Communal Narcissism in Social Justice Warriors
Victimhood as the Ultimate Grandiose Expression
By now almost everyone is aware of the stereotypical social justice warrior that is self righteous, aggressive and obnoxiously in your face. There are memes that have become famous for perfectly encapsulating the worst manifestations of these individuals and their extreme hostility. I think that it is time we take a deeper look at the psychology that underlies such unpleasant behavior. What drives these people? Why do they behave the way they do? I think I have an explanation for this phenomenon.
The Social Justice Warrior (SJW) is a narcissist who uses historically marginalized people, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable people as ploys for their sickness and mental disorder. I want to be clear, interaction with a narcissist can be very dangerous and can cause long-term psychological damage. There are different kinds of narcissists: malignant, covert and overt or grandiose. Each of these forms manifest differently but the underlying motivations tend to be the same.
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Some of the signs and/or symptoms to be on the lookout for:
An exaggerated sense of self importance (grandiosity)
A sense of entitlement
A persistent and excessive need for external validation
A deficit of empathy
Envy and resentment towards the success and happiness of others
An obsession with upward social comparison
Paranoia and a besieged mentality
Hypersensitivity to perceived rejection or criticism
Secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation
Often these people didn’t get the proper attention at home when they were kids. They might have had their feelings, needs and wants ignored and/or were denied the freedom to form a coherent self-identity. Lacking a genuine sense of self, narcissists often create an idealized self that they attempt to emulate and wear as a mask to the world. The illusion of the idealized self outweighs any need for social and emotional intelligence, so a narcissist learns to relate to others purely as a means of external validation.
This is often done without any regard for the feelings or needs of the other person. They have a tendency to bully and victimize people. They will fixate on a person, idealizing them, only later on coldly to discard them when they are no longer useful or no longer providing the narcissist’s fuel and supply. The patterns of abuse and bullying that they impose on others serves to reinforce their notion of superiority and their sense of grandiosity.
This can make others around them fearful and insecure enough to continue to act as the fuel and supply constantly craved. A covert narcissist lacks the superficial charm and charisma of the grandiose (overt) narcissist, so it may be harder for them to obtain their supply. The covert type sometimes appears weak or downtrodden and relies on sympathy and pity from others. They might constantly tell stories of self-victimization to keep that supply and fuel coming. They need that validation and if you spend enough time around them, you might begin to recognize the resentment, entitlement and grandiosity that animates them. Just like the more overt narcissists.
Communal narcissists look for high social standing among a group. A really good past example of this would be hippy communes from the 1970s. New York City therapist and author Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, has written an incredible article entitled When a Social Justice Warrior is a Communal Narcissist that provides amazing insight into this:
Yet as much as I continue to revere activism, it’s clear that key concerns, such as pandemic starvation, ecological collapse, the threat of nuclear war and the ubiquitous exploitation of vulnerable populations have not been sufficiently addressed or altered. Perhaps this is so because in large part lofty notions of activism are often touted, not by those who are sincerely invested in deep-seated ideological beliefs to better society, but by those who are driven to procure clout and recognition. Likewise, it’s important to consider the intractable control the elite have over all major political processes and policies.
However, in an effort to steer clear of righteous posturing my intent is simply to elucidate the psychological machinations of the variety of Social Justice Warriors who are less concerned with the sort of comprehensive transformation brought about by grassroots organizing, and are instead motivated by an insatiable quest for power, superiority and adulation.
As a trauma and addiction therapist with over thirty years of experience in the public and private sectors of NYC, the treatment of narcissistic abuse syndrome has by necessity become an area of specialization. Indeed, a PsychCentral article contends that narcissistic abuse affects over 158 million people in the U.S.
Hence, given the stats it stands to reason that many of those who identify on the malignant end of the narcissism personality spectrum are driven to glean supply within activist circles. In fact, The Communal Narcissism Inventory (CNI) (Gebauer, J. E., Sedikides, C., Verplanken, B., & Maio, G. R.) was designed to identify those who are driven to satisfy the same selfish needs as the agentic narcissist who is focused on controlling self-directed personal goals, but in a cooperative public domain. Commentary received from a client who is a renowned scholar, author and activist about her encounters with narcissistic social justice warriors, affirms this assumption.
The individual who lands on the malignant end of the narcissism personality spectrum, exhibits an absence of empathy and an intense need for aggrandizing, attention, and admiration. They harbor extreme expectations, reinforced by a deluded sense of entitlement and ‘specialness’. These traits result in dangerously exploitive, abusive behavior that is carried out with cunning and acumen, aided by devoted followers who are enlisted to successfully dominate and destroy a chosen target.
The communal narcissist seeking to continuously validate their grandiosity and satisfy their sense of entitlement and thirst for power by appearing empathically attuned and committed to collective goals, will champion a noble cause that concretizes a virtuous altruistic image.
In the guise of a SJW the seemingly heroic narcissist will deftly manipulate through solicitous good will. They know what others need and are intent on ensuring compliance. With patronizing guilelessness they impart the indisputable importance of their platform, while pontificating a sincere desire to bring you into the ethical light. The cause they stand by may even be well regarded and have ideological acumen. Co-opted however by the narcissist, the charitable objectives are simply used as a means to acquire power, fame and money.
The smoke and mirrors of ideological principles obfuscate the narcissistic social justice warrior’s true intent and behavior. Spreading false information, inflammatory attacks, lack of accountability, unfounded accusations, and hateful rhetoric are all chalked up to progressive justice. In true narcissistic fashion this SJW will virtue signal, gaslight, grandstand, ignite character assassination, smear campaigns, and pontificate black and white thinking.
For the narcissistic SJW worthy causes become caricatures in which radical polarized notions of what is indisputably correct and indisputably not correct, occurs. Hence, the exclusion of nuance or thoughtful dialogue is vehemently prohibited. The narcissistic social justice warrior demands complete control. Any deviation is met with severe repercussions. Free speech and free thought are anathema to the lauded cause. The supply/followers must prove their loyalty. They must also conform to tyrannical visions of moral purity. The variability and complexity of human nature is trivialized. Blatantly absurd false narratives are tenaciously upheld even in the face of contrary proof. Ambitions, beyond the bounds of possibility are proposed, such as obliterating hate, ironically by hating the hater. – Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW
I think that Rev. Heller perfectly describes a communal narcissist and how social media and our modern industrial society tends to allow these people to be amplified and uplifted into unearned positions of power. She goes on to hit the nail on the head when she states:
Through turning to psychology and history (not social media or advertising campaigns) we can attempt to comprehend and analyze the present. By doing so we come to realize that all idealists in positions of influence and authority eventually become elitists. Elites are those who possess comparatively greater power and influence within institutions, organizations, and movements. This allows them to engineer decisive political outcomes.
It is a repetitive historical reality that all forms of government irrespective of ideology, are ultimately reducible to the rule of a few global elitists. They determine foreign policy, run the government, industry, and the worlds of finance and media. How they mobilize their influence has tremendous bearing not just on the collective mindset, but also on morality.
An elitist is not the same as a narcissist, although it’s tempting to view them as synonymous. While prestige can certainly inflate one’s sense of self and even incite feelings of superiority, the elitist unto oneself is not necessarily malignant. Possessing high intellect, advanced education, status, special skills, power and wealth does not constitute narcissism, but it does make one vulnerable to corruption. It also makes one vulnerable to being a magnet for narcissists who seek to benefit from the elitist’s power. – Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW
You see, narcissism is a spectrum and we all have some of these traits. What makes someone a true narcissist in the covert, malignant or grandiose sense is how many of these traits and to what extremes they display them.
A typical hostile SJW
The SJW lacks the ability for acute self reflection and self criticism. A recent discovery demonstrates that about 30 percent of the population lacks an internal monologue (critical for self-examination). In turn, the finding prompted a popular meme depicting the SJW as an NPC (non-playable character). This is a reference to video game characters who are not controlled by a player and thus have no real agency.
While the NPC meme may be humorous, it is inaccurate inasmuch as SJWs most certainly do not lack agency. In reality, they can be far more cunning and calculating, a fact overlooked by most on the right. There are some SJWs who are not narcissistic, but a good majority of them are and they are accountable for their own actions and behaviors and should not be given a cultural pass for them.
On a forum for Linux users, one individual made a remarkable post about SJWs and malignant narcissism that I found very helpful in understanding what you are dealing with if you ever come into contact with these folks:
I was reading an article from Thought Catalog that explained the manipulative behaviors of malignant narcissists and sociopaths.
As I read, it occurred to me: these tactics remind me of something… they are exactly what SJWs (and cultural Marxists in general) use to enforce and protect their ideological dogmas.
They demand vigorous attention to and affirmation of whatever insanity they are peddling this week. If you deny them this narcissistic supply, they come right out and apply these manipulation tactics to you. They will dial the tactics up until one of two things happen: you either surrender and act as they demand, or you become neutralized by firing / censorship / aggression / hate they stirred against you.
This story has remained the same decades, from Herbert Marcuse’s repressive intolerance gaslighting his victims into believing that intolerance was a virtue, to the SJW celebrities d.b.a. Crash Override Network conspiring to ruin the lives of those who expose them as frauds, to your friendly corner SJW insisting that “feminism is about equality” while in the same breath agitating for preferential treatment of certain people.
The original article is really long, so I have taken the liberty to summarize the relevant parts of it here. If you have experienced firsthand the maliciousness of an SJW (or a cultural Marxist of any sort), I guarantee you, this summary will remind you of that maliciousness. – Rudd-O
The question that was asked was “are social justice warriors psychopaths or malignant narcissists?” He answered by providing a very useful breakdown of the tactics they employ:
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that can be described in different variations of three words: “That didn’t happen,” “You imagined it,” and “Are you crazy?”. Gaslighting is perhaps one of the most insidious manipulative tactics out there because it works to distort and erode your sense of reality; it eats away at your ability to trust yourself and inevitably disables you from feeling justified in calling out abuse and mistreatment.
Projection is a defense mechanism used to displace responsibility of one’s negative behavior and traits by attributing them to someone else. It ultimately acts as a digression that avoids ownership and accountability.
3. Nonsensical conversations from hell.
Malignant narcissists and sociopaths use word salad, circular conversations, ad hominem arguments, projection and gaslighting to disorient you and get you off track should you ever disagree with them or challenge them in any way. They do this in order to discredit, confuse and frustrate you, distract you from the main problem and make you feel guilty for being a human being with actual thoughts and feelings that might differ from their own.
4. Blanket statements and generalizations.
Rather than taking the time to carefully consider a different perspective, they generalize anything and everything you say, making blanket statements that don’t acknowledge the nuances in your argument or take into account the multiple perspectives you’ve paid homage to. Better yet, why not put a label on you that dismisses your perspective altogether?
5. Deliberately misrepresenting your thoughts and feelings to the point of absurdity.
Narcissists weave tall tales to reframe what you’re actually saying as a way to make your opinions look absurd or heinous. Let’s say you bring up the fact that you’re unhappy with the way a toxic friend is speaking to you. In response, he or she may put words in your mouth, saying, “Oh, so now you’re perfect?” or “So I am a bad person, huh?” when you’ve done nothing but express your feelings. This enables them to invalidate your right to have thoughts and emotions about their inappropriate behavior and instills in you a sense of guilt when you attempt to establish boundaries.
6. Nitpicking and moving the goal posts.
Abusive narcissists and sociopaths employ a logical fallacy known as “moving the goalposts” in order to ensure that they have every reason to be perpetually dissatisfied with you. This is when, even after you’ve provided all the evidence in the world to validate your argument or taken an action to meet their request, they set up another expectation of you or demand more proof.
7. Changing the subject to evade accountability.
Narcissists don’t want you to be on the topic of holding them accountable for anything, so they will reroute discussions to benefit them. Complaining about their neglectful parenting? They’ll point out a mistake you committed seven years ago. This type of diversion has no limits in terms of time or subject content, and often begins with a sentence like “What about the time when…”
8. Covert and overt threats.
Rather than tackle disagreements or compromises maturely, they set out to divert you from your right to have your own identity and perspective by attempting to instill fear in you about the consequences of disagreeing or complying with their demands. To them, any challenge results in an ultimatum and “do this or I’ll do that” becomes their daily mantra. If someone’s reaction to you setting boundaries or having a differing opinion from your own is to threaten you into submission, whether it’s a thinly veiled threat or an overt admission of what they plan to do, this is a red flag of someone who has a high degree of entitlement and has no plans of compromising.
The lowest of the low resort to narcissistic rage in the form of name-calling when they can’t think of a better way to manipulate your opinion or micromanage your emotions. Name-calling is a quick and easy way to put you down, degrade you and insult your intelligence, appearance or behavior while invalidating your right to be a separate person with a right to his or her perspective. Name-calling can also be used to criticize your beliefs, opinions and insights. A well-researched perspective or informed opinion suddenly becomes “silly” or “idiotic” in the hands of a malignant narcissist or sociopath who feels threatened by it and cannot make a respectful, convincing rebuttal.
10. Destructive conditioning.
Toxic people condition you to associate your strengths, talents, and happy memories with abuse, frustration and disrespect. They do this by sneaking in covert and overt put-downs about the qualities and traits they once idealized as well as sabotaging your goals, ruining celebrations, vacations and holidays. Narcissists are also naturally pathologically envious and don’t want anything to come in between them and their influence over you. Your happiness represents everything they feel they cannot have in their emotionally shallow lives. After all, if you learn that you can get validation, respect and love from other sources besides the toxic person, what’s to keep you from leaving them?
11. Smear campaigns and stalking.
When toxic types can’t control the way you see yourself, they start to control how others see you; they play the martyr while you’re labeled the toxic one. A smear campaign is a preemptive strike to sabotage your reputation and slander your name so that you won’t have a support network to fall back on lest you decide to detach and cut ties with this toxic person. They may even stalk and harass you or the people you know as a way to supposedly “expose” the truth about you; this exposure acts as a way to hide their own abusive behavior while projecting it onto you.
12. Love-bombing and devaluation.
Toxic people put you through an idealization phase until you’re sufficiently hooked and invested in beginning a friendship or relationship with you. Then, they begin to devalue you while insulting the very things they admired in the first place. Another variation of this is when a toxic individual puts you on a pedestal while aggressively devaluing and attacking someone else who threatens their sense of superiority.
13. Preemptive defense.
When someone stresses the fact that they are a “nice guy” or girl, that you should “trust them” right away or emphasizes their credibility without any provocation from you whatsoever, be wary. Toxic and abusive people overstate their ability to be kind and compassionate. They often tell you that you should “trust” them without first building a solid foundation of trust. They may “perform” a high level of sympathy and empathy at the beginning of your relationship to dupe you, only to unveil their false mask later on. When you see their false mask begins to slip periodically during the devaluation phase of the abuse cycle, the true self is revealed to be terrifyingly cold, callous and contemptuous.
Bringing in the opinion, perspective or suggested threat of another person into the dynamic of an interaction is known as “triangulation.” Often used to validate the toxic person’s abuse while invalidating the victim’s reactions to abuse, triangulation can also work to manufacture love triangles that leave you feeling unhinged and insecure. Malignant narcissists love to triangulate their significant other with strangers, co-workers, ex-partners, friends and even family members in order to evoke jealousy and uncertainty in you. They also use the opinions of others to validate their point of view. This is a diversionary tactic meant to pull your attention away from their abusive behavior and into a false image of them as a desirable, sought after person. It also leaves you questioning yourself if Mary did agree with Tom, doesn’t that mean that you must be wrong?
15. Bait and feign innocence.
Toxic individuals lure you into a false sense of security simply to have a platform to showcase their cruelty. Baiting you into a mindless, chaotic argument can escalate into a showdown rather quickly with someone who doesn’t know the meaning of respect. A simple disagreement may bait you into responding politely initially, until it becomes clear that the person has a malicious motive of tearing you down.
16. Boundary testing and hoovering.
Narcissists, sociopaths and otherwise toxic people continually try and test your boundaries to see which ones they can trespass. The more violations they’re able to commit without consequences, the more they’ll push the envelope. That’s why survivors of emotional as well as physical abuse often experience even more severe incidents of abuse each and every time they go back to their abusers. Abusers tend to “hoover” their victims back in with sweet promises, fake remorse and empty words of how they are going to change, only to abuse their victims even more horrifically. In the abuser’s sick mind, this boundary testing serves as a punishment for standing up to the abuse and also for being going back to it.
17. Aggressive jabs disguised as jokes.
Covert narcissists enjoy making malicious remarks at your expense. These are usually dressed up as “just jokes” so that they can get away with saying appalling things while still maintaining an innocent, cool demeanor. Yet any time you are outraged at an insensitive, harsh remark, you are accused of having no sense of humor. This is a tactic frequently used in verbal abuse. The contemptuous smirk and sadistic gleam in their eyes gives it away, however like a predator that plays with its food, a toxic person gains pleasure from hurting you and being able to get away with it. After all, it’s just a joke, right? Wrong. It’s a way to gaslight you into thinking their abuse is a joke a way to divert from their cruelty and onto your perceived sensitivity.
18. Condescending sarcasm and patronizing tone.
Belittling and degrading a person is a toxic person’s forte and their tone of voice is only one tool in their toolbox. Sarcasm can be a fun mode of communication when both parties are engaged, but narcissists use it chronically as a way to manipulate you and degrade you. If you in any way react to it, you must be “too sensitive.” Forget that the toxic person constantly has temper tantrums every time their big bad ego is faced with realistic feedback the victim is the hypersensitive one, apparently. So long as you’re treated like a child and constantly challenged for expressing yourself, you’ll start to develop a sense of hypervigilance about voicing your thoughts and opinions without reprimand. This self-censorship enables the abuser to put in less work in silencing you, because you begin to silence yourself.
“You should be ashamed of yourself” is a favorite saying of toxic people. Though it can be used by someone who is non-toxic, in the realm of the narcissist or sociopath, shaming is an effective method that targets any behavior or belief that might challenge a toxic person’s power. It can also be used to destroy and whittle away at a victim’s self-esteem: if a victim dares to be proud of something, shaming the victim for that specific trait, quality or accomplishment can serve to diminish their sense of self and stifle any pride they may have.
Most importantly, toxic abusers love to maintain control in whatever way they can. They isolate you, maintain control over your finances and social networks, and micromanage every facet of your life. Yet the most powerful mechanism they have for control is toying with your emotions. That’s why abusive narcissists and sociopaths manufacture situations of conflict out of thin air to keep you feeling off center and off balanced. That’s why they chronically engage in disagreements about irrelevant things and rage over perceived slights. 
These are all common tactics employed by SJWs in order to silence their critics and control others. Claiming victimhood status gives them the ability to lash out and attack others without fear of reprisal which is a narcissist’s wet dream.
Current clinical studies and empirical data to backup this theory regarding SJWs exists now, although it is new and limited. Nevertheless, it is encouraging that scientists are now looking into and are interested in this topic. A study by researchers at the University of British Columbia published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology ran through a series of tests on virtue-signaling and victimhood. The findings were fascinating to say the least.
The study concluded that individuals with the Dark Triad traits (Machiavellianism, Narcissism and Psychopathy) were over-represented in virture-signaling as a form of emotional manipulation and resource extraction. For these individuals, signaling and claiming virtue and victimhood status was the ultimate expression of narcissism grandiosity. The 29-page study goes into really fascinating detail into the psychological underpinnings present in this form of personality.
The authors of the study conclude:
“Our conclusion is simply that victim signals are effective tools of social influence and maximally effective when deployed with signals of virtue. We also provide evidence supporting our proposition that for some people these signals can be deployed as a duplicitous tactic to acquire personal benefits they would otherwise not receive. Given the ubiquity of victimhood claims circulating through public discourse by word-of-mouth, news reports, social media, legal cases, and the like, an explanation for the multiple motives that drive people to claim this status has both theoretical and practical relevance.”
Cathy Young of the Observer writes:
Behind these outbreaks of self-righteous wrath is a distinct if somewhat amorphous ideology we could dub ‘SocJus.’ (The callback to ‘IngSoc’ from George Orwell’s 1984 is not quite coincidental.) At the center of this worldview is the evil of oppression, the virtue of ‘marginalized’ identities—based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion or disability—and the perfectionist quest to eliminate anything the marginalized may perceive as oppressive or ‘invalidating.’ Such perceptions are given a near-absolute presumption of validity, even if shared by a fraction of the ‘oppressed group.’ Meanwhile, the viewpoints of the ‘privileged’—a category that includes economically disadvantaged whites, especially men—are radically devalued.
Because SocJus is so focused on changing bad attitudes and ferreting out subtle biases and insensitivities, its hostility to free speech and thought is not an unfortunate byproduct of the movement but its very essence. You can be welcoming and respectful toward transgender people yet still be branded a bigot if you don’t quite believe that transwomen who identify as female but have an intact male anatomy are ‘real women’—and even if you keep that opinion to yourself, you can be challenged to prove your loyalty to the party line. – Cathy Young
While Cathy Young notes the intolerant and totalitarian ideology or worldview of the social justice warrior, she does not connect it to its roots in anti-social personality disorders like sociopathy, narcissism and psychopathy. There are also connections to apocalyptic death cults like Heaven’s Gate, and are as such extremely dangerous. They should not be given any form of social credit for their pseudo activism, which can be summed up simply as narcissistic displays to obtain fuel and supply. These people and their ilk need a proper diagnosis and therapy and, rather than being held up up as para-political influencers where they can abuse and manipulate others. Their false victimhood and virtue is destructive to real victims and real suffering, since many people may now automatically assume claims of victimhood are exaggerated and unfounded.
Our very existence as a free nation is at stake with our Founding Principles under attack from all sides. The most insidious of these attacks come from the entire class of SJWs among the political activists. As a conservative journalist who attends events, I have had the misfortune of witnessing their awful behavior first hand.
So-called institutions of “higher learning” have influenced a few generations by their therapeutic-safety coddling, posturing and lecturing. College campuses are empowering dangerous people, bullies who may suffer from mental disorders like anti-social personality. It is imperative that we identify what drives and motivates these SJWs and also to understand that they are malicious and extremist.
Our future as a nation must NOT be decided by these people. Do not imagine they are just “misinformed.” They are bullies. They know exactly what they are doing. It is designed to appear as though their behavior is “well meaning” and “good intentioned” but I can assure you it is not. It is self-serving and ultimately harmful to everyone.
Here are some more resources if you are interested in learning more about this topic:
“Although it isn’t recognized as a formal diagnosis, communal narcissism refers to grandiose, inflated perceptions within a communal environment. Communal narcissists often believe they have excellent social skills and high degrees of likeability and helpfulness. In reality, they are fairly hypocritical, as most of their focus centers on meeting their own intrinsic needs.” – Fantastic peer reviewed article by Nicole Arzt, LMFT
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