The Banality Of Crazy

Thomas Edsell recently had a guest essay in the New York Times that addressed a question I’ve had for a long time. Why don’t media figures state the obvious? Donald Trump is mentally ill. Crazy.

Edsell quoted political scientist Brian Klaas, whose Oct. 1 essay was titled, “The Case for Amplifying Trump’s Insanity.”

Klaas argued that the presidential contest now pits a 77-year-old racist, misogynist bigot who has been found liable for rape, who incited a deadly, violent insurrection aimed at overturning a democratic election, who has committed mass fraud for personal enrichment, who is facing 91 separate counts of felony criminal charges against him and who has overtly discussed his authoritarian strategies for governing if he returns to power against “an 80-year-old with mainstream Democratic Party views who sometimes misspeaks or trips.”

“One of those two candidates,” Klaas noted, “faces relentless newspaper columns and TV pundit ‘takes’ arguing that he should drop out of the race. (Spoiler alert: It’s somehow not the racist authoritarian sexual abuse fraudster facing 91 felony charges.)”

Klass points to the multiple pundits telling Biden to drop out, or engaging in “doom and gloom” predictions about Biden’s age. Meanwhile, the response to Trump’s increasingly unhinged behavior is, as he says, “crickets.”

How is it possible that it’s not front page news when a man who soon may return to power calls for law enforcement to kill people for minor crimes? And why do so few people question Trump’s mental acuity rather than Biden’s, when Trump proposes delusional, unhinged plans for forest management and warns his supporters that Biden is going to lead us into World War II (which would require a time machine), or wrongly claims that he defeated Barack Obama in 2016?

Klaas thinks that media outlets have succumbed to what he called the “banality of crazy.” That has led them to ignore

even the most dangerous policy proposals by an authoritarian who is on the cusp of once again becoming the most powerful man in the world — precisely because it happens, like clockwork, almost every day.

Klass argues that the “don’t amplify him” strategy is nothing short of disastrous–and I agree.

Edsell reminds his readers that, three months after Trump took office, the Yale School of Medicine convened a conference called A Duty to Warn. Conference attendees issued a book titled  “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.”

I read that book; it was recommended by a psychiatrist friend. It had chapters with titles like “Our Witness to Malignant Normality,” “Unbridled and Extreme Hedonism: How the Leader of the Free World Has Proven Time and Again That He Is Unfit for Duty,” and “Pathological Narcissism and Politics: a Lethal Combination.”

I understand that a given individual can be deeply mentally ill. What I simply do not understand is how people can look at Donald J. Trump and fail to see a cognitively impaired, unstable and delusional individual who is getting worse as he ages.

Trump has pledged to shoot shoplifters (“We will immediately stop all the pillaging and theft. Very simply, if you rob a store, you can fully expect to be shot as you are leaving that store.”), pledged to “root out” the “communists, Marxist fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections and will do anything possible — they’ll do anything, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America and to destroy the American dream.”)

On Nov. 6, Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett reported in The Washington Post that Trump “wants the Justice Department to investigate onetime officials and allies who have become critical of his time in office, including his former chief of staff John F. Kelly and former attorney general William P. Barr, as well as his ex-attorney Ty Cobb and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley.”

Edsell includes quotes from several psychiatrists who attribute the spiraling of his insanity to age (he’s only 4 years younger than Biden) and the stress of his multiplying legal problems.

Most of the specialists I contacted see Trump’s recent behavior and public comments as part of an evolving process.

“Trump is an aging malignant narcissist,” Aaron L. Pincus, a professor of psychology at Penn State, wrote in an email. “As he ages, he appears to be losing impulse control and is slipping cognitively. So we are seeing a more unfiltered version of his pathology. Quite dangerous.”

In addition, Pincus continued, “Trump seems increasingly paranoid, which can also be a reflection of his aging brain and mental decline.”

Edsall and Klass are right: the media needs to call crazy, crazy.


  1. His most ardent followers are never going to admit TFG is crazy because that would mean they are crazy for supporting him. Fortunately we don’t have to convince them, just enough independents and moderates to keep him out of office. I agree it is long past time for mainstream media to tell it like it is. He is out of touch with reality, always has been, and is rapidly getting worse.
    All the crap about Biden’s age is propaganda promoted to get readers and make money. And that is why media want to keep the threat of Trump alive. He sells copy.

  2. I would love to see an article about why people vote for Trump??? Psychologically speaking….

  3. The media? If it bleeds it ledes. End of discussion. Trump’s insanity is like the slow-motion train wreck that the media and its readers can’t stop watching.

    The sickness is EVERYONE’S to watch. Biden’s competence doesn’t sell newspapers or air time. You know, “Trial of the Century” stuff gets the cameras clicking. Working at overcoming a stutter to explain foreign policy? Not so much.

    Yes, Trump is a deteriorating psychopath and the media has to fan the flames to keep people interested until he is put in a padded room, is assassinated or re-elected somehow. The media is going to ride that train for as long as it generates the revenue it must have. Trying to discourage Biden from running again is part of that operating philosophy too. Wouldn’t it be more fun to pit Harris or somebody else against Trump to watch the sparks fly?

    It used to be about the economy, dummies. Now it’s about watching insanity overwhelm 70 million people who love being insane too.

  4. Why place this blame solely on the media? Many top-level leaders of the GOP know the truth but are afraid to speak it. Too many Christian leaders still tell their followers that DJT is an agent of God. Too many opportunists cash in on the lies. This does not pardon the journalists who are weary of repeating the same sad truth.

  5. I agree with David Dawson. The GOP has the responsibility for letting Trump to become a festering boil on their own ass. The self-proclaimed leader in the State GOP Governor race, Mike Braun, enthusiastically endorsed Trump and no other Republican has criticized him for it. The press can report Trump’s insanity, but the GOP is allowing it to happen.

  6. Do you want the media to tell the truth? LOL, the media has obstacles…

    The truth is being told right now on X about Israel, and advertisers are going crazy. Imagine if Maddow committed to telling the truth instead of selling propaganda to her viewers.

    Any sane person can see that Trump and Biden are unfit to be POTUS, but it doesn’t matter to the oligarchy pulling the strings. However, here is what is happening: the oligarchy sees Biden slipping, and the polls aren’t very flattering for Biden. He won’t get Democrats and Independents to the polls spelling DOOM for the down-ballot. The Green Party and Independents will have options for POTUS.

    The oligarchy/govt controls the various media outlets — via advertisers, owners, the FBI, and the CIA. A foray into the truth would cause American heads to explode mainly because they’ve been subjected (conditioned) to lies/propaganda from a young age forward. Suddenly, switching to the truth would cause serious mental damage.

    Wikileaks and Julian Assange were truth seekers, and look where it got them. 😉

  7. Todd. I am beginning to think you are as out of touch with reality as TFG. Biden is doing great work. Thank goodness the verifiable evidence doesn’t support your baseless accusations about him. But you have made up your mind and refuse to bow to facts.

  8. News used to report, well, news. Now, it panders for ratings. That applies generally to all types of over-the-air and/or Internet media. It’s all about attracting all human senses to advertising that pays the bills and profits.

    Once they figure out smell-o-vision, that too will permeate our minds with additional sensationalism time.

    There’s no sense in whining about corporations; they exist solely to serve the bottom line. The only organization that doesn’t have to is the government, paid for by taxes.

    Republican authoritarianism prefers profits to taxes. Democrats/liberals prefer the mixture known by the world as regulated capitalism plus Constitutionally protected serving all of the people, not just some of them.

    I’m out to pasture because I want to be plus my wife and my parents taught us how to get lucky. They also passed on DNA that favors our times, though there’s some household tension, which is adaptive. I look down the road and what’s coming, and my wife looks in the rearview mirror to ensure nothing terrible can catch us.

    Life has been good to us.

  9. Todd is correct in that statistics are effective bait in filling our senses with mathematical proof that we are right: each and all of us.

  10. that vermin is the trump walk that NYC finally booted to desatinistville area of the country. when one speaks about Bidens walk, hes atleast stable in mind. these people have a fallback, the VP. seriously how close did we come to pence being in charge? though i have little trust for privacy with Harris, at least the rabbit hole there isnt the grand canyon with the right wing religious masse of 2025. right wingers here in NoDak are getting a taste of the right wing economic development going on. bring in people from outlying areas,(anywhere but NoDak) and depositing them here. any and all new crime is based on that Biden camp,or those liberals who,teach these people about crime. its eyeopening for these nymphets of little over the fence of lookysee. now its become reality. bismarck PD shot and killed a 17 YO after some squirmish with another youth. im sure our rightwing news will tell all,how they see it. (thats also our NoDak NPR) rare,for that issue to arrise. but the new breed of cops who decided thier overworked ass (because of tax cuts and some sort of code that says one cop for 1000 people) came here with their militant regime training. im sure the online gun owner could have done better right? reminds me of the metro cops in Las Vegas, killem throwem in the trunk,and it never happened. maybe some hard nose change is due here. seeing the real world,others thought was only a liberal issue. Ive enjoyed shaking them up over the decades about what world they have developed,and its returns. now they can hate me wishes..

  11. In addition to Braun fully supporting trump there is the extremely evil Jim Banks. Banks never misses a chance to speak about his support for trump.

    Please everyone, research Banks’ wife to see just how dangerous the two of them are as a pair. The radical evangelical organization that financially backs the two of them is frightening. Amanda Banks’ home office for Family Policy Alliance is at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, but they frequently send her to DC to lobby members of Congress.

  12. So many of All of Us also are forgetting to vocally support the fact that DJT is not normal, hardly mentally sound, and does fit the profile of someone who likely will be a negative element for our society, our country, our world.

    The “Drama” hold the headlines, not calm sanity and valid assetment of the mental health conditions of any of those who hold leadership positions in our world .

    To me this shows how so many do not believe that there is such a thing as mental health.

    The book Sheila referred to fell out of the news very, very rapidly. Y copy us still on my bookshelf.

  13. gordon kahl,teaparty, maga..the first two started here in Nodak, Gov,burgum the billionaire went down in flames. his world couldnt handle what is real world politics. but in all, seems every canidate on the right is only speaking for trump..burgum was just chewing gum on the sidewalk.
    the last legislature cut more taxes for the big corps and the rich,doing little for anyone except his status.

  14. The only poll that counts will be a Tuesday in November 2024. Biden is doing exactly what I said he would. He’s embracing Netanyahu in public and working behind the scene to set up hostage releases and cease fires, but he must be unqualified because of his age?

  15. If was not the son of extreme privilege, he’d be the filthy, ranting, uncared for homeless man on the corner that our stingy society, creates. A mentally ill adult that families cannot find care for; thanks to our nation’s pride in profit and thrift.

  16. So Biden occasionally misspeaks and takes a fall? Big Deal! I misspoke and took falls on my bike when I was 12 and much older, but Republicans attribute such happenings to loss of mental acuity and aging in projection of their own apparent candidate’s insanity marked by treason and loss of acuity, not to mention other criminal conduct as well as worship of international dictators past and present in Brazil, Russia, Turkey, and just lately, Argentina, where the newly elected president has been labeled the Trump of Argentina. There is nothing wrong with Biden’s brain, as I will hereinafter note, just as there was nothing wrong with my favorite president, FDR, who governed sensationally during our Prequal years – FROM A WHEELCHAIR!
    Think Social Security, Lend-Lease, Wagner Act etc. etc. etc.

    Apparently presiding over the best economy since that of FDR’s New Deal era following WW II, ending the chip crisis that sometimes shut down our car plants, reinvigorating and returning manufacturing from China, adding 14 million new hires and historic lows in unemployment, leading an international effort to bring about a cease fire in Gaza, showing up on a picket line with underpaid UAW members that brought about an historic settlement (which also caused non-union car manufacturers to give substantial raises to their employees), and in general to bring us thoughtful governing following the chaos and trillions in tax cuts for the rich of the Trump years are not worthy of note.

    So greed and insanity wins and democracy loses? We’ll know more next November.

  17. YES! Trump is crazy and so are most of his supporters. The problem is that some of the delusional, BAT-SHIT crazy followers are willing to blow things up and shoot other people to underscore their craziness. No wonder the media doesn’t want to ruffle his feathers — the “gung-ho” just might come into your establishment and kill folks! Or they might show up at your house and threaten your spouse and kids. Who wants to live with that anxiety?
    I have to think that the reason so many people were silent in the times of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin is because they were AFRAID! It’s easy to think OTHER people should be brave enough to stand up for what’s right; the reality is that when folks are willing to attack your family, it’s not so easy to be brave.

  18. Certainly haven’t been a supporter of Trump from the beginning. Not because he is deemed crazy. I think most peopl in goverment are self-centered and contrived. As our black community cant support Biden anymore we see people like Edsall as nothing but mudslingers as with nothing better to do than be part of the media saying be like me. Is Edsall worth anything? Not really here.

  19. John S. — “As our black community cant support Biden anymore . . .” Why not? Seriously and respectfully, why not?
    Could you support Trump now?
    I’m not a big fan of Biden as a statesman, but the man at least hasn’t gotten us into crazy shit and he’s gotten some good legislation through.
    And a vote for anyone else (or not voting at all) is a vote for Trump — and that crazy man in the White House is the scariest scenario I can think of. We will NEVER get rid of him! Men like Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, Jared Kushner and Mike Johnson will be in charge. Not to mention whoever his VP is!! Think Jim Crow 2.0.

  20. It does appear that instead of listing a number of accomplishments by this administration to motivate voter turnout,you’re using fear instead.

    Not a good look. It speaks of desperation.

    Btw, Jim Crow v2.0 happened in 1994. Biden was at the forefront of v2.0…Historical fact,not opinion.

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