“A political narcissistic sociopath leveraged fear and ignorance” (or Tales of the 180 Tell)

A quick hit. Tell me, who does this quote describe?

“A political narcissistic sociopath leveraged fear and ignorance with a campaign marked by mendacity and malice rather than a mandate for resurgence and reform. [The campaign was used] as a vehicle for character assassination, replete with unrelenting and destructive distortion, derision, and division.”

I’ll restate the question — who does it describe perfectly? Yep, Mitt Romney and the Romney campaign. To a tee.

Now, who’s the speaker? …

I’ll bet you didn’t guess Mary Matalan (h/t Digby).

This is a perfect example of the 180 Tell (“180” as in a “180-degree wrong-way statement”). I’ve written about it before, but let me define it again this way:

The 180 Tell

The 180 Tell means you can exactly reverse what a right-wing propagandist is saying and get a perfectly accurate statement. It works two ways:

1. Whatever they say about themselves is true if you reverse it. When they say they’re white, you know they know they’re black, and just covering up.

2. Whatever they say about us is true about them. They tell us they’re robbing the poor when they say we’re doing it.

There’s not a more perfect example of the 180 Tell than the Matalin statement above. Go ahead; reread it. It’s a spot-on description, not only of the Romney campaign, but all modern Republican campaign tactics. What Limbaugh says daily works the same way, by the way. Reverse what he says and the man hits the mark every time. It’s his genius, such that he has one.

There are two uses of the 180 Tell — aside from its fascinating psychological implications.

■  It’s a tactic on their part, a conscious one to some degree, and also a clever one. It takes the evil they do off the table for criticism, by applying it so wrongly to others. This is why impeachment is off the table … well, one of the reasons anyway (Nancy Pelosi is the other reason).

■ It’s also a giveaway, an actual tell. When they talk about their opposition, they’re telling you what they’re up to. Sometimes they preview their plans before anyone knows them. For example, they accused the Dems of parachuting lawyers into Alaska to prosecute Sarah Palin for corruption as governor, several weeks before it was revealed they had done the same thing. If you used the tell, you could have had a scoop.

Tales of the 180 Tell — posted for your amusement on a post-election Sunday morning.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

Share This Post

  • I remember reading years ago Hannah Arendt the German political philosopher in her 1951 work “The Origins of Totalitarianism” addressing this very tactic as a tell tale sign of fascism at work.

  • True that, Naja. It is yet another example of the Lewis Powell Memorandum to the US Chamber of Commerce, circa 1971, and its (ahem) ‘doers.’ Bookmark worthy, if you don’t already have it stowed in pdf somewhere? Ref: http://reclaimdemocracy.org/corporate_accountability/powell_memo_lewis.html

  • ^5 ! Truly. We need to add Pam Spaulding’s succinct definition of ‘Rovian’ to the Urban Dictionary: “Rovian: Accuse the other side of doing exactly what you yourself have been doing all along.”
    Another example of the ‘Rovian’ 180 Tell? This: http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/new-heitkamp-strategy-if-youre-losing-accuse-the-other-side-of-cheating/ Re the Heitkamp / Berg North Dakota US Senate bid. Thank YOU Gaius Publius and all the AmericaBlog team. – Bleuz00m

  • Sennaca

    The quote at the beginning of the article wasn’t about Obama’s campaign?

  • rmthunter

    I’ve always said, if you want to know what a “conservative” is up to, listen to what they’re saying while they’re pointing at someone else.

  • Remember Rove whining that Obama won because Dems suppressed the vote? Perfect example! He went on to say they suppressed the vote by saying mean things about Rmoney/rAyn!!?

    But the real beauty of that lie is it insulates the GOPs suppression. Now if the media were to do a story on actual voter suppression they would be required (all fair and balancy like) to say “But Republicans point out that the Dems suppressed votes also”. It really is evil genius.

  • emjayay

    And of course according to Carl, Obama won because of some kind of “voter suppression”.

  • poechewe

    For the last 12 years, Karl Rove has played a simple game. Whatever weakness his Republican candidate has, he simply sticks the tag on the other guy.

    Even the Swift Boaters were part of that method: Smear Kerry’s excellent war record with fictions to obscure the fact that George W. hid out in the “champagne brigade” of the National Guard during Vietnam.

    The Republican book of right wing campaign tactics has finally caught up to them. The Karl Rove brand of campaigning is badly damaged, but no one should take their eyes off of what guys like him do. Too many Republican consultants and politicians still borrow from the Lee Atwater dirty tricks book.

  • ezpz

    “This isn’t derision, this is truth.”

    Not derision? I’ve never heard the word romnesia until 0bama started using it in a MOST derisive and juvenile way. If it were indeed a medical condition, it wouldn’t be something to make fun of.

    Do you remember when Rahm called many in the base ‘retards’? After much pressure from Sara Palin, he apologized – TO Sarah Palin, but never to those he actually insulted.

    My point is that whether ‘true’ or not, a real medical condition is not something to be mocked. So in the case of ‘romnesia’, a condition you say that Romney has, not only did 0bama show no compassion, but he childishly thought himself clever and cute for inventing the word. And the bots laughed and cheered because it was spoken by *their* cool guy.

  • hauksdottir

    Romnesia describes Romney’s medical condition. He suffers from BRAIN DAMAGE due to his fatal accident in France in 1968. A handful of us have mentioned it, many times, but the media ignored it.

    We never got even a single complete tax year and we never got a complete medical exam. The latter is actually far more important.

    He was DEAD and the police officer wrote DEAD in his passport. No breath, no pulse. A medical team revived him and he probably lay in a coma for several days. One of his passengers was not so “fortunate”. (I’d rather really be dead, than brain-dead.) Without oxygen, brain cells die. How much mental capacity did Romney lose? We’ll see his tax returns first.

    This isn’t derision, this is truth.


    If the leftwing hammered at this the same way that the rightwing shouts Benghazi every day, Romney would have crumbled and the election would have been an avalanche.

  • Kelley Kramer

    Its a Machiavelli tactic.. find your own worst trait and accuse your enemy of exactly that

  • stan

    For example, suppress the vote through bogus voter i.d. barriers, and then try to sell the idea that Obama suppressed the vote.

    You’re trying to fool the public, and you’re giving marching orders and talking points to the corrupt members of the press, who are then supposed to repeat your 180 trick.

    I’m sure there is a long, LONG, list of psy-ops tricks, developed over centuries, to use on the public and press.

    Example: If the name ‘x’ is involved in story which harms the team, then go out and find another person named ‘x’ or something like ‘x’, and inject that second person’s name into the story. Confuses heck out of everything.

  • They’ve been doing this for a while now, but only in the last decade or so has this projection / 180-degree tell strategy become the go-to strategy in the GOP. In this last election though, I think we cross the line from merely ‘overwhelming’ to ‘ludicrous.’

    Lots of examples– Class war. Obstructionism. Unwillingness to compromise. Lack of bipartisanship. Extremism. Intolerance. Racism. Freedom-hating. Infringing on freedom of religion. Restricting liberties. Voter fraud. Voter suppression. Voter intimidation. Campaign lies. Appealing to fear and ignorance. Bent on destroying America (not obvious? listen to their calls now for secession). Irresponsible federal budget priorities and deficit spending (-cough- Dubya -ahem-).

    Sadly, the Democrats have, for the most part, taken the GOP’s abdication of center-right positions and move into crazy-land as an invitation to move into what used to be Republican political territory, leaving the progressives, leftists, and liberals without a political party or movement to represent us. I notice that all the ‘Grand Bargain’ talk now is about how the Dems will resist the chained-CPI cuts in Social Security benefits, but nobody’s yet taken a 2 year increase in Medicare eligibility age off the table.

  • danaM

    This is why I call conservatives “Conversatives.” Just take the converse of what they say and you’ll be pretty close to the truth.

  • monopole

    “A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and
    is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees
    everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him
    from outside as projections upon his neighbor.” — Carl Jung

  • FunMe

    I love your posts GP! Great information with a wonderful style of writing.

  • ex_brit

    Also known as “mirroring” this technique is the basis of most of Rove’s spin. And it’s still going strong today, after the election. On Fox, it’s Obama who has ” dangerously divided” the nation!

  • Indigo

    That’s exactly right. The Class War that the Republicans habitually wage against the working class is an example in play, that every time there is a bid for social justice, Republicans cry War as if they were under attack and had been wounded. Their sense of self-entitlement that they imagine they have is at the root of their rhetoric, they habitually work to impoverish others and yet imagine themselves, when called on it, to be the naive victims. It’s pathological and, I suspect, contagious among Blue Dog Democrats as well.

  • Naja pallida

    She’s the main reason why there have been no Congressional investigations on torture, lying us into war, or warrantless wiretapping… because in order to do so, she would have to implicate herself as being a co-conspirator in everything.

  • AristarchusSeleucus

    Two questions (since “Nancy Pelosi” came up as a subject in the above . . . )

    (1) Why do Democrats LOVE Nancy Pelosi, esp. since she was a cheerleader for GWB for 8 years ?

    (2) Why doesn’t she just change parties ? Oh, wait . . .

  • unclemike

    You project more than my local multiplex.

  • Indigo

    That’s exactly right. The Class War is a classic of that tactic since it ‘s the Republicans that have asserted social hegemony for themselves but every time an effort for social justice surfaces, they cry War as if they’ve been attacked and taken damage. Now their post- election rhetoric is all about how they wish the Democtrats would not be so hateful. Uh-huh! Here in Florida the chatter of the moment is how to understand that Whites are not in the majority. Ain’t we got fun ?!?

  • I know you are but what am I?

  • ezpz

    Riiiight…those flowery platitudes had nothing to do with him and the love he has for the sound of his own voice, or loving the adulation and applause that those pretty words would elicit.

    Yeah, that certainly sounds “narcissistic” and “all about him.”

    It sure does!

  • psyspace

    All of this aside…Romney actually had a ver interesting “tell.” When Romney knew he was lying he would say something awkward like “severely conservative.”

  • JohnnyJake

    Matalin is famous because Geena Davis played her in a movie. She has never been correct about policy outcomes, candidates, etc. She belongs to the pantheon of the incorrect with Fleischer and Kristol. There is no reason to listen to her.

  • unclemike

    From his acceptance speech:
    “It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.

    Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come.”

    Yeah, that certainly sounds “narcissistic” and “all about him.”

    Go peddle your papers somewhere else, ezpz.

  • ARP

    There’s another use of the tactic, even when the primary use doesn’t work- false equivalency. Accuse the other side of something, when it’s pointed out that a “180 Tell,” they’ll point to some extreme example (e.g. a comment on a blog) and then say both sides do it. Example: Democrats had an unrelenting, racist, hate filled campaign against Romney portraying him as a autocratic Nazi. Once that’s debunked, they point to a hate filled comment on one of the blogs that may not even be on point, and say that both sides engage in that sort of behavior.

  • ezpz

    There are so many more examples, that I couldn’t possibly list them all, but re that ‘derision’ thing, “romnesia” comes to mind.

  • ezpz

    That “Republican id” now includes your president and many so called democrats.
    Dems know how to mask their agenda with populist rhetoric.
    Stay tuned…

  • LosGatosCA

    Hmmm, this hasn’t been a secret since the Nixon years. It also works at the retail level, many Republicans fear being treated the way they know they want to treat others. It’s pure projection at every level strategic and tactical.

    The Republican id is a pretty dark, scary ugly, and insecure thing.

  • ezpz

    I’m sure I’ll get voted down for saying this, but actually, that sounds like it applies to Obama.

    Narcissist? check!

    -Even his acceptance speech was all about him and his win.

    Leveraging fear and ignorance? check!

    -The same fear that Bush/Cheney used – and THEN some -as a reason to trample on our constitutional rights some more, not to mention the volume of drone attacks that kill and maim innocent (brown) civilians day after day after day….

    -Fear of the dreaded debt and deficit so as to preemptively prepare the base for ‘entitlement’ cuts. That word should never have been uttered by ANY so called democrat!

    -Fear that you must support his corporate welfare so called health care bill or else…

    Mendacity and malice rather than a mandate for resurgence and reform? Oh yeah!

    -He had that mandate for reform in 2008, and what did he do with it? He conceded everything to the republicans and spit in the collective face of his base.

    -And if anyone thinks Obama does not lie – a LOT – well, can I interest you in some snake oil that I have left over from 2008?

    a vehicle for character assassination, replete with unrelenting and destructive distortion, derision, and division Yup!

    -Calling someone a murderer, a thief, a liar, a vulture, a bad Morman (Reid), among other things without any proof, (AND with Obama having the same qualities, except, of course, the morman part) – well, if that’s not character assassination, then I don’t know what is.

    Who’s the murderer here?


  • Naja pallida

    The “I’m rubber and you’re glue” schoolyard strategy has been a staple of the Republican party since about 1979. You know, the party of taking responsibility.

  • This is not news to sentient citizens; we’ve known this about Republicans for decades…

  • FLL

    When people are up to no good, this is the most common defense mechanism there is. They describe what they’re doing or intend to do and then accuse the other side of doing it. Their logic is that they can then let loose with a histrionic outburst and say, “But you can’t accuse me of that because I’ve already accused you of it!”

  • Constant Comment

    Also called projection.

  • Hobbes, from Calvin and Hobbes: It’s opposite day!

© 2018 AMERICAblog Media, LLC. All rights reserved. · Entries RSS