Thursday, 18 October 2012

Is Obama bonkers?

I received a rather strange press release for a book by a Dr Paul Fick, described as "a nationally prominent clinical and forensic psychologist", that claims Barack Obama is suffering from "unresolved psychological problems":


In addition to displaying narcissistic features, Obama suffers from paranoid tendencies and oppositionalism. It is this trifecta of psychological maladies that makes Obama a dangerous and destructive president. Obama is now exacting his anger upon America, which he purports to love but consciously and unconsciously hates.

The evidence for this, apparently, comes from the president's "choice of words and mannerisms" on those rare occasions where he is forced to ad lib. Fick is also fascinated by Obama's biography. He suggests that Obama's peripatetic childhood, characterised by a largely absent father and "abandonment" by his mother, produced a personality characterised by "significant insecurity which he attempts to mask with arrogance." He is filled with resentment and anger, which he first tried to suppress with drugs and then by becoming a community organiser and eventually a politician. "He even married someone with a similar chip on her shoulder."

The theory sees Barack Obama using the US political system as a type of therapy to work through his emotional problems, and when that didn't work, taking out his unresolved emotional problems on the entire country. The American people, in this scenario, plays the role of an abused spouse.

Using victim logic, Obama resents a litany of perceived wrongdoings for which he now seeks vengeance. In Obama’s convoluted thought process distorted by his rage, those wrongdoings were perpetrated on him unjustly and personally with the blessings of institutions like marriage, family, the American socioeconomic system, religion, the legal system, race relations, and the Constitution. The unrelenting feeling of hate screams for a “transformation” of all of these areas of American life.

While presenting itself as psychology, this is really a conspiracy theory, offering (like more conventional conspiracy theories revolving around the machinations of hidden cabals) a single, simplistic interpretive key to the whole of US domestic politics and foreign afairs. And it's no different really from the "Obama hates America" rhetoric of the barmier sections of the US right.  Like other conspiracy theorists, Fick leaps on any evidence that might seem to confirm his ideas (such as Obama's poor performance in the first Presidential debate the other week) while ignoring anything to the contrary, such as the president's improved showing this week.

Who is Paul Fick? His website presents him as a psychotherapist, specialising in "effective, no nonsense therapy". He previously wrote a psychological study of Bill Clinton, titled "the dysfunctional president", the thesis being that Clinton had a self-destructive personality that craved humiliation and exposure. An impartial observer might think that George W Bush, with his history of alcoholism, religious certainty and enthusiasm for going after "evildoers" provided even more material for a psychological examination. Fick, though, doesn't seem to be interested in Dubya. But he does show tender concern for Barack Obama's welfare, urging that the best way to help him would be to "vote him out of office, the larger the margin, the better." I suppose that's what they call tough love.

I'm no psychologist, but I'd suggest that Fick might be working out his own feelings of frustration and rage by devising elaborate psychopathologies for politicians he happens not to vote for. Of course, British politics isn't immune from this type of thing. I remember a lot of similar stuff about Gordon Brown.