Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why does David Brooks hate children?

Screen capture via WNEP, Moosic, PA.

It's getting so bad even former New York Times columnist David Brooks, freshly back from his honeymoon, is coming up with instant hot takes ("When the World is Led by a Child"):

At certain times Donald Trump has seemed like a budding authoritarian, a corrupt Nixon, a rabble-rousing populist or a big business corporatist.
But as Trump has settled into his White House role, he has given a series of long interviews, and when you study the transcripts it becomes clear that fundamentally he is none of these things.
At base, Trump is an infantalist.
Heh. He's an enumeration or compilation of a set of, or of items pertaining to, the daughters of Portuguese kings?

No, this is just a case of a little-known phenomenon, that it's possible to spell a word wrong even if you just made it up. He should have written "infantilist", meaning a person who advocates being infantile.

Which is also wrong. What Brooks means to say, and then does say over the next eight paragraphs, is that Trump lacks personal maturity, in the sense that he has not mastered "three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25, including sitting still; possessing "some accurate sense of themselves, some internal criteria to measure their own merits and demerits" (ha, Brooksy!); and perceiving how one is seen by others.

So he must have gotten to work really late yesterday afternoon, because he's really winging it. And possibly watching TV at the same time: he did something he almost never does, a reference to the latest news, bringing up yesterday's top Trump disgrace, which didn't break in the Times, I think, until almost 6:30, that he'd disclosed some classified information to the Russian foreign minister in the course of trying to impress him with the quality of the US intelligence services ("I got great intel! The best!").

What does Brooks have against children, for heaven's sake?

Sure, every kid has a little HDAD, but Trump has none of the HD, he's physically ponderous and sluggish, and any child with an attention deficit on his scale has to be medicated nowadays, it's not normal at any age. And the same goes, more or less, for the "internal criteria": as Elsa Ronningstam (Identifying and Understanding the Narcissistic Personality, Oxford 2005) explains, there are distinctions between normal and pathological at basically all ages; there are children much less able to assess themselves than most, and that's a sign of a problem:

Similarly, the "theory of mind" through which we understand that the other person thinks and judges, and judges us, in the same way we think and judge, is pretty fully developed between the ages of two and five; when it doesn't, it's an indication that the child faces a challenge, such as an autism spectrum or narcissistic disorder. I feel sure Trump was a narcissistic seven-year-old before he became a narcissistic 70-year-old, and there's nothing specifically childlike about it.

An image in the column has been widely admired: Trump's "thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar"—I, of course, don't think they're random at all, but indeed more determined, by his very limited range of interests, than most people's, that's the whole point of reading them as poetry, to show the strong underlying coherence of it—but I'm not sure how original it is; there's an instance in some Harry Potter fan fiction (by Bonibaru, just a couple of months ago)

and the lyrics of the 2014 song "Fireflies" by the Southern California band Such a Mess complain,
For every night we could have slept/We were busy making promises I knew we'd regret/I'll let the last words you said/Burn like a jar of fireflies inside my head
Anyway, the idea of Trump as child is just a terrible one. He's failed to mature, no doubt, like a green banana thrown in the freezer (I imagine a childhood of violent discipline in some areas and crazy indulgence in others has made him worse than he needed to be), but he isn't young. He's psychopathic.

Apparently the helpful nation about which Trump "shared" with his friends Lavrov and Kislyak was Israel: ironically, the Daily News says, Israeli intelligence has received warnings against sharing stuff with the Trumpies out of exactly this fear:
Newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported earlier this year that American intelligence sources had warned Israeli colleagues against sharing info with the incoming Trump administration for fear that it could make its way to Moscow.
Israel agencies such as Mossad and the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate have deep cooperation with the U.S., though American officials reportedly warned them to "be careful" for fear of the info ending up in Russia or Iran, another backer of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
But don't question Trump's "absolute right" to do it.

Again, it wasn't exactly "openly scheduled" in that Ambassador Kislyak wasn't supposed to be there and the White House never disclosed his presence, which was at President Putin's special request, until after the Russian foreign ministry tweeted the picture US press photographers were unable to shoot, since they were barred from the meeting. "Absolute" is a very poor word choice for the president of a Republic-if-you-can-keep-it in this context. (You should have seen the New York Sun explode in 2015 when Steven Rattner suggested President Obama had a "right" to make the agreement-not-a-treaty with Iran. Obama himself of course would never have said he had special "rights" as president, to say nothing of an "absolute" right, though he could be prickly about prerogatives.)

The last head of state in North America who claimed to have "absolute rights" of any sort was King Charles I, who got his head chopped off in consequence, in 1649, by Christians of more or less the same denomination as the guys who had founded Plymouth Plantation 32 years earlier. I'm not saying that should happen to Emperor Trump, though I do feel his head may not be too securely fastened, and might just float away.

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