I write this on Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection and hope in the Christian calendar, but such a bright promise looks a bit thin given what is going on in our world, our country: what looks like a mass outbreak of mental illness among our political class.
I say this because here is a group of people – journalists, politicians, and other Very Serious Persons – who have hated our new President from the get-go. He’s Hitler, he’s Mussolini, he’s Pepe the frog! He’s this, he’s that, he’s Our National Nightmare! And yet the minute he starts bombing foreigners he’s suddenly not so bad after all. Over at the Washington Post, David Ignatius, the CIA’s journalistic front man, says he’s “becoming a credible foreign policy leader.” Ruth Marcus opines that we’re witnessing “the normalization of Donald Trump.” Finally, she enthuses, “rationality is dawning” on the forty-fifth President! Among the liberal elite, the hosannas were well nigh universal. As Ann Coulter noted:
“Cable news hosts gushed, ‘Trump became president of the United States tonight!’ On MSNBC, Brian Williams called the bombing ‘beautiful’ three times in less than a minute. Sen. Lindsey Graham (one of the ‘women of the Senate,’ according to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) compared Trump to Reagan. The New York Times headlined an article, ‘On Syria Attack, Trump’s Heart Came First.’”
Fareed Zakaria’s joy over the bombing seemed to indicate that, for him, it was practically an erotic experience. And this weird bloodlust wasn’t limited to the liberal precincts of the commentariat – far from it. When we dropped the MOAB on Afghanistan, Kimberly Guilfoyle practically had an orgasm over at Fox News. Sitting there in her low cut red dress, her breasts heaving with passion, her lips parted, and an ecstatic smile plastered on her heavily made-up face, she hailed the bombing as if it were the climax – so to speak – of a pornographic movie: “America is back!” Oh, yeeeesssss!!!!
The craziness is pandemic, and it doesn’t only revolve around war-worship. The new sadism is flavored with the spice of paranoia. A major political party is now in the throes of a paranoid delusion that the Russians are in control of the US government, and one of their agents sits in the Oval Office, where he is addressed as “Mr. President.” And not only that, but someone who is invited to write for the New York Times and is considered a legitimate journalist is telling us that …. well, see for yourself.
Okay, Louise Mensch may be a bit of an outright lunatic, and yet we have no less than two congressional committees investigating this conspiracy theory, with the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, and Rachel Maddow all doing their best to validate it. Paranoia used to be considered a form of mental illness: today it is regarded as just another ideology, and not a fringe phenomenon but the animating style and overriding preoccupation of what we used to call “liberalism” in this country.
So we have both sadism and paranoia as widespread symptoms of mental illness in our political class – and with these two usually come another unattractive personality trait: delusions of grandeur. This form of craziness often accompanies both sadism and paranoia, and we can see it manifested in the assumption that a country which is nearly bankrupt, and which hasn’t won a war since the end of World War II, can fix the world’s problems by dropping some bombs.
In Syria, for example, we have what is at least a six-sided war, involving the Syrian government, the Turks, the Kurds, the “moderate” Islamist rebels, al-Qaeda, and ISIS, and our political class stands up and cheers because President Trump launched 59 missiles at Syrian military base. The real effect is almost nil, although it does make the situation a bit worse, and yet with all the applause one would think we actually accomplished something. Oh, but we’re told that it “sent a message”! Like lobbing the MOAB into Afghanistan, it was a purely symbolic act.
Symbolic thinking is just another form of pathology, related to psychosis: when psychic pain precludes the perception of concretes, the mind resorts to pure symbolism, and this is also common in paranoiacs. A sick mind imputes meaning to unrelated phenomena, and letting go of this epistemological error is the road to recovery.
Over time, as the psychosis develops, a person experiencing mental illness begins to have hallucinations: the symbolic thinking manifests itself as images in the brain. As one former psychotic describes the process:
“Hallucinatory reality is analogous to dreaming in the same room where a television is on. The physical reality of the television is translated into the idiosyncratic symbols of the person’s dreaming and the person’s consciousness experiences the dream, not the television. In the same way, the themes and events of the individual’s personal world become projected into the symbolic hallucinations of the psychotic state and create a highly exaggerated symbolic framework that parallels the actual reality of the schizophrenic.”
Now imagine that the people on television are themselves psychotic: in “reporting” what they regard as the news, and the meaning of that news, they are projecting their own symbolic hallucinations. Yes, they are telling us about things that really happened – the Syria strike, the MOAB dropped on Afghanistan – but they are also creating a highly exaggerated framework, a “narrative,” that is absolutely unhinged.
Our society is experiencing an episode of what can only be called mass psychosis. Is it a temporary thing, or are we headed for a large-scale mental breakdown? Is it just the political class, or is it contagious – is it spreading to the general population via the media? And, most importantly, is there a cure?
I don’t have the answers to most of these questions, but one thing I do know: yes, the media is indeed the transmission belt that projects the sadism, the paranoia, and the all around general madness that originates in our sick political class, and carries it to the general population. And while Antiwar.com is not the cure, it is the equivalent of a few aspirin when the patient has a fever – specifically, war fever. So we’re doing our part to alleviate at least some of the symptoms of what ails American society, although I fear we’re going to need a medicine much stronger than a few aspirin.
For the Raimondo completist: I have an article on the Korean “crisis” in the Daily Caller. Check it out.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.