Nasty outbreak of narcissism

After sitting through more of the Clinton-Trump debate, it’s impossible to ignore how trump-hillarydissimilar and unequal the two are. Usually, you would have one plain everyday slippery politician versus another. Such people are quite possibly cunning, slimy and duplicitous – and certainly egotistical – but the point is that they would both be that way. In this case, only one contender fits that description; the other clearly has some sort of narcissistic personality disorder, which means that he lacks the desire and ability to self-consciously and methodically manipulate a crowd.

Unlike regular slime-bag politicians (and most other humans), people like Trump don’t care what others think of them. All that matters is that they themselves are satisfied and convinced about their own superiority over everyone else. The grandiosity, the sneering, the bragging, the incivility, the style-without-substance-or-logic argument and the instant memory-loss over inconvenient facts or comments are all devices to confirm in his own mind that he is superior to all others. Many onlookers may think Trump is an idiot, while those who detest Hillary and what she stands for may think he’s entertaining or even a genius – but he has no interest in any of their opinions.

One characteristic of this affliction is a total inability to ignore a perceived slight. Most of us can shrug off (or learn from) criticism; normal slimy politicians must do it constantly. A narcissist-type like Trump simply cannot do this; he cannot let it go, and he must rectify it – however disproportionate it may seem to bystanders – before he can move on. Again, this has nothing to do with persuading other people one way or the other: it is to remove and banish the little bit of grit that is irritating his own ego.

Trump’s aides no doubt tried to tame him and get him to act and behave ‘normally’, which he appeared to do at the start of the debate. But it can’t be done. He’s not wired to consider, let alone prioritize, others’ impressions. Trump can sling mud at Clinton, and maybe make her sweat or obfuscate or switch subjects and perform all the usual politician trickery focused on what the audience is thinking. But she can needle him on even minor details and trigger responses aimed purely at his internal ego that invite ridicule or shock or disbelief among onlookers.

mp-devilpeakOn the subject of asymmetrical conflict, it is the second anniversary of the Umbrella-Occupy events (marked in style today on Devil’s Peak, right). The official line after the barricades came down was that the movement had ‘failed’. This self-congratulatory gloating has since given way to a situation where a Communist dictatorship trembles in fear of schoolkids.

This thoughtful look back mentions the true failure – Beijing’s mishandling of Hong Kong’s pluralistic society, leading to alienation of the young (in particular), who are now developing their own, separate identity. China’s policymakers have displayed a similar incompetence in Taiwan, where the young also reject, and indeed deny any connection with, the CCP’s vision of China.

The more its control-centric policies backfire, the harder Beijing implements them. There is no sign that China’s leaders have the wits to detect this pattern, let alone break it. Beijing is losing whole generations, and yet doesn’t seem to even realize it – about as narcissistic as it gets.


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13 Responses to Nasty outbreak of narcissism

  1. Mjrelje says:

    Listening to the debate really was like listening in on an old married couple that now can’t stand each other’s guys going through a public divorce hearing. They are both senile let alone narcissistic.

  2. Mjrelje says:

    guts* (god damn autocorrect, or eyesight)

  3. WTF says:

    …but he has no interest in any of their opinions.

    One characteristic of this affliction is a total inability to ignore a perceived slight. Most of us can shrug off (or learn from) criticism…

    Isn’t there a logic failure here? If he didn’t care about the opinion of others, then he wouldn’t react to being slighted. Trump’s constant preening is exactly because he wants to be seen as a winner. He’s all over the place because he’s conflicted: The man doesn’t want the work of the presidency, but he can’t stand to be seen as a loser.

    As to thin skin, they both suffer it, but Trump is more likely to bluster about it and do nothing in the end, where as Clinton sucks it up and gets cold revenge instead. If I had to be on one of the two’s list of enemies, then please let it be Trump’s.

  4. PD says:

    You’re a little too hard on narcissists, in your own entertaining and insightful way. Writers, and creative types in general, have to have faith in their own vision, because few others spontaneously will. They also have to put forward their own selves, expose their viscera, knowing that few will fully understand.

    Politicians, in a similar way, must have considerable motivation to survive the often uninformed reactions. The pure extroverts will be blown this way and the other by the vagaries of public opinion. Those with faith in their own beliefs/vision/mission/self are perhaps the most likely to persist to maturity.

    Churchill, de Gaulle, Harold Wilson, Thatcher, Mao, Long Hair and Martin Lee have all shown symptoms of self-absorption, even monomania — it maybe comes with the game.

  5. Cassowary says:

    Trump certainly cares what people think of him; he cares that they think he is dominant. That is why he is obsessed with winning and popularity. What he is incapable of understanding is that everyone else does not see life, politics, and international relations as one big dick measuring contest. So when he flies off the handle at some perceived insult, he thinks he is defending his manhood, and that others think his behaviour admirable.

  6. Enid Nixon says:

    Trump always has the expression of the captain of the ship which has just burnt down in THE MALTESE FALCON. Bad bit actor.

    Clinton looks like she’s just come off a marching band. A diminutive fat majorette. I’m always looking for the hat and flute.

    All,in all, a new low point for America, worse than Reagan, Bush Junior, Calvin Coolidge.

  7. Joe Blow says:

    Hillary is not a ‘lovable’ person, like Obama is. But I keep wondering why people don’t recognize her experience and abilities. She was once 1 of the Top 100 lawyers in the US (at the Rose law office in Little Rock AK). She was, quite recently, the US Secretary of State, traveling around the world many times. She has been analyzing and discussing complex political issues like the US health care system since her husband’s time as Governor.

    Whatever you think of her, she is qualified. She is as qualified as the Orange Ogre is unqualified.

  8. LRE says:

    I suspect the other major difference is that Trump wants to be President because then he’s won, Clinton wants the Presidency so she can do things. To my mind that makes Clinton far more dangerous in the long term.

    I suspect if Trump wins the presidency, he will lose interest quite quickly, and “phone it in” for the next 4-8 years relying entirely on advisors to deal with stuff (except the odd bombing of people who snub him — watch out Duterte!).

    Clinton on the other hand has “a plan”, and anyone who’s past political track record includes arming both al Qaeda and ISIS and now has “a plan” for when she has more power should be feared far more than an idiot who’s not really interested in the actual power, only the job title.

    Of course, in a slightly better world, both parties might just have held the electorate in in just the tiniest less contempt and nominated some adults to run, but if wishes were fishes…

  9. Cassowary says:

    Duterte has told journalists to stop comparing him to Donald Trump, saying “Donald Trump is a bigot, I am not”. You know you have problems when a homicidal pseudo-authoritarian maniac draws the line at you. Of the two, Duterte is the one who takes governance more seriously.

    @LRE: I wouldn’t feel so safe with Trump in the White House, if I were you. He surrounds himself with charlatans, cranks, yes-men and extremists. Those are the people he’d put in charge while he golfs and plugs his hotels.

  10. Guest says:

    What would have made the debate a real debate is the inclusion of all third party candidates.

    Too bad the U.S. can’t redo its party primaries.

  11. Monkey Reborn says:

    A vote for Clinton is a vote for WWIII, Libya-stylee. That woman has caused for deaths, directly and indirectly, then Jiang Qing. Fucken’ hell the number of confidants who die under mysterious, almost supernatural circumstances around these people:

    = deep state/war party wants clinton in the hot seat doing its bidding…

    A vote for Trump is a probably a vote for WWIII… I’m still not convinced he isn’t doing a two man con with ole buddy Slick Willie.

    A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for American ignorance (you mean Aleppo in a-la-ba-ma? Or in ah-lep-po in Canada?)

    A vote for Jill Stein … The answer, IMHO.

    What I really want to know is though, is whether Odell the ex-Mormon ex-missionary is going to vote?

  12. Monkey Reborn says:

    Erratum: for = more

  13. @LRE – I wouldn’t feel so complacent about the phone-in scenario either. It could result in the shots being called by either a supercog in the military-industrial complex (think Dick Cheney Mark II) or a Bible-bashing religious nut (I understand that Trump’s VP candidate is one of that crowd).

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