On the Contempt of the Left: You Are Not Worthy!
As with envy, contempt is a term of art that has some overlap with the dictionary definition. It is considered one of the manic defenses, in that it functions to keep feelings of depression and loss at at bay, and to protect the ego from despair. Even more importantly, manic defenses such as contempt are primarily directed against psychic reality, and therefore against truth itself. Through the use of contempt, one may reverse a situation by devaluing the object in question, so as to avoid feelings of guilt, loss or depression. As Hanna Segal writes, "an object of contempt is not an object worthy of guilt, and the contempt that is experienced in relation to such an object becomes justification for further attacks on it."
Obviously, some things are worthy of contempt. But when contempt becomes a habitual state of mind, I find that it is always a defensive structure that is concealing something deeper. I remember a recent interview with Christopher Hitchens, who said words to the effect that his writing revolved around waking up every morning and feeling overwhelmed with anger, contempt and disgust, and just taking it from there. But in Hitchens' case, he has a deep respect for the truth, not to mention great talent as a writer. While I'm not sure I would want to be him, at least his contempt seems to be a righteous contempt, in that it is in the service of truth and creativity.
But what if you just have a boundless reserve of contempt but no talent, not to mention little regard for truth, such as in the case of a Maureen Dowd, or the Air America hosts? Then I think we're talking about contempt as a very dysfunctional state of mind signaling deeper problems.
This weekend on realclearpolitics there was an interesting piece by Thomas Lifson, entitled The Mask Slips. In it, he notes that:
"The past year has seen a spate of shocking statements revealing hatred and contempt for President Bush and his supporters on the part of important media figures who claim objectivity and sneer at conservatives unafraid to characterize themselves as such. Regrettably, we cannot credit a sudden outbreak of honesty for this phenomenon, and thereby anticipate improved news coverage from these folks. A pathology is at work."
Indeed, a pathology is at work. It is out-of-control contempt as a cover for something more important that is going on under the surface--some kind of emotional loss. What could it be? Lifson, who is not a psychoanalyst, plunges right ahead anyway:
"A sudden loss of status and influence is a profound shock to most people who have spent their lives aimed at the acquisition and enjoyment of sociopolitical standing. Relieved of the ability to shape the consciousness and behavior of others, a certain number unburden themselves of the inner restraints which kept them from openly voicing the condescension and scorn they have for those whom they regard as their social, intellectual, and moral inferiors."
Lifson ceases to desist in his analysis:
"The rise of alternate media... has not simply allowed competing voices to be heard in the public square, it has robbed many media grandees of the ultimate reward of their striving after careers as shapers of mass opinion. Some have become unbalanced mentally, and emotionally overwhelmed by the loss. They strike out with blind fury at their 'enemies' (the subjects whom they have covered as 'unbiased' journalists), and thereby let the mask of objectivity slip from their faces, revealing spiteful, arrogant and bigoted visages. By dismissing those who disagree with them as unworthy of consideration, they expose to light the long-hidden dark vision of the rest of humanity that enables them to regard themselves as worthy."
Lifson cites a number of examples, but focuses on the disgraced former editor-in-chief of the New York Times, Howell Raines, who is so consumed with contempt that it is palpable. Raines gave a recent speech which "allowed light to shine on the lunatic obsessions which colored his performance as one of the most influential figures in American media for many years," revealing his obsession "with the Bush family as the embodiment of evil, a multigenerational conspiracy in league with the Dark Force."
In this talk, Raines embraces "the 'false consciousness' explanation of the foolish behavior of the masses, an excuse beloved of Marxist intellectuals to explain the failure of the proletariat to embrace their rightful vanguard.... In this excuse for the stubborn popularity of conservative ideas, the foolish yahoos are being manipulated by Wall Street puppeteers (not Jon Corzine or Robert Rubin or George Soros, of course)." Feel the contempt that Raines has for you:
"The Bushes believe in letting the hoi polloi control the social and religious restrictions flowing from Washington, so long as Wall Street gets to say what happens to the nation’s money. The Republican party as a national institution has endorsed this tradeoff.... He [George W. Bush] adopted the full agenda of redneck America."
Think about this use of the term "redneck" to contemptuously dismiss those with whom he disagrees. As Lifson writes, "After all the years of pretending he was a racially unbiased friend of all humanity, Raines lets the mask slip and demonstrates his raw hatred for white people who haven’t overcome their misfortune in being born in the South..... The unwashed subhumans from whom he escaped the accident of birth are so stupid that even as transparently dull and evil a man as George W. Bush can fool them.... Raines, unconstrained by his former professional role, and writing for a presumably friendly audience overseas, demonstrates race- and class-based scorn for people whose values differ from his. Precisely because Raines is a Southerner who had to prove his bona fides to northern liberals by outdoing them, he demonstrates his contempt for Southern Whites."
Think of it this way. When you read the New York Times (or most any other MSM source), you might believe that you are doing so in order to be informed. But that's only if you agree with their world view. In other words, the unhinged contempt that we are witnessing in much of the MSM is a preview of how they will feel about you should you dare to question them. (This is similar to the dynamic between narcissistic celebrities and their audience--the celebrity is a "somebody" who is ambivalent about requiring the narcissistic mirroring of a bunch of contemptible "nobodies" in order to feel like a somebody.) Therefore, what these media are doing is indistinguishable from indoctrination and control, for if you resist the indoctrination and think for yourself, you immediately become an object of their contempt.
So remember, when you read the New York Times, you're mainly doing it to avoid being contemptuously dismissed by them as a redneck racist, religious fanatic who is too stupid to even recognize what is in your own self-interest. And you probably need more personal analysis as well, until you have uncovered the secret source of your pathological resistance to leftist ideas handed down from your moral and intellectual superiors.