May 2, 2020

Holy Cow! Could That Fellow on TV Be Delusional?

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

So, I was watching and listening to this fellow speak on tv, as he often does, and he was saying something everyone knew wasn’t (couldn’t) be true. In fact, it occurred to me that this fellow has been saying things that weren’t true or, worse, denying for a long time that he had ever said those things in the first place. For a while, I thought this fellow was just a prevaricator, you know, maybe just an old-fashioned fibber. But he was so certain of what he had, or hadn’t, said that it occurred to me that maybe he wasn’t fibbing or lying after all. I mean, to be a liar doesn’t one have to know that what he is saying isn’t true?

So, I began reading what medical authorities had to say about people who are always saying things that aren’t true, but who say those things, (or deny having said them) with a perfectly straight face, and with a degree of certainty that suggests they really believe what they are saying. Well, for goodness sake, there are mental health specialists who treat people who chronically say things that just are not true. Psychiatrists and psychologists, for instance.

Dr. Scott Carroll, an MIT-Harvard educated psychiatrist, about whom I was recently reading, says some people who lie all the time (pathological liars) are functionally delusional. He says that means they actually believe their own lies. In fact, Dr. Carroll says they can, sometimes, even pass a lie detector test.  Imagine that.

According to Dr. Carroll, these people are being micro-psychotic, not to be confused with people who are schizophrenic. They often have, according to Dr. Carroll, Borderline Personality Disorder and actually believe what they are saying, which helps them to be even more convincing. Dr. Carroll says when they are called on their lie, they can re-write their memories to believe a new lie on the spot. Imagine that.

I’ve heard a lot of people call this fellow who is always on tv a pathological liar. I’m not sure I know exactly what that term means so I avoid it. Dr. Michele Barton, a psychologist, and director of Psychology Life Well, notes that we all tell little white lies from time to time, but there is a big difference between someone who fibs every now and again and someone who is a pathological liar. “A pathological liar,” she says, “is somebody who lies without effort, someone for whom telling a lie comes more naturally than telling the truth.” Dr. Barton, in a recent interview, said, “it (lying) can become a part of the liar’s everyday life, to the point where their whole existence is a fabrication.” Imagine that.

According to Dr. Barton, “Pathological liars are usually very insecure individuals raised by very authoritative and strict parents who were not excepting of that individual as they were. Lying in children and adolescents is very normal and a common universal part of development and growth.” That said, Dr. Barton explains, “this is something that we are supposed to outgrow as we become responsible upstanding citizens as adults.”

Dr. Barton says, “most pathological liars have Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or, at least strong narcissistic traits, and they compulsively lie (and know they are lying) just to make themselves look better, and since one of the symptoms characteristic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an exaggerated sense of self-importance, it makes sense why that might be.”

Now, I keep hearing and watching this fellow on tv say that he knows more about almost everything than, well, everybody. So, I started counting what subjects this fellow said he knew more about than anyone else. Well, he apparently knows a lot or thinks he does. At least, by my last count, he says he knows more about over 40 different major, really important, subjects and issues than anybody, literally—than anybody. And, you know, he is really emphatic. He really seems to mean it.

Now, for all I know this fellow could really be a genius, and really know more about all of these subjects than anybody else. In fact, he’s assured a lot of people that he is a genius and that would be a good thing if he really is a genius. He has a really big job, so being a genius would be great. In fact, just having really good judgment would be great too. I’ve heard him speak a number of times and, maybe it’s just me, but I’m not that sure his judgment is all that great.

Anyway, as I said, this fellow is talking on tv all the time, and he tweets a lot too. Sometimes he sounds just like the cases the psychiatrists and psychologists write about because so much of what he says doesn’t seem to square with the facts. And when he says these things that just aren’t true, he says them with a straight face and in a really insistent way.

So, sometimes, I really wonder whether this fellow really believes what he says when he says it, even if everyone else knows what he is saying isn’t true. Just wondering.

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25 responses to “Holy Cow! Could That Fellow on TV Be Delusional?”

  1. M M Kaback MD says:

    As I have said previously, try the word SOCIOPATH, it even fits better!

  2. Karen says:

    Okay, this was the best thing I’ve read this week. I WONDER who the fellow that you refer to is. Keep them coming, Hal. We need this more than ever.

  3. Gail Sehler says:

    I’m amazed how he surrounds himself with very credible professionals who will never correct him. Why are they all afraid of him? He must have very dark and unpredictable side.

  4. Ed says:

    Here’s the chronology of a few of the lies and the resulting tragedy –

    1. Obama not born in America
    2. Millions of fake votes for Hillary
    3. Global warming a hoax
    4.  Russian interference a hoax
    5.  Fake news
    6. Ingesting Lysol is a cure.
    7.  And now coronavirus pandemic is a media exaggeration.

    Believing in lie after lie after lie including denying science leads to our current insanity and weakens our efforts to address real threats in a real way.  We are doomed if he wins again and those that support him will have blood on their hands – literally.

  5. Reed says:

    All Politicians are LIARS- they never cared about their constituents – they only want job security.
    This applies to ALL politicians unfortunately!
    Too bad you are concentrating on only one of them!

  6. Michael Regan says:

    Very disappointing column

    It’s obvious you detest Trump. I get it. I am not a fan of his personal actions or his representations.

    But I also like to think that I have the mental faculties to distinguish between a person’s actions and the impact of their policies.

    What you overlook is that almost every President in modern times has manifested many of the same attributes you ascribe to Trump.

    I’ll spare you the refresher course on Obama’s multiple lies other than to remind you that under Obamacare, if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. With Bush, it was the weapons of mass destruction lie that justified the waste of over a trillion dollars on a pointless war. Clinton obviously didn’t have sex with Monica. After all it depends on the definition of “is.” And after visiting the museum in Vietnam, the lies of Kennedy Johnson and others were on full display and millions suffered.

    And it is not limited to Presidents. Does anyone believe anything that Adam Schiff or Nancy Pelosi or Mitch McConnell says?

    That is why I choose to look at their policies. On that front, I believe Trump’s policies have been better than Obama’s policies. And the prospect of Biden as President should scare people to death. He truly belongs in an assisted care facility.

    Unfortunately, the candidates who might have made great Presidents were forced out of the primary process before they could get traction.

    Thus we are left with two candidates – neither of whom inspire confidence.

  7. Peggy Jacobs says:

    Certainly Dr. Novaro, a doctor in political science and an acknowledged expert on China said that the President knew more about China than he did. So maybe he really is the genius he claims to be.

  8. James Fisher says:

    I agree with Michael Regan. This article is beneath you and not your best effort. Where is the anticipated intellectual content, the weekly universal wisdom, the usual bilateral ideological arguments normally present in your essays?

    Your rather petty judgments lie in the margins – rather than the body – of this president’s performance. Trump’s policies have accomplished more for this country in such a short time than any president before him. You fail to acknowledge even ONE of them.

    No rational Trump supporter embraces the whole persona of this man – nor could they. They just want to see America restored to its rightful place in the global society without its leadership apologizing to everyone for anything that moves.

    Trump may lack many things but he doesn’t lack the courage to do what he thinks is best for America in the face of staggering levels of opposition. The majority of Americans share his vision and recognize his deep, genuine love of country.

    Take it to the bank: With the opposition candidate being offered by the democrats, Donald Trump will be reelected by a landslide of historical magnitude in November.

  9. Michael Gong says:

    Isn’t it amazing that there are still millions of people who believe in him, make excuses for him, or try to justify his shortcomings as simply the political norm? They may well win out because they have all the guns and are itching to use them. We may well be on the verge of extinction if this virus spreads unchecked, and we will deserve it because we will have brought it on ourselves by accepting abnormal behavior because others have done the same. Nature will recover nicely and we will not be missed.

  10. Response to Mike: Mike compares President Trump to other Presidents who have lied, defensively, over one issue or another. Fair enough. These essays, incidentally, were scathing over such lies that accompanied The Affordable Care Act. That being said, there is no historical precedent of any American president lying with complete abandon. None. While we’ve probably had no President who has been pure as the driven snow (although Washington comes pretty close), we’ve never had a President who demonstrates zero regard for truth. Many people may lie occasionally, far fewer people lie chronically. Mike seems not to see any difference. The mental health community does.

  11. Robert J. Fraiman says:

    Hal, in lieu of “this fellows” many fabrications of a serious nature
    could the 12th Amendment be a viable solution to rectify the situation? I realize some of your followers have a different opinion of “this fellow” but that not withstanding I believe that the majority of your readers would like to hear your answer. As an aside, I have been a lifetime Republican but the Party I supported is not that Party today!!

  12. Ray Galante says:

    Our president (small letter p), is so inept in national/international leadership; plainly pathetic. Most definitely a shallow , non-reader TV junkie. Offer encouragement, unity, tolerance, sympathy? – beyond his narcissism. He has followers aplenty, unfortunately . Truthfully, I’ve never been so disappointed (once a stalwart supporter) in such a “clown”

  13. ELIEZAR BENJAMIEN. AKA Leonard Sherman says:

    O what to do. O what to do I have given a gift that millions of people in the world would kill to get and that is to be able to vote for any body that they would want to in these beautiful United States of America , I can’t wait to exercise my gift to vote this November but O What to do ? For the leadership and the future of my country for the Presidency one candidate is smart, clever and dumb, and the other candiedate dumb,stupid and dishonest and senile O What to do O What to do

  14. Stephen Prover says:

    Dr. Kabak,
    Actually psychiatrists, in general, consider sociopathy (anti social personality disorder) and narcissistic personality disorder two sides of the same coin.
    Hal,
    Another outstanding, brilliant essay. You must spend days researching each piece… Psychotic individuals who invariably lie seldom fail to defend their lies when challenged. In fact they usually double down and expand upon their delusions..
    Trump’s lying is more characteristic of an individual with significant character pathology who NEVER acknowledges a lie… When challenged he often denies ever making the statement and/or attacking the individual brave enough to question him. Individuals who are powerful are often indulged by aides or sycophant who support their prevarications and thus reinforced the individuals just expand the scope of their false assertions… Hence, the individual you mention knows more about every topic than the acknowledged experts.
    James and Mike – Your facility with glib rationalization is mind boggling.

  15. judy allen says:

    I am so very disappointed that the “Of Thee I Sing 1776” has reduced itself to a weekly bashing of the President. I miss the good ole days when there was a truly thought provoking message/topic.

    We are all especially fragile now with the COVID causing us to be housebound, etc and the weekly criticism of our President is of no value to me.

    I will tune in again after the next election when we have a new President or not…..

  16. Eddie Whitehead says:

    What flavor Kool Aid is this “Fellow” serving? Not once did you mention that “Fellow’s” name, yet chronic defenders are quick to insert one. Very clever tactic to get “them” to expose themselves. Shame on you, Hal.

  17. Roberta Conner says:

    Eddie, you must be new to reading these essays if you didn’t recognize the Trump-hating poison dripping from Hal’s pen during his opening sentence.

    Check back in November when over 70 million of Trump’s “chronic defenders” vote overwhelmingly to retain him in office to finish the job he started.

    So many snarky commenters wishing for a different outcome with so little of merit to offer in return.

  18. Paul Lubar says:

    Time for a third party candidate?

  19. With all this disparagement and criticism of Trump, week after week, why is there never a word about his putative opponent the presumed Democratic nominee, Biden, having the possibility of cognitive decline? Much has been written and uttered in the press on this. Yet you have not said as much as one word on this important subject, which may ultimately have a profound influence on the future direction of this country. Instead week after week you criticize and demean the President, now inferring you have special psychological insight into how Trump’s mind is functioning. A joke at best. Why not some insight as to how Biden’s mind is/or isn’t working? Further nary a word about Biden’s alleged sexual assault. Does this not portray a clear bias against Trump and hardly serves a purpose other than for your venting your animus toward him.

  20. Sheila says:

    I am astonished at some of the comments I’m reading from this blog’s readers. I have known Hal since the 80’s, and I have not always agreed with his point of view- –but I have always known him to be honest and keenly incisive about the conservative view of politics. I’m sure that you – Judy, Roberta, James, Perry , Paul and others –appreciate that as well, and know that Hal doesn’t pander to either side, never serves up propaganda or conspiracy theories, but speaks the truth from a reasoned perspective founded on meticulous research and facts..

    So, why is it “hate” to point out aspects of this “fellow’s” personality that are true and visible for anyone to see and hear? These are personality characteristics that mitigate against this “fellow’s” ability to inspire confidence in over half the country, let alone to lead our country? Could it be that you just don’t want to hear the truth – even from a trusted writer? And speaking of hate – there has been no executive leader in our country, past or present, who spews so much hate and hostility upon anyone who disagrees with him as does “this fellow”. And I challenge anyone to make mental decline a rallying point, after listening to “this fellow” for ten minutes. If you want other perspectives from trusted conservative intellectuals, read recent articles written by George Will, George Conway and David Frum. You’ll see that Hal is not “dripping” hate.

    Judy, – if you want a thought-provoking topic, how about this: Is it ok with you that we have that guy in the white house who sends out his MAGA clad supporters waving Confederate flags, posters of nooses and swastikas, and armed with AK47s and other war weapons, to storm the state capital of Michigan in an attempt to intimidate law enforcement and elected officials, or worse? This is not an isolated incident, as we know (Charlottesville). Is it ok with you that he encourages the governor of Michigan to make a deal with these “good people”, that he refuses to accept science, that he offers up COVID remedies that will kill people, and that he insists on reopening the country amid the worst pandemic we’ve experienced in a century?

    Our country is in trouble. This fellow has openly praised and curried favor with brutal dictators and has alienated all our western allies. We are trillions of dollars in the hole. Bankrupt the country? Well, that’s this fellow’s M.O.

    There are now 68000 deaths from COVID and climbing, we are without adequate resources to test or to care for the sick – we are the most infected country in the western world. Armed militias have stormed a state capitol. And to Hal’s point –all the lies and refusal to accept responsibility for anything—everything is always the fault of another.

    Is this the kind of leader you want? Is this the kind of country you want?

  21. sheila says:

    Correction: I was incorrect to state that there have been no executive leaders in our country who have openly spewed as much hate as this “fellow”. Huey Long, Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace come to mind. And Jeff Sessions was famously denied a federal judgeship due to charges of racism. Would this fellow be proud to stand with this company?

  22. James Fisher says:

    Sheila, I am astonished that you are astonished that there would be vastly conflicting views of American political figures. We have two major parties just for that reason. We do not all share the same opinions nor judgements.

    By and large, Trump voters feel that Obama was a weak and ineffectual leader, a virtual imposter and by far the worst president in our history. He decimated our military, destroyed our manufacturing base, was weak on terrorism, devastated our health care system and personally allowed Iran to become the evil monster of the Middle East it is today.

    Sound familiar? Trump haters spout equally acerbic rants about his personality and his presidency every week – no matter the magnitude of his many widely acknowledged accomplishments.

    Isn’t that the beauty of our system of government? And aren’t Hal’s columns the very manifestation of the freedoms that we American’s enjoy? Many of Hal’s readers fully agree with what he writes. Some do not. I agree with much of what he writes. I particularly appreciate it when he sees BOTH sides of a situation.

    I know voters who held their noses when they pulled the lever to elect Trump. They were not blind to the personality traits that you, Hal and other commenters bring up on a weekly basis. No rational observer could fail to see Trump’s frequently very coarse, egotistical and narcissistic behavior.

    But – Trump supporters are not looking to him to be their spiritual advisor, their morality mentor or even their best friend. They are fully-grown adults and they just want him to lead this country to greater safety and greater economic prosperity and – by any objective standard – he was well on his way to doing just that before this virus struck.

    It seems that Trump haters really don’t care what tangible successes he may achieve for America – they just can’t accept his personal characteristics. These same people would have kept George Patton off the battlefield.

    We will learn in November whether Americans again want a strong leader who will maintain and expand our national strengths or one that is more personally charismatic and politically correct. I wonder which our grandchildren might want.

  23. Sheila says:

    James, thank you for your comments in response to my thoughts –I truly appreciate your point of view. However, I respectfully take issue with almost every point you make, from your interpretation of my take on the viewer comments this week, to Obama’s tenure as president, and particularly to his foreign policy with Iran. I am quite familiar with the JCPOA deal and still feel, that while it was undoubtedly flawed, it was our best chance for nuclear de-escalation in the middle east. Now, we’re back to square 1 – a constantly explosive (pun intended) situation. In any case, I am 180 degrees opposite you in my view of Obama’s accomplishments, as well as on the potential for economic prosperity and for the very continuation of our democratic institutions in this administration.

    Rather than to take any more space on Hal’s blog, I’ll be happy to expand further in a private email. I would be interested in hearing in greater detail why you feel the way you do. From your response, it is almost as though we are viewing the world from two different dimensions – one of us is in the Twilight Zone — and that is probably not unlike the chasm between most non-Trump supporters (Democrats and classic Republicans) and the Trump true believers.

  24. jim katz says:

    Hal..your incisive article raises interesting
    fundumental issues regarding the substance
    of a leaders characteristics.
    How about a comparative article on the two
    presumptive candidates with say Andrew Cuomo.

  25. Susan duman says:

    Hal, as you know I always read your columns. I have sensed a shift in your position over the last year or 2. Whether we were on the same page
    Or not never mattered. Your research, your capacity to learn many viewpoints and your exceptional writing ability made me delight to find your blog.

    The reactions of some
    Of your readers today we’re intense. What you say matters to them. Thank God for free speech.
    I’m tickled that someone was offended that you referred to him as This Fellow.
    I hope you smiled quietly when you read it.

    Your viewpoint ranks up there with the big shots I read daily in WSJ and NYT.

    The sun is shining in Chicago today and I appreciated your blog.

    Till the next time.

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