Sunday, August 27, 2023

"America Has a Cruelty Problem"

This facet of human psychology and behavior has been going on for a very long time but seems to be intensifying. Some links after the jump.

From the Persuasion community substack, August 11:

Since the pandemic, the vibes have been going in the wrong direction.

Three years ago, the world was still navigating the early days of the pandemic. Most people were praying for the health and safety of their neighbors, thinking that we were all in this nightmare together. But not everyone. A small but significant cohort found something to celebrate in the death and destruction caused by Covid.

Unsurprisingly, the watering hole for these people was the internet, and social media in particular. If you spent enough time on platforms like Reddit or Twitter in 2020 and 2021, you’d inevitably come across people cheering when someone died or got seriously ill from Covid. For psychologically healthy people, this kind of behavior sounds psychotic. But it was a real phenomenon, and hundreds of thousands of people participated in it. 

Take, for instance, the Reddit forum “Herman Cain Award,” which was created in September 2020. Named for the Republican businessman who died from Covid after downplaying the disease, the community is dedicated to shaming and mocking people who initially didn’t take Covid seriously but ended up dying. Other Reddit forums like “Darwin Awards” and “Leopards Ate My Face” spent much of the pandemic doing the same thing. The latter, with just under one million members, explicitly states that its purpose is to “revel in the schadenfreude anytime someone has a sad [sic] because they’re suffering consequences from something they voted for or supported or wanted to impose on other people.”

Suffice it to say, the pandemic surfaced an astonishing level of callousness and cruelty in some corners of the internet. For me, it was a bit of an awakening to realize that there’s a substantial number of people out there who treat the suffering of other humans as a reason for joy rather than a tragedy to be mourned or a problem to be addressed. And ever since Covid alerted me to this instinct, I’ve been seeing it all over. 

Think back to June, when we first heard that a submarine exploring the Titanic wreckage had gone missing and that five people, including a father and son, were potentially counting down the hours in the dark until they would suffocate. If you’re like me, your first reaction was probably dismay and horror. The thought of being alone in a cramped space at the bottom of the ocean knowing exactly how long you have to live is too awful to get your head around. 

But not everyone agreed. Some people were downright gleeful when they heard the news. In their minds, the fact that the people on the submarine were wealthy made them de facto bad people who deserved to suffer. “It’s crazy to think we might only have another 30 hours or so of being able to make fun of the people on the submarine,” said one TikTok video, which got over a million views before it was deleted. Memes and jokes of the “eat the rich” variety abounded across the internet. Among the jokesters were some high-profile pundits like The Nation writer Elie Mystal. It’s particularly jarring when people on the left demonstrate a capacity for cruelty, given how sharply it contradicts their self-image of being kind and goodhearted.

To be clear, cruelty is just as common on the political right. Just watch this video posted by anti-trans activist Matt Walsh of him insulting and trying to humiliate Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender woman, for two straight minutes. The video begins “Dylan, if that is the most attractive you will ever look then I don’t even want to imagine what you’ll look like when you’re at your ugliest”—and it gets worse from there. Or take Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who recently implied that Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, is “not a mother” because she did not give birth to her stepchildren. You can dislike everything about Weingarten, her job, and how she handled the pandemic and still see that Greene’s statements had no purpose other than to wound.

Regardless of where the cruelty is coming from, the behavior is ultimately rooted in the same impulses. For some small slice of the population, that impulse is the satisfaction to be gained from cruelty itself. There are those who genuinely enjoy the suffering of others or are happy to indulge in cruelty if doing so is personally beneficial. Happily, while these fringe figures are certainly a concern, they are just that: fringe. Only tiny slivers of the population lack the capacity for remorse or actually enjoy inflicting pain on others....


First a warning, ignore it at your peril:

 Always, Always Remember That Control Freaks Are Mentally Ill

And not nuts like the slightly ditzy Grandmas of stage and screen were but dangerously—try to hurt you if they get the chance—sometimes psychotically, off kilter.

And it doesn't matter whether they are Karens or Authoritarians or Totalitarians—those are just gradations of their power, if they think they have the advantage and perceive that you aren't fully participating in their delusions, they can seriously damage you...

On the blog one of the earlier instances of the phenomena in a corporate setting was in 2011's:
UPDATED: "Top US foreclosure law firm threw Halloween party where staff dressed as homeless, foreclosed-upon Americans"

From 2018:

Social Sadism and the Sadocratic Impulse
....Consensual peccadilloes are not at issue here: this is about social sadism – deliberate, invested, public or at least semi-public cruelty. The potentiality for sadism is one of countless capacities emergent from our reflexive, symbolising selves. Trying to derive any social phenomenon from any supposed ‘fact’ of ‘human nature’ is useless, except to diagnose the politics of the deriver. Of course it’s vulgar Hobbesianism...

Ambient Cruelty

The ability to ruin a stranger’s life is a feature, not a bug of consumer rating systems
    It is a truism, backed with some evidence, that negativity makes a person seem smarter. In the 1980s, Harvard researcher Teresa Amabile took two pieces of literary criticism from the New York Times’ book reviewing section — one positive, one negative — and showed them to 55 students. The students found the writer voicing negative opinions much more intelligent and persuasive than the one voicing praise. In fact, it was the same reviewer, and the two pieces of criticism were adapted versions of the same review. John Stuart Mill wrote, “I have observed that not the man who hopes when others despair, but the man who despairs when others hope, is admired by a large class of persons as a sage.”

....And speaking of random acts of cruelty: Why Did the Washington Post Get This Woman Fired?
"We blew up this woman's life for no reason." In 2018, Schafer attended a Halloween party at the home of Tom Toles, the Post 's Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist. The basis for....

In 2021 a Freddie Deboer headline with an editorial intro:
"The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats...." 

The character trait that really stands out about the denizens of Wokistan is the cruelty. Cruelty for cruelty's sake. Cruelty just to be cruel. Yuck.

It's pathological and like other pathologies the stench it gives off, like other stenches humans find revolting, is a warning from nature: "Something bad is going on here, something toxic, stay away.".....

In 2022 there was this bit:
Why Cancel Culture? Because It Is Just So Rewarding
We've looked at the brain's reward systems for years, some links below....

From Medical Xpress, June 16:
by Virginia Commonwealth University
Us versus them: Harming the 'outgroup' is linked to elevated activity in the brain's reward circuitry

And some miscellaneous bits and pieces:
Social Sadism: The Woman Who Studied Cruelty (a lesson for today)
"The Cult Dynamics of Wokeness"
Did the CIA, Rather Than Germany's Scorpions, Compose the Power Ballad "Wind of Change"?

....Coming up, Did Helmut Kohl secretly write Neunundneunzig Luftballons to counter Reagan's desire to base U.S. missiles in Germany?
That's next on:
Analyzing German Songs
"99 Jahre Krieg ließen keinen Platz für Sieger"

Tips For Doing Business In Totalitarian Countries

As this will be an ongoing series I'll keep this introduction brief..

Your overarching goal must be to achieve invisibility. Be the grey man/woman. As Chairman Mao said:

"The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea"

One of the easiest things to do, if you are a citizen, is join the party. You don't have to be ostentatious about it, just join. And as we learned studying the Nazis, an earlier number was better than a later one.

As noted in the introduction to "“A Communist Doesn’t Whine — He Shows His Teeth” Communists In Weimar Germany": 

One of the rules of politics is "if your country goes communist you want to be as far up the apparatchik totem pole as you can get."
Preferably a commissar or above, putting you and yours closer to the commissary.

In a socialist paradise all pigs are equal but Hugo Chavez's daughter is a billionaire. 
(actually $4.2 billion)

And whether or not you can join the party, get a political fixer. The cost is sometimes onerous but remember they can keep you out of trouble and open doors, two very important considerations.
Plus from a pragmatic point of view, any expense that you can meet is not a problem, just a cost of doing business

As to where you might find opportunity, if your country goes full Weimar with the money printing, pull your beach chair up to a spot beside the fire hose and let the splashes of the sweet, sweet trillions refresh you.

Also smuggling is always a good choice, command-and-control economies tend to create huge distortions in supply/demand dynamics.

Much more to come including case studies from the former East Bloc and the pros and cons of joining the nomenklatura....

That's probably enough for this month quarter year. Sunday fun day.