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Mobbing the Ladies

If you’ve ever been the target of a mobbing or smear campaign, you know what a destructive force it can be in your life. Usually, the mobbing or smear is started by a person with significant narcissistic tendencies. The process can go on for decades. It goes like this.

The narcissist has a dislike of the target who refuses to conform to the narcissist’s worldview. Where the narcissist has been able to influence and bend to her will everyone else she wants to control, the target remains stubbornly unable to submit to having their personality remade in the narcissists image. The target may be unaware of the narcissist’s motives and that merely by being themselves they are making the perpetrator apoplectic. The target goes about her life making plans and achieving things. Maybe even getting attention.

This is when the narcissist starts the smear campaign. I used to be puzzled how this actually worked until recently because it’s so simple that it’s hard to believe it’s effective. The smear is based on anticipation and expectations. If you condition your audience to expect certain behaviors, you can point to those behaviors when they occur. Then there is a bit of Pavlov’s dog involved. The narcissist has to associate that behavior with something negative.

Let’s take a simple example. The target is precocious, adorable, and funny as a young child when she starts bossing around her grandfather. The narcissist starts telling the family that the child is imperious and thinks she’s better than anyone else. Repeat, repeat, repeat. The next time the relatives see that 3 yr old acting like a boss around grandpa, it’s not so cute. Now, the relatives see a side of the kid they never noticed before. The narcissist snickers and tries again.

Before you know it, the relatives wonder what they ever saw in the kid. The kid starts picking up a negative vibe but can’t figure out what’s going on. It gets worse over time because we’re human. We make mistakes. But if the mob is conditioned to see any human quality as a problem, the campaign is very effective at knocking the target down. Over and over.

So, what does this have to do with anything? Well, I was reading this piece by Eric Boelert at PressRun on how much trouble women candidates were having this year and i think he’s on to something. Primarily, we’re talking about Warren, Klobuchar, Gillibrand and Harris. After Hillary won the popular vote but didn’t get the electoral college vote, she became the poster child of everything bad with a female candidate. That’s probably why all the money went to plastic Pete, joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. But there was this interesting paragraph buried in the article that caught my eye:

“Example: The campaign press corps essentially eliminated policy coverage in 2016, which benefited the political neophyte, Trump. One study found that “In just six days, The New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election.”

“Institutionally, the Beltway press has maintained a weirdly personal grudge against Hillary Clinton, and her husband, since they arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1993. During the 2008 campaign, that animosity flared up constantly. At the time, Salon’s Rebecca Traister detected “a nearly pornographic investment in Clinton’s demise” among male pundits. And it only seemed to intensify in 2016. Assuming Clinton would defeat Trump, the press moved to make her campaign as unpleasant as possible and to make sure she limped across the finish line (Hacked emails! Email servers!), so there would be no historic victory lap for breaking the glass ceiling.”

“I firmly believe that was the plan, as the media gorged on months worth of pointless email and Clinton Foundation coverage, as she ran against the most openly corrupt candidate in American history. In the end though, the press helped elect Trump. And instead of trying to just dent Clinton’s victory, the press may have pushed back the dream of electing a woman president in the United States. And that’s what we’re watching unfold under the headline of an “electability” debate.”

The first thing Boelert cites is that the overemphasis on Hillary’s emails minimized Trump’s corruption. You’d think that people would be able to see through this. But there’s a phenomenon discovered by a psychologist named Tversky that shows that the more similar you make two disparate things appear to be, the more trouble people have deciding between the two. The press tosses this off as “false equivalence” without really understanding what it means. But there’s math behind it. Not ugly math but not something I want to dig into here. Let’s just say this is the thing that tipped the election in Trump’s favor. It came after a long period of other negative stuff thrown at Clinton.

Back to smear campaigns. Smear campaigns quickly turn into mobbing. I think we saw that pretty clearly in 2016. But the weird thing is, WHY was there such a grudge against Clinton in the DC press??

This is a moot question but let’s explore it anyway. So smear campaigns evolve into mobbing and usually have a narcissist behind them. Maybe more than one. But who could want to take down Hillary Clinton? Well, she certainly wasn’t a conformist. I look back at her tea and cookies remark and don’t laugh it off as insignificant any more. My guess is there were some semi-powerful women in the DC media who envied Hillary Clinton. They might even be their own little group of Heatherish mean girls. And the effect they had on the press is they held just enough power to get some ambitious mean girls in training into their cushy jobs. We can all guess who the original group was.

These were the ones that started the smear campaign. The smear campaign turned into mobbing. There is a competing group of mobbers who are the white Ivy League male constituent. They didn’t want Clinton either because, well, she wasn’t really like them, was she, what with her double XX chromosomes. At some point, the mean girls and the Ivy League guys converged. Obama played the Ivies like an impresario. He took advantage of the hostile press towards Clinton.

The rest is history. But that history is biting the women in 2020 in the butt. As Boelert says at the end:

“Given that unfair treatment four years ago, are anxious Democrats today supposed to cross their fingers and hope that journalists won’t repeat the mistakes in 2020? That’s a large leap to make since there has been a near-universal refusal from news outlets to acknowledge clear failures in the 2016 coverage. Indeed, the Clinton coverage represented a gender fiasco. (She shouts! She’s angry! She doesn’t smile enough!) Yet to this day, most journalists don’t want to admit to the deeply sexist media behavior, which created a raging double standard.

To a large degree, today’s concerns aren’t because certain voters don’t want a woman president. It’s because they don’t trust the press to be fair, because the press wasn’t fair in 2016. Bottom line: You can’t discuss electability in 2020 without acknowledging what the press did to the last women nominee.”

That about sums it up. The public doesn’t trust the press to be fair. And lo and behold, it isn’t being fair. It’s definitely screwing Warren and would do the same to Klobuchar if they thought she was a real threat.

And that’s why the donors aren’t flooding Warren with money. In the great scheme of things, Sanders, Buttigieg and Bloomberg carry some pretty serious problems with them to the primaries. Pete is a plastic adolescent, and Sanders and Bloomberg aren’t really Democrats. They seem like they’re more than ready to use the brand for their own ends and voters are picking up on that.

The real threat is Warren because she’s a real Democrat, as much as Clinton was when she ran, and she has a record of achieving what seemed like the impossible. She is more moderate than Sanders, more progressive than Pete and she’s more of a referee to the billionaires. The billionaires don’t like that. So, the press is deep sixing her for the most glaring liability that she has. She’s a woman.

We can’t trust the press to be fair, therefore, voters are screwed out of the best candidate on the ballot. No one is going to donate to a candidate when the press has decided she’s non-viable and then sets out to prove they’re right.