Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Psychology of Bush Hatred

Some time ago, Charles Krauthammer coined a term "Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS)" which he defined as:

"the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush."

Krauthammer mainly discussed our homegrown variety of Bush Haters. Since Bush's re-election, Bush Hatred has spread like a biologically deployed weapon of mass destruction, hitting individuals and entire countries, destroying their reason and impairing their cognitive faculties- probably beyond repair.

Take, for example, France. In that country, the citizens as well as their leaders welcomed Yasser Arafat as some sort of folk hero; and even go to the ends of the earth to protect him after death. They also welcomed Robert Mugabe the Zimbabwe dictator, responsible for untold deaths. Yet they have made it clear that President Bush is not welcome in their country, burned him in effigy and insisted he stand trial for "war crimes".

Take Canada. LGF links to an article detailing how the enlightened "Peace Activists" of Canada, cannot rule out violent acts when Bush visits their country in the next week. And these are just a few countries that pretend to be "friends" of the U.S.

So, what is psychologically going on here? Besides the usual Leftist/Socialist/Communist bullshit, of course.

A post by Virginia Postrel some time ago had some interesting thoughts about the psychological origins of Bush Hatred that I think are extremely pertinent:

"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. "

It is truly laughable at the number of things that Bush has been blamed for in this world. He is blamed when he does something (anything) and he is blamed when he does nothing. He is blamed for things that ocurred even before he was President, as well as everything that has happened since. What makes Bush Hatred completely insane however, is the almost delusional degree of unremitting belief in Bush's evil; while simultaneously believing that the TRUE representatives of evil in the world are somehow good and decent human beings with the world's intersts at heart.

This psychological defense mechanism is referred to as "displacement". One way 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. The purpose of displacement is to avoid having to cope with the actual reality. Instead, by using displacement, an individual is able to still experience his or her anger, but it is directed at a less threatening target than the real cause. In this way, the individual does not have to be responsible for the consequences of his/her anger and feels more safe. How else to explain the remarkable and sometimes lunatic appeasement of Islamofascists by so many governments and around the world? (e.g. here)

A very good example of displacement that comes to mind is the plot of an old movie called "The Seven Percent Solution",which is 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. And pursuing the mythical genius of crime--instead of holding his father or his mother to account.

I submit to you that this is exactly the same process going on now in the minds of many of the Bush Haters. They want desperately to forget that there is a tidal wave of terror reverberating around the world and to pretend that everything is America and Bush's fault. So what do they do? They lionize terrorists like Arafat. They explain away the horror and brutality of Zarqawi and his followers. They support Palestinian suicide bombings and vote for resolutions agains Israel. They believe that Osama is a reasonable person, but that Bush is not. They threaten violence toward Bush and hold demonstrations; and implement Sharia Law in their country without a qualm. Hundreds of their fellow countrymen are murdered by terrorists, but they demand that their troops be pulled out of Iraq (thinking that if they hadn't cooperated with the evil BushHitler, their countrymen would have been spared).

Rather than blame the terrorists; rather than admiting they have to take action against them; their fear is transformed to anger and displaced onto President 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 thus becomes the "criminal mastermind", so devious, so evil, that everything he says is a "lie", everything he does is part of a vast global consipiracy. His family has intimate ties to Bin Laden and the Saudis; He is trying to avenge the insult to his father by getting rid of Saddam; He plans world domination etc. etc. I could go on an on, but you get the point.

What is most funny is that these psychologically naiive individuals 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 from consciousness what is happening in the world today, it is serving a secondary purpose--it makes them feel in control of what might come.
They can predict with the complete accuracy of the delusional mind that whatever happens--whatever horror is unleased by Al Qaeda or Hamas or Islamic Jihad--was caused by President Bush's actions/inactions/intentions (take your pick). They can conduct a brave protest march against the evil Bush...but clearly they don't dare protest real terror or terrorist acts. The terrorists are simply poor, misunderstood individuals who have been oppressed by...Bush. Get rid of Bush (or America; or Israel) and voila! Problem solved!

It would be a foolproof defense against the threat, except...except...if it weren't for the fact of incidents like Theo van Gogh's murder, that is. It would be foolproof, except that the REAL horror; the REAL evil will just not go away. The REAL evil just gets bolder and more aggressive. Like the Nazis in the last century, the REAL evil will not be appeased, and is aware of this psychological weakness inherent in their enemies. In fact, they count on it - because by exploiting it is the only way the terrorists can win.

As a psychiatrist I often hope that patients of mine who are in therapy will develop insight and self awareness and begin to take responsibility for their own lives and actions- in other words, I hope that they will grow up someday. I hope the same for the Bush Haters.

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