For example if a politician who's corrupt accuses another one of being corrupt with the intention of making it less likely for people to believe accusations against their corruption.

  • 1
    Hello and welcome to philosophy.SE! The philosophy of language is the study of what meaning is as well as how words can influence our perception of the world. The question that you asked is not a question about the philosophy of language, it is just a question asking to identify a word. Even if the word might have something to do with philosophy, this is not a question about philosophy and is therefore off topic here. You might want to try asking this on the English stack exchange, I think these questions are on topic there.
    – Not_Here
    Aug 3 '17 at 6:33
  • Ah ok I thought it might be a type of fallacy and would be relevant here. I'll try there. Aug 3 '17 at 6:44
  • Oh okay, I see what you mean by asking about a fallacy, I had originally read the question in a differently way. If you are focusing on looking for a specific fallacy I would mention that in the question now; questions asking for specific fallacies are generally accepted on this site. Apologies!
    – Not_Here
    Aug 3 '17 at 6:54
  • I think you may have still been right actually. I did switch the tag to fallacy but if it's removed for irrelevance I won't totally disagree. Aug 3 '17 at 7:07
  • Smear tactics, mud-slinging are colloquial terms for such. Aug 3 '17 at 12:28

"For example if a politician who's corrupt accuses another one of being corrupt ..."

This is a defence mechanism called 'splitting and projection'. The psychological model is that the offender unconsciously splits off his bad behaviour - actually doesn't believe it's his own behaviour. Thinks it must be the world's or someone else's fault. Then he projects the fault onto a handy scapegoat or opponent.

This defence mechanism has been extraordinarily successful in human evolution. It seems to blindside the opponent, most likely because the offender has such belief and conviction that the opponent is at fault that the opponent is bamboozled and put on the back-foot. Once you know about splitting and projecting it becomes easier to fathom and to handle.

Melanie Klein was the psychologist who first wrote about this in 'object relations theory', dealing with child psychology and cognitive integration.

I dare say some people knowingly use the pattern of this defence mechanism in deliberate denial and deflection, but the original psychological mechanism is unconscious. Once the child fails to integrate and acknowledge their faulty behaviour the tendency to split off their faults can persist into adulthood. You would have to try to determine for yourself whether an adult is unconsciously splitting and projecting or cynically and knowingly denying and deflecting.

Quoting an interesting reference from ENRON: Taking our cue from the world of object relations, page 5.

while not providing a psychological portrait of Fastow, we do consider Fastow's behavior at Enron as exhibiting the classic hallmarks of the psychodynamic process of splitting, or splitting behavior—a psychodynamic process that also is part of the object-relations orientation. This notion of splitting comes from the work of the famous psychoanalyst Melanie Klein (1975). Splitting behavior fundamentally involves dichotomizing the world into 'good' objects and 'bad' objects as part of a paranoid-schizoid defensive condition. It is a regressive defensive reactive process in which the world can get divided into 'us' and 'them'. In the face of unpleasant and fundamentally different views, individuals exhibit this process at play with the dichotomizing being manifest in acts of generalization, distortion, concealment, manipulation, and alike. The nature of the splitting is such that "the introjections of good objects and projections of bad objects and parts of the self render him relatively independent of others and free of guilt at the price of distrust of others and overestimation of himself (Rycroft, 1995, p. 162).

(emphasis added)

Introjection of good objects means owning one's good qualities; the bad ones are split off and projected.

If you need a one-liner fallacy you could do worse than "the pot calling the kettle black".


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