21 Sep 2006

Psychoanalysis Diagnoses Defensive Denial

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ShrinkWrapped puts Slick Willie and the AP on the couch.

One particular, and very clever, defensive maneuver is the veiled negation of the minor error. Often enough, a correct interpretation is undone by a minor factual error, which the patient then can us to negate the entire interpretation, even while appearing to give it careful consideration…

We see this tendency to change the subject to avoid unacceptable thoughts and feelings in much of our public discourse.

For example, the current dispute over the treatment of detainees is a classic example of such misdirection. Bill Clinton was interviewed by NPR this morning. He said that we should not codify the use of torture and that we need to agree that it isn’t right to smack around and torture detainees, some of whom are innocent. In fact, Bill Clinton, often recognized as one of the smartest men to inhabit the White House in recent years, knows quite well that no one in the current Administration is suggesting we routinely torture detainees. The question is how we define torture, not whether we should torture. Is loud music torture? Cold temperatures? A Belly slap? Our interrogators have the right to know what behavior puts them at risk for being sued by the ACLU.

Another example, perhaps more problematic, is currently playing itself out in the blogosphere. Michelle Malkin, among many others, has been following the story of an AP photographer who has been held by coalition forces in Iraq since May, when he was picked up at breakfast with an “al Qaeda in Iraq” leader and another “Insurgent” leader (as per the report by Judy Swallow at the BBC this morning.) Michelle received a note from the AP today disputing her characterization of Bilal Hussein…

..the use of a minor factual error to deny and avoid the implications of Michelle’s column suggests a need for the AP to remain unaware of the effects of their inadvertent complicity.

Three things that can be brought from Psychoanalysis to the situation:

1) When there is a denied, unconscious motivation for behavior, the hidden impulse will continue to press for expression. If the AP (or any MSM outlet) has a need to facilitate enemy propaganda, this will be more and more apparent as time goes on and as attention is paid to those occasions when the impulse breaks through in unmistakable ways. Rathergate and Pallywood are the rules, not the exceptions.

2) When patients use such transparent maneuvers, it is because more effective defenses are no longer working… Once brought into the open, it becomes available for therapeutic work and is a precondition for him changing his behavior. The AP’s transparent and ineffective defense suggests they are having difficulty maintaining their denial and minimization.

3) If Michelle, et al, can avoid polemics, and avoid engaging in arguments over the minor error, it will allow the facts to speak for themselves. This will deny the AP the opportunity to use an argument over minutia to deflect attention away from the most important questions. In this specific case, maintaining the focus on Bilal Hussein and the AP’s overt behavior is the best approach to getting at the facts.

Hat tip to Seneca the Younger.

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