My schematic for the personal journey and process known to malignant narcissists
Narcissistic Mortification –> Covering (humiliation and shame) / Splitting (the damaged child from the image of an heroic child) –> Gaslighting and other Willful Manipulation (to create and sustain an heroic image) –> Limitless Narcissistic Supply (the experiences of public glory, the roaring approval of crowds, the validations of humanity and God).
The power to (with impunity) threaten one’s targets is, of course, power. What those targets then do in the position of being threatened — and with Putin, boundlessly and without end — may or may not set the limits of that odious behavior.
With two critical Iranian leaders assassinated — Qasem Soleimani and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh — and an American President determined to blunt the tip of the spear aimed against the west, the prospect for “fireworks” appears that much closer. Ever big on packing the Big Picture into a small space, I’ve done that here with ramble and signal but not chaos. Old Communist and Islamist politics persist in the latest states of affairs although the old Communists have produced breathtakingly wealthy elites and the chief among Islamists has been long known as a thief enriched by the plundering of ordinary Iranians.
From the Awesome Conversation
Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran represent an anti-western alliance committed to political absolutism by all and any means necessary. At least two of the three, Moscow and Tehran, represent also kleptocracy (see Reuters’ “Assets of the Ayatollah”) or mafia-type power (reference Ben Judah or Luke Harding), and together they keep the west bothered. Tehran, in malign narcissistic fashion, has covered its own crimes with deflections and dogma–it’s not strength that propels its fantasies of nuclear annihilation but regime weakness expressed through medieval fantasy. The clinical, dispassionate, and modern and prudent west may be building down Tehran’s capability, confidence, and coordination for aggression.
The old “Red-Green Alliance” is in the mix too with some persistent communist cant woven into the Houthi challenge in Yemen. The World Peace Council persists — as do graduates of Patrice Lamumba University — and the pack may view Tehran as an alley in thuggish political fashion. More important than political dogma: an heroic image to be created by marching forward into glorious past while holding each fantasy in place by main force.
Stated by Trita Parsi in 2017 (yes, just a quick look-see on my part): “Another emerging threat comes from Iran’s domestic politics. Presidential elections next month may put Iran’s foreign policy back into the hands of the country’s hard-liners, who, much like Mr. Trump, define their country in opposition to the world” (“The Coming Crisis With Iran”, The New York Times, April 20, 2017).
“Malignant Narcissism” begins with “Narcissistic Mortification”, i.e., the humiliation of the “Great Leader” (somewhere in childhood). Why everyone else has to be made a part of the compensation (measured by the Great One’s estimation of his own “Narcissistic Supply”), I’ve no idea but that the worst of the worst needs must have both an adoring audience and a horrified one.
And therefore it was Suleimani and his proxies — his “kingmakers” in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq — who increasingly came to be seen, and hated, as imperial powers in the region, even more so than Trump’s America. This triggered popular, authentic, bottom-up democracy movements in Lebanon and Iraq that involved Sunnis and Shiites locking arms together to demand noncorrupt, nonsectarian democratic governance.
On Nov. 27, Iraqi Shiites — yes, Iraqi Shiites — burned down the Iranian consulate in Najaf, Iraq, removing the Iranian flag from the building and putting an Iraqi flag in its place. That was after Iraqi Shiites, in September 2018, set the Iranian consulate in Basra ablaze, shouting condemnations of Iran’s interference in Iraqi politics.
Ali Khamenei is a cagey leader who did not become one of the longest serving rulers in the Middle East by impetuously going to war with America. The clerical oligarchs respect American determination and understand the imbalance between a superpower and a struggling regional actor. They have never figured out Donald Trump, a U.S. president who offers unconditional talks while working to crater the Iranian economy. We should not expect Iran to take on a president who just ordered the killing of one of their famed commanders.
Generally speaking, I believe that excessive and malignant narcissistic process takes off with damage early in life, and there’s a term for that: “Narcissistic Mortification”. The humiliation of the child, negative response to what is good, etc., will do it, and if it’s really bad, the personality will cover the damage (hiding the shame) and split an heroic image for self-concept that may be built with boasts, brags, lies, and the deep and tireless manipulation of others around himself.
Pause: narcissism is natural — most of us take pride in our internal motivations, our appearance, the things we do, and some of the things we acquire. Narcissism is not a bad thing but part of a healthy life. Moreover, not all narcissists are evil; many are reparative — we’re natural do-gooders, lovers, husbands, wives, shepherds, and stewards of what comes into our separate domains. We care, and goodness, integrity, and truth matter.
The malignant — the despotic — put on a show.
The fireman sets the fire, so he may show up to put it out and obtain admiration for his heroism.
Related look-up: “Moscow Apartment Bombings”.
“Gas lighting” goes with a malign narcissism as may “messianic delusions of grandeur” — also loss of those boundaries and limits that account for respectful privacy and natural and normal legal and social tendencies. The malignant lose a good part of their humanity on their way to “greatness” — and their greatness is in their heroic image.
After all these years, I don’t know who else has been mining this seam in relation to political psychology.
We may today know more about dictators — how they tick — than we do their followers, but some of the mechanics are known too, and much of the existence of each distills to force, leverage, and money that provides for measures of bribery, induction of dependency, intimidation, and patronage. The inner circles and close followers of dictators would seem generally in on the game with the greater public bought off, fooled, impressed, mollified, and patronized.
Most hated by the dictator: a free press that more accurately conveys his reflection and does so broadly, publicly, universally.
As BackChannels may use the term “Covering / Splitting”, the reference is to masking over the defective, humiliated, or impotent self — it’s not uncommon for children to suffer — and suffer deeply — at the hands of a powerful and sadistic other in such a way as to demand a coping and defensive route in behavior in response. The “splitting” then may refer to the development of the heroic or heroic-appearing self and the daring exploration and development of congruent behaviors. Not all who would experience “narcissistic mortification” become malign in their response — some may be reparative in response — but some do wish to get the better of their tormentor in one-up mirror fashion.
“Narcissistic Manipulation” –> “Gaslighting” and “Perceptual Control” — in the linguistic or Orwellian sense, control of the target’s information, imagination, organizing (Gestalt functions) and perception plus predictions or prognostics.
Had history not had “grandiose and messianic” personalities, there would perhaps be very little of human history at all.
Be that as it may, many ages — feudal, medieval, Renaissance, Elizabethan, lol (whatever works) — have passed into a modernity in which knowledge and reason prevail in the fashioning and support of modern democratic, humanist, and secular law and policy. Reflecting that sea change in humanity, Europe has come up with a dozen “constitutional monarchies” bound up in a reasonably coordinated, cooperative, and peaceful “European Union” that should be, so BC opines, quite sensitive about states marching themselves backward into the bloody illusions of the past.
Putin’s way has brought out the dictator in some EU / NATO politicians (Erdogan, Orban, Le Pen, Trump), not all completely successful in their quest to be as if feudal lords in command of their tribes x (criminality), language, race, religion, perhaps wealth, but in someways successful enough. Ironically, and while working opposite the direction of the Russian collusion “witch hunt”, the Trump Administration has taken many measures along the crime- and dictatorship-fighting axis to dull the expansion of nefarious post-Soviet enterprise (on BackChannels, have a look at Venezuela).
BackChannels’ trope regarding dictatorships: “Different Talks — Same Walk!”
So back to Omar al-Bashir who cannot tolerate that Sudanese should get the world’s news coming out about his regime worldwide.
The news, however, does get out, making the dictator’s image increasingly indelible and negative in global conscience and memory.
Since coming into power in 1989, al-Bashir worked to systemically consolidate power by banning political parties, dissolving parliament and actively muzzling political dissent, through arrests, torture and executions, as recent events demonstrate. His government also worked to systematically ban trade unions, which played a key role in two successful popular uprisings in Sudan — one in 1964 and another in 1985.
Africa News. “Sudan protest hub: Student rallies ramp up pressure on govt”. February 19, 2019.
Journalists – local and international, have been caught in the middle of the protests. Foreign reporters have been deported or ordered out over their coverage whiles local journalists have been arrested and allegedly tortured. Rolls of daily and weekly newspapers have also been confiscated. A number of varsity professors in the capital Khartoum were recently arrested for attempting to stage a protest.
These systematic arrests have targeted not only reporters covering protests in almost all parts of the country but also journalists who themselves dared to protest against the regime’s policy of censorship and arrests of journalists with the aim of restricting coverage of the protests.
In the Party I was beginning to see many people of a different stripe. During the war period I saw how opportunism and selfishness engulfed many comrades. They wore expensive clothes, lived in fine apartments, took long vacations at places provided by men of wealth. There was, for one, William Wiener, former treasurer of the Party, manipulator for a score of business enterprises, who wore Brooks Brothers suits, smoked expensive cigars, and lunched only at the best places. There were the trade union Communists who rubbed elbows with underworld characters at communist-financed night clubs, and labor lawyers who were given patronage by the Party by assignment to communist-led trade unions and now were well established and comfortable.
Communist Party USA leader Bell Dodd’s 1954 remark as relayed by Wikipedia may have special resonance today in the socialist’s disaster continuing to unfold — or perhaps preparing to fold — in Venezuela.
While it had been one thing to share Venezuela’s good fortune and wealth with the public, perhaps especially with massive revenues pumped out of the ground, it has been another for the socialist government to suppress the private ownership of productive ideas and resources while utterly failing to diversify a national economy with the intent to forestall a one-market boom-or-bust (it busted) disaster.
For BackChannels, the cite-quote-cite-quote method has grown tiresome, so the reader may take this post as a reference page but with the suggestion that Maduro’s now patently criminal junta — access the OCCRP and InSight Crime reports cited in reference — may choose to loot and flee the country having proven themselves unable to judiciously and responsibly govern the same — or, in the manner demonstrated by Assad in Syria, they may enjoy being carved up by similarly predatory trade partners.
BackChannels’ humanism in relation to economic development would counsel the damping of dogma in the search for a good mix of private incentives for economic diversification x public policies and programs fit to constituent needs for “basics” plus psychological enthusiasm, fitness, and growth. From the same stance, the messianic self-aggrandizement associated with dictatorships would be viewed as damaging and limiting the greater public experience and potential for good things, starting with community-wide and personal security.
(For related exploration or some meditation on dictatorship, this blog offers portals for “Malignant Narcissism” and its own proposed concept, “Facsimile Bipolar Political Sociopathy“. Neither would differentiate between Far Left and Far Right authoritarianism or kleptocracy — and it would place both as more appropriate in the operating environments of the feudal world and fit to related medieval worldviews associated with “political absolutism” and sovereignty. Wherever placed x space x time, the absence of conscience looms large with dictatorships and the related criminality associated with power becomes glaring and, eventually, beyond bearing).
Bella Dodd, by the way, would renounce Communism toward the end of her journey and again embrace the Catholicism with which she had been born.
What is clear from our investigations is that the following institutions are staffed at the higher echelons by individuals we believe are, or have been, engaged in criminal activity: The Vice Presidency, the Ministries of Interior (Ministerio del Poder Popular del Despacho de la Presidencia y Seguimiento de la Gestión de Gobierno), Defense (Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Defensa), Agriculture (Ministerio del Poder Popular de Agricultura Urbana), Education (Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Educación), Prison Service (Ministerio del Poder Popular para el Servicio Penitenciario), Foreign Trade and Investment (Ministerio de Estado para el Comercio Exterior e Inversión Internacional), Electricity (Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Energía Eléctrica), the National Guard (Guardia Nacional Bolivariana), the Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas Bolivarianas), the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional – SEBIN) and PdVSA.
The penetration of so many key institutions, and the fact that they constitute the state’s main organs in the fight against organized crime, means that Venezuela cannot even contain organized crime, let alone effectively fight it. With so many state actors with interests in criminal activity, be it fuel smuggling, the black market sale of food and medicines or the trafficking of cocaine, this factor alone suggests that Venezuela qualifies as a mafia state.
Contrary to the beliefs of nice people who believe The West, the United States, and Israel the chief repositories of evil in the world, dictatorship do not provide their people with stability: they provide themselves with the power to accumulate and indulge in excess and that especially of cruelty, power itself as the malignant embrace it becoming the power to visit suffering on others with impunity.
Note: the editor has added the URL to a BackChannels piece on ISIS as Assad’s preferred enemy or foil.
I used to say the same thing, especially in relation to the invasion of Iraq: ” . . . at least Saddam Hussein kept the lid on the pot.”
In retrospect, Hussein did not keep things under control. He leapt into a ruinous war with Iran when presented with weakness in the shadow of the Islamic Revolution, and produced infamous sport like this:
As regards Syria, I and my blog 🙂 have tried to float a too accurate message about barbarism, feudal and totalitarian politics, and their blending in KGB-style Political Theater. Assad had really to produce conditions favorable to the assembling of the “AQ-types”, the “jihadists”, and their sorting out into the most vicious of fighting elements, and then with ISIL / ISIS make certain that he would have the foil best suited to driving off (to Europe) his most troublesome noncombatant population.
Where westerners believe themselves culpable for such a disaster — “if we hadn’t done this or done that” — the truth slips away without pursuit _except_ by a seemingly small cadre of academics and journalists (and retirees) who drill down beneath the convenient cant to drown themselves in the details of history.
Russian political culture has long displayed itself as medieval, ruthless, and ever paternally authoritarian.
In the near span of 100 years, 1917 to 2017, the experience of two upheavals by revolution and the appearance of three forms in government has not changed its historic character. Russians less connected to Moscow and St. Petersburg are missing out on all the fun with cash while the oligarchy could care less — and thus as it has ever been.
While Moscow often admires Europe and the west and adopts related aesthetic and cultural practices, it seems to resist deep political change, not to beg the point. The Obama Administration had indeed hoped to encourage a little bit of western liberal values in what remained of the Soviet axis of power in the middle east, and at that junction in 2011 defined by Bashar al-Assad’s response to a mild challenge to his absolute power, he would go on to say that Putin had reverted to “the KGB playbook” — and that’s the truth long forgotten at this point in the Syrian Tragedy, so I call it, and the more general and frightening “east-west rivalry”, so others call it.
BackChannels has adopted the term “paternally authoritarian” from the work of the recently late Richard Pipes. There are two volumes listed in “The Russian Section” of this blog’s library:
Blog editors may not have the collegial and financial defenses plus resources known to tenured scholars, so there may be other of Pipes’ works here, even bookmarked — there’s a box full of set-asides that has not been opened in ages — but the two mentioned by do for a start. Note also: flood by web-info, the editor has developed a short memory for which countermeasures are being installed, specifically, limited time on the web to much less “Facebooking” and blog posting in order to return to that world in which the companionship of a book — any long read — might be appreciated for a day or two without deflection or distraction.
This ugly truth about us explains what has happened to Brett Kavanaugh. Initially he was hated for being a Republican nominee for the Supreme Court, but it is still not universally acceptable to abominate someone only for being an originalist judge.
“Originalist judge” may not well explain what the nation saw transpire last week.
Here is this blog’s editor’s take on that.
BackChannels believed Ford, and that he (Kavanaugh) lied because he had the power to deny everything negative about himself. As much may be part of an “ambitious” or malign narcissism, and as much fits with the personality and associates of the man who nominated him.
With Red or Blue Right / Left Flag navigation, political identity may force arguments rather than reason, and that emotion drives the demonizing of the other camp as well as the concept familiar to conflicts worldwide: “accusation in a mirror”. “Witch hunt!
The Left has no need to apologize for defending Blase Ford.
The Right has no need to wonder why professional advisement — all those lawyers! — against the confirmation were ignored and the process will be remembers as forced by the Republicans or blocked by the Democrats: for an answer, the power of identity and loyalty will do.