Top 5 Trump Secrets of Sadism, from Trans People to Priebus to Police

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Trump is a “Tyrannical Sadist”. It may not be a personality disorder in the latest diagnostic manual on its own any more (it was considered too close to Anti-Social Personality Disorder) , but it is kind of like pornography. You know it when you see it.

Trump enormously enjoys humiliating people. That much is clear. But his practice of the syndrome is not random. Here are the rules of the game as he plays it:

1. Find a small, helpless group against whom there is a great deal of prejudice and target them. That is what Trump did to transgender troops in the military. He is banking on not provoking large demonstrations. He is banking on getting away with it. Trump was trying to please the evangelicals who support him, and is not afraid of reprisals. He had earlier done this to Muslim Americans.

2. Target a subordinate who cannot fight back for public humiliation. Trump’s campaign at Twitter against his attorney general Jeff Sessions was undertaken in the knowledge that Sessions only had three choices. He could acquiesce in the will of the president and do what Trump wants– i.e. fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Or he could resign. Or he could continue the fight by acting independently. Trump delights in knowing that he is the one who imposed the choice of three paths on Sessions, which may be for him psychologically more gratifying even than a firing.

3. Have a surrogate target a subordinate who cannot fight back for public humiliation. Hence new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci targeted White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, accusing him (without any proof) of leaking White House secrets. Priebus understood the nature of the attack on him, and resigned with a smile on his face. Priebus is aware that a food fight with Trump could cost him future lucrative opportunities, and Trump knew this as well.

4. Encourage persons in a position of power and authority to act sadistically toward the weak and helpless. That was Trump’s message to an assemblage of policemen in Long Island on Friday. There would have been nothing wrong in urging the police to put gang members who had committed crimes behind bars. But Trump urged the commission of police brutality, in revenge for the gang members being . . . gang members. Trump is seeking vicarious satisfaction of a sadistic sort by inspiring it in others.

5. Campaign to have colleagues act sadistically en masse to some 26 million people, so that the pleasure of hurting others is massively multiplied. This form of the disorder was on display as Trump pushed to repeal Obamacare this week. That it is about hurting the weak is clear from the option of repealing without replacing. It would be enough to simply deprive people of health insurance, in order to reestablish a social hierarchy that Obama disrupted by trying to make health insurance universal. Mitt Romney, the honest conservative, admitted that the Republican health care plan is for the poor to be treated in emergency rooms. He also complained that the Dems win presidential elections because nearly half the population is on the government dole. (Retirees getting paid back their social security money that they deposited in the first place are not in fact moochers, and nor are retired military personnel– like my own father– or students, or a whole host of other people who get money from the government.). The social hierarchy, of the rich and deserving and the feckless middle class and the poor welfare queens underpins his determination to get rid of Obamacare, which blurred some of those lines. Part two of the sentiment is that the poor must be hurt because they dare be poor.

Tyrannical sadism has been termed the most terrifying and hurtful type of sadism. Persons afflicted with this disorder positively enjoy humiliating people in public and making their prey put their heads down.

The big danger is that Trump could use his position as president provoke a rash of copy cat hate crimes.


Related video:

CBS Evening News: “Trump tells police officers “don’t be too nice” when arresting gang members”

22 Responses

  1. Prof. Cole, please do not mess with serious matters:
    Tyrannical and sadistic behaviors are NOT medical – biologically determined – conditions, they are – voluntary, moral – human behaviors subjected to legal/political assessment.
    Do not even suggest that the President may be excused of objectionable/illegal behavior because he has a psychiatric illness.

    • Hi, Nel. I am sorry if I was unclear, but I do not believe I said anything at all about the etiology of Trump’s sadism; i.e. I did not attribute it to biology.

      You raise an important issue with regard to psychological conditions and moral responsibility. But I don’t actually think that identifying the mental condition from which a criminal suffers need imply that the criminal is thereby relieved of moral responsibility. Unless someone is truly insane, impulses can be resisted, including criminal impulses. That is a different matter than why someone has impulses or what shapes their particular impulses.

      • Professor Cole, did write “diagnosis”; that is medicine which means biology, determinism.
        Now you write “truly insane” and “impulses” connoting determined behavior. These are capricious labels, dictums that have no medical substance. They are smaller variants of the insanity defense.
        They are imposed on people tyrannically by institutional psychiatry supported by the government. They dehumanize, demoralize people. A tragic national farce.
        Donald Tramp, -this is so because I say so and I am the USA Commander in Chief-, may have been elected because he is Mr. farce-in-chief.

  2. (second try, couldn’t beat the editing clock on first try)

    Since Trump is determined to destroy Obamacare because he can’t repeal it, I think an appropriate popular label for this particular sadism is DONTCARE (derived simply from DONald Trump).

  3. This is an important step away from the flabby, moralistic ‘narcissism’ analysis that has been endlessly repeated. The danger to us all — physical danger — is palpable.

    In support, I recommend Josh Marshall’s careful minute-by-minute timeline of the Priebus firing event.
    link to

    • And don’t forget the timing and other circumstances surrounding Comey’s sacking, when he was giving a speech on the West coast.

  4. I wonder how many Trump supporters think that treating a suspect with abuse is ok. There is a lot of police control dynamic that simply goes with the job, but some cops seem to relish the opportunity to act it out. Personal experience. I was arrested by mistake for being near a burglary scene. The cops did use the hand over the head, saying don’t bump your head, and violently shoved me in, and kicked me with his boot in the thigh, bruising me. At the station, I got slapped around when I wanted to see my lawyer.
    So Trump likes this stuff. Just want to star in a (non) reality TV show…they all think TV behavior is reality…I guess the USA believes TV is real.

  5. It has been awhile since I brushed up on my DSM-V but aside from the obvious Narcissistic Personality Disorder i was unaware of Tyrannical Sadism as a thing in and of itself, but then I only had a couple of classes in Psychology in School, but did find the subject fascinating…

    Trump is, I fear, a reflection of our darker nature, and example of, if not also an avatar of a pathology that was not excised by the election and Service of President Obama…

    The fact that this election was, how should I put it, among the Shadiest in memory, should not surprise me but it does…I feel that if the reverse had taken place and Hillary had been elected under the exact same circumstances, that we would be in the midst of a second Civil War, and while hyperbole is among my stocks in trade, I am dead serious about that…

  6. So I had Friday off. Planned to go fishing. Turn on the TV in the afternoon and what do I see? Trump giving a speech to NY police about him protecting the second amendment. What the world? This is like living in a bizarre nightmare! Doesn’t NY have some of the toughest gun laws in the country? At least, wouldn’t the NY police prefer there be fewer guns in the city and state? And Trump stands in front of them gloating about the second amendment being safe? Then I hear him tell the police officers to rough up the people they throw in back of their police cars. What am I hearing? This is way way bad!

    What kind of message does this send to the smaller police forces across the country that don’t hire the best people in the first place? I think it will promote police abuse on a wider scale. Does Trump even know what is going on when he says the thing he says?

    I’m not a religious extremest but even I’m starting to believe these are the end of days. I heard someone mention we are in a greater crises than the U.S. Civil War. I don’t know about that. But we are in the end of days with Trump in charge.

    • The message is:
      White Americans with guns = policeman’s unofficial backup
      Other Americans with guns = “thugs”, “gang members”

      The next step is:
      Unofficial backups! It’s time for you to join in the beatings!

  7. Here’s a test for sado-POTUS.

    Trump’s sound defeat in his failed attempt to repeal Obamacare will make the 11 year-old boy in him very angry because he looks weak and pathetic. He will be cruising for people to hurt and things to break.

  8. There was never any need to try invoking the Goldwater rule in trump’s case. He provided more glaring psychiatric evidence in public than could ever be obtained by personal examination or testing. Nor does it seem to matter much what diagnoses might be arrived it. He’s clearly deranged and dangerous regardless of whatever hood ornament is attached to him.

  9. Out of interest, has the name of Anthony Scaramucc, the foul mouthed purveyor of fake news,i been commented on? Scaramuccia is a character in the Italian Commedia dell’ Arte; he is a lying, deceitful, unreliable and manipulative servant figure. It seems wholly appropriate that Mr Trump has appointed one with the name Scaramucci to be his press secretary.

    • Your remark about Scaramucchi as a Commedia dell’Arte character is quite accurate. Il lends me to think that Mr Trump is a Shakespearian character in his own right, neither a Hamlet nor a Lear, but a Mr John Falstaff, who should be modernized in John False Tough, with alternative writings as John False Stuff or John False Staff.

  10. I have long thought that Trump is a sadist. You don’t need to be a trained psychologist or psychiatrist; you just need to look at what he does to people. He hurts them; he doesn’t apologise for any hurt done; if anything, he doubles down. Take all the small contractors he’s stiffed over the years – e.g. the caterer who is contracted to provide food at a Trump party. Flattered that such a mogul would choose her, and doubtless excited at the prospect of being able to put “catered for Donald Trump” on her CV, she does her darnedest to provide a spread fit for a king. And he doesn’t pay her. Worse, if she complains, he says she did a lousy job and threatens to put his lawyers on the case. Pure sadism.

  11. It is fortunate that not all allow themselves to be puppets. However, Trumpism is becoming an accepted form of behaviour for amoral Leaders in other countries. He is the icon and standard bearer of for those with tyrannical aspirations!

  12. Now Priebus and Sessions have a bully in common with Muslims and transgender people.
    I hope Priebus and Sessions appreciate this improvement of their community.

  13. Yes. The Republicans are Social Darwinists, no question about that. A kind of drawing room, pre-Nazi philosophy. And Romney expresses that viewpoint very well. Trump, on the other hand, is the kind of low-class sadist that Republican neo-Nazi dog-whistling is supposed to appeal to. But the Republicans were quite shocked when one of those creatures actually got elected President! That wasn’t part of the game plan. It makes the shameful, homicidal nature of their policies too obvious.

    Trump, in a way, is doing us all a big favor by moving from dog-whistling to overt hate mongering. The Emperor has announced that he is stripping in public.

  14. Great perspective Professor. This travesty really can’t go on much longer. He must be removed from power soon lest we all go down in flames.

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