Sunday, December 11, 2005

Paranoia Runs Deep, Into the Left it Will Creep

One of the hallmarks of paranoia is that the paranoid individual becomes inordinately frightened of the object into which they have projected their paranoia. That is, paranoia is fundamentally an infantile defense mechanism through which the "bad" or unwanted content of one's own mind can be displaced and located elsewhere, so that one may gain a spurious sense of comfort and safety.

However, we can't really "project" what we don't want out of our own minds. In other words, paranoid projection is an unconscious fantasy in which one part of the mind is actually projected into another part of one's own mind. For example, if I project all evil into Shrinkwrapped, that doesn't mean my projections have actually left my head and lodged themselves in him. Rather, I simply imagine that my own "badness" is outside of me, while in actuality it is now located in another part of me.

Because we cannot actually project our badness out of ourselves, it always returns in a hypertrophied, monstrous form (I won't go into all of the technical details as to why this happens). Paranoids always think that they hate the object of their paranoia because the object is evil. But it's the other way around: they believe the object of their paranoia is evil because they hate them, and simply fear the "boomerang" of their own hatred coming back to them. This process is very transparent in children, but if you are perceptive, you have undoubtedly observed it occasionally operating in yourself. Think of someone you've been very angry with, and the discomfort you might have felt in being around them, as if they are going to lash back "in kind." (For example, once I was very mad at Petey, and began thinking he was going to put in an anonymous complaint about me to the Board of Psychology.)

This process is pretty much at the core of Bush Derangement Syndrome. In fact, the further leftward you travel, the more it becomes the central organizing principle of their political life: projection of hatred and a near delusional fear of backlash. For the more intensely you project into the other, the more intensely overblown will be the resultant paranoid fear: the object of paranoia will be capable of anything: lies, deceit, civil rights violations, wiretapping, tax audits, imposition of theocracy, murder, you name it. (You will note that the identical process occurred with certain loony elements of the right during the Clinton presidency. Most on the right simply regarded him as a poll-driven narcissist with an extremely elastic set of values, whereas people on the extreme far right actually believed that Clinton had left a pile of murder victims in his ruthless wake. To them he wasn't just a rudderless opportunist, but a serial murderer who eliminated anyone who got in his way!)

One of the hallmarks of the paranoid style is a distorted conception of the power of the fantasized enemy. At times, the enemy is seen as an omnipotent, tireless, demonically competent adversary (The Republican Attack Machine! The Rovian Puppet Master Orchestrating World Events!), while at other times the same enemy is felt to be weak, decadent, and on the verge of collapse (Bush is stupid, his second term is over, he has lost the support of his own party, etc.). Likewise, the image of one's own self (or country) may vary between a godlike supremacy and a terrible, childlike vulnerability, with no ability to integrate (or even notice) these contradictory images.

This same paranoid style absolutely dominates the mindscape of the Muslim Middle East in a completely unchecked way. Obviously, the psychic economy of radical Islam has a special place for Jews and for Israel. Indeed, Arab discourse on the subject of Israel is so psychotically violent, so grotesquely distorted, that their perennial desire to "liquidate the Zionist entity" can only be understood in developmental terms as the lost entitlement of a wrathful infant. In his book The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy, Daniel Pipes provides example after example of the type of preoperational, magical, paranoid thinking style that pervades the Muslim world. Even sophisticated Middle Easterners "interpret great public issues through the prism of conspiracy theories" which are "virtually immune to rational argument."

Just like the typical paranoid one might encounter in a mental health clinic, these Muslim conspiracy theorists don't employ what we would call the usual methods of logic, critical thinking or analytical rigor. Contradictory beliefs are freely entertained, with no seeming discomfort or even awareness of the cognitive dissonance. There is a tendency to divide the world into absolute categories of good and evil, followers and infidels. There is a decided lack of a sense of humor, a dour sensibility--almost as bad as Air America, but not quite. Conspiracy seekers also believe that appearances are always deceptive and complex, and that there is no such thing as a coincidence. And yet behind it all there is a simple explanation: a demonic, omnipotent, clever and far-sighted, and yet somehow vague enemy, motivated by a malevolent desire to destroy Islam.

Thus, many in the Muslim world believe that Zionism is a bloodthirsty, expansionist conspiracy bent on world domination. For example, the cartoon-like charter of the PLO reads that Zionism is a "constant source of threat" to the entire world, "racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods," "strategically placed" to combat Arab liberation and progress. During a recent weekly televised sermon, a Palestinian cleric taught that among the evil deeds of the Jews was the Holocaust itself, which was "planned by the Jews' leaders, and was part of their policy."

Similarly, the charter of Hamas, the Islamist terror gang, informs us that wealthy Zionists have taken over "control of the world media . . . they stood behind World War I. . . . They also stood behind World War II . . . They inspired the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council . . . in order to rule the world by their intermediary" and "liquidate Islam." But at the same time, Jews are seen as corrupt, feeble and morally weak. For example, an Egyptian high school textbook noted that Israel "shall wither and decline. Even If all the human race, and the devil in Hell, conspire to aid her, she shall not exist."

Can you see how the delusional fear of Israel--which craves nothing more than peaceful coexistence with her neighbors--results from the projected hatred, not vice versa?

Let's take a random example from our own country. I plucked this from realclearpolitics.com on Sunday. It's by Joan Vennochi, a columnist for the Boston Globe, entitled It's Macho Time in America.

She starts of with the familiar paranoid refrain that "When Democrats challenge the Bush administration regarding its policy in Iraq, Republicans challenge their patriotism and toughness." This statement by Vennochi represents unvarnished paranoia--I have yet to see a single example of President Bush or anyone in his administration questioning anyone's patriotism, no matter how deserving. However, the left has engaged in nonstop questioning of Bush's patriotism, for if it isn't unpatriotic to intentionally deceive the country in order to lead it into a needless war and kill American servicemen, what is? That's beyond unpatriotic, it's a high crime, a misdemeanor, and frankly treasonous. So naturally, if one projects murder and treason into President Bush, it shouldn't be surprising that the projector will experience a fantasied backlash.

Next, Vennochi complains about the new Republican video, featuring a white flag of surrender accompanied by the statement: ''Our country is at war. Our soldiers are watching, and our enemies are too. Message to Democrats: Retreat and Defeat is not an option." The video highlights recent critical comments about the Iraq war made by Howard Dean, John Kerry, and Barbara Boxer. No tricks or distortions at all, just their actual words, and yet, this somehow represents a sinister ploy designed to castrate Democrats and depict them as cowards. In fact, many prominent Democrats are calling for surrender. Vennochi's claim that the ad is calling Democrats "cowards" is a classic case of "methinks thou dost protest too much," Shakespeare's clumsy way of saying "I'm rubber and you're glue."

There are further paranoid hallucinations in this editorial. For example, Vennochi states that the Bush administration has similarly attacked "opponents of torture" (a double hallucination, for there is no evidence whatsoever of the widespread so-called torture she is fantasizing about). She suggests that "opponents of torture" are "labeled as weaklings and cowards if they suggest that stooping to the enemies' tactics is poor policy that so far achieved poor results." Again, I don't believe she could identify a single example of anyone in the Bush administration labeling opponents of torture "weaklings and cowards." But if you're attacking Bush for something he didn't do, it's likely that you will fantasize that he is attacking you in a similarly delusional manner.

Vennochi then veers into embarrassingly transparent psychosexual material, complaining that "Democrats who question administration policy regularly find their manhood under attack. It happened to Kerry during the last presidential contest, even though he was the Vietnam War veteran running against an opponent who served stateside in the National Guard.... Just last month, Vice President Dick Cheney thought nothing of questioning the backbone of Representative John P. Murtha.... " Of course, no one questioned Kerry's or Murtha's "manhood," but that is entirely beside the point. It is simply the boomerang effect of having spent five years questioning Bush's manhood: childish mind, immature world view, petulant, stubborn, living in the shadow of his Daddy, all-around simpleton.

I long ago stopped reading the paper--that is, liberal papers--in a conventional way. Rather, as James Joyce might have done, I look at the paper as a sort of crazy dream that the liberal world had the previous night. As with any patient, it's my job to interpret the dream, to make sense of the distortions, symbolic displacements, fundamental conflicts, repetitive themes, etc. A few years back, a clever fellow wrote a book called A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, chronicling all of the statistically illogical ways that people interpret the news. A psychologist ought to do the same thing with the liberal media. I can't do it, because I'm afraid they'll come after me, inspect my library records, and question my manhood.

6 Comments:

Blogger ShrinkWrapped said...

"For example, if I project all evil into Shrinkwrapped, that doesn't mean my projections have actually left my head and lodged themselves in him."

Now I know why I had a head ache this morning. If it happens again, I'm going to complain to Petey.
PS Your comment on my post this morning was a classic.

12/11/2005 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

You know, normally Petey doesn't like to blow his own horn, but even he has to admit that was a classic. Shrinkwrapped had a multifaceted post (http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/3833480) that wove together Sunday's Meet the Press, the new gay cowboy movie, Zawahiri being bummed about how things are going in Iraq, and the NY Times publishing an incredibly inane and biased story about how conservative blogs "march in lockstep with the GOP."

So Petey sez, "What a cornucopia of stories. From Meet the Press, to press the meat, to depressed about defeat, to the press's dubious feat."

12/11/2005 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger Goesh said...

Buffalo Springfield - oh boy! Just because I don't comment doesn't mean I ain't reading. I'm trying to do something in my mind with the Doors song Riders On the Storm -- let's see, Readers of this blog, readers of this blog, into MSM we're born, into the shit we're thrown, like a neo-con without a spokesman, a realist out alone, readers of this blog. There's a Liberal on the move, Hillary's stuck in a groove, if you give this bitch a vote, sweet liberty will fade, killer on the campaign road. Petey ya' gotta love your readers, Petey ya' gotta love your readers, take us by the hand, make us understand..... anyway, something like that.

12/12/2005 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger andthenblammo! said...

Forget about the library records, wait till they get their paws on your credit report:

http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/nation/ny-usschu024451742oct02,0,2622724.story?coll=ny-nationalnews-headlines

12/12/2005 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger 90 said...

I keep thinking about something I read years ago when it comes to paranoia. There is a healthy level of paranoia people should have. For example, I think it is healthy to be paranoid of the followers of a man who claims to be a prophet, who tells his followers that God made it lawful for them to slaughter, rob, and enslave the unbeleiver. You can ask Peety if he knows who I am referring to, I have a hunch he could whisper it in your ear. ;-)

12/12/2005 06:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Bob

I first heard about you last night while browsing the EnlightenNext web site and looking for an inspirational audio to listen before going to sleep. (Like a bed time story.)

I came across with an interview you gave to Elizabeth Debold - The Good, the True and the Beautiful some time ago. From then on I ordered your book One Cosmos and have been brwosing your blog.

Wow, Four years of blog posts is too much to read in one night! But I have been going back and forth trying to find a thread I could follow from beggining to end.

Hard thing to do with the short time I had. I then decided it would be better to wait for your book and go from there.

Anyway One of the reasons I became so attracted to your work is the fact that you are a psychoanalist and a spiritual seeker at the same time. I have been debating the possibility of transcending the fears and desires of the ego as the only way to become a more evolvedS human being but at the same time coming accross with the almost impossible task it is for a post modern "Brazilian" individual.

I can hardly wait to read your book and get to the understand your metanarrative. Maybe it will bring me some light into my search of a conciliation between psychoanalisis and the spiritual goal of transcendind the narcissist Ego?

By the way I am a practitioner of the Evolutionary Enlightenment of Andrew Cohen and have been a patient of Lacanian psychoanalisys for many years.

All the best to you,

Magali

12/06/2009 10:09:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home