A neurobiologist and science writer examines the psychological profiles and confluence of events that merged to create dictators such as Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Qaddafi and weighs in on whether Donald Trump shares their characteristics.
...[a] timely, ambitious volume ... Haycock’s goal in Tyrannical Minds is to sort out all of the influences that combine to produce a hateful, immoral despot, and his point here is that it takes a lot more than a terrible childhood to turn someone into a merciless tyrant ... Does President Trump fit in this rogues’ gallery? That’s the underlying question in this historical analysis, and of these contributing factors ... Trump comes across as a poster boy for malignant personality, overshadowing all the other historical dictators, whose profiles seem skimpy by comparison ... Does this unfortunate constellation of traits—lust for power, sadism, narcissism and more—necessarily add up to a diagnosable mental disorder, such as psychosis or legal insanity? Haycock hedges his bets a bit more than many readers will like on this pressing, overarching question, deferring mostly to other psychological profilers and mental health specialists.
...[an] intriguing, if occasionally strained, study ... Haycock offers a particularly fine chapter [on Joseph Stalin] ... Unfortunately, Haycock spends too much time on President Trump ... Stylistically, Haycock’s writing is clear and permeated with insight, though he occasionally delivers bland, self-evident observations ... Still, this is otherwise a thoughtful and significant contribution to the art of psychologically profiling political leaders from afar.
Haycock is no historian; his biographies skim the surface, but he has done his psychology homework, so readers will receive a painless education in the elements of human personality, especially when it becomes pathological. Those curious about how this applies to today’s leaders will receive a jolt when the author turns his attention to Donald Trump, devoting a large portion of the book to the current president. Haycock and his experts are not the first to detect in the president more than the average degrees of narcissism, a love of autocrats, a hatred of critics, and a distressing lack of empathy, but they have little to add. A compelling analysis of the mental processes of notable tyrants that eventually gets bogged down under the weight of Trump.