Just another WordPress.com site

Exposing the undercover scoundrel

There was once a dilemma among the left-leaning pollyanna hippy crowd on how to square their utopian wishes for a tree-hugging kum-bae-ya Avatar-esque society with the readily observable historical cases of surpremely nasty human behaviour such as the Japanese invasion of Manchuria or the German invasion of Eastern Europe. How are we to run a lentil-eating organic collective society without nasty things such as laws, police, and armies unless people are themselves very kindly natured?

In true left-wing fashion the dilemma was buried. Some people came out with the “Germans are different” hypothesis to explain why literally millions of German citizens were able to enthusiastically support, or at least turn a blind eye to, a reign of terror in the East. It’s their Teutonic blood, or their Prussian militarism that leads them to follow orders no matter how foul etc.

The Guardian newspaper stages a rally

To address this question Stanley Milgram conducted his famous experiments on the influence of authority in making normal people commit murderous crimes. He recruited random participants to play the role of teacher in a learning experiment. This was a cover. The real experiment was in how the participants follow clearly immoral orders. An excerpt:

“Teachers” were asked to administer increasingly severe electric shocks to the “learner” when questions were answered incorrectly. In reality, the only electric shocks delivered in the experiment were single 45-volt shock samples given to each teacher…. Shock levels were labeled from 15 to 450 volts….. In response to the supposed jolts, the “learner” (actor) would begin to grunt at 75 volts; complain at 120 volts; ask to be released at 150 volts; plead with increasing vigor, next; and let out agonized screams at 285 volts. Eventually, in desperation, the learner was to yell loudly and complain of heart pain.

At some point the actor would refuse to answer any more questions…. Teachers were instructed to treat silence as an incorrect answer and apply the next shock level to the student.”

What percentage of teachers, if any, do you think went up to the maximum voltage of 450?

“Results from the experiment: Some teachers refused to continue with the shocks early on, despite urging from the experimenter. This is the type of response Milgram expected as the norm. But Milgram was shocked to find those who questioned authority were in the minority. Sixty-five percent (65%) of the teachers were willing to progress to the maximum voltage level.”

Zimbardo carried out a similar experiment in which two groups of participants were randomly assigned roles as “prisoner” and “guard” for a two-week simulation of a prison. The experiment had to be abandoned because the fakr guards quickly became violently abusive to the fake prisoners.¬†The simple takeaway from these experiments is thus:

Despite all the outward signs of normal decent behaviour, a huge proportion of people will rapidly display brutal behaviour when situations either pressure them or make it advantageous to do so.

That next-door neighbour of yours who smiles and nods at you but you don’t quite trust? In 1990s Bosnia he’d be denouncing you to the secret police in order to steal your house. That co-worker who is unhesitatingly polite in meetings but seems to always dodge the unwelcome projects? In 1930s Soviet Union he’d petition the NKVD to send you to the gulag so he can take your job. So how can you spot these snakes in normal stable society? I have a few rules of thumb all of which involve paying close attention to the dropping of the mask.

A russian commissar at heart

1. Observe them in moments of discomfort. Even the most despicable scumbag can maintain his mask of civilisation when comfortably housed, fed and employed. It is when their comfort is disturbed and suddenly a gap opens between the right thing to do and the thing that restores comfort, that’s when you watch. That’s why you learn a man’s character in the boxing ring when you spar him. I’ve had partners bite, scratch, run, and worse show a sadistic gleam in the eye when getting the better of a weaker opponent. These are the concentration camp guards of the future. Watch your friends when you are talking to girls they fancy and those little things they do to try to slit your throat. Watch momentary hesitation as they calculate if they can get away with something selfish.

2. Watch how they treat the little people. Most scoundrels will act with due decorum and politeness when dealing with equals whose responses can affect their quality of life. It’s a rational selfish calculation. Those same scoundrels change when dealing with people who are unable to present them with consequences to their actions. How do they deal with serving staff, or secretaries, or call centre salesmen? How do they talk to a helpdesk employee when they are complaining about a problem in their service? Be very careful of those people who treat the little people as subhuman.

3. Let them talk about taboo subjects when they think you agree. Don’t stop and disagree with them, just let them talk. Scoundrels will often unleash a torrent of envious negativity and in particular will betray a habit of assigning certain groups to the collective bin of “subhuman” and then propose mistreatment. For example, the Left will often look to classify a rival as “racist” and then strip them of their right to a job, a social life, and their freedom. The vindictiveness of their persecution is something to behold. For evidence, just follow any news story when a public figure utters a non-PC statement. The only thing stopping such scoundrels from sending thought-criminals to the gulags is that we live in 2012 Britain not 1935 Russia. However, don’t mistake this with profiling based on collective factors. It is one thing to point to an observable, defendable fact (e.g. “95% of interracial rape is black men raping white women” or “almost all terrorism against the UK is commited by Islamists or Irish”) but quite another thing entirely to strip blacks, muslims and Irish of individual human freedoms simply because they belong to these identity groups.

4. Link patterns of improbable coincidence. I once met an English guy in Tokyo who had several fistfights with drunken Japanese on the last train home after drinking. I knew the wife of a friend who kept quitting / being fired because every one of her bosses was an arsehole. In each case, consider the wild improbability that these sequences were coincidence. Bad people frequently get into trouble and they can be skilled in rationalising each isolated event as not being their fault. Don’t buy it.

None of these methods are infalliable. People are complex creatures and while someone may be an arsehole at the “retail” level (never buying drinks, spouting hate etc) they may suddenly show strong moral character at the “wholesale” level (when the shit really hits the fan). Nonetheless, don’t be lulled to sleep by the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Advertisements

One response

  1. Tom Joad

    I think it’s fair to say that there are some despicable human beings out there, who do a good job (or maybe not so good a job) at hiding their true nature. However, if anything, I think Milgram and Zimbardo experiments showed that under certain circumstances many people are susceptible to committing relative atrocities. At the time of its collapse the Eastern German secret police force had one informer for every 6.5 people in the population and surely not all of them could have been truly bad people. Remember also Heinlen’s Razor “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

    April 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s