SENDING OUT AN S.O.S.: As we fight an unseen enemy—the intentional destruction of truth—I turn to Dr. Joseph Pierre ( @psychunseen) for his sage advice on thwarting an authoritarian takeover.

Dr. Pierre is a psychiatrist, UCLA professor & author of the Psych Unseen blog.

A Q&A.
1/ Q&A

HSC: I feel we are losing the war on truth. How do we fight back?

JP: We have to start by distinguishing ideology from fact. Ideologies are debatable, with expected disagreement within a polarized country. But we have to reject the idea that facts are debatable.

JP: We should be more tolerant of alternate opinions; less tolerant of “alternate facts.”

HSC: When you see “little green men” showing up in America, what does that signify to you?

JP: It's hard not to see it as obvious evidence of authoritarianism and a slippery slope to fascism.

JP: It’s remarkable that such federal overreach hasn’t been more soundly rejected by the right. It goes against both liberal democratic and conservative libertarian principles.

HSC: What could the media be doing better as it pertains to parroting Trump’s chronic lies?

JP: The media has to do a better job of calling out misinformation for what it is, not framing it as merely a different perspective.

JP: The media should focus more on reporting reliable information rather than highlighting the misinformation uttered by the President within clickbait headlines.

HSC: Why are lying leaders so insidious to democracy? Trump kids lie, his admin lies. We know pointing out lies doesn’t prevent them from battering our nation’s psyche.

JP: A well-functioning democracy, or republic, requires a citizenry with a modicum of accurate knowledge.

JP: Democracy breaks down if we vote based on false beliefs, or worse, lies. That’s how leaders get elected who don’t actually have an electorate’s best interests in mind.

HSC: You clearly have an awareness of Putin’s cyberterrorism and “active measures” impacts on our country. How do we make people more aware that they are being exploited?

JP: The information is out there—the challenge is getting more people to believe it’s a serious threat.

JP: It’s astounding that conservatives went from viewing Russia as an enemy to seeing a greater threat in liberals, which of course is the very goal of the Russian propaganda campaign.

HSC: How do we fight back against an enemy we can’t see?

JP: During the Cold War, the right was all about fighting unseen and imagined forces of Communism. Fighting invisible enemies isn’t hard; the challenge is getting people to see that we’re under attack...

JP: ...the challenge is getting people to see that we’re under attack and that the evidence is the political division that’s right in front of our eyes.

HSC: Why does the writing of Hannah Arendt strike a timely chord? What can we learn?

JP: What Arendt documented about how authoritarian and totalitarian regimes arose from populist movements during the first half of the century in Europe is all too familiar in the US now.

JP: Probably the most important lesson from Arendt is that dictators come to power because they’re voted in.

HSC: In the film “Unfit” ( @UnfitMovie) Dr. John Gartner says we are already on the wrong side of the authoritarian divide. What must we collectively do to ensure we can be a bulwark against Trump/Putin’s siege on our country?

JP: In response to my essay “Slouching Towards Authoritarianism,” someone commented that it’s been more of a sprint than a slouch. No doubt there’s already been lot of movement in that direction. So the fight is about November; ensuring Trump doesn’t get—or steal—a 2nd term.

HSC: Mussolini destroyed democracy to hide his financial corruption. Do you see stark parallels between Trump and Mussolini?

JP: All authoritarian leaders have parallels, but comparing Trump to Mussolini may give him more credit than he deserves.

JP: Mussolini came from modest beginnings, was a well-read intellectual, served in the army and was a career politician. Trump seems like more of a Mussolini wannabe.

HSC: In Mary Trump’s book it seems clear that Trump has daddy issues. Does he want Putin’s approval because he’s an unloved son seeking approval from a killer? Or how do you see it?

JP: I’m reluctant to put Trump “on the couch” to speculate on what makes him tick...
20/ con.

JP: ...I don’t see such analysis as helpful. We don’t need to be shrinks to see his behavior for what it is – impulsive, ill-informed, thin-skinned, motivated by self-interest, racist, corrupt, and dangerous.

HSC: Anything else we can say or do to make it clear this is not a drill but rather a fight for our country’s survival?

JP: I can’t stress enough how important it is to get out and vote in November.

JP: Trump’s election took many of us by surprise – we can only hope that the past 4 years have awoken enough people up to the fact that voting him out of office is a personal responsibility that can’t be shirked.

To read more of my interviews with global experts as my way to help spread truth during an ongoing psych war, please go to:
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