Is the Mainstream Media Liberal?

This is a complex topic, worth developing at length elsewhere. Jonathan Alterman made a great down payment on this in his book “What Liberal Media.” Here’s a brief overview:

It depends on what you mean by “liberal.”

It’s widely accepted that many, probably most journalists at news outlets considered conservative, like Fox News, generally tend to hold right of center views. Many, maybe most mainstream journalists at news outlets considered liberal, like MSNBC, tend to hold left of center views.

They tend to be well-educated urban dwellers. Their opinions tend to be liberal.

Lesson for Liberals #2: Trump Is Not Stupid

It’s hard to get through a day without encountering multiple examples of “liberals” accusing Trump as having impaired mental function. One of my most respected professional contacts (whose I’m reluctant to embarrass by identifying him) has on more than occasion tweeted a news item about some Trump peccadillo adding only one word of text: “Moron.” Another friend of mine called him a “POS.” In my opinion, comments like this are not just wrong, they are counterproductive for two reasons:

  1. If we don’t understand Trump’s problems, we won’t understand how to deal with him, and
  2. When frustrated people call him names, it makes them sound just as angry and unreasonable as Trump’s supporters.

After all, don’t “liberals” like to consider themselves thoughtful and reasonable?

I have one question for “liberals” who like to say Trump is mentally slow: Would a stupid person have managed to accumulate so much money (albeit with a lot of help from his rich father), to have had a very successful “reality” TV show and even get himself into the White House?

The fact is that Trump is not stupid, not at all. He is actually very intelligent–in his own odd way.

Trump often does things that seem stupid to normal people because he has a truly bizarre personality. I don’t say this with the intention of insulting Trump, but merely to accurately describe him so that people will understand him better.

I am acutely aware that I am not a doctor, but in my opinion you don’t have to be a doctor to see that Trump has a very strange personality. I also believe that Trump’s odd behavior has harmed our country in many ways and makes him a threat to our democracy.

Trump’s Personality Problems

By this time I don’t think anyone who has observed Trump for the past few years would say he is normal:

  1. Would a normal person be boasting about his high TV ratings while millions of Americans are out of work, millions are sick, and thousands are dying?
  2. Would a normal person respond to a reasonable question by insulting the person who asked the question and calling him names?
  3. Would a normal person talk for 13 hours at his corona virus press conferences, but only letting his top expert (Dr. Fauci) talk for two hours?
  4. Would a normal person say he bore no responsibility for the problems, in effect saying that his performance had been perfect?

That type of behavior is not normal.

A guy named George Conway, a longtime Republican, wrote up the best explanation of Trump’s personality that I have seen in a 2019 Atlantic magazine essay named Unfit for Office. Conway is married to a key Trump advisor named Kelly Ann Conway.

In the article Conway explains that he believes Trump has a form of mental illness that doctors call “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (NPD).

I am not a doctor and don’t necessarily agree with Conway, but his article is thought provoking. Doctors at the respected Mayo Clinic explain what NPD means in an article at the hospital’s website.

In support of his opinion Conway quotes the standard reference that doctors use to diagnosis mental illness and personality problems, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The most recent edition of this reference, the DSM (version 5), published in 2002, long before Trump ran for President, lists nine symptoms of NPD. If a person displays five of these symptoms, doctors consider them to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).

4. Requires excessive admiration.

5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).

6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends)

7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings or needs of others.

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.

9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

Is there any objective, rational person who would deny that is impossible for Trump to speak more than 30 minutes without displaying most or all of these symptoms?

Not every doctor agrees that Trump is “mentally ill,” but just about all of them agree that he has a very strange personality.

One respected doctor, an expert in this field, has stated “Trump “may be a world-class narcissist but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder. Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy.”

Whether or not Trump meets the technical definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I don’t think any objective and reasonable person who has observed Trump would disagree with that doctor’s assessment of Trump’s personality.

Conclusion


I believe, like many other Americans, that Trump’s strange personality makes him a clear and present danger to the nation. We need a calm and rational discussion of what we should do as a people when someone with Trump’s problems is in the White House.

A Note for Those Who Disagree

I am definitely not infallible, and I am very willing to listen to contrary arguments presented in a cogent, reasonable way.

I do respectfully suggest that those inclined to defend Trump would be better off to address the substantive argument in a cogent manner, rather than through personal attacks on me or anyone else who shares my view.

Lesson for Liberals #1: Trump Supporters Are Not Stupid

It drives me nuts when I hear so-called “liberals” describing Trump supporters as lacking intelligence, often even childishly calling them names. It’s understandable that they feel frustrated by the anger and apparent unreasonableness of too many Trump supporters, but this is not an excuse.

The fact is that Trump supporters are not any more stupid on average than liberals. Stupidity is neither Red nor Blue. There are smart people and dumb people in both political parties.

Some Trump supporters say things and do things that seem stupid–to liberals at least–for two reasons:

  • They have different fundamental values. These values cannot by objective measures be demonstrated as worse than liberal values, but they are different. Those who hold these views are just as worthy of respect as supposedly “woke” liberals. We will be developing this idea in a later “Lesson for Liberals.”
  • There has been a determined, well financed and effective campaign over decades to exacerbate and exploit these differences. More on this in a subsequent “Lesson for Liberals.”

It’s particularly important for liberals to respect those who disagree with them because a key goal of right wing extremists to create a sense of grievance toward “elites.” When I was in the Army, we considered “elite” soldiers to be the best soldiers: Rangers, Special Forces, etc.

Determined efforts by right wing extremists have given the word a decidedly different connotation, as explained in a 2017 New York Times article entitled How ‘Elites’ Became One of the Nastiest Epithets in American Politics. Over the years extremists have convinced many Americans that they are the victims of powerful, shadowy overlords who consider themselves the masters of the universe. Justified or not, this sentiment is widespread among many, probably most Trump supporters.

There is usually no universal definition of who is in the “elite” category, but it generally includes some mix of:

  • The wealthy (with Trump getting a pass on this for reasons to be explained later).
  • People who believe abortion should be legal.
  • People who support affirmative action.
  • “Women’s libbers.”
  • Those perceived to be “politically correct,” including those in the “Me Too” movement.
  • Jews. Some right wing extremists use “international bankers” and George Soros as code names for Jews.

Some analysts believe this sense of grievance, a manifestation of the “culture wars” was a bigger factor in Trump’s 2016 election than economic issues. Trump was appealing to this aggrieved faction in his inauguration speech when he said “I am your voice.” On hearing this speech, George W. Bush said “That’s some weird shit.” Well, if you have bought into the aggrieved mindset, it’s not weird at all. They consider Trump to be their spokesman in the battle against the “elites.”

It is important for those who consider themselves liberals to avoid reinforcing this right wing trope through condescending behavior or angry dialog. One key to this is understanding: Trump supporters are not stupid. Never talk to them as if they are dumb (to use a noun disparaged by the more politically correct).