by Armando Simón (January 2021)
As a psychologist, I have often been asked about a term that has been bandied about: Trump Derangement Syndrome (I am not the only psychologist to have been queried). TDS was coined before Donald Trump even became president. I always brushed it off as being nothing but a good joke. I resisted the idea.
Now, I am not so sure.
My reluctance has been eroded with time. My reluctance was against seriously applying diagnostic labels based on political expression, no matter how bizarre those pronouncements. After all, that is what leftist totalitarians have done in the past to anyone who jarred their official weltanschauung.
Since mid-century, just as American journalists have always automatically adopted a knee-jerk hostile attitude towards Republican presidents (this automatic demonization of Republican politicians has been so obvious that it has been pointed out by Italians, among others), leftist psychologists, journalists and psychiatrists in America have automatically “diagnosed” every Republican president as mentally ill—therefore unfit to hold office and must be deposed.
For many decades, being opposed to Communist totalitarianism was especially portrayed by leftists as a sign of insanity. In the Soviet Union from the 1960s through 1980s, dissidents were put in psychiatric hospitals. Before the Greek Communist guerrillas were wiped out in 1949, Markos Vafiades, one of its leaders was sent to Romania for mental treatment of Trotskyite tendencies. Whittaker Chambers, who provided documentation as to Communist infiltration in the government was accused of being insane. Barry Goldwater, who was one of the very few politicians in the 1960s to openly and consistently declare his hostility to Communism was famously branded as mentally ill (other politicians were terrified of the epithet “McCarthyism”). The “diagnosis” made by leftist psychiatrists on Goldwater—without ever interviewing him—is eerily identical to those made on Donald Trump, including the predictions for Armageddon at the hands of the two men. On a more recent basis, a Cuban who protested Communist repression and a Hong Kong democracy activist were put in psychiatric hospitals by the Communist regimes.
Nor does one have to be a politician for leftists to label someone as insane who jars their worldview, and demand that they be locked up in a mental hospital. Persons who voted for Donald Trump have been labeled as mentally ill. At least one professor has been labeled as insane for criticizing the Politically Correct ideology in universities. One Italian psychiatrist has recommended shock treatment for curing patients of right wing ideas. In Germany, a lawyer who questioned the legality of the government’s overreaction to the virus was seized and thrown into a psychiatric hospital (incidentally, none of these incidents have been reported by the main stream media).
So, my previous reluctance is understandable.
Also, it is commonplace to badmouth politicians. Badmouthing politicians is a universal and entertaining pastime that has been carried on for centuries. It is also fun. However, there is something different and sinister about the ones that have taken place in regards to Donald Trump. Stepping back and looking objectively and calmly at the attacks, and the accusations that have been thrown at him (and his family), there is something deeply, deeply, disturbing: the level of viciousness, of ferocity, of hatred, of obscenity. The accusations are more often than not devoid of reality to the point of being psychotic. What comes out of these detractors’ mouths when it comes to President Trump are exactly like the ramblings of an out of control psychotic. Indeed, the distorted facial expressions, the spitting, the snarling, the hysterical tone of their voices that accompanies such ramblings is as tell-tale as the actual words. It is particularly unnerving that most of these comments are being made, not by unbalanced nonentities, but by prominent individuals in society, which makes one wonder if the lunatics are running the asylum.
There was even talk of impeachment before Donald Trump even before he took office.
These behaviors are particularly noticeable with those individuals who claim to be journalists, persons who have important, influential, positions in society, which is alarming. One CNN reporter had a fit because Trump had two scoops of ice cream instead of one. Trump was recently nominated, twice, for the Nobel Peace Prize, so a journalist in The Atlantic wrote that the Nobel Peace Prize should, therefore, be canceled. This is similar to a demand by another journalist at the Washington Post, who said that since Walter Reed Hospital treated Trump for covid, the hospital should be defunded by Congress. When Trump’s motorcade drove outside the hospital, one of the harpies from The View declared that it “was right out of a dictator’s playbook.” And when he initially called the virus the Wuhan virus—a standard medical practice of naming an illness from its point of origin—the journalists condemned the name as “racist,” even though they themselves had been using the term prior to Trump. Another one, Chuck Todd, said that we were on the verge of losing democracy because Trump asked Ukraine to investigate Biden for corruption (way before he became the official Democratic candidate) after Biden publicly boasted of blackmailing the Ukrainian president; Todd, when not falsifying recordings to support his viewpoint, is constantly repeating how dangerous Trump supposedly is, this time parroting a common theme that the country cannot survive a second term—without ever saying exactly why. MSNBC’s Joy Reid is certain that it is Trump’s fault that “Nazis are walking around in America” while Melina Abdullah called President Donald Trump the “embodiment of white supremacist terrorism.” Ted Koeppel is convinced that Trump is going to suspend the Constitution; he offers no real proof and I suspect nothing that anyone says is going to convince him otherwise. CNN British journalist Christiane Amanpour declared that Trump’s Administration was the equivalent of the Third Reich. Donny Deutsch claimed that Trump was Hitler, so Jews should not support the president. Of course, any Jews supporting Trump, well, they are siding with Nazis, according to some. And when Trump ordered the flag flown at half-mast until August 8, an MSNBC figure named Frank Figliuzzi said it was a salute to Hitler and white supremacists. “The numbers 88 are very significant in neo-Nazi and white supremacy movement. Why? Because the letter ‘H’ is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and to them the numbers 8-8 together stand for ‘Heil Hitler.’ So we’re going to be raising the flag back up at dusk on 8/8.” One journalist (Paul Krugman) working at the New York Pravda, who is consistently wrong, warned that if Trump was elected in 2016, the stock market would crash, there would be a global recession, and we would never recover. Other journalists accuse Trump of other things—such as claiming that he wants to exterminate Hispanics or that he is waging a war against science. Along the same line was a CNN panel that claimed that the President wanted to drop a nuclear bomb into a hurricane in the Atlantic, which was a racist idea since it would affect Africans. And since Germany (Nazi and non-Nazi) had/have an eagle for its national symbol, then it obviously means that Trump is a Nazi when a pro-Trump t-shirt was offered for sale that had an eagle on it, according to USA Today. Another CNN journalist, Douglas Brinkley, declared that Trump would create a second shadow government upon leaving and would hold a counter inaugural, that he was an abomination, a tinpot dictator. By challenging the voter fraud in the 2020 election, Trump is the equivalent of slave states. The Committee to Protect Journalists blamed him for repression of journalists in dictatorial countries—as if that had never happened before in those countries.
At the same time, these same journalists become extremely upset when the president refers to them with contempt.
And then we have numerous celebrities, whose assertions are just as bizarre. One of those celebrities obsessed with hating Trump is actor Alec Baldwin who insists that Trump—again, for unstated reasons—wants people to die from the virus. Spike Lee accuses the President, in a vague way, of “dehumanizing blacks;” Spike Lee also asserted that if Trump won a second term, he would re-introduce slavery. Tim Robbins calls him a child abuser (it often seems that they just fish around for any epithet that they can come up with and use it, regardless of facts). Actor Mike Birbiglia is convinced that Trump is “an aspiring dictator,” while third rate comedians Jim Gaffigan and Sarah Silverman compared Trump to Hitler. But the celebrity that outdoes them all is Rob Reiner whose obsession with Trump is off the charts, although the Canadian actor Jim Carrey is unique in channeling his hatred for Trump into repulsive paintings of the president. There are others, most of whom, like Linda Ronstadt and Eric Idle, claim that Trump is Hitler and Jeff Daniels who declares that Donald Trump’s re-election in 2020 would mean—again, the reason is unstated—the “end of democracy.” Also, actress Rosanna Arquette accused President Trump of using the coronavirus “as a weapon of mass destruction” while Robert DeNiro goes into fits whenever the subject of Trump comes up. And then there is Kathy Griffin posing with a decapitated head of Trump.
All of these delusions are also shared by many nonentities, such as the Jewish girl who almost had a nervous breakdown, certain that Trump was about to institute another Holocaust because she read a fundraiser that if a certain amount was donated, then the donating person would receive a hat. Some other Jews agree that Trump is Hitler. We also have Bandy Lee, a Yale psychiatrist in the throes of TDS saying that even Hitler was better than Trump. Physician heal thyself.
The recurrent Hitler ideation is almost always present in individuals with TDS. One, Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson referred to Trump as Hitler (this is the same politician who seriously worried that the island of Guam would capsize because of too many people living on the island). To individuals with TDS, their recurrent delusion is that Trump is Hitler, or at the very least a “fascist.” If one details the facts that Hitler invaded countries, established a dictatorship and censorship, a secret police and concentration camps, the reaction of people with TDS is invariably a hostile one, usually accompanied by insults to the speaker. Hand in hand with the Hitler ideation is that of individuals who, instead of predicting a certain dictatorship in the future, insist that we are now already living in a dictatorship. For example, when Trump cancelled the annual White House Christmas Party for the press that constantly demonizes him, it was seen by some as proof that he is on the road to a dictatorship.
A former Defense Intelligence Agency officer who spied for China revealed that he was motivated by hatred of Trump. Retired four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey claimed that Trump was Mussolini because he canceled subscriptions to the Washington Post.
If one asks them that, if this is, indeed, a dictatorship, if America is fascist, why is it that they are not in prison, or if one simply asks them to be specific as to why, exactly, America is now a dictatorship (or is going to be a dictatorship), the response is usually one of four responses: (1) that they know, or, (2) the questioner is inundated with rambling verbosity that says nothing, or, (3) that, because of Trump’s attitude towards a hostile media, they know he is planning to establish censorship and a dictatorship, or, (4) the questioner is a fool. Or the enemy. At which point the questioner is often physical attacked.
Likewise, if one asks them, or tells them, that Hitler invaded over a dozen countries, killed millions of people, established censorship, indoctrination in schools, concentration camps, and a secret police, whereas Trump only said things that they did not like to hear, their reaction is exactly the same.
What is even more fascinating is that other individuals who have the same dysfunctional view of the President as being a dictator, or planning to establish a dictatorship, have called upon the military to overthrow the president, either now, or in the near future. These include celebrities of various importance, and former and present politicians. To my knowledge, this is the first time that any Americans have raised the specter of calling for the military to overthrow the government (an actual coup was started the moment that Trump took office, albeit a bureaucratic one). They also include some former military officers (that military officers would even seriously consider a coup d’etat in America should send shivers down the spine of any American). In 2017, one MSNBC/ESPN journalist by the name of Keith Olbermann even made an open call for other governments to invade the United States in order to remove Donald Trump from the presidency (in 2020, Peter Beinart repeated the appeal for other countries to invade America in order to remove President Trump, this time in an article in the New York Pravda). Olbermann recently voiced a plan which will sound perfectly reasonable to persons with TDS, but others will find alarming:
So, let us brace ourselves. The task is two-fold: the terrorist Trump must be defeated, must be destroyed, must be devoured at the ballot box, and then he, and his enablers, and his supporters, and his collaborators, and the Mike Lees and the William Barrs, and Sean Hannitys, and the Mike Pences, and the Rudy Gullianis and the Kyle Rittenhouses and the Amy Coney Barretts must be prosecuted and convicted and removed from our society while we try to rebuild it and to rebuild the world Trump has destroyed by turning it over to a virus.
He followed that up with demands that Trump and Tucker Carlson be arrested forthwith.
Furthermore, the pathological hatred towards Trump is not just confined to him and any statement or policy. It has also been generalized to his entire family, with equally irrational assertions. An actor by the name of Rob Delaney and the harpies of The View compared Melania Trump to a Nazi. Why? Because she once wore a white civilian suit somewhat similar to one worn in a film by an actor in the desert while portraying a Nazi in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark. She was also attacked for her Christmas decorations and for renovations. When Melania visited the neonatal unit of Boston Medical Center, many of the hospital staff having TDS objected to her presence, even though her visit could not possibly be harmful to anyone and was totally apolitical. Bette Midler mocked Melania Trump’s accent and said she was an illegal alien and a mail order bride. Another actor by the name of Michael Rapaport simply spewed obscenities about The First Lady.
Even their minor son has been subjected to vicious attacks. His paternity was questioned by various celebrities. The son was also deemed autistic by pundits and celebrities. Perhaps the worst was when actor Peter Fonda suggested that the boy be put in a cage with a group of pedophiles.
Sometimes, it appears that anything Trump says is immediately attacked, particularly by people who call themselves journalists. As one wag put it, it is argumentum ad Trumpum, In other words, one has only to associate an idea, however loosely, with Trump for that idea to be automatically attacked or ridiculed. For example, after Trump ordered the killing of a prominent Iranian terrorist, he was criticized by them and the terrorist was eulogized. And when he ordered the killing of the infamous Isis leader al-Baghdadi, Trump was again attacked and the mass murderer praised. His mentioning the medicine hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure for the Wuhan virus sent journalists scrambling to find anyone who would condemn it and since then, the medication has been the subject of political vituperation (had he not mentioned it, it would have probably been tried out without controversy). And even when he repeats something that they want to hear, they are still hostile (this tendency was recently satirized by a comic).
As can be seen from the above, Trump Derangement Syndrome is definitely a mental disturbance, though it will never be included in the next DSM. Nonetheless, TDS is characterized by the following:
First, the afflicted individuals are obsessed in their hatred of Trump. It has extended to his entire family and to almost anything he says or his policies. The intensity of hatred is truly shocking. Their obsessive, all-consuming, hatred of President Trump is both fascinating and repugnant. Apparently, they have never heard of the saying that hating someone is like drinking poison and expecting them to die from it.
The second trait is the extreme level of projection from these individuals. Their hatred can be seen above, yet they constantly proclaim that the object of their hatred, and his supporters, are the ones spreading hate (in some demonstrations by Antifa, passersby have been hit with objects which had “Love Trumps Hate” signs). They claim that the president is a dictator or is going to impose a dictatorship, yet they themselves call for the military to overthrow a sitting president. They claimed that he will ignore the results of a legitimate 2020 election, yet in 2016 they tried to annul the election by convincing the electors not to vote for Trump, and when they did not succeed (actually, they did; some of them switched their votes from Hillary to Trump), they tried to invoke the 25th amendment to remove him from office, then they tried a Russian collusion hoax and, finally, they impeached him over a telephone call. These afflicted individuals are impervious to any degree of introspection, or self-analysis. To them, their delusions and their projections are self-evident that only a knave, or a fool, cannot see.
Lastly, the third trait is the psychotic, paranoid ideation, which is divorced from objective reality regarding Trump, his family, and his followers. As with other run of the mill instances of paranoia, a trivial detail can be extrapolated into a bizarre, tangled, ideation, even conspiracy: a canceled dinner for journalists is indicative of an imminent dictatorship, a political hat portends another Holocaust, a date in the calendar is proof of National Socialist tendencies, being diagnosed with the Wuhan virus is a ploy to drop out of the election since he is going to lose. Parkinson’s Law of Triviality is very evident in persons with TDS, as well as all types of paranoia.
It must be pointed out that, unlike the paranoid symptomatology that is characteristic in the typical paranoia, this type of paranoia is also present in adherents of totalitarian ideologies (for example, an architect was executed during the Stalinist period in the Soviet Union because one of his buildings looked like half a swastika from the air). As a result, unlike other instances of paranoia or bizarre delusions, treatment is rendered almost impossible by the fact that any challenge to the various ideations has been met with intense hostility and accusations of being part of “the enemy,” if not actual physical assault.
Another, important, aspect of TDS that renders it unique from the classical paranoia is the intense bizarre and alarming hostility towards their own previously close family members, friends and neighbors who voted for, or have voiced approval of Trump to the point of severing relationships. One grown man blackmailed his parents to change their vote or they would never see their grandchildren again. Gays and lesbians who have “come out” for Trump have said that the resulting hostility was much, much worse than when they “came out” as gay (“You ain’t gay if you’re for Trump”). The very same is true for many blacks (“You ain’t black if you’re for Trump”). A lot of YouTube videos showing this have been censored out of existence. Just recently, Quinn Simmons, a cyclist, was kicked out of the Trek-Segafredo team for a “divisive, incendiary and detrimental” pro-Trump tweet. What was the “divisive, incendiary and detrimental” message that caused so much agony among liberals? The word “Bye” along with a hand waving.
There are additional disturbing aspects to TDS: (1) TDS is present in many prominent people in society and government. (2) Paranoia is the only mental illness which is contagious. (3) Because it has affected large numbers of people, individuals with TDS reinforce each other’s delusions, thereby exacerbating the symptoms.
But a hundred years from now very few will believe that such people existed, and that they existed in such great numbers.
 This, in turn, brings up some historical parallels involving totalitarian movements. During the French Revolution, there was a show trial of the hated king and the queen, independent of each other. Each was accused of all sorts of bizarre political plots; the king was even charged with vetoing decrees, even though the constitution allowed him to do so. The queen was likewise faced with fantastic accusations; it was only when she was accused of sexual incest with her own son that she energetically objected; the accusers were momentarily chagrined before continuing with further bizarre accusations.
The 1930s saw it greatly escalated in the show trials of the Soviet Union. where prominent Bolsheviks who had worked to subjugate Russia to Communism were now accused by Stalin’s agents of bizarre plots, stating that they had always been in the pay of imperialist Britain, Japan, Germany, France and America from the beginning, had carried out industrial espionage, set up a network of Trotskyite agents to sabotage the 5 Year Plans, etc. One particularly disgusting accusation involved doctors who were charged with planning on injecting patients with syphilis. The beautiful irony is that many of the initial government accusers were subsequently accused of the very same crimes. All these accusations were delivered with a straight face while in the rest of the shocked world were thought of as insane.
 Of tangential relevance to this subject is a psychological aspect that has not been studied at all (to my knowledge) by psychologists, and it is that some emotions are addictive. Hatred is one of these emotions, as is self-pity and love. Hatred and self-pity may be thought of as being negative emotions, but they are also very enjoyable in their own way.
Armando Simón is a trilingual native of Cuba, a retired college professor with degrees in history and psychology, and author of many books (for now obtainable at Amazon and Barnes & Noble).
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