Don’t say we weren’t warned

9 11 2016
Douglas Kelley (left) with colleagues

Douglas Kelley (left) with colleagues

The experts are playing catch-up over Donald Trump’s election victory, but there’s really only one person qualified to comment, and since he’s been dead for 60 years I had better do it for him.

Douglas R Kelley knew a thing or two about the need for character in high office because he made it his mission to work out what Americans should look out for when choosing their leaders.

By that I do not mean what to look out for in the next Pericles, he was not that optimistic about American democracy. He meant look out for as in avoid like the plague.

And he had a good idea of what that was, from his job as psychiatrist to the defendants at Nuremberg.

Liberal reaction to the Presidential election result suggests they have elected Peter Finch from the film Network as President.


But Donald Trump is not Howard Beale (Peter Finch’s character in the film), because Howard Beale was mad, and Donald Trump is not that.

And that is something he has in common with the defendants at Nuremberg, as Colonel Kelley put it;

“With the exception of Dr [Robert] Ley, there wasn’t an insane Joe in the crowd.”

In 1945 the whole world was desperate for the leading Nazis to be insane; it was the only comfortable explanation for a country at the acme of civilisation fostering war and genocide, but for the most part they were not insane. It was an uncomfortable truth America was not ready for, when Kelley tried to tell them how to avoid something similar in the USA, and seven decades later it appears they still are not ready.

His attempt to shake the electorate by the lapels is set out in his biography by Jack El-Hai, The Nazi and the Psychiatrist

That was published in 2014 so PT – Pre Trump – which means there are no knowing nods, no constructed pointers, but it is all in there, Trump reaches out from the pages as Kelley’s nightmare.

What would you pick out as Trump’s key characteristics? Here is my layman’s attempt:

  • Businessman
  • Opportunist
  • Narcissist
  • Egotist

Here, in El-Hai’s words, is why Kelley thought a good businessman was not necessarily a good political leader:

They reminded him of the directors of a business, all under the leadership of the late CEO, Adolf Hitler. Altogether the captive Nazi leaders constituted a “board of directors” of their defeated regime, a ruling group that had run a nation.

And in Kelley’s words:

“These people without Hitler are not abnormal, not perverts, not geniuses. They are like any aggressive, smart, ambitious, ruthless businessman, and their business happened in the setting up  of a world government.”

An “aggressive, smart, ambitious, ruthless businessman” has just been elected President of America.

As for the rest of that list of attributes, just read the quotes from the book; it’s all there. Here is El-Hai writing about the Nazi he grew closest to, Herman Göring:

His aim was to advance Herman Göring, and he had joined the Nazis to lead a rising party. His self-interest was notable even compared with other narcissists. Goring possessed the most undiluted self-confidence Kelley had ever experienced.

With his speeches about Muslims and Mexicans, Trump has tapped a seam Kelley identified years ago;

“I found the same anti-minority feeling shot through the American population”.

And his prognosis was bleak:

“They use racism as a method of obtaining personal power, political aggrandisement, or individual wealth. We are allowing racism to be used here for these ends. I am convinced that the continued use of these myths in this country will lead us to join the Nazi criminal in the sewer of civilisation.”

It is easy to assume given what he has had to say about Mexicans and Muslims that Trump is a racist, that’s not my take. To me he is a vacuum who says whatever seems to strike the right chord, generate the right effect.

Despite what happened in Nazi Germany, it’s not clear that all leading Nazis were racists either. It can be pretty frightening where following whatever seems to strike the right chord can take you.

According to Kelley, the right chord chimes in the area of the brain called the thalamus:

“It is an established scientific fact that a person who is thinking with the emotional (thalamic) brain centre cannot think intellectually (cortically). Hitler had an entire people thinking with its thalamus.”

It’s something Conservative, Christian, radio talk show host Tony Beam unwittingly picked up on during the 2016 campaign as he struggled to resist the lure of Trump’s rhetoric:

“This is insane because the emotional part of me cannot take control over the thought process that is going to be what carries us in the long run. And that’s what scares me about this whole thing. All of this is being wrought out on pure emotion.

It’s not Trump that bothers me. What bothers me is that Trump is popular.”

NPR – This American Life 578, I Thought I Knew You

The reason for this dominance of emotional thinking is, according to Dr Kelley, the low emotional age of many Americans, around seven years old on average:

“You can see them everyday – the adult who has temper tantrums like a child, another who resorts to tears to get what she wants, a third who merely sits like a hunk of protoplasm, indifferent to all around him, and a fourth who just won’t play.”

It is striking to see a list of the triggers that he felt should make an emotionally mature voter run a mile:

He urged his countrymen to refuse to vote for any candidate who made “political capital” of any group’s race and religious beliefs or referred indirectly or directly to the blood, heritage, or morals of opponents.

Trump scores a tick on every single one; the Mexicans, the Muslims, the judge ‘biased’ against Trump because he had Mexican forebears, ‘crooked’, ‘lying’ Hillary Clinton (who followed on from ‘crooked’, ‘lying’ Ted Cruz).

Kelley had a prescription, but in seven decades no one wanted to listen to it. It all boiled down to education:

…rebuilding the educational system to cultivate students who could think critically and resist using “strong emotional reactions.

But that was not done and we are where we are.

Is Trump a Nazi, a Fascist, a Racist? No, he is not. He is an opportunistic, egotistical, narcissistic businessman. That’s all.

The problem is it is clear exactly how dangerous that combination can be and, as Kelley foresaw, it is exactly that combination which could drag America down into the ‘sewer of civilisation.

Bernie and Me…

11 02 2016


(This article first appeared in DISCLAIMER Magazine)

It’s been a while since I met Bernie Sanders, decades in fact; I interviewed him in the days when both Clintons were still in Arkansas, Sanders was a recently elected Congressman and I was studying journalism and working for a Vermont TV station while in Washington DC.

Knowing nothing of Vermont’s politics or his track record I focused on the slightly more academic question of the effectiveness of a loner Socialist congressman. Sanders is currently running for the Democrat Presidential nomination, but he was originally elected as an independent socialist. In a political system then absolutely divided between Republican and Democratic faultlines the concept of an independent was utterly alien. And an avowed socialist? It was unthinkable.

Read the rest of this entry »


19 01 2016


Paul Flynn

Labour MP Paul Flynn has received plaudits over the way he brought a debate to Parliament on whether to press for Donald Trump’s exclusion from the UK following the presidential candidate’s call to ban Muslims from entering America – see here.
There is an irony in Flynn drawing attention to a man criticised for seeking to discriminate against people based on their heritage.
It is something Flynn himself has done. Read the rest of this entry »

How the BBC Conducts an Interview

30 12 2015
Marin Alsop

Marin Alsop

It takes an arts interview to reveal the truly parlous state of BBC journalism; to illustrate how deep attitudes run in the organisation.

Razia Iqbal, presenter of World Update on BBC World Service, interviewed Baltimore Symphony Musical Director Marin Alsop – listen here, at 20’40” – on 30th December 2015.

Alsop was speaking about the mentoring programme she had introduced to promote the study of music among Baltimore’s deprived (mainly African-American) community. Alsop’s comments about the success of the programme prompted the following extraordinary and revealing statements from BBC presenter Iqbal:

This would surprise a lot of people for whom Baltimore means the television series The Wire or the Baltimore that people see in real life depicted in our news bulletins of young African-American men being gunned down by the State. I wonder how you reconcile those things in your mind?

Up to that point there had been no political element beyond Alsop’s desire to get more African-American involvement in classical music. Read the rest of this entry »

Bristol’s Watershed Moment

24 10 2015


Bristol’s Watershed Arts Centre was recently censured by the Charity Commission for failing to observe political balance in its programming.

From recent activity it’s not clear it’s learned the lesson.

Watershed is run as a charity which means it has to follow rules on political neutrality. It also receives substantial public funding from Bristol City Council, the Arts Council and the National Heritage Lottery Fund amongst others. It’s a substantial operation turning over £5 million per year.

The complaint that led to the reprimand focused on their ‘annual’ Palestine Film Festival which is actually more frequent than that; with subsidiary Palestine Film festivals during the year. The tone is monotonous anti-Israel activism.

The Senior Charity Commission Case Officer Mazeda Alam told Watershed that:

the charity has either strayed into political activity, or has enabled this perception to be reached, through events such as the opening night of the 2012 Palestinian Film Festival . We consider that the discussion as recorded on the transcript you provided was not representative of the divergent views on the subject, and that it strayed away from content related to the charity’s objects (film as visual art) into expressions of political views.

Watershed got off lightly; for some reason the charity commission chose not to engage with the following serious allegations:

  • A curator who glamourises terrorists (Annemarie Jacir – see p.10 & p.16 of the dossier to the Charity Commission);
  • A host who vilifies Jews (Bidisha – see p.9);
  • Describing a film which features terrorists as ‘beautiful and intimate (Saken – see p.14);
  • A film funded by a terrorist organisation with the screenplay written by a senior member of that terrorist organisation without any context beyond hailing it as a ‘rarely seen gem (PFLP – see p.15);
  • Complicity in excluding Israeli funding where it suits them; where the film is not anti-Israel (Encounters v Villa Touma – see p.18);
  • Removal of all details of previous festivals to prevent scrutiny. (see p.6)

All contained in a thorough dossier which can be read by clicking here. Read the rest of this entry »

Russian Interests

26 09 2015
MiG-25 'Foxbat'

MiG-25 ‘Foxbat’

Soviet troops are entering the carnage in Syria on behalf of ‘President’ Assad (I put quotes around that because you can’t be president  of a country that fails to function). Click here for a report about their role.

If Russia is directly intervening, it is not the first time and shows Russian continuity of Soviet policy in the region. Read the rest of this entry »

Denry & The Daily Telegraph

14 09 2015

Here’s an article in the Daily Telegraph based on Denry’s Post about Jeremy Corbyn’s campaigning for convicted terrorists – see here for the post.

Click on the link below for a pdf of the Daily Telegraph article or click here to see it on The Telegraph’s website:

Jeremy Corbyn campaigned for release of Embassy bombers – Telegraph