Image: Lesley Becker The Boston Globe

Over the past four-plus years, we’ve come to recognize an array of Donald Trump’s ‘tells’, the many ways his crazy-quilt of personality disorders compulsively manifests itself in little giveaways of his true meaning and intent. It just requires some decoding.

Early on, these were the little verbal clues: Any time he said “believe me”, you could be sure he was lying. When he said, “everyone knows”, no one knew. When he said, “and you know better than anyone”, you didn’t. When he said, “many people are asking”, no one was asking but him. And when he said, “a lot of people don’t know”, it meant that he didn’t know. But the lies were coming so fast as part of a parallel false narrative that it became increasingly difficult to separate words from deeds. Russian propagandists call this the “Firehose of Falsehoods”.

It’s hard to win arguments when dealing with two (or more) different sets of facts. We used to smugly say that, “you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts”. Sadly, that’s no longer really true. Facts no longer seem to matter when competing in the informational marketplace with a false but powerful narrative. In this post-truth environment, when one side endlessly spins its own alternate reality, they’re essentially playing different sports, on different fields, while the goalposts burn in the parking lot.

But the wild card in all of this is the seemingly unknowable ‘true intentions’ of the players. What hold does Putin have on Trump? Why does Trump embrace brutal dictators while he undermines our allies and trading partners? Why do he and his minions parrot Russian talking points? How much does Trump really understand the high-stakes game he’s playing with the fate of the world in the balance? Is he is willing conspirator or Putin’s “useful idiot”?

As for Trump himself, he has another, more meaningful ‘tell’ revealing not only his beliefs and intentions but ‘consciousness of guilt’ in the form of an ongoing confession. It’s ‘projection’.

Psychological projection is described in the literature as a “defense mechanism” in which the subject “projects” vile, fearful or hostile emotions onto others rather than admitting to or dealing with the dark impulses in themselves. The classic example of projection employs victimhood, the certainty that a perceived, intensely disliked, adversary has a vendetta against them. And the reflex is to lash out, steal their thunder, to “do unto others before they can do unto you”.

When you start listening to Donald Trump’s attacks on his adversaries, perceived or imaginary, through that lens you realize he is ‘projecting’ his own malfeasance and evil intent onto others.

When accused of corruption, Trump accused his critics of corruption. When condemned for using racist rhetoric against four congresswomen of color, branding them “the squad”, he responded by accusing them of being the real racists. When numerous women accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault, he began accusing Hillary Clinton of abusing women. When confronted with evidence of his mental decline, or disdain for powerful women, he declared at various times that both Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi were “unstable” or “emotional”.

When pressed about the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate, Trump said, “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy”.

In mid-2017, Trump and his surrogates inexplicably began talking about Clinton’s alleged collusion with Russia and Ukraine in the run-up to the 2016 election. Trump re-tweeted a quote from the conservative Washington Times that declared, “Democrats have willfully used Moscow disinformation to influence the presidential election against Donald Trump.”

The purpose of the pre-emptive strike became clear when the New York Times published the first in a series of blockbuster reports about the Trump campaign’s ties to the Russian government and fealty to Vladimir Putin. When Hillary Clinton accused Trump of being a “puppet” for his allies in Moscow during a 2016 debate, Trump replied, “No puppet. No puppet. You’re the puppet. No, you’re the puppet.”

Now, when Trump or his acolytes who regurgitate his every whim, talk about a third term “dynasty”, or using nuclear weapons, or buying Greenland, they reflect the unfiltered ravings of a disturbed mind, the arrogance, ignorance, and grandiosity of a mad king.     

And he can’t help himself. The compulsive transparency of his array of personality disorders nakedly reveal him and his fearsome ambitions. His attacks on rivals are both psychic insights and admissions of guilt.

So as we listen to Trump’s attacks on others, we must always remind ourselves to translate his mean-spirited insults and accusations through the prism of inadvertent self-revelation.

Projection is confession.

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Opie Cat
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Opie Cat

Ray, you have hit a bullseye here.

Steppenwolf
Member

Good work, and it’s absolutely time that this was talked about. I might add: I find it interesting that Trump doesn’t just do this reactively, but also proactively. I think that that’s important, because he confesses (or brags about) to criminal acts, and denies them, that we don’t even know about yet.

Let’s try this (I love games):

Okay: Trump said (or implied), in the infamous, “Summary,” that, “We can’t have Joe Biden snooping around here (The dog).”

Translation: “We are planning something really big, and really dirty. It will require numerous crimes be committed now, and during the takeover. The last thing we need is another “Law Dog” snooping around. If he gets even a whiff, then it means Florence, or exile.”

How did I do?

TOCB
Member

I think it is dangerous to promote the narrative that we are in a post-truth world. Everyone have unique perspectives and opinions, but there is generally only one truth. There are no alternative truths. What people refer to as alternative truths, are lies. Just because someone doesn’t accept the truth or doesn’t know the truth or chooses to ignore the truth, does not change what the truth is. Everyone knows that what trump and Fox “News” promote are lies. It would probably help if real news outlets stopped pretending that Fox “News” is a legitimate news outlet. For a long time it was a republican propaganda outlet, and now it is a trump propaganda outlet.

Steppenwolf
Member

I couldn’t agree more. I would even go so far as to say that if one looks carefully at the actual discussion (between Liberals and Conservatives), the disagreement may not actually be about truth at all, but reality. Our version of reality is based on a five thousand year progressive tradition. The greatest minds of all time inspired and contributed to it. There’s is based on anti-intellectualism, hatred of the new, the worship of power, and the addiction of libertinism. You know – politics.

On both sides, some people define “reality” in terms of politics. And that, it seems to me, is willful slavery. How did we go through such a radical change in our principles and not even know it? Ask Putin, he’s the expert. But this allowing politics to define reality will likely be our ruin.

Angela Bridgman
Member

I hate to point this out, sir, but, NOT EVERYONE KNOWS THAT WHAT TRUMP AND FOX NEWS PROMOTE ARE LIES!!

Many people believe it is Gospel truth….and that what reputable news sources deliver is the lies (“fake news”)

I am really not sure how we, as a nation got here. But we are now a nation full of people (on both sides) who will not accept as truth or as news…whatever contradicts what they already believe or want to believe.

Unlike them, I will confess to having some of this bias myself. I equate “Republican” with “trans-hater”, “homophobe”, “racist”, “bigot” – even though intellectually, I know not all of them are.

What is difficult…is to not give in to the easy answer that our own bias produces for us.

I think the beginning of how we got here was the ending of The Fairness Doctrine, and the advent of toxic talk radio, followed by “infotainment.” We are not a society that, as a whole…is intellectually curious – we’d rather be spoon-fed stuff we already want to believe…..or be told what to believe – and the networks, eager for the God-Almighty advertising dollar…is only too happy to deliver.

The explosion of the Internet….which should have and often has served the forces of justice and democracy…also can be used – as we have seen…to service trolls, crooks, cranks, charlatans, white supremacists and authoritarians. It is not the tool that is bad…is is how a person employs the tool…that is bad or good.

We have become a society unable to comprehend nuance, and who wants easy answers to complex problems. We have become fat, lazy, greedy and selfish. We no longer seem to care about injustice perpetrated against others…only when it comes home to roost do we howl….and then we expect everyone else to care…when we do not care about others.

Fortunately, we DO have the power to overcome this…whether we have the will or not – remains to be seen. We are facing the worst evil ever visited on this nation, the most dangerous enemy we have ever faced….with our very democracy and way of life hanging in the balance.

We are made to feel as if we are alone, and that nobody cares…and that causes us to give up. We cannot do that. We have to SHOW UP…and we have to SPEAK OUT…whenever we see injustice being perpetrated on someone else – because if they can take my rights and freedoms away…they can take yours too. Just as if they can take yours…they also can take mine.

We have to realize, in this nation, as Dr.. King told us…when any one person is oppressed, none of us are free. We have to speak up and DEMAND justice for everyone. And we have to make the kind of sick trolling, racism, bigotry, homophobia and transphobia we have seen these past few years…NO LONGER ACCEPTABLE IN PUBLIC. We must shun them and shame them, banish them from polite society, until they are forced to crawl back under the cold, wet, slimy rocks from under which they slithered.

And we must remain vigilant to never again let those kind of people have power…because that is a threat to ALL of our freedoms. We must begin to see any injustice, against anyone…as a personal affront, and we must be as outraged by injustice committed against others….as we are outraged when injustice is committed against us. Nothing else can save our democracy, our nation, our freedoms and our way of life.