Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
A few years back I learned of an acronym, MICE, that described the four most common reasons an individual commits espionage against their home country: Money, Ideology, Compromise, and Ego.
Last week I stumbled onto a 2017 scholarly article by Dr. Ursula Wilder, titled “Why Spy Now?” — a follow-up to her 2003 article “Why Spy?” — that examined notorious case studies of double agents from a psychological lens. In both articles, Dr. Wilder talks about four personality traits most commonly found in those who have committed a betrayal of such magnitude: Psychopathy, Immaturity, Narcissism, and Grandiosity. Unlike the MICE acronym, in Wilder’s discussion, we tend to see all four of these present at once in various degrees. Some key excerpts:
“Psychopaths tend to fantasize mostly about power, pain, and control, while narcissists focus on their personal superiority and the hostility provoked by those who do not notice it and their plans to get revenge for perceived slights and insults.” …
“The most salient characteristic of immaturity is the ascendancy of fantasy over reality. Immature adults spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming, deliberately calling to mind ideas that stimulate pleasant or exciting emotions. In contrast to mature adults, immature adults do not readily distinguish their private world from objective external reality and, in fact, may expect reality to conform to their self-serving and stimulating fantasies.” …
“Psychopathy, narcissism, and immaturity all have in common the characteristic of grandiosity…Our technology now makes it possible for a person to develop and express multiple selves in cyberspace. This is a context of human interaction and action that can feed and reward grandiose self-perceptions.”
Wilder also describes how trained intelligence operatives seek out these characteristics and lean on them using crisis as a motivator; offering the potential source a way out of a predicament that their personality makeup is having trouble processing.
“This can’t be happening to me,” they think to themselves. And their future handler approaches them to offer “it doesn’t have to, if you do what I say.”
I do not, of course, have evidence to share that would further support the accusation I am continuing to imply. I know that the outgoing president found himself bleeding cash, untrusted in business, and facing the sort of failure and humiliation he had been running from his whole life before he managed to ride America’s worst impulses into the White House, and that our national security apparatus has been screaming for months that our defenses have been compromised. I know that his family found their way back into prosperity in part due to the influence and patronage of Russian oligarchs, and that a lot of people who put themselves at cross-purposes to Russia’s current governing class find themselves being targeted for poisoning and mysterious defenestration.
One day I feel certain the truth will out; as it did for Kim Philby, or Aldrich Ames, or Jim Nicholson, or any of the other infamous names Wilder found in her case studies. In those instances the revelation of their betrayal sent a new round of devastation through the agencies that had housed them, beyond the damage done by the espionage in the first place.
But this would be a unique case, if it turns out to be true, and the scope of the aftershock will break us in ways that we are not already broken.
The deep anxiety that continues to build in Donald J. Trump as his term in office ends is palpable; his rambling monologues both a way to try and assert control over the very air he breathes and to feed the pieces of himself that he cannot sustain with the facts of the situation. I might feel pity for him in his terror, except his actions and inactions have already been the cause of so much terror in others over the past four years, and my pity has been reserved for them, leaving none in me to grant to him.