Projective deceit and its mechanisms

Strategies manipulative people use to “get away with it”

Bringing them the plague

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Even the most common crims know that, in a society of laws, they need to conceal and deny committing the crime. But murders and other serious crimes happen. So, there is a connection between “bad action” and deceit which might bear further investigation. As parents know, one sign a person is behaving badly is that they cloak the deed in lies of different kinds: “she started it … I didn’t hit him, he hit me”, etc.

As religious anthropologist Rene Girard has explored in his work, I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightning, the biblical figure of Satan — very different from his Hollywood parodies — is both the “father of lies” (John) and “the accuser” (from Old Testament Job on). His principal means is, interestingly, the mechanism a leading US survey suggests is the most common instrument of workplace or adult bullies: that of the false accusation against the target. Some things stay the same.

But what shape do the false accusations usually take? In psychological terms, they tend to involve “mimesis”, mirroring, imitation, and projection.

The principal means manipulative folk use to avoid accountability for their harmful actions involve denial of any wrongdoing, then blame shifting (to the target, or to any jurisdiction that seeks to impartially investigate), muddying the waters, gaslighting (making the accusers doubt what has happened, and thus their own sanity), creating false equivalence, or presenting attempts to hold them accountable as the “real crime”.

All of the accusations can, in some cases, be true. The only way to identify when they are being used manipulatively is through impartial investigation. (This is why manipulators such as cult leaders, always try to prevent such investigations, or tar them in advance as “evil”, “fake”, a “witch hunt”, and so on).

But people in a position to investigate such matters, from judges down to line managers, need to know how the stategies “present”, so they are not carried away by the appearances.

Manipulative individuals (so-called “high-Machs”) are often…

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Bringing them the plague

Freud's response on arrival in America, some Camus; blogs of philosophy, psychology, culture and politics. (Formerly Castalian Stream, now less pretentious)