How to hide in plain sight


During the third Reich, some Jews managed to hide in Germany until they either managed to escape or the war was over.  While Jews in camps lived (and died) in a constant nightmare,  life for the Jews hiding in plain sight could appear normal, but they were surrounded by a fog of evil, and any of the normal people around them might turn them in.  There was a sword dangling over their heads.
One of those who had to hide wrote a book about what hiding is like.  He says of himself (pseudonym ‘David’) and his sister Toni and his brother Leon and his brother’s girlfriend Lore:
We oscillated violently between dull despair and wide-awake terror, between hope and revulsion, bitterness and frivolity.   We faced inconceivable horrors every day of our lives–but we were healthy young people, and we were still capable of laughing.
So what was it like to hide in Nazi Germany?
Initially, some of the Jews were employed in the war effort.  David was not, but his sister Toni was, so David hid in her apartment.
During the day, David had to maintain absolute silence.  If he wanted to flush a toilet, he had to wait until a toilet was flushed on another floor, so that the sounds would coincide with his own flushing.  He took off his shoes to avoid making noise as he walked.  He oiled every hinge on every door.  He learned to suppress coughs and sneezes, and when they would not be suppressed, to bury his head under a cushion.
When this situation was not longer possible, a Christian shoemaker who was friends with David’s parents took in both David and his sister.  The sister made herself useful, cooking and cleaning, but it was harder for David to make himself useful.  The shoemaker had two sons at the front, and eventually one of the shoemaker’s sons came back on leave, found David in his room, and then had a major fight with his father.
David realized he had to find another place to live.
When finding new shelter became so important, David describes walking with his brother Leon  through the Tiergarten and on up the avenue called Unter den Linden to the old Royal Palace.  Before the war, this was a pleasant stroll to take, but
…how differently we looked at Berlin now!  Our eyes examined everything in terms of its potential as a hiding-place….We envied the birds their nests.
 Leon was so desperate that he was considering impractical ideas such as making a shelter out of the cab of a long-disused construction crane, or the interior of an abandoned van he came across, or of a hut that was used to store deck-chairs.
During the day, one refuge that David used was the city zoo.  To get warm he ducked into the tropical houses, visiting the lions and tigers and parrots and monkeys, but the smell and the noise pushed him to go to the aquarium.
So at a half past eight every morning, David would go off to study salamanders and turtles and crocodiles, and when visiting hours were over, he would ride around in circles on the S-Bahn, until it was late enough to go back to the shoemaker.
Finally, he landed a job with an engineer, Dr. Sell, who ran a small company making instruments and appliances for the air force and the navy.  As part of the job, he had to deliver these items to factories with portraits of Hitler and signs inside such as “beware of spies” or slogans such as “Leader, command us — we shall obey!”
When David’s situation got dire enough, he told the engineer that he was Jewish.
Sell replied as follows:
“You realise, don’t you, that you’re like an unexploded shell in my house, now that you’ve let me into your secret–a bomb that may go off at any moment.”
David looked at  him in consternation.
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about me,”, Sell added quickly, “I’m an old Social Democrat…It’s my duty as a human being to help you.”
As the engineer talked, his voice rose in anger.
I’m forced to let my son and daughter join the Hitler Youth, and then I have to be constantly on my guard against my own children!  Day and night that fiendish propaganda hammers away at one’s eardrums…They stand everything on its head with their lying and their ranting…
Oh yes, the enthusiasm’s falling off now.  Suddenly we’re getting pangs of conscience–ever since what happened at Stalingrad!  Many people now admit–in the privacy of their own homes–that there’s something not altogether healthy about this Third Reich…now we’re hearing people’s excuses, the reasons why they voted for him.  He wasn’t as bad as his speeches, they thought.  To begin with he seemed quite moderate.  He just had a bee in his bonnet about the Jews, otherwise he was quite a decent fellow…The most depraved hoodlum in the land–and they elected him head of state!  In error, they now claim.  To stop something worse happening!  They swore allegiance to a criminal fanatic!  By mistake!
Later, when David got to Vienna with a plan to get smuggled into Hungary, he says that he saw that
Stalingrad had put paid to Austria’s enthusiasm for the Fuhrer… Vienna, safe from air raids [by the allies], had become one vast field hospital.  You came across whole groups of crippled servicemen in the streets.  A new symbol adorned the walls of public lavatories: the swastika shown hanging from a gallows.
David was in the uniform of the Hitler Youth, and he says when he asked directions, he was cordially pointed in the wrong direction, and sometimes prevented from boarding the tram.
Eventually David did get to Hungary, but the Germans invaded Hungary.  Nonetheless, he finally got to Palestine.
Are there any take-home lessons for us?
Today, in the year 2016, People like Salman Rushdie and various cartoonists have had to go into hiding from believers in Jihad. Jews hide their identity in many parts of Europe, at least in public, because they don’t want to be assaulted by Palestinians or Palestinian sympathizers.   Still, its not as difficult as having to hide from your whole society.
I would expect that people with contacts in the criminal world would find it easier to escape, and if not to escape, to find illegal means of income and also places to hide.  I actually read once a survey of teenagers claimed that if many of them needed to get an illegal gun, they knew where to obtain one.
It is not easy to hide today, in the United States, if you have to earn a living.  You would basically have to forge an entire identity, from your social security card on up, to really get away from people who are determined to find you.  Interestingly, we do have an underground economy, employing millions of illegals.  There is a large underground economy in Europe too, some of it criminal, but some of it based on normal economic transactions that escape taxation and government regulation.
Perhaps we should pay more attention to the possibility that our lives could change drastically and quickly and be able to join that underground economy if we end up in a situation where our government cannot protect us, or worse, becomes part of the problem.  Or at least we should be able to live off the grid for a while.  A terrorist attack could plunge us into cold and darkness in the depths of the winter, or remove our water supply in heat of the summer.
Its doubtful that our government would come after us, but you never know, society changes rapidly.  My great-grandfather got along with his neighbors in his small village in Germany.  In fact, they organized a little commemorative parade when he died.  My grandmother would swim with the neighboring girls in the Rhine, and went to school with them.  After she got married and observed the rise of Hitler, the last straw was when a child told my father “I’m not allowed to play with you anymore”, and so grandma persuaded her husband to move to Palestine.
But the point is, there was a period when these rural folk got along reasonably well with their Christian neighbors.
(My sundry ancestors would turn in their grave to find out how their descendant (me) behaved, but that’s in another post)
Even if you live in a society where you absolutely trust your government, you can run afoul of either ideologues or criminals.  Here is what a brave man, Roberto Saviano, author of the international bestseller Gomorrah: Italy’s Other Mafia now has to do:
For the last eight years, I have travelled everywhere with seven trained bodyguards in two bullet-proof cars. I live in police barracks or anonymous hotel rooms, and rarely spend more than a few nights in the same place. It’s been more than eight years since I took a train, or rode a Vespa, took a stroll or went out for a beer. Everything is scheduled to the minute; nothing is left to chance. Doing anything spontaneous, just because I feel like it, would be ridiculously complicated.
Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician who believes Islam is irredeemably anti-Democracy.  As such:
[He was] Expelled from Britain, banned from Indonesia, denounced by the UN Secretary General, prosecuted in court for his beliefs, forced into government safe houses, and constantly threatened with death.
Wilders wrote a book about this, titled “Marked for Death“.

In June 2010, Alexander Poteyev allegedly betrayed a network of 10 Russian agents — including Anna Chapman, the now-famous redheaded Russian spy — operating illegally in the United States.

He may have been assassinated in the U.S., at any rate, Russia claims he is dead.

Russian 800-meter runner Yulia Stepanova and her husband exposed the systematic state-sponsored doping regimen pervasive in Russian athletics and then the couple and their young son fled to the United States, fearing for their safety. Hackers found out their address, and they have fled again.

Yulia Stepanova

These people stuck their necks out.  Most of us don’t.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a plan-B, in case the legal world fails us.

David – Testimony of a Holocaust Survivor  – Ezra Ben Gershom (1988 – Berg Publishers Limited)

Sex, drugs and a suicide

We’ve heard of kids being mercilessly bullied to the point of suicide, and while tragic it seems to be a topic that doesn’t need much more ink devoted to it.  However, one surprise came immediately when I picked up Emily Bazelon’s book “Sticks and Stones”, and that was that the story that shook the country, about an Irish girl who came to Massachusetts and was bullied to the point of taking her own life, was inaccurate.
Emily talked to the bullies involved, one of them a girl named Flannery.  And she did an in-depth investigation.  This is what she found:
Emily Bazelon

Phoebe was 15 years old, and was sought after by the popular boys.  Flannery by contrast did not have a lot of friends, and had no use for cliques.  But despite the popularity, Phoebe had history of cutting herself back in Ireland.  “Cutting” is what it sounds like, people slice their arms or chest or other parts of their body, and there is a link between it and depression.  Phoebe even wrote an essay about it explaining that it was an effort to “transfer the pain from emotional to physical pain which is a lot easier to deal with…”

Phoebe’s mother would leave her daughter alone at home on Saturday nights, while she visited her sister in Springfield.  One time Phoebe sent an email to a friend about how one Saturday night went:
a few seniors came over and brought weed and beer and vodka……they had so much weed and we rolled blunts and man they put some coke in one of the blunts…aww…it was like better than sex!
Talking of sex, Phoebe was having sex with the football star of the school, who did have a long running romantic relationship with a girl named Kayla, though the relationship was in a lull at the time.  When caught in bed with Sean, Phoebe claimed he was gay, and that they had not had sex.  This was of course not true.
Bazelon continues the story:
As Phoebe spent more time with Sean, she talked about them being together for real, the way Kayla had been.  This wasn’t what Sean had in mind.
Phoebe did not take Sean’s dismissal well, and eventually was comforted by a boy named Austin, who happened to be Flannery’s boyfriend.  I’m not totally clear how far that comfort went, but eventually both Austin and Sean were charged with having sex with a 15 year old (formally known as ‘statutory rape’).   I believed Austin denied that particular allegation.

Flannery vented some of her anger on Facebook.   Talking about an equestrian event she attended, she said to a friend “‘we kick it with the true Irish not the gross slutter poser ones🙂.”

Then a friend of Flannery’s name Sharon Velasquez decided to call Phoebe out.  She walked up to her in the cafeteria and called her a “whore”, and warned her to stay away from “people’s men”.
It wasn’t long after this that Phoebe took a scarf and hanged herself in a stairwell.
We could take various lessons from this.  One lesson, to me, is that secondary sources can be suspect.  At the time, the story, which went nationwide, if not worldwide, seemed to be simple – a bunch of “mean girls” had harassed an Irish visitor for months until she killed herself.  There was a lot of understandable anger at this, and Flannery was one of the targets of this anger.  But the story was too simple, and also inaccurate – there wasn’t three months of bullying as claimed.
Another lesson might be this.  We know that marijuana can increase the likelihood of psychosis.  So a person who already had mental problems, like Phoebe, should perhaps stay away from pot-parties.  In fact, judging from the studies of what pot does to the brain, maybe we all should stay away from that drug.  (Our current presidential candidate on the libertarian ticket was CEO of a recreational marijuana company, and also smoked the stuff.  Obama was a big pot user, at one time.  Former president Bill Clinton also smoked it.)   My feeling is that we should not ingest substances that have unknown effects on the brain, let alone ones that have known bad effects.
The other lesson might have to do with sex in high school.  Other fifteen year old girls were “doing stuff” with boyfriends, but Phoebe was overstepping some line.  But where do you draw the line?  I don’t want to be hypocritical here, I’ve been called a “swine” and the description fit, though I’ve never had sex with anyone while conscious (though I believe (with rather strong evidence) that I have been molested while drugged).
I wonder if parents teach their children not to hook up in high school, and whether the children listen when they do.  Maybe you can’t argue with hormones, and there may seem to be no downside in the minds of the kids who do this.  But looking at the above story, Phoebe, who did have her good points, might be alive today in a world of men who acted like Victorian gentlemen.
People do get bullied to death, but this particular incident was not exactly an example of that.  It caused huge problems for the people involved inspiring comments online such as:
I think the names, home addresses, current photos, license plate numbers, routes to school…should be posted on billboards all over town, so that those little bitches can find out what it REALLY means to live in fear all the time.
I don’t think we should give a blank pass to the bullies in this case either.  Before her death, girls had told Phoebe they hoped she’d go kill herself and then after her death, had written “She deserved it” and “Mission accomplished” on Facebook.
We should not assume that Ireland is a healthier environment for kids to grow up either.  It probably is, but that did not explain Phoebe, though she wanted to go back.  According to Phoebe’s mother “Phoebe’s started cutting herself while she was at a private Irish boarding school. A close friend of Phoebe’s in Ireland told the police that she and Phoebe both had trouble with other girls because they were dating older boys.”
Ireland: a better place to grow up?
Putting this story aside, there are a few interesting points about bullying that come from Emily’s book and elsewhere.  One is that schools are not easy to police.  The corridors, the playgrounds and the school buses are all spots of attack.
Also, some kids really are persecuted for longer periods of time.  Sending children repeatedly to places where they are called names or physically assaulted would seem to be child-abuse, but many parents see no choice but to do that.
 And some bullies themselves have cognitive distortions, including a difficulty in distinguishing a provocation from an accident.
Studies reliably show that they have a distinctive cognitive make-up – a hostile attributional bias, a kind of paranoia.  They perpetually attribute hostile intentions to others.
The last point is from Bazelon’s book, she says there are five types of bullies.  These are:
1. Malicious bullies.  (these types often grow up to be criminals)
2. clueless (not malicious) bullies.
3. People who are both bullies and victims of other bullies
4. Popular, socially adept boys and girls who are good at manipulating others.
5. The Facebook bully.  “Many of the kids I spoke to … talked about girls who tried on brasher meaner personas online than they’d ever displayed in person.”
 Maybe there is a sixth example: “the imaginary bully”.  I believe that I have been persecuted for the last 22 years by an organized mafia of bullies who feel that justice requires that I be persecuted.  I’m told they don’t exist by every sane person who I talk to.
One recommendation that Emily gives is that a bullied child have a support system. Other children who give the victim support, even if they don’t fight the bullies directly, can make a big difference.  If you have a child who is being bullied, read the concluding sections of the book (if not the whole book).  It has some interesting findings and suggestions and resources.

Movement and freedom.

In a recent fatwa, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned women from riding “bikes in public places.” But this left a good number of Iranian women unconvinced, and on social media they’ve posted pictures of themselves with their bicycles, daring for the first time to defy the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution.
I can understand those women.  Their freedom in Iran is quite restricted, mainly because men could be tempted by them.  That apparently is the rationale behind the latest fatwa.  I can also see why they appreciate cycling.  Cycling can give you a sense of freedom – you go on your own power through the hills and valleys and parks and lakes and beaches and towns of your country, you get fresh air, and nobody is constantly watching you.  Perhaps to a religious dictator, it just doesn’t fit into the devout and pious medieval picture he wants to see.  Or maybe preventing “temptation” is indeed the honest motive.
men and women wheel their cycles as a protest of the Fatwa in Iran
There is another world that many of us don’t pay attention to – it is a world of loner athletes.
One time I flew down to Chile to go hiking.  I decided that I was not mobile enough, so I purchased a bicycle from a local shop, and headed south toward the lake district.  At some point, I heard a yell.  A sunburnt young man with a broad brim hat was standing by his bicycle, and calling me.  We got to talking, and I understood that he had mistaken me for someone like him.  He had cycled from the Northern tip of Alaska, zig-zagging through first Canada, then America, then Mexico, and further south, until he got to this point.  He was planning to complete his trip down the Carretera Austral, through Patagonia and to the Southern tip.
Carretera Austral

I was not an adventurer like him – I had a 2 week vacation, and that was plenty for me.   I also looked rather silly, with rubber bands around my baggy pants so they wouldn’t get caught in the bike, and granny glasses and a oversize helmet.  He was from Belgium, but he blended in with everyone else.  He didn’t even have a helmet.  At the time he was having a problem with his trip, because  an army camp occupied the land around the road.  I went with him to the soldier in charge, who offered to drive him past that area.  Of course the Belgian didn’t want to be driven, he wanted to do the entire Western hemisphere on his own power.
I never found out whether he ended up persuading the soldier to make an exception for him.

People like this don’t show up in your newspaper, but there are a surprising number of them.
On another cycle trip I went on, this time with a group, we were overtaken by an old retiree on a bicycle.  He was crossing the country by himself, and he didn’t have much money, so the woman in charge of our food van gave him a sandwich.  He then shot off at a speed I certainly could not equal.  I guess there was a freedom he was seeking, before old age made it impossible.
You can lose your freedom easily on a bike too.  On a car trip to Bethpage restoration in Long Island, we passed a cyclist who had been hit.  My brother, who was driving, saw more details than I did.  The man’s limbs were bent at an impossible angle, and he was in a lot of pain.  Such accidents can leave you immobilized in a hospital for long periods of time, and perhaps, with pain for the rest of your life.
Even with a helmet, people can end up with permanent brain damage, which happened to an acquaintance of my mother’s who had been cycling in his local neighborhood.
I’ve been surprised at who is an adventurer, and who is not.  On one hike I did with a group in Norway, there was little dark New York girl with an Italian name, whose idea of fun vacations was to go with a friend and rock-climb cliffs around the world.   If you looked at her and tried to make up a biography, rock-climbing would not come to mind.
A fellow train commuter to New Haven who did not look particularly strong, had raced in a 50 mile foot race.  It actually ended up being more than 50 miles, because of a traffic obstacle that happened at the last minute.  Again, looking at him, you would not put that kind of punishing endurance in his biography.
My twin was more of a runner than I was, he made the school track team, and sometimes they would run with our dog Chum, a bull-mastiff Shepherd, out past the pine trees of the Irvington reservoir.  Chum was a trooper, but he was a dog, and I should have remembered that, instead of seeing him as a little person. Once when I ran with him, without a leash, up into Pocantico Hills, we had a disaster.  As we ran past a little white house, a little dog came forth to defend his property, and Chum retaliated by picking up the little dog by the neck and shaking systematically.  This apparently is a built in killer instinct sequence in dogs.  The whole thing was my fault, and though we were told the dog survived, I don’t believe it, for various reasons.
Chum nearly drowned once on one of our summer vacations.  He thought we had gone out into the lake, and he swam far out into it, until my father noticed what was happening, and came after him in a rowboat.
As you may gather by this point, I am not great in the judgement department.
My twin has hiked in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, he’s gone on his own to the Goat Rock Wilderness in Washington State, and done long runs wherever he ended up, from Pennsylvania to California.
He should have remembered that the city is not the country.   For instance, one time he pitched a small tent in a park in San Francisco, and was woken up by the sound of many men walking.  The park, it turned out, was a meeting place for homosexuals looking for “partners”.
I’ve camped by the sides of the road, and sometimes on private property, and I really should not have.
In the crazy adventure department, I charged a cougar on a lonely dirt road into California from Oregon.  I had a long knife in one hand, and I was on a bicycle.   The cougar darted away into the woods, but I don’t recommend this approach.  “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”.   Cougars do attack cyclists and runners and walkers.
I’ve cycled with a Canadian carpenter who I met going down the Blue Ridge Parkway (he was cycling from Toronto to Miami), I’ve hiked with another Canadian when I walked across Switzerland, I’ve cycled the Highlands of Scotland and various parts of the American West, and often, you meet people who are much more adventurous than you will ever be.
But is this activity just a meaningless frivolity anyway?  Would it be a tragedy if people can no longer do it?
Lone athletics requires safety, prosperity, and leisure time.
In recent years, the world is getting less safe, not more so.   And these lone adventures do kill, I remember reading of two women murdered in their tent on the Appalachian Trail and cyclists being beaten badly by hoodlums on American bike paths.
But there is even a stranger phenomenon that I have personally encountered.  I cannot bike distance any more.  There are problems with my feet and back.  I will not say here how I developed those problems.  But I will say (and obviously my testimony is suspect, since my family members believe I’m insane) that if you are disliked enough, there will be people who exult at the diminishment of your freedom.  They will exult when you are finally off your bike.  They will thrill at the idea that you cannot travel anymore.  They will vow to disable you, if they have the unpleasant experience of having to meet you face to face on a pleasant walk with their friends.  All this in America, which sees itself as the ground-zero of liberty.
Of course there are other, better ways to explore your world.  The world of science is getting more interesting by the day, for instance.  Some cyclists do hang up their bikes permanently, because they realize that too much of their life is being diverted to turning a wheel on a boring road.
But we should support those Iranian women who want to keep cycling.   And I still admire that Belgian.
Wind River Range


Goat Rocks Wilderness – Washington State


The Dilemma of the Lesser Evil

Our presidential race in the U.S. got me to thinking of the issue of the lesser evil.  Polls have shown for months that voters strongly dislike both Clinton and Trump (both have around 60% unfavorable ratings), and “That exact phrase — “lesser of two evils” — was repeated over and over again when voters talked to CNNMoney as part of a tour in September in the swing states of Florida and Ohio.”  It is easy to find material for a blog on evil – there is no shortage of examples out there, but what happens when good people have to make a choice which involves moral tradeoffs?
I won’t talk about the election, except to say that for some of us conservatives, even not having a president would be preferable to having the hard-left in power, and we see Hillary as a exemplar of the hard and radical left.
Here are some scenarios where people made a choice.
In the early days of Labor Unions, some unions sought the help of organized crime.  Why?
 Labor organizing is a risky business at the best of times. Local banks and other businesses, in solidarity with the relevant management, can refuse to work with organizers. The local police can be controlled by management-aligned interests, to the point of threatening the safety of organizers. Because of this, labor organizing has a long history of sponsorship and solidarity, where established unions help smaller, start-up unions get off the ground, even in widely differing industries, with financial support and even personal security support. If labor organizers don’t have access to local “legitimate” infrastructure or more established unions, they may turn to “illegitimate” sources for financial and personal security. Once reliant on an organized crime syndicate for this support, the union may be trapped, indefinitely.
This is only a puzzle if you believe that unions are a good thing.  If you believe that the union makes the company less competitive, or that mandatory union fees interfere with workers rights then the answer is clear-cut.  Otherwise, maybe not.
And more recently, there was this:
Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program to arm and finance the Jihad warriors, mujahedeen, in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, prior to and during the military intervention by the USSR in support of its client, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The program leaned heavily towards supporting militant Islamic groups that were favored by the regime of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in neighboring Pakistan, rather than other, less ideological Afghan resistance groups that had also been fighting the Marxist-oriented Democratic Republic of Afghanistan regime since before the Soviet intervention. Operation Cyclone was one of the longest and most expensive covert CIA operations ever undertaken; funding began with $20–$30 million per year in 1980 and rose to $630 million per year in 1987.
There is no question that the Soviets were committed enemies of the United States.  However, when you arm radical Islamic groups, there is obviously no guarantee they won’t turn on you, and that is what they did.
There are many other current examples of course, and the problem is related to tradeoffs.
Do you want universal health care in the United States, with everyone covered, but long wait times as in Canada, or do you want to have a free market system where some people can afford better health care than others?
Do you want to mandate that hospitals treat anyone who visits the Emergency Room, even if they can’t pay?  (This mandate caused several hospitals to go bankrupt).
To stop global warming, do you build wind turbines, despite the fact that they kill tens of millions of birds?  (Of course if you don’t believe man-made global warming is a problem, or if you calculate that the windmills don’t make much of a difference anyway to the problem, then the answer is clear-cut).deadbird
Should you allow immigration from countries with powerful social, cultural, and religious movements that do not value individual rights?   Even if the population of those countries are being bombed to the point that they have to flee en masse or die?
Actually, in my view, the answers are clear cut in most of the above examples, but it is easy to think of a fictional example that isn’t.
For instance, you are on a life raft with an unpleasant man who is also a petty criminal.  Then you see your spouse and child swimming to the raft.  Should you push the criminal into the water, pick your spouse and child, and sail on?  If so, you will be guilty of a murder.
If you know of a criminal plot, and you also know that if you do not keep quiet, you will be murdered, should you keep quiet?
If you are selling your house, should you avoid telling your buyers that it has a recurring infestation of bats that you never have been able to permanently get rid of?  Or should you keep your house, with its expensive constant repairs and even more expensive school tax, and not be able to retire to a smaller cheaper home on a Florida beach, which has been your dream for years?
If an embarrassing secret about a man you know has become common knowledge among your circle of friends, should you tell him?  If it would just make him unhappy and he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it, should you tell it to him anyway?
I obviously don’t know the answers to some of these, but it is important, especially for perfectionist ideologues, to know that not all choices in life are easy to make, and the people who make different choices than we would are not necessarily bad people.

The chasm between us and the Sociopath

Martha Stout has counseled many victims of sociopaths, and has interviewed sociopaths as well, and in 2005, she wrote a book on what she learned.  I will present only some angles that surprised me when I read it.  She says the difference between sociopaths and the rest of us is much more profound than the difference between men and women, or between racial groups, or between the intelligent and the not intelligent.  That is because they are totally missing a conscience.
She says conscience is a feeling.
I would think its a feeling that comes into almost any decision we make.  It is very hard to imagine an existence without it.  People without it can, she says “do anything.”  They see people as pawns on a chessboard.  They lie, they manipulate, and their goal is to win, to control others, or to “to make people jump.”
You might be curious about the destruction these people can cause.  You might think that if you don’t have a conscience, you still don’t have to be malicious.
But this statement by Prof Stout is interesting:
…what sociopaths envy, and may seek to destroy as a part of the game, is usually something in the character structure of a person with conscience, and strong characters are often specially targeted by sociopaths.
She gives some scenarios:
1. Maybe you are someone who craves money and power, and…you do have a magnificent IQ.   When it is expedient, you doctor the accounting and shred the evidence, you stab your employees and your clients  in the back, marry for money, tell lethal premediated lies to people who trust you..
2. … you are envious of the people around you,… you have a niche where you control small numbers of people who are vulnerable in some way.  You manipulate and bully the people who are under your thumb…Making people jump means you have power–or this is the way you see it.  Maybe best of all – you can create situations that cause them to feel bad about themselves…
3. Or maybe you like committing violence.  You can simply murder your coworker, or have her murdered, or your boss, or your wealthy lover’s spouse, or anyone else who bothers you.
4. you are not violent, but you don’t mind living off others.  They may get angry and call you a bum, but it does not occur to them that you actually don’t feel irresponsible, neglectful, or embarrassed – you can’t because you have no conscience.
Not all sociopaths are covetous, but when they are, they do things that make no sense.
Since it is simply not possible to steal and have for oneself the most valuable “possessions” of another person–beauty, intelligence, success, a strong character–the covetous sociopath settles for besmirching or damaging enviable qualities in others so that they will not have them either, or at least not be able to enjoy them as much….The covetous sociopath thinks that life has cheated her..and so she must even the existential score…The actions taken..are often so outlandish, and so gratuitously mean, that we refuse to believe they were intentional, or even that they happened at all.
Sometimes the explanation for treason on a national level is sociopathy.  Which suggests that intelligence agencies should do tests (you can measure a person’s galvanic skin response to emotional pictures) before hiring someone.  Perhaps a sociopath has traits that would make a good spy, such as the ability to lie without giving away any emotional signs.  But since he can also stab you in the back, it would make sense to weed such types out.
Only a minority of jailed criminals are sociopaths.  This fact is not necessarily encouraging – because if four percent, as Professor Stout claims, of the entire population fit the definition, then as she says, most of these people are among us, not in jail, and we often don’t recognize them.
If you are a victim of such people, I would think you can’t reason with a person who has a value system based on a drastically different emotional makeup.
It is a mistake to believe that anything doable by one human being could be done by another says Prof Stout.  Not all of us could be a death camp commandant, for example.  Conversely its a mistake to think that if we feel compassion in a certain situation, that everyone would.
Sociopaths are hard to detect, but one clue is that among all their bad behavior, they ask us to feel sorry for them.    Death camp guards who were interrogated after World War II was over, said how awful it was to be in charge of crematoriums, because of the smell.  They complained it was difficult to eat their sandwiches.
There are some very creepy stories in Martha’s book.
Its interesting that there are conditions where people almost always tell the truth.  Dan Arieli, a psychology professor of ‘behavioral economics’ says this:
I wrote a book about dishonesty and lecture frequently about it. Over the years, many parents have come to me after a talk to tell me about children who just can’t lie—and the children usually turn out to have some form of autism. Recently, I brought this up with Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, who confirmed that many children on the autism spectrum do indeed have a hard time being untruthful.
This is caused, he added, by the trouble they have with what specialists in the field call “theory of mind”—that is, the basic ability to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes and empathize with their perspective. Most of us are able to ask ourselves, “How would that person feel if I told them that their haircut is unflattering or that they smell?” Many young people with Asperger’s don’t tend to think this way, so they often don’t develop the habit of telling white lies for reasons of politeness. They don’t learn to dial down unnecessarily hurtful truths to spare another person’s feelings.
That is a kind of blindness too.  But who would you rather be around, a charming successful intelligent person who thinks nothing of lying to you, or an autistic who simply can’t lie to you.
Dan Arieli
I’m left with questions.
Is there any advantage to not being restrained by conscience?
Paul Zak is a professor of economics and founded the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies. He says this in an interview:
just like these high-trust countries that I spoke of before, we can effect transactions quite readily and easily. So the cost in engaging in transactions is lower, more transactions occur, and we have more wealth creation and greater prosperity. There are downsides to that. For example, people will find loopholes and try to exploit them, which certainly people of the finance industry did. But by and large, I think having these decentralized economies that are based on most people most of the time being moral, being reciprocal, means that we can do lots of things we couldn’t do otherwise. And most of our societies are built around that. Civilization is built around that. Certainly democracy is built around that.
So on an individual level, you might be like a wolf among the sheep if you lacked a conscience, but if there are enough such people in society, the society as a whole is much worse off.
Martha Stout talks to bewildered victims who ask her if Sociopaths are ever sorry for their actions.  She says often they are not.  This is not that surprising.  If they lack a conscience yesterday, why should they develop one today?
I would guess that most people have seen people rejoice in the discomfort of others.  Most people have seen bullies in action.   You can see odd situations.  I was in the elevator with a businessman who complained to a diversity consultant (in the same elevator) that all the sensitivity training his staff was getting was such a waste of time, and the woman actually jeered at him.
These people are not sociopaths, but they do show glee that makes little sense at the discomfort of others.  What explains their behavior?
And if criminal organizations exist that employ sociopaths, then how do you describe a person who isn’t a sociopath, but who pays one to do dirty work?
I’m also left with the question of how to reconcile a morality based on justice with all the biology that we are beginning to encounter.
For example, Martha Stout mentions work that shows different cerebral activity in sociopaths.
Professor Zak says the hormone oxytocin makes most people more trustful – but on two percent of people, it has no such effect.  Those people show some sociopathic traits.  He speculates that some receptor for Oxytocin is malfunctioning, though he also says that there is a shortage of Oxytocin receptors in some people – in some cases at least because they were neglected as children.  One implication of this (to me) is that if you could insert a gene into a subset of Sociopaths that repaired receptors or created more of them, the person might stop being a Sociopath.  It does sound like a ethically problematic thing to do: changing a person’s personality by giving him a gene.
Abigail Marsh tells the story of a man “who ran across 4 lanes of freeway traffic, in the middle of the night, to bring me back to safety. after a car accident that could have killed me… it left me with this burning…need to understand why he did it.”  (So she became a psychology researcher) Interestingly, the accident would not have happened if she had not swerved to avoid a little dog.  Her car fishtailed, the engine stopped, and she could have died if the stranger had not rescued her.  He disappeared into the night.
Prof Marsh has studied MRI scans of altruists, and she has found one difference in the scan between major altruists and the rest of us.
So what does all this imply for the understandable desire to bring “bad guys” to justice?  They certainly have to be stopped from the harm they do, but can you blame a person for not listening to the voice of conscience, when that voice never spoke?  Or if it did speak, it spoke in such low volume that he could brush it off?
Abigail Marsh

My encounters with law and order

I have done some crazy things in my life, even if they were in the service of a noble purpose (in my view), and thus I have had several encounters with police.  They have actually been remarkably restrained, now that I think of it.
Here is the first encounter, from my book “Clues – A Paranoid Schizophrenic’s Detective Story” (2002)
In the station was a policeman behind a desk. I walked in: “I have a strange story to tell you.” I said.
The cop looked interested. “Try me,” he said.
“I want to report that someone put a drug in a bottle of water that I had with me. I drank it and had a violent reaction to it.”
“Do you have the water with you?” asked the cop.
I was stunned. I never thought of that.
“I threw it out.”
“Where did this happen?” asked the cop.
“In my apartment. They must have gotten into my apartment.”
“Was there any sign of forced entry?”
The cop took a pen and paper.
“Give me some background” he said.
“Well, I’ve been called names and been spit at for years now. Wherever I am, whether Cambridge, Mass, or New Haven, Connecticut.”
“Where exactly does this happen? We could get a squad car to watch you and see what happens.”
“Oh, its very unpredictable.” I said. “It would be hard to follow me close enough and long enough to see anything.”
The cop sighed. “Well then, what do you want me to do?”
“This is serious, though. My theory is that there is a movie of some disgusting episode of my life, and that the movie is circulating all over the Eastern Seaboard.”
The cop looked sad. I tried to read his expression. It did not look encouraging. “Can I have your name?” he asked.
“Marvin Cohen.”
“Do you live alone?”
“Yes, but on weekends, I go to my parent’s house.”
“Can I have your parent’s phone number?” …
[I gave the number]…
I started to leave. “I just felt that someone in law enforcement should hear my story…You should know that there are drugs out there and evil people slip them into other people’s drinks. And this drug had some pretty amazing effects. It raised my sex drive to the moon.” The cop feigned surprise. “No!” “Yes. Really. This is a new kind of drug. In fact, this is a new kind of crime.” …I tried to show the implications. “There must be a whole underground crime scene that you are unaware of. This crime must have been committed by scientists. Or by doctors.”
The cop said nothing.
“I’ve done my best.” I said. “You have been warned.”
The cop escorted me to the door. “I’ll see what I can do.”
The cop picked up his phone and dialed. “Mrs. Cohen?” he paused. “I’m with the New Haven Police Department. Your son was here. I’m afraid he needs help. Psychiatric help.”
By the way, I got my mother and twin to read “Clues” and neither liked it at all.  It does not make me look good.
To give some background, for about 32 years now, I have believed that there is a movie, taken in my dorm, that exposes some remarkably sickening behavior.  This movie has been shown all over the country, and the world.   If that isn’t crazy enough, for about 22 years now, I have believed that I’m attacked by a Mafia that has drugs – drugs such as Scopolamine, that can put you in a daze while they steal your keys, drugs that affect your various reproductive drives (yes, there is more than one drive that pushes you to reproduction), drugs that affect your heart, your brain, your body.
It was hard to go to the cops with either story – there was always a chance they would ship me out in a straitjacket.
But I tried periodically over the years.
Once I sent faxes to the Irvington on Hudson police department.  I did not send them from my home, because I believed my home was bugged.
So: a few days later, my parents (who I had to live with at this point, because I believed any job I took would quickly be sabotaged), got a phone call.  It was officer Murphy, from the Irvington police.  This was not of course what I wanted to happen.  My mother explained hastily that I was under control, and he hung up.  Then he couldn’t resist another call, and asked: “Is your son SAFE?”.  My mother, who felt like boxing me on the ears, assured him I was.  And that seemed to be that.
I walked into the Irvington Police Department on another occasion, for a different issue, and I mentioned Officer Murphy.
The officer I was talking to gave me a knowing look.  An amused look.  “We have no officer Murphy here.” he said.
“But,” I stammered – “I don’t understand!  Maybe some mistake somewhere?”
I left.
Irvington on Hudson, NY

Our half-acre yard is surrounded by a high fence – high enough to keep our deer.  My father was dozing off in our back patio, which faces a large rock with some shrubs planted on the slope.  Then he snapped alert.  A man ran across our back yard, and down out the other side, where there was an exit door in the fence.    My father told me about this when I got home, and I said “We should call the police!”
My father has a wary attitude toward police, perhaps from his experiences in Germany and Israel, or perhaps its just a common-sense idea that getting on the radar of law-enforcement can have unpredictable consequences.  So he was reluctant to call.

Finally my mother called the Greenburgh Police Department, and had a long conversation, some of which I heard, explaining what happened.
Many months later, I came into the GPD, I forget the reason, and mentioned that phone call.  A policeman looked it up.  It did not exist.  He could not understand it, they record any conversation that comes in.  In fact, they were doubtful of my veracity – that is, until I had my father talk to them.
There have been somewhat amusing encounters with the police as well.   I walked into the GPD, and the policeman behind the desk asked me to sum up my story in one sentence.  I said “People are coming into my house — People who use drugs on me, and maybe my family too.”  The policeman realized from that one sentence that he was dealing with a nut, and so he pushed a button that locked the entry door.  Then he phoned my parents.  You can imagine their reaction.
Another  time two alarmed police came in front of our door and talked to my Mom – I think the reason was my sending faxes to the police station.   My father later asked why there had been police cars in front of our house, and she made up some excuse, because he is old and can’t take too much of this kind of excitement.  My mother is embarrassed also because the neighbors will see this, and wonder what is going on in our house.
Another time I visited the GPD, (being a glutton for punishment) and handed the officer a summary paper of my story.   He started reading it, and then he said to me:  “This is like a movie.  Nobody will believe this.  But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.  Get yourself a hidden camera, and if you can provide evidence, we can look into it.”
The problem, which I was afraid to tell him for credibility reasons, was that I believed I was under constant 24 hour surveillance, 7 days a week.  So getting a camera would not work.  The “bad guys” would sabotage it.  Or they would spray me with some poisonous drug with particularly unpleasant effects if I tried to get near a “spy store” or conversely, ordered such equipment on the internet.
My parents as you can imagine, have strongly impressed on me the idea that going to the police is insane.  It also strongly disrupts their peaceful afternoon reading the paper on armchairs on the patio.
For various reasons, hard as it may be to believe,  I think law-enforcement really did try to take me seriously.
The problem with taking me seriously is that the closer an investigator gets to me, the crazier I seem.  At night, for example, I sometimes go into stream-of-consciousness rants, which on some clear nights have affected the neighbors who take walks outside their house.  In one case, I heard a neighbor commenting on it.  Of course the last thing I want to do is terrify my neighbors.  My rants can also get quite embarassing, especially when I believe the “bad guys” have used their ‘aphrodisiacs’, this adds to the fun.  No wonder nobody can sell a house on my block!.
Of course a person who believes a sleazy movie of him has spread all over the world should be hard to embarrass but still, I live in many different worlds at once..
The rants are due to various things.  I believe the bad guys have a “talk drug” — a drug that makes you talk.  They also have attacked me with other drugs, and since I assume my house is bugged, I talk aloud to those bad guys.  But my brain is in a state where part of it is turned off – the part that does sanity checking – so its like having the “interpreter” (our brain supposedly has this interpreter that interprets our own actions) going full blast without the normal controls.
Its been interesting.
Anyway – what prompted this outburst?  I was drugged last night – around 3 AM.  I felt the warmth advancing like an anesthetic, and the stiffening in my chest and eyes, and I knew what was coming.  I ran downstairs, sat on my laptop, and a strong iodine-like smell arose from my seat.  I tried to lie down, because I hadn’t slept enough, but I was on a stimulant of some kind, and could not sleep.  I didn’t want to take a walk outside without putting my clothes in the washing machine first, because the “bad guys” like to poison the inner lining of my pants.
So why put this in an evil blog.  Doesn’t it belong in a lunacy blog instead?
Well, I could hop up and down and shout that its all real, but that wouldn’t convince anyone.  So I’ll just describe the scenario, and maybe in a hundred years, it will be believed.
The basic idea is that chemicals can be used as weapons.  You even hear about it on the news in war zones such as Syria.  Even ISIS has used chemicals as weapons.  So the implication is that some chemicals are gasses, or can be delivered as such, over large areas.  So the next logical jump is – can they be used as a short range weapon on individuals?  The answer is of course yes, for instance Columbian criminals spray tourists with Scopolamine which puts those tourists in a lengthy daze.  Sardinian criminals fill tourist bungalows with sleeping gas.
There was even a case where terrorists took hostages in a Moscow theatre, and Russian troops filled the theatre with a sleeping gas.  I remember some American at the time whining that this is illegal by international law.  Well, get used to it.  Its happening in the U.S.
Nerve drugs can require very low dosages, think of LSD, for example.   Scientists with a criminal bent who figure out what I’ve just told you here, can have a field day.  Our police are geared to guns and knives and maybe explosions.  They can’t save you from being hacked on your computer, and they could not stop some unobtrusive individual from spraying you out of a hollowed out cellphone, or enveloping you in a cloud of gas from a pipe sticking vertically from under the chassis of his car.
So its quite a scenario, even if I am the lunatic my family knows I am.  Maybe I shouldn’t give criminals any ideas by posting this. However, for what its worth, at least it may have stretched your imagination a little.

Double standards in criminals and normal people.

Criminals and terrorists, like normal people, often show behavior that would seem to contradict their principles.  For instance, Lee Malvo, who along with John Allen Muhammad, terrorized the area around Washington D.C. by randomly killing strangers from a distance with a sniper rifle, was an idealist.  He was impassioned over social injustice, especially mistreatment of blacks, and had read extensively on this subject.  On the other hand, in his home country of Jamaica, he had robbed people, who I assume were black.  If you are concerned about historical forces on a grand scale that hurt blacks, then why hurt a few on an individual level?
Another example:  Muslims who were among migrants trying to get from Libya to Italy in a boat threw 12 fellow passengers overboard — killing them — because the 12 were Christians.  This may not have caused the Muslims who did this cognitive dissonance, but to me, it is odd that they were trying to get to the mostly Christian continent of Europe, and throw themselves on the charity of Christians, and at the same time had an attitude of hostility to Christians.

We live in a world where any opinion, no matter how repugnant to us, is held by large numbers of people.  for instance, we believe in individuals following their own star, and achieving what they can by their own talents.   But consider this: Ivan Ilyin  has been dead for more than 60 years, but his (anti-individual) ideas have found new life in post-Soviet Russia. After 1991, his books were republished with long print runs. President Putin began to cite him in his annual speech to the Federal Assembly, the Russian equivalent of the State of the Union address.

What are the ideas that have inspired such esteem?

Ivan Ilyin
Ilyin believed that individuality was evil. For him, the “variety of human beings” demonstrated the failure of God to complete the labor of creation and was therefore essentially satanic. By extension, the middle classes, political parties and civil society were also evil, because they encouraged the development of personalities beyond the single identity of the national community.
According to Ilyin, the purpose of politics is to overcome individuality, and establish a “living totality” of the nation.
So while we might like to believe the debate on individuality is over and done with, many think quite differently in the largest country in the world (by land area).
Or democracy.  To quote the renowned Muslim Brotherhood cleric, Sayyid Qutb,
It is Allah and not man who rules. Allah is the source of all authority, including legitimate political authority. Virtue, not freedom, is the highest value. Therefore, Allah’s law should govern the society; not man’s.
This is echoed by two recent fatwas posted on Islam Q&A, both of which state that democracy is “contrary to Islam.”  Number 07166 says that “Democracy is a man-made system, meaning rule by the people of the people…. [In Islam] rule is for Allah and it is not permissible to give legislative rights to any human being.”
Or Homosexuality.  Some people see “gay marriage” as evidence of endless progress in liberty and rights, others believe all gays should be killed, when they find them, they kill them.
Or Child molestation.  One practice that scandalized American soldiers in Afghanistan was the molestation of young boys there. Two American soldiers roughed up one abuser, and the U.S. army relieved them of their posts soon afterwards.  The abuse is a whole subculture of bacha bazi, or “boy play,” in which young Afghans are used as sex slaves by grown men.
Or the Holocaust.  We have Holocaust museums, and the word “Nazi” is about the most evil concept we can think of, but demonstrators in Europe have chanted “Hitler should have finished the job”, and American Nazis have been coming out of the woodwork recently.
Given the above, a video surfaced that is quite ironic:
It shows a group of students yelling at Nicholas Christakis, the former master of Yale University’s Silliman College.  The issue was that his wife sent out an e-mail criticizing Yale for telling students not to wear culturally insensitive Halloween costumes because she didn’t think it was the administration’s job to tell students what to wear.  Her husband   agreed with her and refused to apologize. The anger and protests that ensued over it eventually resulted in both of them having to resign last spring.
Immediately after the controversy, video surfaced of a student screaming in Christakis’s face that he should be fired. That was bad enough, but the newly publicized videos show that the hysteria went way, way beyond that. The things that these videos show are beyond parody: One student says the real reason he didn’t remember her name was because he’s a racist. Another student compares the pain she endured from his supporting his wife on that issue to getting a soccer ball kicked in your face and having your nose broken. Throughout, Christakis is clearly trying to remain calm.  …At one point, a student even declares that what he “did was create space for violence on campus.” When he disagrees, she shouts, “It doesn’t matter whether you agree or not! It’s not a debate!” Now, creating “a space for violence on campus” would be setting up a boxing ring and encouraging students to punch one another – not supporting your wife’s criticism of a college’s micromanaging its adult students’ Halloween-costume choices. That’s not what the word “violence” means. It’s insane, no doubt, but her most insane comment actually comes right after: “You want free dialogue? You want free speech? This is how it works. Someone speaks, you listen, you do not cut them off.” And she was saying it while screaming in Christakis’s face and not allowing him to talk. Her lack of self-awareness in making that statement is astounding, but the bottom line is that she and the other students acting like her just don’t care about “free dialogue” at all.
The point is that these students can yell all they want, but the immovable walls they want to erect in the face of discussion turn out to be not so immovable in the rest of the world.  Against racism?  Too bad.  Some countries even have black slaves.
How would these students deal with the following item?
Hillary Clinton accepted the Margaret Sanger Award in 2009. “I admire Margaret Sanger enormously,” she told Planned Parenthood, “her courage, her tenacity, her vision.” But this vision included blaming Jews and Italians for causing “the multiplication of the unfit in this country,” judging “the Aboriginal Australian” the “lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development,” and using the n-word in private correspondence. If she sounds like an ideal speaker for a KKK rally in some barn, that’s because Sanger really once spoke at a KKK rally in some barn.
Margaret Sanger

I would expect that loyal Democrats don’t see material such as this, (I saw it on a conservative website) and so would either dismiss the source, or say Margaret Sanger was good on women’s rights, and that position was what Hillary was praising.

Leon Festinger (the scientist who came up with the theory of “cognitive dissonance”) wrote:
A man with conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts and figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point… presented with evidence – unequivocal and undeniable evidence – that his belief is wrong, he will emerge not only unshaken but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed he may even evince new fervor about convincing and converting others to his view.
It is reasonable to challenge people’s sources, but what I’ve notice happens in arguments when quoting sources is that sources become suspect simply for being mostly on the other side.
Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, had a major rule: “Never argue!”.  If you want friends, in other words, don’t talk politics and other sensitive topics.
So lets leave politics and look at how people deal with inconsistencies in their lives.
The son of Pablo Escobar, an ultraviolent drug lord, said this about his father to about 1,500 people packed into a theater in Guadalajara, a city convulsed by Mexico’s spike in drug violence: “He was a mass of contradictions.  Despite his bad behavior outside the home, he was a loving dad, a good counselor and my best friend.”
[The son] became an architect, a choice he calls a direct response to the many buildings his father brought down with bombs. Though raised in mansions so large that cars could be driven through their foyers, he now lives in a cramped apartment with his wife and 3-year-old son.
The question arises, how could Pablo Escobar (who amassed a huge fortune), be such a likeable Dad?  Didn’t he see a inconsistency in killing other people’s sons and husbands?
The son is not being inconsistent.  The father though, was.
Pablo – very, very rich, very, very violent, and a good father.
Another man, Csanad  Szegedi, did the most dramatic thing you can do when faced with a dissonance, he jettisoned his former value system.
As deputy leader of the radical nationalist Jobbik party in Hungary,  Csanad Szegedi co-founded the Hungarian Guard – a paramilitary formation which marched in uniform through Roma neighborhoods.
And he blamed the Jews, as well as the Roma, for the ills of Hungarian society – until he found out that he himself was one.  When he found this out, from his grandmother, he began a journey that included moving to Israel.  It was not easy.  His first reaction:
“I couldn’t believe it, I just couldn’t believe it, I thought, this is the worst thing that could ever happen – there couldn’t ever be anything worse than this.”
He adds:
“It’s changed everything. It’s like being re-born, and the changes in my life are still happening,” he said. “I had this set value system that I had to change completely. I had had this value system until I was 30 and I had to admit that it was all wrong and to find the will to change.”
Csanad Szgedi
Thinking about contradictions can be dangerous to dogma:
Danushka Goska wrote:
One day, back in the 1970s, I was leaving class with my friend. “Nur” was beautiful, a gentle person, and a talented artist; she used to doodle arabesques in her notebook margins. We were comparing our two religious traditions. She said “When the time for jihad comes, if you don’t accept Islam, I will have to kill you.”
I had been educated in Catholic school, where nuns encouraged me to interrogate my faith. I extended to Nur that invitation. “Just for the sake of argument, let’s imagine for a moment that there is no Allah,” I suggested.
Nur replied that she could not. She had been trained that even a moment’s doubt could lead to an eternity in Hell…
That is one of the reasons Islam does not moderate itself, but Christianity does.
But are we in the West so much more open-minded?
Here is what the editor of Popular Mechanics James Meigs had to say (New York Post 9/12/06).
ON Feb. 7, 2005, I became a member of the Bush/ Halliburton/ Zionist/ CIA/ New World Order/ Illuminati conspiracy for world domination. That day, Popular Mechanics, the magazine I edit, hit newsstands with a story debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories. Within hours, the online community of 9/11 conspiracy buffs – which calls itself the “9/11 Truth Movement” – was aflame with wild fantasies about me, my staff and the article we had published. Conspiracy Web sites labeled Popular Mechanics a “CIA front organization” and compared us to Nazis and war criminals.
For a 104-year-old magazine about science, technology, home improvement and car maintenance, this was pretty extreme stuff.
This shows a tactic believers use when confronted with someone who disagrees.  They conclude that that person must be in the pay of someone else, or be fronting for someone else.   Sometimes there is a plausibility to this type of accusation, for instance, oil companies might benefit if Anthropogenic Global Warming models were proven false, or conversely, Green advocacy organizations might gain funding if it is proved correct.  Therefore, if a few genuine scientists here and there cast doubt on those models, they can be accused of being secretly paid by the oil industry.  I have not seen proof of such allegations, but in any event, arguments should be debated regardless of motives.   That is what happens in a law court – the defendant pleads his innocence, even though he obviously is biased in the matter.  It is of course preferable if both sides of a debate argue what they really believe, and use honest techniques to back their arguments up.
Internal contradictions can be dangerous.  Frederick Douglass, a black man who escaped slavery in Maryland gave a speech in 1852 on July 4, independence day, in Rochester, N.Y. (This was nine years before the Civil War)  In the speech, he said this:
…. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.
Douglass actually felt positive about the U.S. constitution, but the contradiction he was pointing out would lead to a war that killed over a half million white Americans.  That was at a time when there were little over 31 million people in the entire country.
I would advise people, take the time to have a long debate, point by point with an intelligent person who is willing to play the debate game with you.  A person who will not start calling you names in the middle of the debate, or cut it off abruptly.  You will learn something.  Don’t argue with a Jihadi, however:)
http://spectator.    org/the-standard-bearer-of-bull-connors-party-calls-trump-racist/
Olson, Barbara. Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Kindle Locations 3220-3221). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition. and