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August 31, 2007

Wingnuts Looking The Part — For A Change

Delay-Larry-Craig

Surely, you’re familiar with that power-tripping phrase: “Are you going to believe me, or your own eyes?”

This Administration has consistently avoided judgement by defying expected norms of reaction and standard emotional cause-and-effect.

… What that means is, if a guy does wrong and that wrong catches up to him, we are neurologically wired to expect a certain type of behavioral response.  That reaction — be it oral and tonal, or facial and gestural — could be anything within a familiar spectrum, ranging from contrition or shame on one end to defensiveness or defiance on the other.  The completely subversive thing about this Administration, however, is that, with as much damage as they’ve done, one would barely recognize it because the physical and emotional indicators the key players display bears so little sign of impertinence toward laws, ethics, and moral standards, or much hiccup, at all, at the level of personal conscience.

That’s why it’s such a relief to me to see Senator Craig in these mug shots.

Craig’s expression, playing out below or just short of the camera eye, appears to say “I’m not here.  … And because I don’t see you, I’m expecting (in my little bubble) you won’t see me.”  In the profile, his gaze appears downward.  Accordingly, we (as creatures each equipped with a set of emotional antennae) are trained to consider — through instinctive, psychological pattern recognition — a set vocabulary of corresponding emotions.  Likely in the expressive mix — and easier to recognize if you happened to listen to “Larry on tape” yesterday — are qualities of shame, denial and rationalization.

Extreme narcissists, like sociopaths, however, just don’t come with that kind of emotional programming.  So while the world, based on their direct actions, could be on its way down in flames, what you are likely to see, even if judgement day is closing in on them, is a completely incongruous disconnect between the actor, his actions and his reactions.

Unfortunately for the country, the fact that you can get a mug like the one DeLay provided for his perp portrait, or ones like this or these, in the face of blatant wrongdoing and rampant abuse of power, sends a psychological signal, at a deep cognitive level, that nothing seems so wrong.

(image 1: Harris County Sheriff’s Office/Handout/Reuters. October 20, 2005. Via YahooNews.  image 2: Metropolitan Airports Commission Police Department/Handout/Reuters)

  • http://www.thetimtimes.com Tim Fuller

    How to get a Republican Horny:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/timtimes/1277152453/
    Worksafe and totally hilarious.
    Enjoy.

  • Gahso

    Mr. Shaw, You seem to understand psychology to a great degree. I’d like to follow up on what you are saying. If a sociopath doesn’t show the proper emotional signals when they are caught and “judgement day is closing in on them”, do they have a burst of emotion at some point to ‘catch up’?
    My question relates mostly to W, who pretends to be Christian, but behaves like the Antichrist. I often try to imagine what he could possibly be ‘getting’ in exchange for such evil behavior. Monetary compensation could only bring so much pleasure. Torturing others may be pleasurable to him, I don’t know.. But isn’t he aware of his hypocrisy and wouldn’t he himself be tortured by the thought of his own deathbed, and impending judgement? A Faustian bargain with the devil brings temporary greatness, but eventually ends up being a loosing deal. I can’t even see the temporary payoff for Bush.
    Personally, I’m buddhist and while there are hells in buddhism, they are more about working through your own karma – as opposed to some firery place under the ground – but everyone has their own version of right and wrong and consequence, right??

  • Margaret

    “These examples are indicative of something else, and it is the
    disconnect in the American public between what is important to the
    Common Good vs specific acts supporting bigotry and outrage. I am, of
    course, referring to the trashing of the Constitution by all five of
    the men depicted, which is the greater of the crime against ALL
    of us.
    The obsessive examination of Craig’s arrest, the videos, the
    “re-enactments” by TV anchors, and the endless discussions on the
    blogs, and, I assume TV (which I don’t have or watch) just takes away
    our attention from the abuses of power and the lawbreaking which
    characterizes the government during the past 6 1/2 years. I don’t feel
    sorry for Mr. Craig, but I do feel that it’s all been “over-kill.”
    And, I have learned about things which I would rather not know about.
    As Solzhenitsyn said so famously in his address to Harvard 30 years
    ago as he criticized our media, we don’t have to know
    everything.
    And, whilst Democrats scream, “Hypocrits!” to the Republicans, isn’t
    there just a bit of hypocrisy to screaming, “Gay Congressman!” at the
    same time they are trying to foster Gay Rights? Surreal.”

  • The BAG

    Gasho,
    Although taking on a particular person involves a more specific and discreet psychological profile, I feel on fairly solid ground characterologically framing this administration, including most of the key figures, under the umbrella of narcissists with sociopathic tendencies.
    So, do Bush, Cheney, or guys like Rove, Rumsfeld and Gonzales feel any remorse or guilt or misgiving?
    It might be hard for someone with a conscience to relate to but narcissists don’t feel (or feel for) anything beyond their own immediate self-interest. Regarding the “catching up,” I’m not saying they can’t feel bad — but those feelings are not based in any moral framework you might be thinking about. They don’t even feel shame because they don’t operate in the context of “right” and “wrong.” What is “right” is what most of us relate to as “will.” There is no flipside. What they can and do feel when “thwarted” or “subverted,” however, is rage, based on the ultimate insult — which is being deprived of what they want. Of course, they also have a different conception of death. Death comes from being negated. But then, narcissists can hardly afford such a feeling to surface for any amount of time at all.
    Pretty twisted, huh?

  • John Lucaites

    I think Margaret is on to something here. There is a clear sense in which this becomes a “productive” distraction for the administration. And, of course, in another albeit related register, Craig has become something of the scapegoat on whom Republican Senators/Congressmen (sic) (but not just them!) calling for his resignation can heap their guilt and beat him/it into the ground.

  • PTate in FR

    That perp shot of Tom DeLay still disturbs me. He still argues that his political downfall was caused by political attacks by partisan Democrats not for anything he had done (just as Bush insists that Alberto Gonzales’ downfall was forced by political ill-will.) The picture of Larry Craig is more painful for me to look at; He looks so ashamed.
    And why, I wonder, should he be so shamed for soliciting sex in a public bathroom? At worst he is a hypocrite (as a closet gay who has used his public power against gays) and a minor public nuisance (making unwanted attentions in public bathrooms)? It isn’t as if he started a vanity war, gutted the Constitution, handed over American wealth to his rich friends, pursued policies that injure the majority of Americans or tried to politicize the US Department of Justice. These are actions that should cause shame but for some reason, don’t.
    How about a diagnosis of psychopathy?

  • Gahso

    Micheal – Thanks for answering my question. If W conflates his “will” with “good”, and there is no flip side, as you say, then we’re lead to Nietzsche’s
    “Will to Power”, as I understand it. We cannot shame him, or otherwise even rationalize with him. We basically have a Hitler on our hands. The fact that he’s at the top of the largest millitary in the world, and indeed controls over 50% of the millitary strength of the planet means that there’s no outside force that can step in and correct him.
    I wonder if the Generals have discussed the coup option as a way to save the planet…

  • margaret

    Some further thoughts on Craig: earlier, today, I said I didn’t feel sorry for him. Actually, I do, because of his conflict between his rhetoric about gays and his own reality. What a hell to live in. What I don’t understand is the methods of the police. They essentially invite people to break the law. That is obscene to me. It is one thing to catch people in the act in a public place, it’s another to set them up. The double standards are all over the place.
    The main objection I have in addition to those I stated before is the mob-like behavior of everyone: Republicans and Democrats about all this. It’s a rabble, and I find it a very frightening manifestation of how media can whip up public sentiment in such a short time, and out of all proportion to the “crime.” This is the tool of fascism and tyranny, and we better watch out. The blogs have been as responsible for this as the usual media. The next hysteria will be Iran.

  • Cactus

    “This Administration has consistently avoided judgement by defying expected norms of reaction and standard emotional cause-and-effect. ” Thanks to The Bag for giving words and definition to something that has irritated me from the beginning of this misadministration. ALL of the key players and almost all of the minor ones have that bully quality of ‘yeah, I just hit you, so what?’ It’s something none of us expected to encounter once we got past 7th grade. And yet, here we are encountering it daily. I wonder, and perhaps The Bag can expand on this, if these people and their socio-pathological behavior serves as a model for the underlings, such as media and the young hangers-on, who may even still be in school.
    As one who had a narcissist family member, they are truly incapable of interest in or feeling for another. It’s actually quite remarkable. Although I never experienced the rage that The Bag mentions, this person’s ability to shape-shift into another dimension at the space of a breath, was remarkable. To have an entire administration full of them is not only unbelievable, but tragic. That one person has been able to fill every available position in this administration with like-minded persons is, I fear, only indicative of the laconic temperament of the voting populace.
    John Lucaites and margaret triggered another thought. For those who are harboring a ghastly secret (homosexuality, adultery, S&M, etc.), at least in their (republican) eyes and those of their confreres, the rage to whip the public offender serves (they think) to avert the accusatory attention from themselves. Does this make any sense? In hind-sight, we can see that Craig’s comments about Clinton being a ‘bad nasty boy’ only clues one into his internal thought/guilt since one’s natural expectation of what would follow such a phrase is ‘leather or…’
    I tend to agree with PTateinFR that Craig is more to be pitied than not. Yes, he’s a hypocrite, but in the end, the only damage of this incident is to himself. That is if one discounts all his blustering and voting against gay rights legislation, but he is hardly alone there. And I, too, am still irritated by DeLay’s perp shot, a smug miscreant who actually sees nothing wrong with sexual and labor slavery of women. AND he still gets face time on TV MSM, even c-span! What is the half-life of disgrace? Apparently nowdays it’s only a year or two. IWC, all the bushies should be expounding on TV by 2011. Can’t wait.
    One thing I haven’t seen brought up here is the closeted signals gay men used in the 50′ and 60’s, of which generation Craig belongs. One of the signals in public restrooms is the tapping of feet, and if returned by the occupant in the next stall, things proceed. I understand that this is so seldom used nowdays as to be quaint (just like the Geneva convention). There were many other signals both verbal (the church) and semiotics (which pocket has the scarf), etc. In case you are now wondering if I have way too much info about this subject, my brother was gay and I worked in an industry with many gay men. I’m just saying…………
    NB to The Bag: “Who are you going to believe me, or your own eyes?” ……… Isn’t the original phrase “…or your lying eyes?” I think it was from an old vaudeville skit.

  • http://www.woodka.com donna

    I think you have to really understand how deeply the closet lifestyle is entrenched into the Republican party to know why Craig is such a serious threat. From those I’ve met in the Republican party leadership, it’s obvious many are closeted, and the young male Republicans vie for favors from the leadership within the party. I think the closeted sex is a big part of this.
    This kind of scandal threatens much more than the Republican image – it also threatens their internal private power structure. That’s why it is a big deal for them.

  • Aaron

    As a progressive queer, I’m no fan of Larry Craig. There
    is a mobius-strip like way in which the Craig story turns in on itself, in that anti-gay lawmakers like Craig inflame homophobia, which in turn makes it all the more difficult for closeted individuals like Craig to live more open lives, which in turn makes the job of anti-gay leaders that much easier. That said, the Craig case saddens me in every way. His career is destroyed as a result of the most trivial of infractions. And his personal anguish must be nothing short of extreme. If Craig were being
    punished for his destructive voting record and the numerous ways in which he has used his authority to crush people who needed help, that would be one thing. But to see him destroyed for being gay — and let’s be frank: that’s what this is all about — brings no joy or relief.

  • 14All

    Thanks, BAG, for bringing up this subject. It didn’t take me long to realize this administration is a haven for people with narcissistic personality disorder. What I’ve never been able to understand, though, is why such people attract each other. They’re only about 1% of the population, and you’d think a person who believed he was the center of the universe would hate being around other people who feel that way about themselves. Yet I observed this phenomenon of attraction with my ex-boss–he continually hired managers who were as narcissistic, or more so, than he was. What gives?
    I guess it’s a tenuous bond between them, at best. Once one of them screws up, they smell blood in the water.

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