How Empathy Makes People More Violent (The Atlantic)

Pete Seeger wrote years ago:

Well if you want to have great love, you're gonna have great anger
If you want to have great love, you're gonna have great anger
When I see innocent folks shot down,
Should I just shake my head and frown?
Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa.

Well if you want to hit the target square, you better not have blind anger
If you want to hit the target square, you better not have blind anger
Or else it'll just be one more time
The correction creates another crime.
Oh, Pacem in Terris, Mir, Shanti, Salaam, Hey Wa.

How Empathy Makes People More Violent (The Atlantic)

We start by giving people a simple test that measures their degree of empathy. Then we tell them some awful stories, about journalists kidnapped in the Middle East, about child abuse in the United States. And then we ask them how best to respond to those responsible for the suffering....Just as with the genetic study, we found that the more empathic people are, the more they want a harsher punishment.

Politicians are comfortable exploiting this dark side of empathy. Donald Trump likes to talk about Kate—he doesn’t use her full name, Kate Steinle, just Kate. She was murdered in San Francisco by an undocumented immigrant, and Trump wants to make her real to his audience, to make vivid his talk of Mexican killers.... Trump and Coulter use these stories to stoke our feelings for innocent victims, to motivate support for policies against the immigrants who are said to prey upon these innocents.

There is a history of this sort of thing. Lynchings in the American South were often sparked by stories of white women who were assaulted by blacks, and anti-Semitic attacks prior to the Holocaust were often motivated by tales of Jews preying on innocent German children. Who isn’t enraged by someone who hurts a child?

Similar sentiments are used to start wars.

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