A Chilly December Evening

Topics for today: A French take on Americans; How a Narcissist Knows Nothing.

No photo from either of the two linked items here seemed appropriate, so here is tonight’s sunset. In the aftermath of a rainstorm that lasted from before dawn to about 2pm today, this sunset. It’s chilly today, the high just 47F, and a predicted low by morning of 35F.

The Week, November 25, 2022 issue (not online), one of three items under “How they see us: America opts for democracy–barely”

It’s horrifying to think how much global stability depends on the whims of a few undereducated Americans, said Thomas Legrand in Libération (France). Trumpism thrives on the “misconception that America has lost its influence” and must be made great again. Yet in fact, for the French, and for most other people this planet, U.S. elections are actually “more decisive” than our own in shaping our lives. If Washington doesn’t regulate the social media behemoths spawned in Silicon Valley, misinformation undermines our democracies. If it yanks its military support from Ukraine, that democracy could lost its war “on our doorstep.” And if a climate skeptic lands in the White House, the entire planet burns up. If there were any fairness in the world, we should all “be able to vote in American elections.”

There’s a thought. What strikes me about this piece is the observation that the rest of the world cares far more about American politics, than Americans care about other countries (at all, much less their politics). I do think the piece is wrong on one point: Trumpists don’t care whether or not America has influence on the rest of the world — they’re indifferent to the rest of the world, and don’t care what the rest of the world thinks about America. Trumpists are upset by the intrusion of the rest of the world, through values and immigration, into their notion of an idealized, white, Christian, American past.


Slate, Dahlia Lithwick, 30 Nov 2022: How Donald Trump Excuses His Bigotry, subtitled “His excuse for hosting Kanye West and Nick Fuentes is incredibly familiar.”

His excuse was that “he had no idea who Fuentes was.”

This is, of course, the long-standing Trump defense: He can’t ever have done anything wrong because he simply doesn’t know anything, ever. It affords durable protection because, over time, the more things Trump acknowledges he doesn’t understand or care to find out, the less we expect him to comprehend or research anything in the future. It’s actually very much the mirror image of QAnon admonishment that everyone “do your own research.” In this iteration, “I did no research at all” somehow means that you are off the hook for knowing nothing.

Key insight in terms of contemporary psychology:

We keep making this same fundamental category error with the former president, assuming that he has achieved a “theory of mind” that makes him capable, as most toddlers become at about age 2 or 3, of understanding that other people are independent actors and moral agents, with their own distinct beliefs, wants, and fears. Donald Trump’s sole reference point, when he’s asked about other people, is always himself—whether he “knows” them, whether they are nice to him. Beyond that, they are uninteresting, which means he doesn’t really “know” anyone. He is truly incapable of imagining their worlds as apart from his own; thus, he can never say with any confidence that he knows anything about anything or anyone else.

Wouldn’t this be the definition of a narcissist?

(I commented about the “do your own research” article back on January 3rd, at some length.)

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