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Nederlog

Aug 1, 2016

Crisis: Trump's Psychopathology, Greenwald & Media, Chomsky on Computers
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Introduction

1.
The Psychopathology of Donald Trump
2. Glenn Greenwald: The Media’s Coverage of Donald
     Trump Is ‘Kind of Hysterical’

3. Noam Chomsky Is Sick of Hearing About the Robot
     Takeover (Video)

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, August 1, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 3 items with 3 dotted links, and they differ a bit (especially the first and the third item) from ordinary crisis items: Item 1 is a long review of Trump's psychopathology, simply because I agree he is not sane while I am a psychologist who knows that such judgements are quite difficult: This time I have written out most of my arguments (in a brief form); item 2 is about Glenn Greenwald on the reporting in the mass media about Trump; and item 3 is not a crisis item, but I have thought a fair amount about what computers are capable of, and so did Noam Chomsky (and I may be even more skeptical than Chomsky is).

1.
The Psychopathology of Donald Trump

The first item today is by Bill Blum on Truthdig:

First this: since I am a psychologist who has been saying that Donald Trump is mad, I welcome this kind of article and will pay some more attention to it than I do normally to articles. The reasons are that this belongs to my own academic specialism and that I have been saying for quite a while now that yes, I think Donald Trump is mad. [1]

This starts as follows:

Does Donald Trump only say crazy things, or does he say crazy things because he actually is crazy? In a speech delivered on the third day of the Democratic National Convention, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg openly questioned the GOP candidate’s sanity on prime-time television.

More importantly, if less sensationally, the issue of Trump’s emotional stability has also been raised by a growing number of influential and highly respected mental-health practitioners. They have done so out of a sense of urgency, even in the face of a code of conduct promulgated by the American Psychiatric Association that cautions psychiatrists against making public statements about public figures whom they have not formally evaluated.

To start with, I agree with Bloomberg: I think Donald Trump is mad (insane, crazy, mentally ill) and I also agree with his reasons, in so far as I know them, which indeed are quite clear to many, but since I also am a psychologist, I can dive a bit deeper than Bloomberg did, and indeed than Blum - who is a lawyer - does.

Then again, I also am a total skeptic about psychiatry and psychiatrists:

I think they are not scientists; I think psychiatry is not a real science; and I am also quite firm about this, precisely because I am ill for more than 37 years now, and cannot get that admitted by the Dutch bureaucracy, that follows psychiatrists much rather than written statements by real medical doctors, that say - since 1989 (!) - that I am ill. [2]

In fact, I think psychiatry always was a pseudoscience (<- Wikipedia); psychiatrists always were pseudoscientists, and the DSMs - from III onwards, now at 5 - are even considerably worse than psychiatry was until 1980, simply because they managed to  increase the number of what they call "psychiatric disorders" [3] from around 50 until 1980 till well over 400 by 2000, which was all done without any realistic scientific foundation, but was done to have many more "reasons" to allow psychiatrists to prescribe expensive patented medicines.

Of course, you do not need to believe me because of what I am saying in this article, but if you want to refute me you need to know a lot of science, philosophy of science and psychology, for I have written rather extensively on
psychiatry, and a good essay about it, that I wrote in 2012, is here, and this does explain why I think psychiatry is a
pseudoscience.

And incidentally, while Dutch psychologists as a rule speak very little about psychiatry and psychiatrists, and while psychiatry was hardly mentioned in my
study of psychology, the reason is that most psychologists think more or less like I do: psychiatry is not a real science.

Why they think so is considerably less worked out than I did (here, especially) but this does explain why psychiatry was hardly mentioned in my study of psychology: it isn't taken seriously by most Dutch psychologists. [4]

Next, here is Bill Blum's take on Donald Trump:

And here’s my take, with no punches pulled: If Trump is elected our 45th president, he could well be the most profoundly disturbed occupant of the Oval Office since Richard Nixon, our 37th, whose extreme paranoia brought us Watergate and precipitated the most far-reaching constitutional crisis of the late 20th century.

In fact I think myself (who was in his early twenties when Nixon was president and who recalls him very well) that Trump is considerably more mad than Nixon was, at least at Nixon's start as president. [5]

And here is Bill Blum's program, so to speak:

As we head for the general election in November, when it comes to the former reality-TV show host, I’m not going to be content to focus simply on what the Republican standard-bearer has to say about Mexican rapists, building a wall, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly “bleeding from her whatever,” New Jersey Muslims cheering the fall of the World Trade Towers, being the “only one” who can save America from chaos, crime and radical Islamic terrorism, or any of the other abject falsehoods, outbursts and calumnies he’s uttered or tweeted.

I’ve decided to probe the why behind such seeming lunacy. To do that, I’ve done something positively un-Trumpian: I’ve consulted the experts and dug deeply into the public record.

Of course, Bill Blum simply reacted as a proper investigative journalist should react. And he is quite right that quite a few of the "abject falsehoods, outbursts and calumnies" Trump uttered or tweeted are "seeming lunacy".

Here is Blum's first conclusion:

A consensus has emerged that Trump suffers from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Unless you’ve tuned out of politics completely in this election year, you’ve no doubt heard the word “narcissist” bandied about in connection with Trump, along with labels like “bombastic,” “hyperbolic” and “politically incorrect,” and criticisms that he lacks the temperament and judgment to be president.

But NPD is more than a label, or a momentary mood or affect. It’s a sickness.

I quite agree and reached a very similar conclusion on March 14 of this year.
And I did not do so earlier, simply because Trump did not interest me, and because I thought - quite falsely, it turns out - that he would never become the presidential candidate of the Republicans: I simply paid little attention to him.

Then again, I don't like most abbreviations (such as "NPD") and I do insist that
Trump is not just a narcissist but he is a grandiose narcissist (as also argued on
March 14), while I agree that is (in some sense) "a sickness". [6]

Next, Blum quotes this from the Mayo Clinic:

Narcissistic personality disorder is one of several types of personality disorders. Personality disorders are conditions in which people have traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways, limiting their ability to function in relationships and other areas of their life, such as work or school.

If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement—and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having ‘the best’ of everything—for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.

At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism.
While this description is true about some of the traits narcissists show, it is simply quite false in saying that a "personality disorder" consists in "traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways" (bolding added).

The reason is that what is "
socially distressing" is quite different in Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's China or today's USA. "Social distress" is either not a rational criterion at all to attribute mental problems to a person or else is only a minor criterion, and indeed if it were true that "social distress" is the main criterion, then the Soviet psychiatrists were quite right in putting dissidents (to their dictatorial and totalitarian society) in Soviet madhouses - which they were not.

For a similar reason, I will not discuss what the DSM 5 had to say about narcissism, and instead refer you to the Wikipedia's Narcisstic Personality Disorder (that does contain the criterions of the DSM-5, but also has rather a lot more).

Then there is this in Blum's article:

In a Vanity Fair article published in November, a group of six mental health professionals weighed in on the subject of Trump’s narcissism and gave the diagnosis an unequivocal thumbs-up. One interviewee, a clinical psychologist who lectures on manipulative behavior, went so far as to say of Trump: “He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example. … Otherwise, I would have had to hire actors and write vignettes. He’s like a dream come true.”
The last hyperlink - published - may be well worth reading (and I did), indeed because I reacted quite similarly: "He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example."

And here is one of the psychiatrists who did diagnose Trump (and Nixon and Obama):

Referring to Trump’s loopy boast that he consults primarily with himself on foreign affairs, Frank remarked, “He’s not interested in hiring anybody smarter than himself because there isn’t anybody, and he’s paranoid enough that he wouldn’t want anybody smarter.”
This is quoted mostly because of the end, which I guess is correct, and which should upset you a little in a possible president of the USA: For - at least - almost every trait one has, whoever one is, there is one who excels one. (But narcissists disagree, for they "know" they are better than anyone else.)

The same psychiatrist says this:
Frank departs, however, from other observers on the question of whether Trump is a pathological liar. Because of his magical, childlike thinking, “Trump actually believes what he says at the moment,” Frank maintained. “He lives in digital, not analog time. He doesn’t think about what he said an hour ago.”
Frank may well be right that "Trump actually believes what he says at the moment" but there is a better statement by someone else to a similar effect below.

Here is some more on Trump's "narcissistic disorder" (as the phrase is):

If Trump, who is 70 years old, in fact has NPD, the malady should have shown up long before his current presidential run.

From all appearances, it did. Just ask Tony Schwartz, the co-author of Trump’s signature memoir, “The Art of the Deal,” originally released by Random House in 1987.

Yes, both are correct, and I dealt with Schwartz on July 19. Here is part of what Schwartz says about Trump and truth:

Even worse—and here, there is a slight variance from Dr. Frank’s analysis—was Trump’s dishonesty. “Lying is second nature to him,” Schwartz said to Mayer. “More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or ought to be true.” When confronted with contrary evidence, Schwartz elaborated, Trump would “double-down, repeat himself, and grow belligerent.”
In fact I think he is more correct than Frank (quoted above), possibly because Schwartz does know Trump quite well: I believe it is rather likely that "Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or ought to be true" (but indeed this is also limited to that moment, mostly).

The article ends as follows (and I have not dealt with some bits about fascism):

In Donald Trump, one of our two major parties has nominated for the highest office in the land a deeply troubled and volatile man with the potential to attract and unleash the darkest undercurrents of the nation’s soul. However you decide to vote come November, you can’t in good conscience help to elect him.
Yes, indeed. And this is a recommended article.

2. Glenn Greenwald: The Media’s Coverage of Donald Trump Is ‘Kind of Hysterical’

The second item is by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
In a recent conversation with Slate, The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald agrees that a possible Donald Trump presidency “poses ... extreme dangers” to the U.S., but the journalist also argues that the mass media is not only creating a dangerous, unblinking consensus against Trump but also failing to reach his voters.
In fact, this is a bit difficult: While I agree in principle with Greenwald that
journalists ought to stick to the facts, I know that "
the mass media" do not (as a rule). And this makes it difficult to judge them, and indeed I am considerably better pleased by an "unblinking consensus against Trump" than I would be by "unblinking consensus" for Trump.

Also, I think the mass media have been far too lenient in treating Trump so far. Here is some
Greenwald quoted:
(...) this is the conflict that I am currently having: The U.S. media is essentially 100 percent united, vehemently, against Trump, and preventing him from being elected president. I don’t have an actual problem with that because I share the premises on which it is based about why he poses such extreme dangers. But that doesn’t mean that as a journalist, or even just as a citizen, that I am willing to go along with any claim, no matter how fact-free, no matter how irrational, no matter how dangerous it could be, in order to bring Trump down.
I agree with that, although I also think that the mass media just aren't honest and fair (any more), which means that I do not expect them to report in factually correct and objective terms about most things, and especially not about politically important things.

And there is this, also by Greenwald:

Do you think the people voting for Donald Trump because they feel their economic future has been destroyed, or because they are racist, or because they feel fear of immigrants and hate the U.S. elite structure and want Trump to go and blow it up, give the slightest shit about Ukraine, that Trump is some kind of agent of Putin? They don’t! Just like the Brexit supporters. The U.K. media tried the same thing, telling the Brexit advocates that they were playing into Putin’s hands, that Putin wanted the U.K. out of the EU to weaken both. They didn’t care about that. That didn’t drive them. Nobody who listened to Trump could think that was genuinely a treasonous request for the Russians to go and cyberattack the U.S. government.
For me, the underlying point remains that many of "the people voting for Donald Trump" simply are deceived by the combination of Trump and their
own lack of intelligence and ignorance.

3. Noam Chomsky Is Sick of Hearing About the Robot Takeover (Video)

The third and last item today is by Alexandra Rosenmann on Truthdig and originally on AlterNet:

This starts as follows and is here because I have been thinking this since the 1980ies or indeed long before the 80ies [7]:

Having spent more than half a century teaching at MIT, Noam Chomsky is sick of hearing about the robot takeover. So when asked if singularity tops his list of top threats to human survival—which includes climate change and nuclear war—Chomsky answered, begrudgingly:

“I’ve been listening to this for 60 years. The line has always been, ‘In six months, we will have computers which will do x, y and z’ ... we [still] don’t have [those].”

Yes, indeed: Quite so. Here is more of Chomsky:

“It’s kind of sexy to talk about a machine but in and of itself it’s kind of like a paperweight; doesn’t do anything. It’s the program that’s doing something, and the program is just some complicated theory,” Chomsky asserted.

“You can develop theories that will do specific tasks, like it was obvious in 1950 that if you put enough time and energy you could develop a program that would win a chess game into against a grand master,” the retired MIT professor continued. “How? By getting 100 grand masters to sit around and years and years and figuring out all sorts of possible circumstances… and it’ll do better than a grand master who has half an hour to think about their next move.”

“It’s good for IBM, but it has no intellectual interest,” Chomsky added.

What does, according to Chomsky?

“Getting a machine to do anything that’s at all like the creative activities that every four-year-old child can carry out, that’s quite different,” Chomsky offered. “And I don’t think that we have any grasp even on how to go about to do that.”

Or indeed a computer + program that can do all that a spider does - and see note 7.

---------------
Notes
[1] I should start by saying that "being mad" is in fact not well-defined: Neither psychiatry nor psychology have a sufficient and adequate definition of what it means when they (or someone else who is rational) says that so-and-so is "mad".

This is quite important to see, indeed in part because most psychiatrists and most psychologists tend to be remarkably silent about their lack of real knowledge of precisely what constitutes madness.

Then again, I should stress that "being mad" also is a common sense term and a legal term, and while it is quite often not clear precisely how mad someone is, or what is precisely wrong with him or her, it is also true that both commonsensically, legally and psychologically speaking there is a broad consensus on a good percentage of cases, indeed also without their being a full and complete theory of madness, which in fact there isn't.

But many judgements that so-and-so is schizophrenic (in some sense) or manic depressive (in some sense) or has phobias (in some sense) are more or less correct, even if the precise sense may be (and often is) debatable.

In brief, "being mad" still is a vague term and is so in two ways (at least):

Firstly, because there is no satisfactory definition that always allows one to say conclusively that so-and-so is mad, though it is fairly clear that so-and-so is mad in some cases; and secondly because there very often is considerable disagreement (in psychologists, psychiatrists, lawyers, and intellectuals) what is precisely the matter with someone. (In fact, there often simply is not enough known of - that specific - madness or of the person, to come to a precise diagnosis.)

[2] This is quite important for me, but need not concern you much: I am a psychologist who is ill since he was 28, and who has been diagnosed several times by reputable medical doctors who knew me quite well, but who cannot get bureaucrats to agree to that (I suspect in the end for financial reasons: if I were declared ill, I would cost the Dutch state more, so therefore etc.)

This was quite serious to me until I became pensioned. Since I have been pensioned, it is a lot less serious for me, but it still is quite serious for everybody who has my illness and is younger than I am (for people with my illness are automatically denied that they are ill by nearly all bureaucrats nearly everywhere).

[3] For me, a "psychiatric disorder" is plain bullshit.

My reason is not that I believe there are no mad people (I do believe there are), nor indeed that there is no satisfactory definition of madness, but has a lot to do with what medicine is (supposed to be):

In real medicine, the only thing that allows one to say that one is ill is real evidence of a real physical pathology. There are many diseases that do have
a recognized physical pathology.

The problem for psychiatrists (who all have a B.A. in medicine) is that there is generally no real evidence of any kind for any physical pathology in people who are judged to be mad (or neurotic etc.)

And it is this fact - total ignorance about any medical cause for supposed madness - that disposed psychiatrists to invent "psychiatric disorders" as a term for what they study.

I reject the whole term and the whole idea, because I do not think that medical ignorance about real causes may be exploited in this way.

[4] This is simply a fact: Psychiatry was hardly mentioned and almost completely not dealt with in Dutch psychology from 1965 till 2000, at least,
simply because most Dutch psychologists did not believe it was a real science.

And here I must make one qualification: One specialism of psychologists is  - what they call - clinical psychology, which is in fact the psychotherapeutical dimension of psychology. I did never specialize in that, and it is probably true
that psychiatry is mentioned and - to some extent - dealt with in that specialism, but I do not know this for certain.

[5] Note that Nixon had been vice-president for eight years to president Eisenhower, and that there were few people who thought he was not sane when he started his presidency, and indeed I did not much doubt either his sanity or his badness (from my point of view) when he was elected. Then again, I agree
he grew (more) mad during his presidency, and I abstain from judging his sanity at the end of his presidency (which he ended himself because otherwise he would have been impeached).

[6] The problem here is similar to the problem I identified in note 1 and in note 3. Then again, I also say that Donald Trump definitely is not sane by my criterions (and the criterions of many psychologists and psychiatrists), which I do because this is by far the best explanation for his very many loopy ravings.

[7] In fact, I can date my skepticism about computers and programs as adequate models for human reasoning, human personality, and human creativity back to November 10, 1972, when I bought the 1968 booklet "Computer Models of Personality", which I thought completely ridiculous (which is what it was, also).

Then again, I did not study psychology then, and I could not program then. I have studied psychology since then, and I can program, but my position is rather similar (though much bettter informed) to what it was in the early 1970ies:

Even now, in 2016, I do not know of any computer + program that is capable of fully mirroring even a spider's many capacities (which comprise a lot), as indeed I also do not know how spiders do work their many marvels.

In fact, I tend to believe that human beings (and living things) are not computers at all and cannot be caught by the - discrete - mathematics computers are capable of. (But this is my guess: I have no proof. Then again, neither have those who believe that human beings are computers or may be represented adequately by computers.)


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