Friday, February 10, 2017

Gad Saad On Hysteria And 'Collective Munchausen' Around Donald Trump - Malhar Mali

by Malhar Mali

Pinpointing the psychological pathology of the anti-Trump Left.

Reprinted from Aero Magazine.
Gad Saad (@GadSaad) is an outspoken social critic of the lunacies found in the extremes of both political sides. A controversial figure to some, his family fled the Lebanese civil war under threat of persecution for their Jewish religious heritage. He’s a Professor of Marketing and holder of the Concordia University Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences and Darwinian Consumption. Dr. Saad hosts a popular YouTube show called The Saad Truthand has appeared on shows such as The Rubin Report, The Joe Rogan Experience, and the Adam Carolla Show. He writes a column for Psychology Today titled Homo Consumericus.

I spoke to him about the hysteria around a Donald Trump presidency, speaking out as an academic, and the field of evolutionary psychology and its detractors. The following is our conversation transcribed and edited for clarity.

 Malhar Mali: There seems to be an extreme strain of thought held by some that Trump’s inauguration will signal the apocalypse and return of the third-reich, that people of color will be rounded up, women will be sexually assaulted en-masse, and LGBTQ citizens will be executed on sight. What are your thoughts on that?

Gad Saad: Early last year I introduced a theory to explain the mass hysteria associated with social justice warriors. I called it “collective Munchausen” syndrome. Munchausen disorder is when somebody feigns a medical illness or injury to garner sympathy and empathy. Munchausen syndrome by proxy is when you have somebody under your care — say your child — and you harm that third party to garner sympathy. “Look, my child is hurt!” So it’s a really morbid, grotesque psychological desire to draw attention to yourself because you enjoy the sympathy you receive.

I took this psychiatric disorder that I’d written about in a medical journal and then I argued that the manner in which social justice warriors respond is really a manifestation of collective Munchausen. It’s more than just mass hysteria — which is a known psychological mechanism. It has a specific goal which is to turn the attention inward to: “Oh my god, we’re such victims.” So the faux-fear we’re seeing now with all of these, for lack of a better term, schmucks is a form of collective Munchausen. It’s: “Oh my god, we’re going to be gang-raped, the third-reich is coming for us.” I put up a satirical video where I reported that the inauguration death patrols were coming for me whilst hiding under the table in my study.

The naturally lobotomized individuals do not understand the gist of my position: I do this not because it’s not reasonable to have concerns about anything Trump may or not do. I could say, “I really dislike his education cabinet for the following reasons.” And that’s reasonable. Any candidate you bring before me, I would have agreements and disagreements with.

The problem arises when you have a discourse fully detached from reality. It’s beyond satirical and grotesque in how much stupidity is exhibited. A typical comment on my social feed might state something to the following effect, “I’m a woman of color,” she’s attending some school in Maine and she’s saying, “I’m afraid. Can I still go to class?” Just work it through. What’s going to happen when Trump becomes president? He sets up roadblocks on every street corner whereby he whisks away all people of color to the designated gang-rape centers? What could explain that hysteria? The only thing that explains it is a departure from reality — and hence collective Munchausen syndrome.

 MM: We value victims — which is a good thing —  but there are groups popping up and individuals who seem to be vying for higher statuses of victimhood. You call this “victimology poker”.

GS: Everyone who is suffering from collective Munchausen and mass hysteria are obviously of a particular political bent — the ultra-Left (who typically belong to the Democratic party). And these people have built their whole ethos, edifice, zeitgeist on Identity Politics. Identity Politics leads to victimology poker and the oppression olympics. These groups just end up competing to see who is more oppressed because it is the mechanism through which they attempt to solve problems. If you and I are having a genuine debate, I would present my evidence and you yours. The better evidence would win out.

That’s not what happens in an Identity Politics debate. My victimology card has to trump yours!  (Laughter) therefore people have to come up with ever stronger cards and hands and end up falling into victim mindsets. This leads to people thinking absurd lines of thought like — and I’m being satirical here — : “How will I go to the store and feel safe buying tomatoes once Trump is in office?” or “What will happen to my children? Will Trump cause us to cannibalize our children?” “Will sex still be permitted?” When you’re getting into that kind of delusional discourse it seems extraordinary that this is viewed as reasonable discourse. These are professors, these are colleagues of mine who feel perfectly comfortable departing from reality in this way.

Hate Trump as much as you want. Hate specific policies by him but don’t engage in this grotesque discourse. Especially because it trivializes actual lived trauma. As somebody who escaped Lebanon and actually hid under desks to avoid death squads, I don’t take well to these idiots from Wellesley College who say, “I’m scared to go and buy my hamburgers now that Trump won,” because it trivializes what true trauma is.

 MM: What would you say to your critics who would claim that you unfairly focus on left-wing lunacy and give right-wing craziness a pass — thereby “normalizing” Donald Trump?

GS: I call that the, “But what about Israel, bruh?” position. So I can’t talk about Islamic craziness unless I grant equal airtime to criticizing Israel?  That’s not how life works. We create a hierarchy of things that compel us. Some people fight for Tibetan freedom, others for Cypriot rights from Turkish occupation. So we don’t have to grant equal time to different issues.

I inhabit the ecosystem of academia. The ecosystem of academia is not run by Right-wing craziness. The academic setting, media elite, and the Hollywood elite are all part of the Left-wing lunacy. So everyday I don’t face the threat of the KKK or Right-wing fascism but I do see the extraordinary harm that is caused by what takes place in universities. That reality is caused by Left-wing lunacy. Hence as a person with a functioning brain I don’t need to provide equal amounts of criticism — that doesn’t mean I’m condoning Right-wing craziness. When I see some Republican senator who comes out with a position that is anti-science and evolution denying, I will be the first to typically criticize that. It’s not as if I exist to pick on the Left and grant cover to the Right. The reality is, in my daily life, I see a lot more danger coming from the Left.

MM: You’re one of the most outspoken academics who speaks about Islam and “Social Justice Warriors”. Are your views rare in academia or do you think there are other academics who support your message but are afraid to voice it. What motivates you to be a part of this debate and speak out?

GS: Yes it’s rare. If we were to estimate the number of people who hold positions similar to mine, it would be higher than those who are actually speaking out — because they’re afraid of voicing their opinions. I get personal communiqués from academics where they say, “I support what you’re doing” or “I’m behind your message” but they’re not comfortable speaking out. But they’re scared to even “like” one of my Facebook posts because someone would see it and that would mean they’re supporting supposedly “fascist” ideas such as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, rights for Jews, and rights for gays. Those are supposedly all very “controversial” topics that they don’t want people to know they support because those are all “fascist” opinions. People with a “progressive” mindset don’t possess the correct moral compass in navigating these issues; they fear being accused of being a “racist bigot” for supporting freedom of speech and more generally foundational liberal values. It is astounding.

There is some change underway. Heterodox Academy is a collective organized by Jonathan Haidt precisely to recognize the fact we need to provide greater political diversity and more generally a greater diversity of opinions in academia.

Why do I do what I do? I think it’s my personhood; my unique constellation of genes that make me very angry and offended by un-truths. I get genuinely angered at profound bullshit. I feel I must give my voice to contribute to the debate and if everybody had that bent, bad ideas would not have as much airtime.

I think the loftiest pursuit in life is that of truth and therefore I try to honor that ideal at every opportunity.

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