They Have To Be Monsters


I hate vitriolic internet responses. each one is a reminder that logic and reason are the result of suppressing emotional prejudice and not the other way around.

although while I am wholey incapable of empathy with a person who choose not to make a point with a comment/cause a discussion but to simply provoke another,… I do think that one point. needs addressing.

as in the video you linked (and thousands of similar cases) that is an example of predominantly unfounded attack on a persons existence, not their publicly expressed opinions.

heedless and serving only to harm.

although to counter, expressing an opinion on twitter, writing a blog post, posting on a facebook wall or similar, are not analogous to just ‘going about your day’. In this data-age it is closer to printing a large statement on a card and sticking it in your front yard or wearing a custom printed shirt.

A point few people really take the time to examine.

this does not excuse horrible comments, but it is worth noting. the internet has blurred the lines between public and private, and no matter who you are, expressing your opinions in a public forum invites critique.

…it is just unfortunate that such critique is often in the form of blithe vitriol of a sexist or xenophobic nature.


…recognize that the monster who posted this terrible thing is me. It’s you. It’s all of us.

I think one will find this recognition of human monstrosity is at the heart of Christianity, when the tradition isn’t perverted into a tent-pole in the monster-making process Jeff describes so well. I suspect the same is likely true of many other (if not all) religious traditions. The conclusion of Christianity, of course, is that human will and volition is incapable of taming this monster, and we must appeal to the capabilities of another, higher Being (in Christianity, the capital B is not an typo).

We may not all be ready to agree with Christianity’s conclusion, but it seems important to acknowledge that the idea of the fundamental intractability of this problem–given purely human means–has been with us for millennia.


Hi, Jeff –

I think you are on to something with your idea that what motivates hateful responses is an instinctive desire to push back against existential fears. I recommend to your attention the work of sociologist Lonnie Athens, who studies violent offenders. Athens says we have the same kind of resistance towards understanding the mindset and thought process of people who do horrible things. We slot such people into two categories: “mad” (mentally ill) or “bad.”

Both categories – “mad” and “bad” preclude us from even trying to understand what motivates the people who commit terrible crimes. After all, how can we understand them, since they are either “crazy” or “evil.” These two states of mind – “crazy” and “evil” are often presented as fundamentally unreadable, unrecognizable, un-understandable, by anybody who is “good” or “sane” – we can no more see into them than we could see into a black hole. What Athens’ work points out is that this isn’t true: there is both a developmental process that violent criminals go through, and a thought process that goes along with such acts – but we hide that knowledge from ourselves not just because understanding the motivation behind such terrible acts means we have to confront the very existential terror you talk about here – but because of how terrifying it is that we can understand what people who commit those acts are thinking…which might indicate that those people are not fundamentally different from us.

If we were to port this over as a way to look at the problem of online abuse, we might imagine that one of the reasons this problem has proven so difficult to solve is that we may be protecting ourselves from seeing the Troll Within ourselves.


But this is about empathy. Ought you not empathize with my jerkyness?



I’ve been reading your blog for probably close on a decade. This is the first comment I recall posting.

Thank you for having the courage to post this blog entry.


I have faced serious bullying, in fact physically beaten up when I was a child because people resented my ability. I was very specifically hated. I had to deal with it. My Mother was a career woman before there was “equal pay for equal work” and was the smartest person in the room. That is my background.

I can only hold the screeching SJW monkeys in utter contempt and drive them to their “safe spaces” and lock them in. They have not known real pain - emotional or physical. I have.

The problem with “choosing to make society work” is that it is not entirely your choice. Create your own island on the internet - no twitter, facebook, or global social media, and all be nice to one another, and don’t invite the real world in.

I’m not sure if you believe in evolution, but eugenics is part of that whether you like it or not. Pretending reality, or even the logical conclusions of your own beliefs, don’t happen is at best mysticism, at worst psychosis. Reality is reality. See Stefan Molyneux - he has many YouTubes on the subject.


Where is Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris when you need them. Or Stefan Molyneux.


To simplify, you have unconsciously - as much as you’ve accused others - bifurcated the discussion between those deserving empathy and those who do not.

Men don’t, women do.
Whites don’t, other races (including successful Asians and Indians) do.
Those with normal sexuality don’t, perverts do.

Therein lies the problem. Your very own injustice and hatred of equality.

Empathy is emotional, not rational. So in order to accomplish your goal, you give up thought, reason, science, logic, rational thought, etc. Do you code based on empathy or logic?

Feelings are not unimportant, but cannot override reality. When someone smokes cigarettes, what is the correct thing to do? Empathize that they get pleasure or note rationally they are killing themselves?

What your post said at its root is that reason must be subordinated to emotion. Is that what you really believe?


A very interesting guy; some more detail at

Namecalling and contempt for others is not a good way to start an honest dialog. It’s quite likely that others you speak to online have faced significant hardships in many dimensions of their lives. I also don’t feel that the implied contest of “who has suffered most” is a useful one.

This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.

I agree, and I think the modern version of this is the intractability of having enough empathy to deal with everyone in the world at the same time, as we are all now so hyper-connected.

In 1975, it was easier to be empathetic, since how many people could you realistically interact with in a single day? This was strongly limited to your physical location, and thus people roughly similar to others in your location. In 1975, how many people were you going to meet with wildly divergent viewpoints in your neighborhood, or at your job?

The advent of the internet, and more specifically, a smartphone in everyone’s pocket that connects them to the facebooks and snapchats and twitters — even the average person can potentially interact with hundreds, even thousands of people in a day from all over the world of wildly different backgrounds. Who has enough empathy for that?

And since Matt Haughey asked, yes, I do think properly designed software can help, and I do think it is the responsibility of the platform to make world-scale empathy practical. I cover some of the techniques in the latter half of this talk:

The polar opposite of this would be the “anything goes” wild west of 4chan and the like.


“Reality is reality.” “I can get along with a Randite.” 10 points for identifying each author, and each work. :slight_smile:

But – reality check – with “SJW” you’ve gone past anything that has been posted. Sure, some of the posts go overboard on empathy – there are monsters out there, and though I must admit I occasionally have similar impulses, I don’t want to try to grasp the thinking that justifies carrying them out. Some of the posters probably do advocate social justice – elsewhere, because I don’t see that in this thread. I see people talking about the pain they’ve felt, the pain they’ve seen imposed on others, the pain they themselves have imposed on others. Nobody has claimed a right to compensation, or asked for flaming to be criminalized. “You may say that I’m a dreamer” (and you’d be right) “but I’m not the only one.”

So go back to Jeff’s prefatory remark: this is about how we (some subset of everybody in the world, and yes, it is going to have to be a proper subset) can create fora where courtesy and even empathy are the norm in interaction. I’m sure some of the people who made those horribly cruel remarks wouldn’t take them back. But some do regret them. What’s wrong with saving both the disheartened bull-ee and the regretful bully a bit of pain?

Granted, “choosing to make society work” is not entirely my choice. But then, it’s not yours either, and experience shows that frequently enough I can find people who I can work with. I imagine you do, too. The thing is, the benefits to a group that makes things work is often sufficient that other people are willing to play by the nicey-nicey rules in order to keep their membership in good standing. Of course there’s also the groups where to become a member “you have to prove you can flame until bile flows from the corners of your eyes”. In my experience, more work gets done in the former. YMMV. (I’ve had a fair amount of fun and made some lifelong friends in the latter, though. Let’s chalk that up to “tastes differ”, OK?)

BTW, Dawkins is on my bookshelf, where he belongs. Next to Nozick, Rawls, and Sen. :smiley:


You make a good point about how text on a page abstracts us away from the human we are communicating with, in a sense we can easily fall into de-humanizing people we interact with online. I think there is a parallel also with “road rage”, people get mad at the other cars, they see the cars not the people and it is much easier to get angry at the objects and not think about the humans, whereas if we see the people on the road we can feel more empathy and maybe be more tolerant.


I believe you are over-analyzing this. I think people are mean on the internet because being mean is so much fun. Have you ever seen a cat torture a mouse? It makes no practical sense for it to do it, it’s just genuinely having cruel fun. Of course having cruel fun in reality usually has consequences - being cruel on the internet does not.

I don’t buy that idea people are awful because they are afraid. I don’t think people go into attack mode when they are in existential dread. Your argument sucks and you’re an imbecile. :wink:


Am I the only one to think that Facebook is not exactly the best place in the world where to post gut-wrenching comment on your dead relative?Also i don’t find the comment “junkie” so offensive, I’ve been a junkie, most of my friends have been junkies at some point, some died, some lived, that’s simply life.


This reminds me of a case that got quite a lot of press here in the UK, that of the McCann’s who left their daughter in a hotel room and went around the corner for dinner, in Portugal.

The amount of vitrioli and hate they received was unreal, to the point where people have set up websites promoting the conspiracy theory that they murdered their own daughter.

The Portuguese police bungled the case, but one of the officers involved went on to write a book alleging that they were somehow involved in their daughters disappearance.

It’s difficult to emphasise with the sort of jackass who goes to those lengths, not just a throwaway comment on Facebook, but actually setting up a full website.


I find it ironic to confuse actual physical violence with crude or mean tweets or what is the point of the Sociologist article?

I’m only calling SJWs out for actual observed behavior (see Vox Day’s SJWs Always Lie). Somehow observable and empirical fact, when inconvenient is referred to as “name calling”, as if calling something scarlet or crimson “red” is insulting or triggering.

But I see no evidence you wish to have an honest discussion, and that is the problem. You’ve already diagnosed the problem - white cis-hetero-male privilege - and empathy is only an excuse to insult and browbeat white cis-hetero-males.

I’ve seen far less empathy on the part of the other groups, but because they are “victims” they can be serial killers and sociopaths but that doesn’t count. Or all their doxing, threats, or worse.

I can only point you at the history of Gamer Gate and most recently Social Autopsy where the founder was subject to serious harassment by some anti-harassers.

The reason is is not productive is such discussions always follow the same path:

I say something empirically and factually correct which can be verified. From a bug in some code or some inconvenient statistic.
They screech “You have no empathy!”, or something worse.
I point out I was simply pointing out facts, politely, no vulgarity.
They screech louder, calling me a racist-sexist-homo-transphobe.
Somehow I’m not supposed to call them on THEIR complete lack of empathy.

The “screeching monkey” reference comes from Eric Raymond that probably has done more as an author of code and books than almost anyone else.

_The problem is, maradydd’s attempt requires the feminists and _
_social-justice warriors she is addressing to fundamentally be about _
_justice and inclusion, enough so that it is possible to change their _
behavior by appealing to those values. But that’s not what I see what I
_ look at those people. What I see is thin rationalizations over _
bullying, dominance games, and an endless scream of monkey rage.

The other horrors are the purging of Brendan Eich from Mozilla - the horrible vitriol because he contributed to (at the time - years earlier) a controversial ballot measure so much that he was forced out. Where was the empathy there?

You only have “empathy” for victims you choose to have empathy for? If that is so there is no point to the article. You aren’t trying to advocate for a universal principle, you are merely inviting fellow white-knights to join you in your attacks.

If you do consider it a universal principle, then the place to start is to call out the lack thereof ON YOUR OWN SIDE, not on “them”. There is no shortage of stories and persons.

Had you done so, I would have complimented and cheered.


As far as I can tell, the only person screeching here … is you?

Everyone else is just sharing stories. Rather than talking point rhetoric and stale invective, what stories do you, personally, have to share with us? Be specific, and it has to be your story about your experiences – not someone or something you read about elsewhere.

Really? Even when in direct reply to a mother’s expression of grief on her dead son’s Facebook page?

It is not intended as an attack but an expression of “that could never happen to me because I am nothing like you” – and the simplest form of that to mentally process is They Have To Be Monsters. Maximum difference with minimal effort.


hehe @codinghorror, your post did seem to be missing a few Bible verses (not a criticism or sarcasm, just a wry observation) :slight_smile:

Each time I hear of one of these baby forgotten in car dramas it kills me inside. As far as I’m concerned, the only reason for staying alive after something like this happens is because you have other children, because the guilt must make life unbearable. Like the farmer who killed his toddler when reversing his tractor. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

Concerning all this gender warfare stuff, I think it’s healthy to take a step back from the screen and remember that real reality is more real than virtual reality. Sure there are any number of real people behind those insensitive online morons. But we’re all better off if we endeavour to invest in real relationships with people who we actually know. How can you militate for localism for your vegetables and yet continue to give more weight to your online ‘friendships’?! :slight_smile:

And when I take that step back and look around me, do I really see men and women lined up opposite each other for battle? Not really. I see people who are all broken and dysfunctional to varying degrees. Each carrying their baggage and hangups. Each one hiding - with more or less success - that they still sometimes feel like lost, lonely children inside. I see couples limping along valiantly, often making the best of a bad job. Parents trying their darnedest to live selflessly and often not succeeding. I see mostly kind, but mostly selfish people, some of whom rise to the occasions that life presents for mundane heroism, some of the time; some who don’t. And I see myself and my own penchant for telling myself that I am above the fray, when I know that I’m not.

As Jeff doesn’t (quite) say: there, but for the grace of God go I.

Could do with a few Bible verses of my own :smiley:


I believe you were looking for John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory:

I believe that some bullies are mean because they’re hurt or scared or sad or whatever, but some people genuinely like to watch the world burn. I’ve spent a long time not caring which is which, but Jeff is right – maybe it’s time to reconsider.


The Guardian’s research is fascinating, but I don’t see how the data supports your assertion that “as a straight white man, I have the privilege of being immune from most of this kind of treatment”. The Guardian found that articles written by women were subject to roughly 25% more abuse than articles written by men (they don’t put it this way; I’m just eyeballing their plot). Statistically significant, maybe, but not nearly as dramatic.


As much as I enjoy your articles using the Guardian as a credible source is kind of a parts of a whole fallacy as it only applies to their site they also do not seem to directly cite any reputable studies. Although they aren’t wrong about women receiving some of the more severe online harassment, men are still harassed more, and more frequently according to the Pew Research center in 2014. It’s definitely worth the read so i’ll post a link to the source with the highlights