Projections of the Powerful
Oppressing White People: No. But the Right sure likes oppressing non-white people.
From Sable Aradia
I am beginning to see a pattern in the ways of the New Right. I am sure I’m not alone. They level some wild accusation towards the Left. “They want to put all men in concentration camps.” “They want to oppress white people.” “They want to limit free speech.” “They’re operating a child sex ring out of a pizza parlour.”
The Left snorts at the ridiculousness of the accusation. What preposterous ideas! Obviously nobody wants to do that …
… and then it comes out that whatever the Left has recently been accused of, the Right is actively doing.
Let me break down some examples.
“I Know You Are, but What Am I?”
Putting All Men in Concentration Camps: Well, no. But the Trump administration has been putting immigrants and Latinos in concentration camps, haven’t they? The border scandal is an international disgrace.
Oppressing White People: No. But the Right sure likes oppressing non-white people. Police have been shooting people driving, walking, shopping, in public parks, in their grandmothers’ backyards, and in their own homes for the crime of being black. And not one of these cops has been brought to justice.
Limiting Free Speech: Apparently they object when white supremacists are asked not to speak at universities that disagree with their “ideas.” But gods forbid you should want to make queer kids’ books accessible in your public library.
Creating a Totalitarian State: A totalitarian state is when one person has the power to do whatever they want. And they’re sure trying to push the idea that an elected President is above the rule of law, aren’t they?
Forcing People to Use Pronouns They Don’t Approve Of: Um … aren’t the Right the ones who are fighting to deny people access to changing their pronouns, or opting for something non-binary? Jordan Peterson has made his career on that. Who’s forcing whom to do what again?
Forcing People to Believe What They Believe: The American Right Wing consistently has taken a stand that they are a “Christian nation” and everyone should adhere to Christian values, so ….
Manipulating the Vote: Some Republican senators have gerrymandered so many voting districts that they were actually ordered to fix one of the more flagrant examples by the U.S. Supreme Court. Twice. The GOP have continuously used gerrymandering, deliberately restrictive voter ID laws that are punitive against groups that traditionally oppose them, and dark campaign finance money, continue to manipulate voting conditions in their favour, as this exposé from Rolling Stone demonstrates.
Bringing Down the Government: Libertarians and those influenced by Ayn Rand’s philosophy are the ones currently looking to derail government agencies. Prime Minister Harper appointed a bunch of his cronies to the board of the CBC right before he lost the last Canadian election — and you can tell. The repair job is going to take years. The Trump administration appointed a person who bases her business on pushing private education as the head of the public education ministry, and a person who actively fights environmental regulations as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. This looks a lot like deliberate sabotage to me.
Operating a Child Sex Ring: I thought for sure this had to be Alex Jones tabloid material. But apparently, a dozen immigrant children were placed with traffickers in the absence of background checks on their sponsors, and with anywhere from 1500 to 6000 children still missing, one wonders how much more of this will come out?
Makes you wonder if some New Right group is trading in baby parts somewhere …
Projection is a term used in clinical psychology to describe how people tend to visualize that their own biggest sins, and deepest fears, are being engaged in by other people, especially people they don’t feel comfortable around. They “deny their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.” Examples include victim blaming, projection of guilt, and bullying.
It seems to me that the New Right is motivated by this phenomenon, which is a method of ego-protection. Because they are feeling threatened, they see bogeymen in every dark, female, or non-binary face, and hear threats in the reasoning of any progressive intellectual. It’s pathological, unjust, and dangerous.
And it’s nothing new. People in any unbalanced power dynamic — parent/child, boss/employee, ruler/ruled — have been doing it as long as civilization has existed. The Babylonian Talmud (500 BCE) notes the human tendency toward projection and warns against it: “Do not taunt your neighbour with the blemish you yourself have.” Or as the Christian Bible said, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Projection as Propaganda
It’s also right out of the fascist political playbook. A 2001 paper examines the use of projection as a tactic of Nazi political manipulation, and points out that it is not strictly used by Nazis. And it often is somewhat successful. It certainly muddies the waters.
Hitler himself wrote in Mein Kampf about the Big Lie theory. He believed that if you lied as preposterously as possible, and kept repeating it, eventually people would believe it, on the grounds that no one could make up something that crazy. He also counseled that one should never admit to wrongdoing, blame one’s enemy for everything that goes wrong, and never turn down an opportunity to create “a political whirlwind.” And he justified his use of this technique with his opinion that it was used by Jews to blame Germany’s loss in World War I on German general Erich Ludendorff, who was a prominent nationalist and antisemitic political leader in the Weimar Republic.
Projection at its most classic. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
What to Do About it
I don’t really have any clear answers here. I find that direct and aggressive confrontation of people spouting the propaganda lies, with links that disprove their claims, is effective in dealing with particular situations. But it’s nerve-wracking and it’s something not everyone is equipped to do. Some of us are not in a position of health or safety to allow us to do that. Of course you should protect yourself first.
I find that just saying, “No, that’s not how it is,” is not effective because it’s almost impossible to prove a negative. But I do find that as soon as one of these preposterous claims appears, it’s worth my time to ask myself, “What is the New Right trying to deflect attention from now?”
History usually reveals the truth, but that may not help people caught in the situation right now. History has come down hard in favour of the Jewish people in the Holocaust, but that didn’t save six million of them.
So my counsel is to support one another. Stand up in protest whenever you see one of these ridiculous claims peddled. If possible, mock the accusers mercilessly until they realize you are not an easy mark. Do not allow them to manipulate you through your ego: let their judgments of your intelligence and your open-mindedness slide off you like water off a duck’s back. That can be really hard to do, but another page in their playbook advises them to do this in order to get you to back down through real or perceived social pressure. Don’t do it. And if the confrontation occurs in social media, report and block whenever you have the option of doing so.
I’m a Pagan and speculative fiction author, a professional blogger, and a musician. I’m proudly Canadian and proudly LGBTQ. My politics are decidedly left and if you ask for my opinion, expect an honest answer. I owned a dog, whom I still miss very much, and am still owned by a cat. I used to work part time at a bookstore and I love to read, especially about faith, philosophy, science, and sci-fi and fantasy.