Top critical review
Good observations, under-applied
on November 23, 2007
Not having any real attachments to either the Right or Left, I really enjoyed Bruce's book. I think its main strength is its description of the subversion of groups by pathological individuals (ponerization) and their activity. The first clue that a group has undergone the initial stages of ponerization is a moral warping of its original ideology. Bruce shows that the rights groups she describes have ceased operating for their original principles, now using the banner of morality and civil rights in pursuit of power.
A small group of leaders "work to propagate divisions and hopelessness" and "their positions rely on a series of myths that relegate those they lead to perpetual victimhood". This exploitation is maintained by what Bruce calls "rubbing salt into the wound", which has the effect of inspiring primitive feelings of vengeance and a strong moralizing interpretation of perceived threats. Machiavellians rely on their ability to manipulate these emotions (e.g. Goring's quote about telling people they are being attacked and then denouncing critics as unpatriotic).
The problems with the book lie elsewhere: in Bruce's reliance on the "natural world view" and a lack of objective language and concepts. She does not factor psychopathology into her analysis, and thus, no matter how well she describes 'symptoms', her efforts are futile, even harmful. Lacking an understanding of psychopathy, the general laws of ponerogenesis, and her own reality-deforming tendencies, she confuses concepts and has obvious blind spots.
First, she confuses ideology with essence. All other failings stem from this one. While she correctly identifies the similarities between these groups and pathocracy, she doesn't clearly distinguish between normal people, pathological ideologues, and psychopaths who operate under a mask of ideology to exploit 'true believers'. Because of this error, she both fails to apply her observations to other relevant groups, and exaggerates the importance of her case studies.
Regarding the latter, she focuses on the perils of 'socialism' instead ponerization of groups in general, which is inevitable in ALL groups without proper psychological knowledge. Thus, she views the 'Right' ("capitalism and competition") as a healthy alternative, which, unfortunately, it is not. The 'Right' is just as susceptible to the first criterion of ponerogenesis (i.e. ignorance of pathological signs), and thus ponerogenic activity, as we can see now: exploitation of victimhood, assaults on free speech, 'us versus them' mentality, free speech zones, provocation of primitive emotions, paramoralistic epithets, etc.
This is a common mistake of politicians and groups everywhere. They focus on symptoms and not causes. Thus we have 'hate-crime laws' and 'anti-terror laws' which are absurd and ineffective. Focusing on domestic violence would prove much more effective, and providing adequate psychological education would be even better. Instead we have "The War on Terror", "The War on Drugs", "The War on Communism"--all futile and hypocritical. In the Terror War, we have the same paralogicisms that Bruce identifies in civil rights groups: "in order to ensure civil rights and liberty, we must be silent and conform." In other words, in order to protect our rights, we must give them up.
The only effective "war" will be against ponerogenesis, and thus by definition, it must not include ponerogenic factors, like vengeance, moralizing, false divisions, etc. There is only one "monolithic conspiracy", and it is psychopathic: not Communist, Anarchist, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, etc. Any other focus is either misguided or a diversion purposefully created by Machiavellians to divert attention from themselves. At the psychopathic level, there are no ideological divisions.
"Divide and conquer" is simply a macrocosmic version of the two-party system. Paraphrasing Bruce, "If normal people can be divided, there will be no real threat to the Machiavellian-dominated status quo." If you can convince people they only have two options, most people will end up choosing one of them, believing it is a free choice. They will thus focus on partisan politics, ignoring real issues; or they will focus on an external threat, also ignoring real issues. For this reason"the blurring of ideological lines"we always see connections between, for example Mossad/CIA/MI5 and various Muslim terrorist groups; and between Western governments and third world dictators.
This ties into the former result of Bruce's error: under-applying her observations. This is where her hypocrisy (i.e. conversive thinking) is evident, and it is fairly obvious after viewing her website/blog. She fails to see the obvious application of her observations to groups such as: a) official government agencies (e.g. the CIA's long history of every crime imaginable) b) "Right" news agencies (e.g. Fox news), and c) the most obvious corrupt minority rights group: the ADL and the Israel lobby.
By attaching her criticism to an ideological, and not psychological, source (i.e. anti-"Islamofascism"), which is largely mythical, she rationalizes equally ponerogenic activity inherent in the anti-terror movement. In such a world, the CIA works for the good of America and its "excesses" are rationalized in typical conversive fashion.
Regarding Fox, she criticizes "Leftist" groups of exposing youths to pornography in her books, and yet is a regular contributor and supporter of Fox (google "fox attacks decency"). I find it no surprise, though Bruce might, that the one News organization she quotes as challenging the status quo (during Clinton) has turned itself into the propaganda arm of the Bush administration. It has, in Bruce's words, "morphed into a movement obsessed with identity politics, victimhood, and an us-versus-them mentality."
Regarding the Israeli lobby, it seems there are several myths that are inextricably intertwined with Bruce's natural world view, one of which is the legitimacy of Israeli occupation of Palestine and its ethnic cleansing of same. All other extrinsic belief systems follow from this myth. Contradictory information (e.g. the morally depraved treatment of Palestinians by the IDF) is rationalized, denied, or repressed. Because of such conversive phenomena, their analysis cannot be called "wrong"--it is "not even wrong". The initial assumptions are faulty on both factual and moral levels.
I think this excerpt from Bruce is relevant: "[T]he vast majority of those who commit crimes have experienced abuse in their own lives (personal hate directed at them) and disfranchisement (society's later hate). It is possible that, by targeting those who act out in tangible hate against a protected group, the hate-crime theory actually revictimizes those who were initially the victims of hate."
The material on her website is nowhere near the quality of her book: insults, crude humour, paramoralisms, paralogicisms, etc. She engages in the same attack mentality that she derided in 2001, even using the "favored Thought Police accusation" of racism: she frequently uses the label "Jew-hater" for anyone critical of Israel. She even has the movie 300, one of the most violent movies of the year, in her recommended reading/viewing list. This coming from the woman who championed the boycotting of American Psycho.
Overall a good, but misguided book.