C.S. Lewis on tyranny

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. - C. S. Lewis

The terrorist as altruist

I've been trying to drive home over and over again that not everyone thinks like you. Here's an example you might not have thought of:

All terrorists fundamentally see themselves as altruists: incontestably believing that they are serving a “good” cause designed to achieve a greater good for a wider constituency—whether real or imagined—which the terrorist and his organization or cell purport to represent. Indeed, it is precisely this sense of self-righteous commitment and self-sacrifice that that draws people into terrorist groups. It all helps them justify the violence they commit. It gives them collective meaning. It gives them cumulative power. The terrorist virtually always sees himself as a reluctant warrior: cast perpetually on the defensive and forced to take up arms to protect himself and his community. They see themselves as driven by desperation——and lacking any viable alternative—to violence against a repressive state, a predatory rival ethnic or nationalist group, or an unresponsive international order.

If you want to stop terrorism (or other sorts of extremist views) you need to understand what drives those who perpetrate it. (Also be skeptical of your own ability to keep from getting lured in).

Random links

Self-defense Policy, Justified Homicides, and Race
"the implementation of Stand Your Ground policies lead to an average of 2.75 additional black Alleged Perpetrators of Crimes being killed each month, 2.39 of whom are killed by black citizens. Additionally, I find 0.5 additional white Alleged Perpetrators are killed each month, 0.49 of whom are killed by white citizens."
Scared About North Korea? You Aren't Scared Enough
"I don’t think the North Koreans are going to deliberately start a nuclear war, but I think they might use those weapons if they thought a war was coming and they needed to get a jump on the U.S. and South Korea. And, despite the poor track record of decapitation strikes, the idea really frightens the North Koreans. But instead of making them behave, I suspect it will lead them to do things that I really don’t like, such as releasing nuclear weapons to lower level missile units."
Support for redistribution is shaped by compassion, envy, and self-interest, but not a taste for fairness
"Endorsement of redistribution is independently predicted by dispositional compassion, dispositional envy, and the expectation of personal gain from redistribution. By contrast, a taste for fairness, in the sense of (i) universality in the application of laws and standards, or (ii) low variance in group-level payoffs, fails to predict attitudes about redistribution."

Why might people not believe your tales of tragedy?

Made me think back to Telegraph revealed Nazi gas chambers three years before liberation of Auschwitz:

It was under the headline “Germans murder 700,000 Jews in Poland”, that this newspaper reported the 'greatest massacre in the world’s history' on June 25, 1942. ... Zygielbojm succeeded in revealing the mass murder of Jews. But he was dismayed by the lack of public reaction. ... The Telegraph chose to report the “greatest massacre in the world’s history” on page five of a six-page newspaper. Zygielbojm’s informants were taking immense risks and their reports were meticulously accurate, yet he often encountered indifference, disbelief or even suspicion.

There you had reports of the extermination of 700,000 amidst an environment of wartime propaganda that would seem likely to make people more skeptical of reports1. If you wonder how people might have managed to disregard this, consider the Iraqi case where many fell for reports of the death of half a million children which, if this later analysis is correct, never actually happened.


  1. I think that people also underestimate the level of antisemitism in their societies at the time ... and perhaps how much of that continues to exist today. ↩︎

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