The Left's identification with murderous aggressors

Psychiatry is familiar with an odd syndrome called "identification with the aggressor." It's sometimes called the Stockholm Syndrome, after the behavior of air passengers taken hostage by PLO terrorists at the Stockholm Airport* in 1973, who, when they were rescued,  came out singing the praises of their murderous captors.

Recently we saw the same human oddity when two Fox News reporters were kidnapped in Gaza, and forced to convert to Islam at the point of a gun. After his freedom was bought (at a reported cost of millions of dollars), reporter Steve Centanni told the world that:
"I hope that this never scares a single journalist away from coming to Gaza to cover the story because the Palestinian people are very beautiful and kind hearted. The world needs to know more about them. Don't be discouraged."
"Kind-hearted" and "beautiful" are not the first words that come to mind to describe kidnappers who were quite ready to murder Steve Centanni only a day before.  In psychiatric thinking the reporters "identified with the aggressors" --- the terrorist kidnappers --- in a mental flip that allowed them to push away their realistic fear of dying to a distant imaginary cause. They no longer thought of themselves as helpless victims, having adopted the kidnappers' point of view.

The most infamous examples come from World War II Nazi concentration camps, where some prisoners were placed in charge of others. According to witnesses like psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, these "Kapos" would wear discarded pieces of Nazi uniforms and often abuse their fellow victims. Unconsciously they were identifying with the aggressors, to ward off the awful awareness of their own vulnerability. People do things like that in extremis.

Now look at the behavior of the Left since 9/11, both in this country, Europe, and even Israel. Rather than feel righteously angered by the terrorist mass murder of 3,000 innocent people, large parts of the Left have adopted the aggressors' point of view. They keep telling us that the Islamic fascists were right to blow up innocent people who had done them no harm; some of them have taken on conspiracy theories, claiming that Bush or Israel really committed the atrocities.  At the same time they are in deep denial about the danger of future terrorist attacks on American soil, and blindly refuse to see the rising threat of nuclear proliferation by stateless terror groups. Instead, they "displace" their fear and anger on George W. Bush. To the Left, once Bush is gone, the terror problem will simply and magically go away.

Yet we know that small amounts of radioactive materials --- like the Polonium 210 that was used just two months ago to poison Alexander Litvinenko in London --- could be turned into a "dirty bomb" in anybody's garage. It wouldn't take any more technical skill than was used in 1995 to blow up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.

Terrorists with dirty bombs are a murderous threat to all of us, but the Left denies it. Twisting reality is the hallmark of mental pathology.

The Left's behavior looks just like identification with the Islamofascist aggressor. Just as the concentration camp Kapos wore pieces of Nazi uniforms to magically assume the power of their killers-to-be, the radical Left adopts the symbols and slogans of Hezbollah and Al Qaida. Strikingly, their intellectual leader Noam Chomsky is the son of a Talmudic scholar --- a man who devoted his life to the study of Jewish scripture, and who would therefore be a ready target for today's fascists. Chomsky must have grown up as a child in a most devout household. No doubt many of his family members were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust. Yet last year Chomsky flew to Lebanon to be publicly photographed shaking hands with Hassan Nasrallah, who was even then preparing to launch many hundreds of short-range missiles at Jewish civilians in Israel --- including, no doubt, Talmudic scholars. Chomsky has been a radical Leftist all his life, even before he became famous as a linguist.  Identification with the aggressor? It certainly would explain his very odd life course.

In London, during the Hezbollah war in Lebanon, demonstrators from George Galloway's Respect Party (an offshoot of the Socialist Workers' Party) carried signs reading "We are all Hezbollah now." They literally adopted the aggressors' point of view. This has been happening all over Europe, where the Left still reigns supreme, and on American university campuses as well --- probably for the same psychological reason.

The rise of anti-Zionism (and of course anti-Semitism) in Europe can also be seen in this light. If only those six million Jews in Israel were to disappear like magic, goes the wishful thought, all the danger and trouble would go away. Europe's Muslims would become as peaceful as lambs, and Iran's zealots would learn to love us. It is a childlike surrender to fear.

Notice that this is exactly what the Left did during the Cold War. I do not remember a single passionate demonstration against the Soviet Union, which had nuclear-armed missiles aimed directly at Europe and the US. Instead, the most extreme and feverish passions were aimed straight at the United States, the country that led and protected the West from Soviet aggression.

The other side of "identification with the aggressor" is "blaming the victim." In Nazi concentration camps the Kapos would act out sadistically to other victims, blaming them for Nazi crimes. A decade ago the phrase "blaming the victim" was on everybody's lips, when feminists loudly accused all men of blaming rape victims for being raped. That seemed to disappear along with the Bill Clinton saga and his blatant sexual abuse of a young intern, to the deafening silence of the feminist Left. Today we can plainly see "blaming the victim" among Islamic fascists, who often accuse young girls of being sluts if they are gang-raped by men. Islamic radicals always blame their victims. That is what makes them incapable of guilt toward their victims.

The real oddity is that the Left has enthusiastically joined the new fascists. We no longer hear the old trope of "blaming the victim" from feminists. Rather, feminists on the Left have joined Islamofascists in blaming the United States --- for being the fire brigade that is trying to put out the fire. The Left even defends women being pressured to wear the burqa, the ancient sign of women's submission and sexual slavery in the most retrogressive kind of tribal Islam. Shari'a law prescribes exactly how women are to be physically slapped for failing to obey fathers and husbands.  Feminists are silent.

The Left claims to value "peace" above all things; but that means that self-defense ranks nowhere. It's not an option --- at least not when Republicans are in office. If we leave out self-defense against Iranian nukes or El Qaida truck bombs, there is no option except submission. That is what "identification with the aggressor" comes down to. It is a Stockholm Syndrome for millions of people --- most of the readers of the New York Times and the UK Guardian, just for starters.

To make things worse, the Left itself is ruthlessly aggressive against conservatives, democratic individuals who happen to disagree with them. There is a true persecutorial viciousness in the Left's attacks on Republican presidents, from Herbert Hoover to Dwight D. Eisenhower and George W. Bush. Emotionally, these people want to destroy those who defy their demands. Almost all the assassins and would-be assassins of American Presidents since JFK have been Leftists, starting with Lee Harvey Oswald. So their rage is not exactly harmless.

Most of the time the Left just aims at destroying conservatives' careers and public reputations - as they have tried to do with ferocious fury in the cases of Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Ann Coulter, Tom Delay, Rush Limbaugh, and numerous others. And it's not just national politics. Harvard University feminists just formed a lynch mob that drove Larry Summer's out of the Presidency and appear to have succeeded in replacing him with one of their own. They have succeeded in placing their own radical leaders in the top power positions at the most prestigious university in the United States.

They are driven by paranoid rage: They are in fact the aggressors.

But when it comes to assaults on their country, the Left blames the victims. The most militant Leftists seem severely damaged psychologically. The recent suicide by the militant lesbian President of UC Santa Cruz may be only the tip of the pathological iceberg.

Many radical Leftists seem to suffer from a basic twist in character. They constantly confuse aggressive and defensive actions by their own country, on whose freedom and protection they depend every hour of the day. They constantly indulge sworn enemies of our freedom and well-being. They constantly push for government actions that seem plausible on the surface, but which inevitably hurt the very people they are supposed to help. It happens over and over again.

When I was young I thought the Left was just confused, but now I'm increasingly drawn to the idea that there is a deep, if unconscious, malevolence at the bottom of the history of disasters inflicted by those people. They are dangerous.

James Lewis blogs at www.dangeroustimes.wordpress.com

*Reader Joel Goldberg writes us:

The article incorrectly referred to hostages of the PLO - Stockholm Syndrome  was named  after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, Stockholm, Sweden, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to August 28 in 1973. In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their victimizers, and even defended their captors after they were freed from their six-day ordeal. The term Stockholm Syndrome was chosen by the criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot, who assisted the police during the robbery, and referred to the syndrome in a news broadcast.
Psychiatry is familiar with an odd syndrome called "identification with the aggressor." It's sometimes called the Stockholm Syndrome, after the behavior of air passengers taken hostage by PLO terrorists at the Stockholm Airport* in 1973, who, when they were rescued,  came out singing the praises of their murderous captors.

Recently we saw the same human oddity when two Fox News reporters were kidnapped in Gaza, and forced to convert to Islam at the point of a gun. After his freedom was bought (at a reported cost of millions of dollars), reporter Steve Centanni told the world that:
"I hope that this never scares a single journalist away from coming to Gaza to cover the story because the Palestinian people are very beautiful and kind hearted. The world needs to know more about them. Don't be discouraged."
"Kind-hearted" and "beautiful" are not the first words that come to mind to describe kidnappers who were quite ready to murder Steve Centanni only a day before.  In psychiatric thinking the reporters "identified with the aggressors" --- the terrorist kidnappers --- in a mental flip that allowed them to push away their realistic fear of dying to a distant imaginary cause. They no longer thought of themselves as helpless victims, having adopted the kidnappers' point of view.

The most infamous examples come from World War II Nazi concentration camps, where some prisoners were placed in charge of others. According to witnesses like psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, these "Kapos" would wear discarded pieces of Nazi uniforms and often abuse their fellow victims. Unconsciously they were identifying with the aggressors, to ward off the awful awareness of their own vulnerability. People do things like that in extremis.

Now look at the behavior of the Left since 9/11, both in this country, Europe, and even Israel. Rather than feel righteously angered by the terrorist mass murder of 3,000 innocent people, large parts of the Left have adopted the aggressors' point of view. They keep telling us that the Islamic fascists were right to blow up innocent people who had done them no harm; some of them have taken on conspiracy theories, claiming that Bush or Israel really committed the atrocities.  At the same time they are in deep denial about the danger of future terrorist attacks on American soil, and blindly refuse to see the rising threat of nuclear proliferation by stateless terror groups. Instead, they "displace" their fear and anger on George W. Bush. To the Left, once Bush is gone, the terror problem will simply and magically go away.

Yet we know that small amounts of radioactive materials --- like the Polonium 210 that was used just two months ago to poison Alexander Litvinenko in London --- could be turned into a "dirty bomb" in anybody's garage. It wouldn't take any more technical skill than was used in 1995 to blow up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.

Terrorists with dirty bombs are a murderous threat to all of us, but the Left denies it. Twisting reality is the hallmark of mental pathology.

The Left's behavior looks just like identification with the Islamofascist aggressor. Just as the concentration camp Kapos wore pieces of Nazi uniforms to magically assume the power of their killers-to-be, the radical Left adopts the symbols and slogans of Hezbollah and Al Qaida. Strikingly, their intellectual leader Noam Chomsky is the son of a Talmudic scholar --- a man who devoted his life to the study of Jewish scripture, and who would therefore be a ready target for today's fascists. Chomsky must have grown up as a child in a most devout household. No doubt many of his family members were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust. Yet last year Chomsky flew to Lebanon to be publicly photographed shaking hands with Hassan Nasrallah, who was even then preparing to launch many hundreds of short-range missiles at Jewish civilians in Israel --- including, no doubt, Talmudic scholars. Chomsky has been a radical Leftist all his life, even before he became famous as a linguist.  Identification with the aggressor? It certainly would explain his very odd life course.

In London, during the Hezbollah war in Lebanon, demonstrators from George Galloway's Respect Party (an offshoot of the Socialist Workers' Party) carried signs reading "We are all Hezbollah now." They literally adopted the aggressors' point of view. This has been happening all over Europe, where the Left still reigns supreme, and on American university campuses as well --- probably for the same psychological reason.

The rise of anti-Zionism (and of course anti-Semitism) in Europe can also be seen in this light. If only those six million Jews in Israel were to disappear like magic, goes the wishful thought, all the danger and trouble would go away. Europe's Muslims would become as peaceful as lambs, and Iran's zealots would learn to love us. It is a childlike surrender to fear.

Notice that this is exactly what the Left did during the Cold War. I do not remember a single passionate demonstration against the Soviet Union, which had nuclear-armed missiles aimed directly at Europe and the US. Instead, the most extreme and feverish passions were aimed straight at the United States, the country that led and protected the West from Soviet aggression.

The other side of "identification with the aggressor" is "blaming the victim." In Nazi concentration camps the Kapos would act out sadistically to other victims, blaming them for Nazi crimes. A decade ago the phrase "blaming the victim" was on everybody's lips, when feminists loudly accused all men of blaming rape victims for being raped. That seemed to disappear along with the Bill Clinton saga and his blatant sexual abuse of a young intern, to the deafening silence of the feminist Left. Today we can plainly see "blaming the victim" among Islamic fascists, who often accuse young girls of being sluts if they are gang-raped by men. Islamic radicals always blame their victims. That is what makes them incapable of guilt toward their victims.

The real oddity is that the Left has enthusiastically joined the new fascists. We no longer hear the old trope of "blaming the victim" from feminists. Rather, feminists on the Left have joined Islamofascists in blaming the United States --- for being the fire brigade that is trying to put out the fire. The Left even defends women being pressured to wear the burqa, the ancient sign of women's submission and sexual slavery in the most retrogressive kind of tribal Islam. Shari'a law prescribes exactly how women are to be physically slapped for failing to obey fathers and husbands.  Feminists are silent.

The Left claims to value "peace" above all things; but that means that self-defense ranks nowhere. It's not an option --- at least not when Republicans are in office. If we leave out self-defense against Iranian nukes or El Qaida truck bombs, there is no option except submission. That is what "identification with the aggressor" comes down to. It is a Stockholm Syndrome for millions of people --- most of the readers of the New York Times and the UK Guardian, just for starters.

To make things worse, the Left itself is ruthlessly aggressive against conservatives, democratic individuals who happen to disagree with them. There is a true persecutorial viciousness in the Left's attacks on Republican presidents, from Herbert Hoover to Dwight D. Eisenhower and George W. Bush. Emotionally, these people want to destroy those who defy their demands. Almost all the assassins and would-be assassins of American Presidents since JFK have been Leftists, starting with Lee Harvey Oswald. So their rage is not exactly harmless.

Most of the time the Left just aims at destroying conservatives' careers and public reputations - as they have tried to do with ferocious fury in the cases of Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Ann Coulter, Tom Delay, Rush Limbaugh, and numerous others. And it's not just national politics. Harvard University feminists just formed a lynch mob that drove Larry Summer's out of the Presidency and appear to have succeeded in replacing him with one of their own. They have succeeded in placing their own radical leaders in the top power positions at the most prestigious university in the United States.

They are driven by paranoid rage: They are in fact the aggressors.

But when it comes to assaults on their country, the Left blames the victims. The most militant Leftists seem severely damaged psychologically. The recent suicide by the militant lesbian President of UC Santa Cruz may be only the tip of the pathological iceberg.

Many radical Leftists seem to suffer from a basic twist in character. They constantly confuse aggressive and defensive actions by their own country, on whose freedom and protection they depend every hour of the day. They constantly indulge sworn enemies of our freedom and well-being. They constantly push for government actions that seem plausible on the surface, but which inevitably hurt the very people they are supposed to help. It happens over and over again.

When I was young I thought the Left was just confused, but now I'm increasingly drawn to the idea that there is a deep, if unconscious, malevolence at the bottom of the history of disasters inflicted by those people. They are dangerous.

James Lewis blogs at www.dangeroustimes.wordpress.com

*Reader Joel Goldberg writes us:

The article incorrectly referred to hostages of the PLO - Stockholm Syndrome  was named  after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, Stockholm, Sweden, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to August 28 in 1973. In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their victimizers, and even defended their captors after they were freed from their six-day ordeal. The term Stockholm Syndrome was chosen by the criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot, who assisted the police during the robbery, and referred to the syndrome in a news broadcast.