On Projection and Power

On Projection and Power
Photo by Redd F / Unsplash

Executive Summary

Projection is a ubiquitous practice performed by all people wherein they assume "the other side" thinks more or less the same way you do yourself.

In the current political/cultural climate, both sides do this to the other, but the outcome isn't the same. One side projects in a way that results in their side consistently winning, the other side projects in a way that results in their side losing.

Projection on the right:

It's been said that most people on the right just want things to stay the same. They want to just hand out and grill. And they think that's how the left "really" is as well. When seeing people on the left doing something they think is bad, they will project "they're just fired up. Eventually they'll come around and become reasonable and all of this will get back to 'normal.'" This is a very libertarian attitude. They think because they are willing to stay in their lane, that the left will do so as well.

Projection on the left:

The left projects what they are worried the right would do if they have power, because they are always looking at power and how to use it to hurt the right. They constantly project that everything the right does is meant to hurt the left. That there is no position the right can take that is in good faith, because they never argue in good faith. This leads them to constantly be in a state of heightened awareness against actual moves on the right to gain power. This also means that the things they project onto the Right are the very thoughts and ideas that they internalize the most.

When ideologies come into conflict:

When the right and left come into conflict, the right never sees the tactics the left is willing to use coming. The left will use any minor perceived threat and fully catastrophize to their group about it. The right will see the left literally calling everyone to their right a Nazi and dismiss it entirely and go on with their grilling. Meanwhile, the left uses this as a method to get people on the right canceled, fired, and de-banked. And the right still does nothing to combat it because of their projection of reasonability onto people who think vastly differently from them.

Clearly this is a winning proposition for the left because their stance leaves them constantly prepared to battle their enemy. It also prepares them to get as dirty as they need to because their value system and playbook (see Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky) value the taking of power by any means necessary. Because they project this onto the Right, they have no qualms in assuming that every individual on the right is actually identical to Hitler (or far worse) in their internal thought.

Internal Conflict:

Inside the Right: Those who are most interested in power tend to think differently from the average person in their group. This leaves the average conservative or right-winger constantly surprised when their leadership deceives them or lets them down. It also makes it likely that their leadership may actually be more in-line with their opposition than the base in general as their path to power often involves projecting onto their enemies in a way more similar to the left than the right. These people also will often self-censor some on the right who are farther to the right than them as a means of gaining political power. This weakens the right overall.

Inside the Left: Because left-style projection tends to assume the worst about their opponents, the ones who think the most deviously are the ones who rise to the top, because they are able to prepare best for what they may do in the realm of political combat. This is also why you will see a lot of internal cancellation on the left as there is constant expulsion of those who fail various purity tests. They can never be honest with one another. But their leaders tend to be strong within their coalitions.

Steel-manning the Idea

It is very evident from watching not just worldwide politics but also individual discussions and actions that this is a wide-spread fact of life.

Straw-manning the Idea

We are all subject to projection biases and it is even likely that the author of this article is projecting in what I have written here. While there may be studies to show this effect, I am not aware of them and suspect that any such studies would be highly prone to bias and inaccuracy.

Major Thinkers and Works

  • I'll leave this open for now. Please comment who you think is a major thinker in this area and suggest works that demonstrate or discuss this idea.


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