Matt Frei On Europe

Europe Editor Matt Frei on Europe and the world.

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December 8, 2015 10 Comments

Trump’s narcissism would be a joke – if it wasn’t so serious

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump points to a supporter at a Pearl Harbor Day rally aboard the USS Yorktown Memorial in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, December 7, 2015. Trump on Monday called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States in the most dramatic response by a candidate yet to last week's shooting spree by two Muslims who the FBI said had been radicalized. "We have no choice," Trump said at a rally in South Carolina, warning of more Sept. 11-style attacks if stern measures are not taken. REUTERS/Randall Hill    TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1XNF3

Speaking (or was it ranting?) to a frothed up crowd of supporters in South Carolina last night Donald Trump did something alarming.

I am not just referring to his comment that all Muslims should be barred from entering the USA.

The Donald referred to himself in the third person, with his middle initial for good measure. “Donald J Trump thinks…”

When celebrities of any ilk start referring to themselves in the third person it is usually a sign that something has become unhinged.

Hugo Chavez did it repeatedly in his bloated latter years. So did Julius Caesar, intoxicated with military triumphs in his account of the Gallic Wars. Gina Lollobrigida, the Italian Diva, made it a habit.

And the Diva of surreal art Salvador Dali, in a career twilight interview with Mike Wallace from 60 Minutes, referred to Salvador Dali dozens of times.

There is even a word for it: illeism, from the Latin word ille meaning he or that.

Senator Bob Dole, the unsuccessful Republican candidate in the 1996 race against Bill Clinton, used to refer to himself as Bob Dole with a twist of irony.

But Donald J Trump doesn’t do irony (unless I have really missed something) and so one can assume that his Illeism has more to do with the other explanation: “a heightened form of narcissism often but not exclusively linked to a psychotic episode in which the “illeist” finds it difficult to reconcile his own person with reality”.

This might make sense. Donald Trump, who in my interview with him in 2013 sounded very circumspect about a presidential run, probably cannot believe his own success.

Despite having an ego the size of one of his many eponymous towers, he cannot reconcile his own candidacy with the reality of the polls.

Donald now wakes up every morning telling himself:”I can actually win this!” That, surely is enough to do in anyone’s head, even Donald J Trump’s.

His rivals have even agreed with the White House and a vast array of “moderate” Republican voices that this time, with his remarks about Muslims, the undisputed front-runner (just linger over those words for a second) has overstepped the line.

But didn’t they hear the cheering from the crowd? Those Americans who weren’t already offended by his remarks about Mexicans and women will lap up his inflammatory comments about Muslims.

The Donald’s abrasiveness is like a drug. You need more and more each time to get a high.

It is important to understand two things: none of his assertions make sense (eg. the number of Mexicans has actually declined dramatically in recent years because the Mexican economy is booming and wage levels are rising) and – arguably more important – pointing any of this out makes absolutely no difference.

In fact, the insolent introduction of reason into the campaign just riles people more. You can smother the campaign audience, which is lapping up the Donald, in facts and reason and that will just make them even angrier.

They thrive on fear and loathing and, yes, stupidity. It defines who they are.

And even if the American Dream is thumbing its nose at them, they have full possession of their hatred towards which ever group they’re required to hate: blacks, Jews, gays, Muslims, women.

Donald J Trump’s anarchic narcissism (Matt Frei just made that up) fills a void left by the crisis of trust, confidence and direction of the American Republic.

It would be a joke, if it weren’t so serious. By the way, the J in Donald J Trump, stands disappointingly, for John.

Follow @mattfrei on Twitter

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November 14, 2015 1 Comment

From #JeSuisCharlie to #JeSuisParis – France’s bloody year

2015 is turning out to be a grim and possibly defining year for France, and for Europe.

September 7, 2015 3 Comments

Refugees: today’s German heroes could become tomorrow’s villains

Like every story that captures the imagination, the audience demands villains, victims and heroes. Let’s just say that the roles are still being cast and the list is fluid.

September 6, 2015 9 Comments

Germany’s kindness isn’t about guilt – it’s about humanity

To put Germany’s mass kindness of strangers down to the war is a way of exonerating other countries for not doing enough.

July 6, 2015 21 Comments

Merkel’s dilemma: give in to Greece or stand firm against democracy

Berlin had calculated that the Greek people would come to their senses and vote yes. The opposite happened – and Chancellor Merkel must now untangle a Gordian knot of a problem.

June 30, 2015 7 Comments

After Greece, can the EU remain the world’s most popular club?

Greece may only represent a fraction of Europe’s economy. But in everything else that can’t be easily measured by the IMF or ECB, it represents to much more.

June 19, 2015 3 Comments

Was the Charleston shooting an ‘act of terror’?

Gun violence is an epidemic in America. But every time there is a school, cinema or restaurant massacre, the sale of guns and ammo increases and the gun control debate gets drowned out.

May 8, 2015 6 Comments

Election 2015: restive UK holds on tight for unintended consequences

The fear factor worked. Go to bed with Nigel and you wake up in a love triangle with Ed and Nicola was a prospect that cowed voters into the foetal position of continuity.

January 27, 2015 7 Comments

Holocaust survivors – staring down history’s demons

Rudolf Hoess tried to perfect the extermination process at Auschwitz. Seventy years later, survivors returned – gloriously, irrepressibly alive.

January 19, 2015 2 Comments

Ukrainian troops battle for Donetsk airport

New fighting has flared up around the strategically important international airport in Donetsk. Ukrainian troops have launched a counter-offensive after the pro-Russian forces claimed to have taken

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