In a recent article in Foreign Policy, Washington Post journalist David Ignatius bewailed his inability to function effectively as a "moderator" at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where Islamic officials once again took the opportunity to blame Israel and America for the Arab's failure to create peaceful and prosperous societies.
Ignatius describes himself as "... someone who has spent much of his career trying to operate in the middle of the Middle East conflict and working hard to avoid any appearance of bias..." [Emphasis added.] Without overtly acknowledging it, Ignatius makes it clear that he sympathizes with what he describes as the "rage that is felt across the Muslim world."
Six decades of horrendous violence and murder, a multi-generational effort to destroy the State of Israel, and forty years of worldwide terrorism are insufficient to persuade Ignatius that he has a personal stake in opposing the sociopathic behavior of the Arab Middle East:"I know a little about talking with our enemies because I have been doing it for many years. Not my enemies, mind you (journalists aren't supposed to have any), but my country's. I talked with the PLO ...Muammar al-Qaddafi. ... Hassan Nasrallah ...(and) Bashar al-Assad ..." [Emphasis added.]
It does no good to dismiss people like Ignatius as "liberals full of blather," as some are wont to do. People like Ignatius must be brought to understand that they are in denial about the truth of what is going on in the world. It is one thing to cherish idealistic beliefs, possess a kindly disposition, and maintain an attitude of humanistic tolerance; it is quite another to project those thoughts and feelings onto people who glorify religious murder and suicide, and then delude yourself into believing that by doing so the impulse to commit such evil acts will disappear.
At the heart of the denial that afflicts people like Ignatius is fear. They are afraid to believe that there are people in the world who embrace evil over good and death over life. Like many people in denial, Ignatius finds it far more comforting to believe that everyone is just like him -- basically well intentioned and occasionally misguided. However, Ignatius is wrong -- just as wrong as wrong can be -- and the whole of human history stands as witness to his error.
Gladstein makes excellent psychological sense, and you should read the whole piece.
The consequences of psychological denial can be seen every day in today's world; and particularly in the minds of the political left and the Democrats. All you have to do is watch these intellectual and moral giants in action for even a brief moment and you likely will come away with the sense that something is terribly wrong with them. They are like posturing peacocks who strut around acting like they are little gods and goddesses, oblivious to the fact that others perceive them as fools and clowns (Pelosi and Reid come to mind). As for the peacock-in-chief, the broader public have not yet caught onto his tenuous relationship with truth and reality because they are besotted with his rhetoric and they want to believe in his godliness so very much in these troubled times.
Just yesterday, I had a brief discussion with a co-worker about the rising deficit and how Obama has taken it to stratospheric heights, unheard of in history. Their response? "Well, it wasn't his fault; he inherited it" quickly followed by, "But I know my President will fix it and everything will come out all right!" This was said with no hint of sarcasm, just simple adoration. This was a man who, in many ways, I tend to respect.
But that is one of the many incredibly wonderful aspects of psychological denial: it cuts off one's connection to reality, as well as from one's own congnitive and rational process.
In the recesses of their own minds, many who deny reality are able to convince themselves that they are actually "reality-based". One might justifiably ask them why they have an almost obsessive need to aggressively tout their connection to reality, like some sort of celebrity name-dropper expecting to increase his stature in the eyes of the world: "Oh, by the way, did you know that I'm reality-based?" It gives you your first clue that they are trying to compensate because they understand on some level that reality is actually in the rearview mirror of their "progressive" minds .
Sadly for them, just because one repeatedly claims a close connection to the Big R, does not prove anything one way or the other; nor does it absolve the boaster of providing the requisite evidence to back up their claim. Feelings won't do, I'm afraid; though it is often to those arguments of emotion that the denier will ultimately resort when impeded in his quest to avoid reality.
As a psychiatrist, I would be the last person to suggest that even a primitive and immature psychological defense mechanism like denial didn't have some positive results for the individuals who use it. Obviously, if it resulted in the outright death or extinction of the person using it, denial would probably not last long as a viable strategy in the real world; nor would it be particularly helpful for the species as a whole.
The truth is that frequently denial works--at least for a short while--and that is why it is so often resorted to in extremis.
Some positive consequences of psychological denial include:
• In the short-term, psychological denial can help a person maintain their sanity--which would be threatened by awareness of a painful truth or reality
• In the short-term, denial can help a person function day to day
• In the short-term, denial can prevent a person from having to acknowledge painful thoughts, feelings or behavior and help them maintain a world view threatened by an unacceptable reality or truth
The operative word in all of the above is "in the short-term." In the short-term, even the unhealthiest of defenses--such as denial, projection, paranoia-- may be creative, healthy, comforting, and coping. And, while their use may strike observers as downright peculiar at times, in the short-term, they may be transiently adaptive.
In fact, psychological denial is a way to integrate one's experience by providing a variety of filters for pain and mechanisms for self-deception. It creatively rearranges the sources of conflict the individual faces so that the conflict becomes manageable.
To some extent, all psychological defenses ultimately function to deny reality. Psychological displacement--the mechanism that underlies Bush Derangement Syndrome as one example--as a way of avoiding dealing with a really threatening and/or painful truth by focusing on a less threatening object. In fact, displacement is sort of a "higher functioning" type of projection. Scapegoating--which includes anti-semitism and various forms of racism and genocide--is a convenient way to displace one's anger (because you are afraid of retaliation from the real object of your anger) onto someone who doesn't frighten you. It was much easier to blame Bush--or America or the Jews--than it was to confront the amoral, death-loving, murdering Islamists who are willing to destroy all of civilization to achieve their ends. As Han Solo says, "Let the Wookie win", because they tend to pull your arms out of its socket when they lose.
Hence Gladstein is correct when he says that this sort of denial is done out of fear. For psychological displacement to work, a person has to project his or her own ideals into someone who clearly does not possess them; rendering them less threatening and "just like us!" (and therefore not to be feared.
One could argue that President Bush did a similar thing by suggesting that people of the world, particularly the Middle East, all want political freedom--but Bush's argument, I suggest, makes a hell of a lot more sense than the one that proposes that all the people of the world (including evey terrorist, dictator, murderer and thug of any variety) are really nice guys underneath; and are simply misunderstood and in need a little kindness and love. Bush's argument has concrete evidence to support it--that in almost all cases when individuals are given the choice, they choose freedom for themselves. OTOH, Gladstein correctly points out that the "Kumbayah Hypothesis" (as I refer to it) has all of human history against it.
Let's consider some of the negative consequences of psychological denial:
• In the longer-term, denial requires a continued compromises with reality to maintain the pretense that "Everything is fine!" or "If only X would happen, everything would be fine!" Eventually, delusional thinking, along with paranoia and its inevitable conspiracy theories begin to take the place of rational thought in those who deny reality for long periods of time. (see all the 9/11 conspiracy theorists for examples in our own country. See here and here for some examples in the Muslim world, which is rife with conspiracies and which could not exist as a cohesive society without them).
• The denier must then place the blame for the unacceptable reality on someone else and that leads to increased conflict between those who are in denial and those who aren't. Efforts to maintain their denial consumes them and will lead them to escalate their anger and rage as their denial becomes untenable and ever more obvious.
• The denier will begin distort language and logic to rationalize and justify their behavior(examples of this are too numerous to mention, but I have discussed it here , here and here) . Eventually, cognitive strategies and rational argument will be abandoned altogether by the denier, because those strategies are not sustainable and are unable to convince others; at which point the person in denial will simply refer to his feelings or emotions as the sole justification.
• The denier will feel justified in acting out against those who threaten the peacefulness of their fantasy (check out the "peacefulness" and "reasonable" slogans chanted at most antiwar rallies these days). Check out, for example, the attacks and attempts to silence authors like Mark Steyn because his book , America Alone, discusses the genocidal demographic trajectory of Europe as they refuse to acknowledge or deal with the reality of Islamic immigration.
[NOTE: Considering the fact that Europe has taken this track before in recent memory, Steyn is more of a Delphic oracle, rather than the genocidal maniac he is being portrayed as by those who would also deny reality. Nevertheless, his former Canadian Inquisitors--which were laughingly known as a "Human Rights Commission" were ready and willing to find him guilty--without benefit of trial --until public opinion intervened and stopped the madness. But here is something that was said at the time:
While freedom of expression must be recognized as a cornerstone of a functioning democracy, the Commission strongly condemns the Islamophobic portrayal of Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and indeed any racialized community in the media, such as the Maclean’s article and others like them, as being inconsistent with the values enshrined in our human rights codes. Media has a responsibility to engage in fair and unbiased journalism.
So in effect the Ontario "Human Rights" Commission, the world in labiaplasty jurisprudence, have decided that, even though they don't have the guts to hear the case, they might as well find us guilty. Ingenious! After all, if the federal Human Rights Commission hadn't been so foolish enough to drag Marc Lemire to trial, their bizarre habits of posting their own hate messages using telecommunications fraud and identity theft would never have come to light. If they'd simply skipped the trial and declared Mr Lemire guilty anyway, they wouldn't be in the mess they're in.
So, having concluded they couldn't withstand the heat of a trial, the OHRC cut to the chase and gave us a drive-thru conviction. Who says Canada's "human rights" racket is incapable of reform? As kangaroo courts go, the Ontario branch is showing a bit more bounce than the Ottawa lads.
For more on the etiology of this kind of PC, multicultural thinking from Canada and Europe, I recommend this excellent article which analyzes the origins of this sort of behavior in places like Europe: "Fear Masquerading as Intolerance").
• Problem solving and decision-making will deteriorate as the entire focus of energy becomes the maintenance of the denial. In place of rational alternatives, excessive emotionality in general; and specifically anger and rage escalate toward those who are "blamed" for the reality that does not conform to the denier's worldview. (consider the lack of any specific ideas in the Democratic party's agenda; or it's reflex negativity toward any substantive position or any compromise offered to them.
• In the end, interactions with those in denial are characterized by the denier's frequent smugness; sense of superiority; arrogance; belittlement of alternative views; and undiluted hatred toward anyone or any idea that questions their worldview.
• Finally, in the long-term, denial will always bring great harm to the individual using it and all who happen to be in his sphere of influence. It may lead to his death or many deaths when practiced by groups or larger societies. It will certainly leads to all sorts of dysfunction and destructiveness; even if--for a brief time--the denial gave the individual or group a sense of calm or control over their world because it blocked out the forces that threatened to upend that world.
The Democratic party's early consensus on the Iraq war varied from day to day. Initially they were "for it before they were against it (look at the record); Then it was ("Victory is not an option") and Harry Reid's famous "The Iraq war is lost"; next: the Surge can't possibly work; then, the Surge isn't working. When it became clear the Surge was working, their response was, so what? Now, of course, if confronted they will reluctantly admit that the Surge actually worked, but they are so set on "undoing" all that Bush accomplished in the War on Terror, that it is likely they will ultimately snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Never have so many been willing to deny so much reality!
Any success that was accomplished under a Republican is an unacceptable reality for them, thus they must distort it; and even make that success a crime, in order to maintain their own fragile sense of self.
Every person in denial has a hidden psychological agenda--which, in these examples, is nothing less than the continued humiliation of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, the Republicans, and America so that they can continue to shore up their own self-esteem.
Note that even after they have won the White House, their dysfunction continues.
They pride themselves on "speaking Truth to Power", but at the White House correspondents' dinner the other night, who were they denigrating with their humor? President Obama? The Democrats in power? No, they were still harping on the past Administration which has become the convenient scapegoat for their own irresponsibility, incompetence, and aversion to reality.
Their rhetoric is always designed to obfuscate and deny objective reality --which interestingly is a concept they don't even believe in to begin with (or, they believe in it until it become threatening then they seek refuge behind postmodern political rhetoric). The motivation for their continual Bush/Republican bashing is simple: they have no real ideas of their own (except the same one my teen daughter and her friends have: spend lots and lots of money without concern about where it comes from or who pays the bills. I can understand the teens--they are children still and irresponsibility is their default. They will grow out of it with patience. But the Obama Adminsitration is supposedly composed of adults who should know better). Unfortunately, they are as irresponsible as it is possible to be as adults.
As the real world presses in on them, their voices of the left will become ever more shrill and hysterical; their rage at the past will escalate (because dysfunction always escalates). They will look for--and find--new, improved scapegoats. The previous Administration is just the beginning. They will have to scapegoat big business, small business, Wall Street, and capitalism itself, to maintain their economic delusions; and they will have to scapegoat Israel and the Jews along with the previous administration, to be able to continue to maintain their delusion that Islamic terrorists are simply misunderstood citizens of the world, who given the chance to idolize Barack Obama will enthusiastically embrace this Messiah who transcends faith and focuses his largesse upon them.
It's been a while since most of the minions of the left bothered to argue their points logically; nor do they want to debate at all. They simply loudly denounce any idea or person who threatens their ideology or their god in the White House; or deliberately and with the ruthless finesse of all tyrants and thugs, simply attempt to silence all dissenting opinions.
9/11 did not wake them up; rather it forced them to openly move toward what they have supported surreptitiously all along--the elimination of free speech in the name of political correctness and multiculturalism; a dictatorship where the pseudo-intellectual, politically correct priesthood rule; and complete control over the lives of others (for their own good, of course!). Why should they waste a crisis, when they can use it to implement their ideology with the least muss and fuss?
Since their long-range objectives happen to parallel those of the Islamic terrorists, they care not that their behavior enables and encourages the terrorist's agenda. They blithely denounce America and the principles of freedom and democracy out of one side of their mouth, while remaining convinced that their actions are patriotic and are representative of "true" American values.
Once they considered it patriotic to dissent (when Bush was in the White House); now, of course, any dissent must be labeled at once for the racism and sexism and hate that it represents.
Their outrage at Republicans or Israel conveniently obscures the reality that we are at war with an implacable enemy that wants to kill us all.
That's what denial is all about. It allows--nay, it encourages-- the most blatant contradictions in thinking; and the individual does not ever have to account for those contradictions or take responsibility for them because they don't even perceive them! Facts,shmacts.
The left pretends their behavior is motivated from" love" or "peace" or "patriotism"; but these are only words they use to rationalize their actions to themselves, which often exemplify exactly the opposite. Their self-deception and denial is simply stunning in its sweeping grandiosity and self-righteousness betrayal of the good.
When psychological denial distorts or obscures reality, people are far more likely to make the wrong choices and ignore the serious problems; they are more likely to avoid the difficult decisions then blame others when things don't come out perfectly.
Even in politics--perhaps especially in politics, reality and truth matter.
As Gladstein notes, "Six decades of horrendous violence and murder, a multi-generational effort to destroy the State of Israel, and forty years of worldwide terrorism are insufficient to persuade Ignatius that he has a personal stake in opposing the sociopathic behavior of the Arab Middle East...."
Unfortunately, Ignatius is only one of many on the political left who have taken refuge in denial. And the consequences of their denial are going to be devastating....
“The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them….To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary.” 1984 (The definition of " Doublethink")