One of the classic signs of serious mental illness is “inappropriate affect.” In this context, “affect” is the emotional face we present to the world. To the extent that a narcissist’s only emotional fixed point is his own need, most of a narcissists affects are actually faked, but that doesn’t mean they’re inappropriate.
The narcissist knows that it would harm his best interests if he were to giggle uncontrollably at a funeral or pick a fist fight with a patient in hospice. Normal people wouldn’t even think of doing such things (outside of the comedy universe), but a narcissist might want to do both, only to stop himself for fear of breaking cover.
Sometimes, though, narcissists, and other sick people, are so disconnected from reality — including their reality of their own best interests in a given situation — that they can no longer stop themselves from presenting an entirely wrong emotional face to the public. That completely disconnected emotional presentation goes by the shorthand title of “inappropriate affect.”
One of the major subsets of inappropriate affect is “inappropriate laughter.” There are seldom any good excuses for behavior. Here’s one short, computer-generated, somewhat repetitive list of some of the major causes behind inappropriate laughter:
Causes of Inappropriate laughter:
The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of Inappropriate laughter. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about your symptoms.
Common Causes: Inappropriate laughter
Some of the possible common medical causes of Inappropriate laughter may include:
Other Causes: Inappropriate laughter
Some of the less common causes of Inappropriate laughter may include:
I don’t mean to write a psychological treatise here. I freely admit I’m not qualified to do so, other than having the dubious pleasure of knowing over the years people suffering from narcissism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, dementia, etc. Instead, this information is a set-up to the fact that Barack Obama has been behaving very peculiarly lately, with the most obvious manifestation of this peculiar behavior being inappropriate laughter.
Think back to his meeting with Texas Governor Rick Perry regarding the tens of thousands of children storming the border. This flood of humanity has been overwhelming resources and bringing both crime and disease in its wake (and that’s not even counting the crimes visited upon the children themselves, especially sexual crimes).
Even if Obama’s ideology means that he is celebrating the breakdown of America’s border, a high-functioning narcissist would recognize that the public doesn’t want to see the American president laughing about a man-created disaster our southern border. Laughter, however, is precisely what the president offered to the American people:
Looking at that picture, the first thought a mentally healthy person would have is “There’s something very wrong going on there.” (As for the laughter from Obama’s entourage, we know he surrounds himself by “yes” men, so it’s not unreasonable for those same “yes” men to laugh when the boss laughs, no matter the absence of actual humor.)
It would be easy enough to pass off what happened in the Texas meeting if it weren’t for the fact that Obama was at it again just today. This morning, news broke that Malaysian Airlines, which already lost a plane with all its crew and passengers just a few months ago, once again lost a plane.
This time, if reports are accurate, pro-Russian forces in the Ukraine deliberately shot down a passenger jet traveling from Amsterdam to Malaya. All 295 people aboard the plane died, including 23 Americans.
No matter how one looks at the crash, it’s no laughing matter. There’s the human tragedy of so many deaths, there’s the national tragedy of so many American deaths, and there’s the international concern of Russian forces shooting down planes. Putin may have bitten off more than he can chew with his Ukraine adventure, but the fact remains that it’s a big deal when the Russian military kills close to 300 people, many of them Americans, and apparently does so intentionally.
So what does Obama do in the face of this big and serious deal? He gives the event a cursory 40 second salute and then, as if by the click of switch, reverts to his prepared remarks, smiling and cracking jokes:
The videos currently available don’t quite capture Obama’s bizarre emotional transition. It remains to the press, many of whom are or have been Obama supporters, to paint a picture of his emotional distance:
Obama, in sum: A plane crashed. It may be tragic. We’re trying to see if US citizens were on board. Hey, great to be in Delaware!
— Matt Viser (@mviser) July 17, 2014
The President of the United States is at a fundraiser?
— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) July 17, 2014
Even Piers Morgan (Piers Morgan!!) was shocked by Obama’s cavalier attitude towards a human tragedy and international problem:
President Obama massively dropped the ball just now. 23 Americans killed and he says ‘it looks like a terrible tragedy’ then back to jokes? — Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) July 17, 2014
Let me help, Mr President – it IS a terrible tragedy, and it’s more probably mass murder of your citizens & many other nations’ citizens.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) July 17, 2014
Singer Josh Groban added his own two cents to Morgan’s comments:
Obama’s bizarre quips and laughter have also surfaced in connection with an increasingly voiced concern that he has created a serious constitutional crisis by ignoring Congress’s laws and creating his own. The preceding 43 presidents, if they were challenged on the ground that they violated their constitutional oath, would strike back with carefully prepared remarks justifying their conduct and pointing to authority.
That’s not what Obama has done. Instead, as Rich Lowry details, he’s once again engaged in peculiar and inappropriate flights of “humor”:
President Barack Obama styles himself a wit, and some of his best material lately has to do with his abuse of his powers.
“Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff,” Obama told a crowd on the Georgetown Waterfront on July 1. “So sue me.” Hilarity ensued.
He cracked them up in Austin last week. “You hear some of them,” he said, referring to Republicans, “‘sue him,’ ‘impeach him.’ Really? Really? For what? You’re going to sue me for doing my job?”
It takes a truly blithe spirit to play the constitutional deformation of his office, and the ensuing congressional reaction, for laughs.
Once again, rational people must look at Obama’s misplaced jocularity and think to themselves “There’s something very wrong happening there.”
Going back to that laundry list, above, detailing the most common reasons for inappropriate laughter, it seems to me that there are only a few we can discount immediately, such as Tourette syndrome, Angelman syndrome, tic disorders, etc.
Others raise themselves as real possibilities. Take substance abuse, for example. Given Obama’s youthful problems with marijuana and cocaine, it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that, as the stresses of his office pile up (including the stress attendant upon setting up an imperial presidency), Obama is self-medicating. There are also perennial rumors that both Obamas, Michelle and Barack, drink too much.
If there’s no substance abuse, Obama’s bizarre behavior could stem from an organic disorder. This disorder could run the gamut from dementia and schizophrenia to a brain tumor.
Or, of course, and perhaps most likely, we could just be seeing the grandiose stylings of a malignant narcissist drunk with power. Surrounded by his flunkies and acolytes, enjoying the permanent job security that comes with his race, and delighting in the downfall of a country he hates (his own, as it happens), Obama may perceive himself as a man without any of the limitations that confine ordinary people. Nothing can touch him.
Regardless of the cause, when the president of what still is, just barely, the most powerful nation in the world begins to behave abnormally in public, people have to start worrying. Whether our president is under the influence, crazy, ill, or just power mad, we Americans are suddenly finding ourselves in exactly the same position as Europeans of old who suffered through the madness brought about by hereditary monarchs in the grip of megalomanias that resulted from everything from inbreeding, to syphilis, to the mental corruption of absolute power.
UPDATE: I know I’m on the right track when I discover that Iowahawk is on the same track:
Come back Nero, all is forgiven
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) July 17, 2014