Wednesday, February 15, 2012


In a post titled "Does the Left Understand Religious Liberty?", David French reflects on the kind of religious liberty the Left always respects:
...the freedom to advocate for liberal social-welfare policies and liberal visions of “social justice.” Debate the issue for long, and you’ll get some version of the following (typically delivered with maximum snark): Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the Bible much more concerned about the poor than about [fill in the issue -- from abortion to contraception to proselytizing to worship]? “Concern for the poor” is redefined as support for this or that government program, while “religious liberty” is redefined as hatred for women or gays or perhaps even just simple intolerance.
Of course, the same standards aren’t applied to, say, Muslims, but that’s a post for another time.{emphasis mine]

This is so true, and it brings me to a point that I've been thinking about forquite a while.

What I emphasized in the above quote is something that we see over and over again on many issues. The political left always redefines the issue:

--A principled stand on reducing the deficit and reforming entitlements is redefined as "pushing Granny over a cliff."
A concern about the implications for the institution of marriage is redefined as homophobic;
--The idea of preventing voter fraud by requiring voters to show an ID, something that is required for almost everything else in life these days; is redefined as "disenfranchising poor or black Americans";
--If you support a woman's right to choose her own destiny (i.e., contraception, abortion etc.) but suggest that it isn't the government's place to pay for it with YOUR money--or the money of people who might oppose abortion or certain types of contraception; they you are redefined as "anti-woman";

--If you want to keep our borders safe and prevent illegal immigration; you are redefined as "anti-Hispanic" and "racist";
--If you oppose socialized medicine then you are redefined as "anti-poor, anti-black, anti-woman, and probably racist and just plain mean.

Notice how every "redefinition" of a principled opposition to a leftist policy has been transformed into an ad hominem , or personal attack?


It so happens that I do not object to women using birth control. But that DOES NOT MEAN that I support the government forcing someone who is opposed to PAYING for her birth control to pay for it.

That does not make me anti-woman, it makes me PRO-LIBERTY.

I am basically opposed to government intervention in almost every area of our lives except for the purpose of protecting our rights and liberties; but anyone who takes a stance to limit government power and intrusion into the lives of others has become a target of the vicious and name-calling postmodern left who, since they are unable to counter the ideas or principles which underlie those who oppose their policies, instead focus on trying to destroy them on a personal level.

The postmodern left is under the delusion that they are better people; more pure and virtuous; more compassionate and loving; more fair-minded and tolerant than those who oppose them.

However, I am reasonably sure that they are human; and therefore just as prone to the same defects of personality and behaviors as any other human being. I am absolutely sure that their ideas and their policies are far, far, inferior and ultimately lead to totalitarianism, opression, and economic misery.

And, that is the crux of the problem.

The reason that they attack on the personal level anyone who disagrees with them is due to the fact that they cannot support their ideas or their policies in any rational or logical manner. Which means they have to resort to emotion, name-calling, and logical fallacies in order to maintain their psychological denial.

They are in denial because, instead of being champions of the oppressed, they are the root cause of oppression.

They are in denial because, instead of empowering women, blacks, gays and the poor; they are making them more and more dependent on government and infantalizing them.

Instead of doing "good" and promoting "justice"; instead of working toward peace and harmony among people; they are promoting hate, class warfare, envy, and the worst aspects of human nature.

The use of ad hominem attacks has become one of the preferred methods to deal with Republicans and conservatives who are trying to make the argument (ineptly, I grant you) that FREEDOM is preferable to GOVERNMENT CONTROL. Routinely, such people are portrayed as racist, sexist, homophobic monsters (or, as Maxine Waters might say, "DEMONS!!").

It makes them feel better about themselves.

At the center of all psychological denial is a hidden agenda.

That agenda is usually not completely conscious--meaning that the denier has not thought through the issues surrounding his denial; and may not even be aware of what his motivation is in asserting something is true when it isn't; or false when it isn't.

Denial need not be absolute and completely cut off from reality. Even among alcoholics and drug users there is a varying level of awareness of their problem. Some accept that they are in jail or sick because of their substance use, but yet are still not willing to do anything about it. Some may recognize some facts about their drinking (like that they get put in jail), but completely deny the impact of those facts on themselves or their families; or the future implications of continued drinking or drug use (e.g., that they are killing themselves and will die).

The hidden agenda or underlying motivation behind the denial is very frequently related to the potential adverse consequences that could ensue if the denial were eliminated and reality acknowledged. That is where the unnacceptable feelings, needs, and thoughts come in. The denier (or part of him) has made an unconscious decision that awareness of certain feelings, needs, or thoughts is more threatening to his sense of self than the act of denial.

As an example, consider a person who develops a chronic cough. He might rationalize to themselves that his cough is because of a lack of humidity in the air; or because he has a slight infection; and most certainly is not a result of his smoking habits. He could go see a doctor, but doesn't, telling himself he is fine.

As the cough gets worse, he become even more creative in his thinking about it (or not thinking about it) and is "too busy" to see a doctor; or tend to minimize the symptom even as it worsens. This strategy of ignoring the problem goes on for some time--maybe months. The person may next fail to notice that he is losing weight and looking a bit drawn-out. The rationalizations now even include benign explanations for the specks of blood that can be seen in the cough.

Finally, after much resistance, a loved one firmly intervenes--or the person faces the truth, confronts the issue-- and schedules an appointment. After a few tests, lung cancer is diagnosed. The prognosis is very poor because the cancer has already progessed to advanced stages during the months of denial.

Why would such a person deny the symptom to begin with? Because by denying the symptom, the person can pretend that everything is normal. Early on, when the symptom is new or minor, this possiblity may even be true. But as the evidence accumulates that something is very wrong; the person has now entered a phase of magical thinking and/or fantasy where he effortlessly pretends to himself that everything is as he wishes it to be.

Eventually, the individual may become totally psychologically invested in believing that nothing is wrong ("lalalalala I can't heaaaar you"), and reacts (or overreacts) with anger and rage toward anyone who questions his view of things. The entire act of denial was initiated to begin with by the psyche for a good psychological reason-- to temporarilly supress awareness that something was wrong--while the person struggled with the effort to face that possibility. That awareness was so frightening, that a temporary psychological bargain evolved into a binding contract that allows the person to suspend cognition and reason so that he is able to ignore any knowledge or evidence that alters his fantasy reality.

Unfortunately, if the person really does have a cancerous process going on within them, it is completely unaffected by the psychological bargain made by the psyche. There are certain rules that govern the progression of cancers and they will be in force, whether or not the person is aware of them or not. Hence, the denier has made a short-term pact to feel better at the expense of his long-term health.

In the case of this type of cancer, he has chosen to enjoy a period of relative complacency and blissful ignorance at the cost of catching the cancer earlier when it might be more treatable. In the long-run his unconscious choice is a very bad one. But the reality is that some people in denial prefer the lethal consequences of their denial as long as they don't have to question their own motivations, beliefs, and ideologies.

Those individuals, groups, or nations who live in the world of deep denial are practically untouchable by reality or rational argument. They go through their daily lives secure in the knowledge that their self-image is protected against any information, feelings, or awareness that might make them have to change their view of the world.

Nothing--not facts, not observable behavior; not the use of reason, logic, or the evidence of their own senses will make them reevaluate that world view. All events will simply be reinterpreted to fit into the belief system of that world--no matter how ridiculous, how distorted, hysterical or how psychotic that reinterpretation appears to others. Consistency, common sense, reality, and objective truth are unimportant and are easily discarded--as long as the world view remains intact.

There are many tried and true techniques that those in denial use in order to maintain and facilitate their denial and to prevent any confrontation about it or their own motivations.

For example, there are a number of logical fallacies and rhetorical ploys (like calling someone who disagrees with you a "racist" or insisting that they are using "code words" that MEAN you are really a racist) that frequently pop up when dealing with those in psychological denial.

People in denial may believe they are engaging in substantive arguments and presenting their case, but when examined, the grounds they present are actually examples of pseudo-reasoning.

Although not precisely a fallacy or rhetorical ploy, physical coercion is another important technique that is used to defuse and/or disrupt rational argument or discussion. For the denier, coercion has the advantage of eliminating any possibiity they might have to confront their denial and what is driving it.

Understanding all of these techniques is essential for being able to deal with individuals in denial.

There is frequently a connection between the pseudo-reasoning technique employed to perpetuate denial, and the style of denial being used (as described in Part I). The list that follows is not exhaustive, and only includes some of what I consider the more important techniques being used. The table is only intended to be a preliminary guide. A brief discussion of each of the fallacies or rhetorical ploys referred to follows after table.


From: Critical Thinking A Concise Guide (Bowell and Kemp):
Rhetoric is any verbal or written attempt to persuade someone to beieve, desire or do something that does not attempt to give good reasons for the belief, desire or action, but attempts ot motivate that belief, desire or action solely through the power of the words used.

The difference between fallacies and rhetorical ploys is understood most eaily as a difference in the function of the language being employed....politicians, advertisers and newspaper columnists tend to be experts when it come to using rhetorical ploys. Rhetorical ploys typically make a more or less direct appeal to feeling and emotion rather than to reason, which is the domin of argument. Fallacies, on the other hand, are simply defective attempts at arguments....They may fool us into thinking they are not defective, but they are still presented as attempts at argument. Of course, manny writers and speakers will use a mixture of rhetorical ploys, fallacies, and genuine arguments when attempting to persuade us of the truth of their claim.

Let us first consider some of the most common rhetorical ploys in use:

-Appeals to FEELINGS : this type of ploy is very common and the user tries to appeal to specific feelings or desires. For example, you may be enticed to believe what is said because of the passion with which it is said (rather than analyzing the content); or because it stimulates compassion, pity, guilt, fear or any number of other feelings.

Eliciting fear is also known as using "scare tactics", and should be distinguished from genuine warnings for which there is a good reason to act and/or experience the emotion.

Additionally, when one appeals to feelings; emphasis may be placed on the novelty of the idea; or popularity ("everyone thinks this!") or the sexiness or cuteness etc.; all of which can easily distract from a rational analysis of the idea or product.

-Direct attack is simply the unapologetic assertion that something is true or not true without any evidence presented.

-Buzzwords are the use of emotion-laden terms that subtly influence the listener but which offer no information about the truth of what is being said.

-Scare quotes are used to mock the opposition (I use them myself at times!) by calling into question a particular concept (e.g., terrorism vs "terrorism").

-Smokescreen is diverting attention from the topic of discussion by introducing a new topic.

-Equivocation is deliberately making ambiguous statements in order to mislead.


-Formal fallacies can be found in almost any text on logic and include affirming the consequent (i.e., if P then Q; Q; therefore P) or denying the antecedent (i.e., if P then Q; not-P; therefore not-Q). As a group they are invalid arguments because of formal mistakes in reasoning.

-Substantive fallacies are fallacies that rely on an implied but not expressed general premise, but which are false when scrutinized. They include:
Majority belief - concluding that because a majority believe something it must be true. This category includes the excessive reliance on polls to be the arbiter of what is true or false and how one should behave.
Common practice - concluding that because everyone does a certain thing, you should do it too.
Ad hominem is responding to an argument by attacking your opponent rather than addressing the argument itself.
Appeal to an alleged authority - is problematic when the authority appealed to has no expertise in a particular field; or even if he does, there is no automatic guarantee that he is correct.
Perfectionist fallacy - where an idea or proposal is rejected because it cannot completely solve a particular problem.
Weak analogy -use of an unjustied or unsustainable analogy;
Causal fallacies are also very common and involve making assumptions that (1)because things are temporally related that there is a cause and effect (temporal fallacy); or (2) that because two things are correlated there is a causal relationship between them; (3) going from knowing a certain thing is true to believing that something else also must be true when there is no evidence to support the belief is called the Epistemic fallacy.


The following techniques don't fit into the previous categories; or are a combination of one or more already mentioned. They include:

-Red Herrings are premises or ideas that are irrelevant to a particular conclusion but which are offered as evidence of the conclusion;

-Straw man is deliberately setting up a false target that is easier to defeat in argument;

-Begging the question is the situation where the truth of a conclusion is assumed by its premises;

-Selective use of evidence: in any analysis there is usually a large amount of evidence to consider; particularly when there is sufficient complexity involved, it is sometimes easy to pay attention only to evidence that supports the desired conclusions and not to evidence which contradicts it;

-Moving the goalposts is a common practice in denial and occurs when someone always demands more evidence than can currently be provided. If that evidence becomes available at a later date, the demand is then made for even more evidence ad infinitum;

-Argument by definition is changing the meaning of words or concepts so that they support your argument (e.g., "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."; and other distortions of language like using the opposite meaning of a word as in Orwell's Newspeak)

-Liar paradox is one of my personal favorites to argue against, and is the use of paradoxical statements (e.g., "This statement is false" or "There is no objective truth") that are linguistically correct but internally inconsistent and cannot be demonstrated to be either true or false.


The most obvious technique in this category is the physical analog of the ad hominem attack. This clearly requires no thinking or logic manipulations at all. We see this in the physical attacks that are made by the left on whoever incurs their ire; or dares to spread ideas that deviate from their own script.

Isaac Asimov famously said that "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." From a psychiatric perspective, I would amend the saying to: physical coercion is the last refuge of a person in denial.

Coercion is the historically tried and true method by which most totalitarian regimes perpetuate themselves. They must control the flow of information; ruthlessly suppress any ideas that delegitimize their ideology; eliminate any persons threatening to expose their weaknesses; and even physically prevent their own people from being able to freely leave the country where they might pick up alien ideas. All of these measures ensure that psychological denial and the underlying motives of those in control are never questioned or challenged. A tyrant is, from this perspective, the ultimate person in denial.

Further, there are numerous physical attempts to shut people up that also use the rhetorical ploy of appeal to feelings--in particular, an appeal to cuteness--when protesters throw pies in the faces of speakers they don't agree with; or the latest rave of "glitter bombing" those who disagree with you. Never forget the tried and true method of the mindless contingent of the left: those who chant cute slogans to drown out speakers with whom they disagree, hoping to silence them.

Not only do these individuals and groups not bother to argue their side of an issue, but they can't even bear to listen to someone who might stimulate them to consider alternative ideas or confront their own denial.

Other ways that today's political left have developed to control the flow of information include manipulating websites such as Amazon, where you can track swarms of those on the left panning new conservative books they've obviously never bothered to read.

The mere existence of ideas that threaten their image of themselves or challenges their dysfunctional worldview is a threat that must be extinguished before people can be allowed to make up their own minds.

The last thing a person in denial wants is the free flow of information about a topic that threatens the perfection and contentment of his denial. Thus you have Obama starting up

Wikipedia is another forum where people deep in denial have painstakingly tried to rewrite history so that it conforms with their ideology.

How many times have you heard those from the left side of the political spectrum state that the FCC should shut down FOX for its "lies". At college campuses all over the country, every time a campus newspaper runs an editorial that goes against the ideology, all the papers are stolen by the ideological minions of the left. Military recruiters are run off campus by the threat of violence (either to them or any who would like to listen to them).

I won't even go into the entire issue of leftist mainstream media bias, which has been taken up in many other venues many times.

The pattern remains the same. To physically prevent people access to alternate
worldviews or information instead of persuasing them by rational argument of the truth of your own position.

None of these techniques (rhetorical ploys, logical fallacies, or physical control) are unique to one side of the political spectrum or the other certainly; but in today's political climate, most of the denial manifested is coming from the left with few exceptions.

So, does the left understand psychological denial? Probably about as much as they understand religious liberty; i.e., not at all.

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