Republican frontrunner presidential candidate Donald Trump (“The Donald”) has doubled down on his claim that he saw TV news video of “thousands” of American Arabs/Muslims celebrating in the streets of Jersey City after the 9/11 attack brought down the Twin Towers:
“It did happen. I saw it. It was on television. I saw it. There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.” ABC’s “This Week”, Nov. 22
Until now, no one has turned up any TV footage substantiating this claim, although fellow candidate Ben Carson also recalls seeing it (see FactCheck.org’s 24 Nov. debunking of these claims).
However, US TV news did broadcast video footage of Palestinians in East Jerusalem apparently celebrating the 9/11 attack (although not “thousands”):
- Fox News on Sept. 11, 2001, with similar footage
While it now seems clear that The Donald could not have seen TV video on 9/11 of Muslims celebrating in the streets of Jersey City, it is highly likely that he was watching CNN or Fox News (I’ll bet on the latter) and saw these reports, which were frequently recycled throughout the day.
Could it be that The Donald is suffering from Alliterative Memory Disorder (AMD)—confounding two cities halfway around the world because they begin with the same consonant (Jersey City and Jerusalem)?
Psychologists have long been aware that alliteration can be an aid to memory, but only now have they discovered that particularly susceptible individuals can be subject to the reverse effect: false memories derived from confusing two trigger words that begin with the same consonant. This is a particularly insidious instance of False Memory Syndrome:
False memory syndrome is a condition in which a person's identity and interpersonal relationships center on a memory of a traumatic experience that is objectively false but that the person strongly believes. Note that the syndrome is not characterized by false memories as such. We all have inaccurate memories. Rather, the syndrome is diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the individual's entire personality and lifestyle—disrupting other adaptive behavior. False memory syndrome is destructive because the person assiduously avoids confronting evidence that challenges the memory. Thus it takes on a life of its own; the memory becomes encapsulated and resistant to correction. Subjects may focus so strongly on the memory that it effectively distracts them from coping with real problems in their life. [Wikipedia, following PR McHugh, 2008, Try to remember: Psychiatry's clash over meaning, memory and mind. New York: Dana Press. pp. 66–7]
Do we really want to elect someone to the US presidency suffering from Alliterative Memory Disorder (take your pick of The Donald or Ben Carson) who, in the heat of battle against ISIS, for example, might accidently bomb Rochester, New York, instead of Raqqa, Syria, because they both start with an R?
What do Rochester, New York (left) and Raqqa, Syria (right) have in common? Hint: Try to Recall people dancing in the streets. They might be easy to confuse from a drone if you suffered from Alliterative Memory Disorder.