The other day, I started a blog post about rhetoric that wound up all rambly and somewhat incoherent. I had been thinking about the endless discussion in the press about the “incursion” into the Capitol building on January 6. Or the “riot” that had taken place that day. Or the “insurrection” that had occurred. All these words mean different things and conjure up vastly different images than does “protest”. And of course, the media would have us believe that the burning and looting that occurred in numerous cities this past summer was nothing more than “mostly peaceful protests.” Because only a “riot” would include looting and burning and riots are bad. So, if you’re on the side of the rioters, you need them to be only protesting. Those guys riot, we’re just protesting.
I used to do these kinds of exercises with my students a lot…what’s the difference between a “clan chief” and a “warlord”? Well, if he’s on your side he’s a clan chief. If he’s on the other guy’s side he’s a warlord. In American domestic politics, what’s the difference between “special interests” and “interest groups”? Nothing. Again, it just depends on which group you favor. If you like the groups’ goals, they’re just an “interest group”. If you don’t agree with their goals, they’re a “special interest.” Rhetoric is used to paint a mental image using words. “Special interests” and “warlords” are BAD. “Interest groups” and “clan chiefs” are GOOD. I always think of George Carlin’s routine about baseball versus football (if you’ve never heard it, go find it. It’s hysterical and a good lesson in rhetoric).
But all this got me thinking about something else…the concept of psychological projection. A good basic definition and discussion can be found in Wikipedia:
Psychological projection is a defense mechanism in which the ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves by attributing them to others.
It has been argued by many that what the left is doing is projecting their fears and desires onto the right while denying the existence of those fears and desires in themselves. It has become startlingly clear over the last year that they are projecting all manner of fantasies onto the right.
The left has been projecting its negative “unconscious qualities” onto the right for decades. When I was in junior high and high school, it was all men are male chauvinist pigs and especially men on the right. We were told that conservative men wanted nothing more than to keep us women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen and we should do all we could to avoid that fate. That went through several iterations over the years until we arrived at “mansplaining” and “all men are inherently rapists and violent, but especially conservative men” because barefoot, pregnant…etc.
Then we got Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Al Franken, Jeffrey Epstein (he didn’t kill himself, btw), and on and on. Every single one of those men was on the left politically and proudly left. But the right is the home of totally sexist men who hate women and minorities. And, women and minorities who are conservative are self-hating. That’s an amazing level of projection and denial. I can only ask…how badly do those on the left hate themselves?
The run-up to the inauguration was fraught with cries of “we need security or those crazy Trumpers will destroy Washington, DC and cause all kinds of havoc!” To the point that walls have been built, and National Guard troops called in, and those troops were vetted for “extremist” views. But which groups were responsible for all the looting and burning last summer? Which groups hold the “extremist” views? Oh, and we never saw a working definition of “extremist.” If, as we’re told, Biden won the election with more popular votes than any president before, why were they so afraid of a few Trumpers who clearly were just disgruntled? Could it be that they projected their anger onto Trump supporters and assumed that they, the Democrat supporters, would riot if Biden had lost? Chances are they would have rioted. We’ve seen many examples of the violence inherent in the left (to paraphrase Dennis the Peasant).
There are far more examples of projection than I have room for here. I want to get to one particular part of the definition: projection is a defense mechanism that denies the existence of those ugly impulses in the projector by attributing them to others. It’s a means of denying your own negative impulses (to riot when you don’t get your own way; to call looting “reparations”), and being certain that you could not be guilty of anything so foul. Projection provides you with the luxury of believing that the other side will behave in exactly the same manner, even though you have no evidence of that (well, it’s what I would do, therefore it must be what they would do).
We all project. We’re human and we have egos. We don’t like it when we figure out we are abrasive, or a gossip, or tactless. Discovering those things about ourselves is humbling and can be embarrassing. But, stopping those behaviors is how we grow and become better people. Continued projection and refusal to admit that you are guilty of the faults you are finding in others simply demonstrates to the world that you refuse to grow up and refuse to take responsibility for your own life choices. You are, in a word, behaving immaturely.
The left is behaving immaturely and almost exactly like a five-year old who blithely lies to get him/herself out of trouble and then gets angry when mom or dad calls them out on the lying. That’s the nice explanation for their actions.
The nasty explanation is that the left is behaving exactly as an abuser would and projecting their behavior onto their victim, blaming the victim for “making” them mad. Almost every spouse who has been wrongfully accused of cheating, discovered that their accuser was the one doing the cheating. There’s that pesky projection again.
Just like an abuse victim does, those of us on the right have to stand up for ourselves. Create overwhelming cognitive dissonance in the people who know you in real life; “If I’m that bad, why did you…did I…” We have to say “you’re wrong” even if it seems like we’re repeating it a million times. We have to say “I won’t” when told we must do something meaningless in order to show our “loyalty” to whatever is the cause du jour. We have to support each other and do it publicly.
Finally, we MUST call them out on their behavior. We must. Again, keep repeating the times that they have done exactly what they are now accusing us of doing. Don’t fall into the “whataboutism” trap, just point out when challenged… “Oh, you mean like the riots in Minneapolis?” or whatever example you need (read up on those examples so you have them at hand when needed).
The left will continue to defend their behavior by projecting it onto the right. Don’t believe them. Show public support for others like you. Totalitarians win when those opposing them believe they are alone in that opposition.
We are not alone. There are more of us than they know.