Monday, March 16, 2009

Questionable Science and Messianist Fervor, pt i

What is it that makes people who firmly believe the apocalypse is coming now also seize upon every questionable news article, and every dubious theory? Is it that they want to believe, and so latch on to any evidence that promotes their beliefs? Or is it that the same lack of discernment which led them to their apocalyptic beliefs in the first place also leads them in general to accept uncritically the silliest of ideas, from the most unimpressive of sources? Perhaps it is a little of both.

The latest is a claim by a renowned psychologist that Obama is a narcissist, just like Hitler and David Koresh, or at least has narcissistic personality disorder. Except of course the fellow is not a real psychologist, and did not do a real analysis.

So what makes Shirat Devorah, for instance, so readily swallow such baloney? Look, if it is true, then it is important to get out this information. But if it is not true, then it is repeatedly slandering an innocent man, and saying all sorts of false negative things about him. Doing that is certainly not a nice thing to do, even while those who spread such vicious lies think that they are the greatest tzadikkim. (Of course, they might well say the same about me.)

The article at Shirat Devorah was not written by Dr. Sam (Shmuel) Vaknin. It was based on this article, which was written by him.

As for diagnosing mental health issues, this is to be done by a mental health professional. Indeed, Sam Vaknin even says this himself, in the article he wrote:
Granted, only a qualified mental health diagnostician can determine whether someone suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and this, following lengthy tests and personal interviews. But, in the absence of access to Barack Obama, one has to rely on his overt performance and on testimonies by his closest, nearest and dearest.
So he is not doing this based on any up close and personal analysis, which is what needs to be done to assess this, after lengthy tests and personal interviews. But at least he is a mental health professional. Right?! Nope!

Sam Vaknin explicitly says that he is not one:
1. In publishing this Web site, the author makes no representations concerning the efficacy, appropriateness or suitability of any products or treatments. Use this site at your own risk. The author of this Web site, is not a mental health professional and has no relevant background or training in psychology or psychiatry.
Contrast that with the article reprinted at Shirat Devorah, basing itself on his words:
To Dr. Sam Vaknin, the author of the Malignant Self Love, "Barack Obama appears to be a narcissist." Vaknin is a world authority on narcissism. He understands narcissism and describes the inner mind of a narcissist like no other person. When he talks about narcissism everyone listens.
So the world authority on narcissism has no relevant training or background in psychology or psychiatry. Somehow, I doubt that he is the authority this article makes him out to be.

But he is a doctor, no?! Doesn't he have a Ph.D?

Well, yes and no. As his bio states, he is involved in the world of finance. His Ph.D. comes from Pacific Western University, in California. It is a distance learning institution. As the dean of that school said, "A lot of people have called us a diploma mill." The school is non-accredited, which means its degrees are not recognized.

And this is your source for maligning the president of the United States? How ridiculous! How shameful! This reflects poorly on you, not on Obama.

(See also Snopes on this. And see this discussion on PsychForums.)

And this is not the first time these Jewish apocalyptic sites have fallen for such nonsense, from the flimsiest of sources. It is because they already buy into earlier nonsense, which is not authentic Judaism either -- people who claim Obama is Gog, where those people are not big talmidei chachamim but just possibly delusional people backing up their ludicrous claims with gematrias, where a gematria can be found to prove anything.

That is not to say that I am a big fan of Obama's policies. I am not. But I didn't like it when quacks psychoanalyzed Bush from a distance, and I don't like it when they do the same to Obama. To cite a commenter on the Shirat Devorah website:
I don't like him either - but enough with the obsession already. It's becoming unhealthy. Channel it towards something productive aside from loving to hate the leader of the western world.
Aside from any of this, it is shocking! Just shocking! that America has had at least two consecutive presidents with narcissistic personality disorder. Because according to this psychologist, President George Bush had it.

Frankly, when people do this, and allow their political biases to cloud their training and expertise, it does not reflect poorly on the target (Bush or Obama). Rather, it reflects poorly on the people making this ridiculous and biased diagnosis.

Who else has been labeled narcissistic? Well, Sarah Palin. And Bill Clinton. And Hillary Clinton. And Elliot Spitzer. And Chuck Hagel. See this New York Times article on the subject:
“It sounds more impressive to say that someone is narcissistic rather than a jerk,” said Dr. Susan Jaffe, a Manhattan psychoanalyst.

Are any of these characters actually narcissists? Only their therapists know for sure.

1 comment:

michael said...

Most politicians are probably a bit narcissistic.! LOL

What happened to the previous Gog Bush? Was he demoted from that exalted status? Pity, cause he suited the role better, being a son of Yefet.


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