Narcissists & Psychopaths: Surviving the Smear Campaign
What is a smear campaign?
What is a narcissistic smear campaign? If you've ever been unfortunate enough to be targeted by a malignant narcissist, then you already know what it is. For those of you who don't know, a smear campaign is when the narcissist attempts to cause you problems, turn other people against you, and basically ruin your life with lies. They might tell other people you are crazy, that you are abusive, that you are a whore, that you are a drug user, a bad parent... whatever is the exact opposite of what you actually are. It's important to pay attention to exactly which lies they are telling, because these lies typically reveal their underlying rationale. Whatever they are trying to destroy about you is the thing they are jealous of.
For example: If they are telling everyone you are a bad parent, it is because the narcissist sees you as a better parent than they are. This cannot be permitted, so they attempt to destroy that perception of you. If they are saying you are abusive, this is because they know they are the abusive one. They are attempting to hide that fact by destroying the possibility that anyone could see you as the victim. They also would dearly love to be the victim—but they know they are not. So they lie.
These lies are also projections; they are the narcissist taking the way that he feels or what he is and saying it is how you feel or what you are. If you want to understand the narcissist's language, reverse the pronouns. Whatever the narcissist is saying about you is what is actually true about himself, or what he fears is true about himself. "You are abusive!" means, "I am abusive." "You are a bad parent!" means "I am a bad parent." "The kids love me more!" means, "The kids love you more." Statements they make about your feelings toward them can often have a double meaning. For instance, "You hate me!" means "I hate you!" and it also means "I hate myself." "You wish I was dead!" means "I wish you were dead!" and it also means, "I wish I was dead." Nobody escapes the narcissist's wrath, least of all himself. He's got plenty to go around.
Have you ever been the target of a smear campaign?
Why do malignant narcissists engage in smear campaigns?
Narcissists engage in a smear campaign for two reasons. The first is that he is jealous of you for some reason. If you have a lot of friends or if people like you, if you have a very loving, supportive extended family, he is going to try to ruin that. No one likes him and no one loves him in his estimation, so if he can't have friends or family, nobody should have friends or family. Instead of realizing that he has no friends or family because of his own behavior and then working to be a better listener, to be more trustworthy and less incredibly selfish in order to gain more friendships, he simply decides that people dislike him because the world is unfair to him and therefore, he is going to right this egregious wrong perpetrated against him by deciding that it's unfair for anyone else to have something he cannot have. Why should the world only be unfair to him? Then he works to destroy these things for the other person. It's his idea of justice, in a very real sense.
For example, when asked why he would want to make people dislike a person he claimed to care about, a narcissist said, "Because you need to know what it's like not to be liked." The callousness and selfishness in that statement is really unbelievable. When it was pointed out to the narcissist that if he had to come up with lies in order to try to make people dislike someone, that proved the person didn't deserve it, he simply shrugged, "Why should I be the only one?" They just want to spread the misery, even to the people who love them. Especially to the people who love them. Remember, the narcissist views himself as so broken and terrible that the very fact a person could love him must mean something is very wrong with that person. Because of this, he feels the people who love him must be broken and terrible, too, and they deserve abuse and punishment.
This is the second reason they engage in smear campaigns. It is quite literally to make you miserable. They want you to be unhappy because they are unhappy. In the end, it's really no deeper or more complicated than that. The world is unfair to them, so they will be unfair to you. It's very important to realize that to them, this is not unfair. It's justice. This is why they will never stop unless they are forced to stop.
They really cannot see that their misery is all their own fault. No one likes people who are cruel, who are liars, who are phonies, who are instigators, who are childish and petty and vindictive and abusive. The malignant narcissist is all of these things but he cannot understand the way that other people see him. He really believes he deserves everything he wants and that the world is against him. Maybe it is, but not unfairly. If the world is against him, it's because people universally dislike someone who is selfish, cruel and hateful who will stop at nothing to hurt or destroy other people. This is one reason it is so hard to get a narcissist to see what he is doing wrong. He doesn't think he IS wrong. As far as he is concerned, you are wrong for daring to have more people who love you than he does and you deserve to have that taken from you because you flaunted it in his face. You might say, "But I didn't!" Oh, but you did. Your life, your very existence is flaunting it in his face and he will not rest until you are taken off that pedestal and brought back down to reality. Sound ridiculous? Not to the narcissist. To the narcissist, it is very real and he lives it every day. This is what you are up against: a obsessive mind enraged with jealousy who takes your very existence as a personal attack and a personal insult.
How do you counteract a smear campaign?
I wish I could tell you that you don't have to, that people will not believe the narcissist's lies but unfortunately, this is just not the truth. Some people will. And it often seems that the bigger the lies are, the more people believe it. Maybe they just can't believe somebody would make that up so it must be true. This can also work the opposite way as well. Take the situation of the physically abusive narcissist. Every time he hits his wife, she tries to call the police. The narcissist then begins punching himself in the face and says, "Go ahead and call them. I have marks on me and you don't. We'll see who goes to jail, me or you." The wife then hangs up the phone. She feels the police will not believe a grown man hit himself like that, and she will be arrested instead. Sadly, she's probably right. Who would believe that? Who even does that? It sounds completely, totally absurd, a story no one would ever believe. The narcissist knows that. He uses that. When we are tempted to believe these behaviors are out of the narcissist's control or something they cannot help, we should remember the calculated planning involved in that story. Narcissists know exactly what they are doing. They are doing it on purpose, in a very calculated way so that they can continue to get away with the horrible things they do. The physically abusive narcissist did not want to go to jail. He wanted to keep beating on his wife and he would have been perfectly happy to let her go to jail for something she did not do in order to save himself. If it comes down to a choice between you and the narcissist—or anybody and the narcissist—the narcissist is going to choose himself every time.
The best you can do is ignore a smear campaign. This doesn't sound like much and it isn't, but unless you can prove that it is the narcissist saying these things and that the things being said are not true, there is nothing you can do except make sure you never appear to be what he says you are. If you can prove it, do so! Go to a judge or the police or whoever there is to go to where you live and show them. Take whatever legal or civil action you can and pursue it as far as you have to. Remember: you are dealing with pathological obsession and jealousy here; it probably will not just go away. Stay away from the narcissist. Have no contact with them. If you must have contact, be sure to always keep control of yourself. Write down dates, keep a journal of what was said, record the conversations if you can—video is even better—and keep it all. Keep a journal of the things the narcissist is saying about you to others, as well. If he says it on social media or in text messages, or if other people text you or private message you about it, take screen shots. Keep a record of what he is doing. It is your only proof and the only way to fight.