Since he first assumed office, President Obama has steadfastly refused to acknowledge Islamic terrorism, even when the perpetrators admit to acting in the name of radical Islam. Instead, he classifies their actions as “workplace violence” or “lone wolf attacks.”
Many conclude that President Obama has deliberately tried to deceive the American people. After all, they reason, no Christian, Jew, or Buddhist has ever committed a violent act while shouting “Allahu Akbar.” So no honest person can deny that those who do so are Muslim.
But there is another, more charitable, conclusion—that Obama is engaged in self-deception. In other words, that though his view of Muslims as incapable of terrorism is a figment of his imagination or perhaps a full-fledged delusion, it is not deliberately dishonest because he really believes it.
Self-deception is not as rare as it may seem at first consideration. In fact, it is characteristically human. (I am reminded of the New Yorker cartoon in which a man responded to the woman sitting across from him, “Why am I raising my voice? Because I am wrong!” The humor lies in the fact that people seldom make such an admission, especially in the midst of a discussion.)
We all have a natural bias in favor of ourselves and are eager to protect our self-image. When the facts suggest we were mistaken, or treated others badly, or acted unethically or illegally, our ego can tempt us to reject that reality and embrace a more pleasant, self-serving view. That is self-deception.
Drug and alcohol addicts engage in self-deception when they say, “I can stop anytime I want.” So do people who claim that their driving ability is not affected by the amount of alcohol they consume. The rapist’s claim that “she was asking for it” is another example of self-deception, as is the pedophile’s notion that his despicable behavior is a form of love.
An even more common example of self-deception occurs when fans challenge a referee’s call even after the instant replay proves it was correct. A recurring example of deceiving oneself occurs among professors who spend their entire careers believing that their lecturing develops students’ thinking skills, despite voluminous evidence disproving that notion. Such individuals would scoff at the idea that coaches can transform students into skilled athletes by regaling them with stories of exciting athletic contests; or that driver education teachers can make students competent drivers by recounting their personal driving experiences. Yet the same individuals refuse to see that their approach to developing thinking skills is equally absurd.
Older Americans will remember a time when self-deception was discouraged in the home, the school, and the general culture. So what has changed? Humanistic Psychology has, by implication, dismissed the possibility of self-deception. It has done this by proclaiming that people can create their own truth and reality and that feelings are more reliable than reason. These ideas have fostered egotism and ethnocentrism, the twin assumptions that a person and his/her culture, country, or religion are superior to other people or cultures and therefore cannot be mistaken.
(Ironically, the people who hold these twin assumptions are often the most vocal proponents of diversity and multiculturalism. Their unconscious thought pattern seems to be, “Because I am superior, it is my duty to make sure that other people accept one another as equals, while acknowledging, of course, that I and my ideas are best.)
Given the influence of Humanistic Psychology, many people have gone far beyond wanting their opinions to be correct to believing that they are necessarily correct. Thus, they defend their ideas even in the face of strong evidence against them. Moreover, the longer they hold an idea and the more they cherish it, the stronger their defense of it and the greater their animosity toward those who would dare to dispute it. At the center of this process is self-deception.
I submit that it is precisely this kind of self-deception that best explains President Obama’s steadfast refusal to acknowledge Islamic terrorism. Like many people, he believes he can shape truth and reality to his own desires. It just happens that his desires reflect the lessons of his childhood—that Islam is always and everywhere a religion of peace and that Muslim nations, among others, have been the victims of the form of terror, and oppression, perpetrated by western colonial powers. (The most detailed discussion of the lessons of Obama’s childhood is presented in Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary film, Obama’s America.)
In other words, Barack Obama seems to believe that as victims of historic terrorism, Muslims cannot properly be called terrorists themselves (and perhaps cannot even be terrorists). Reinforcing this view is his belief that Islam is inherently and incorruptibly a religion of peace. Thus, he seems to reason that even if someone who happens to be a Muslim does something that would ordinarily be considered an act of terrorism, it cannot be called “Islamic terrorism.”
Is such reasoning fallacious? Of course. Does it fly in the face of a mountain of evidence that Islamic terrorism exists? Undeniably. Is Obama deliberately trying to deceive the American people? Not necessarily. As I have shown, it is entirely possible that he has simply deceived himself into believing what he wants to believe rather than what is so. His self-deception differs from other people’s only in the gravity of its consequences.
Copyright © 2016 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved