In the Case of J.D. Vance, ‘Projection’ Is a ‘Progressive’ Disorder

January 5, 2022 Updated: January 7, 2022


Psychological “projection” is generally understood to be the assignment of one’s own intentions and actions to another party. It’s the proverbial case of “the pot calling the kettle black.”

Bullies often project their own feelings of inadequacy and aggression onto other people. Projection is a form of culpability-transfer that shifts the shameful conduct of some to the doorstep of others.

In its wokest partisan form, projection is a self-serving defense mechanism through which unhinged activists disguise their own malicious inclinations by attributing them to political enemies.

J.D. Vance’s Case Against the Modern University

The spread of this partisan variant of “projection disorder” relies on the availability of suitable hosts to which shame can be reassigned. Given the temper of our times, this pathology usually begins with identifying a prominent ideological adversary.

A striking example of this disorder appeared late last year in the pages of The Chronicle of Higher Education. On Dec. 14, Henry Reichman, professor emeritus of history at California State University, East Bay and former vice president of the American Association of University Professors, penned a particularly toxic missive complaining that “Right-wing attacks on academic freedom have real repercussions.”

Reichman chose to focus his ire on the American venture capitalist and author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” J.D. Vance, who is presently a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.

Reichman began with a rebuke of Vance’s address to the 2021 National Conservatism Conference in Orlando, Florida. In the address, Vance had criticized the performance of the modern university.

Vance contended that once you have seen the bias and corruption in our academic institutions, it’s very hard to unsee it. He said universities claim to disseminate knowledge and train young minds to think, but they do neither. He expressed concern that so much of what drives modern nations is determined by universities, yet they have failed us by holding up obvious lies to be the truth. He asked the question, “Why have we consented to this?”

Finally, Vance mused that, some 50 years ago, the late President Richard Nixon may have been correct when he asserted that “the professors are the enemy.”

Transferring Blame

As a product of the Woodward and Bernstein generation, Reichman was discernibly “triggered” by the content of J.D. Vance’s address and the shocking invocation of Richard Milhous Nixon.

“The irony of this statement, coming from someone who has boasted of his position as scholar in residence at Ohio State University, is indisputable,” Reichman wrote. “But it is important to ask why is it that Vance, and others of his political ilk, appear so viscerally hostile to higher ed.”

Seizing the mantle of “scholarship” for himself and, dare we assume, those of his own “political ilk,” the professor issued a series of reality-defying allegations.

Reichman insisted that “it is precisely academic freedom that so incenses the J.D. Vances of the world.” Clearly, our eminent don was loath to hear complaints from misguided upstarts like this deplorable young Republican from rural Appalachia.

“It is our freedom to experiment, speculate, and imagine—our freedom to go wherever our research might lead us and to share the results of that research, no matter how discomforting, free from censorship or the direction of the powerful,” wrote the professor.

Reichman asserted that “it is our freedom to teach the results of such research that leads Vance to charge that professors ‘teach that America is an evil, racist nation’ and that we ‘train teachers who bring that indoctrination into our elementary and high schools.’”

And finally, Reichman proclaimed, “It is our boldly asserted but often endangered claim to the freedom to speak as citizens of both society and our institutions without fear of employer sanction—a freedom unavailable to the great majority of private employees—that facilitates the demagogic stoking of popular resentment.”

In other words, the professoriate is a cut above the “great majority” of Americans. It deserves a freedom unavailable to the ordinary citizen. Progressives are entitled to teach whatever they want to. The “right” is always wrong. So, don’t even dare to disagree with progressive academics or challenge their entitlement to tenure.

‘Projection Deception’ Will Not Permanently Succeed

By any measure of the data regarding political affiliation or the dominant zeitgeist in academia, Reichman’s allegation that his freedom to “experiment, imagine, conduct research and share results” has been impeded by dark conservative forces in our universities is nothing short of ludicrous.

Reichman’s discovery of “indisputable irony” in Vance’s remarks is deceptively attributed to the existence of an imaginary “extreme right-wing” in the academy. All the while, progressives deny the reverse reality that “higher ed” has been hostile to conservative ideas since the 1960s. In the mega-narrative of the woke, evil intent is only inherent in conservative thought.

Conservative and classical liberal academics have been playing defense and engaging in ordered retreat in our universities for the past 60 years.

Advancing the notion that the “right” controls academia is like arguing that the Toronto Maple Leafs dominate the National Hockey League. It’s a blatant lie.

Those of a Machiavellian disposition will always insist that “turn about is fair play.” Putting opponents on their heels by assigning your own self-serving dishonesty to an adversary is viewed as a winning political strategy.

On the conservative side, many worry that “good guys finish last” and, looking back on the Trump-Russia hoax or the delusional gaslighting around “voter suppression,” it’s easy to see why many clear-headed Americans have become discouraged.

In the long run, however, this form of “projection disorder” seldom leads to permanent mass psychosis. Deception can only be taken so far. When obvious blame-shifting becomes the rule, reasonable people lose trust. Evidence of this is showing up in record low approval ratings for the Biden administration, especially among independents.

Those who can’t own up to their own behavior will always try to put it on somebody else. But, the truth is like toothpaste. Once exceptional men like J.D. Vance squeeze it out of the tube, it’s very difficult for the Henry Reichmans of America to push it back in.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

William Brooks is a Canadian writer who contributes to The Epoch Times from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of “The Civil Conversation” for Canada’s Civitas Society.