Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.
How the "Joke" Caught On
“You must be suffering from TDS!” gloated a right-wing commentator.
Before the subject of his derision could respond, the right-winger continued by writing in a new thread: “I hope you recover, soon.”
A few threads later, another commentator piped in (targeting the same person): “Your problem is that you have TDS! You make me laugh!”
These two were not the last to utter the mysterious affliction. Soon, references to TDS inundated this particular forum. The seemingly jubilant commentators were on a mission to spread the word of this “disease” they believed affected so many participants in this forum.
What aroused such a response? President Donald Trump, or to be precise, the criticism he received on a daily basis on this particular Internet site where the forum originated. While some pointed out the flaws of the 45th president of the United States, others pointed a fickle finger at the accusers, claiming they were the ones with the major flaws.
As one can see, this is not a psychological problem.
TDS: Trump Derangement Syndrome
Their weapon of choice was TDS, which stands for Trump Derangement Syndrome. This so-called affliction, according to Wiktionary.org, is “The acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal and balanced people triggered by the mention of a specific topic (in this case, Trump).”
A more fitting definition, on the other hand, comes from Urban Dictionary.com, in which a particular entry states: “The latest attempt by the alt-right to demonize anybody who thinks that maybe putting a reality TV star, who’s declared bankruptcy six times, in charge of the country might not have been the best idea.”
As one can see, this is not a psychological problem. Instead, it’s the latest rhetorical trend adopted by Trump Supporters to silence and vilify their opponents. It’s also an overwrought and overused tactic. Several variations of it existed over two decades. Each one is used in defense of a particular politician (both left and right)—especially presidents.
These faux-medical terms do little but give opponents new names to call each other. And, as is often the case, the forums become extremely contentious and full of insults. It stops becoming a debate and more like a contagious disease in which accusations fly. It’s time to find a cure for it. And it may be easy to do so.
What Is Derangement Syndrome in General?
Derangement syndrome is the umbrella term for TDS. The term can be easily summed up by a word often used in its definition. Nearly every site that devotes precious space to this syndrome describes it as a neologism—a new word or phrase that (as a definition at Rationalwiki.org states) can be considered “made-up." And made-up is exactly what it is.
Psychiatrists never coined the term. No legitimate and reputable doctors prescribe medicine for it—and they will never diagnose it. It is pure rhetoric. Simply put, it is a tool or “verbal weapon” one side uses against another.
Who created this and when was it first used? That honor goes to a neoconservative columnist for the Washington Post.
Bush Derangement Syndrome
According to numerous sources, columnist Charles Krauthammer came up with the term in 2003 for an article entitled “The Delusional Dean." Back then, he called it Bush Derangement Syndrome, and he targeted noted Bush critics such as Howard Dean and Barbara Streisand.
“[T]he acute onset of paranoia,” Krauthammer wrote in the column (and later reprinted in Rationalwiki.org), “in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency—nay—the very existence of George W. Bush.”
The ploy was simple:
- Turn Bush’s biggest critics into head cases
- Distract from the president’s flaws and missteps
- Silence critics by ridiculing them
- Affirm the beliefs of the base that supported Bush
The quote by Krauthammer served as the model for the definition of the umbrella term of derangement syndrome. (Note: Krauthammer recently wrote a syndicated column, in which he appeared to be unapologetic for coining the phrase and was supportive of the TDS incarnation.)
In addition, considering that derangement syndrome is an umbrella term, other (unfortunately) forms of this affliction have been “diagnosed."
Obama Derangement Syndrome
New president, same rhetoric. Even after Barack Obama became president, Bush Derangement Syndrome was still a political disease. First, many who evoked it used it to deflect criticism aimed at Bush for his handling of the Great Recession. The sarcastic call to “Blame Bush” for the economic problems and the political backlash caused by the wars against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan were the symptoms. About this time, Bush Derangement Syndrome accusers started to shift their tactics. They lashed out at the new president and his policy while trying to preserve the previous one’s legacy.
Eventually, rhetorical attacks led to the debunked belief that Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii. Instead, some stated he was born in Indonesia or Kenya and that his birth certificate was forged. This came to be known as the Birther Movement. The attacks from these birthers got ugly, demeaning, and personal. Moreover, downright racist when the rhetoric included accusations he was part of the Black Panther and/or was a secret Muslim.
In the midst of this political climate, a new form of derangement syndrome was born. Blame Jon Stewart for that. The Daily Show’s former anchor/host uttered this back in 2009. It was a direct response to the birther movement. It was humorous, and in many cases, to the point—considering the ludicrous measures some of these birthers, Tea Party members and other critics took.
Still, Obama Derangement Syndrome ridiculed the critics (which, incidentally, included Donald Trump), just as the Bush variation did.
This affliction didn’t just affect presidential critics. There seems to be a “derangement” for everyone. The following is a list of derangement syndrome compiled by Rationalwiki.org:
- Clinton Derangement Syndrome (Bill and Hillary)
- Cheney Derangement Syndrome (happened during the Bush presidency)
- Palin Derangement Syndrome (former vice-presidential candidate and Alaskan governor)
- Gore Derangement Syndrome (most likely a reflection of his global warming stance)
- Fox News Derangement Syndrome
- Beck (Glen) Derangement Syndrome
- Darwin Derangement Syndrome
- Koch Brothers Derangement Syndrome
Finally, there is something called “Derangement Syndrome” Syndrome. Actually, this was the 2008 title of an Outside the Beltway article by Alex Knapp. Knapp was one of the first to call out this ridiculous malady, by stating that it protects politicians with bad records while vilifying those that point these things out. In addition, he called it for what it has become: "a joke" created by Krauthammer.
At best, some who have been accused of TDS or any form of derangement syndrome must realize that it’s just an pejorative and not something to be taken seriously.
Just Ignore It
The problem with a joke is that in time someone takes it seriously. In the contentious age of Trump, TDS has become an attack weapon rather than an instrument of ridicule. As reports roll in nearly every day that bring into question the president’s ability to do his job, his proponents have racked up the attacks to the point they’ve become mean and nasty. In addition, one wonders if those who use TDS actually believe that their opponents have a mental disorder.
Unfortunately, the right-wing commentator in the forum mentioned has a conviction that it is real. On top of that, he used it in other forum threads, a letter to the editors, and the readers comment section of an article.
At best, someone who has been accused of TDS or any form of derangement syndrome must realize that it’s just a pejorative and not something to be taken seriously. In fact, one can view the person that utters it as being childish and petty for it. In other words, they’ve actually destroyed their own argument.
So What Happened to the Forum?
In the example given, the forum continued for another day with the usual group of right-wing commentators making their TDS claims. Then someone—the person originally attacked with TDS—devised a comeback.
“You know once you pulled out that TDS thing,” this person wrote, “I stopped taking you seriously, because when you did that, I basically won the argument.”
The rebuttals from the right-wing commentator or other Trump supporters stopped posting on the forum threads. And for a brief period, the symptoms of TDS were treated. No need to call a doctor.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Are those who accuse others of TDS deranged themselves?
Answer: Good question...frankly, yes. I think many of them are in denial or are "idol worshipping." They have a fantasy that Trump is some type of savior that will pull them out of their downtrodden lives and make them winners. They hold on so much that they turn a blind eye to those vile people. Then they lash out at anyone who can see through his con and convince themselves that his critics are mentally ill.
© 2018 Dean Traylor