Since September 11, 2001, we have gathered more information about
and gained a better understanding of violent jihadist leaders and
followers, and suicide bombers. Can we now begin a similar process
of uncovering some of the cultural dynamics and personality types
behind American protests against the Iraq War? As a point of
departure for study of this new anti-war movement, I will suggest
that there are narcissistic personalities manipulating the First
Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly to
inflate their perceived greatness of self.
The new protestors
could be categorized as political narcissists, or
narcissistic reactors, or narcissistic authoritarians.
They include elected officials, celebrities, religious leaders,
professors, students, and citizen activists. They are primarily
narcissists who have reacted psychopathologically to the Iraq War
(and fundamentally to 9/11), and who express this reaction through
protest marches and speeches.
Let's devise a
working definition of narcissism for our purpose today. People
with narcissistic characteristics have a grandiose perception of
self and believe they are very special people. Not surprisingly,
they are not capable of empathy for others or discussion of ideas.
They have an emotional appetite for admiration and they seek
people who will satisfy this desire without question or challenge.
They are jealous and contemptuous of anyone with real achievements.
Narcissists are more
complicated than typical self-centered people who want attention
or to get their own way. They are also different from people who
have the so-called big ego--that is, people who boast and who like
flattery. Perhaps the key distinguishing feature of narcissists
is their sense of entitlement to recognition, rewards, or gifts
for doing little or nothing; or for doing what they are supposed
to do, anyway.
they have (or originally had) of the Iraq War--whether it was
necessary, whether there were major military strategical errors,
whether a fully functioning democracy should have been established
by now--the utter effort required to overcome terrorism must in
itself be devastating to the narcissistic sense of grandiosity.
The empty narcissist would rather blame America, a convenient yet
dramatic method of coping, than to face the reality that
terrorists hate them and are patiently and ruthlessly determined
to kill them. Political narcissists do not feel they are victims
of violent jihadist bloodthirst, but of American policy.
narcissists do not tolerate discussion or criticism. The new
anti-war movement has prompted a new authoritarianism: myself.
If you question, challenge, or try to reason with political
narcissists, their response might be a form of projection such as:
Don't tell me what I should think. Of course, the
narcissists are the ones attempting to subordinate others to
their sense of self-importance. Narcissistic reactors cannot
participate as equals among peers. The narcissistic self must be
the focus of attention and command an admiring audience.
It seems sacrosanct
nowadays to doubt anybody's patriotism. Although narcissists may
include patriotism among their self-perceived great qualities, the
new patriotism is really a no-fault assertion. The Iraq War is
not my fault. The American government provoked 9/11. The world
owes me something!
There is a false
impression that the American government accuses citizens of being
unpatriotic if they criticize the Iraq War. Again, this is a
twisting of reality. The real message of political narcissists
is: I can say whatever I want because I'm me and you're
nobody. I have the right to say whatever I want even if it stirs
anti-American sentiments around the world. Perhaps some
narcissists are indeed patriotic, but the sheer impact of their
personality can nevertheless cause distortion of information and
political division. This is because they do not criticize the
Iraq War along avenues of facts and ideas, but from rage.
The First Amendment
right of freedom of speech is abused by political narcissists to
bolster self-glorification. I'm important and you should
listen to me and not interrupt me. To expect limitations on
topics appropriate for public speaking, or civil standards of
acceptable self-expression, is to offend the narcissist's sense of
uniqueness. I'm special. I'm the exception. I don't have to
follow the rules.
The First Amendment
right of freedom of assembly is likewise abused to expand
opportunities for T.V., radio, and blogosphere attention. Look
at me. Admire me. Give me the fame I deserve. To expect
self-restraint or decorum is to insult the narcissist's sense of
entitlement to absolute recognition of self.
Thus far I have
looked at political narcissism and the new anti-war movement,
the features of projection and rage, and the abuse of First
Amendment rights to obtain validation of grandiosity. Next,
I will contrast the new anti-war movement to the Vietnam War
protest marches and the Civil Rights movement.
(Written 04/16/07: bibliography available.)
Until we meet