A CASE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL PROJECTION

The following article was published jointly by three political strategists. Do you agree with their analysis?

[There is] a very real and authentic sense of alarm that there is something both genuinely unprecedented and also profoundly dangerous in the intense “take no prisoners” political extremism of the current Party. There is a deep apprehension that fundamental American standards of proper political conduct and ethical political behavior are increasingly being violated.

The key feature that distinguishes the increasingly extremist perspective of today’s Party from the standards of political behavior we have traditionally considered proper in America is the view that politics is — quite literally, and not metaphorically – a kind of warfare and political opponents are literally “enemies.”

This “politics as warfare” perspective has historically been the hallmark of many extremist political parties of both the ideological left and ideological right – parties ranging from the American Communist Party to the French National Front.

Historically, these political parties display a series of common features – features that follow logically and inescapably from the basic premise of politics as warfare:

I. Strategy:

• In the politics as warfare perspective the political party’s objective is defined as the conquest and seizure of power and not sincere participation in democratic governance. The party is viewed as a combat organization whose goal is to defeat an enemy, not an organization whose job is to faithfully represent the people who voted for it.

• In the politics as warfare perspective extralegal measures, up to and including violence, are tacitly endorsed as a legitimate means to achieve a party’s political aims if democratic means are insufficient to obtain its objectives. To obscure the profoundly undemocratic nature of this view, the “enemy” government–even when it is freely elected — is described as actually being illegitimate and dictatorial, thus justifying the use of violence as a necessary response to “tyranny”.

• In the politics as warfare perspective all major social problems are caused by the deliberate, malevolent acts of powerful elites with nefarious motives. An evil “them” is the cause of all society’s ills.

• In the politics as warfare perspective the political party’s philosophy and basic strategy is inerrant – it cannot be wrong. The result is the creation of a closed system of ideologically controlled “news” that creates an alternative reality.

II. Tactics:

• In the politics as warfare perspective standard norms of honesty are irrelevant. Lying and the use of false propaganda are considered necessary and acceptable. The “truth” is what serves to advance the party’s objectives.

• In the politics as warfare perspective the political party accepts no responsibility for stability – engineering the fall of the existing government is absolutely paramount and any negative consequences that may occur in the process represent a kind of “collateral damage” that is inevitable in warfare

• In the politics as warfare perspective the creation of contrived “incidents” or deliberate provocations are acceptable. Because the adherent of this view “knows” that his or her opponents are fundamentally evil, even concocted or staged incidents are still morally and ethically “true.” The distinction between facts and distortions disappears.

• In the politics as warfare perspective compromise represents both betrayal and capitulation. Destruction of the enemy is the only acceptable objective. People who advocate compromise are themselves enemies.

The perception
We shortened the first sentence and removed the word “Republican” wherever it appeared in the original. No other changes were made to the body of this article which is a description of the Republican Party as it is seen by its authors writing for TheDemocraticStrategist.org.

The assertions and inferences made are:
“…fundamental American standards of proper political conduct and ethical political behavior are increasingly being violated” – by the Republican Party.

Republicans feel – “political opponents are literally enemies.”

Republican tactics are reminiscent of tactics of “the American Communist Party.”

The Republican Party is an organization whose “goal is to defeat an enemy, not an organization whose job is to faithfully represent the people who voted for it.”

In the Republican Party,” extralegal measures, up to and including violence, are tacitly endorsed as a legitimate means to achieve a party’s political aims if democratic means are insufficient to obtain its objectives.” And “Lying and the use of false propaganda are considered necessary and acceptable. The “truth” is what serves to advance the party’s objectives.”

Republicans believe, ”contrived “incidents” or deliberate provocations are acceptable. Because the adherent of this view “knows” that his or her opponents are fundamentally evil.”
[See our post Spits and Spins – Slurs and Lies].

Republicans believe, “Destruction of the enemy is the only acceptable objective. People who advocate compromise are themselves enemies.”
[But it is Vice Presidential candidate and Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat, who immediately comes to mind as one who was made to pay a price for compromising].

What we have here, is a classic case of what psychologist call “projection.”
Pathological projection

1. The attribution of one’s own attitudes, feelings, or suppositions to others: “Even trained anthropologists have been guilty of unconscious projection-of clothing the subjects of their research in theories brought with them into the field” (Alex Shoumatoff).

2. The attribution of one’s own attitudes, feelings, or desires to someone or something as a naive or unconscious defense against anxiety or guilt.

Wikipedia explains it thusly:

From a psychoanalytic viewpoint, projection is an intrapsychic process that creates or shapes a perception (or a collection of perceptions) with reference to an object in the outside world, which, although the subject believes he or she is perceiving it “objectively,” is actually being perceived according to the subject’s own characteristics.

Listening to your opponents perception of how you think and plan can tell you a lot about how your opponent thinks and plans.

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