The Assistant Village Idiot Changes His Mind About Why Leftists Say What They Say.
Update on board below.
Second update - a non-political one - on board below that.
There is a concept used in psychology called "free-floating anxiety." It describes an anxiety which does not derive from obvious external circumstances, but attaches itself to whatever is handy in the environment which might be thought to provoke it. The anxiety is already there, but the sufferer misattributes it to her job, or her relationships, or aspects of her health. As any of these things could drive anxiety, they are seen as driving this particular anxiety.
We don't use the terms "free-floating depression," or "free-floating paranoia," but something much the same happens with these as well. The mind seeks explanations, seeks a narrative which accounts for bad feelings. Come to think of it, the mind seeks explanation for good feelings as well. Early in a first psychotic break, the patient will often recognize that his paranoia doesn't make sense. "I know it sounds crazy to you but..." or "There's no reason why people should be spying on me..." Soon enough, the paranoid explanation becomes imbedded, and the patient no longer has access to the reasonable part of the brain which knows it's impossible. There's a chip implanted in my brain. No, there really is. The FBI had it put in because I know something about drug deals in my neighborhood.
The need for a coherent narrative seems to be stronger than the need to hold onto reality. People believe that the television is giving them special messages, even though they were previously not the sort who would adopt unusual ideas. The impression that the TV is speaking to them is so strong that finding an explanation for this becomes the brain's primary objective. It is not enough to say to oneself "That is an hallucination. It's not really happening." Because it is happening.
I've seen first paranoias change over the years. In the 70's, people in their first break would believe it was the CIA; when the Godfather movies came out it was the Mafia; satellites, computers, and now implanted chips have all had their run. Whatever is in the air becomes the explanation. High school students who are angry can always find something about their school or their parents that must be causing it.
The point to remember is that once anxiety, or depression, or paranoia is occurring, the mind will seek an explanation for it, and will not rest until it has done so. Once imbedded, it is no longer responsive to reason. No amount of counter-evidence will ever be enough. Any radically new information will simply be grafted into the old explanation somehow. If your brother was spying on you and your brother dies, then you will believe that some other family member has taken over the job.
In the 1994 elections, the Republican victory was attributed to "angry white males." They (uh, we) were supposedly insecure because of changing masculine roles, or affirmative action robbing us of status, or whatever, but we weren't aware of it conciously, so we redirected that anger onto the political arena and voted to restore our ancient glory because the Republicans had so skillfully manipulated these feelings in us. Agree with it or not, if you get that concept then you get this one: the Left has free-floating outrage. They're angry and they don't know why, so they attach it to whatever George Bush (and his cabal, cronies, henchmen, thugs, junta, etc) does. The data no longer makes any difference. There were enormous complaints then about the economy, and that's why they hated Bush. The economy has been going brilliantly now for years, but they no longer notice. Environmentalists complained about conservative's attitudes. We are now ahead of the Kyoto Protocol goals even though we didn't sign it, and the Europeans lag. The air and water keep getting cleaner, alternative energy is increasingly used, and there's more wilderness, but that's irrelevant. Bush hates the environment, he's evil.
Joe Wilson's a liar? No, he's a hero. Chemical weapons are found? No, can't be.
Until quite recently, I thought the lefties must just be lying. The economic news crossed the AP wire, why was it on page 14? Investigative panels absolve the accused but the accusations persist. Reporters must know that when your only document is a hoax/forgery, then you have no case, so why is the TANG story still extant? I concluded they must be lying. They know the unemployment numbers but conceal them because it hurts their cause.
I have at least partly changed my mind on this. While some on the left and in the MSM may be lying, I now think most have free-floating outrage instead. They are unhappy about "where this country is going," so they pick up something close to hand that's vaguely related and attribute it to that. Conservatives often call it a template but it's stronger than that. It is the narrative by which they live and have value that is collapsing. We all tend to hear what we like and allow the uncomfortable to recede, but this has moved to the point of the bizarre. The left is not merely cherry-picking data to make a point, but completely ignoring an entire side of the balance sheet.
This is because if they had to attend to the other side of the balance sheet, and engage in a discussion about whether Bush has simply overstepped Constitutional authority, then they would have no explanation for their outrage. If they can't blame it on Bush, they will have to examine it and see where it comes from. It would be a reasonable discussion to ponder whether there was more this administration could have done diplomatically to build a coalition for Iraq, but that discussion doesn't occur, because even winning the argument would not give sufficient cause for liberal rage. It has to be that we were unilateral, that we alienated our allies, that we were imperialists who fought for oil, that we have made the world less safe. If those things were true, they would be sufficient reason for outrage. I am outraged, therefore those things must be true.
There are a lot of subterranean reasons why liberals don't like where the culture is going, but cannot admit to themselves. I will tell you one, from personal experience. See if you can extend it out to a fuller explanation.
Social workers resent hearing about people in other, unworthy professions, who make more money than they do. "I have a friggin' Master's and I barely make $40,000/year, while (fill in the blank) barely got out of highschool and is making twice that."
Update: Gagdad Bob over at One Cosmos posts at length on a related topic.
Second Update: This morning's readmission was particularly interesting in this light. I knew Tim twenty years ago on his first admissions. A personable, intelligent young man with quite voice and refined features. Over his last few admissions for unsafe hoarding (bags of food, which he retrieves from the dumpster as soon as his MIMS worker leaves), he has shown more isolation and less affect. He showed a great deal of affect this morning.
We very frequently encounter patients who do not believe they have an illness, or that they do not need medications. Less frequently, our clients might believe that they are not actually being evicted when they are, or that the people who claim to be their family are imposters. Todays denial, delievered with real anger, was new to me. "The Mental Health Center is closed. It's gone out of business. They're going to make it into apartments. I don't have to go there." From there he took it a step farther. "I never did go there. I don't think it ever did exist." That's denial at impressive levels.