In watching the second Presidential debate, I witnessed what I expected to witness: time and time again Donald Trump blamed Hillary Clinton for x, y, and z. At one point, Clinton, in responding to Trump’s claim about her ability to make any changes, said something along the lines of “because the President has the power to veto.” Trump acts as if Hillary Clinton is the sole decision maker government affairs and whatever changes she wants to be made should happen as the snap of a finger. Since such does not happen, she is to be blamed.
I see this all over the place, particularly when it comes to Conservative Republicans’ diatribes against the presidential nominee or the current President. I wonder if those who launch such criticisms forget about how our government works.
But this is not a post on American politics and the current election per se. Rather, in this post I will discuss the political climate in relation to blame and fame and suggest, in no uncertain terms, that those who align with the right get off on both. Moreover, I will demonstrate an integral relationship between the two and suggest the core is a fundamental driving force behind conservative attacks against the left.
It seems to me most conservative attacks against liberals/progressives follows the same type of logic as that above. Cognitive linguist George Lakoff distinguishes between “direct” and “systemic” causation. While the latter “is a causal relation involving at least one complex system,” direct causation is the “simplest kind: There is a single agent who purposely exerts force on something and as a result that thing moves or changes” (2006, 112). Direct causation requires direct action: x (and only x) effects (or does not effect) y. So too is direct causation individual. Of the two, direct causation, he argues, is more widespread because it is so simple; in being so simple, it lacks complexity.
In the rudimentary equation above, when a direct action does not effect y or does not achieve the hoped for effect, the actor is at fault. In being at fault, the actor of the direct action is to be blamed.
To say Donald Trump’s campaign runs primarily on projection is not a revelatory statement by any stretch of the imagination. Accusation after accusation. Two examples, of course, will suffice. First, the comments about the Miss Universe sex tape; just days later it was revealed he himself appeared in two porn videos. Then of course there is the whole launching into Bill Clinton indiscretions when it is well known he is a serial-philanderer and now known he abuses women. But I digress…
According to analytic psychologist Greg Mogenson, “When one examines the content of an accusation one discovers, as often as not, that it is composed of the projections of the one making it.” So yeah, projection fits Trump perfectly. Mogenson continues: “The more haughty an accusation the more likely it is to be based upon a misrepresentation of the persons whose failings it claims to know so well.” In the case of Trump, just think of his flat-out lies too numerous to count. But I digress…
Like direct causation denies complexity, s/he who would resort to blame “denies the multiplicity of perspectives” and much as we see in Trump’s midnight twitter-fits and his on-stage meltdowns (to say nothing of his supporters), “Anything at odds with the complaintant’s offended perspective,” writes Mogenson, “ignites a narcissistic rage.”
The following we might read in light of Trump and, quite especially, his followers: “Individuals with inadequate ego-boundaries, individuals, that is to say, who identify with the projections of others, seem not to be put off by blame, but, on the contrary, to reply to it affectionately.”
Since projection is, by definition, unconscious, projection lacks, again by definition, reflection and as Mogenson sees it, where reflection is lost, blame is sure to follow. It should come as little surprise then, that as much as Trump and Trumpites project constantly, they resort to blame.
In other words, they lack reflection and thus self-awareness.
While to blame I shall return, to fame I shall now turn.
“Fame,” writes Richard Oliver (son of Laurence), “is the secular religion of our time” (33). That Donald Trump is rich and famous is an important (if not the central) factor as to why he is even a candidate for President of the United States. That he has shown himself over and over again to be utterly unqualified for the position is dwarfed, in part, by his status.
That his supporters continue to follow him can be trumped up, again in part, to their identifications with the projections upon him. Remember early in his candidacy how people rallied around him because he said what was on his mind, that he spoke the “truth”? How the media surrounded him to see what he would do and say next? A year into his run, we still do the same. Commenting on modern fame, Leo Braudy, in The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and its History, writes: the attitude toward fame in the late-twentieth century became “‘not me but my performance–my public self'” (Braudy qtd. in Olivier 36).
This public self is the persona, the mask. “The greater good,” writes Olivier, “becomes a mask, something false or pretended, not real or great…a deceit” (36). Furthermore, it is upon the famous that we “project our hopes and desires” and through whom “we live vicariously” (39). Does that not sound like the lemmings who would follow Trump off a cliff?
Blame and fame both share in projection.
Yet there is another common denominator: the two share an etymological root.
The English “blame” is rooted in the Late Latin blasphemare, itself from the Greek blasphemein, the second element of which is pheme.
The English “fame” is rooted in the Latin fama. As it would just so happen, Fama was also a Roman goddess, the equivalent of the Greek goddess Pheme.
Blame and Fame, in other words, share an archetypal core.
So who is this goddess?
For starters, she is the goddess of rumor, report, and gossip.
With her feet on the ground and her head in the clouds, for Hesiod she was “an evil thing, by nature, she’s a light weight to lift up, oh very easy, but heavy to carry, and hard to put down again.” She “never disappears entirely once many people have talked her big.”
While depicted in Greece with wings and a trumpet, the Roman Virgil said she “had her feet on the ground, and her head in the clouds, making the small seem great and the great seem greater.”
Of Fama Ovid wrote she “talks and loves to tangle true with false, and from near nothing flourishes on her own lies.” Further, she “dwells her chosen home set on the highest peak constructed with a thousand apertures and countless entrances and never a door. It’s open night and day and built throughout of echoing bronze; it all reverberates, repeating voices, doubling what it hears…Here is Credulitas (Credulity), here reckless Error (Error), groundless Laetitia (Delight), Susurri (Whispers) of unknown source, sudden Seditio (Sedition), overwhelming Timores (Fears). All that goes on in heaven or sea or land Fama observes and scours the whole wide world.”
According to Statius, it was Fama herself who led Mars god of war into battle as it was she who “awake to every sound and girt with empty tidings of tumult, flies before the chariot, sped onward by the winged steeds’ panting breath, and with loud whirring shakes out her fluttering plumes; for the charioteer [Pavor] with blood-stained goad urges her to speak, be it truth or falsehood.”
Whether as Pheme or Fama, such poets looked upon the goddess in an overwhelmingly negative light. Sewing sees of falsehood with those of truth, Fama runs across the land gaining in size as she gains in speed. She is, said Apuleius, twisted. What might have been a kernel of truth is lost in falsehood, not unlike the deceitful mask about which Olivier wrote.
And, much as the son of the legendary actor, said we project upon the famous and live vicariously through them, media focus on the famous (and we can apply this to Trump) serves as “an avoiding tactic” in that “by focusing on the best known we do not have to worry about ourselves.” Fame becomes escapism (Olivier 19).
Similarly, Mogenson writes, “hardy any effort is required” in that
“just by focusing on how others have wronged us we can release ourselves from the oppressive weight of what our lives require of us…Blame distracts us from the demoralizing recognition that we lack the courage to live our own passions. It justifies an unlived life by accounting for it through the insufficiencies of others…Blame’s motive is…[the] shirking of the burden of life.”
For Carl Jung, blame is not merely a sign of infantilism: infantalism produces blame.
Blame, in other words, is infantile.
Those who blame, writes Mogenson, are “caught in causal-reductive assumptions” or, to use Lakoff’s term, direct causation.
Direct causation, that logic at the heart of conservative logic, is, in other words, infantile.
In resorting to blame, one projects one’s failures onto the other and in the process of blaming one for supposed injustices or perceived wrongs, we attempt to evade ourselves not unlike living vicariously through the famous is also to avoid ourselves. Further commenting on blame, Mogenson writes: “It justifies an unlived life by accounting for it through the insufficiencies of others.”
So why “pornographic”?
In its infantilism, blame and fame stem from what Mogenson calls the “pleasure ego–that infantile part of us that will sacrifice anything to escape pain.” They’re the “next best thing to instant gratification.”
Masturbation, for again, blame, much like living vicariously, requires “hardly any effort.”
Those who’d resort to blaming this, that, and the other for their problems think simplistically about their problems. They project their shadows, their insufficiencies, their inadequacies onto others because it’s too painful to recognize such in themselves.
It’s “their” fault I can’t live the life I want to live, whoever “they” might be. When it comes to Trump and his hordes, we all know who “they” are.
Ironic isn’t it? That conservatives tend to emphasize personal responsibility?
Being so straightforward, so simple, and so unreflective, blame is pornography.
To blame others for my failings feels too damn good. It gratifies me. So I do it again and again and again.
What a bunch of jerk-offs.
Lakoff, George. The Political Mind. New York: Penguin Books, 2009.
Mogenson, Greg. “The Erotics of Blame.” http://gregmogenson.com/EROTICS.pdf
Olivier, Richard. “Fame: Fire of the Gods.” Spring 63, 1998. 33-44.
Descriptions of Pheme/Fama from http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Pheme.html