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Monday, June 24, 2013

Flaming in Costa Mesa

Let’s look at why people “flame: hostile and insulting interaction often involving the use of profanity or obscenity.” (The range of insults and the number of those insulted have decreased in Costa Mesa since the election.)

Three major influences could apply to local flaming. First, it may be attempts at propaganda; repeating a lie often enough to make it seem like the truth. Second, perhaps ignorance of facts and inability to reason effectively lead to accepting what another posts as gospel. Or the cause could be rooted in a psychological mechanism called “projection.”

Projection reduces anxiety

Psychological projection is a defense mechanism. It is a way to reduce discomfort from a secondary emotion:  A person feels hurt, and the secondary emotion,anger, follows. In anger he accuses whoever hurt him of socially undesirable behavior, such as racism and comforts himself, “at least I’m not racist.”

Or, a person who steals may believe that everyone is trying to steal from her, so she rationalizes she’s “just getting something back.” As described by Dr. Sigmund Freud, pathological projection is used to control personal guilt feelings.

Projection in comments

The projection in local blogs and comments that we’ll consider today is seen in the gratuitous attacks on the Mayor and the Pro Tem. Some of the attacks are “insider” based. Examples include using terms like “drinks the Cool Aid,” referring to blindly believing a leader (Google Jim Jones), Righeimer’s "lackeys," and labeling Pro Tem Mensinger a “bully.”

Since the attacks, per psychological theory, reveal attackers’ fears about themselves, we know one reason those commenters and bloggers insult Righeimer and Mensinger. It fits into the general area of their own jealousy, insecurity and low self-esteem.

Freud's theories of the subconscious

possible cause is hypothesized deep beneath consciousness. For example, one local blogger launches periodic hyperbole including “Deliverance-on-the-logfantasies. He uses speculation and creative labeling in a similar vein to attack other bloggers, attempting to discredit them or at least to annoy them. Some attacks appear as comments from pseudonyms after his post. The blog owner reiterates often and strongly, though, that he, and only he, is responsible for everything posted on his blog, even the comments.

Fear of personal aberrations figured in some of Freud’s early writings about projection.

Ignorant and unthinking by choice

Next, some of the commenters may be parroting terms and ideas without thinking about their likely truthfulness. For example, how likely is it that a man with a strong religious faith – practiced – who’s a contributor of time, money, and effort to helping those less fortunate, is using the Mayor’s title to steal from City coffers directly or through bribes from contractors? Or that the Pro Tem who has taught and modeled sportsmanship for many years is likely to bully people?

Finally, some of the comments are probably just knee-jerk efforts at propaganda – trying to change opinions through appeal to emotion instead of by logical arguments using facts.

What else? 

There may be other reasons for the ill-mannered labels and accusations. 

Please let me know what you think they might be.

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