Today's Topic



Political Narcissists,
Part I

Part II
Part III

Natalia J. Garland

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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.

Whatever opinion 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.

Political 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 again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2007 Natalia J. Garland