Michael Lind, a pretty interesting and sometimes contrarian American center-left political writer and critic of the Iraq War, looks at the ways in which academics and intellectuals ('Freaks') conflate their own preferences with the public good:
[I]t is natural for academics to view a borderless world as the moral and political ideal — natural, but still stupid and lazy. Make-believe cosmopolitanism is particularly stupid and lazy in the case of academics who fancy themselves progressives. In the absence of a global government that could raise taxes to fund a global welfare state, the free movement of people among countries would overburden and destroy existing national welfare states, or else empower right-wing populists to defend welfare states for natives against immigrants, as is happening both in the U.S. and Europe.
The views of intellectuals about social reform tend to be warped by professional and personal biases, as well. In the U.S. the default prescription for inequality and other social problems among professors, pundits, and policy wonks alike tends to be: More education! Successful intellectuals get where they are by being good at taking tests and by going to good schools. It is only natural for them to generalize from their own highly atypical life experiences and propose that society would be better off if everyone went to college — natural, but still stupid and lazy. Most of the jobs in advanced economies — a majority of them in the service sector — do not require higher education beyond a little vocational training. Notwithstanding automation, for the foreseeable future janitors will vastly outnumber professors, and if the wages of janitors are too low then other methods — unionization, the restriction of low-wage immigration, a higher minimum wage — make much more sense than enabling janitors to acquire BAs, much less MAs and Ph.Ds.
The social isolation of intellectuals, I think, is worsened by their concentration in a few big metro areas close to individual and institutional donors like New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. (where I live) or in equally atypical college towns. It was never possible for Chinese mandarins or medieval Christian monks in Europe to imagine that their lifestyles could be adopted by the highly visible peasantry that surrounded them. But it is possible for people to go from upper middle class suburbs to selective schools to big-city bohemias or campuses with only the vaguest idea of how the 70 percent of their fellow citizens whose education ends with high school actually live.
Germany has a sizable contingent of 'make-believe cosmopolitans' who are endangering the Northern European welfare state, probably the most civilized and humane form of government ever devised. They don't know they're endangering it, because their thinking is 'stupid and lazy'.
From a review of a book about the mental state of the Nuremberg defendants:
Dimsdale cherry-picks his examples to cater to our idea that human evil must have something to do with psychopathology. But the verdict goes in the other direction: The overwhelming majority of the Nuremberg defendants did not possess the traits of the mentally diseased. Their Rorschach tests were normal. Yet one of their examiners, the psychologist Gustave Gilbert, still labeled them insane. Gilbert, the Jewish son of emigrés from Austria, described the Nazi defendants as “narcissistic psychopaths whose lives were deformed by a diseased German culture.” This made them more rather than less culpable in Gilbert’s view: “to him [they were] the devil incarnate,” Dimsdale writes.
The other examiner, Douglas Kelley, disagreed with Gilbert. He thought that the Nazis displayed “profound moral failing” rather than mental illness. In spite of his disapproval, Kelley seems to have bonded with Göring and a few of the others. Bizarrely, the emotionally troubled Kelley, who was a professional magician as well as a psychiatrist, committed suicide 12 years after Nuremberg. In his living room, in front of his wife, parents, and children, he swallowed a cyanide pill, the same method that Göring had used.
David Auerbach compares Trump to...Moosbrugger (!), the lust-murderer from Musil's The Man Without Qualities:
Musil’s core insight is that Moosbrugger possesses a cosmic sense of himself that removes him from the world of human agency and responsibility, akin to Strawson’s objective attitude. Moosbrugger’s indifference to all values and to the very idea of values threatens yet fascinates, since it offers us the freedom to give voice to our most egregious selves and see them reflected back at us not as human qualities but as forces of nature. So it is with Trump, a catalyst that transforms resentment and worship into fame. Elsewhere, Musil describes Moosbrugger’s dissolution of self into universe in this way:
Anyone can conceive of a man’s life flowing along like a brook, but what Moosbrugger felt was his life flowing like a brook through a vast, still lake. As it flowed onward it continued to mingle with what it was leaving behind and became almost indistinguishable from the movements on either side of it. Once, in a half-waking dream, he had a sense of having worn this life’s Moosbrugger like an ill-fitting coat on his back; now, when he opened it a bit, the most curious sort of lining came billowing out silkily, endless as a forest.
This is a kind of super-solipsism, not just a conviction that no one else exists but an inability to conceive of one’s own self as a separable agent in the world. Trump’s psychology only makes sense after this traditional conception of ego is discarded. I do not think that theADHD-addled Trump cares how he is remembered; all there is for him is the attention, the worship, the now. For Trump, who defines himself only against his immediate surroundings, liminal forms of relating take precedence over any and all values, facts, or even goals. This lack of temporal awareness and planning may be his downfall, since all he knows is immediate escalation and pandering in pursuit of the immediate win. If he amassed an army of brownshirts, he couldn’t be bothered to give them orders.
As cosmic entities, Moosbrugger and Trump are only human as far as we perceive them to be. As raw forces of narcissism, they demand that we perceive them. And yet because they are empty, they are constitutionally incapable of taking responsibility for anything they do, or of having any intuition that words and thoughts should tend to accord with an external reality. Trump’s profound and sweeping ignorance of all things serves his narcissism; knowledge would only put constraints on his ability to be what people want him to be and what people will love him for.
I'd call this an interesting failed argument. Not because Moosbrugger is a serial murderer and Trump isn't, that's too obvious. The real problem is that, as the passage describing Moosbrugger's adaptation to prison shows, Moosbrugger is insane. Musil was quite knowledgeable about psychiatry, and portrays many different symptoms of schizophrenia in these passages: delusions of reference (statements directed at the general public are meant for me alone), command hallucinations, and of course voices:
Moosbrugger heard voices or music or a wind, or a blowing and humming, a whizzing and rattling, or shots, thunder, laughing, shouts, speaking, or whispering. It came at him from every direction; the sounds were in the walls, ill the air, in his clothes, in his body. He had the impression he was carrying it in his body as long as it was silent; once it was out, it hid somewhere hi his surroundings, but never very far from him. When he was working, the voices would speak at him mostly in random words or short phrases, insulting and nagging him, and when he thought of some- thing they came out with it before he could, or spitefully said the opposite of what he meant. It was ridiculous to be declared insane on this account; Moosb~gger regarded these voices and visions as mere monkeyshines. It entertained him to hear and see what they did; that was ever so much better than the hard, heavy thoughts he had himself. But of course he got very angry when they really annoyed him, that was only natural. Moosbrugger knew, because he always paid close attention to all the expressions that were applied to him, that this was called hallucinating, and he was pleased that he had this knack for hallucination that others lacked; it enabled him to see all sorts of things others didn’t, such as lovely landscapes and hellish monsters. But he found that they always made far too much of it, and when the stays in mental hospitals became too unpleasant, he maintained outright that he was only pretending. The know-it-ails would ask him how loud the sounds were; a senseless question, because of course what he heard .was sometimes as loud as a thunderclap, and sometimes the merest whisper. Even the physical pains that sometimes plagued him could be unbearable or slight enough to be imaginary. That wasn’t the important thing. Often he could not have described exactly what he saw, heard, and felt, but he knew what it was. It could be very blurred; the visions came from outside, but a shimmer of observation told him at the same time that they were really something inside himself.
Other people in the novel (especially Rachel) project qualities onto and into Moosbrugger, which is somewhat analogous to Trump. But Musil makes it clear that Moosbrugger is simply insane. Unusually intelligent and self-aware, but clearly nuts.
Whatever else you might say about him, Donald Trump has no real problems with reality-testing, to use the psychiatric phrase. He may be a narcissist, but this simply means he has a distorted view of how the world should treat him and what he's entitled to, not a distorted perception of what is real and what isn't.
So, I say Auerbach fails, but fails interestingly.
Via Steve Sailer, by means of comment on the Somali man who went on a stabbing frenzy in Russell Square, this BBC piece from a few years ago:
The scenario is familiar in Somalia. A man has become possessed by spirits and the only option for his family is to restrain him and call the sheikh. But as the young man protests, a voice that challenges Somali tradition booms out.
"Stop with the chains!" the voiceover orders. "Take him to Dr Hab's hospital! If he's having mental problems, take him to Dr Hab. He won't chain him, he'll help him."
Dr Hab is not actually a real psychiatrist. Rather it's the persona of Abdirahman Ali Awale, a nurse who after three months of specialist training from the World Health Organization (WHO), has made it his mission to rescue Somalia's mentally ill. He claims he is able to treat everything from post-natal depression to schizophrenia....
"There is a belief in my country that hyenas can see everything including the evil spirits people think cause mental illness," says Hab. "So in Mogadishu, you will find hyenas that have been brought from the bush and families will pay £350 ($560) to have their loved one locked in the room overnight with the animal."
"We are trying to show people that this is nonsense," says Hab. "People listen to our radio advert and they learn that mental illness is just like any other and needs to be treated with scientific methods."
Hab's campaign was prompted by an incident in 2005 when he witnessed a group of female patients being chased through the streets by youths. "There was no-one to help them," he says. "I decided after that I would have to open Somalia's first mental hospital."
The Habeb Public Mental Health Hospital in Mogadishu became the first of Hab's six centres across Somalia. Together, they have now treated over 15,000 patients.
Hab faces a near insurmountable task. WHO estimates that one in three Somalis either is or has been affected by mental illness, compared to a global average of one in 10. In parts of the country, where the population has been the most psychologically scarred from decades of conflict, the rate is even higher. Cases of post-traumatic stress disorder are common and the situation is further complicated by widespread substance abuse.
As I've argued before, I think Germany got an unusually high number of young males with mental illness in 2015, judged by the frequency of reports of irrational and violent behavior. Assume you live in a country with rates of mental illness 3 times the global average, and a mental health system in which chaining people to trees and letting them be mauled by a hyena are frequent responses.
If you have a young son who seems to be headed down this path, why not set him on a path north to potentially get asylum in Northern Europe? Assuming his illness is not so severe that he can't follow basic instructions, he might just be able to land in Northern Europe and, with luck, bring some family members with him. At the very least he'll be able to send some money back, at some point. And even if he lands in an institution up there, he'll be out of your hair, and getting far superior care to anything he could get back home. It's win-win.
For the Somali/Iraqi/Algerian family, that is.
For Germany, which is now burdened with lifetime care for someone who will never contribute to society and who will also present a higher risk of crime, including unpredictable violent outbursts, it's lose-lose.
You know what might be a better investment than spending millions in German taxpayers' money in lifetime court cases, social worker counseling, and psychiatric treatment for one Somali male in Germany? How about using that money to support the efforts of people like Dr Hab, which have the potential to help countless thousands of people in Somalia? With no risk additional risk to Germans?
In law and economics, there is the notion of the "cheapest cost-avoider". The idea is that if you want to reduce risks or costs (often the same thing), you should put the burden of reducing risks or costs on the person or organization which can prevent them most efficiently.
Example: Assume a refinery is emitting a harmful gas as a by-product of making a product everyone needs. The emission can be stopped by forcing the refinery to install a new filter which costs a million dollars and reduces efficiency by 5%. The alternative is to not force the refinery to install the filter. But that means that the 10,000 houses in the surrounding area will each need to put special filters on their windows, that residents will need to limit the time spent outdoors, and the number of respiratory diseases will increase. The total costs merely in updating the houses will be $10 million, and the costs for more medical treatment $5 million. The costs in diminished life expectancy and in having to limit time outdoors may not be readily quantifiable, but they are obviously huge. In this case, the refinery is the cheapest cost avoider, and it should be required to install the filter. You can even, if you wish, fully compensate the refinery owner for his extra expenses and still end up far ahead.
This is why allowing unscreened, mentally ill people into Germany is a terrible decision not only from Germany's perspective, but from the perspective of the country which sent them. Improving conditions for treating the mentally ill in Somalia is incredibly easy, because they are so primitive now. Literally anything other than hyena-mauling and tree-chaining is an improvement. You could probably fund 400 patient beds in a cheap place like Somalia for what it takes to house one mentally ill Somali in a German psychiatric hospital for a year.
Plus, no Germans will ever be harmed by a mentally ill Somali man who never enters Germany.
If you want to learn interesting background on events in Germany, you'll just have to wait until the New York Times gets on the case. There'll be a slight delay, but you'll finally get specifics:
To the German authorities, he was Mohammad Daleel, a 27-year-old Syrian traumatized by war who arrived in Europe seeking refuge.
To the Islamic State, he was Abu Yousef, a jihadist who went to Europe for medical treatment after being wounded, intending to return to battle....
[The bombing] has also reinforced doubts about whether the authorities actually know whom they have admitted into the country, and highlighted the challenges of verifying the identities, documents and back stories of those allowed to stay. A 17-year-old who carried out an ax attack on a train the same week that Mr. Daleel blew himself up, for example, has yet to be properly identified, even though he had already been assigned to a foster family in Germany.
As he sought asylum in Europe, Mr. Daleel appears to have either embellished or omitted key parts of his history in constantly shifting accounts....
Mr. Daleel was one of 290 asylum seekers who had appealed to the organization for help in November 2013. Mr. Daleel told the organization that he had no money and nowhere to live, and that he required medical treatment for his knee.
“I particularly remember this case because we don’t see people with shell fragments in their legs very often,” Ms. Savova said. “He told us he got the fragments in his legs when a shell exploded in his house and killed his wife and children.”
The Islamic State called Mr. Daleel a soldier, too, but in his case, it also provided a long account of his ties to the group, including as a fighter in Aleppo, Syria. Last week, the group said Mr. Daleel had first joined its ranks in Iraq and later fought in Syria, “where he was injured by shrapnel of a mortar.”
After seeking treatment in Europe, it said, Mr. Daleel wanted to return to Syria to fight but was unable to do so, and instead “started creating accounts” on the internet to support the Islamic State.
The German police say Mr. Daleel opened six Facebook accounts, at least one of which was under a false name.
The Islamic State also claimed that Mr. Daleel had studied how to make a bomb for three months, was in contact with a handler and had visited the site of the attack the day before.
Even before the attack, Germany had tightened laws to register and share data about newly arriving refugees. It has also been sending out teams of customs officers or soldiers to locate unregistered asylum seekers....
The teams record basic personal information and country of birth, and take biometric photos and fingerprints, said Andrea Brinkmann, a spokeswoman for the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Those are checked against the domestic intelligence office’s databases and data on refugees already registered elsewhere in the European Union. Since February, all offices dealing with refugees, from the border police to state and local officials, have been able to review that information.
But whether those steps will be sufficient remains to seen. Officials and humanitarian groups say they have long tried to balance the protection of refugees against security.
The German coverage of this case is so vague as to be near-useless, because it doesn't name names or give specifics. Also, just about every assertion of fact is prefaced by a 'supposedly' or 'is said to' wishy-washy hedging phrase. Except for things Yousef/Daleel himself reported (such as that his leg injuries came from a shell which killed his family) which were often reported straight ("His family were killed by a bomb," not "He said his family were killed by a bomb"). This is politically-correct taboos getting in the way of understanding. To avoid 'stoking anti-foreigner resentments', German journalists tend to leave out the most interesting facts and cover up others in a stultifying baffle of euphemisms.
As always, German coverage provides a few superficial reports on what actually happened, then shifts immediately into stories about what politician X said about what politician Y said about politician Z's comments on the attack. Much easier to cobble together quotations from wire services than to leave your office, pound the pavement, collect leaked documents, and try to find out why a trained IS terrorist was allowed into Germany. Or, heaven forbid, how many others might in Germany now, patiently waiting for the right opportunity.
This man was in the country for years, went to counseling sessions, got therapy and treatment and subsidies, and still nobody had an inkling what he was preparing to do. As I've said before, the language and cultural barriers are so immense in these cases that the authorities are basically flying blind.
Not all the young men who entered in 2015 are terrorists, of course. But Germany has no way of knowing which ones are or may become terrorists. This is why the situation is so unsettling: Both of the recent attackers sent no warning signals, and were considered pleasant, helpful, and stable (note that these adjectives describe their demeanor, which is all you have to go on when there's a language barrier). IS specifically tells agents to lie low. Which is even easier to do when your hosts wouldn't even recognize any warning signs because they don't speak your language or understand your culture.
While German newspapers are currently full of cookie-cutter opinion pieces denouncing Trump and Erdogan, American reporters write about things that actually matter. To Germans. In this case, how IS recruits and trains terrorists to infiltrate into Europe. And they do so by interviewing a German man in Germany. And publishing his full name and picture. Right under the noses of tens of thousands of German journalists who were too busy pursuing internecine cat-fights and bloviating about events half a world away.
This may be a slight exaggeration, but I wager you will learn more from reading this article than you would have learned from reading everything the German press has published on this issue since IS was formed. One interesting finding:
The bureaucratic nature of the intake procedure was recently confirmed by American officials after USB driveswere recovered in the recently liberated Syrian city of Manbij, one of the hubs for processing foreign fighters.
Mr. Sarfo checked all the necessary boxes, and on the third day after his arrival, the members of the Emni came to ask for him. He wanted to fight in Syria and Iraq, but the masked operatives explained that they had a vexing problem.
“They told me that there aren’t many people in Germany who are willing to do the job,” Mr. Sarfo said soon after his arrest last year, according to the transcript of his interrogation by German officials, which runs more than 500 pages. “They said they had some in the beginning. But one after another, you could say, they chickened out, because they got scared — cold feet. Same in England.”
By contrast, the group had more than enough volunteers for France. “My friend asked them about France,” Mr. Sarfo said. “And they started laughing. But really serious laughing, with tears in their eyes. They said, ‘Don’t worry about France.’ ‘Mafi mushkilah’ — in Arabic, it means ‘no problem.’” That conversation took place in April 2015, seven months before the coordinated killings in Paris in November, the worst terrorist attack in Europe in over a decade.
Now the conventions are over, and low-information voters begin actually paying attention to the Presidential candidates. The tiny cadre of activists who voted in the primaries are now swamped by the much larger group of people who pay no attention to politics except occasionally bothering to vote for President every four years.
They're taking their first look at Trump, and they're not liking what they see:
The first batch of top line numbers are in, and they show Hillary Clinton pulling away from the narrow lead she had over Trump going into last month’s conventions. Her lead, in polls taken in the last few days, varies from three to nine percentage points, depending on which poll you’re looking at.
The challenge now for Trump is cutting into the major deficits he is facing among certain groups where he trails not just Clinton, but Mitt Romney’s levels in 2012: groups like college-educated voters, which Romney won by 4 percentage points in exit polls, but where Trump is now losing in the double digits, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. Trump will also likely need to improve his leads among groups where he is already outperforming past Republicans....
But Trump is also alienating college-educated voters, a group Republicans in the past were able to woo. Trump was behind by three percentage points among voters with a bachelor's degree, who prefer Clinton 44 percent to 41 percent, according to a Morning Consult poll taken in the two days following the DNC. In 2012, Romney beat Obama among college-educated voters 51 percent to 47 percent in the exits.
Trump’s problems with women voters -- who make up a majority of the electorate -- are also increasing the ground he’ll need to cover just to match Romney. Clinton’s lead with women voters is 13 percentage points in the CNN/ORC poll, which is greater than Obama’s 11 percentage point exit poll lead over Romney in 2012.... The CNN/ORC poll finds Clinton leading in this group by 3 percentage points, but there, Trump trounces her 60 percent to 34 percent among non-college educated white voters.
Trump is an exciting outsider candidate who has broken many of the rules which people thought governed American elections. If he had more charisma and better judgment, he could pose a genuine threat to Clinton. But Donald Trump is simply an asshole, subspecies blunt, brash, rich, nasal-voiced, arrogant New York asshole. He always has been and always will be. Americans don't like assholes, and the 310 million of them who don't live in New York don't like New York assholes.
There are intelligent people who support Trump. But many of them are falling victim to what I call the pissing-off-the-right-people fallacy, for lack of a better phrase. This is the tendency to support Person X because X angers and annoys people you believe deserve to be angered and annoyed, despite the fact that X's own ideas and character are obviously deficient. "The key thing is he's made the right enemies!" Or the German version, Viel Feind viel Ehr (many enemies, much honor).
This is why Milo Yiannopoulis and his ilk don't impress me. His shenanigans are enjoyable, and he does make valid points about the stifling effects of political correctness. But just because he sometimes POTRP doesn't mean his political judgment in general is reliable. And indeed, his support of Trump shows he has the political judgment of a rent-boy. A jest I can make about Milo because who's he to complain?
Trump has relied on the POTRP effect to run up huge majorities among lesser-educated white voters, but there still aren't enough of those to win an election. Barring some twist of fate, Trump has no chance. So now he's trying another tack: claiming the election will be rigged:
Hannity, Aug. 1: "You said at a speech today you’re afraid this election is going to be rigged. Explain."
Trump: "Yeah. Well, I’ve been — I’ve been hearing about it for a long time. And I know last time, there were — you had precincts where there were practically nobody voting for the Republican. And I think that’s wrong. I think that was unfair, frankly, than Mitt Romney. You had areas where a lot of people were curious, 'How is that possible?' "
"… and I’m telling you, November 8th, we’d better be careful, because that election is going to be rigged. And I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us."
This is what happens when things stop going a narcissist's way: they invent excuses, stage a diversion, complain about the rules, and if all else fails, take their ball and go home. Take it away, Mayo Clinic:
Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. You may be generally unhappy and disappointed when you're not given the special favors or admiration you believe you deserve. Others may not enjoy being around you, and you may find your relationships unfulfilling.
Implying that an election will be rigged can be a threat to democracy. It won't bring down the USA, because America's institutions are too strong. But it is irresponsible and dangerous. That's typical of narcissists: when things stop going their way, they stage a tantrum and don't care how much damage they inflict, as long as they somehow manage to reclaim the spotlight.
Now of course there was a candidate in this election cycle who also promised dramatic change, attacked elites, and as a bonus wasn't pathological: Bernie Sanders. Someone who had spent his adult life working to improve the lot of working-class Americans, and is also a genuinely decent, responsible person, as is shown by his decision to enthusiastically support Clinton. He did, however, open up the American political landscape, showing there is huge support for policies and programs that elites considered far outside the Overton window. I hope he stays in the spotlight.
In 1946, Spock published his book The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, which became a bestseller. Its message to mothers is that "you know more than you think you do." By 1998 it had sold more than 50 million copies. It has been translated into 39 languages. Later he wrote three more books about parenting.
According to The New York Times, Baby and Child Care was, throughout its first 52 years, the second-best-selling book, next to the Bible. According to other sources, it was among best-sellers, albeit not second-best-selling.
I came from a Spockian family. My mother swore by the book, which is still a refreshing, reassuring, jargon-free guide, despite the fact that it was written under the influence of psychoanalysis. Spock had the practical intelligence that teaches you not to be impressed by jargon, but also to realize that there may be useful ideas concealed beneath it. Our family talked about "Dr. Spock" so much that I always called Mr. Spock from Star Trek Dr. Spock, and thought they were somehow related, perhaps even the same person.
Spock also came out swinging against the Vietnam War, denouncing it every chance he got and getting himself arrested during protests. I'd be willing to wager that this is one of the rare cases in modern history in which a writer has actually influenced mass opinion on an issue of actual importance. Dr. Spock found it objectionable that an entire generation of young men he had helped raise were being sent across the earth to fight, kill, and die in some steaming jungle in a pointless, savage war.
So writers, if you really want to influence the world, all you have to do is write one of the best-selling books in history addressing a topic of concern to every living human!