes. It is impossible to say what it would take to make them see the truth, which they supposedly pursue. Even the best among them ask the questions, but don’t want to know the answers. It shows that they cannot be counted on. The tendency to deny evil is a powerful force in the human psyche, but, in spite of our irrational desires, not acknowledging it does not stop its progress — on the contrary. We must continue putting pressure on our lawmakers and help remind ourselves and others that what we are dealing with is neither normal nor acceptable. And today is as good a day to do so as ever.