I got an email from a reader, Phanatic, which is worth posting in its entirety:
Hi there. You frequently cover topics in your blog that touch upon narcissism in some fashion.II.
Well, I just read an article in the LA Times that just screams out about it, but doesn't use the word once, because it's supposedly dealing with the abortion debate, talking to men who have regrets about past abortions their girlfriends had.
Here's an excerpt. This guy takes the narcissism cookie:Chris Aubert, a Houston lawyer, felt only indifference in 1985 when a girlfriend told him she was pregnant and planned on an abortion. When she asked if he wanted to come to the clinic, he said he couldn't; he played softball. He stuck a check for $200 in her door and never talked to her again.
Aubert, 50, was equally untroubled when another girlfriend had an abortion in 1991. "It was a complete irrelevancy," he said. But years later, Aubert felt a rising sense of unease. He and his wife were cooing at an ultrasound of their first baby when it struck him -- "from the depths of my belly," he said -- that abortion was wrong.
Aubert has since converted to Catholicism. He and his wife have five children, and they sometimes protest in front of abortion clinics. Every now and then, though, Aubert wonders: What if his first girlfriend had not aborted? How would his life look different?
He might have endured a loveless marriage and, perhaps, a sad divorce. He might have been saddled with child support as he tried to build his legal practice. He might never have met his wife. Their children -- Christine, Kyle, Roch, Paul, Vance -- might not exist.
"I wouldn't have the blessings I have now," Aubert said. So in a way, he said, the two abortions may have cleared his path to future happiness.
"That's an intellectual debate I have with myself," he said. "I struggle with it."
In the end, Aubert says his moral objection to abortion always wins. If he could go back in time, he would try to save the babies.
But would his long-ago girlfriends agree? Or might they also consider the abortions a choice that set them on a better path?
Aubert looks startled. "I never really thought about it for the woman," he says slowly.
Yeesh. He's 23, he gets a girl pregnant, and he slips $200 under her door, goes and plays softball, and never speaks to her again. And to this day, the regret wasn't that he was a self-centered asshole who slipped $200 under her door, went and played softball, and never spoke to her again, it's that she aborted the child. Never really thought about it from her point of view.
I say again, yeesh.
Well, it's probably worse than that.
Consider that the problem here isn't his changing stance on abortion, but rather that he was so self-absorbed he couldn't even consider the woman's perspective. That's narcissism: you're the main character, everyone else is supporting cast. They don't get backstories, or motivation. They're just foils.
And in 17 years, it still never occurred to him to think about her feelings on that day.
Bad enough, but observe that he is so self-absorbed, even today, that he didn't even consider that he would appear foolish in a newspaper article. In the LA Times!
He knows she's going to ask him questions about abortion, about a "woman's right to choose"-- he doesn't even take a minute to come up with a few soundbites about that? No prepared responses just in case they ask him, say, the obvious?
No. Because that's not how he thinks. He probably thought, great! The LA Times! Finally the recognition I deserve! Never once considering that the article might be a sneak attack on the pro-life movement using him as a straw man. Narcissism does not allow you to consider that things-- good or bad-- are about something else other than you. I'm not saying the article was a sneak attack-- merely that he did not consider it might be. And he was thus very unprepared. The guy is a lawyer-- his job is to be ready for precisely this sort of thing.
Did he consider that the article might reflect badly on his practice? That his name would be googled and then blogged by, for example, nut psychiatrists in California?
No. He could only see the potential of an article from the context of his identity, which therefore meant it would be wholly aggrandizing. That in showing how bad he was, he can signal how good he is.
Remember, narcissism is: getting people to believe your backstory.
But let's ask a different question. Chris Aubert is a Houston lawyer. I'm sure the Rolodex at the LA Times is extensive, but exactly why does it contain a Houston lawyer? Of all the men who've "had" abortions, why him? Random?
Turns out Mr. Aubert has been profiled before: born Jewish, abortions in 1985 and 1991, converted to Catholicism in 1997 after he married his Catholic wife, etc. He even wrote an article about it.
Clearly, then, he was selected. The LA Times writer came prepared, she already knew what he was going to say. That's why she picked him. Do you understand? She wasn't writing a story about her discoveries about this issue, she was writing a story about what she already believes, and he fit that story.
In the article Aubert's article From Jewish to Catholic By Way Of Abortion, the word "she" appears only 8 times-- only 3 in reference to his former girlfriend. The word "woman" appears 3 times. "Her" 6 times. In 9 pages. Get the picture? "I" appears 201 times. "My" 83 times.
I doubt the LA Times reporter was sitting there counting, but she must have thought: no way has this guy ever given a moment's thought to women-- or anyone but himself.
It is why also why his picture isn't at the top of the LA Times article-- he looks too normal. For the photo, they use a guy with, well, a mullet. I'm not trying to criticize the guy(s), I'm just showing you how you construct an article you want to convey a hidden message: anti-abortion guys are clueless.
So didn't he think to investigate the journalist? A Google search? Just to see what bias she might have?
I did-- the right wing crowd has a lot of problems with what they perceive to be her pro-choice bias. I'm not saying she has a bias or doesn't, but wouldn't you at least want to be better prepared for the interview?
No. Not because of a lack of intelligence, but because it is impossible for him to think any other way. Forget about considering whether his beliefs are wrong, he can't conceive of other beliefs except as prelude to his own. The LA Times' writers exist only in relationship to him, as a means of disseminating his own opinions. They do not exist by themselves, they don't have an agenda outside of him. They can't hurt him.
Unfortunately, they did.