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How the Media became an Enabler for a Sociopath How the Media became an Enabler for a Sociopath
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-08-18 09:19:53
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President Donald Trump as Frankenstein Monster

After the appearance of the Ovi magazine’s satirical e-book The Caligula Presidency, a curious friend inquired as to what motivated me to write such a book; did I not realize that it could cause me problems not only on a political level, but more importantly, on a career level? Wouldn’t it have been safer by far to stick to my philosophy or Italian Humanism’s lessons?

I replied that indeed I was very much aware of the perils of political satire. It tends to create enemies even in academia which prides itself on its competence to discuss any and every issue or idea under the sun. One cannot forget what happened to Socrates for being too much of a gadfly. But in searching for the reasons (conscious or unconscious) why I went ahead and wrote the book nevertheless, I must acknowledge that I had a vague sense that there was something missing in the general media’ s reporting of a psychotic who has managed somehow to become president of the US.

His psychic disturbances and general mental health  have never been fully reported. This is something that the media  has never been able to admit to itself. Furthermore, one suspects that that in some way they were the original enablers for the appearance on the political horizon of a destructive Frankenstein monster. It is that open-ended story within a story, the hidden story, so to speak that remains to be fully explicated. Without myself being a professional journalist or psychiatrist, I sensed the urge to write the book almost as a Kantian categorical ethical imperative, a duty of sorts whose neglect would never be forgotten or forgiven by my descendants.

But my friend was relentless: but why don’t let others more competent in those fields do it? In other words, why not play it safe for yourself? I simply reminded him that precious few had done it so far and that in the Germany of the 30s lots of people were playing it safe, till the Gestapo came knocking at their door; by that time it was too late. So I began comparing the current presidency to the deranged reign of an infamous mad Roman emperor from two thousand years ago, Caligula. That led eventually to the e-book.


While it is true that the press has always noticed the self-absorption of Trump, his dishonesty, his public tantrums, his unawareness of others, his constant need of approbation, that at various times it has rightfully called him a racist, a sexist, a bully, noticing his vanity, his public tantrums, his less and less artful lies, it has nevertheless turned a blind eye to the issue of his mental health. Rarely has the press taken notice of its decline over the years; that by the time he became president it had reached the level of a roving lunatic escaped from an insane asylum who has taken refuge in the White House. From the beginning of this lack of due diligence in this regard Trump quickly sensed impunity. He soon realized that there was much he could get away with, even shooting somebody on Fifth Avenue, as he himself has declared.

The issue of mental health has usually been euphemized by the media as “problems of temperament.” His lies, such as the famous one that President Obama was born in Africa, were often called by the media as “unproven” or “false.” Only after Trump grudgingly retracted the birther lie did The New York Times finally begin to call it what it was, a lie. The same happened for the lie that millions of phantom immigrants were casting illegal votes for Hillary Clinton. That lie, in fact, has never been repudiated by Trump. To the contrary, Trump has set up a commission to investigate the “facts” of the matter which exist only in his exalted imagination. Or it may be a distraction of sorts from the collusion with the Russians which netted him the presidency.

The man, in fact, never admits to anything; if anything he doubles down, for a lie is worth a thousand pictures for Trump. It is integral part of his psychosis. So, while the media may not have created the monster, it certainly was in more ways than one an enabler. Ask any psychologist and he will tell you that enablers while presenting themselves as problem solvers, usually become part of the problem.

One need not be a psychiatrist to ascertain how precarious Trump’s mental health is. Nor does one have to be journalist. It is observable every day on TV and the tweets he sends regularly to his base which continues to admire the sartorial splendor of the emperor’s new clothes without shouting to the world that the emperor is naked, but the media continues to avert their glances with the excuse that they are not psychiatrists and even psychiatrists are not allowed to analyze deranged people at a distance. Yet, on the day after the election the media received with astonishment the surprise of their lives from which they are still trying to recover: the mental asylum patient with reveries of becoming a president had actually  escaped from the insane asylum and had managed to be proclaimed president of the US, not in fantasy land, but in the real world.

But there is a paradox at work here: is this out here still the real world, given that we live in the world of “post-truth” partly created by a media in collusion with the world of entertainment? Journalism as entertainment measured by clicks and ratings is surely part of the problem and not part of the solution. Come to think of it, isn’t entertainment the niche Trump found after his failures and criminal activities in business? If one becomes like one’s enemy, hasn’t one’s enemy already won?


Trump having become president, the media began to keep a tally of his lies. Nevertheless, it continues to take a cautious approach to analyzing their origins in the deeply disturbed psyche of the mad imperial president. That I know of, no major network, or newspaper, or magazine here in America, has ever published an in depth analysis of Trump’s mental health. It has only been done indirectly by individual psychiatrists or a group of psychiatrists attempting a diagnosis from far away observation. The law forbids a clinical diagnosis from afar, and the media usually does not even publish their private professional discussions.

The question arises: why is that? For one thing, there is an aversion in American journalism to policy analysis; it smacks too much of intellectual elitism. The addiction, rather, is to more entertaining horse-racing politics, and to the obliteration of what once was firmly in place: the separation of news from opinion and from advertising. While excelling at the ritual of it all, American journalism has always demonstrated an aversion for the real in depth philosophical phenomenon of soul searching via psychological profiling; hence the reluctance to even discuss mental health as newsworthy.

In the second place, positivism is alive and well in American culture, hence the dislike for the imprecise language of psychology and politics. Indeed, the very term “sociopath” is hard to nail down. What, indeed, separates a serial liar from a pathological liar? A mere suspicious personality from a paranoid personality? Anger from rage? How does one distinguish bad character from mental illness? How does one judge anti-social behavior? What is the lens through which to see it?  A moral, a legal, or a therapeutic one? Is treatment and healing the best solution? Or is it punishment? Or is it forgiveness?

As most people know, the term “narcissistic personality disorder” has been replaced in the field of psychology by “narcissistic character disorder.” However, the disorder cannot be professionally be diagnosed from a distance: only a one on one interaction with a patient can produce a professional diagnosis. So we are at an impasse: not to accused by psychologists of being quack psychologists, journalists refrain from talking about mental health and mental impairments and disorders. But common sense dictates to the vast majority of people, or at least the majority that did not vote for him, that Trump, as an individual, the so called president, has remained in the realm of a pathological, crotch-grabbing adolescence. It is also evident that his behavior is often distorted by rage. It is evident to the people in general as it was evident to the Roman people at the time of mad Caligula.

All one needs to do is switch on the TV and watch two men with serious emotional impairment but in control of nuclear weapons go at each other with puerile taunts and provocations, of the sorts one finds in middle schools, while all along threatening to incinerate millions of innocent human beings. There are fronts open in the White House against Mitch McConnel, Arnold Schwarzennegger, Nordstrom, China, Mexico, Australia, the EU, the cast of “Hamilton” the media in general (with the possible exception of the propaganda newscast Fox News), you name it.


The urgent question then becomes: how did Trump get to where he is? A possible answer is this: he got there the way any authoritarian leader gets there within liberal democracy: they exploit the very institution they wish to eventually destroy. More specifically, they exploit the weaknesses and the naiveté of liberal democracy and its predilection for free transparent free speech. And so we have a conundrum for all bona fide journalists: how do we preserve democracy if we curtail free speech which allows for lies and distortions of the facts? Should the rules of debate and discussion be changed?

How about beginning with distinguishing ad hominem name calling and insults, which belong in a middle school yard among juveniles, from just naming which is vital to any viable journalism? Does one need to be botanist to tell a rose from a lily? When Trump compared Ben Carson to an incurable child molester in 2016 before choosing him as one of his adoring cabinet members, not many journalists who pronounced themselves shocked by the accusation, raised the more cogent question of Trump’s own mental health. Should a journalist not dare state what is obvious even to a child, that the emperor is naked and is in fact mentally ill? When Trump proclaims that Hillary is a crook, one does not need a psychiatrist to suspect what is common sense: that Trump is covering up a business career rife with fraud and money laundering from Russia.

Does it take a genius to figure out that Trump’s arrested emotional and intellectual development (the man baby phenomenon of the infantilization of the American white male) got him the white working-class, poorly educated anti-intellectual votes? That the mixing of ignorance with inequality is a lethal mix?

It is also obvious that what many liked and continue to like about Trump is that he says outrageous things never said before; things that his opponents did not dare to say. How about reversing the trend and begin to say what has not been said before but not the Trumpian way but with honesty, reason and decency? In other words, the media needs to abandon the world of entertainment and celebrities and ratings and tweets and clicks and begin the more arduous process of searching for the truth. It may not net much fame or wealth but it will be more satisfying because one would be doing one’s duty as understood by a Thomas Jefferson who said that “eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.”

That duty within the larger scheme of finding the truth includes naming the tremendous harmful defects of our so called president: his personal finances, his criminal enterprise as a business man, soon to be uncovered and revealed by the special prosecutor Bob Muller, and most importantly, his mental health; not to speak of his proto-fascism which came to the surface in his reaction to the events caused recently by white supremacists (one of them has an office in the White House and goes by the name of Steve Bannon) at the University of Virginia, the institution founded by Thomas Jefferson. Will our current journalists, immersed in the world of entertainment and celebrities, find that kind of courage? The omens are not very encouraging but let’s keep hoping and praying for it.


Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's NEW BOOK
"The Caligula Presidency: A Satirical Debunking Critique"
is online now and you can download it for FREE HERE!



Check also Dr Emanuel Paparella's other EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them all for FREE HERE!

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