Political Intemperance and “Malignant Narcissism”


Today Dr. Sanity explains different political traits and dispositions through the lens of “necessary (healthy) narcissism” vs. various manifestations of “malignant narcissism.” Among other things she notes this:


Each side sees the other as the extreme expression of the opposite pole of the self, thus leading to the polarizing stereotypes that left and right political sides attack each other with. The extreme left (idealized other) sees all members of the right as sociopaths out to get whatever they can from the world at the expense of others; while the right sees all members of the left as the collective mob whose goal is to erase individuality and freedom. But the truth is that at the extreme left AND the extreme right there is a striking convergence of malignancy, grandiosity and totalitarianism.


One doesn’t have to look far to find evidence of the intemperance this has wrought in our political culture. Here’s one today from a leftie blog:


“There was never any doubt the Republicans would play dirty when they needed to, but I’m sorry to say they have surpassed even their own depraved standards of conduct . . .”


And also today from a rightie blog:


“ . . . what seems to be the standard for the Democrat party – if they don’t have a good message, they lie.”


Now I don’t really think that the authors of these blogs are “malignantly narcissistic.” They didn’t invent this style of political discourse, and unless one’s consciousness has been raised one tends to view it as the norm and just do it out of habit.


Neither side does themselves any favors by using this style, however. I remember back in the 1990s most Michigan GOP attack ads couldn’t get past the first sentence without accusing the opposing candidate of being “too liberal,” and Dem ads did the same with the words “too extreme.” I said to colleagues then that the instant most people heard either word in an ad they tuned out to such an extent that the sound might as well have been turned off and the words “nothing to see here – just the usual yadda yadda” started scrolling across the screen. There may be different buzzwords today but the effect is the same.


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