Posted on | April 7, 2012 | 84 Comments
Among the books I most often recommend are The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy (Thomas Sowell, 1995) and The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (Christopher Lasch, 1979). Thoughtful readers familiar with both books will understand how the phenomenon described by Sowell — liberals enacting disastrous social policies that serve mainly to make liberals feel good about themselves — is related to the narcissistic impulses described by Lasch.
In a society where traditional institutions of moral authority are decadent or discredited, individuals engage in self-righteous political gestures to demonstrate (to themselves, if to no one else) their own superior virtue. Liberal policies appeal to such impulses, e.g., Dick Durbin: “I may be a corrupt swine, but I drive a hybrid!” or Alec Baldwin: “I may be a vicious bully, but I’m all about a woman’s right to choose!”
The politicization of morality is not a new phenomenon, but it has gained a new vehemence in recent decades as the traditional sources of moral authority — the church, the family, the local community, etc. — have declined in influence, and as bourgeois virtues (sobriety, chastity, industry, thrift, etc.) have been undermined by the counter-culture.
When people turn to politics seeking affirmation of their own virtue, the results are often disastrous for the people directly affected by the policies enacted. To cite just one example, the AIDS crisis of the 1980s spiraled out of control in part because liberals were unwilling to shut down the gay bathouses that profited by facilitating the anonymous promiscuity which spread the pandemic. (David Horowitz and Peter Collier include an amazing chapter on this in their 1989 book, Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties.) The AIDS issue became a moral crusade for liberals, who saw themselves defending the “rights” of an unpopular minority in a battle against oppression, as if the “right” to commercialized sodomy trumped legitimate public health concerns.
Controversies that involve race, even indirectly, have often been hijacked by this sort of liberal crusader mentality, as in the infamous Duke University lacrosse team “rape” scandal, where certainty of the guilt of the accused was a kind of moral litmus test. People who had nothing to do with Duke University, people who had never been within a hundred miles of Raleigh, N.C., nevertheless presumed to know that the lacrosse players were guilty and excoriated anyone who did not join them in denouncing the perpetrators of this alleged atrocity.
What you learn, if you observe this tendency long enough, is that the people who delight in pointing the accusatory finger — racist! sexist! homophobe! — are generally engaged in an exhibition of moral narcissism, trying to fill the “hole in their soul” with self-righteousness by gestures intended to prove their own superior virtue. Not only are they not racist (or not sexist, etc.), but they are anti-racist (or anti-whatever) and are courageously donning their shining armor and mounting their horses to lead a crusade against the Evil Menace.
Heroism on the cheap, as it were.
When the Trayvon Martin case became a national controversy, it was certain to attract swarms of such moralistic finger-pointers, demanding that everyone join them in Standing Up to Hatred, etc. I’ve had little to say about the case, but one thing I did say was this:
The federal Justice Department was involved and a special investigation was underway, and there was no need to engage in furious debates over every detail of a case about which we had no direct knowledge, and in which we were not directly involved. Insofar as I have since commented on it at all, I’ve mainly called attention to the way people were making fools of themselves over the case. (Damn, how I wish Keith Olbermann were still on TV!) So in the wee hours this morning, when I noticed people on Twitter giving Dave Weigel grief over something written by John Derbyshire, my reaction was, “What the hell is this about?”
After investigating, I wrote a post:
While it is impossible to imagine any scenario in which Lowry won’t be forced to fire Derbyshire now, I’m actually more fascinated by the Left’s attempt to bully Weigel for failing to denounce Derbyshire in strong enough terms.
This is a familiar ritual, The Denunciation Derby, in which liberals demand that everyone compete for the Sweepstakes Prize offered for whoever can express the most indignant outrage against the target. It seemed obvious that Derbyshire was doomed, and there was no point even trying to defend him, but Weigel — who has never been accused of being a racist — was under attack for having blogged about Derbyshire with insufficient outrage.
“Needless to say,” however, they don’t pay you the big bucks to waffle in times of crisis, Rich. Your executive authority must be exercised and, with this howling Internet lynch mob demanding Derbyshire’s scalp, you must either satisfy the mob or deal with the consequences.
While I was aggregating further reaction in updates, I was being stalked by a creepy Twitter troll. Pay careful attention to the sequence:
CHARLES JOHNSON 2:24 p.m. ET:
CHARLES JOHNSON 3:27 p.m. ET:
CHARLES JOHNSON 4:23 p.m. ET:
Charles Johnson is doing his “Race Detective” bit: He accuses me and Dan Riehl of being “the first to defend Derbyshire,” then he writes a blog post using Riehl’s name to connect the ”racist” meme to Breitbart.com. And then — exhibiting a stunning lack of self-awareness — Johnson complains to Pam Spaulding that right-wingers “spend so much time & energy trying to smear & discredit me.”
Got it? Charles (a) writes a blog post to ”smear and discredit” Dan Riehl and Dan’s employers, then (b) engages in psychological projection to claim that his enemies are doing to him what he is doing to them.
This kind of blame-shifting rationalization is typical of narcissistic personalities: Nothing is ever their fault. Whenever anything goes wrong, some scapegoat must be blamed for the failure.
You see why paranoia is so closely related to narcissism, in that the damaged ego, being unable to accept responsibility for failure, eventually exaggerates the evils of scapegoated enemies to the point where contact with reality is lost amid persecution fantasies of an all-powerful “them” conspiring against the grandiose self.
Grandiosity — the unrealistic inflation of personal significance — is necessary to the delusion: Why would all these powerful forces of evil be conspiring against an obscure nobody? The damaged ego must inflate the imagined power of scapegoated enemies in order to explain how the grandiose self has been thwarted.
During a three-year purge that began in 2008, Charles Johnson banned more than 15,000 commenters from Little Green Footballs, destroying his own traffic, alienating his friends and making himself the laughingstock of the blogosphere. The only person responsible for this was Charles Johnson, yet he continues to seek out “racists” and other scapegoats to blame for his self-destruction.
Good luck turning your paranoid delusions into a career, Charles.
This was exactly what I’d predicted in the wee hours when I commented on the “get Weigel” sideshow. How that amounted to me joining Dan Riehl as “first to defend Derbyshire” is perhaps something that Charles Johnson can try to explain when the nice men in white coats show up to take him to the Funny Farm.
Remember: Charles Johnson tried to destroy Pamela Geller by smearing her as a crypto-fascist. After I defended Geller, CJ tried to destroy me as a “white supremacist.” By now, CJ’s list of right-wing enemies is so long as to include just about everyone who ever voted Republican. But CJ’s crazy crusade was never really about the evil of his enemies — Geller, Robert Spencer, Diana West, Melanie Phillips, Geert Wilders, Michelle Malkin, Jim Hoft, Ace of Spades, Dan Riehl, et al., ad finitum — it was always all about Charles Johnson.
And it still is.
Happy Easter, everybody. Go hit Da Tech Guy’s tip jar.
UPDATE: Does anyone remember “Liberal Avenger,” a/k/a Sirkowski, a/k/a Sébastien Fréchette? If we can believe his own online bio — alas, he is a notorious and habitual liar — Fréchette is a 35-year-old illustrator specializing in (NSFW) “Loli” cartoons. NTTAWWT.
During his most notorious
years weeks, Sirkowski/Fréchette/”Liberal Avenger” was best known for slinging hateful slurs at Republican women, including Condi Rice and Mary Cheney, as well as altering comments and other such stunts as sociopathic trolls do with their own blogs. (See, “Sirowski Watch.”)
Patterico had a go-round with “Liberal Avenger” back in the day. Sébastien still seems to have a problem with Republican women:
Some people’s political reactions are like a Rorshach inkblot test, inexorably exposing their inner freak. Sirkowski/Fréchette spent Saturday re-Tweeting Charles Johnson and then showed up in the comments on this post screeching about racists and fascists.
Sébastien: Go back to doing dirty drawings of girls, OK?
LGF is scraping the bottom of the barrel these days . . .
- April 7: Rich Lowry’s Editorial Impotence?
- April 7: Use ‘Derbyshire’ as a Verb
- March 31: The Riot Ideology
- March 30: Trayvon Martin Rashomon
- March 27: Another Liberal Narrative Gone Wrong
- March 25: Trayvon Martin Case Discussed by Noted Civil Rights Leader … David Plouffe?