We all practice selective denial, it’s part of the human condition. One philosopher observed that the greatest miracle we humans perform is living every day as though we are not going to die. My denial often takes the form of procrastination, it is much easier to put off a difficult thing than to tackle it directly.
There are many forms of denial, including the most dramatic: in your fucking face denial. This is the denial some insist on when confronted with anything painful or something we fear would make us look insane, or make us ashamed. This is the kind denial we defend until death, bracing ourselves against all proofs that are advanced against it.
The denial of bullies, who make a public show of hiding their terror, is an infamous kind of denial. “I’m not afraid of you, asshole, I’ll fucking kill you and dance on your fucking face. Tommy, take care of this piece of shit.”
Denial, clearly, is a powerful force in politics, as we see Putin’s forces marching to kill as many as necessary in the name of deNazifying and demilitarizing a neighboring country Putin has long sought to annex. We see it in sickening excess in the party the Koch network built over decades transforming the conservative, big business friendly GOP into the openly authoritarian John Birch Society/Trump party.
Trumpism is the American triumph of denialism. Racism? Never fucking happened, N-word. Yeah, I fired a top advisor for lying, a man who repented and pleaded guilty to perjury, then I had DOJ move to have the charges dropped, pardoned him and had him in the bunker at the end as a top advisor urging me to impose martial law after I was illegally declared the loser in my reelection bid. So? My campaign worked closely with a foreign power who favored my first and second bids to be president, why wouldn’t I gloat that all the elements of criminal conspiracy with that power could not be proved, as I legally pardoned those who lied to hide the most incriminating evidence? A bunch of sick liars claim I extorted a promise from a foreign leader militarily threatened by my foreign supporter, and that I violated U.S. law in the process, but I insist the call was not only OK, it was “perfect”– I was entitled to gloat after complete and total acquittal by my party. Covid was a hoax designed by never-Trumpers to rig an election against the greatest American leader of all-time, no precautions needed, I assured a terrified nation that the so-called pandemic would miraculously end soon, which it did. Supposedly lost a rigged election by eight million clearly fraudulent votes, an election I not only won (no proof needed, denial is powerful shit), but won in a landslide. “We fight, and if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country left” was not urging anyone to march down Pennsylvania Avenue (“I love Pennsylvania Avenue”) to fight like hell, it was meant as a metaphor about freedom.
My mother was prone to flying into fits of anger at times. She’d go from perfectly calm to ready to smash your face in the space of a few seconds when she felt provoked. I got good at avoiding and defusing these flashes of anger toward the end of her life, but I always recognized this readiness to become enraged in my dear mother. I knew better than to bring it up directly, she’d sooner box my ears than admit she ever got angry. I saw this in others I’ve known over the years, ready to become enraged, stubbornly set in their righteous anger, and most of those folks would vigorously deny they had been angry at all, reminding me that I was the enraged asshole who keeps bringing up anger, not them.
The beauty of denial is that you can just deny it. “So you deny that you denied the charges against you, in spite of the videotape of you denying it?” “Yes, I vehemently deny it.” Case closed. As Trump pointed out after Muhammed bin Salman had Jamal Kashoggi strangled and dismembered, the billionaire medieval prince had strongly denied any involvement, what more needs to be said?