As a mental health practitioner who moved via anthropology into journalism, I’m fascinated and appalled by the approaches being taken by Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. It’s so shameless that it’s ridiculous— but, as with all cults, there are many who eat up the lies.
The narratives they are peddling, to try to save their skin and save face, link to psychiatry (especially narcissism, which is a common feature of psychopathy) and the anthropology and psychology of conspiracy theories and cults*.
There is also more than a splattering of horror film / fairy tale themes in the fictions being peddled by them and their cronies. In some horror stories, the ghoul can only be seen (or called) via a mirror. In a very familiar fairy tale, the mirror is the only thing that tells the narcissistic despot the truth. In the case of Trump and Johnson, they are ignoring the fact that the monsters out to get them are them — even though the sabotaging ghouls stare at each of them from the mirror.
A despicable claim that each is peddling is that there is some powerful and ill-defined malignant force (which the extreme right in the UK refers to as ‘the blob’) trying to destroy them and their legacy. But they have taken this further by claiming that those who criticise them (whether judges, scientific experts, politicians, journalists, civil servants or victims of their wrongdoing) are really out to get the people who voted them into power.
The current narrative from both can be distilled to: “I’m big enough to take it but I’m annoyed on your behalf as they are hurting you and taking away what you voted for”.
This sort of narrative is fascinating from psychology and horror story perspectives, as well as politically. It has a strong tang of narcissism and links to the ‘big man’ bullshit we see in many authoritarian and populist leaders. And there’s also something of the abusive and controlling parent narrative we see in horrific stories — and in reality! The “I just want what’s best for you” line, as the abuser drops some more poison in the meal or adds another lock to the cellar door.
Donald Trump was found by a court to have sexually assaulted a woman in a shop and is facing 37 charges related to stealing classified documents and espionage. He has…