646. Enthusiasm (IX)
Under the Banner of Heaven revealed to me a particular way the regime conceptualises its religious opponents. It never says, as some might think, that people who have religious experiences are “mad” or “schizo”—the regime is more sophisticated than that. It knows that millions, indeed billions, engage in religious ceremonies every year—many would say they have a direct personal relationship with God. They cannot all be written off as “mad” or “crazy”. In Banner, the Mormons are under the microscope; and they have, as a kind of frontier folk religion, a very definite naïve idea that you can just have a chat with God—as Joseph Smith’s mother regularly did—as if he were right there with you at the dining table. In Banner, this is pertinent because the book is about Mormon fundamentalists who committed murder under direction from “voices”—so the issue as to whether they were mad, whether the entire religion constitutes madness, was pertinent to the ability to try them in court.
Krakauer, the author, performs legerdemain in this regard; he dismisses the idea that people who claim a direct relationship with God are “mad” or “schizo”; however, he then goes on to say that people who claim mystical or direct revelation from God all suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is a clever move: the “personality disorders” are not madness, they are just anti-social traits—so what Krakauer says is that people who are, in essence, prophets are anti-social people.
This is pertinent to Trump. He has been repeatedly called “narcissistic” and I have long-maintained he is not. The narcissist is hollow inside: he forms a false mask to seduce people, but inside he has no authentic expression—he is empty. Trump might be egotistic, proud of himself, but I think he knows who he is and retains sincerity—a lot more sincerity than the average politician. Obama is a narcissist; he has this false role he plays as the progressive ideal—the mixed-race saviour; and he even has a characteristic narcissistic smirk, quite absent from Trump.
However, NPD does not define “narcissism” as I have done above; rather, the DSM—“the Bible of psychiatry”, as Krakauer puts it—presents a laundry list of characteristics such as “grandiosity”, “flights of fancy”, and “need for admiration”. What is absent, probably because it is a quasi-scientific “checklist”, is the interiority of narcissism as I described above—and so it only catalogues behaviours that may correlate with my description sometimes, yet often do not.
Why does the regime need to label “prophets”, in the broadest sense, as “narcissists” even when they are not? Because the regime is a decayed democracy where the masses are manipulated by an oligarchy, the administrative state, that influences decisions from behind the scenes. This arrangement is threatened by individuals who are seers—prophets—who have semi-mystical revelations about, say, “the deep state”. Since the administrative state is relatively sophisticated in the way it manipulates the masses, it knows better than to call such people “mad” directly—or to suggest their followers are mad, a move that might alienate the masses. Instead it claims they have a broader problem, “mental health issues” or “a personality disorder”—so that Trump must be rejected because he is an anti-social person, not because he is mad as such (although it is implied he might be).
The fear of the prophet also relates to the broader political issue at stake: the first Mormons, Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, ran their pioneer communities pretty much as divinely appointed kings—with the king’s legitimacy derived from his ability to see, to use his intuition. The democracy, by contrast, prefers “reason” and procedures that can manipulated in the background to evade responsibility. The regime knows that social shame, a womanly emotion for the feminine mob, remains more effective as a defence than accusations that their opponents are “mad”: madness has a divine aspect, as in “mad genius”, whereas a Narcissistic Personality Disorder is just rebarbative.