At PJ Media, I ponder the idiotic human attraction to “bad boys” and their rebellious behavior:
But why is this destructive and often sociopathic behavior so appealing to so many people? I learned yesterday, for instance, that Charles Manson, the 80-year-old psychotic who has been in prison for decades with a swastika etched into his own forehead, is to marry a not-unattractive 26-year-old frequent visitor of his. I really do give up. Like much about human psychology, the what is very easy to ascertain, but the why eludes us. We all know that many people find rebelliousness, and even criminality, attractive. And we all know that the standard reason given is that it’s sexy to break the rules. So we are stuck in a circular argument that tells us that it’s sexy to be rebellious because rebelliousness is sexy. We are still not any closer to understanding why certain criminals are more sexually marketable than the quiet solid-state physicist or the hard-working janitor.
In a new piece for PJ Media, I comment on a 1965 interview with Mao Zedong that The New Republic has just republished as part of the magazine’s centennial celebration. Conducted by Edgar Snow, the interview touched mainly on military and strategic matters, but in my opinion one must consider Mao’s private life and habits in order to understand how he manipulated others into following him:
…one is reminded of the way serial killers draw in their prey, affecting a charming and alluring personality, which only conceals their desire to use and dominate others. They care nothing for anyone and are concerned only with their immediate needs; the sole purpose of interacting with others is to manipulate them. Even Mao’s swimming was intended to show his power and dominance, specifically his ability to conquer nature in the form of the rivers’ currents. People are drawn to these kinds of primal displays, and unfortunately this attraction is always behind history’s most brutal moments.
In my latest piece for PJ Media, I talk about the recent death of Jean-Claude Duvalier, known as “Baby Doc,” who ruled Haiti as brutally as his father (“Papa Doc” Francois Duvalier) did before him. I consider why we are intrigued by evil dictators, who are almost always sexually depraved and intellectually dull men:
Some dictators, like Baby Doc, are beneficiaries of inherited power. They aren’t nearly as interesting as those who achieve power on their own. His father, for example, rose through Haitian politics and was elected as president. To get a crowd to follow and worship you is a mystery that no amount of sociology can explain to our satisfaction. It’s one part of our eternal obsession with evil men.
Each of us likes to imagine that he lives by a discernible set of moral principles. But there are precious few things about which we can be morally certain. It is quite clear, for instance, that torturing and murdering an innocent person is immoral, and so most people, even the majority of repugnant ones, don’t do it. Excepting such extremes, however, moral choices are much more difficult than running down one’s list of “principles,” finding the applicable rule, and applying it with mathematical certainty.