Monday, April 07, 2008

Projection: The Politicians' Defense Mechanism

Projection is a type of psychological defense mechanism. According to Wikipedia, it is defined as:
In psychology, psychological projection (or projection bias) is a defense mechanism in which one attributes one’s own unacceptable or unwanted thoughts or/and emotions to others. Projection reduces anxiety by allowing the expression of the unwanted subconscious impulses/desires without letting the ego recognize them.
For some reason, this seems to be a fairly popular defense mechanism among celebrities, especially politicians. Here are a few notable examples:

Eliot Spitzer

The former New York Governor recently resigned after he was found to have frequented prostitutes. Why projection? Prior to being elected governor, Spitzer had served as New York's Attorney General, and was particularly aggressive in enforcing the law. Seems like he was projecting his own moral failings on others.

Larry Craig

The former Senator from Idaho resigned after he was caught in an investigation about male prostitution in the Minneapolis Airport. Why projection? Prior to this discovery, Craig was outspoken in his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Gary Hart

The former Presidential candidate and Senator was found to be having an affair after claiming not to be involved in one and challenging reporters to follow him around. I suppose this isn't really projection, but the hubris of such a challenge is something to behold.

History is filled with many more such examples, such as Henry Hyde leading the impeachment hearings against President Clinton, even though he had engaged in an affair years before himself, or noted segregationist Strom Thurmond having fathered a child with an African-American woman. I suppose there are many more politicians who have no such failings, but it almost seems like projection is part of the job description.

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