The Fire and the Fury in the Authoritarian Minds of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un

In the wake of Donald Trump’s reckless “fire and fury” comment yesterday, what I said here in my post “North Korea: Clashing Orders, Clashing Reasons” (September 11, 2016)  is more relevant than ever – but it now needs to account for the alarming Trump factor. Here is part of what I said in the earlier blog:

Authoritarian order is a very real type of order but it is mechanistic.  It tries to mechanize human behavior.  It is based on the absolutist assumption that disorder and uncertainty can be eliminated.  Those who actually acknowledge the existence of uncertainty defy the “reality” of absolute certainty; they must be repressed.  The dissenters also effectively acknowledge a radically different view of reality, one affirmed by 20th century science, namely that disorder and uncertainty can never be eliminated.  They can only be reduced.   Political conflict within North Korea reflects these clashing orders, these diametrically opposed views of rationality.  In its dealings with the world, the North Korean regime is hypersensitive to real or perceived threats and tends to be irrational.  Much of the challenge in dealing with it on the world stage is psychological.

Given Trump’s authoritarian mindset – his embrace of right wing nationalism here and abroad, his coziness with the Putins of the world, his intolerance of criticism, etc. — an implicit assumption in the above is no longer true.  For the United States government to be able to achieve a perspective more rational than that emanating from Pyonyang, it must understand that assumptions of absolute certainty are reality disconnects and deal with them in psychologically- and policy-appropriate ways.  But such understanding or the hope of achieving it fades to the extent that our president is also consumed by know-it-all delusions (“I alone can fix it”, “I know better than the generals”, “etc.).  Today’s talking point of official and unofficial Trump people trying to defend his “fire and fury” comment is that Trump was just speaking the language of  Kim Jong-un, a language he can understand.  That is to say, it’s OK for Trump to speak in intemperate, irrational terms so long as Kim Jong-un does.  The clashing of these two poles of unreason is a recipe for disaster.

This is just one of myriad reasons that our country and the world need Donald Trump to exit government as quickly as possible.   For that outcome to occur our 18th century democracy must pass a test.  It must be able to expel someone whose absolutist tendencies make him inimical even to the minimally democratic features built into the Constitution by its elitist authors.  It is in no way reassuring that the surest solution – his impeachment and conviction – does not appear to be possible any time soon – if at all.  But hopefully Trump’s penchant for shooting himself in the foot will somehow hasten this outcome — – before some tragedy occurs “like the world has never seen”.

2 thoughts on “The Fire and the Fury in the Authoritarian Minds of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un

  1. Mike, you should send this as a letter to the New York Times. I don’t know their criteria for accepting op-ed pieces but I wouldn’t be surprised if I read this in a reputable newspaper. Good job.


  2. Thanks, Jerry. That’s a nice thought. With a rewrite to incorporate earlier North Korea post, maybe I’d have something to submit there. Just checked cable news to see if the news cycle is growing stale on this (that would be best) but Trump now says his “fury” comment may not have been tough enough.


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