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March 28, 2013

On Emotion and Narcissicism

I have two stories about Piers Morgan and am trying to connect them up.

First up, "Piers Morgan demonstrates how emotion triumphs over reason on cable news." After noting how Piers Morgan and his designated Victim Prop resorted again and again to cheap emotionalism in an alleged debate on gay marriage...

Again, in this authorís opinion, the intellectual underpinnings of [the] argument against gay marriage are especially frail. Morgan probably could, if he chose, dissect and dismantle [that] argument with facts of his own. Orman most certainly could have. Neither chose to, however, because they were content to express their feelings on the matter, and the audience ate it up. Why would either rely on a dispassionate argument in favor of gay marriage when the audience rewards them so for merely expressing their feelings?

There is a deeply fulfilling and powerful intellectual debate ongoing in the print and online community about gay marriage today, just as there is regarding nearly every contentious issue of the day. Readers of this post are probably aware of that, and are likely to be voracious consumers of that debate. The viewers of programs like Morganís are, sadly, cheated out of that experience. One would hope that Morgan thinks highly enough of his own audience to treat them to an educated discussion on the issues at hand, rather than to rely solely on the self-evident high regard he has for his opinion.

I linked this recently, but Sacred Honor compels me to link it again: Adam Carolla goes off on Piers Morgan's remorseless narcissism. Note particularly Carolla acknowledges we all have this beast of narcissism inside us (or, rather, we who seek public attention all do), but that there used to be a decorum about it, a Social Contract about how much you were permitted to blatantly talk about yourself in any five minute period. Say, about for about one minute in five, so long as you could gin up a plausible pretext to return to every narcissist's favorite subject, the Almighty Me. You couldn't just talk about yourself for five minutes straight, without even pretending to have anything else in mind but a celebration of the Almighty Me.

But that decorum is largely gone. Those who breach it pay no social penalty for doing so -- indeed, as Carolla notes, they're actually socially rewarded now.

Linking these two ideas about Piers Morgan: It occurs to me that while there is a selfish, ego-centric aspect to ideas -- we are, after all, proud of the ideas we hold, in perhaps a way we shouldn't be -- emotion, on the other hand, is entirely about the Self.

Ideas -- even if we are egotistically invested in them -- remain, fundamentally, external to us. What we call "abstract." They are Specters that reside in a Plane of Ideas outside of us. We champion one Specter over another, and surely there is an element of self-justification in our choices, but, at the end of the day, Ideas are owned by no man. They are owned, briefly, by their first creator, but after that briefest period of intellectual ownership, they have no owner and are simply commonly-held good which any man can utilize. They are outside of us. Ideas shape us but they are not us.

Emotion, on the other hand, is purely and entirely about the self. Emotions do not exist or have importance outside the self that feels them.

While the ego may be protective of the Ideas it chooses, the ego is not merely protective of emotions; emotions are the ego, and the ego is emotion.

I note this because every statement of emotion is unavoidably a statement about the Self. This is the Narcissists's Playground. At last, an opportunity to talk endlessly about oneself! Ideas, quotations, and lines of argument must be frequently cited to external sources. Credit must be given to others. What a hateful thought to the Narcissist.

But Emotion? O Joyous Thing, Emotion! We are all the authors and owners of our own Emotions, and undeniable experts on ourselves and our feelings! We need not share credit with anyone! For our emotions are Us and when we speak of our emotions we Sing a Joyous Song of Ourselves!

It takes hard work and talent to craft and argument -- but, actually, anyone can do that, can't he? So long he has something on the ball.

But only Piers Morgan can tell you what Piers Morgan is feeling. That is specific to he himself; that Glory is his alone.

I think this is what I find so bothersome about Meghan McCain's constant use of the words "young people" in justifying herself. She's not talking about external ideas that could be of interest to young people; primarily she is just asserting that her personal status as (sort of) young should make she herself compelling to young people. Rather than advertising her ideas (should she stumble upon one some day) she relentlessly and remorselessly advertises herself (but always with the unmet promise that one day she will offer an idea external to herself that Young People might think is just swell).

And make no mistake, when she says things like "Young people need a young spokesperson" or the like, what she really means, barely disguised at all, barely comporting with the decorum Carolla mentions, is that "Young people need the Almighty Me."

I think Carolla is right; at some point we stopped telling the Narcissists that they were boors, and stopped imposing the social penalty of Shunning on them, and instead started pouring gasoline of attention on the already-blazing fire of self-regard.

We should probably stop that.

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posted by Ace at 03:08 PM

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