Blog, Crisis Management, Media + Politics, Politics

Meaner and More Divisive Than Ever: The Dangers of Failing to Accept Reality

        In 2015, I published Dumb, Deranged, and Dangerous: A Smart Guide to Combatting Dumb Arguments[i]. Not only was it a compilation of dumb arguments such as they were at the time, but even more, it was a biting critique of both the arguments and their proponents. 

Since then, things have only gotten much worse. Not only are the “arguments”—if they are even deserving of the term—dumber, but they are damning evidence of their proponents’ glaring inability and abject refusals to accept reality. In a word, they are meaner and more divisive than ever. 

While there’re countless examples that one can give, the following are more than sufficient to illustrate what we’re up against.

Recently, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis verbally assaulted students by commanding them in no uncertain terms to stop engaging in what he called “Covid Theatre” by continuing to wear face masks. Despite deaths being down, to trivialize in any way a deadly disease that is still producing lethal variants and thus continues to pose a major threat to our general health and well-being is nothing less than the height of social irresponsibility, if not evil. But then as my most recent book[ii] shows, the numbers and types of arguments/claims that people have concocted for Not getting vaccinated for Covid 19 are just as bad, if not more so. Indeed, they’re not only devastating, but constitute major Threats to our Sensibilities. 

In short, the numbers of serious Threats that Covid 19 has spawned (the Economy, the Strain on Health Care, the Entire School System, etc.) plus those that have and are continuing to occur despite it (Global Warming, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, etc.) are utterly overwhelming and thus too much to bear. Arguments of the worst kind represent the utterly feeble attempts of far too many to try and regain control over their lives.

As the eminent British poet T.S. Eliot put it best, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

If the preceding weren’t bad enough, Governor DeSantis promised to sign a Bill by the Republican State Assembly that would ban classroom discussions about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Primary Schools. Indeed, it would prohibit use of the word “Gay.” Needless to say, it’s not only set off firestorms of protests from the Gay community, but from supporters nation-wide.

Not to be outdone, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has threatened the parents whose children are considering Transgendering with dire consequences. Anyone who knows of parents who are even considering it for their children and fails to report it would face “criminal penalties.” It’s nothing less than encouraging Vigilantism. Just as bad, other States are considering equally horrendous actions.

Given how much the Social-Emotional development of young children has been seriously hampered by means of their being unable to have normal contact with other children, one would think that additions to the curriculum that emphasized and thus reinforced Social-Emotional Learning would be actively welcomed. But no. A Republican Senator in the Mid-West spoke out fiercely against such a proposal contending that it would promote the teaching of Critical Race Theory and therefore not only indoctrinate children, but make White children feel bad about themselves. The argument is not only supremely dumb, but mean. First of all, Critical Race Theory is only taught in college not in K-12. Second, depriving children of Social-Emotional Learning only harms them even more. It’s both incredibly mean and cruel. Everything has become deeply politicized and extremely divisive. 

Recently, former child star Ricky Schroeder called museum guards “Nazis” for refusing to admit him because he refused to wear a mask. In his defense, he shouted, “God’s Laws are Higher than man’s!” The guards were of course only carrying out their assigned duties in the museum’s effort to protect its visitors as well as themselves from a deadly disease.

Undeniably, among the worst is the Big Lie by Donald Trump and his supporters that he won the last election. Even though it was one of the most secure on record and there was virtually no evidence of voter fraud, it’s led to the passage of some of the most draconian and restrictive voter laws. As a result, it’s put American Democracy in serious danger. 

Once again, we’re not only dealing with dumb and fallacious arguments, but with absolutely mean and senseless actions. And, as January 6 showed, we’re dealing with the ever-present threats of violence that they encourage. 

Lest it appear that mean arguments and actions are the sole province of the ignorant and extreme Right, I hasten to point out that they’re also found in abundance on the Left as well. Cries for Defunding the Police are one of the most prominent examples. Reform the Police yes, but Defund them when violent crime is up nation-wide? It makes no sense. To be sure, after the senseless and brutal murders by the Police of Black men, there is no doubt whatsoever of the need for major change. The entire culture of Policing needs to be seriously reexamined and overhauled.

There is no end to the examples that one could give of the depths to which we’ve sunk. But one thing is clear. We are suffering from nothing less than Mass Psychosis. Our ability to face and thereby deal with a world that is more complex and messy than anything we’ve ever faced is in serious jeopardy. 

Finally, consider the fact that Words themselves have become more troublesome and divisive than ever. Thus, the use of pronouns by which we refer to people’s identities have become major flashpoints. Compared to the pain and humiliation that LGBTQ’s have suffered for years, the issue pales in significance. One is entitled to use whatever he, she, or they feels is appropriate to refer to oneself and others. 

In addition, the Age of Dis and Misinformation has only made matters worse. Who and what can one Trust to provide True and Accurate Information about the multiple Threats that assault us on a daily basis? No wonder why Paranoia has flourished and made us feel more Vulnerable than ever. It’s not surprising that we yearn for reputable authorities to address our Fears as honestly and as forthrightly as they can. 

But just when we need them more than ever, along with Health Care workers of all stripes, School Principals are planning to resign in numbers never experienced before. The stress of dealing with the Mental Problems of students and the constant angry flareups of parents has gotten to the point where they can’t take it anymore. The same is true of Flight Attendants. The numbers of dangerous incidents with unruly passengers have become so frequent and violent such that it’s no longer safe to fly.

Unfortunately, the problems with Words is widespread. Thus, recently, Russia has announced that anyone calling its “Incursion into Ukraine” an Insurrection or a War could face up to 15 years in jail. 

To recap, the “arguments”—if once again they are even worthy of the term—range from punishing parents and children for alleged crimes; ridiculing and thereby downplaying serious health concerns; verbally assaulting workers who are merely doing their assigned jobs in order to protect the public and themselves; furthering lies that put American Democracy at risk; instead of promoting serious reform, threatening the very existence of the institution of Policing.   

We cannot survive if we continue to deny and trivialize life-threatening events and especially sensible ways of dealing with them. 

The greatest casualty of Covid 19 and of all the other threats we’re facing is the serious damage they’ve done to our ability to make sense of things and to get along with one another. Reason Itself and Civility have suffered serious blows.

While counterarguments may not change the minds of those who need it most, we have no choice but to speak out as forcefully and as often as we can against the most vicious assertions and atrocious lies. More than ever, we have to believe with all our hearts and minds in the dictum that the Truth will finally win out.

[i] Ian I. Mitroff, Dumb, Deranged, and Dangerous: A Smart Guide toCombatting Dumb Arguments, 2015.

[ii] Ian I. Mitroff, The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons From Covid, Springer, New York, 2022, in press.

Blog, Crisis Management, Politics

The Perilous Fate of the Nation: The Civil War We Are In


As someone who loves this country with all my heart and soul (it’s been good to me beyond my wildest dreams), the feeling that we’ve entered a period of protracted Civil War fills me with unbearable sadness.

The Threats to our Democracy are as great as any in our Nation’s history. The abject hostility and opposition of the Republican Party towards any measures—most notably protecting Voter Rights–that would strengthen our Democracy is absolutely appalling. Voter Suppression Laws are one of the most anti-Democratic acts imaginable.

As one of the founders of the modern field of Crisis Management, I can say unequivocally that the array of crises we’re experiencing are as worrisome as any we’ve ever faced. It’s exacerbated by the fact that where once a major crisis such as Covid would have brought us together, it’s only served to divide us even more thereby adding to the crisis.

Just the list of crises is overwhelming, if not thoroughly depressing. The fact that they not only impact one another, but magnify their worst effects only adds to the overall sense of angst: the long-term disastrous effects of Climate Change and our pitiful attempts towards taking meaningful action; the radical fluctuations of the Stock Market; the worst bouts of Inflation in years; a deadly Pandemic that shows no end in sight; the precarious state of our Collective Mental Health, especially that of young people and older citizens due in large part to the Pandemic; the back and forth opening and closing of Schools; the passage of laws designed explicitly to suppress the voting  of people of color and minorities; and on and on. Each day only brings more.

But of them all, I’m most concerned with the precarious State of our Democracy. Where once we both celebrated and were a nation of mutual respect and tolerance, and thus a Beacon to the entire world, we’ve descended into a wretched state of constant division, contempt, and abject hatred of those who don’t share the same views.  It makes me both sad and deeply ashamed to admit that I’m no less guilty in this regard.

The signs of trouble are loud and clear such that they cannot be ignored. Increasingly, those who feel deeply aggrieved about their station in life use the most apocalyptic language to describe their situation in life. It’s nothing less than a “war” between “us” and “them.”

If further evidence is needed, consider the fact that the numbers of Americans who feel that violence is justified in achieving their desired ends is terrifying.  So are the numbers who feel that we’ve already lost our Democracy. In short, many have  given up altogether.

Not only are we suffering the effects of the widespread loss of Commonality, but worst of all, we are suffering from nothing less than Mass Psychosis. It’s marked by the refusal of far too many to accept and thereby deal with Reality. Thus, the numbers who believe in Conspiracy Theories and that Trump won the last election is scary beyond belief. It’s heightened by the fact that one of the major political parties is complicit and as such has gone completely off the rails. As Abraham Lincoln put it long ago, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Looking back, many have asked how the German people could have succumbed to the likes of Hitler and Nazi propaganda. We have only to look at ourselves for the answer for it’s happening here. In short, we’ve let our worst instincts run wild and thereby get the better of us.

It’s aided and abetted by a public that is grossly unprepared for the complexities of today’s world. It’s also furthered by an archaic Political System that accords the same two Senators to every State no matter what their size thus abetting the Tyranny of Minorities. All of these and more work to heighten the divisions between us and thus lower the chances of our survival as a Republic. No wonder why the track record of Democracies that are severely spilt is abysmal.

This is what makes the current state of affairs so profoundly different from past crises that we’ve weathered. The fact that we’ve survived terrible calamities in the past is no guarantee that we will now. To the best of my knowledge, we’ve never experienced Mass Psychosis on such a scale.

I see the utter breaking apart of the America I knew and love happening daily. While it may not be a shooting war in the conventional sense of battles between two well-trained and organized armies, it’s a Civil War in every which way. Indeed, we live under the constant threat of violent skirmishes on the population as a whole by organized Militias, White Supremacist, and Extremist Groups of all kinds. In this sense, it’s depressingly close to the endless war that racked Northern Ireland.

We are devolving faster and faster into European-like Duchies, each with sole allegiance to itself and not to the Nation as a whole. While for the time being Secession between the States may be out of the question, it can’t be ruled out entirely. Indeed, it may be the best, if not only, way to prevent an out-and-out shooting war.

Unless a true spirit of Bipartisanship were to reemerge, I see no alternative to Blue and Red States continuing to drift further and further apart, ultimately going their own ways. It’s already close to happening at the County levels.

We are in serious danger of losing the country I love so dearly. If there are grounds for hope, it’s that enough of us will rise up and say “Stop! We will not allow our Democracy to be highjacked any more!”

Blog, Politics, Psychology

Psychopathology on full display

Originally published November 21, 2018 on Nation of Change

While not perfect or overwhelming, the people decided in the midterms to check on the President’s power. Expect more to come. It’s our only hope.

If there were any doubts whatsoever about President Trump’s mental state, they were completely dispelled by his performance on the day after the elections.

Because of the grave danger he poses not only to our country but to the world, in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, all of the contributors felt strongly that it was their moral duty to break with the long-standing, self-imposed rule of not diagnosing someone that they had not examined personally. The feeling was that on a daily basis Trump exhibited more than enough instances of disturbing behavior to reach definitive conclusions as to his mental health. The overwhelming judgment is that he suffers from literally every known form of mental illness: pathological narcissism, delusions, paranoia, frequent breaks with reality, etc.

What they came tantalizing close to saying it but did not is that Donald Trump fits all of the traits associated with psychopaths. Does this thereby make him one? In my judgment, the answer is unequivocally “Yes!” Indeed, not only does he not hide his disturbing behavior for all to see, but he flaunts it daily. Once again, it was on full display on Wednesday.

While all of the traits associated with psychopaths are highly unsettling, the callous lack of compassion and empathy for others stands out. Indeed, it’s one of the primary characteristics. The latest is his total lack of compassion for those who suffered in the California wild fires. No wonder why he constantly hurls insults and mocks others. And, why you’re either with him or not; no grey area is tolerated.

It helps as well to explain his pronounced inability to accept any responsibility for his words and actions and the need to constantly blame others. It also accounts for his lack of remorse or any sense of guilt. And, it explains his propensity for violence.

The constant need for stimulation in the form of adoring rallies, highly impulsive behavior, and a highly inflated sense of self-worth are also major characteristics. Promiscuity is a major trait as well. And last but not least is lying pathologically.

What is most disturbing is how those who voted for Trump and continue to support him no matter what not only rationalize his behavior, but revel in it. While they may not be psychopaths themselves, they are enablers of it nonetheless.

One cannot reason with psychopaths because reason is not part of their makeup. Nor is it part of those to whom they appeal. The only remedy left is political.  While not perfect or overwhelming, the people decided in the midterms to check on the President’s power. Expect more to come. It’s our only hope.

Blog, Crisis Management, Technology

Technology’s State of Crisis Demand Crisis Management

San Francisco Chronicle, September 16, 2018, p. E7.

Make no mistake about it, technology is in a state of crisis of its own making.

Technology has betrayed our deepest sense of trust and well-being. It has allowed itself — indeed, its values are deeply woven into the underlying business model of tech companies — to be used for nefarious purposes.

It has collected and sold without our full awareness, let alone permission, our personal information to third parties for their gain, not ours. It’s monetized every aspect of our being. It’s provided a platform for fake news and hate speech. It’s allowed foreign governments to interfere with our elections. It’s served as a vehicle for cyberbullying, thereby hounding people every moment of their lives.

One of the deepest fears is that, instead of aiding us, artificial intelligence will take over and control us. In these and countless other ways, technology has sown distrust into the very fabric of society.

Every day brings news of but yet another crisis caused by all-too-powerful tech companies. More and more, the crises affect not only them, but all of us as well. When Facebook’s stock took a big hit, for example, it affected tech stocks across the board thereby negatively impacting the entire economy.

The concerns lie not just with the problematic intended uses of technology but the failure to think about and anticipate the unintended uses. Technologies are fundamentally abused and misused in ways that their creators didn’t envision, and in far too many cases, didn’t ever want to consider. For instance, from my more than 30 years in the field of crisis management, I’m convinced that virtually all of Facebook’s enumerable crises could have been foreseen if crisis management had been an integral part of the company’s culture and thinking from its founding.

Prior to the Facebook technology’s launch, there is reason to believe that teams of parents, teachers, psychologist and kids would have come up with the possibility of it being used as a vehicle for cyberbullying. If steps had been taken before it went live, we still would have had something like Facebook, but hopefully a much more responsible one.

We need a government agency, similar to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to not only oversee the social impacts of technology, but to protect us from those that present a clear danger to our well-being. We must establish panels composed of parents, social scientists, child development experts, ethicists, crisis management authorities — and kids — to think of as many ways as they can about how a proposed technology could be abused and misused.

Ideally, tech companies would do this on their own. Indeed, research has shown that companies that are proactive in anticipating and planning for crises are substantially more profitable than those that are merely reactive. Crisis management is not only the ethical thing to do, it’s good for business; it heads off major crises before they are too big to fix.

Crisis management needs to be built into every technology, from inception and across its lifetime. As difficult as the invention of a technology is, its management is just as difficult, if not more so. It requires a different set of skills and levels of maturity than that which is needed to invent a technology. We need different types of technologists and tech companies.

But that’s no reason to hesitate: The backlash against technology and tech companies is clearly brewing.

Blog, Politics, Psychology

Post Traumatic Trump Disorder

Originally published November 17, 2017 on The Huffington Post

A strange, highly disturbing affliction is haunting the land: Post Traumatic Trump Disorder or PTTD. It’s characterized by intense feelings of anxiety, frequent and uncontrolled attacks of anger and hostility, fits of shouting at the news, and pronounced fear of strangers.

PTTD is due basically to a highly disturbed and unstable leader who suffers from a cluster of serious mental issues such as acute paranoia, frequent and persistent psychotic breaks from reality, uncontrollable fantasies and delusions, pathological narcissism, the inability to engage with complex ideas, and no impulse control. The issues are so pronounced that they have caused mental health professionals to break with their long-standing tradition of not commenting on the psychological states of mind of those they have not examined personally.

Except from removing the disturbed individual from office, there are no know treatments for PTTD, especially since the person refuses to acknowledge the nature of their illness and thus to seek treatment.

The people in blue states are particularly affected by PTTD. The only option they have is to huddle in small groups and pray that a healthy leader will finally emerge to reverse the onerous effects of PTTD and heal the nation.

Blog, Business, Technology

Tech Companies Must Be Strictly Regulated: They Have Only Themselves to Blame

Originally published November 1, 2017 on The Huffington Post

Tech companies are part of an all-too-familiar pattern. First, resist and decry all reasonable regulations, thereby asserting repeatedly that there are no regulations that are acceptable. Second, engage in and/or allow disreputable behavior (provide a platform for disinformation, hate speech, unscrupulous ads by foreign governments). Third, do everything possible to ensure that a backlash is inevitable resulting in onerous regulations, the very things one adamantly opposed in the first place.

Tech companies have only themselves to blame. By not acting responsibly, by being unable and unwilling to consider how all of their marvelous and wondrous creations would be both abused and misused, and by not engaging in proper steps to mitigate harmful actions and behavior, they have made the need for severe regulations abundantly clear.

In short, they are no better than those industries such as tobacco that have come before them and resisted all reasonable regulations until they were forced on them. But then, what does one expect of an industry run primarily by young socially immature males?

This post is based on a forthcoming book: Out of Control: Combatting Technology Run Amok, Columbia University Press.

Blog, Politics, Sociology

Engulfed By Madness: Abnormal Times Defy Normal Explanations

Originally published 10/25/2017 on The Huffington Post

We live in deeply disturbing times. They defy normal explanations.

America is beset by the confluence of three powerful forces. Any one of them by itself is overwhelming. But all three acting together and reinforcing one another have made us especially vulnerable. They are: 1. Massive Denial; 2. Splitting; and, 3. Unmistakable Pathology emanating from the highest office in the land.

One of the strongest examples of Massive Denial is the fact that ardent gun proponents are generally not just dismissive, but contemptuous of the fact that owning a gun increases substantially the occurrence of a homicide and/or suicide in one’s household. The preponderance of studies is unequivocal in this regard[i]. Indeed, those states with looser gun laws have substantially higher rates of gun homicides and suicides. Guns, the things that are supposed to make us more secure and safer, have just the opposite intended effect. They pose extreme dangers to their owners, and not by just a small margin. And, this is only one of the many things of which Americans are in denial.

Splitting is evidenced by the fact that the present occupant of the Presidency constantly proclaims to the sentiment “You’re either with or against me.” The world is thereby sharply split into “good versus bad guys,” with nothing in-between. But then so does the NRA by ignoring the fact that “good guy guns” are substantially at fault in home homicides and suicides.

Unmistakable Pathology is evidenced by the clear signs of disturbance that emanate daily from the President: little if any impulse control as indicated by a never-ending series of rambling tweets, if not the overuse of tweets themselves to convey the “thoughts” of the President; dangerous bluster that threatens nuclear annihilation; sheer and utter contempt and disregard for America’s critical institutions, etc.

Defense Mechanisms

If Sigmund Freud had discovered nothing more than the phenomenon of Defense Mechanisms, it would have been more than enough to ensure his lasting fame.

On occasion, everyone uses various devices to protect their psyches from disturbing, unpleasant ideas, thoughts, and realities. These range from out and out denial to compartmentalization, grandiosity, idealization, intellectualization, projection, and projective identification.

If an event or situation is highly disturbing or unpalatable such as directly witnessing the death of a loved one, becoming a victim of incest or a serious crime, experiencing the horrors of war, etc., then one’s mind can literally shut down and refuse to register the event, or at least not to do so consciously. This is an example of outright denial. But since denial is never perfect, unpleasant experiences often resurface in the form of dreams, nightmares, and severe anxiety attacks in response to, say, loud noises that are mistaken for gunshots.

America is in denial of so many things that it would take a legion of articles to cover them all. The most potent example is those who not only voted for Trump, but continue to defend him. They are in Massive Denial when it comes to the dangers he poses daily.

Compartmentalization occurs when one part of the mind registers one aspect of a horrific event—say, the sounds—and others register the sights and smells associated with it. But since it would be too overwhelming, and hence traumatic, if the sights, sounds, and smells were brought to together as parts of a single unified experience, the mind unconsciously keeps them apart. One of the clearest examples is the oft-expressed rationalization by those who voted for Trump. Namely, “We wish we would say things better, but at least he’s saying what needs to be said.”

Grandiosity occurs when one believes that one is all powerful such that he or she can defeat any force however strong it is. To say that Trump suffers from delusions of grandiosity is a gross understatement.

Idealization occurs when one takes on the attributes of perfection such that one is without any imperfections whatsoever. For example, one exaggerates one’s abilities to meet and surmount any challenge however onerous it is. Count Trump here again! ! It also occurs when one is unwilling to acknowledge and thereby apologize for any discretion whatsoever.

Intellectualization occurs when one overly uses and hence becomes lost in abstractions that have little to do with the realities of everyday lives. A prime example is Secretary Clinton’s oft-repeated assertion during the 2016 Presidential campaign that she had a “policy for attacking unemployment”—if not for every problem we face—that people could look up on her website. This may have worked well with elites, but it failed miserably to connect with ordinary workingmen and women. It only reinforced the impression that not only did liberals not care about ordinary working people, but held them in contempt.

Projection occurs when we disown parts of ourselves that we don’t like and project them onto others. Thus, the media “lie” but not those who are making the accusation. Projective identification occurs when we accept or identify with—“own”— the projections of others.


The highly influential child psychoanalyst Melanie Klein is generally credited with discovering the phenomenon of Splitting. It’s said that if Freud discovered the child in the adult, then Klein discovered the infant in the child. She thus pushed back even further our understanding of the roots of human behavior.

Klein discovered that under the age of two or so, children believed that there were two distinct and separate mothers: the “good mother” that catered to the child’s every need when he or she wanted it, and the “bad mother” that couldn’t always be there when the child demanded it, and even more, had to discipline the child. In short, the child’s mind was not yet mature enough to accept that “both mothers were one and the same. “

In a word, Splitting is one of the earliest and most primitive Defense Mechanisms available to humans. It protects very young children from the frightening experience and thought that the caretaker on which one is totally dependent is a threat to one’s very existence.

Most children typically develop out of Splitting as part of the normal process of development, but some form of Splitting stays with us our entire lives. It’s especially prominent in times of great stress and danger. Thus, Splitting is responsible for the sharp division of the world into “good versus bad guys and forces.” In other words, in times of great stress and danger, we revert to one of the earliest, most primitive Defense Mechanism. With his continual sharp division of the world into “good versus bad guys” –those who are completely with him versus those who are opposed and thus the enemy—President Trump is under the grips of Splitting.


Psychoanalysis is one of the few fields that offer deep insights into the human condition. For instance, all of the various factors that have been identified by psychoanalysis are capable of acting both as the causes and the effects of major crises. Causes become effects, and effects become causes. At the very least, they are deeply intertwined. Thus, a preexisting tendency towards paranoia not only makes one more susceptible to anxiety as the result of experiencing various threatening events, and thus paranoia fuels, if not causes, tremendous anxiety, but paranoia is often one of the major effects/outcomes of intense anxiety and trauma as well. Such is also the case with other factors such as being predisposed to as well as experiencing the effects of illusions, delusions, psychotic breaks, etc. These in turn are capable of leading to one’s susceptibility to conspiracy theories, being a member of White Supremacist and Neo Nazi groups, etc.

If the goal of psychoanalysis is always the same, this doesn’t diminish its importance one iota: the weak Ego of the individual and society need to be strengthened so that both individuals and groups can withstand the growing threats of an increasingly hostile and unstable world. In brief, the Self needs to be strengthened so that it’s able to face, thus withstand, increasingly complex and dangerous realities.

This is the difficult task facing us. I pray fervently that we can rise to it.

[i] Melinda Wenner Moyer, “Journey to Gunland, “ Scientific American, October 2017, pp. 54-63.

Blog, Politics

The Never-Ending Battle of Life and Death

Originally published August 25, 2017 on The Huffington Post

America is in a deep funk!

We are battered daily by dysfunction and threats on scales once thought unimaginable. From the constant swirl of highly dangerous international events and inflammatory bluster, incessant right wing hate talk, continual disarray in the White House, it feels that all of the semblances of human and natural order have completely broken down. It’s as if the world has gone totally mad.

One of Sigmund Freud’s most important contributions to our understanding of the human psyche was his initial recognition and subsequent formulation of the Life Versus Death Instincts. While the initial distinction was due mainly to Nietzsche, whom Freud greatly admired for his deep insights into human nature, Freud developed the concept much further, and by doing so, went far beyond Nietzsche.

The awareness of both the fragility and the finality of life—the sheer contemplation of death—were so overwhelming that they exerted a constant and powerful effect over humans every moment of their lives. Indeed, humans expended an incredible amount of effort into denying death. But this only furthered its hold over us. At the very least, the contemplation of death, and thereby the Death Instinct, was always in the background. At worst, it was ever-present in our frequent and unbridled acts of aggression, for instance, our constant preoccupation with wars and readiness to use violence. Its most frequent manifestation was the rejection of reality and reason themselves, which as we’ve seen is an all-too-prominent feature of much of today’s world. In sharp contrast, the Life Instincts are readily present in our many peaceful and joyous celebrations of life.

Tragically, at this moment in history, we are not only inundated by the varied manifestations of the Death Instinct, but it feels as if we are caught in their relentless grip. The following are just a sampling of its many forms and types. The frightening feeling is that they can be multiplied endlessly:

1. The constant threat, all too frequent, and deadly acts of terrorism worldwide.

2. The ever-present danger of nuclear war.

3. The dangerous instability of the entire Middle East with the tragic displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing death and destruction, not least of all being bombed and gassed by their own “leaders,” if that’s what they truly are.

4. The constant threats to bomb the U.S. by the dangerously unstable leader of North Korea.

5. The interference in recent U.S. elections by a threatening Russian President and regime.

6. The recent rise of undemocratic governments around the world.

7. The rise of rabid nationalistic, so-called populist movements precisely when the world is more globally interconnected than ever before and is thus in need of greater cooperation.

8. The wanton, open displays, and marches of fanatical hate groups such as White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis.

9. The increased threats and actual acts of violence towards Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and other minorities.

10. The extreme polarization and outright contempt between members of different political parties.

11. The distrust of elected leaders and governments worldwide.

12. A President who at best is highly erratic and unpredictable and who many consider temperamentally unfit and unqualified for the most important job on the planet.

13. A White House and Administration in constant disarray and thus unable to cope with the serious forces and issues that demand the most somber and thoughtful attention.

All of the preceding troublesome forces and manifestations of The Death Instinct are not only experienced as major threats resulting in overwhelming anxieties and fears, but they seriously perturb, if not destroy, one’s feelings of being safe and in control, that the world—reality itself—is predictable, orderly and comprehensible, that one can trust one’s fellows and leaders—government itself—to protect us from the manifold dangers of the world. In short, one’s basic beliefs about the goodness, safety, orderliness of the world, and thus humankind, are shattered, often beyond repair. No wonder why the crash of belief systems is not only experienced as major crises, but as major traumas. Indeed, the two are inseparable.

In sum, major crises severely attack and damage one’s foundational beliefs: one’s basic sense of identity, belonging, fundamental values, feelings of security, one’s true purpose in life, and one of the most basic issues of all, that one is respected for whom and what one is. The result is a severe existential crisis. How indeed does one make sense of it all when the taken-for-granted assumptions and beliefs that one uses to make sense of the world are suddenly ripped out from under one and rendered totally invalid? Most of us can survive and function if just one or two of cherished beliefs are invalidated, but not if all of them are destroyed simultaneously. No wonder why major crises more often than not fuel intense feelings of fear and paranoia.

Blog, Media + Politics, Politics

Fake News Is the Result of Fake Inquiry.

Originally published June 28, 2017 on The Huffington Post

The hallmark of rational inquiry is that nothing is accepted as a valid claim without well-founded evidence both to support and validate the claim. In stark contrast, Fake News is nothing but bald assertions based on little if any evidence.

Those who assert that there are “alternate facts” that support what they want to believe don’t understand the nature of valid inquiry. Yes, different theories are not only compatible with different facts, but are needed to unearth them. The point is that in order to assess the validity of one’s facts, one has to be able to assess the theories that are used to collect one’s facts in the first place.

Ever since the great philosopher Immanuel Kant, philosophers have understood that one can’t collect any facts without having presupposed some theory about the phenomenon that underlies the facts. Otherwise, facts by themselves make no sense. Indeed, the question always is, “Why are these particular facts a true representative of the phenomenon of interest?”

In short, Fake News is the result of Fake Inquiry. Those who blather about Fake News understand little of valid inquiry. Indeed, they are generally contemptuous of it.

Blog, Politics

The Republican Health Care Bill: Mean and Cold-hearted

Originally published June 25, 2017 on The Huffington Post

The principles of Republican healthcare are straight out of 16th century England where being poor was a sure sign of moral inferiority:

1. You’re completely on your own. No one should be required to pay for anyone else, let alone care for him or her.

2. Everyone should have the “freedom” to purchase only the amounts and kinds of healthcare they want, and nothing more, except of course the rich who should benefit in every way.

3. Competition among and between insurance companies is the only way to lower healthcare costs. Consumers are lucky to get what they are offered.

4. Everyone should be required to pay something for visits to doctors lest they take advantage of government-financed healthcare, and thereby overuse it. People cannot be trusted to use healthcare wisely.

5. People are sick because they don’t lead healthy life-styles. It’s their own fault if they are ill.

6. The poor are poor because they lack the proper moral fiber.

7. People who can’t afford healthcare deserve to die.

Every single one of these is cruel and mean-spirited beyond belief. They utterly destroy the concept of a shared society where people help one another in facing life and death issues.

There is no health care for anyone without health care for all. Health is not divisible.