CONNECTIONS: The Deflector-in-Chief

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By Tuesday, Apr 4 Life In the Berkshires  9 Comments
Merry Jane
Illustrator Thomas Nast depict's Boss Tweed's corrupt Tammany Hall Ring in 1871, with the caption: 'Who stole the people's money?' / 'Twas him.'

About Connections: Love it or hate it, history is a map. Those who hate history think it irrelevant; many who love history think it escapism. In truth, history is the clearest road map to how we got here: America in the 21st century.

Boss Tweed rides rough-shod over democracy.

Boss Tweed rides rough-shod over democracy.

Some very smart people are asking: what is going on? Many sense urgency, even threat, but don’t understand exactly why. Those who do sense danger want to understand what is going on in order to know what to do. In dire circumstances, we need a survival kit. Given the nature of jeopardy, survival may depend on having physical supplies or a supply of information. In 2017 what is needed is information.

1. What is deflection?

Deflection is accusing another of doing the very thing you are guilty of yourself. The guilty party does this to avoid any investigation or consequence of his own behavior.

2. What is a narcissist?

A clinical definition of a narcissist is not one who loves himself but one who has an inflated sense of one’s own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. That is, a narcissist thinks everything is about him, has no understanding of or concern for others, and needs to claim credit for anything “good” and to deny responsibility for anything “bad,” especially failure. Beneath apparent self confidence is a fragile self esteem that is threatened by even the slightest criticism. Therefore daily he will blame others and deflect (accuse others).

3. Storytelling

The need to protect a fragile ego justifies storytelling, even lying. It justifies claiming credit for what others have done and accusing others of what he has done. Predicting the future demonstrates superior knowledge, as does speaking in superlatives: the greatest, easiest, strongest, biggest and best ever.

4. Why is any group controlled by its most neurotic member?

First, what is a group? It is a number of people – as few as three, as many as the 535 members of Congress or the 318,000,000 citizens of the United States – with a common identity and a common purpose. To get to work, a group must agree to group norms – acceptable language and behavior and common goal(s). The most neurotic member controls because he does not agree – his behavior and language are outside the norm so work never begins. All energy of all the other members is focused on trying to convince or control the neurotic member. That member will not change but will use the following defenses: my predecessor did the same thing; other members do it but you treat him better, and you may not like it but it’s not illegal.

The great question is: so what? Say this does define the problem or unearths the underlying cause: so what? Nice to know, but what do you do with the information?

Boss Tweed's first concern.

Boss Tweed’s first concern.

The knee-jerk reaction to deflection is twofold: the accused denies and defends; the reporters work diligently to seek out and publish the truth. Don’t bother.

The deflector wants focus elsewhere either because he does not wish to get caught or because he wants to do something else while no one is watching. In either case deflection is working when the focus shifts from the deflector to the accused.

Don’t try to establish truth and convince his supporters; learn from history. When all the New York newspapers tried to expose Boss Tweed, there was a river of ink and nothing happened. Tweed explained, “My constituents don’t know how to read.”

Tweed’s constituents couldn’t read; the narcissist’s supporters won’t listen.

So what do you do?

Again Tweed explained, “They can’t help seeing them damned pictures!”

Trust the comedians. True believers cannot be convinced, but they can laugh. When the accusations, exaggerations and outright downright lies appear daily, borrow a line from Ronald Reagan, smile, and say, “There he goes again.”

For the serious-minded, the response to a deflector’s accusations is to ignore the accused and investigate the substance because that is what the deflector is guilty of.

Are you trying to figure out if the disruptor of groups is a brilliant man with a hidden agenda and no conscience, a beer short of a six pack, or dumber than a ball peen hammer?

None of the above: in his mind he is the magician. He is the one who knows how the trick is done. He loves doing it because it demonstrates the invidious comparison: how smart he is and how easily fooled you are. He is a constant combatant – one who must prove his superiority daily, if not minute by minute. He needs an audience and a sparring partner.

You cannot change a narcissist, but for those who wish to lessen his power, remember William James, psychologist and brother of novelist Henry James, who wrote: “No more fiendish punishment could be devised than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed by the members thereof.”

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9 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Steve Farina says:

    Is this about Bill Clinton when he was accused of sexual impropriety in the White House, then sending cruise missiles into Libya (killing an undisclosed number of people) in order to deflect and keep his philandering, abuse of position out of the news?

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Sorry, it was Iraq:
      ‘The crisis with Iraq has also probably benefited Clinton, serving as a good deterrent of attention from personal crises, such as his campaign funding scandals, legislative failures, or the Monica Lewinsky affair,’
      The strikes – known as Operation Desert Fox- were ordered the day after the House of Representatives issued a report accusing the president of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ and ended on the day the articles of impeachment were passed.

      1. Linda H. says:

        Carole Oewns wrote an interesting, fact-based article. She did not mention names, other than Boss Tweed. She did, however, illustrate with that ridiculous photo of the Deflector – in – Chief. You and I chose to reflect on past and present characters, as the article spoke to us. She does not deserve the bashing…
        I belong to neither party. I prefer to use critical thinking, my spiritual beliefs and my motto of “Harm None” (a Wiccan belief, by the way) to influence my opinions. Critical thinking can be learned. But you have to be willing to dig for facts and evidence.

    2. Linda H. says:

      How appropriate -a DEFLECTION from today’ s current events. Thank you for reminding me that many of Trump’s supporters can’t read and understand a fact filled article. No alternate facts here. Thank you, Carole.

      1. Steve Farina says:

        I am actually not a Trump supporter, and there are many things he does that annoy me, as well as things that I support. And, shame on me for rushing to comment as I am quite sure my memory of the country and even the Mail article may be inaccurate.
        However, President Clinton did launch cruise missiles to deflect from his sexual impropriety while in office.
        Was there an equally damning report written by this historian at that time? Or is this just more partisan whining being deflected into a news opinion piece.

      2. Lynne says:

        I believe everyone needs to be looking to the future by understanding the present. Personally I find it mind boggling that no matter one’s stripe everyone isn’t outraged at the Russian attacks on our country.

  2. W Katherine Hoak says:

    This is an intelligent analysis of the phenomenon we are engulfed with now. Thank you, Carole

  3. Robert H. Jones says:

    Thank you, Carole, for another thought provoking article. An intelligent perspective on a timely subject, given circumstances and events we are faced with today. Of course, as you point out, this is not the first time this has happened to us. There are any number of examples we can refer to when talking about deflection, distortion, abuse of power and the attempted fleecing of the American people. Speaking of fleece, the bleating of some ideologues becomes tiresome and boring. Rather than whining about Bill Clinton’s follies and exploits (which generated a Republican sponsored impeachment process that cost the American taxpayers close to eighty million dollars), how about addressing directly the outrageous policies currently being thrust upon the working people of our country? Some of us are aware, responsive, actively involved and doing everything in our power to resist these actions. Others, often those that are being hurt the most, follow like sheep.

  4. Patrick Fennell says:

    When will the democrats actually PROVE the Russians hacked and caused Trump to win the election? Every Trump voter I have talked to never got a call from Russia.

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