sent by my mom on October 3, 2017
sent by my mom on September 17, 2017
There will not be a book published this fall more urgent, important, or controversial than The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, the work of 27 psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health experts to assess President Trump’s mental health. They had come together last March at a conference at Yale University to wrestle with two questions. One was on countless minds across the country: “What’s wrong with him?” The second was directed to their own code of ethics: “Does Professional Responsibility Include a Duty to Warn” if they conclude the president to be dangerously unfit?
As mental health professionals, these men and women respect the long-standing “Goldwater rule” which inhibits them from diagnosing public figures whom they have not personally examined. At the same time, as explained by Dr. Bandy X Lee, who teaches law and psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, the rule does not have a countervailing rule that directs what to do when the risk of harm from remaining silent outweighs the damage that could result from speaking about a public figure — “which in this case, could even be the greatest possible harm.” It is an old and difficult moral issue that requires a great exertion of conscience. Their decision: “We respect the rule, we deem it subordinate to the single most important principle that guides our professional conduct: that we hold our responsibility to human life and well-being as paramount.”
Hence, this profound, illuminating and discomforting book undertaken as “a duty to warn.”
The foreword is by one of America’s leading psychohistorians, Robert Jay Lifton. He is renowned for his studies of people under stress — for books such as Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima (1967), Home from the War: Vietnam Veterans — Neither Victims nor Executioners (1973), and The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (1986). The Nazi Doctors was the first in-depth study of how medical professionals rationalized their participation in the Holocaust, from the early stages of the Hitler’s euthanasia project to extermination camps.
The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump will be published Oct. 3 by St. Martin’s Press.
Here is my interview with Robert Jay Lifton — Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers: This book is a withering exploration of Donald Trump’s mental state. Aren’t you and the 26 other mental health experts who contribute to it in effect violating the Goldwater Rule? Section 7.3 of the American Psychiatrist Association’s code of ethics flatly says: “It is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion [on a public figure] unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization.” Are you putting your profession’s reputation at risk?
Robert Jay Lifton: I don’t think so. I think the Goldwater Rule is a little ambiguous. We adhere to that portion of the Goldwater Rule that says we don’t see ourselves as making a definitive diagnosis in a formal way and we don’t believe that should be done, except by hands-on interviewing and studying of a person. But we take issue with the idea that therefore we can say nothing about Trump or any other public figure. We have a perfect right to offer our opinion, and that’s where “duty to warn” comes in.
Moyers: Duty to warn?
Lifton: We have a duty to warn on an individual basis if we are treating someone who may be dangerous to herself or to others — a duty to warn people who are in danger from that person. We feel it’s our duty to warn the country about the danger of this president. If we think we have learned something about Donald Trump and his psychology that is dangerous to the country, yes, we have an obligation to say so. That’s why Judith Herman and I wrote our letter to The New York Times. We argue that Trump’s difficult relationship to reality and his inability to respond in an evenhanded way to a crisis renders him unfit to be president, and we asked our elected representative to take steps to remove him from the presidency.
Moyers: Yet some people argue that our political system sets no intellectual or cognitive standards for being president, and therefore, the ordinary norms of your practice as a psychiatrist should stop at the door to the Oval Office.
Lifton: Well, there are people who believe that there should be a standard psychiatric examination for every presidential candidate and for every president. But these are difficult issues because they can’t ever be entirely psychiatric. They’re inevitably political as well. I personally believe that ultimately ridding the country of a dangerous president or one who’s unfit is ultimately a political matter, but that psychological professionals can contribute in valuable ways to that decision.
Moyers: Do you recall that there was a comprehensive study of all 37 presidents up to 1974? Half of them reportedly had a diagnosable mental illness, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. It’s not normal people who always make it to the White House.
Lifton: Yes, that’s amazing, and I’m sure it’s more or less true. So people with what we call mental illness can indeed serve well, and people who have no discernible mental illness — and that may be true of Trump — may not be able to serve, may be quite unfit. So it isn’t always the question of a psychiatric diagnosis. It’s really a question of what psychological and other traits render one unfit or dangerous.
Moyers: You write in the foreword of the book: “Because Trump is president and operates within the broad contours and interactions of the presidency, there is a tendency to view what he does as simply part of our democratic process, that is, as politically and even ethically normal.”
Lifton: Yes. And that’s what I call malignant normality. What we put forward as self-evident and normal may be deeply dangerous and destructive. I came to that idea in my work on the psychology of Nazi doctors — and I’m not equating anybody with Nazi doctors, but it’s the principle that prevails — and also with American psychologists who became architects of CIA torture during the Iraq War era. These are forms of malignant normality. For example, Donald Trump lies repeatedly. We may come to see a president as liar as normal. He also makes bombastic statements about nuclear weapons, for instance, which can then be seen as somehow normal. In other words, his behavior as president, with all those who defend his behavior in the administration, becomes a norm. We have to contest it, because it is malignant normality. For the contributors to this book, this means striving to be witnessing professionals, confronting the malignancy and making it known.
Moyers: Witnessing professionals? Where did this notion come from?
Lifton: I first came to it in terms of psychiatrists assigned to Vietnam, way back then. If a soldier became anxious and enraged about the immorality of the Vietnam War, he might be sent to a psychiatrist who would be expected to help him be strong enough to return to committing atrocities. So there was something wrong in what professionals were doing, and some of us had to try to expose this as the wrong and manipulative use of our profession. We had to see ourselves as witnessing professionals. And then of course, with the Nazi doctors I studied for another book — doctors assigned, say, to Auschwitz — they were expected to do selections of Jews for the gas chamber. That was what was expected of them and what for the most part they did — sometimes with some apprehension, but they did it. So that’s another malignant normality. Professionals were reduced to being automatic servants of the existing regime as opposed to people with special knowledge balanced by a moral baseline as well as the scientific information to make judgments.
Moyers: And that should apply to journalists, lawyers, doctors —
Lifton: Absolutely. One bears witness by taking in the situation — in this case, its malignant nature — and then telling one’s story about it, in this case with the help of professional knowledge, so that we add perspective on what’s wrong, rather than being servants of the powers responsible for the malignant normality. We must be people with a conscience in a very fundamental way.
Moyers: And this is what troubled you and many of your colleagues about the psychologists who helped implement the US policy of torture after 9/11.
Lifton: Absolutely. And I call that a scandal within a scandal, because yes, it was indeed professionals who became architects of torture, and their professional society, the American Psychological Association, which encouraged and protected them until finally protest from within that society by other members forced a change. So that was a dreadful moment in the history of psychology and in the history of professionals in this country.
Moyers: Some of the descriptions used to describe Trump — narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, delusional disorder, malignant narcissist — even some have suggested early forms of dementia — are difficult for lay people to grasp. Some experts say that it’s not one thing that’s wrong with him — there are a lot of things wrong with him and together they add up to what one of your colleagues calls “a scary witches brew, a toxic stew.”
Lifton: I think that’s very accurate. I agree that there’s an all-enveloping destructiveness in his character and in his psychological tendencies. But I’ve focused on what professionally I call solipsistic reality. Solipsistic reality means that the only reality he’s capable of embracing has to do with his own self and the perception by and protection of his own self. And for a president to be so bound in this isolated solipsistic reality could not be more dangerous for the country and for the world. In that sense, he does what psychotics do. Psychotics engage in, or frequently engage in a view of reality based only on the self. He’s not psychotic, but I think ultimately this solipsistic reality will be the source of his removal from the presidency.
Moyers: What’s your take on how he makes increasingly bizarre statements that are contradicted by irrefutable evidence to the contrary, and yet he just keeps on making them? I know some people in your field call this a delusional disorder, a profound loss of contact with external reality.
Lifton: He doesn’t have clear contact with reality, though I’m not sure it qualifies as a bona fide delusion. He needs things to be a certain way even though they aren’t, and that’s one reason he lies. There can also be a conscious manipulative element to it. When he put forward, and politically thrived on, the falsehood of President Obama’s birth in Kenya, outside the United States, he was manipulating that lie as well as undoubtedly believing it in part, at least in a segment of his personality. In my investigations, I’ve found that people can believe and not believe something at the same time, and in his case, he could be very manipulative and be quite gifted at his manipulations. So I think it’s a combination of those.
Moyers: How can someone believe and not believe at the same time?
Lifton: Well, in one part of himself, Trump can know there’s no evidence that Obama was born in any place but Hawaii in the United States. But in another part of himself, he has the need to reject Obama as a president of the United States by asserting that he was born outside of the country. He needs to delegitimate Obama. That’s been a strong need of Trump’s. This is a personal, isolated solipsistic need which can coexist with a recognition that there’s no evidence at all to back it up. I learned about this from some of the false confessions I came upon in my work.
Lifton: For instance, when I was studying Chinese communist thought reform, one priest was falsely accused of being a spy, and was under physical duress — really tortured with chains and in other intolerable ways. As he was tortured and the interrogator kept insisting that he was a spy, he began to imagine himself in the role of a spy, with spy radios in all the houses of his order. In his conversations with other missionaries he began to think he was revealing military data to the enemy in some way. These thoughts became real to him because he had to entered into them and convinced the interrogator that he believed them in order to remove the chains and the torture. He told me it seemed like someone creating a novel and the novelist building a story with characters which become real and believable. Something like that could happen to Trump, in which the false beliefs become part of a narrative, all of which is fantasy and very often bound up with conspiracy theory, so that he immerses himself in it and believing in it even as at the same time recognizing in another part of his mind that none of this exists. The human mind can do that.
Moyers: It’s as if he believes the truth is defined by his words.
Lifton: Yes, that’s right. Trump has a mind that in many ways is always under duress, because he’s always seeking to be accepted, loved. He sees himself as constantly victimized by others and by the society, from which he sees himself as fighting back. So there’s always an intensity to his destructive behavior that could contribute to his false beliefs.
Moyers: Do you remember when he tweeted that President Obama had him wiretapped, despite the fact that the intelligence community couldn’t find any evidence to support his claim? And when he spoke to a CIA gathering, with the television cameras running, he said he was “a thousand percent behind the CIA,” despite the fact that everyone watching had to know he had repeatedly denounced the “incompetence and dishonesty” of that same intelligence community.
Lifton: Yes, that’s an extraordinary situation. And one has to invoke here this notion of a self-determined truth, this inner need for the situation to take shape in the form that the falsehood claims. In a sense this takes precedence over any other criteria for what is true.
Moyers: What other hazardous patterns do you see in his behavior? For example, what do you make of the admiration that he has expressed for brutal dictators — Bashar al-Assad of Syria, the late Saddam Hussein of Iraq, even Kim Jong Un of North Korea — yes, him — and President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who turned vigilantes loose to kill thousands of drug users, and of course his admiration for Vladimir Putin. In the book Michael Tansey says, “There’s considerable evidence to suggest that absolute tyranny is Donald Trump’s wet dream.”
Lifton: Yes. Well, while Trump doesn’t have any systematic ideology, he does have a narrative, and in that narrative, America was once a great country, it’s been weakened by poor leadership, and only he can make it great again by taking over. And that’s an image of himself as a strongman, a dictator. It isn’t the clear ideology of being a fascist or some other clear-cut ideological figure. Rather, it’s a narrative of himself as being unique and all-powerful. He believes it, though I’m sure he’s got doubts about it. But his narrative in a sense calls forth other strongmen, other dictators who run their country in an absolute way and don’t have to bother with legislative division or legal issues.
Moyers: I suspect some elected officials sometimes dream of doing what an unopposed autocrat or strongman is able to do, and that’s demand adulation on the one hand, and on the other hand, eradicate all of your perceived enemies just by turning your thumb down to the crowd. No need to worry about “fake media” — you’ve had them done away with. No protesters. No confounding lawsuits against you. Nothing stands in your way.
Lifton: That’s exactly right. Trump gives the impression that he would like to govern by decree. And of course, who governs by decree but dictators or strongmen? He has that impulse in him and he wants to be a savior, so he says, in his famous phrase, “Only I can fix it!” That’s a strange and weird statement for anybody to make, but it’s central to Trump’s sense of self and self-presentation. And I think that has a lot to do with his identification with dictators. No matter how many they kill and no matter what else they do, they have this capacity to rule by decree without any interference by legislators or courts.
In the case of Putin, I think Trump does have involvements in Russia that are in some way determinative. I think they’ll be important in his removal from office. I think he’s aware of collusion on his part and his campaign’s, some of which has been brought out, a lot more of which will be brought out in the future. He appears to have had some kind of involvement with the Russians in which they’ve rescued him financially and maybe continue to do so, so that he’s beholden to them in ways for which there’s already lots of evidence. So I think his fierce impulse to cover up any kind of Russian connections, which is prone to obstruction of justice, will do him in.
Moyers: I want to ask you about another side of him that is taken up in the book. It involves the much-discussed video that appeared during the campaign last year which had been made a decade or so ago when Trump was newly married. He sees this actress outside his bus and he says, “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her,” and then we hear sounds of Tic Tacs before Trump continues. “You know,” he says, “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet, just kiss, I don’t even wait.” And then you can hear him boasting off camera, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything, grab them by the…. You can do anything.”
Lifton: In addition to being a strongman and a dictator, there’s a pervasive sense of entitlement. Whatever he wants, whatever he needs in his own mind, he can have. It’s a kind of American celebrity gone wild, but it’s also a vicious anti-female perspective and a caricature of male macho. That’s all present in Trump as well as the solipsism that I mentioned earlier, and that’s why when people speak of him as all-pervasive on many different levels of destructiveness, they’re absolutely right.
Moyers: And it seems to extend deeply into his relationship with his own family. There’s a chapter in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump with the heading, “Trump’s Daddy Issues.” There’s several of his quotes about his daughter, Ivanka. He said, “You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody, and I helped create her? Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s 6 feet tall. She’s got the best body.”
Again: “I said that if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” Ivanka was 22 at the time. To a reporter he said: “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married — and, you know, her father…”
When Howard Stern, the radio host, started to say, “By the way, your daughter —” Trump interrupted him with “She’s beautiful.” Stern continued, “Can I say this? A piece of ass.” To which Trump replied, “Yeah.” What’s going on here?
Lifton: In addition to everything else and the extreme narcissism that it represents, it’s a kind of unbridled sense of saying anything on one’s mind as well as an impulse to break down all norms because he is the untouchable celebrity. So just as he is the one man who can fix things for the country, he can have every woman or anything else that he wants, or abuse them in any way he seeks to.
Moyers: You mentioned extreme narcissism. I’m sure you knew Erich Fromm —
Lifton: Yes, I did.
Moyers: — one of the founders of humanistic psychology. He was a Holocaust survivor who had a lifelong obsession with the psychology of evil. And he said that he thought “malignant narcissism” was the most severe pathology — “the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity.” Do you think malignant narcissism goes a long way to explain Trump?
Lifton: I do think it goes a long way. In early psychoanalytic thought, narcissism was — and still, of course, is — self-love. The early psychoanalysts used to talk of libido directed at the self. That now feels a little quaint, that kind of language. But it does include the most fierce and self-displaying form of one’s individual self. And in this way, it can be dangerous. When you look at Trump, you can really see someone who’s destructive to any form of life enhancement in virtually every area. And if that’s what Fromm means by malignant narcissism, then it definitely applies.
Moyers: You said earlier that Trump and his administration have brought about a kind of malignant normalcy — that a dangerous president can become normalized. When the Democrats make a deal with him, as they did recently, are they edging him a little closer to being accepted despite this record of bizarre behavior?
Lifton: We are normalizing him when the Democrats make a deal with him. But there’s a profound ethical issue here and it’s not easily answered. If something is good for the country — perhaps the deal that the Democrats are making with Donald Trump is seen or could be understood by most as good for the country, dealing with the debt crisis — is that worth doing even though it normalizes him? If the Democrats do go ahead with this deal, they should take steps to make clear that they’re opposing other aspects of his presidency and of him.
Moyers: There’s a chapter in the book entitled, “He’s Got the World in His Hands and His Finger on the Trigger.” Do you ever imagine him sitting alone in his office, deciding on a potentially catastrophic course of action for the nation? Say, with five minutes to decide whether or not to unleash thermonuclear weapons?
Lifton: I do. And like many, I’m deeply frightened by that possibility. It’s said very often that, OK, there are people around him who can contain him and restrain him. I’m not so sure they always can or would. In any case, it’s not unlikely that he could seek to create some kind of crisis, if he found himself in a very bad light in relation to public opinion and close to removal from office. So yes, I share that fear and I think it’s a real danger. I think we have to constantly keep it in mind, be ready to anticipate it and take whatever action we can against it. The American president has particular power. This makes Trump the most dangerous man in the world. He’s equally dangerous because of his finger on the nuclear trigger and because of his mind ensconced in solipsistic reality. The two are a dreadful combination.
Moyers: One of your colleagues writes in the book, “Sociopathic traits may be amplified as the leader discovers that he can violate the norms of civil society and even commit crimes with impunity. And the leader who rules through fear, lies and betrayal may become increasingly isolated and paranoid as the loyalty of even his closest confidants must forever be suspect.” Does that sound like Trump?
Lifton: It’s already happening. We see that it’s harder and harder to work for him. It’s hard enough even for his spokesperson to affirm his falsehoods. These efforts are not too convincing and they become less convincing from the radius outward, in which people removed from his immediate circle find it still more difficult to believe him and the American public finds it more difficult. He still can appeal to his base because in his base there is a narrative of grievance that centers on embracing Trump without caring too much about whether what he says is true or false. He somehow fits into their narrative. But that can’t go on forever, and he’s losing some of his formerly loyal supporters as well. So he is becoming more isolated. That has its own dangers, but it’s inevitable that it would happen with a man like this as his falsehoods are contested.
Moyers: You bring up his base. Those true believers aren’t the only ones who voted for him. As we are talking, I keep thinking: Here we have a man who kept asking what’s the point of having thermonuclear weapons if we cannot use them; who advocates using torture or worse against our prisoners of war; who urged that five innocent young people here in New York, black young people, be given the death penalty for a sexual assault, even after it was proven someone else had committed the crime; who boasted about his ability to get away with sexually assaulting women because of his celebrity and power; who urged his followers at political rallies to punch protesters in the face and beat them so badly that they have to be taken out on stretchers; who suggested that maybe some of his followers might want to assassinate his political rival, Hillary Clinton, if she were elected president, or at the very least, throw her in prison; who believes he would not lose voters if he stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot someone. And over 63 million people voted to elect that man president!
Lifton: Yes, that’s a deeply troubling truth. And I doubt the people who voted for him were thinking about any of these things. What they were really responding to was a call for change, a sense that he was connecting with them in ways that others never had, that he would express and represent their interests, and that he would indeed make this country one dominated again by white people, in some cases white supremacists. But as you say, these people who embraced that narrative unquestioningly are a lesser minority than the ones who voted for him. And of course, he still didn’t win the popular vote. But it’s true — something has gone wrong with our democratic system in electing a man with all these characteristics that make up Donald Trump. Now we have to struggle to sustain the functional institutions of our democracy against his assault on them. I don’t think he’ll succeed in breaking them down, but he’s doing a lot of harm and it’ll take a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people to sustain them and to keep the democracy going, even in its faltering way.
Moyers: He still has the support of 80 percent of Republican voters — 4 out of 5. And it seems the Republican Party will tolerate him as long as they’re afraid of the intensity of his followers.
Lifton: Yes, and that’s another very disturbing thought. Things there could change quickly too. What I sense is that the whole situation is chaotic and volatile, so that any time now there could be further pronouncements, further information about Russia and about obstruction of justice, or another attempt of Trump to start firing people, including Mueller, and that this would create a constitutional crisis which would create more pressure on Republicans and everybody else. So even though that is an awful truth about the Republicans’ hypocrisy in continuing to support him, that could change, I think, almost overnight if the new information were sufficiently damning to Trump and his administration.
Moyers: Let’s talk about the “Trump Effect” on the country. One aspect of it was the increase in bullying in schools caused by the rhetoric used by Trump during the campaign. But it goes beyond that.
Lifton: I think Trump has had a very strong and disturbing effect on the country already. He has given more legitimacy to white supremacy and even to neo-fascist groups, and he’s created a pervasive atmosphere that’s more vague but still significant. I don’t believe that he can in his own way destroy the country, just as he can’t eliminate climate awareness, but he can go a long way in bringing — well, in stimulating what has always been a potential.
You mentioned Erich Fromm. I met him through [the sociologist] David Riesman. David Riesman was a close friend, a great authority on American society. He emphasized how there’s always an underbelly in American society of extreme conservatism and reactionary response, and when there’s any kind of progressive movement, there’s likely to be a backlash of reaction to it. Trump is very much in that backlash to any kind of progressive achievement or even decent situation in society. He is stimulating feelings that are potential and latent in our society, but very real, and rendering them more active and more dangerous. And in that way, he’s having a very harmful effect that I think mounts every single day.
Moyers: Some people who have known Trump for years say he’s gotten dramatically worse since he was inaugurated. In the prologue to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, Dr. Judith Lewis Herman writes this: “Fostered by the flattery of underlings and the chants of crowds, a political leader’s grandiosity may morph into grotesque delusions of grandeur.” Does that —
Lifton: That’s absolutely true. It’s absolutely true. And for anyone with these traits — of feeling himself victimized, of seeking to be the strongman who resolves everything, yet sees truth only through his own self and negates all other truth outside of it — is bound to become much more malignant when he has power. That’s what Judith Herman is saying, and she’s absolutely right. Power then breeds an intensification of all this because the power can never be absolute power — to some extent it’s stymied — but the isolation while in power becomes even more dangerous. Think of it as a vicious circle. The power intensifies these tendencies and the tendencies become more dangerous because of the power.
Moyers: But suppose that if Donald Trump is crazy, as some have said, he’s crazy like a fox, which is to say all this bizarre behavior is really clever strategy to mislead, distract and deceive others into responding in precisely the manner that he wants them to.
Lifton: I don’t think that’s quite true. I think that it’s partly true. As I said before, Trump both disbelieves and believes in falsehoods, so that when he did thrive on his longstanding and perhaps most egregious falsehood — the claim that Obama was not born in the United States — he’s crazy like a fox in manipulating it because it gave him his political entrée onto the national stage — and also, incidentally, was not rejected by many leading Republicans. So he was crazy like a fox in that case. But it’s more extreme even than that. In order to make your falsehoods powerful, you have to believe in them in some extent. And that’s why we simplify things if we say that Trump either believes nothing in his falsehoods and is just manipulating us like a fox or he completely believes them. Neither is true. The combination of both and his talent as a manipulator and falsifier are very much at issue.
Moyers: You may not remember it, but you and I talked l6 years ago this very week — a few days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. ll — and PBS had asked me to go on the air to talk to a variety of people about their response to those atrocities.
Lifton: I haven’t forgotten it, Bill.
Moyers: And in our discussion, we talked about your book, Destroying the World to Save It, about that extremist Japanese religious cult aum shinrikyo that released sarin nerve gas in Tokyo subways, you compared their ideology to Osama bin Laden: “He wanted to destroy a major part of the world to purify the world. There was in this idea, or his ideology, a sense of renewal.” We saw it in that Japanese cult. So the issue I am getting at is that such an aspiration can take hold of any true believer — the desire to purify the world no matter the cost.
Lifton: It is a very dangerous aspiration, and it’s not absent from the Trump presidency, although I don’t think it’s his central theme. I think it’s a central theme in Steve Bannon, for instance, who is an apocalyptic character and really wants to bring down most of advanced society as we know it, most of civilization as we know it, in order to recreate it in his image. I think Trump has some attraction to that, just as he had attraction to Bannon as a person and as a thinker, and that influence is by no means over. He’s still in touch with Bannon. So there is this apocalyptic influence in the Trumpean presidency: The world is destroyed in order to be purified and renewed in the ideal way that is projected by a Steve Bannon. And there is a sense of that when Trump says we’ll make America great again, because he says it’s been destroyed, he will remake it. So there is an apocalyptic suggestion, but I don’t think it’s at the very heart of his presidency.
Moyers: So our challenge is?
Lifton: I always feel we have to work both outside and inside of our existing institutions, so we have to really be careful about who we vote for and examine carefully our institutions and what they’re meant to do and how they’re being violated. I also think we need movements from below that oppose what this administration and administrations like it are doing to ordinary people. And for those of us who contributed to this book — well, as I said earlier, we have to be “witnessing professionals” and fulfill our duty to warn.
sent by my mom on September 16, 2017
This may turn out to be even bigger than it initially seemed. I think Facebook is a very bad idea.
sent by my mom on 5/4/2017
sent by mom on 5/3/17
by Lily Hay Newman
IF YOU GET a Google Doc link in your inbox today, scrutinize it carefully before you click—even if it looks like it comes from someone you trust. A nasty phishing scam that impersonates a Google Docs request has swept the internet today, including a decent chunk of media companies. You’ve heard “think before you click” a million times, but it really could save you from a whole lot of hassle.
Google has taken steps to neutralize this particular phish. The company said in a statement that it has “disabled offending accounts. We’ve removed the fake pages, pushed updates through Safe Browsing, and our abuse team is working to prevent this kind of spoofing from happening again.” But when it comes to phishing defense there’s always an element of cat and mouse. Large-scale phishing attacks and those impersonating popular services like Google log-in pages regularly stalk the internet.
“The importance of this phish is not how it spread, but rather how it didn’t use malware or fake websites tricking users to give up their passwords,” says Aaron Higbee, chief technology officer at the phishing research and defense company PhishMe, which analyzed data from the fake Google Docs campaign. “This phish worked because it tricked the user into granting permissions to a third-party application. This is the future of phishing, and every security technology vendor is ill-equipped to deal with it.”
Similar Google Docs scams in particular have been circulating since at least 2014, but that doesn’t make them any easier to spot, in part because they seem so authentic. Phishers can use real Google accounts and develop third-party plugins that can interact with Google services, so they can lure victims in through the most perfect-looking Google web pages of all: Genuine ones. And variations on this approach hit over and over, much like waves in the ocean. Fishing? Phishing. You get it. Here’s how to stay vigilant this time, and going forward.
This round of Google docs phishing emails works like so: You get an email saying someone added you to a Google Doc; click this link to view it. That takes you to a legitimate account screen, listing all the Google accounts you’re logged into. From there, you choose the one you want to use to view the document (or log in, if you weren’t already authenticated in your browser). There, a malicious service called “Google Docs” awaits, asking for privileges to access your account, your contacts, your password rests, your emails, everything.
If you already clicked this type of link today (or any day), go to the Permissions page of your Google account as quickly as possible and, in this case, revoke access to the service called “Google Docs.” Again, it’s a fake. Then change your password and make sure you have two-factor authentication turned on, which you totally already did, right?
To help protect yourself even further in the future, Google offers a tool called Password Alert that warns you if you type your Google account credentials into any page that isn’t officially Google’s. If phishers have made a realistic-looking fake, Password Alert instantly suggests that you change your password and secure your account as soon as you’ve made the mistake. But this doesn’t necessarily protect you when scammers are manipulating genuine Google processes. And, of course, it doesn’t help you identify fake log-in pages related to other companies’ services.
Resisting the urge to click remains the best first line of defense out there. When you can spot inconsistencies or suspicious content in an email that may help tip you off—in this case, a “To:” field populated by “hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” should raise suspicions—and listening to those instincts is important. But in the case where a phishing email (or a spear phishing email tailored to you) is perfect enough to convince you, it takes a general habit of thinking before you click to give you a chance.
Downloading attachments or clicking links shouldn’t be automatic even when they seem to be from the people closest to you. Particularly if you’re not expecting a message, you should take a moment to examine any URLs it contains in a plaintext editor, or double-check with your friend through another means of communication that they really sent you a Word document of recipes. These quick checks can make a big difference. Sometimes a second look is all it takes to realize that your coworker probably wouldn’t send a Google Doc to your entire company out of the blue.
This post has been updated to include comment from PhishMe’s Aaron Higbee.
sent by my mom on 04/04/2017
Phone Scams Costing Victims, All Over One Word
March 29, 2017 Kayla Thrailkill
“Can You Hear Me Okay?”
Consumer alerts have been booming regarding recent phone scams that are hitting nationwide. Scammers are calling, claiming to be from customer support teams. All they want to hear you say is “yes”. Often times the phone call will initiate as simple as,
“This is Tom Jones from customer support services. Can you hear me okay?”
What you don’t know, is the scammers are recording these phone calls, and once you respond with “yes”, they have what they need. They use your verbal confirmation completely out of context, claiming you confirmed you were going to pay for products or services.
If you get a phone call from these scammers, hang up immediately. Also, do not give them your personal information.
If you would like to read more about the consumer alert, you can do so here. The NBC Nightly News also featured a piece on this scam, which you may view here. http://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/consumer-alert-beware-of-the-can-you-hear-me-robocall-scam-866200131564
sent by my mom on 03/31/2017
I have never read the second half of “Inﬁnite Jest”; I have never read “The Art of the Deal,” by Donald Trump; and other shared attributes.
By Ethan Kuperberg
The forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us. —Barack Obama.
I love television.
I have almost zero understanding of international politics.
I have not exercised in 2017.
I have never read the second half of “Infinite Jest.”
I have never read “The Art of the Deal,” by Donald Trump.
I know it’s silly and will never happen, but I secretly wish that Barack Obama were my best friend.
I have been scared every day since November 8, 2016.
I’m not as good at having sex as I think I am.
I am related to Jewish people whom I don’t understand.
A waiter once forgot to charge me for a drink at a restaurant, and I did not tell him to adjust the check.
Melania Trump has no interest in having sex with me.
When I get really stressed out, I like to watch the film “Finding Dory.”
I have recently Internet-stalked the people who bullied me in middle school.
I need more therapy than I am currently undergoing.
I look awful in hats.
Hillary Clinton is much smarter than I am, and I know it.
I would rather win an Emmy than be in politics.
I would rather win a free drink at the Coffee Bean than be in politics.
Sometimes I wish that dogs could talk. I wonder what they would say.
Not to harp on it, but “Finding Dory” has a plotline that I find easy to follow.
I am not on the correct medication.
I have a recurring nightmare in which my father tells me that he is not proud of me.
I have never had a one-on-one conversation with Tiffany Trump that lasted for longer than ten minutes.
I’m pretty sure I’m not gay, but every once in a while I see an attractive man and I think, Geez, that guy is good-looking.
I hope they make a sequel to “Finding Dory.”
I think that Paul Ryan is a fucking wimp.
I will never understand what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but all I want, deeply and unequivocally, on any given day, at any given hour, is to have someone look me in the eye and tell me, with complete and profound sincerity, “I love you.”
I have never been democratically elected President of the United States. ♦
” … The term comes from the 1930s play “Gas Light” and the 1940s Hollywood movie version (Gaslight) in which a manipulative husband tries to unmoor his wife, … by tampering with her perception of reality. He dims the gaslights and then pretends it’s only she who thinks they are flickering as the rooms grow darker.
‘Nuf said. See below. (NOTE: I don’t endorse everything in this piece — some of the West’s behavior in Ukraine may be as open to question as Russia’s, and the truth behind alleged Russian meddling in US affairs remains murky. But the article makes its general point well enough.)
Donald Trump is ‘gaslighting’ all of us
Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review, and a former CNN producer and correspondent. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.
(CNN) Is Donald Trump really a “big fan” of the intelligence community, as he claimed on Twitter, or did he disparage intelligence professionals when he repeatedly referred to them and their work in sneer quotes about “Intelligence” briefings and the “so-called ‘Russian hacking'”?
Did Trump mock a disabled reporter, or did your eyes, and the Hollywood elite make you think he did?
The fact is Trump has become America’s gaslighter in chief.
If you’ve never heard the term, prepare to learn it and live with it every day. Unless Trump starts behaving in a radically different way after he becomes President, gaslighting will become one of the words of 2017.
The term comes from the 1930s play “Gas Light” and the 1940s Hollywood movie version (Gaslight) in which a manipulative husband tries to unmoor his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman, by tampering with her perception of reality. He dims the gaslights and then pretends it’s only she who thinks they are flickering as the rooms grow darker.
Mental health professionals have made much of the practice, said to be a favorite of narcissists and abusive spouses. But more recently the tactical tampering with the truth has become a preferred method of strongmen around the world. Gaslighting by other means was always a common feature of dictatorships, but it has found new vogue as a more subtle form of domestic political control even in countries with varying degrees of democracy.
Now Trump has brought it to the United States. The techniques include saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others for misunderstanding, disparaging their concerns as oversensitivity, claiming outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and other forms of twilighting the truth.
Recall the presidential campaign. By early summer, Trump had already accumulated a long list of statements he made and then denied making; enough that fact-checkers could hardly keep up. He told his supporters to “knock the crap out” of protesters at his rallies, adding “I will pay your legal fees.” When confronted with the statement, he responded: “I didn’t say that.”
When Trump says something that outrages a portion of the population and pleases one segment, he can have it both ways. Voters eager for a tough guy president may be happy with the bully, while those who don’t like it might be appeased by the denial. In the end, few people can keep up with all the facts all the time. And as he tries to undercut the credibility of serious journalists, he makes it even harder for everyone else to find an easy path to the truth.
Just before Friday’s intelligence briefing on Russian hacks, Trump approvingly tweeted about Julian Assange’s statements denying Russian involvement. When he was criticized for trusting the head of WikiLeaks more than US intelligence professionals, he accused the “dishonest media” of claiming he agreed with Assange.
In Russia, the truth became a matter of opinion under a strategy implemented by a clever aide to President Vladimir Putin, Vladislav Surkov. Surkov, who has a background in the arts, orchestrated a kind of political theater in Russia, creating a gauzy façade where no one knew which group was a creation of the government and which wasn’t.
He reportedly financed liberal groups and neo-Nazi skinheads. Russian politics became theater, and Putin gradually gained almost total control, with the independent media gradually disappearing as an alternative to journalists loyal to the government.
Then comes the battle to hold on to the facts.
sent by my mom on 01/13/2017
On Dec. 17, Lyndsay and Matthew Brentlinger welcomed fraternal twins.
The arrival of the two seemingly healthy babies, a boy named William and girl named Reagan, felt like a miracle to the Ohio parents.
During Lyndsay’s pregnancy, doctors had told the couple that William would likely be stillborn due to heart abnormalities. A heart specialist also told them that there was a chance Will would be born alive, but that his time with them would be limited. The doctor told them that he couldn’t predict if they’d have hours, days or weeks with their son.
“I was so happy they were finally here and that Will was stable,” Lyndsay told HuffPost. “But I was also scared of when I would lose him.”
The family decided they’d celebrate William’s life while they could.
“We snuggled him, loved him, read to him and in general just enjoyed him,” Lyndsay told HuffPost.
Mandy Edwards, a family friend, wanted to help the family preserve this very special time.
A day after the twin’s birth, Edwards reached out to Lindsey Brown, a local photographer she had been following on social media, and asked if she was available last minute to take on a family photo shoot that she wanted to gift to the Brentlingers.
“I knew immediately I had to do this for them,” Brown told HuffPost, despite being booked solid due to the holidays. “How could anyone with a heart say no to that?”
Knowing time was of the essence, Brown drove to the family’s home on Dec. 20 for the urgent photo shoot.
“These two parents are two of the strongest people I’ve ever met,” Brown told HuffPost. “They treated both babies like nothing was wrong whatsoever. That was touching to see.”
Brown also noted that the babies were perfect models.
“You never would have known anything was wrong with William, which makes the story that much harder,” Brown said. “I will say we noticed he was quite alert, and calm. Just staring around the room, gazing, like he was trying to take it all in. Little Reagan just snoozed the entire time!”
At the end of the session, the photographer and the parents all shed a few tears and went their separate ways.
William survived through Christmas and got to celebrate the holiday with his family.
Unfortunately, on Dec. 28, he died.
The family has Brown’s gorgeous photos, which Lyndsay describes as one of her “most treasured possessions,” to remember him by.
She has already placed the pictures in a locket Matthew gave to her for Christmas.
“Most importantly, I plan to share them with Will’s sister, Reagan, when she is older,” Lyndsay told HuffPost. “I will use them to tell her about her brother who is now her angel in heaven.”
sent by my mom on 1/8/16
“Well, I always called it “the shadow government” but it’s the same thing–and it’s not “gridlock”. It’s working exactly the way it was meant to. Follow the $$$.” ~mom
by Elias Isquith of Salon
One of the predominant themes of the 2016 presidential campaign thus far — and one that is unlikely to lose significance once the primaries give way to the general election — is the American people’s exasperation with a political system they see as corrupt, self-serving, disingenuous and out of touch.
It is not an especially partisan or ideological sentiment; you can just as easily find it among supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders as among fans of Donald Trump. You can even find those who support paragons of the status quo, like Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush, making similar complaints. It’s about as close to a consensus position as you’re likely to find nowadays in American politics.
Yet despite the widespread agreement that something is seriously wrong with democracy in the U.S., there’s much less of a consensus as to what that something is — and, crucially, how to fix it. The answers Bernie Sanders offers, for example, are not exactly the same as those proffered by Donald Trump. Is the problem too much government? Not enough government? Too much immigration? Not enough immigration? Too much taxing and regulating? Not enough taxing and regulating?
Our lack of a systemic analysis of the problem is part of the reason why our answers are so diffuse and ill-fitting. And that’s just one of the reasons why “The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government,” the new book from ex-longtime GOP staffer turned best-selling author Mike Lofgren, is so valuable. Lofgren puts a name and a shape to a problem that has often been only nebulously defined; and while his conclusions are not exactly uplifting, the logic and sophistication of his argument is hard to resist.
Recently, Salon spoke over the phone with Lofgren about his book, the deep state and his read on the current sorry state of American government and politics. Our conversation, which also touched on President Obama’s relationship with the deep state, was edited for clarity and length.
How should we think about the deep state? Is it an elite conspiracy? A loosely defined social group? A network of specific institutions? How should we conceive of it?
Well, first of all, it is not a conspiracy. It is something that operates in broad daylight. It is not a conspiratorial cabal. These are simply people who have evolved [into] a kind of position. It is in their best interest to act in this way.
And given the fact that people would rather know about Kim Kardashian than what makes up the budget or what the government is doing in Mali or Sudan or other unknown places, this is what you get: a disconnected, self-serving bureaucracy that is … simply evolving to do what it’s doing now. That is, to maintain and enhance its own power.
When do you think the American deep state first started?
Probably, it started in WWII, when we had the Manhattan Project, which was a huge secret project that required tens of thousands of people to be working in complete secrecy — and we actually built enormous cities [for the project’s workers] … and no one knew they existed.
You also had the so-called Ultra and Magic secret [operations], the decoding of the Nazi and Japanese codes that required an enormous number of people to be doing absolutely top secret work that they did not reveal to anybody for decades. So, WWII created this kind of infrastructure of the deep state, which increased and consolidated during the Cold War.
What are the key institutions and players within the deep state?
The key institutions are exactly what people would think they are. The military-industrial complex; the Pentagon and all their contractors (but also, now, our entire homeland security apparatus); the Department of Treasury; the Justice Department; certain courts, like the southern district of Manhattan, and the eastern district of Virginia; the FISA courts. And you got this kind of rump Congress that consists of certain people in the leadership, defense and intelligence committees who kind of know what’s going on. The rest of Congress doesn’t really know or care; they’re too busy looking about the next election.
So that’s the governmental aspect. What about in the private sector?
You’ve got Wall Street. Many of these people — whether it is David Petraeus … or someone like [Bill] Daley, who is the former chief of staff to President Obama … or Hank Paulson, who came from Goldman Sachs to become Treasury Secretary and bailed out Wall Street in 2008; or the people that Obama chose to be Treasury secretary — like Tim Geithner. They all have that Wall Street connection.
And the third thing now is Silicon Valley.
Oh? Why is Silicon Valley now so central?
Because they generate so much money that they are rivaling and sometimes surpassing Wall Street. The heads of Google or Apple make more money than the guys running Wall Street. They make more money than Jamie Dimon. So that’s the new source of cash to run the deep state.
Silicon Valley provides a lot of money. But it also has access to an unfathomable amount of information. Which do you think is more valuable to the deep state — the cash or the info?
I think you can’t distinguish the two. There is a tremendous amount of money coming, in terms of lobbying, for Silicon Valley to get what it wants in terms of intellectual property and so forth.
At the same time, NSA insiders have told me that they couldn’t even operate without the cooperation of Silicon Valley, because the communication backbones that are set up and operated by Silicon Valley provide the vast majority of information that the NSA and other intelligence agencies are going to exploit — and they can’t do it themselves. They need the willing or unwilling cooperation of Silicon Valley.
But when the Snowden leaks first hit, a lot of Silicon Valley elites implied they didn’t knowingly or willingly work with the government, no?
There was a certain amount of deception there, after the Edward Snowden revelations. They claimed, Oh, well, the NSA made us do all these things! — but not really, because NSA, CIA, and these other intelligence organizations were also involved in giving seed money or subsidies to various Silicon Valley companies to do these things.
Right. Which raises the question of whether the line between the public sector and the private sector even matters anymore, at least when it comes to the deep state.
It is hard to distinguish them anymore. All these guys simply go through the revolving door to the point where you can hardly distinguish [government employees from private sector workers]. A good percentage of the people sitting at their desks right now in the Pentagon are private sector contractors. They are literally in the Pentagon, in the NSA building, in all these organizations. They are the ones who essentially run the show, by virtue of having the technical knowledge.
Snowden himself was a contractor.
Yes, he was a Booz Allen contractor. How is it that a Booz Allen contractor — a junior person — had access to all this information? It certainly doesn’t say much for Gen. Keith Alexander, who was the director of NSA at the time. How can he bitch and moan about Snowden? He was responsible for having him cleared, and for letting low-level contractors have that kind of access. And yet now he is working in some boutique cybersecurity firm on Wall Street and making a ton of money.
Do the people who work in the deep state have a common ideology or narrative that they tell themselves and one another, something that justifies their behavior or explains why their interventions into the democratic process are “necessary”?
I think it’s an ideology that dare not speak its name. They claim it is not an ideology, that it is simply their technocratic expertise giving you the benefit of their knowledge. However, their knowledge is always based on a neoconservative view of foreign policy, [and] in domestic policy, it enforces neoliberalism.
On a personal level, it is kind of, Well, we’re just doing the best we can or If only everyone appreciated how hard it is to decide whether to torture subject A or subject B when you are in the CIA or If only everyone appreciated how hard it is to decide to privatize this or that. You just don’t really appreciate how difficult things are for us.
They sort of act like stoical martyrs when you ask them about why they actually do these things.
Do you think that sense of martyrdom explains the revolving door problem? I’m imagining something along the lines of these people saying to themselves, Well, I sacrificed for my country; so now I deserve to cash out.
I am sure they all acculturate themselves to that viewpoint. And when the money is there; you don’t want to leave it lying on the table. They certainly don’t. And our laws against that kind of behavior are nonexistent, or can be gotten around, so why nottake the money?
I once made a joke to a friend that President Obama was to the deep state what the press secretary is to the president. Was I closer to the truth than I realized? Or was I going too far?
I don’t believe so. [Obama] was a guy who was so carefully cultivated. You saw that already in the 2004 Democratic convention. He was going to filibuster the FISA Amendments Act regarding the telecoms illegal collusion with intelligence agencies, but somewhere in 2008, he decided he was going to vote for it. And that was right about the time that somebody supplied him with John Brennan, the current CIA director, who was going to tutor him on what it takes to be president from the national security perspective.
It doesn’t suggest a lot of autonomy on Obama’s part.
This guy is to some extent controlled. That doesn’t mean he is not articulate or bright or doesn’t know what’s going on; he is obviously more so, on all accounts, than his predecessor. But Obama, or any other president, has a very limited latitude of what he’s going to do on the very big issues of international finance and national security. He is very hemmed-in on those accounts. So he becomes a kind of a spokesman.
Just hypothetically, what do you think would happen if he tried to push the envelope and publicly reject some foundational element of the deep state?
I don’t think we really know what would happen, because the incentives for these people are so carefully aligned with what they’re “supposed” to do. Obama has already had White House dinners with very rich contributors about setting up his pharaonic monument, the Obama Presidential Library (which is going to require billions in funding). That already constraints how much he’s going to go rogue.
And we have to only have to think back to Clinton on his way out the door. He signed a bill which took the wraps off derivatives trading. He claimed later that somehow his hand was forced and that it was going to be written anyway and all that; I don’t think so. He ended up being paid over $100 million afterwards, mainly by corporate sponsors, to give speeches. It was kind of like compensation after the fact.
Given the ubiquity and continuity of the deep state, will it matter whether the Republican or the Democrat wins the presidential race later this year? Or will it be the same either way?
It matters to a certain extent. A competent rogue is probably preferable to an insane one. There are definable differences between Bush and Obama. However, the differences are so constrained. They’re not between the 40-yard lines; they are between the 48-yard lines.
Is there any scenario in which the deep state’s influence and power can be curtailed or eliminated? Or does the fact that it’s evolved sort of organically suggest that only something truly revolutionary could upend it?
The deep state has created so many contradictions in this country. You have this enormous disparity of rich and poor; and you have this perpetual war, even though we’re braying about freedom. We have a surveillance state, and we talk about freedom. We have internal contradictions. Who knows what this will fly into? It may collapse like the Soviet Union; or it might go into fascism with a populist camouflage — like Trump is selling us.