America asks whether Trump is losing his mind
Is the US president lying or unhinged? The question is openly discussed in US media this morning after Donald Trump retweeted three horrific videos posted by an extreme British Muslim-hater.
He has called several women “ugly”. He called a senator “a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain”. He is sure Twitter helped him become president.
But of the 36,491 tweets sent by @realDonaldTrump, three retweets posted yesterday morning may top the list for the most incendiary.
They are three videos posted by a woman called Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, a far-right, anti-Islam party in the UK with a two-million-strong Facebook following. She was found guilty last year of religiously aggravated harassment after she abused a Muslim woman in a hijab.
One video appears to show a “Muslim” beating up a disabled Dutch boy. Another shows a man, apparently in Syria, smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary. The third, the most controversial, shows fighters holding the black flag of ISIS pushing a boy off a roof, killing him.
The tweets drew a sharp rebuke from Theresa May, British prime minister, whose spokesman said it was “wrong for the president to have done this”. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, called the president’s conduct “abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society”.
Brendan Cox, the husband of Jo Cox, the British MP murdered last year by a man who reportedly shouted "Britain First" as he attacked her, said: "Trump has legitimised the far right in his own country, now he's trying to do it in ours."
A wide cross section of US media commentators are talking about the president’s sanity this morning.
“A growing body of evidence suggests the president has broken with reality,” says Vanity Fair. “Trump’s alternative view of the world is more than just dirty politics: it may be pathological.”
““Something is unleashed with him lately … the last couple of day’s tweets have been markedly accelerated in terms of seeming a little unmoored,” says CNN’s political editor Maggie Haberman.
“He’s officially gone from occasionally delusional to full crazy uncle,” says Mother Jones.
“Donald Trump’s unhinged Islamophobic tweetstorm suggests he may be divorced from reality” says Salon.
He knows exactly what he is doing, say some. These retweets will resonate with Trump’s base and infuriate his opponents. That has been his strategy from the beginning. Saying that Trump’s odd behaviour shows he has a mental illness totally underestimates his political cunning.
His comments in recent days have stunned advisers. On Tuesday night, The New York Times and The Washington Post both published detailed accounts of what can only be described as the president suffering some kind of break with reality. He even continues to believe that Obama’s birth certificate is not real, according to multiple sources.
- Is Donald Trump mentally sound?
- Will this affect how the world sees America?
- Franklin D. Roosevelt was once described as having “a second-class intellect, but a first-class temperament”. As a class, debate whether this is preferable to a leader with a first-class intellect, but a second-class temperament.
- Imagine you are John Kelly, Donald Trump’s chief of staff. Give him three pieces of advice for how he should use Twitter from now on.
Some People Say...
“Bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies.”Professor Harry Frankfurt in “On Bullshit” (2005)
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Donald Trump retweeted three graphic, violent videos posted by Jayda Fransen, the 31-year-old deputy leader of Britain First, a far-right, anti-Islam party in the UK. As The Day goes to press, he has still not taken them down despite a tidal wave of fury from his opponents. We know that, for several months now, a growing chorus has questioned whether Trump is sane enough to be president of the United States.
- What do we not know?
- We still know very little about the three videos Trump retweeted. The man smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary is translated as saying that he is ridding Sham (The Levant — an area that includes Syria and Lebanon) of taghout (idolatry). Nor do we know what Trump’s true mental state is.
- “When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing and I take care of it. The other way, I would never get the word out,” Trump said in October.
- Trump has two Twitter accounts: personal — @realDonaldTrump; and presidential — @POTUS, from which he seldom tweets.
- Facebook following
- More than Labour and the Conservative Party combined. Despite this, Britain First has been electorally unsuccessful and was statutorily deregistered as a party by the Electoral Commission earlier this year.
- Found guilty
- Earlier this month, Fransen was charged with using "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour" during speeches in Belfast.
- Two other Dutch websites reported the “Muslim migrant” in the video was later found by authorities and was neither a migrant, nor a Muslim.
- Meaning Trump’s behaviour is the result of disease, in this case mental malfunction. Critics claim this would justify removing Trump from the presidency on grounds of incapacitation under the 25th amendment — see The Hill’s article in Become An Expert.