The Killer Within (Pics of Bob to Follow)

 

Could you be persuaded to kill an innocent person? I think so.

The fact is, history is crowded with people much like you who have tortured, maimed, and murdered others. I’m not talking about psychopaths like John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy. Neither am I talking about the soldier who kills an armed enemy in state-sanctioned warfare. No, I’m talking about your ordinary plebes, proles, burghers, and Joe Blows like you who kill innocent common folk.

In July of 1941 in the small village of Jedwabne, about forty ethnic Poles, almost all Catholic, murdered the male Jews of the village and stacked their bodies inside a barn. Then they forced the Jewish women and children into the barn and set it on fire. They murdered over 340 that day.

These killers who herded the Jews into the barn were, by all accounts, your run-of-the-mill villagers, the neighbors of the Jews themselves.

Let’s say you, right down to the DNA that causes your eyelid to twitch when you’re nervous, had been born into that village. As a young lad, your buddies used to laugh when you called the kid down the street a “Jewboy.” And you listened with fascination as your history teacher lectured on his favorite topic, the nefarious plot revealed by the Protocols of Zion.

Right now, of course, you’re living in the catbird seat and life is easy and non-threatening, so it’s hard to project yourself back to that era. But it’s also hard to escape the conclusion that you are merely an unrealized murderer, and had you lived under the same circumstances as the Poles, you would have been an actual murderer, happy to be among the torch-wielding mob who set fire to the barn.

In fact, history is replete with terrible slaughters done by common men like you (and me, I suppose). I’m not going to tax your patience with multiple examples from pre-modern eras, but let me give you just one. The Vikings of the ninth-century were marauders who traveled up and down the coasts of England and Europe, attacking villages for the loot. If the villagers resisted, the Vikings would kill everyone who stood in their way. If the women resisted, they were killed too — or taken, with their children, as slaves.

According to the clergyman/scholar, Alcuin, when the Vikings looted the monastery on the island of Lindisfarne, the Vikings slaughtered the monks at the altar and then trampled their bodies “like dung in the street.”

Unless these Vikings were aliens, they shared humanity with you. So it’s highly likely that if you had grown up in a Viking village, imbibing Viking traditions and ethos with your morning porridge, you would have behaved like the Vikings, killing monks, tradesmen, and yeomen without mercy.

Let’s move to the modern era. In 1978, the messianic nutter, Jim Jones, persuaded 913 of his followers to commit murder and suicide. I think we can call the death of the 276 children murder.

“How could this have happened?” people still ask. (Only a few of Jones’ devotees ran into the jungle rather than commit murder or suicide.) I can sense you shaking your head. “No, no, I wouldn’t have killed my own child.” That’s only because it’s hard to imagine the circumstances that led those mothers to kill their children. But it’s highly likely that in similar circumstances, you would not have been immune to Jim Jones’ appeal — and therefore you would have shared his malignant fantasies.

Pol Pot’s Communist followers, farmers, yeomen, mechanics, and other salt of the earth types, killed their fellow men, a couple million of them, mostly Christians, Buddhist monks, professors, and assorted intellectuals. (Pol Pot died peacefully in his sleep in 1997, a more egregious example of cosmic injustice it’s hard to imagine. Let’s hope he’s roasting in Hell.)

Has this post been a calumny of the human race? No, no. I’m not saying that we Homo sapiens are evil by nature. We’re just infinitely malleable. We’re saints and sinners, predators and prey, lawbreakers and lawmakers. What we depends not just on our individual character, but also on the circumstances of time and place. For every Vlad the Impaler, there is a St. Francis of Assisi.

Endnote: I’ve restricted this discussion largely to male killers. But then we men are almost always the killers, aren’t we? How many women have gone to a workplace or a school and shot up the place? Two in the last thirty-seven years, according to Mother Jones. 

There’s also a short list of female serial killers, a list that includes the infamous Aileen Wuornos, the prostitute who shot her truck-driving victims. (The few other female serial killers have almost all been nurses who poisoned their patients.)

Women just don’t take to killing the way we men do. A beautiful woman may slay us with a glance, but she will only rarely garrote us as we lie abed.

You may need some relief after murder and mayhem, so I’m ending with a couple of photos of Bob the dog playing with the buds that he regularly meets on our morning walk. Bob takes no guff from these big dogs, including that Great Dane you see below. Marmaduke chases Bob; Bob chases right back.

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There are 38 comments.

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  1. The Reticulator Member

    Good article.

    I’m just finishing up the latest edition of Christopher Browning’s book, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, which makes a similar point to yours. It’s significant that this is the most recent edition, because after it was first published there were other people who contested its conclusions, wanting the Holocaust to be seen more as a unique evil. Browning addressed these and other studies that came out after his book was first published.

     

    • #1
    • June 10, 2019, at 7:46 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Front Seat Cat Member

    Boy that was a tough read – I just clicked to see Bob. Th evil that you spoke of is hard for me to wrap my head around – I can’t fathom it. Something else I don’t get is all these mass shootings today – if you are miserable or deranged, and you are looking to exit this world, leave other people alone. I guess that is where mental illness or even anger allows evil to enter the scene – because it is pure evil. What is evil and where does it come from would be a good discussion. Thank goodness for Bob!

    • #2
    • June 10, 2019, at 8:02 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. MarciN Member

    As most people have, I’ve wrestled with the notion that everyone is capable of the types of murders and other atrocities we saw in the insanity of World War II. It seems to be some type of global insanity since whatever caused it can be seen in the Nanjing Massacre and the Bataan Death March. I’ve been wondering lately if the Good Lord should have equipped us with a cyanide-bearing tooth that we could chomp down as we needed to so as to deprive sadists of the whipped-up high they get from watching people suffer.

    I worry lately about the amount of death I see in the mass media–in literature, films, and the daily news. What is this doing to the human psyche? Are we numbing ourselves to murder and suicide? Even the views shown on regular prime-time television of autopsies, which is a public butchering of the human body that is new to western civilization–is all of this modern cheapening of human life the prelude to World War III?

    All that said, the parents of a friend of mine emigrated from Germany to the United Stated just before World War II to get away from their fellow German citizens. Her parents were aware of this growing mass insanity they were witnessing. After that conversation, just out of curiosity, I looked into German emigration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I was relieved on some level to see that there was a lot of emigration during those two centuries. I have to wonder if the good people left and the evil people became somehow concentrated in the absence of those good people. I have also read that FDR enjoyed enormously the irony of having the German-descended Dwight Eisenhower as the commander of the Allied Forces.

    So is it a genetic flaw that we all have? Or is there some other factor that is related to time and place that combines with our genetic makeup to cause such evil to be unleashed? Perhaps there have to be several factors involved, and if we continue to analyze World War II and more recently the Rwanda massacres, we will eventually be able to isolate those factors and prevent them from coming together.

    Having ushered my three children into the world, I’m squarely in the camp that believes people are born as good people. Other people outside them over the course of their lifetime cause them to fall away from their good beginnings. I see lots of hope there too.

    I don’t believe evil is inevitable. I think we can prevent a great deal of it, and there’s no reason yet that I see to give up on the human race. We are, however, on the clock, as they say. If we don’t figure this out sooner rather than later, the next war will be far more evil than the last one.

    • #3
    • June 10, 2019, at 8:34 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Misthiocracy secretly Member

    I say no, because I don’t think I could be persuaded to kill a guilty person. I’m just not very big on killing.

    That isn’t to say I couldn’t be persuaded to kill if I’d been raised differently. We never went hunting or fishing when I was a kid, so it just was never a thing. It’s probably the case that it’s easier for one to become a murderer if one is first desensitized to taboos against killing in general.

    • #4
    • June 10, 2019, at 8:35 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. Franco Member

    This is something that too many people don’t understand. Everyone thinks they are inherently moral and pristine and think people who do this kind of thing are some insane or evil aberration.

    I’m no theologian, but I think those who believe ‘evil’ is outside of themselves and magically resides in others are wrong and even dangerous. 

    We have the benefit of a modern sophisticated civilization, and we ‘should’ be basically good from our upbringings, but that can break down, either individually or collectively.

    We are not very brave, as we believe ourselves to be, and not especially moral outside of societal constraints.

    It’s sad that the modern lefty propagandists ( antifa for example) in their zeal to prevent these national and tribal mass killings, believe themselves so above descending into the same bloodlust. Or believe they are preventing the next holocaust by laying the groundwork for one – just not the same people – this time the ‘bad’ people.

    Almost all these murderers believe they are actually doing good.

    • #5
    • June 10, 2019, at 8:57 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  6. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester Post author

    Franco (View Comment):

    We are not very brave, as we believe ourselves to be, and not especially moral outside of societal constraints.

    It’s sad that the modern lefty propagandists ( antifa for example) in their zeal to prevent these national and tribal mass killings, believe themselves so above descending into the same bloodlust. Or believe they are preventing the next holocaust by laying the groundwork for one – just not the same people – this time the ‘bad’ people.

    Almost all these murderers believe they are actually doing good.

    Franco, thanks for your comment. I agree with what you wrote. BTW, I love your avatar. I’ve been thinking of rigging up some kind of a basket for Bob on my motorcycle. He’d have to have a pair of googles, of course, like your dog. It would be as cute as cute can be.

    • #6
    • June 10, 2019, at 9:02 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Ralphie Member

    I just listened to a small Tedtalk on the Lucifer effect by Phillip Zimbardo. I know he and Stanley Millgram were/are controversial, but I believe what they discovered has credibility. One key in becoming evil enough to condone murder is the idea you are not responsible, that someone else in authority, who is directing you is the accountable party. 

     

    • #7
    • June 10, 2019, at 9:25 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  8. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester Post author

    Ralphie (View Comment):

    I just listened to a small Tedtalk on the Lucifer effect by Phillip Zimbardo. I know he and Stanley Millgram were/are controversial, but I believe what they discovered has credibility. One key in becoming evil enough to condone murder is the idea you are not responsible, that someone else in authority, who is directing you is the accountable party.

     

    Ralphie, interesting point. I suppose, in the case of the medieval Inquisitors, that the “authority” was their God. That would have absolved them of all responsibility. 

    • #8
    • June 10, 2019, at 9:30 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester Post author

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Good article.

    I’m just finishing up the latest edition of Christopher Browning’s book, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, which makes a similar point to yours. It’s significant that this is the most recent edition, because after it was first published there were other people who contested its conclusions, wanting the Holocaust to be seen more as a unique evil. Browning addressed these and other studies that came out after his book was first published.

     

    Mr. Reticulator, I agree with Browning. It is naive to think that Germany, a technologically-advanced Christian nation, was somehow outside the human stream. There are tons of modern examples — Iran, Japan and Italy (Germany’s Axis allies), a few African nations, and others —who would unleash the same kind of evil if they had the power to do it. I imagine there are continuous debates in Israel about whether to strike now and try to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability — or wait and try to intercept the nuclear weapon and delivery system that Iran is building. .

    • #9
    • June 10, 2019, at 9:43 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester Post author

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Boy that was a tough read – I just clicked to see Bob. Th evil that you spoke of is hard for me to wrap my head around – I can’t fathom it. Something else I don’t get is all these mass shootings today – if you are miserable or deranged, and you are looking to exit this world, leave other people alone. I guess that is where mental illness or even anger allows evil to enter the scene – because it is pure evil. What is evil and where does it come from would be a good discussion. Thank goodness for Bob!

    Miss Front Seat, you’re such a pushover. I know I can always get a Like out from you if I include a pic of Bob, especially if I announce it in my title. Wait a minute, that makes me a Click Whore. Forget I said any of that.

    • #10
    • June 10, 2019, at 9:54 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. MarciN Member
    • #11
    • June 10, 2019, at 9:55 AM PDT
    • Like
  12. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester Post author

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Having ushered my three children into the world, I’m squarely in the camp that believes people are born as good people. Other people outside them over the course of their lifetime cause them to fall away from their good beginnings. I see lots of hope there too.

    I don’t believe evil is inevitable. I think we can prevent a great deal of it, and there’s no reason yet that I see to give up on the human race. We are, however, on the clock, as they say. If we don’t figure this out sooner rather than later, the next war will be far more evil than the last one.

    Miss Marci, I’m kinda glad God didn’t give us a cyanide tooth. 

    Now, I believe that we’re just malleable. We can be moved this way or that depending on our genetic makeup, the way we’re brought up, the era we live in, and so forth. We’re not evil, just malleable. Of course, because we’re malleable, we are also sometimes evil. But we’re also often heroic, altruistic, and noble. 

    • #12
    • June 10, 2019, at 9:59 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. MarciN Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Having ushered my three children into the world, I’m squarely in the camp that believes people are born as good people. Other people outside them over the course of their lifetime cause them to fall away from their good beginnings. I see lots of hope there too.

    I don’t believe evil is inevitable. I think we can prevent a great deal of it, and there’s no reason yet that I see to give up on the human race. We are, however, on the clock, as they say. If we don’t figure this out sooner rather than later, the next war will be far more evil than the last one.

    Miss Marci, I’m kinda glad God didn’t give us a cyanide tooth.

    Now, I believe that we’re just malleable. We can be moved this way or that depending on our genetic makeup, the way we’re brought up, the era we live in, and so forth. We’re not evil, just malleable. Of course, because we’re malleable, we are also sometimes evil. But we’re also often heroic, altruistic, and noble.

    That’s exactly what I believe too. :-)

    • #13
    • June 10, 2019, at 10:01 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I don’t think we are born either good or evil; we choose the direction we will take. Even if we choose good, there are so many temptations to take us in the wrong direction, whether it’s gossiping about another person or killing him. I just can’t imagine killing someone, unless my own life was in danger. But I think @franco is right–evil is not outside of ourselves. It’s potential resides inside us.

    • #14
    • June 10, 2019, at 11:01 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  15. Arahant Member

    KentForrester:

    If the villagers resisted, the Vikings would kill everyone who stood in their way. If the women resisted, they were killed too — or taken, with their children, as slaves.

    According to the clergyman/scholar, Alcuin, when the Vikings looted the monastery on the island of Lindisfarne, the Vikings slaughtered the monks at the altar and then trampled their bodies “like dung in the street.”

    Unless these Vikings were aliens, they shared humanity with you. So it’s highly likely that if you had grown up in a Viking village, imbibing Viking traditions and ethos with your morning porridge, you would have behaved like the Vikings, killing monks, tradesmen, and yeomen without mercy.

    This is a poor example. The Nordic culture was not equal to the Vikings. The Vikings were a self-selected group who went out raiding. It would be like saying, “You’re just like those mercenary companies who sell their services in Africa and similar war-torn places.” Not all Norsemen raided. Most were farmers and herdsmen, because food.

    However, your more general point that human nature does not change is spot on. Not only can most folks be convinced or coerced to join in on such things, but we have plenty of Viking material around, too, meaning that many would be happy to join roving bands of raiders and we see it with every riot.

    • #15
    • June 10, 2019, at 2:32 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    KentForrester:

    Unless these Vikings were aliens, they shared humanity with you. So it’s highly likely that if you had grown up in a Viking village, imbibing Viking traditions and ethos with your morning porridge, you would have behaved like the Vikings, killing monks, tradesmen, and yeomen without mercy.

    This is a poor example. The Nordic culture was not equal to the Vikings. The Vikings were a self-selected group who went out raiding. It would be like saying, “You’re just like those mercenary companies who sell their services in Africa and similar war-torn places.” Not all Norsemen raided. Most were farmers and herdsmen, because food.

    However, your more general point that human nature does not change is spot on. Not only can most folks be convinced or coerced to join in on such things, but we have plenty of Viking material around, too, meaning that many would be happy to join roving bands of raiders and we see it with every riot.

    Arahant, I never mentioned “Nordic culture.” I only mentioned the Vikings. Like you, I suspect the Vikings were a self-selected subset, the violent part, of Nordic culture, though I also suspect they were thought of as heroic by the culture at large. 

    • #16
    • June 10, 2019, at 2:53 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Arahant Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    Arahant, I never mentioned “Nordic culture.” I only mentioned the Vikings. Like you, I suspect the Vikings were a self-selected subset, the violent part, of Nordic culture, though I also suspect they were thought of as heroic by the culture at large. 

    Right, but nobody ever grew up in a Viking village. They grew up in Norse villages.

    • #17
    • June 10, 2019, at 2:55 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Here’s a question – what would give us the “distance” to kill innocent people?

    I could imagine killing an evil man, I could certainly see killing in perceived self-defense.

    This article is weak because it does not address how people decide to kill.

    • #18
    • June 10, 2019, at 3:07 PM PDT
    • Like
  19. Arahant Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Here’s a question – what would give us the “distance” to kill innocent people?

    I could imagine killing an evil man, I could certainly see killing in perceived self-defense.

    This article is weak because it does not address how people decide to kill.

    The distance comes with othering. “Oh, he’s a Democrat. They’re all out to destroy us and our way of life.” Or, “He’s a Republican. They want to enslave all women and minorities. We have to do to them before they do to us.”

    • #19
    • June 10, 2019, at 3:15 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Arahant Member

    I suppose it’s obligatory to refer to Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals here. It’s the rule book on how to “Other” people to divide and conquer.

    Edited to Add: Of course, the rules were around for all of human history, but Alinsky codified them and put them in a book.

    • #20
    • June 10, 2019, at 3:16 PM PDT
    • Like
  21. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester Post author

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Here’s a question – what would give us the “distance” to kill innocent people?

    I could imagine killing an evil man, I could certainly see killing in perceived self-defense.

    This article is weak because it does not address how people decide to kill.

    Omega, that would have been a different, and more expansive, post. I saved that post for you to write. 

    • #21
    • June 10, 2019, at 3:21 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  22. RandR Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I don’t think we are born either good or evil; we choose the direction we will take. Even if we choose good, there are so many temptations to take us in the wrong direction, whether it’s gossiping about another person or killing him. I just can’t imagine killing someone, unless my own life was in danger. But I think @franco is right–evil is not outside of ourselves. It’s potential resides inside us.

    I believe we are born both good and evil.

    “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
    ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

    • #22
    • June 10, 2019, at 5:34 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  23. RandR Member

     

    Further:

    “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil. 

    Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.” 
    ― Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

    • #23
    • June 10, 2019, at 5:44 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor

    RandR (View Comment):
    Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.” 

    Interesting, @randr. I hesitate to disagree with Solzhenitsyn, but I believe in Judaism, we are subject to the call of evil, called the lashon hara, but I don’t think it exists within us. Our lives are about free will, about choices; I believe the potential for evil exists in each of us, but not the evil itself. But maybe I’m splitting hairs.

    • #24
    • June 10, 2019, at 6:18 PM PDT
    • Like
  25. The Reticulator Member

    RandR (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I don’t think we are born either good or evil; we choose the direction we will take. Even if we choose good, there are so many temptations to take us in the wrong direction, whether it’s gossiping about another person or killing him. I just can’t imagine killing someone, unless my own life was in danger. But I think @franco is right–evil is not outside of ourselves. It’s potential resides inside us.

    I believe we are born both good and evil.

    “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
    ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

    This is also the message of Mark Zakharov’s 1988 film, To Kill a Dragon. Killing the external dragon won’t change anything.

    • #25
    • June 10, 2019, at 6:49 PM PDT
    • Like
  26. Fake John/Jane Galt Thatcher

    Given the number of abortions a case can be made that women excel at killing innocent lives.

    • #26
    • June 10, 2019, at 7:05 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  27. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester Post author

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    Given the number of abortions a case can be made that women excel at killing innocent lives.

    Interesting point, Mr./Mrs. Galt. I never considered that. 

    • #27
    • June 10, 2019, at 7:17 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  28. Doug Watt Member

    Mankind in our present time is no different than the Vikings, or any other group in exercising mass killings. You left out atheists in your Cambodian example. When mankind becomes a god conscience becomes whim. Man seeks to remove God from his throne, but the throne remains because they wish to sit upon it themselves. We may consider ourselves more enlightened than our predecessors, but our only advances in human nature have been that we have become more efficient killers.

    May God show us more mercy than we show to each other.

    • #28
    • June 10, 2019, at 8:12 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  29. Weeping Member

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    May God show us more mercy than we show to each other.

    Amen!

    • #29
    • June 11, 2019, at 5:08 AM PDT
    • Like
  30. Front Seat Cat Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Boy that was a tough read – I just clicked to see Bob. Th evil that you spoke of is hard for me to wrap my head around – I can’t fathom it. Something else I don’t get is all these mass shootings today – if you are miserable or deranged, and you are looking to exit this world, leave other people alone. I guess that is where mental illness or even anger allows evil to enter the scene – because it is pure evil. What is evil and where does it come from would be a good discussion. Thank goodness for Bob!

    Miss Front Seat, you’re such a pushover. I know I can always get a Like out from you if I include a pic of Bob, especially if I announce it in my title. Wait a minute, that makes me a Click Whore. Forget I said any of that.

    Bob in a motorcycle get up with goggles might even get you more clicks and you’d be elevated to pimp status….uh oh – lightning bolt? It was a compliment! I think

    • #30
    • June 11, 2019, at 6:06 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
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