Trump indisputably meets the criteria

Linda Charnes and Dahlia Lithwick at Slate argue that Trump is a malignant narcissist and narcissists never stop being narcissists, so we should stop paying attention to his narcissistic tantrums and focus only on what he’s doing to us.

The problem is not that journalists are especially narcissistic, as [Jon] Stewart says, but that Trump is pathologically so. Trump indisputably meets the criteria for severe narcissistic personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Many psychiatrists and psychologists have said as much, although they can’t formally diagnose him because they haven’t personally examined him, which triggers the Goldwater rule.

We say, Goldwater rule be damned, the writing is on the national wall. The “logic” of a narcissist is always bent, and Trump is no different. He sucks the media into what we might call a faulty causal loop. Psychologists who specialize in narcissism have a name for this phenomenon: DARVO, which stands for “Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.” It’s both effective and infuriating: Every time Trump kicks someone and the press calls him out on it, he screams, “OW, they’re attacking me.”

There was another one today or yesterday: reporters asked him about something Michelle Obama says in her new book, which is that she’ll never forgive him for the “birther” lies and the way it put her children at risk. His answer? Wull he can’t forgive Obama, either, for not spending enough on the military. So stupid, and so narcissist. He will not absorb any criticism, and if he won’t absorb it he can’t learn from it. He appears to literally think he is always right and always the best at everything. It’s immensely frustrating. It’s also just how it is with narcissists.

The challenge for the press is similar to the broader problem we all face: how to grapple with a man whose only concern is himself? We think it’s time to stop wondering what motivates Trump and focus instead on what compels people to react so strongly to him.

Okay hang on. There’s one obvious answer to that question and it outweighs all the others combined. We react so strongly to him because he’s the fucking president of the US. I would love to be able to ignore him because he’s just some puffed-up asshole who was a reality tv star for a few years. I went many happy years ignoring him, until July 2016 when I belatedly realized he was no longer a joke.

So that’s why we react so strongly to him. It’s the only reason that counts. Yes, he’s uniquely infuriating and uniquely terrible, but if he were back in the tiny world he belongs in, that would be his family’s problem but not ours. Well, his family’s and his employees’ and his tenants’ and his customers’ and his business partners’ and so on – a lot of people, to be sure, but still not the whole damn world.

 Given that most journalists and reporters want to report factual events, it’s not surprising that many fall into the time-suck of disproving one lie after another while also trying to defend their reputations as professionals. Putting people on the defensive and forcing them to explain themselves over and over again is how clinical narcissists manipulate their victims. So how is a good journalist to avoid getting stuck on the narcissist’s causal loop? MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow offered up a partial model when, in 2017, she stopped allowing her show to cover Trump’s fleeting tweets or efforts to engage the media in conflict and instead focused her coverage on what he actually does.

I get it, and that may be the best way to go, but I would also point out (not for the first time) that all this saying he does is also what he does. I do think journalists have to document that too. Not all of them; it’s fine for Maddow to ignore that part, but I think when he calls black reporters and Congressional Representatives stupid, I think some journalists should be on that story.

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