A heuristic for the age-old question: Do they understand what they’re doing at some level?

Following from C.S. Lewis’s trilemma, we often wonder whether people engaged in horrific evil are merely insane or have consciously decided to listen to their inner demons. Borrowing from the fields of counterintelligence and r/k theory, I propose that monsters exist on a spectrum from deluded to selfish and that the best predictor of a “guilty mind” is in the character of their everyday lives.

People who are lying at a conscious level–who know exactly what they’re doing, that it’s wrong, and they just don’t care–live personal lives characterized by vices, arrogance, and licentiousness. They may have some specific brilliance that makes them useful, charismatic, or temporarily endearing, but they are nasty people in general. This is most easily detected in their humor, or rather their lack thereof. They can’t write jokes except as weapons to mock and demean their many enemies. They can’t laugh at jokes that aren’t cruel. They especially can’t laugh at themselves. They lack any appreciation for happiness, preferring irresponsibility and abandon. No one wants to be around them for long and certainly not to raise a family near them. If they engage in self-sacrifice, it will generally have been an accident in a drug-induced mania with the details left vague by narcissistic hagiographers (their fellow travelers). Example groups include blacks, the upper class, “bad” guys/girls, Communists, and in general those whose social intelligence is higher than their technical intelligence.

In the case of Kim Philby, the motive was explicitly ideological. He was a devout communist from, as he says, his last undergraduate term at Cambridge. “I left the university with a degree and with the conviction that my life must be devoted to communism” (My Silent War, London, 1968). But this was written under KGB direction after he settled in Moscow. For decades, he had devoted all his extraordinary skill in conspiracy and tradecraft to the manipulation of his friends and enemies. I submit that ideology may have been his door into his career as a manipulator, but his motive from birth to death was the satisfaction he derived from manipulation, and from the sneaky, smug act of betrayal itself. After betraying his country, his organization, his colleagues, and any number of agents, who lost their lives, he came to roost in Moscow, where he betrayed his only friend, Donald Maclean, by stealing Maclean’s wife.

-William R. Johnson, Thwarting Enemies at Home and Abroad

People who are lying at an unconscious level–who believe so strongly in what they’re doing that they’ll make great personal sacrifices in the course of doing evil–live lives characterized by emotional resilience, practical sensibility, and personal humility. They enjoy hearth and home, babies and puppies, and smiling faces. They laugh at themselves and love others with great-hearted magnanimity. They are, in general, wonderful people to be around when they aren’t thinking about what their ideological premises imply they must do. Insofar as they are insane, the insanity is curiously particular and abstract and rarely bleeds over into their everyday conduct, where it would cause immediate contradictions. This humble conceitedness is a very slow life history, k-selected phenomenon, in contrast to the grandiose conceitedness of fast life history strategy conmen. Such ideologues are often saved by their sheer incapacity for introspection and internal coherence, because the logical endpoints of their ideologies often demand they burn the world and everything around them to achieve its purest expression. They can predict the end of days while at the same moment increasing their 401k contributions and feel no contradiction. When their lives fall apart, it is usually because luxury has allowed them to purity spiral into true belief and not due to vices. Example groups include whites, the middle class, “nice” guys/girls, the Japanese, and the vast majority of those with technical degrees.

An example of a professional who was in charge of his own operation was Michal Goleniewski, a colonel in the Polish State Security Service and a co-opted collaborator of the KGB. He reported to CIA through a mail channel that he set up, and through dead drops he arranged through his mail channel. He concealed his own identity from CIA until the time came for him to defect outright. Despite these evasions, his reporting exposed a number of very-well-placed KGB penetrations, including some mentioned in this book (Felfe, Blake, Molodiy/Lonsdale), some mentioned in other public sources, and some still unpublicized.

Goleniewski was a competent clandestine intelligence officer who happened not to have the weaknesses cited above, or at least not fatally. An ironic fact worth pondering is that Goleniewski was insane. He believed himself to be, not Napoleon, but the Czarevich Aleksei, who would have been heir to the throne of the Romanovs if he had not been murdered on July 16, 1918, by the Bolsheviks. Whether his insanity contributed to or simply did not affect his skill as a clandestine operator is a question for all us sane operators to think about sometimes in the wee hours when sleep evades us.

Ibid

tl;dr- People who do evil self-consciously tend to be bad people in general and their grandiose narcissism will be very concrete and omnipresent in their personal lives. Look for a history of drugs, alcohol, affairs, betrayals of business partners, underperforming progeny, and get-rich-quick schemes. People who are deluding themselves tend to be good people in general and their grandiosity will be abstract, particular, and strangely contradictory with their everyday actions, with their holy wars being mostly restricted to fantasies of their idealized self-concept (and beware the exceptions to that rule).

About Aeoli Pera

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26 Responses to A heuristic for the age-old question: Do they understand what they’re doing at some level?

  1. what says:

    I “purity-spiraled” from a young age, jumping to the logical end of my conceptions of reality and deciding that any attempt at investment within physical reality was meaningless. The problem with such reasoning is it’ll leave you completely helpless and unable to address anything emotional, especially since I was young and didn’t understand myself to any real capacity, and therefore can’t judge what is meaningful to begin with. From the fact that I’m incapable of meeting the ideal expectations I set out for myself I turn to evil because I’m demoralized and can’t find a way to concretely stop myself from giving in to desires that I have no control over the existence of. Also, people don’t actually want what they consider moral and ideal to happen, and will just throw all responsibility of everything and anything unto you if you do show yourself to be willing to commit self-sacrifice, sneering at you the entire time for your stupidity.

  2. LOADED says:

    The white man is a conman brother. it is truth it is written in every religious text and is the reason original sin is from the white man.

    may he wallow in his guilt.

  3. Indigenous MM says:

    Grandiose narcissism is a self delusion and it is subconscious in all but a few ‘sufferers’.

    Everyone more or less lives off of a grandiosity, when it’s erased or no longer group oriented is when you get the current situation where even the average person feels the need to deify themselves so as to deify SOMETHING as they could not be a part of God’s plan or some revolution of some sort (See: Gold plated statue of George ‘Rapist’ Floyd and why the new religion will keep growing into the corpse of the old if a different grandiosity is not provided) .

    I have been told God created man to kneel before him, to exult him, to sing his praises.
    I have also been told that Man was made in his image, so Man’s behavior isn’t surprising.

    Man is half slave half God. Half monkey and half dream. The rest follows.

    (I am agnostic atm. Id bet Satan is OG controlled opposition like the KKK to ADL but who knows
    Not that any of that exists- I have no clue. Getting way off topic…)

    >know exactly what they’re doing, that it’s wrong, and they just don’t care

    Yes except the ‘its wrong’ part. They literally (correct usage) think you deserve it because you are weak and stupid.

    And you do. We all do. As long as we let them get away with it.

    >People who are lying at an unconscious level–who believe so strongly in what they’re doing that they’ll make great personal sacrifices in the course of doing evil–live lives characterized by emotional resilience, practical sensibility, and personal humility. They enjoy hearth and home, babies and puppies, and smiling faces. They laugh at themselves and love others with great-hearted magnanimity. They are, in general, wonderful people to be around

    WHAT. THE. FUCK!?

    Hell no. They do their piece of shit job they slack off at, come home and watch netflix, drop their kids off at dairycare and then watch sportsball on the weekends until their fat wives leave them and take half their shit and their sons cut their cocks off and DIE. All the while they say: ‘this is fine’ and ‘I could take that guy’ (not gay sex way- give it a few years).

    THAT is unconscious delusion.

    And the deluded people who believe so strongly in what they’re doing that they’ll make great personal sacrifices in the course of doing evil? That would be ANTIFA and Jews.. I don’t care if they get treated with kids gloves during prosecution they STILL put more relative skin in the game and its not close. How many proudboys are there? Wealthy right wingers doing anything? Whatever.

    No, just fucking no. I went to public school, and previously thought I was far more positive about human nature then you but uh… this is probably the most off the mark thing I can remember you writing.
    And no one else will ever even tell you so here I am begrudgingly (and knowingly ineffectual).
    ………..
    bweh:
    Everyone is deluded. Some cripplingly so, others are strong enough for a bit of truth.
    You will appear to go insane and be hated by all if you ever go past that, per Lovecraft and ‘common’ sense.
    There are good people. They are an exception. Cherish them.

    Fuck.

    :)

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >Hell no. They do their piece of shit job they slack off at, come home and watch netflix, drop their kids off at dairycare and then watch sportsball on the weekends until their fat wives leave them and take half their shit and their sons cut their cocks off and DIE. All the while they say: ‘this is fine’ and ‘I could take that guy’ (not gay sex way- give it a few years).

      I’m imagining more of a Pol Pot than outdated breeding stock.

  4. Obadiah says:

    Good post. You’ve seemingly given the neurotics the dubious honor of avatars of middle class self-delusion, but we really can’t leave the technocrats out of that discussion. One of their main group-defining beliefs–that their general intelligence and technical inclinations make them a society of geniuses–is itself a delusion.

    https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-or-the-office-according-to-the-office/#comment-3058

    ^“I think there is a strangely different phenomenon operating in large, stable and long-lived bureacracies: a set of sociopathic clueless controlling the clueless sociopaths”

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >but we really can’t leave the technocrats out of that discussion.

      I considered writing that out explicitly, especially wrt the Silicon Valley breed of the managerial class, but I ended up glossing over it with the reference to technical degrees.

  5. LOADED says:

    my genetics are far superior than the persons on this blog. but also life.

  6. aiaslives says:

    Gentlemen, behizzle

    A further refinement of Edenic political theory

    Borzoi article on humiliation (re: Edenic political theory)


    And this poast. Your power level is rising! I liked all of them.

    >People who are lying at an unconscious level
    Cannot enjoy Lovecraft because they’re desensitized to it.
    These people also often have their elders in a nursing home and/or just act as if they didn’t hear their words.

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