Trump Isn’t Crazy, He’s Just a Terrible Person: Leading Psychiatrist


The president is more “bad than mad,” according to the man who wrote the book on personality disorders.


In an age when the current White House occupant has inspired unprecedented levels of armchair psychiatry, Allen Frances remains one of the foremost authorities in the field. As the chair of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) IV Task Force, he helped draft the criteria defining narcissistic personality disorder and other mental illnesses. He previously served as the chairman of the psychiatry department at Duke University School of Medicine and founded the Journal of Personality Disorders and the Journal of Psychiatric Practice. In other words, Frances knows his personality disorders.

This insight has come in handy as breathless speculation about Donald Trump’s mental state reaches fever pitch. The president’s belligerence, bellicosity and bad behavior have inspired mental health clinicians to break the Goldwater Rule—which deems diagnosis from afar unethical—and even to call for its elimination. Yale psychiatrist Bandy Lee has briefed Congress on Trump’s “unraveling” and edited a book in which 27 other psychiatrists offer similar psychiatric takes. Nearly 70,000 mental health professionals have signed a petition alleging “Trump is mentally ill and must be removed.” As far back as 2015, psychologist George Simon told Vanity Fair that he had “archive[d] video clips of Trump to use in workshops because there’s no better example” of narcissistic personality disorder.

Dr. Allen, in a letter to the New York Times that got a lot a lot of attention, fervently disagreed.

Allen’s description of Trump as a man who is mentally fit but morally bankrupt deserves some turning over, in part because it doesn’t let the president off the hook. If Trump is mentally competent, that means he is responsible for the havoc he wreaks, the pain he causes and the hatred he stokes. There has to be an ultimate political reckoning for those behaviors—hopefully, one that ends with Trump not just being removed from office, but also held accountable for alleged crimes and betrayals.

But what deserves further scrutiny is the discrepancy between how Allen describes Trump—whom he rightly condemns as a “bad person” based on all available proof—and those who put him into office and overwhelmingly continue to support his presidency. Trump’s campaign platform, while otherwise notoriously lacking in details, was comprised solely of policies that promised further disenfranchisement and harm to communities of color and other vulnerable populations. The 63 million people who voted for Trump sanctioned this as a means to Make America Great Again. This is not conjecture: most Trump voters were more economically secure than the country overall, and endless studies (like this, this, this, this and this) have shown the key factor driving Trump support was white racial resentment, an overused journalistic euphemism for straight-up racism. There are plenty of white racists who are neither members of the KKK nor the alt-right, who would full-throtedly deny their racism when confronted or questioned on it, but whose voting habits are unquestionably guided by their bigotry. 

Allen calls out the “societal disease” that helped sweep Trump into office, but stops short of historicizing it as a foundational virtue of a country established in slavery and genocide instead of a recently emergent issue. If Trump is a “bad person” because of his unabashed racism, misogyny, homophobia and Islamophobia—the defining traits of his public persona and presidential candidacy—then a vote for Trump, and thus those positions, says something significant about the morality of Trump voters. How can anyone ask for empathy for those who cast ballots for vengeance and white power because they imagined their status slipping away, even while communities of color continue to struggle in far more life-threatening ways—a struggle exacerbated in the last year by the result of those votes? To leave this out of any analysis is as inherently a political decision as addressing it.

I spoke with Allen, whose most recent book is Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump, about the problem that is Trump and how to end the distractions that keep us from solving it. 

Kali Holloway: You famously wrote the DSM entry for narcissistic personality disorder, which has been consistently associated with Trump since he launched his presidential campaign. You’ve spoken about your disagreement with that assessment. Can you talk a little bit about why you think that description is off?

Allen Frances: Yes. First of all, Trump is, without a doubt, a world-class narcissist. Not just among the great narcissists of our day, but among the great narcissists of all time. You have to go back to Nero in Rome maybe to find someone as self-involved and destructive as he is.

The idea that narcissistic personality disorder could serve as a political weapon to remove him from office under the 25th Amendment is absurd on many grounds. First off, it’s a very tenuous psychiatric diagnosis. When we introduced it in 1980 for the first time in the DSM-III, we did it strictly for clinical purposes, never imagining that it would ever be used as a political weapon. It was almost removed by DSM-5 in 2013; it just barely made it into the final draft of the system. It won’t be included in the World Health Organization Classification of Psychiatric Disorders that will be published next year.

Secondly, some of our best and worst presidents have been narcissistic. It’s never been seen as a sign by itself of incompetence for the office. It’s the behaviors that may be associated with it that need to be addressed, not the diagnosis. The diagnosis doesn’t really add much to the discussion. In fact, instead of clarifying it muddies the waters.

Thirdly, the criteria of a narcissistic personality disorder require a whole series of narcissistic behaviors and attitudes. All of which Trump displays with magnificent extravagance, but it also requires that there be, as a result, clinically significant distress or impairment. Trump is a great causer of distress in others. He’s creating horrible impairment in our democracy, but there’s no evidence to indicate that he would meet the grounds of clinically significant distress or impairment to himself.

He’s been rewarded for being this narcissistic idiot his whole life, not punished for it. He has not hidden himself. He is the most transparent personality in the world. Every thought is out there in a tweet. He has been this person throughout his whole life. He won the election—admittedly with the help of rigging and gerrymandering—but with this personality on full display.

We desperately have to contain this dangerous, impulsive, irritable, ignorant, despicable president. But we’re not going to contain him by idle, sideline, armchair, impotent psychiatric diagnosis. The only way to contain him is through political action. The ruminations about his psychology, his mental status, his psychiatric diagnosis are a terrible distraction from the political steps that need to be taken by Congress immediately and by the voters in the midterm election.

KH: Just continuing on this thread, you’ve previously said that Trump is ‘more bad than mad,’ which essentially means we’re dealing with someone who isn’t mentally ill; he just isn’t a good person. I wonder if, for a lot of people, seeing a president behave in ways that are so outlandish and nonsensical, we subconsciously feel like a personality disorder has to be at work because it’s so hard to make sense of it otherwise.

AF: Yeah. Confusing mad and bad is a very dangerous precedent. It’s not at all restricted just to Trump. The National Rifle Association happens to believe that whenever there’s a mass murder, the person must have been crazy. It’s not the guns that did it; it’s the crazy person. They actually work hard to get the mentally ill more armed. There are against laws that restrict arms for the mentally ill, but then the minute there’s a serial murder, any kind of homicide, it’s the crazy person who did it, not the gun. We are criminalizing mental illness. We have 350,000 people with mental illness in jail because they couldn’t get treatment. We’re medicalizing bad behavior.

When the Harvey Weinsteins and Tiger Woods and all the others get caught with their pants down, the first claim is sex addiction: “I’ll go off for a rehab program and I’ll be cured in a month.” We’re medicalizing immorality. We’re medicalizing people who rape and say they have mental disorders. Bad behavior is part of the variety of human nature. Only a small portion of bad behaviors are done by people who are mentally ill. Most bad people are not mentally ill; most mentally ill people aren’t bad. When we confuse the two, it’s a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill. It’s terrible for them to be lumped with Trump because most of them are well-meaning and well-behaved, and Trump is neither.

I mean, the other problem with this is it treats Trump as if he’s a one-off and he’s crazy. It takes away from the fact that we’re crazy for having elected him.

KH:I actually wanted to go there because I know you started writing Twilight of American Sanity before Trump made his bid for the presidency. You’ve said you had already noticed signs of what you identify as the ‘societal disease’ that would lead to Trump’s rise. 

AF: Trump is not a one-off. We act as if we could just remove Trump from office, we would return to societal sanity. Trump is a symptom of our disease, not the disease itself. He’s a reflecting mirror on our soul and the image is not pretty. The racism, misogyny, LGBT prejudice [and] xenophobia that partly brought him to office—these issues need to be addressed. These things are not just an aspect of Trump.

KH: He’s a symptom of a serious disease.

AF: As Clinton says, there’s a deplorable element to Trump’s support. It’s fueled by an underlying racism, misogyny, LGBT prejudice, anti-Semitism, and so forth. We have to address that, not just make believe it’s Trump’s creation.

There’s another large part of Trump support that comes from economic inequality. Especially in rural America amongst impoverished whites, there’s been a tremendous reduction in life expectancy, a terrific opioid epidemic, an inability to find decent paying jobs, an increasing inequality, the absence of health care, and the people left behind in America are rightfully upset with the status quo. Their message is completely valid. They just picked the worst possible messenger. He’s done everything in his power in his first year of office to betray them with every one of his policies, especially the tax cut and the medical coverage deduction.

Then we have self-proclaimed evangelicals, who are led by hypocritical religious leaders who are anything but Christian. Christ preached love, Trump preaches hate. Christ rewarded morality, Trump is one of the most immoral people in the country today. Christ never preached against abortion or homosexuality, even though both were common in the Roman Empire he lived in. His biggest targets of disapproval were the rich and the religious hypocrites—the two groups Trump most represents. The leaders of the evangelical movement have sold their souls to the devil in leading their flock to support someone whose policies are the very opposite of Christian charity and love.

Then there’s a fourth group. The fourth group is the political and economic cynics who are using Trump as the vehicle for their policies. His distracting tweets and bizarre behavior have allowed a tax cut that represents a kind of reverse Robin Hood, a stealing from the needy to feed the greedy, and efforts to take away medical coverage from those people most in need.

So we have four groups supporting him. The deplorables, the disadvantaged, the deceived religious, and the cynicals. We have to look at the problems each presents to American democracy and the challenges each presents to American democracy, rather than focus attention just on Trump’s psychological quirks.

If he were gone and we had Pence and Ryan in office, that would probably be less short-term dangerous for America because they’re less likely to impulsively press the button. But in the long term, they’re more dangerous, because they’re more plausible representatives of the horrible Koch and Mercer policies that Trump is the face of.

KH: I want to go back to talking about the deplorables and the disadvantaged who are part of Trump’s base, because I have a really hard time distinguishing between Trump and his followers. If Trump isn’t mentally ill, but is just a bad person, I have to wonder what that says about his followers. There’s this idea that we all have to have empathy for Trump supporters who have been left behind. But it’s always been true that the people who by and large didn’t vote for Trump—people of color and other marginalized people—have suffered far more and far longer with far more extreme consequences than any of the groups that feel they are being put upon right now, and therefore voted for Trump.

The conversation that suggests Trump’s base voted for him because of the degradation of life quality they’ve experienced over the last 50 years seems like an obvious centering of their white pain over groups that have suffered much longer.

AF: The way I see it is, I think it’s important not to discount Trump followers because it’s easy to do that. I tend to do it. But we should try to understand the situation; otherwise, we’re not going to be able to reach them. I think some are irredeemably deplorable. The old right types are irredeemably deplorable, as are the cynics, the people who use him for economic and political gain. I can understand their behavior, but I detest it.

Take West Virginia, the pivotal state. It had the largest support for Trump. The biggest margin, 70 to 30. Most of the people who voted for Trump were simply deceived by the 40-year, well-funded campaign waged by exploitive, greedy billionaires that has brainwashed them into believing their anger should be directed toward immigrants or people of color or other sexual orientations, rather than toward the terrible maldistribution of wealth that’s occurred in this country over the last 50 years. I don’t feel angry at them; I feel angry at the alt-right. I don’t feel angry at many of the people in West Virginia who voted for Trump, because their lives are terrible and he made false promises that they believed.

I feel no anger toward the many religious people who continue to support Trump because I think they’re following their leaders. I think their leaders are despicable. I mean, you take someone to provide political support and do prayer breakfasts with someone as uncharitable, as immoral, as deceitful as Trump. To get him their “legitimization” based on a political, cynical, political capitalization. I think they’re detestable—the leaders are. I don’t think the people who follow them and follow the propaganda are detestable.

I don’t think the 35 to 40 percent of the people who support Trump are one homogenous mass. Trump said he could shoot someone in daylight on Fifth Avenue and probably 20 percent of the public and a lot of congressmen would find excuses for his doing it. I think that his 35 to 40 percent support now [won’t] necessarily persist into the future as his grotesque behavior alienates more sensible people who are brainwashed by the propaganda that helped get him elected.

KH: When we talk about Trump voters, we can’t leave out that Trump didn’t just win the economically disenfranchised or the economically vulnerable among his base; he won every socioeconomic class of whites. How do you account for the mentality of the voters who are not in any dire economic straits? What is there to justify their votes for Trump?

AF: Actually, I canvassed last weekend in Darrell Issa’s district in California. It was a striking experience how many people of middling means were saying, “Well, he’s been great for my 401k.” Yes, Trump’s average supporter is not the distressed person in West Virginia. Among people with considerable means, Trump is a bonanza in terms of the tax cuts that are fueling this crazy stock-market. People who own the corporate stock—the shareholders and the corporate executives—are crazy happy to have someone like Trump. His antics cover up, in a way, the rip-off of the tax cut. It’s a pure scam.

Everyone’s talking about Trump’s psychological motivations and not doing the kinds of things [we need]. Why wasn’t there a demonstration in Washington against the tax cuts or the threats to medical coverage? I mean, there’s going to be a Woman’s March this month, but who cares? There should be much more attention to fighting his policies and much less attention on the person and the priorities of Trump.

KH: Earlier, I think the phrase you used is that Trump is a ’causer of distress.’ From the moment he launched his campaign, I’ve been interested in the ways Trump causes trauma and what the long-term repercussions of that will be, especially for vulnerable populations. We have a president who tells children their parents are from sh*thole countries, who is consistently triggering women, who essentially has declared millions of people unwanted in this country. Do you have any thoughts on how we might see this imprint in the years to come?

AF: I think the way to deal with trauma is to turn passive into active. I’ve never been politically active in my whole life. I’ve been missing in action at just about every important political moment up until this one. I think people have to stop screaming at their TV sets, stop thinking about complaining about Trump, and get out to vote.

I think the vast majority of Americans are decent people. The trouble is that a vocal minority is better at propagandizing. Another thing about Trump’s support is it’s completely dependent on Rupert Murdoch. It’s amazing how much power Rupert Murdoch has now.

KH: It’s astounding and frightening.

AF: All [Murdoch] has to do is turn Fox News against Trump and Trump is toast.

Rupert Murdoch, in fact, controls the political fate of America. So we have one person of dubious good will who determines who’s going to be president of the United States. I think that it shouldn’t be like that. We the people have to take back our country. Democracy is a very fragile thing in the history of the world. Even the Athenian democracy lasted for just about 70 years. Democracy is not a given. Our democracy now is under threat.

We only have four defenses of democracy. Congress, which has been a disgusting failure. The courts, which have done their best, but god knows what will happen with Trump’s appointments to the Supreme Court and lower courts. The media, which have been good but have been largely discredited in the minds of many because of Trump’s propaganda campaign. Then we the people. We’ve been very inactive. I’m very disappointed that there wasn’t more obvious pushback in this last year against Trump.

No one ever considered a midterm election could be this important, because usually, things only tilt the balance back to the middle. But this midterm election is different. We may be entering two slippery slopes. One, for the protection of our democracy against Trump’s attacks against it. Two, for the defense of the world’s climate, and what could be a catastrophic and irreversible set of amplifying changes.

I think that it’s a matter now of duty to public citizenship and responsibility to our children and grandchildren. People have to stop whining about his diagnosis and get on the streets, canvas and find a political voice. Our Congress should be passing a bill that makes clear to Trump that only they can declare war. It’s an article in the Constitution. It’s been ignored by presidents since World War II. To our detriment, we’ve been in a lot of stupid wars because of that. It’s time that Congress make clear to this unstable president that it—not he—is responsible for declaring war. Trump makes clear the tremendous hole in our government procedures. We need to have a protocol for starting nuclear war that doesn’t leave the button near his irritable trigger finger. He could press that button instead of tweeting in the morning and no general would know.

We need to have a protocol that makes clear that this is a consensus decision and not made solely by what may be the most unstable person in the country. These are political steps that need to be taken, and people need to stop this unsure preoccupation with psychological motivations and diagnosis, and realize that we’re under political threat.

It’s our job as citizens to push back in any way we can.


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A Worker-Owned Cooperative Is Revitalizing Jackson, Mississippi

A dynamic yet under-documented experiment in radical social transformation taking place in the United States.


Left Out, a podcast produced by Paul Sliker, Michael Palmieri, and Dante Dallavalle, creates in-depth conversations with the most interesting political thinkers, heterodox economists, and organizers on the Left.

In this episode, we sat down with Kali Akuno — the co-founder and co-directer of Cooperation Jackson. We discuss the emerging network of worker-owned cooperatives and the people behind it building an alternative, solidarity-based economy inside the majority-black and impoverished city of Jackson, Mississippi.

In Jackson Rising, Akuno helps chronicle the history, present and future of one of the most dynamic yet under-documented experiments in radical social transformation taking place in the United States. The book follows the surprising story of the city’s newly elected Mayor, Choke Antara Lumumba, whose vision is to “encourage the development of cooperative businesses” and make Jackson the “most radical city on the planet.”

In the first part of the interview, we ask Akuno about the ongoing organizing and institution building of the black, working-class political forces concentrated in Jackson dedicated to advancing the “Jackson-Kush Plan.”

We then diver deeper into the different types of worker-owned cooperatives that makeup Cooperation Jackson; the importance of developing cooperatives with clear political aims; and the need for a nationwide network of cooperatives and solidarity economic institutions as a viable alternative to the exploitative nature of our current economic, social, and environmental relations.

Cooperation Jackson is one of the most important stories for those of us struggling for social justice, for human emancipation and self-determination, and for a solidarity economics as a base for working class political struggle and the fight against the systematic economic strangulation.

Pick up a copy of Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi

***  Please donate to Left Out on Patreon to receive exclusive content and access to engaging with our future guests. We depend on your support to keep this show alive: https://www.patreon.com/leftout  ***

 

 

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Second Women’s March Draws Huge Anti-Trump Crowds as the Government Shuts Down

Women take to the streets again, empowered by #MeToo and fed up over immigration.


It’s exactly a year since the historic 2017 Women’s March, which brought millions out in protest of Trump’s inauguration, flooding the world’s streets with pink knitted hats. Thousands have taken to the streets again this weekend, empowered by the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and fed up with Trump’s increasingly authoritarian and anti-immigrant policies, war-mongering and tantrum-centric presidency for the Women’s March 2018.

This year’s march arrives just one day after Trump’s attempt to block Planned Parenthood funding, and amid a dramatic government shutdown centering on immigration. The shutdown comes as Democrats and several Republicans refused to accept the border and deportation policies proposed by the Trump administration and GOP in the federal funding bill. It marks the first successful government shutdown under a single party controlled congress, and has become a big theme of the second Women’s March.

From Twitter:

#WomensMarch2018, reminding people that we need a #DreamActNow & that #TheFutureisLatina

pic.twitter.com/UJLiGMRAek

— Natalie Montelongo (@natimontelongo) January 20, 2018

 

.@realDonaldTrump

You didn’t need to do this.

But you did.

So today…

I march for the dreamers you didn’t protect.

And the children you left vulnerable. #WhyIMarch #TrumpShutdown #PowerToThePolls #WomensMarch2018

— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) January 20, 2018

 

 

These kids are ready to march for women’s rights and against racism #WomensMarch2018 pic.twitter.com/muQQWtvInc

— Emma Gray (@emmaladyrose) January 20, 2018

Hundreds of Women’s March anniversary events are already underway or kicking off this weekend in every U.S. state. You can look up an event in your state and watch a live feed of today’s events on the Women’s March website.

The central organized 2018 Women’s March event is a “Power to the Polls,” demonstration in Las Vegas on Sunday, which is focused on mobilizing national voter registration for the upcoming midterm election, which could reshape U.S. politics.

In Chicago, the turnout for the second Women’s March march had already exceeded last year’s numbers by 11:30am, with more than 250 thousand people descending on downtown. In Los Angeles a Weekend of Women movement kicked off Saturday morning with 200,000 expected attendees.

In New York City, hundreds of thousands filled more than 20 city blocks as the 2018 Women’s March kicked off at 11:30am in Columbus Circle and Central Park West, as Patch.com reports. Exact turnout is yet to be determined. Attendees interviewed by the New York Times on Saturday reported crowds that filled city blocks, but didn’t pack them quite as full as last year’s march.

Among the largest crowds of the second Women’s March are marching in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, Denver—and even Rome, Italy. More the 250 additional cities and towns throughout the country and world have also drawn large crowds for the second Women’s March.

 

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I Stood up to ICE, and Now They’re Trying to Deport Me

With the letter delivered to my house, ICE has officially made the leap from a law enforcement agency to a political repression agency.


When I imagined U.S. immigration authorities coming for me, I never thought it would be by certified mail. And yet this is how it happened—a few days before Christmas, a knock on my door led to the delivery of a letter, informing me that I was being placed in deportation proceedings.

My daughter, who opened the letter, started to cry. I immediately saw this for what it was: their way of trying to intimidate me. I felt a mix of emotions, but mostly I felt angry.

I’ve no doubt that my political activity in support of immigrants held in detention centers has made me a target. And I’m not the only activist who has been targeted in this way.

I have dedicated my life to the fight for immigrant justice, demanding an end to detention and deportation. None of the usual triggers for deportation—contact with the police, raids, prior deportations—apply in my case. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement only knows about me because of my political work.

With the letter delivered to my house, ICE has officially made the leap from a law enforcement agency to a political repression agency—crossing a line that should concern us all. After years of defending others, I am now the one in need of defense. ICE seeks to chill free expression and silence immigrant advocates by using its deportation powers to intimidate and deport me and those I support.

The decision to come out as undocumented in 2014 was not an easy choice for me to make. But the record deportations under the Obama administration led my U.S.-born daughter and me to the conclusion that being silent and closeted about my lack of lawful status was no longer an option for us.

On a rainy morning in February of 2014, I locked myself to other activists outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington—the largest immigrant detention center on the West Coast. We were part of the #not1more movement pushing President Obama to stop his record deportations through a series of actions shutting down ICE facilities. That day I came out as an undocumented activist; we risked arrest and succeeded in stopping deportations—if only for a day. And, our actions helped inspire those imprisoned inside the detention center to start a hunger strike, joining our protest with their own.

Two weeks after our shut-down action, over 1,200 people detained at the NWDC began refusing meals, launching the first in a series of hunger strikes that have since roiled the facility. In response, I helped found NWDC Resistance, a grassroots group that seeks to support and amplify the organizing efforts against ICE led by those detained in ICE facilities. The hunger strikes have not stopped—there were nine hunger strikes at the NWDC between April and November of last year alone.

I receive an average of 20 phone calls a day from people detained, and have helped coordinate the protests inside with the resistance work we are doing on the outside. This is my life’s calling—to work alongside those detained to expose the cruelty of detention and deportation and support liberation and real justice for all.

Our efforts have borne fruit: From the local to the national level, government officials have been forced to take notice. Two members of Washington State’s congressional delegation have introduced federal legislation to reform detention, echoing the demands of the hunger strikers in their proposals.

And last year, Washington State’s attorney general sued the GEO Group, the private prison corporation that owns and runs the NWDC alongside ICE. The press conference announcing the lawsuit specifically cited the hunger strikes as the inspiration for the Attorney General’s efforts to end the abusive practice of paying detained immigrants only $1 per day for their work inside the facility. The NWDC has gone from an ignored facility in an out-of-the-way location to a key site of local resistance, with weekly rallies and vigils outside its gates.

Perhaps because of our effectiveness, ICE’s retaliation has been fierce; those immigrants who dare to challenge ICE while detained have faced solitary confinement, threats of forced feeding, forced transfers to other facilities far from their families and attorneys, and even deportation. And now the retaliation has struck home, with ICE targeting my family, menacing me with deportation, and expecting me to slow down my activism and my defense of those detained by threatening me with the same fate.

And yet if this last year has taught me anything, it is this: Continued resistance, in the face of growing repression, is our only choice. We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of the Trump regime taking power. It is one year since the Obama administration handed the keys to the enormous machinery of detention and deportation over to a group of people with openly xenophobic, white supremacist ambitions.

In that year, ICE has fully transitioned to becoming Trump’s police force. But “resistance” was part of our group’s name even before Trump took office. Last month, because of my active resistance, the U.S. government came for me. I will continue my struggle so that tomorrow they don’t come for you.

 

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Tom Cotton’s Cease-and-Desist Letter to an Activist Raises Serious First Amendment Questions

Tom Cotton’s office says they warned an activist to stop contacting them after she used vulgar language.


In October, Stacey Lane — a human resources professional of 19 years, got in the mail a cease-and-desist letter from Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark. The letter, in an envelope addressed to Lane, said that all communication “must cease and desist immediately with all offices of U.S. Senator Tom Cotton.”

“Healthcare was really big issue before I got the letter. I did what I could to call senators and congressmen and raise the concerns I had,” Lane told Salon.

The letter — now getting attention in the national media — is raising questions about whether or not it’s possible to bar a person from petitioning their government’s representatives.

 

Lane says she’d call the office once or twice a week, usually during times that preceded a major vote or legislative action. There would be several weeks where she wouldn’t call at all.

“My calls were purposeful typically surrounding a major vote or legislative action or call to action via the various activist groups. I was not a serial, daily caller-just-to-call type [of] person,” Lane said.

According to Tom Cotton’s office, Lane — a member of Ozark Indivisible, an activist group part of the Resistance movement against the Trump administration, used vulgar language on multiple occasions. The final incident, which prompted officials in Cotton’s office to administer a cease and desist, was when Lane allegedly called a 19-year-old intern a c**t. According to Cotton’s office, the letter was issued based on the guidance of the U.S. Capitol Police, who has not returned Salon’s request for immediate comment.

When the cease and desist letter started to make noise on Twitter, John Noonan, ‎Senior Counselor for Military and Defense Affairs in Cotton’s office, tweeted about the event to set the record straight to anyone who criticized the move — like the ACLU.

 

1. This went out to a single constituent, not a group.
2. That constituent called a 19 year old intern a c***.
3. Constituent had multiple warnings.
4. We have a very different understanding of “harassment.” https://t.co/gJdFYviELw

— John Noonan (@noonanjo) January 18, 2018

Lane told Salon she didn’t recall calling the intern a c**t though, it’s a word she’s maybe used “two times in my life.”

“Have I used colorful language? Yes, but it’s nothing more than I see our president using,” Lane told Salon.

Cotton’s office issued a statement about the matter saying, “If an employee of Senator Cotton receives repeated communications that are harassing and vulgar, or any communication that contains a threat, our policy is to notify the U.S. Capitol Police’s Threat Assessment Section and, in accordance with their guidance, send a cease and desist letter to the individual making the harassing or threatening communication.”

Indeed, vulgar language can be rattling, but issuing a cease and desist veers into the realm of prior restraint, explained David Snyder, executive director of First Amendment Coalition.

“This letter is inappropriate, and I would say it’s borderline unconstitutional,” Snyder told Salon. “This kind of speech, as offensive as it may be and as vulgar as it is, is just part of the game; it’s part of what happens in a democracy.”

Snyder added that protests, by nature, are not polite.

Of course, the first Amendment doesn’t protect threatening language where a person’s individual safety is at risk.

“If this staffer had a legitimate concern for personal safety then this might be someone the office should report to the Capitol Police and let them deal with it from there,” Snyder said.

When Salon asked Cotton’s office if this cease and desist letter was a violation of the First Amendment, they said they didn’t have a comment.

Wayne B Giampietro, General Counsel to the First Amendment Lawyers Association, suggested that a tactic like this could be a form of intimidation.

“Anyone who wants to try to intimidate someone can send a cease and desist letter. Whether that letter is worth the paper its written on is another story,” he told Salon. “Unless the profanities are a direct and imminent threat to the lawmaker, they are almost certainly protected by the First Amendment.”

Lane says when she received the letter she felt like it was a threat.

It was a tactic to suppress my voice,” she told Salon.

Indivisible, the activist group Lane is part of, has had a tumultuous relationship with Cotton and his office, which the Arkansas Times has been following. Salon spoke to another Indivisible activist who had been arrested in his office following a protest. A video has also surfaced on Facebook of protesters being kicked out of Cotton’s office.

Cotton, 40, is the youngest serving U.S. senator. Before his election to the Senate he served one term in the House. Cotton has been rumored to be named the next CIA director.

 

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How Sexual Assault and the Princess Industry Are Deeply Intertwined

Are all sexual advances harassment, and are all men evil?


Since Harvey Weinstein’s case, sexual harassment and sexual assault have been condemned by almost everyone. The #MeToo movement went viral and thousands agreed with it. But recently, a backlash to #MeToo led by French actress Catherine Deneuve and others like Margaret Atwood has surfaced.

Questions about what constitutes sexual harassment have become prominent.

Are all sexual advances harassment and all men evil? One Washington Post columnist wrote: “Ladies, let’s be reasonable about #MeToo or nothing will ever be sexy again.”

What is missing in this global discussion is an overview of the context in which the relationship between men and women occur — the global patriarchal social structures.

Patriarchy feeds the prevalent gender inequity in all societies and diminishes women into second-grade humans. Sexual harassment/assault is but one manifestation of this structure.

Patriarchal social structures

Patriarchy prevents the birth of women on a grand scale. In India, there are millions fewer women than men. This male to female ratio could only plausibly be explained by selective abortion of girls, which has increased substantially between 1995 and 2011, especially for pregnancies after a firstborn girl.

In 2015, China had around 33 million more men than women, due to decades of gender bias. Still, this has generated questions on how to find brides for all these single men, not: Where are the millions of missing women?

Once they are born, women are often used as instruments for other social values. We have heard it time and again that women’s education contributes to family betterment. Many international development efforts to empower women argue that women’s education will improve family, community, and nation as a whole.

It seems harmless to use family improvement, community development or other social reasons to educate girls and women. It also appears to be pro gender equity initiative. But using patriarchal values such as family improvement to promote women’s empowerment beats the purpose of gender equity initiatives.

The notion of family has historically signified patriarchal values and behaviours. All over the world, the traditional notion of family consists of a man and a woman. For one, this definition of family does not recognise genders other than man and woman. Moreover, it assumes one sexual orientation for each gender. On top of that, roles are strictly defined and labour is strictly divided in it. The man’s role is outside the home and the woman’s inside. Man is the breadwinner and woman is the housewife. Diversion from the rules has consequences.

In extreme cases the same family values that feed, cover, protect, support and even revere women as daughters, sisters, daughters and mothers also justify the honour killings of sisters, daughters and wives.

The public gang raping of women in the name of family honour is also a tool of patriarchy. The depiction of women in relation to the notion of family has often devalued women and derailed true gender equity interventions.

The princess industry

Gender inequity is also reproduced through popular culture — movies and the princess industry which grooms girls as princesses.

“Princessification” is the process of preparing girls to become princesses and partners to horse-riding, handsome and rich royal princes. This whole notion works to mold girls’ internal sense of submission, sexualization and passivity.

When girls grow up, the shape of gender bias and discrimination takes the form of commodification, commercialization and sexualization. In some parts of the world, ‘gifts’ (dowry, dower and bride price) are exchanged in marriages — under the pretext of supporting women — to commodify women.

In most parts of the world, women’s bodies are used as desirable objects to sell products and services. Next time you are in a shopping mall or watching TV, count how many products or services are advertised using women’s bodies, when they don’t have anything to do with the product or service whatsoever.

Addressing the patriarchal context

 

 In this patriarchal context, women are expected to be obedient daughters, chaste sisters and/or submissive princess-like unthinking girlfriends or wives. In other words they are considered sex objects or asexual deity figures. We commodify, commercialise and sexualize women and use them as tools to promote dominant patriarchal values.

Sexual harassment is but one of the many manifestations of this patriarchal context.

When the playing field is already discriminatory against women, it is not the issue that matters but the rules of the game. In the case of sexual harassment, consent becomes an issue when a woman has the opportunity and the power to say ‘No.’

The ConversationThe case of Harvey Weinstein is a symptom of a broader, more prevalent social and cultural disease. To address the root causes, there is a need to restructure our cultures — so that women are viewed as having the same value as men, and women’s empowerment is a constitutive value for itself, regardless of its instrumental value for the development of economies or betterment of the family.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. 

 

 

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