Like a Battered Wife

Domestic abuse is the analogy of the moment, whether on foreign policy or Bob Dylan

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There are a couple of words for people who get knocked down over and over, yet refuse to walk away from their tormenter. You could call them eternal optimists, or even suckers. Or you could join a long string of pundits in taking a term from psychology and saying they've got Battered Woman Syndrome. An awful condition also turns out to be a handy analogy for everything from foreign policy to Bob Dylan, as these writers show. Liberals and conservatives alike think it's fashionably edgy to draw comparisons to victims of domestic abuse:

  • Kevin Drum on the American Medical Association: "The AMA's love affair with private insurance companies is truly a thing of wonder.  It's like these guys have collective Stockholm Syndrome.  Or collective battered wife syndrome.  Or something.  Given how much misery private insurers cause for most doctors, I sometimes wonder what they'd have to do to finally cause the AMA to turn on them."
  • Andrew Sullivan on the Human Rights Campaign: "What HRC have now done is give away any leverage or bargaining power the gay community has with the Obama administration. They are doing what they did with the Clintons: essentially apologize for being a burden and prostrate ourselves to the Democratic party in the hope that they will be kind to us in the very, very long run ... The entire email reads like a battered wife's defense of her husband. It is without self-respect; it is riddled with the self-loathing of low expectations."
  • Robert Amsterdam on Poland and Other U.S. Allies:  "In Eastern Europe, Poland and the Czech Republic stick their necks out in their reluctant agreement to host a missile shield, only to have it withdrawn and watch the Obama administration throw them right into a conceded 'sphere of influence' of Russian revanchism ... I am one of the people who actually believes that peaceful cooperation in the international community and the active and respectful engagement of the United States in key alliances is a cornerstone of global security--that's why it is such a pity to see these relationships dependent on a battered spouse syndrome ... one of these times, they might not come back."
  • Michael Goldfarb on President Obama: "It's like Battered Wives Syndrome, except President Obama is the bride with the black eye and Ayatollah Khameini is the abusive husband. And Obama keeps coming back for more."
  • Andrew Ferguson on Bob Dylan Fans "To an outsider, it looks like a cruel hoax, an inside joke that the joker alone is in on. Yet I've seen fans weep in gratitude as he garbles his most famous lines. The ovations are deafening ... Dylan fans are the battered wives of the music industry."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.