Thursday, February 17, 2005

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Lynne Stewart?

Lynne Stewart reminds me of a song from The Sound of Music-"How do you solve a problem like Maria? A fliberty gibbet a will-o-the wisp...." Andrew McCarthy asks himself this question, too and he grapples with Lynne Stewart, the PERSON, versus Lynne Stewart, the Lefty Kook, recently convicted of aiding and abetting terrorism. He knew her, worked with her and had a very real sense of her decency. Yet, he was able to say:

There is something wrong with Lynne's brain. Obviously, she loves being a darling of the loony Left — a Left so loony it now makes common cause with theocratic, homo-phobic, misogynistic psycho-killers, since, after all, they too hate America. Nestled among this element, her humanity synapse disengages, such that she can spout about faraway terrorist kidnapping victims and other unknown civilians as legitimate targets with all the contemplative depth of a dinner companion asking you to pass the salt.

But she is not without humanity. What has happened to her here is very far from a tragedy — a tragedy is when someone unwittingly crosses the path of Abdel Rahman's ilk and is ruthlessly murdered for the great offense of being an American, or a Jew, or a Christian, or anything other than an Islamic militant. This is what Lynne Stewart promoted, and for that she must pay dearly.

So, what is it that is "wrong with Lynne's brain"? If we could figure it out, perhaps we could understand all those others on the Left who "make common cause with theocratic, homo-phobic, misogynistic psycho-killers". Is it just because they are anti-American, anti-Capitalists? Or is being anti-American, anti-Captitalists another symptom of the brain disorder?

I think it is the latter. Let me explain. In a previous post, I discussed how one goes about enabling terror. Now I propose to explain why someone would do that, and why. Some of this I touched on when I described a classic case of hysteria .

As in a case of hysteria, or a conversion disorder--where the symptoms are not intentionally produced, but are the result of unintentional--or unconscious-- motives, the Lynne Stewarts of the Left are not deliberately being obtuse. They aren't even deliberately evil. They truly don't see anything wrong with being a nice person and kindly grandmother, and simultaneously thinking that a terrorist attack in Indonesia where children might be killed is a wonderful thing. This kind of cognitive dissonance is the result of a psychological defense mechanism called "repression". Repression is necessary in the expression of a conversion disorder where some physical symptom (blindness, paralysis, pain) becomes the focal point; so that the individual is able to avoid the unacceptable thought or feeling. For that to occur, the unacceptable thought or feeling must be ruthlessly stashed away from awareness, or repressed.

But symbolic physical symptoms like blindness are not the only way that repression can be manifested. Another, and much more frequent psychological strategy to rid one's self of the unacceptable thought or feeling is to display a contradictory and often unbelievable (to an outside observer, anyway) dissassociation, or disconnect, between a person's thoughts and feelings on the one hand; and behavior on another.

This is why so often the Lynne Stewarts present an unsolvable puzzle to an outside observer. How can they argue for Peace and behave violently? How can they demand Free Speech but simultaneously suppress it in others? How can they be for Diversity and squelch any dissenting opinions? How can they claim to be for freedom and democracy, and make common cause with those who would destroy it? The catalog of paradoxes goes on and on.

The key is to focus on what the Lynne Stewarts DO, not on what they SAY. On BEHAVIOR, rather than SPEECH. They can yell slogans of LOVE, PEACE, and FREEDOM; but if their actions are HATE-FILLED, VIOLENT, and support OPPRESIVE REGIMES, they are using repression to hide the true feelings that underly their actual behavior.

Often, repression requires stronger and stronger psychological defenses be erected as time goes by and reality keeps up its steady knocking on their door. So, repression often leads to projection and denial. (see here for a discussion of all the psychological defense mechanisms).
When confronted with irrefutable proof of their own actions and consequences, such people must eventually resort to a complete denial of reality. Or, alternatively, they will project the blame for their behavior onto another person or group ("It is the fault of the Israelis" or the "Jews", or the "Blacks"--and more recently, of "Bush", "Haliburton" and so on ad nauseum) . Or, they may utilize both mechanisms.

The level of self-awareness or insight into themselves is abysmally low. All available psychological defenses are rallied to prevent the acceptance of the fact that they did something bad or wrong. It MUST be (in Lynne Stewart's case, for example) the government, the U.S., Capitalism or President Bush, that is to blame!

How do you solve a problem like Lynne Stewart? Therapy won't help. She is too far gone to spend any time accepting that her own behavior has led to her current situation. Her self-identity is not likely to be shaken by events in the real world. Those events can and will be twisted so that it only confirms her world view. Her sense of herself must be preserved at all costs. Even if it means the death of thousands.

Just send her to jail where she can't do any more harm. And stop feeling sorry for her. She's made her choice.

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