Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Palin & Beck Projecting Anger Will Incite More Violence

Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and the others or their ilk are inciting violence by projecting their anger and hate onto others. Palin's cavalier attitude about lying is obviously something she feels is acceptable, and probably so because she has projected that attitude onto others. If you assume that everyone lies, then it is okay if you do it.

I've talked here a little about projection. It is a term that is extremely important to understand in the therapeutic process, and something that counselors pay attention to as we watch for transference and counter-transference. Most of the time, it has little effect on our day to day life if we are reasonably healthy (from a mental health standpoint) and functioning well.

What many people do not understand about mental illness, is that in all cases except one,* a necessary criteria for a diagnosis of a mental health disorder, is the effect on the ability to function. An individual may have a delusion, but if the delusion does not otherwise interfere with the activities of daily living, then a diagnosis of a disorder is not appropriate.That does not mean that an individual cannot have symptoms of a mental health disorder and exhibit features that are typical of someone with poor coping skills, one of the more common being projection. It also does not mean that everyone with poor coping skills and difficulty functioning has a mental illness. It is all too easy for armchair psychologists to diagnoses those they see in the news and decide what they should or should not do. Just as we complain about the pundits making pronouncements we disagree with, it is too easy to state that those we disagree with have some sort of mental illness.

Projection occurs when you place your fears and insecurities onto someone or something else. Everything that you dislike about yourself, everything that you are afraid of,is out there. The qualities you least like about yourself are those you are most likely to react to in others. Does the saying "thou doest protest too much" ring a bell? Are you having an affair, or seriously tempted to have one? You probably feel guilty about it, which sets up a cognitive dissonance. The brain does not like dissonance. It is uncomfortable. To resolve it, it projects those feelings onto someone else, so you believe your significant other is cheating, thus making your behavior okay. Do you cheat on your taxes? Then you assume that everyone else does. Do you lie? Even "tiny" lies (and tell me, where exactly is that line)? Then so does everyone else.

We assume that everyone else is just like us, that they behave like us, that they think like us, and that they will respond like us. We also believe that if people look like us, they will like us, so we like them. People tend to like those who like them, so if you like those around you, they will most likely like you. We tend to agree with those we associate with, and conversely, people who associate with us tend to agree with us. This is called the false consensus effect. It is an interesting dynamic and one that organizers of Tea Parties and Town Hall disruptions and other similar events understand. I am certain that along with all the other experts employed by public relations firms, social psychologists hold an important place.

People who project their fears and insecurities on others, have learned to avoid responsibility and to blame others. By projecting what is wrong onto someone or something else, you do not have to deal with it. Is everything going wrong in your life? Are you having problems at work or at home? Can't get along with your neighbors? It's the governments fault, those illegal immigrants, those minorities, that fake president, or something out there. It is not your fault, so you have no responsibility to solve the problem. It is somebody else's problem to fix.

If people don't look like us, then we become confused, especially if we have no frame of reference for dealing with people that are not like we are. Our normal method of processing information is shaken, and we look around for something or someone to help us and we become vulnerable to the likes of Glenn Beck, or Sean Hannity; people who look like us and appear to have authority and talk and act as if they know what they are doing. When our locus of control is external, then we look to external sources to regain control.

Someone like Glenn Beck is projecting all of his anger and hate onto the people he blames for everything wrong with this country; President Obama and the Democrats and progressives. It does not matter what the president does, what Congress does or does not do, because they are who they are, it has to be wrong. Glenn is so full of rage and has focused that rage on President Obama, that he must generate ever more illogical "facts" to maintain the emotional momentum he is building. It still is not clear whether or not he believes what he is saying or whether or not he is in it purely for the money, but it is clear that there is an underlying hate in this man. He has incited acts of violence that have caused death. He continues to do so and laughs about causing the deaths of those he disagrees with. At this point, his motives don't matter. What matters, is that he has a national platform, a lot of followers, the support of the Republican Party, and a society with a lot of deeply disturbed people looking for directions.

Stop and think about this for a moment. He laughs about the possibility of Speaker Pelosi dying, and of his causing her death. He laughs at the thought of the President dying. He laughs at the thought of revolution. What does revolution mean? It means death, war in the street, people dying. He assumes that his followers are just like him. That they believe as he does. He opens his show and tells his viewers to "be sure to DVR this." And they do. What else will they do?

Sarah Palin is on her book tour this week. Over the weekend the AP fact checked her book and found numerous instances of out and out lies, which she referred to on her Facebook page as "opposition research." What is that? On Oprah, she accused "Obama's people" of coming to Alaska after the election and doing "opposition research" and claimed it as one of the reasons for her resignation from the governorship. Why would he? Why would he care? And again, what is "opposition research?"

On Keith Olbermann's show last night, he had great fun showing video clip after video clip side by side of lies told. One thing said a year ago and reported differently in the book. Most of them so trivial it was dumb to lie about it. Rachel Maddow had AnaMarie Cox on her show to discuss Sarah Palin's treatment of Steve Schmidt and Nicole Wallace (McCain campaign staff) in the book. Again, out and out lies easily verified through emails, video, and statements from others who had been present during the events spoken of.

But remember, in the Palinverse, just like the Beckverse, and in the world of those who are unable to cope with their own problems so project them onto others, everyone lies, so they do. All of their problems are caused by factors outside their control - in this case, President Obama - so they blame him. Sarah Palin lost the election (funny, I thought McCain did), so therefore it was the fault of everyone who worked on the campaign. The facts weren't quite interesting enough in the book, so re-write the scenes and make them fit the Palinverse. Have the truth come out? Oh well. Everyone lies. So what. That's what life is like in the Palinverse and how she wants to recreate our country.

Why should we care? Because there are many, many people in this country who are angry, scared, confused, filled with rage, hurting, and deeply disturbed. There are many, many people who have lost their jobs, their homes, their health care, and thus their medications. People who have trouble coping and who have perhaps begun to (or continued to) self-medicate themselves as a way to cope. People who watch Fox News and grasp onto anything they can as an external locus of control, any way possible to blame someone else. Glenn Beck does it. Sarah Palin does it. Rush Limbaugh, the head of the Republican Party does it. Our legislative leadership stands back and allows it and in fact, appears with them and tacitly supports them. So we are sending the message to these people that violence is the answer. We are sending the message to people who are deeply angry and deeply disturbed that violence is okay.That these powerful, important people would like for the powerful, important Democrats to be dead.

President Obama receives on average 30 death threats per day. This is a 400% increase from the average 3,000 per year that President George W. Bush received.

The people that Sarah Palin speak to, that she is trying to attract, are the people who carry guns to presidential events. When asked by Oprah what her plans were for a presidential run in 2012 were, she responded with something her father had said, "She didn't quit, she just stopped to reload." Shortly afterward, a woman called into a newspaper in Michigan and threatened "to do what they did at Fort Hood" because she didn't like an anti-tea party editorial. Carrie Prejean runs around crying about her free speech supported by Beck and Palin, and their supporters threaten the free speech of others?

AnaMarie Cox suggested last night that with this book, any political aspirations that Sarah Palin might have are over. Other political pundits disagree, saying that with a Republican party membership at about 20%, and a primary field so large, it is very possible that Sarah Palin could win the nomination. She really doesn't need that many votes to actually win the Republican primaries. Many Democrats say yay, no way could she win against Obama. But look at the progressive and Democratic anger against Obama. Are we sure? She may be a liar and a joke, but even the Joker was dangerous.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

* DSM-IV criteria include as a condition for a diagnosis, an impairment in the ability to function in one or more of life's major activities, except one, dysthymia, which is characterized as a low-grade, chronic depression, sort of like always having the blues, but not enough to really interfere with your day to day life. So in effect, a legitimate DSM-IV diagnosis, treatable, but does not require the criteria of functional impairment.


  1. Excellent Kyra - THANK YOU.

  2. Kyra,

    Very interesting post. I was attracted over here from your response to one of my comments on Palingates. And no, I am nearly positive you are not the person who remark I was referencing. That person was an anon and seemed to be wanting to disrupt any discussion of Palin's behaviors that might be part of a mental illness/personality disorder. Their goal seemed to be to shut down discussion. Your comments, on the other hand, were helpful and interesting :-)

    My husband studied psychology and has talked about false consensus. We are both aware of people with an external locus of control - why does it seem like nearly every person I have had serious issues with in my life, for instance at work or in business, seemed to have an external locus of control? People who could be completely amazing in how they never took responsibility for anything. This is SUCH a dominant tendency in Sarah Palin - I can't remember a single time she has seemed to sincerely take blame for a mistake. Of course George W Bush was the same. I think he finally managed to find one thing he regretted doing as president only after many years.

    Palin does seem to fold under pressure quite often. I think that here problems are severe enough that they have caused some of her "quitting" episodes, as well as explaining debate and public appearances that she has either been a no show for, or cancelled at the last minute.

    I am very worried about the safety of President Obama. If only more people would take the risk seriously. But I truly don't know how to push back against the millions who believe Fox News is right, and "Acorn and Obama" are the cause of all their ills. The other day I recommended those that support President Obama get out their Obama T-shirts and start wearing them again. Other people who are not Democrats but don't like the divisiveness can speak up when they hear people saying things that sound dangerous or hateful. At least don't let silence be assent. But beyond that, I don't know. It seems important to try to do *something*, though, which is why I thought it would be good to at least show people in the scary group that they really are not the majority they think they are...

    Oh, and Glenn Beck is very close to my age and was raised in the same part of the country that I was. This area was extremely white back then. There was a separatist militia movement brewing that really caught fire in the early 90s. So when Glenn Beck made his infamous statement about President Obama supposedly having a deep seated hate of "white culture", I really wondered where Glenn thought he was getting his expertise about this topic? I fail to see where he got his extensive knowledge of race relations so that he could see into President Obama's mind and heart?

    I am sure you know Beck was a partier in his younger days, eventually developing serious drug and alcohol problems, only later "sobering up", and transforming himself into Mr. 9/12.

  3. I actually lived in Mt. Vernon for a couple of years in the early 80's and grew up on the wet side so am very familiar with his environment. I did a post awhile back about Beck and projection after he had a psychiatrist on to talk about coping which was a total farce. The psychiatrist was trying to use the addiction treatment model as the explanation for everything. I think Beck may well be a dry drunk, but don't know for sure. Bush is and it impacted his leadership.

  4. Wow, small world. So you know what I am talking about as far as the environment.

    Beck went to my high school. He was involved in drama and choir. I took drama (not same year, but close), and guess what prop we used all the time in that class? One of those rolling blackboards like he uses on his show... We would draw or write on the blackboard as part of the various skits and acts we were assigned in class. I find that very interesting. After all, you hardly ever see that kind of blackboard any more, and yet for some reason Beck uses one of those blackboards as one of the main props on his show.

    The drama class experience was after Beck moved to Bellingham to live with his father, after his mother died in that drowning accident. Or was it suicide? Apparently all of a sudden, years after the incident, he began calling her death a suicide rather than an accidental drowning. She died after going out in a small boat with one other person. Two people died in the incident and apparently there was no indication of foul play but also no way to reconstruct with certainty what happened because there were no witnesses as to how both people ended up in the water.

    Beck also claims to have gotten interested in broadcasting and drama when his mother gave him a tape of old radio classics.

    With all his theatrics that he pulls on his show, as well as using that blackboard that dates back to his experiences in the years right after his mother died, it just makes me wonder, because this had to have been a very difficult time in his life. I agree, he might well be a dry drunk. But this thing with the dramatics, the use of the blackboard, and the accidental vs. suicide death of his mother, just makes me wonder about some kind of reaction to that loss that he is still reliving to this day.

  5. You cannot say that because someone had a traumatic event during their childhood or adolescence that it will effect their adulthood negatively. Everyone makes their own choices and deals with things differently. We all know too many people who have lived through horrendous childhoods and did very well. I am biased, however and think we all benefit from counseling at some point or another :-)

    With Beck though, anyone who has faced the loss of a parent while a teen, especially under those circumstances, with a history of substance abuse, had some issues. I believe he has issues now and I see a lot of rage in his current behavior. You do not smile and wish for the deaths of others without some serious problems.

    Does the past explain it? Possibly, maybe even probably. I don't know how he stopped the substance abuse, whether or not he had counseling or drug treatment or both or neither and they all would factor in to how he approaches things today. I do know that after hundreds of substance abuse clients, not one of them had a happy, well-adjusted home life.

  6. Very interesting about home life of the substance abuse clients, and sad. Different people do react differently to traumatic events. I know several people who have experienced terrible trauma and yet they still seem to cope well and enjoy life. It never ceases to amaze me how some people manage to come through horrendous experiences and at least outwardly seem to be doing well. And of course some others do not do nearly as well.

    I think you are right about the rage in Beck. I still feel very uncomfortable whenever I see or think about the show that Beck did when he demanded a woman with a Nancy Pelosi mask over her face drink wine, and then laughed that it had poison in it.

    Thank you for the replies! I am glad I found your blog, and plan to check out some of your other posts.

  7. A final comment on this. Statistically, only a small percentage of abusers grow up to abuse, but almost every abuser was abused. When someone starts abusing drugs and alcohol, their emotional development stops. Consider the age most kids start using drugs.

    In treatment, I try to teach clients to deal with all the feelings that until then, they have not felt. Intense emotion is always felt as anger if you don't know what else to do with it (pain, fear). After sometimes years of substance abuse, here is someone having to cope with years of feelings that they cannot even name, much less deal with. And with the emotional development of a 13 year old. That's why how someone stopped using can be important.