Dictionary Definition of Projection: “The attribution of one’s own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people or to objects; esp: the externalization of blame, guilt, or responsibility as a defense against anxiety.” (Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed.)
Carl Jung’s definition: “Jung defined projection as an unconscious, that is, unperceived and unintentional, transfer of subjective psychic elements onto an external object. One sees in this object something that is not there, or, if there, only in a small degree.” (Marie-Louise von Franz, Projection and Recollection in Jungian Psychology, p. 3.)
Applied to War: War propaganda is “a fantasy of enmity where we seek self-definition through constructing our antithesis.” (Nicholas Jackson O’Shaughnessy, Politics and Propaganda, p. vii.)
Twenty Statements Test
Symbolic Interactionism developed a way to chart concepts of the self by asking individuals to write twenty statements responding to a query such as: “I am ____________.”
We might adapt this approach to locate unwanted attributes of national identity as they are projected outwardly.
A Projection Worksheet
Attributes of America
- Equal Opportunity
ADD MORE ATTRIBUTES
Projected Attributes of Democracy
ADD MORE ATTRIBUTES
What anxieties about democracy are expressed in the projections to terrorism?
- Are our elections not so free and fair?
- Do political and economic elites in the U.S. rule under a façade of democracy?
- Do the courts protect citizens or special interests?
- Is freedom of the press and individual speech restricted by economic interests and executive authority?
- Do we impose our will on other countries by force of arms?
- Does religion rationalize U.S. warfare?
ADD MORE ANXIETIES
APPLY THIS EXERCISE TO ADDITIONAL ATTRIBUTES OF NATIONAL IDENTITY.
Sample Quotations from President Bush
QUESTION: Do you see any suggestions of projections in these quotes from President Bush?
- “America faces an enemy who has no regard for conventions of war or rules of morality.” (March 19, 2003)
- “All [of these acts] are the work of a fanatical, political ideology. The servants of this ideology seek tyranny. (April 13, 2004)
- “The terrorists seek to impose a grim vision in which dissent is crushed and every man and woman must think and live in colorless conformity.” (June 2, 2004)
- “These terrorists view the world as a giant battlefield.” (January 18, 2005)
- “They kill innocent men, women and children to achieve their objective.” (January 23, 2006)
- “We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire.” (January 20, 2004)
- “This government does not torture.” (December 15, 2005)
QUESTION: Can you find statements from national leaders and everyday citizens that suggest a collective tendency to construct external enemies by projecting onto them exaggerated expressions of our internal doubts, thus encouraging us to persist in warfare and discouraging us from thoughtful self-reflection on troubling aspects of our national identity?