Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

Muted outrage


Psychologists say that children under 4 or so are generally incapable of understanding that other people’s minds are distinct from their own, that to understand other people they need a distinct representation of the knowledge and beliefs of others. But some people take longer:

Brian Williams asked former NSA Director Michael Hayden how he would have felt had a member of his own family been tortured. Hayden’s flippant response: “I actually think that my concern or my outrage, if that were ever done to any of my family members, would be somewhat muted if my family member had just killed 3,000 of my citizens.”

What about a family member who had been piloting drones in attacks that killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen? I’m sure he believes that he can put himself in the place of a man whose entire extended family were wiped out because the CIA decided to bomb their wedding party. Simple herder that he is, he would nonetheless be aware that Americans only act with the best of intentions, and this unfortunate accident is only one more reason to support them in in their noble struggle to rid the world of those who are truly responsible for this mass slaughter, the terrorists. And anyone who does attribute evil intentions to Americans must be in the grip of a fanatical ideology, and so belongs on the target list anyway.

Wer es glaubt wird selig, is the German expression for such an exuberance of presumed naïveté. Only a saintly fool could believe that.

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