Monday, July 26, 2004

Psychological Analysis of Bush Hatred

Virginia Postrel has some interesting thoughts about the psychological origins of Bush Hatred:

"When I was in New York a few weeks ago, a friend in the magazine business told me he thinks the ferocious Bush hating that he sees in New York is a way of calming the haters' fears of terrorism. It's not rational, but it's psychologically plausible--blame the cause you can control, at least indirectly through elections, rather than the threats you have no control over.
I thought of that insight today when I glanced at Maureen Dowd's
column and read this sentence, "Maybe it's because George Bush is relaxing at his ranch down there (again) while Osama is planning a big attack up here (again)."
That is the voice of a petulant child, angry that she has a tummy ache while Daddy is at work or Mommy is visiting a friend, or the voice of a grouchy wife angry that she has a migraine while her husband is out coaching the kids' baseball team. You're upset that you're in pain (we've all been there), so you get mad at someone whose presence wouldn't make the pain any better.
No mature student of politics believes the president of the United States goofs off on vacation. It's not the kind of job you escape. George Bush may be completely insane to voluntarily. spend July in Texas--as opposed to Bill Clinton's favored coastal retreats--but Osama bin Laden is no more or less a threat than in Bush were in Washington. But if blaming Bush makes people feel better, safer, or at least able to focus their anger on someone they can hurt, they'll blame Bush. "

This psychological process is called "displacement" and is a very real defensive mechanism.  One of the ways you can usually tell that an individual is using displacement is that the emotion being displaced (e.g., anger) is all out of proportion to the reality of the situation.  A very good example that comes to mind is an old movie called "The Seven Percent Solution" about Sherlock Holmes' intense obsession with Moriarity.   In Holmes' mind (distorted somewhat by the use of cocaine) Moriarity is the master criminal who must be stopped at all costs.  He is evil incarnate, and the source of all the diabolical events of the world (sound familiar?).  Not until the end of the movie, under hypnosis by Sigmund Freud, do we discover that in truth, Mr. Moriarity was Sherlock's hopelessly mundane math teacher, who happened to be having an affair with Holmes' mother and escaped when Holmes' father murdered her (with the young Sherlock looking on).  This event in his youth apparently traumatized Holmes to such an extent, he was eventually driven to using drugs to eradicate it from his memory. 

I submit to you that this is exactly the same process going on now in the minds of the Bush Haters.  They, too, want desperately to forget something that was traumatic to them and the most traumatic event in US history, where some 3000 men, women and children were viciously murdered before their eyes.  But rather than blame the actual murderer(s), their fear is transformed to anger and displaced on Mr. Bush. If everything is his fault, then the reality of what happened does not have to be faced (this also explains the intense psychological denial that these same individuals tend to have about 9/11). Bush becomes the "criminal mastermind", so devious, so evil, that everything he says is a "lie", everything he does is part of a vast right-wing consipiracy.  His family has intimate ties to Bin Laden and the Saudis (via Michael Moore); He is trying to avenge the insult to his father by getting rid of Saddam ---I could go on an on, but you get the point.  What is most funny, is that they simultaneously think of Bush as this criminal mastermind, a genius of evil; and also as a complete moron who isn't capable of uttering a sentence without making a hash of it.  The cognitive dissonance required to have all these contradictory beliefs swirling around in one's brain is astonishing.  But besides the primary function it serves to erase what happened, it is serving a secondary purpose--it makes them feel in control of what might come.  If the US were to be the victim of another mass murder attack by the Islamofascists, they have a ready-made explanation at hand:  It will be Bush's fault.


Anonymous said...

Best analysis I've read!


max said...

Bush hatred (instead of Osama/radical Islam hatred) has a historical parallel imo - in the 1930s the English 'chattering classes' and msm despised Churchill ("the most dangerous man in Europe") instead of Hitler.

Why? I think because Churchill was trying to make them confront an evil which they hoped would somehow go away, through appeasement, talks and 'understanding Hitler's point-of-view'. They couldn't do anything about Hitler, but they could keep Churchill out of power so they focused on that until it was too late.

The same suspects (chattering classes/msm) are doing the same thing with President Bush - if they attack him enough then somehow in their minds the real problem, which they themselves can't do anything about) will go away.

Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.