Liberalism 101c: Displaced Fear, Displaced Anger

By | August 19, 2019 | 0 Comments

People talk as if politics and psychology were separate topics. They aren’t. People imagine that fear and anger are always directed at the proper targets. They aren’t. We see a glaring example of these facts today, when some people direct their fear and anger at Republicans, rather than at terrorists and foreign tyrants.

Clearly, politics plays a role. Some Democrats would dispute a Republican if he declared that the sun rises in the east. Some Europeans wouldn’t support America if we announced our opposition to herpes. But beyond politics, and beneath politics, is psychology.

Many people spend time in therapy, trying to find out the real source of their fear or anger. They want to stop being afraid of heights or crowds, and discover the real origin of their fear. They want to stop “blowing up” at family and friends, and find out at whom or at what they are really angry.

Sometimes the problem dates from childhood. Abused children often come to the attention of a teacher because they “act out” in class, expressing seemingly irrational fear or anger. Or the problem may begin later. Abused women sometimes take out their anger on their children, because they’re afraid to express it at their abusive boyfriends.

What I am referring to here are not the psychological aspects of this problem, but its political implications. I believe it is a common human trait to displace fear or anger from its real source onto a more convenient target.

Take 9/11. Out of a clear blue sky (literally), airliners filled with people crashed into office buildings, murdering almost 3000 on live TV. Soon we discovered that 19 suicidal fanatics carried out this atrocity, based on their hatred of Americans. That was frightening.

Meanwhile, crowds in the Middle East danced in the streets to show their joy at our suffering. Not only were some people willing to die to murder us, but also many thousands − perhaps millions − were overjoyed at the sight. That was even more frightening.

What could we do to reduce our fear? Logic dictated that we take steps to prevent a recurrence of the attacks, while identifying and eliminating those who planned them. To varying degrees, we did this.

But logic controls only a part of human behavior − often a small part. What else could people do to reduce their fear that obscure, hard-to-find groups were planning new atrocities? What else could people do to vent their anger at hard-to-reach enemies?

Fear and anger are powerful and unpleasant emotions. If we have difficulty reducing our fear by taking preventive measures, and trouble venting our anger at those who deserve it, what then?

We can displace the fear and anger from where it belongs to where it doesn’t.

We can reduce our fear by pretending that some nearby, more familiar group was behind the attacks − the Jews, the globalists, or even our own government. In the last case, in effect we attacked ourselves, so there is less to fear.

We can allay our anxiety by deluding ourselves that it wasn’t religious fanaticism that caused 9/11, but a motive more familiar to us − money. We can claim, “It was all about oil.” Do you know 19 people who would kill themselves for oil? Do you know one?

If we are leftists or other materialists with no regard for religion, it’s reassuring to think that our attackers are just like us, concerned only with material things. Then we can buy off our enemies with foreign aid. Yes, giving them money will make them love us.

If identifiable people attacked us for a familiar motive, we feel less threatened. And we can make ourselves feel even more at ease by venting our anger at convenient targets. It’s a lot safer that way.

“Liberal” thinking went this way:

We need not support President Bush in his efforts to root out the 9/11 plotters in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We need not support his efforts to bring freedom to Iraq, and remove a homicidal megalomaniac who used poison gas on Iran and on his own people, who produced biological weapons, and who tried to obtain nuclear weapons. Oh no, taking on such dangerous foes might cause us anxiety.

Instead, we can vent our anger at Bush − a much safer target. He won’t crash airliners into our office buildings. He won’t release nerve gas or biologic weapons. Even the most rabid anti-government crackpots don’t fear such events. If they truly believed their conspiracy theories, they wouldn’t dare voice them, for fear of vanishing into some American gulag.

Let’s just let off steam and feel self-important by criticizing Bush − from the comfort of our easy chairs. Let’s feel self-righteous by expressing solidarity with terrorist murderers. After all, if they hate us, it must be our fault. That is, if they hate America, it must be conservatives’ fault.

It’s revealing that left-wing film stars and academics, and right-wing fanatics like neo-Nazis, both did exactly that. They disagree on some things, but extremes of Left and Right are united in their contempt for America, and in their empathy for its enemies − no matter how loathsome those enemies may be.

Leftist professors and actors expressed sympathy for Saddam’s regime of mass murder and torture − because it was also anti-American. But they harshly condemn pro-American regimes that have much milder records of violating human rights. So long as you’re anti-American, the Left forgives you anything. Just look at how the Left praised Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and even Ahmadinejad.

Meanwhile, leftists reduce their anxiety by denying that external, hard-to-locate enemies have vowed to destroy us because of our religion and our democratic values. Leftists have little regard for either religion or democratic values, so they can’t understand why anyone would be willing to kill or die to destroy them. What’s more, leftists can’t understand why anyone would be willing to fight or die to defend our religion or our democratic values.

Instead, leftists displace their fear and anger from America’s mortal enemies onto their political opponents. Instead of fearing nuclear weapons in the hands of Iranian fanatics, they announce that critics of President Obama should be “drug tested.” They declare that those who oppose same-sex marriage are “wrestling with their own demons” and use the “twisted logic of bigotry.”

In short, anyone who disagrees with them is a twisted bigot who is probably a drug addict and may be demonic. This hateful rhetoric has nothing in common with the liberalism of Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy. It sounds more like the ranting of would-be totalitarians − who want to silence their political opponents.

Fear and anger are unpleasant. But they are also useful. Fear alerts us to a threat, and anger helps us deal with the threat. Displacing fear and anger onto more convenient, less threatening targets may make us feel better temporarily. But if we allow our real enemies to become stronger, we may suffer even more frightening and infuriating attacks. And then it may be too late.

There is a childish naiveté, a stubborn unwillingness to perceive and confront evil, that afflicts much of liberal politics. Liberals confront neither violent criminals at home nor aggressive dictators abroad. Naiveté is charming in a child. It’s inappropriate, embarrassing, and potentially dangerous in an adult.

Hiding under the blankets, closing our eyes, and hugging our toy doggies won’t protect us from monsters. For real protection, we need real watchdogs − who require love, care, and expensive upkeep. Adults know this, and go to the trouble and expense of maintaining adequate armed services and police. Children in adult bodies continue to hug their toy doggies, stuffed with liberal illusions and pacifist platitudes.

These childish adults can’t, or won’t, identify the real sources of their fear and anger. That would be too scary. Instead, they vent their rage at conservatives, whom they mistake for daddy − a much closer and much safer target.

A Los Angeles Times headline proclaimed, “More People in Prison Despite Drop in Crime.” Despite? Conservatives see the obvious − criminals who are locked up can’t commit crimes.

But liberals see no causal relation between higher incarceration rates and lower crime rates. They see nasty, mean conservatives who insist on locking up more people despite the lower crime rate − which dropped for unknown reasons. They displace their fear and anger at criminals onto those who fight criminals.

That pretty well sums things up.

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