« Brokaw claims Ayers is now a mere "school reformer" | Main | Ayers to kids: "Kill your parents!" Ayers to courts:"Don't hold teen murderers responsible!" »

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dealing with Palin haters

So many distractions yesterday that I got behind in cross-posting here. One of my new guest-posts at HughHewitt.com is a riff on Palin Derangement Syndrome, the successor to Bush Derangement Syndrome.


[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

My favorite forensic psychologist, Dr. Helen Smith (sometimes a/k/a the InstaWife), has an interesting post at PajamasMedia second-guessing the response of Salon.com's advice columnist to a reader who'd asked for help dealing with her extreme hatred of Sarah Palin and everything having to do with her. The reader, whose letter was published under the pseudonym of "Hater," asked for help because she's aware that she's obsessed:

... I have crossed every line I believed should never be crossed in public discourse — I have criticized not only [Sarah Palin's] policies and her record, but her hair, her personal style, her accent, her abilities as a mother, etc. I’ve also begun to suffer personally and professionally. I bore my friends with my constant tirades against her, and am constantly distracted from my work by my need to continually update myself on the latest criticism, and indeed, ridicule, of her.

The reader's first and outcome-determinative mistake, of course, was in asking for help from anyone at Salon.com — her plea being roughly akin to asking R.J. Reynolds or Phillip Morris for help in stopping smoking in the days when those companies were still pretending their products weren't addictive.

I'd guess that some statistically significant portion of Salon.com's spike in internet traffic in the last month is directly attributable to John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate — as, indeed, is the traffic to Townhall.com and this blog. That's part of what being a "game-changer" is all about — inspiring passions which in turn inspire action.

And Salon advice columnist Cary Tennis' fundamentally unserious response is confirmed by his final sentence: "This is my admittedly impressionistic take. Glenn Greenwald can talk about it much better than I can." When your internet advisor is sending you for a consult to someone who is himself the world's most famous example of multiple internet personality syndrome (a/k/a "sock-puppetry"), that's not a good sign. In fact, it's a pretty good clue (as is, in context, Mr. Tennis' entire response) that your advisor is himself suffering for the same malady you're writing him for advice to help you cope with.

Dr. Helen points out that "a decent response" from Mr. Tennis — and I think Dr. Helen means decent both in the sense of adequate, and in the sense of not being worthy of our scorn for its indecency — "might have been to give some advice on how to handle political exchanges with family members, friends, or others — but no such luck." Instead, Mr. Tennis made "excuses for 'Hater,' fans the flames of her hate, and tries to psychoanalyze [Gov.] Palin when he is way out of his league." After some interesting discussion of the origin and meaning of the phrase "authoritarian personality," Dr. Helen writes (link in original):

Perhaps Tennis would have given better advice if he had told “Hater” about the studies of University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who found that while conservatives could put themselves in the mindset of liberals, liberals did not return the favor. In other words, like Hater, some scream, rant, and rave when someone does not agree with them, with no understanding of why people are different. Perhaps a little empathy is in order here for Hater’s friends and family.

At the very least, Tennis could have told her to back off from friends and co-workers with her rants and angry tantrums. For her behavior is nothing but the regression to a two-year-old: throwing a tantrum because she has no idea that other people have different opinions than one’s own and that those opinions may be just as valid or more so. And yes, perhaps a self-help group would help Hater to reflect on her ugly behavior.

That's good advice, I think, but I don't think it's very likely to be well received.


It's no accident that we haven't had a president elected by acclamation since George Washington, and indeed, even by the end of his second term we had already begun to see intense polarization of the public for and against particular public figures. Adams, Hamilton, and Jefferson incited passions in their partisans — both positive and negative — at least as intense as those generated by Dubya and Al Gore or John Kerry.

I don't think very many people were consumed by irrational hated for Eisenhower or Ford or Bush-41, but certainly FDR, Nixon, LBJ, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton incited that among at least some segments of the population. And of course, irrational hatred of George W. Bush has its own acronym now — BDS, for Bush Derangement Syndrome, coined by psychiatrist and pundit Dr. Charles Krauthammer. I don't know if BDS willl be listed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and of course I lack any credentials on that subject, but as a member of a competing profession that sometimes deals in questions of sanity and disability, I certainly wonder whether it ought not be.

In my own daily life, I tend to divide my liberal friends into two rough categories based on their functionality: Those who merely despise George W. Bush, and those who despise him so intensely that they're incapable of holding a rational conversation about him. There are some people with whom I have learned, from bitter experience, to avoid discussing anything political — we can't even talk about Washington or Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt because there's just too much danger that those subjects will inadvertently trigger a grand mal BDS seizure that can, in turn, become fatal to a friendship if poorly managed.


The other colloquialism that's rampant in the blogosphere, at least, is a metaphor used to describe some people's inability to deal with political realities — one that may date back at least indirectly, at least for its imagery, to the 1981 movie Scanners: Sarah Palin, in this metaphorical usage, "makes liberals' heads explode." This is a gruesome but perversely funny metaphor precisely because it emphasizes how mentally incapacitating the reaction is: We don't say that the idea of Sarah Palin becoming president "makes liberals' hearts explode," even though that's the organ symbolically associated with strong emotions, and even though they're certainly having strong emotional responses too.

One's at risk for Palin Derangement Syndrome, I'd wager, in roughly direct proportion to how heavily one was already intellectually, philosophically, and emotionally invested in certain propositions — for example, that "all feminists must be for abortion on demand." If you think the name of the group "Feminists for Life" is an oxymoron, then your reaction to a popular, successful, effective, conservative female politician — one who's also a mother of five and whose youngest child is cherished (despite the Down syndrome detected while he was still in utero) — will be like what happens when one asks a pocket calculator to divide any number by zero: You get flashing nonsense digits until you reset it. Through what I'd characterize as a design flaw, their logical pathways aren't laid out in a manner which permits them to acknowledge that someone can be simultaneously in favor (and a dramatic example) of equal opportunities and accomplishments for women, right along with other values associated with the conservative philosophy.

My speculation is that Hater was writing Salon.com's advice column looking for help not in changing her wiring, but simply in finding her "reset button." It's tragically unlikely that Salon.com or its columnist Cary Tennis, or Dr. Helen, or I, or (especially) Gov. Palin herself will ever be able to help Hater re-program her wetware to the point that she can actually get her mind around Gov. Palin. Instead, like someone who's colorblind, the best that can be hoped for in her case is that she acquires practical tricks — some way to figure out when the traffic lights have changed, and some way to gracefully change the subject or escape the room when the subject of Sarah Palin comes up. Hater is a bigot, and my guess is that the prognosis is pretty grim for Hater to ever be cured.

But her daughters? I have hope for her daughters, and her sons too.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 12:40 PM in 2008 Election, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Dealing with Palin haters and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) Carol Herman made the following comment | Oct 7, 2008 6:19:28 PM | Permalink

Why are we here?

Is McCain without a PLAN B?

Isn't that why the bailout got through?

Do you really think it's going to sway voters,to see this spitting contest?

If spitting contests worked, wouldn't they be encorporated into closing arguments?

Of course, most lawyers get to face courses that teach "good closing arguments," meant to sway jurors.

And, oddly enough, in da' law ... the most respected lawyers are the high ticket, high priced, "suits" hired to get clients "off da' hook."

You'd think this would show up among those who earn their livings ... like James Carville, Paul Begala, and Karl Rove ... who earn their big bucks by winning elections.

Just rolling over the finish line with barely half the voters in tow ... What will that bring? 2000? You're proud of that?

Where's McCain's PLAN?

Where's Plan A, here? And, don't tell me it involves spitting!

(2) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Oct 8, 2008 1:55:43 PM | Permalink

Dear Ms. Herman: Plan A was that this was going to be a foreign policy election, i.e. about the conflict in Iraq and the struggle with Islamic extremism, with secondary focuses on energy security, and trade relations with China. It was a good plan, playing to McC's strengths. The weakness it had was the economy, which in the salad days of Plan A, looked threatening, but not likely to blow up completely.

The blowup happened, with the usual panic, and the equally usual magnification by the press following the Everything is the GOP's Fault, But The One Will Save Us, script by Michael Moore out of Jimmy Carter.

Well, how did McC meet this challenge? Not well enough so far. Nor can Palin give him special help on the economy. Her strengths are more on the social issues, which helps with the base, and only secondarily with the economy. The prospects look grim. I think McC and the GOP would be well pleased if God were to offer them "50%+1" on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. It isn't dominating, let alone elegant, but it sure beats the other choice: taxes rising as fast as the Dow falls, endless cups of tea for Ahmadidjanuts as he fires off nukes all over the countryside, the courts packed with zanies who lust to remake the world from the blueprints that have gathered dust so long in the Ivy League law schools, Bill Ayers as Sec of Education, teaching our kids that American racism is the sole reason for opposition to The One, and maybe you need some education, complete with singing and dancing for The One, hm?

That is the spectacle McC must save us from. But he is showing precious little shrewdness so far. His answers to the awful debate questions last night were better than Obama's, which is a low bar to clear. Considered by themselves, they were Demogoguery, Class II Division B. I'm sorry to say, his best chance seems to be a blowup in foreign affairs, not something anyone can wish for.

Mr. Dyer: I think there's some chance that Cary Tennis wrote the "Hater" letter himself, thus giving himself a Bush-bashing platform to dive off of. Your observations about Tennis otherwise are shrewd, but go farther: no one in the SALON hierarchy even noticed the shrieking dissonces in letter or response. It also shows how insular "Hater" is. Let Hater be immersed in a Palin environment and her hatred would collapse. It has been my experience with The One's supporters, here in Washington state, that they are fond of firing minatory cannonades about the evils of McC (or more often, that hag, Palin, say the good feminists) and then shut off discussion. That isn't strength searching for truth, with a willingness to admit the possibility of error. That's Manhattan, NPR, and Beverly Hills, bitterly clinging to their secular God and "social justice." God help us all.

Vote for the Grumpy Old Man.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

The comments to this entry are closed.