Which form of emotional distancing do you think makes it "easiest" to kill people?

Posted by: PetersSmith

You only have to read the first two sentences or so to get what each mean. Not like "easy" as in simple, but easy as in being okay with killing the person and more likely to pull the trigger/press the button/ thrust the knife/ pull the pin/FIRE THE LASER.

13 Total Votes

Moral Distance (Example: Religious Holy Wars)

Which takes into consideration the kind of intense belief in moral superiority and vengeful/vigilante actions associated with many civil wars. Moral distance involves legitimizing oneself and one's cause. It can generally be divided into two compone... nts. The first component usually is the determination and condemnation of the enemy's guilt, which, of course, must be punished or avenged. The other is an affirmation of the legality and legitimacy of one's own cause. Moral distance establishes that the enemy's cause is clearly wrong, his leaders are criminal, and his soldiers are either simply misguided or are sharing in their leader's guilt. But the enemy is still a human, and killing him is an act of justice rather than the extermination that is often motivated by cultural distance. 2 In the same way that this process has traditionally enabled violence in police forces, it can also enable violence on the battlefield. Alfred Vagts recognized this as a process in which enemies are to be deemed criminals in advance, guilty of starting the war; the business of locating the aggressor is to begin before or shortly after the outbreak of the war; the [enemy's] methods of conducting the war are to be branded as criminal; and victory is not to be a triumph of honour and bravery over honour and bravery but the climax of a police hunt for bloodthirsty wretches who have violated law, order, and everything else esteemed good and holy. Vagts felt that this kind of propaganda has had an increasing influence on modern war, and he may well be right. And, indeed, it could arguably have a legitimate place, as in U.S. and coalition operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq. But this is really nothing new. In the West it dates back at least to those days when the pope, then the undisputed moral leader of Western civilization, established the moral justification for the tragic and bloody wars we call the Crusades. The establishment of the enemy's guilt and the need to punish or avenge is a fundamental and widely accepted justification for violence. Most nations reserve the right to "administer" capital punishment, and if a state directs a soldier to kill a criminal who is guilty of a sufficiently heinous crime, then the killing can be readily rationalized as nothing more than the administration of justice. The mechanism of punishment justification is so fundamental that it can sometimes be artificially manipulated. In World War II, some Japanese leaders cultivated an artificial punishment justification. "Colonel Masonobu Tsuji," says Holmes, who masterminded Japanese planning for the invasion of Malaya, wrote a tract designed, amongst other things, to screw his soldiers to a pitch of fighting fury. "When you encounter the enemy after landing, think of yourself as an avenger come at last face to face with your father's murderer. Here is the man whose death will lighten your heart of its burden of brooding anger. If you fail to destroy him utterly you can never rest in peace." The affirmation of the legality of one's own case is the flip side of punishment motivation. This process of asserting the legitimacy of your cause is one of the primary mechanisms enabling violence in civil wars, since the similarities of the combatants make it difficult to develop cultural distance. But moral distance is, in varying degrees, also a violence-enabling factor in all wars, not just civil wars. One of the major manifestations of moral distance is what might be called the home-court advantage. The moral advantage associated with defending one's own den, home, or nation has a long tradition that can be found in the animal kingdom as well, and it should not be neglected in assessing the impact of moral distance in empowering a nation's violence. Winston Churchill said that "it is the primary right of men to die and kill for the land they live in, and to punish with exceptional severity all members of their own race who have warmed their hands at the invader's hearth." American wars have usually been characterized by a tendency toward moral rather than cultural distance. Cultural distance has been a little harder to develop in America's comparatively egalitarian culture with its ethnically and racially diverse population. In the American Revolution the Boston Massacre provided a degree of punishment justification, and the Declaration of Independence ("We hold these truths to be self-evident") represented the legal affirmation that set the tone for American wars for the next two centuries. The War of 1812 was waged in "self-defense" with the home-court advantage very much on our side and the burning of the White House and the •bombardment of Fort McHenry ("Oh! Say, can you see, by the dawn's early light") serving as rallying points for punishment justification. The moral foundations of our legal affirmation for our nation's concern for the oppression of others can be seen in the Civil War and the very sincere motivation on the part of many Northern soldiers to end slavery (''Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord"), while a degree of punishment motivation can be seen in the bombardment of Fort Sumter. In the last hundred years we have moved slightly away from moral affirmation as a justification for starting wars and have focused more on the punishment aspect of moral distance. In the Spanish-American War it was the sinking of the Maine that provided the punishment justification for war. In World War I it was the sinking of the Lusitania, in World War II it was Pearl Harbor, in Korea it was an unprovoked attack on American troops, in Vietnam it was the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, and in the Gulf War it was the invasion of Kuwait, and in Afghanistan and Iraq it was 9-11 and the possibility of weapons of mass destruction. 3 It is interesting to note that although punishment was used to justify starting American involvement in these wars, moral affirmation came into play later and lent a very American flavor to some of these conflicts. Once the Allies began to liberate concentration camps, General Eisenhower began to view World War II as a Crusade, and the justification for the Cold War and the global war on terror had consistent underpinnings as moral battles against totalitarianism, oppression, and terrorism. Moral distance processes tend to provide a foundation upon which other killing-enabling processes can be built. In general they are less likely to produce atrocities than cultural distance processes, and they are more in keeping with the kind of "rules" (deterring aggression and upholding individual human dignity) that organizations such as the United Nations have attempted to uphold. But as with cultural distance, there is a danger associated with moral distance. That danger is, of course, that every nation seems to think that God is on its side   more
9 votes
1 comment

Mechanical Distance (Example: Drone Strikes)

Which includes the sterile Nintendo-game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sight, or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim. Social distance is generally fadi... ng as a form of killing enabling in Western war. But even as it disappears in this more egalitarian age, it is being replaced by a new, technologically based form of psychological distance. During the Gulf War this was referred to as "Nintendo warfare," which evolved into "video game combat" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The infantry kills the enemy up close and personal, but in recent decades the nature of this close-in battle has changed significantly. Until the 1980s in the U.S. Army the night sight was a rare and exotic piece of equipment. Now we fight primarily at night, and there is a thermal-imagery device or a night-vision device for almost every combat soldier. Thermal imagery "sees" the heat emitted by a body as if it were light. Thus it works to s~ through rain, fog, and smoke. It permits you to perceive through camouflage, and it makes it possible to detect enemy soldiers deep in wood lines and vegetation that would once have completely concealed them. Night-vision devices provide a superb form of psychological distance by converting the target into an inhuman green blob. The complete integration of thermal-imagery technology into the modern battlefield has extended to daylight hours ~he mechanical distance process that currently exists during the night. Now, in many cases, the battlefield appears to every soldier as it did to Gad, an Israeli tank gunner who told Holmes that "you see it all as if it were happening on a TV screen .... It occurred to me at the time; I see someone running and I shoot at him, and he falls, and it all looks like something on TV. I don't see people, that's one good thing about it.   more
3 votes

Cultural Distance (Example: Genocides)

Such as racial and ethnic differences, which permit the killer to dehumanize the victim. The Israeli research mentioned earlier indicates that the risk of death for a kidnap victim is much greater if the victim is hooded. Cultural distance is a form...  of emotional hooding that can work just as effectively. Shalit notes that "the nearer or more similar the victim of aggression is, the more we can identify with him." And the harder it is to kill him. This process also works the other way around. It is so much easier to kill someone if they look distinctly different from you. If your propaganda machine can convince your soldiers that their opponents are not really human but are "inferior forms of life," then their natural resistance to killing their own species will be reduced. Often the enemy's humanity is denied by referring to him as a "gook," "Kraut," "Nip," or "raghead." In Vietnam this process was assisted by the "body count" mentality, in which we referred to and thought of the enemy as numbers. One Vietnam vet told me that this permitted him to think that killing the NVA and VC was like "stepping on ants." The greatest master of this in recent times may have been Adolf Hitler, with his myth of the Aryan master race: the f!Bermensch, whose duty was to cleanse the world of the Untermensch. The adolescent soldier against whom such propaganda is directed is desperately trying to rationalize what he is being forced to do, and he is therefore predisposed to believe this nonsense. Once he begins to herd people like cattle and then to slaughter them like cattle, he very quickly begins to think of them as cattle-or, if you will, Untermensch. According to Trevor Dupuy, the Germans, in all stages of World War II, consistently inflicted 50 percent more casualties on the Americans and British than were inflicted on them. And the Nazi leadership would probably be the first to tell you that it was this carefully nurtured belief in their racial and..-cultural superiority . That enabled the soldiers to be so successful. (But, as we shall see in "Killing and Atrocities," this enabling also contained an entrapment that contributed greatly to the Nazis' ultimate defeat.) But the Nazis are hardly the only ones to wield the sword of racial and ethnic hatred in war. European imperial defeat and domination of "the darker races" was facilitated by cultural distance factors. However, this can be a double-edged sword. Once oppressors begin to think of their victims as not being the same species, then these victims can accept and use that cultural distance to kill and oppress their colonial masters when they finally gain the upper hand. This double-edged sword was turned on the oppressors when colonial nations rose up in fierce insurrections such as the Sepoy Mutiny or the Mau Mau Uprising. In the final battles that overthrew imperialism around the world, the backlash of this double-edged sword was a major factor in empowering local populations. The United States is a comparatively egalitarian nation and therefore has a little more difficulty getting its population to wholeheartedly embrace wartime ethnic and racial hatreds. But in combat against Japan we had an enemy so different and alien that we were able to effectively implement cultural distance (combined with a powerful dose of moral distance, since we were "avenging" Pearl Harbor). Thus, according to Stouffer's research, 44 percent of American soldiers in World War II said they would "really like to kill a Japanese soldier," but only 6 percent expressed that degree of enthusiasm for killing Germans. In Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, cultural distance would have back-lashed against us, since our enemy was racially and culturally indistinguishable from our allies. Therefore we tried hard (at a national policy level) not to emphasize any cultural distance from our enemies. The primary psychological distance factor utilized in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, was moral distance, deriving from our moral "crusades" against communism and terrorism. But try as we might we were not completely successful at keeping the genie of racial hatred in its bottle. Most of the Vietnam veterans I have interviewed developed a profound love for the Vietn~mese culture and people. Many married Vietnamese women. This egalitarian tendency to mingle with and accept, admire, and even love another culture is an American strong point. Because of it America was able to turn occupied Germany and Japan from defeated enemies to friends and allies. But many U.S. Soldiers in Vietnam spent their year in-country isolated from the positive, friendly aspects of Vietnamese culture and people. The only Vietnamese they met were either trying to kill them or were suspected of being or supporting Vietcong. This environment had the capacity to develop profound suspicion and hatred. One Vietnam veteran told me that, to him, "they were less than animals." Because of this ability to accept other cultures, Americans probably committed fewer atrocities than most other nations would have under the circumstances associated with guerrilla warfare in Vietnam. Certainly fewer than was the track record of most colonial powers. Yet still we had our My Lai, and our efforts in that war were profoundly, perhaps fatally, undermined by that single incident. And in Iraq, the photographs of abusive behavior by U.S. Soldiers in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal helped to inflame our enemies and undermine our own determination. It can be easy to unleash this genie of racial and ethnic hatred in order to facilitate killing in time of war. But once the genie is out and the war is over, it is not easily put back in the bottle. Such hatred lingers over the decades, even centuries, as can be seen today in Lebanon and what was once Yugoslavia. It would be easy to feel some smug, self-righteous sense of superiority and convince ourselves that such lingering hatred exists only in distant, insular nations like Lebanon or Yugoslavia. The truth is that we are still trying to suppress racism more than a century after the end of slavery, and our limited use of cultural distance in World War II and Vietnam still tarnishes our dealings with our opponents in those wars. On some future battlefield we may be tempted to once again manipulate this two-edged sword of cultural distance to our advantage. But before we do, we would be well advised to carefully consider the costs. The costs both during the war ,and in the peace that we hope to have attained when the war is over   more
1 vote

Social Distance (Example: Russian Civil War)

Which considers the impact of a lifetime of practice in thinking of a particular class as less than human in a socially stratified environment. While working as a sergeant in the 82d Airborne Division in the 1970s, I once visited a sister battalion'... s operations office. Most such offices have a large in-out roster as you come in the door. Usually these rosters have a list of all the people in the office, organized by rank; but this one had a different t:wist. On top of the list were the officers, then there was a divider section labeled "Swine Log," and then there was a list of all the enlisted personnel in the office. This concept of the "Swine Log" was a fairly common one, and although it was usually used in good humor, and usually more subtly, there is a social distance between officers and enlisted personnel. I have been a private, a sergeant, and an officer. My wife, my children, and I have all experienced this class structure and the social distance that goes with it. Officers, noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and enlisted members (EMs) all have separate clubs on a military base. Their wives often go to separate social functions. Their families usually live in separate housing areas. To understand the role of the Swine Log in the military we must understand how hard it is to be the one to give the orders that will send your friends to their deaths, and how easy is the alternative of surrendering honorably and ending the horror. The essence of the military is that to be a good leader you must truly love (in a strangely detached fashion) your men, and then you must be willing to kill (or at least give the orders that will result in the deaths of) that which you love. The paradox of war is that those leaders who are most willing to endanger that which they love can be the ones who are most liable to win, and therefore most likely to protect their men. The social class structure that exists in the military provides a denial mechanism that makes it possible for leaders to order their men to their deaths. But it makes military leadership a very lonely thing. This class structure is even more pronounced in the British army. During my year at the British Army Staff College, the British officers who were my friends felt very strongly (and I agree with them) that their lifetime of experience in the British class system made them better officers. The influence of social distance must have been very powerful in ages past, when all officers came from the nobility and had a lifetime's experience in wielding the power of life and death. In nearly all historical battles prior to the age of Napoleon, the serf who looked down his spear or musket at the enemy saw another hapless serf very much like himself, and we can understand that he was not particularly inclined to kill his mirror image. And so it is that the great majority of dose-combat killing in ancient history was not done by the mobs of serfs and peasants who formed the great mass of combatants. It was the elite, the nobility, who were the real killers in these battles, usually in the pursuit phase after the battle, on horseback or from chariots, and they were enabled by, among other things, social distance   more
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dbushwacker says2015-04-10T11:26:59.9067478-05:00
Neither, if I had to kill it would be without a thought or care. You don't think, that's the key.
PetersSmith says2015-04-10T11:27:47.7425747-05:00
Dbushwacker: So being a psychopath makes it easiest to kill people? That only accounts for 2% of all soldiers.
PetersSmith says2015-04-10T11:31:43.5363247-05:00
Dbushwacker: Wait, I'm sorry. That doesn't actually count because that's not emotional distancing, it's aggressive predisposition of the killer.
PetersSmith says2015-04-10T11:33:07.9415871-05:00
Dbushwacker: And that would go into a category of it's own (Training, recent experiences, temperament).
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-10T11:45:44.5385953-05:00
PetersSmith, people have the ability to turn off the moral switch in their brain when they deal with their enemy, for everything but their enemy they have emotions, empathy, etc.
TBR says2015-04-10T11:47:11.5344265-05:00
Mathgeekjoe - I find that deplorable. Not incorrect, but still...
PetersSmith says2015-04-10T11:48:21.3396170-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: As I said, it doesn't count as emotional distancing in this context.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-10T11:48:44.8798831-05:00
Scientifically it is correct. If you look at people who commit horrible acts against their enemies, they don't act the same with people who are not their enemies. I remember reading a documentary of it.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-10T11:52:26.3559060-05:00
" As I said, it doesn't count as emotional distancing in this context." I only said what I said because you said "So being a psychopath makes it easiest to kill people? That only accounts for 2% of all soldiers." I was just saying that there is mechanism in the brain that cause that without the person being a psychopath. In your poll I picked Social distance.
Vox_Veritas says2015-04-10T11:53:14.0839060-05:00
Holy bleep; just how much work exactly did you put into those descriptions?
PetersSmith says2015-04-10T11:53:17.9514293-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: That 2% of people are called "natural killers" and are defined as sociopaths who lack empathy, but at the same time don't "want" to kill people.
Kreakin says2015-04-10T11:55:32.0164534-05:00
Empathy can be switched off or selective by some. A driving ideology and someone to take responsibility helps as well. Zero Degrees of Empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen is an interesting read.
PetersSmith says2015-04-10T11:58:06.6346334-05:00
Kreakin: There is such a thing as a "natural soldier": the kind who derives his greatest satisfaction from male companionship, from excitement, and from the conquering of physical obstacles. He doesn't want to kill people as such, but he will have no objections if it occurs within a moral framework that gives him justification.
Kreakin says2015-04-10T11:58:22.2091804-05:00
Hate is also a powerful distancer and can be cultivated easily.
BblackkBbirdd says2015-04-10T11:58:36.1241128-05:00
The descriptions are so long.
PetersSmith says2015-04-10T11:59:11.1922384-05:00
Kreakin: Well, "hate" can go into any one of the options.
PetersSmith says2015-04-10T11:59:28.6951018-05:00
BblackkBbirdd: You only have to read the first sentence of each option to understand what it is.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-10T12:05:10.5625273-05:00
Isn't social distance the most common for causing wars.
PetersSmith says2015-04-10T12:06:22.3661486-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: No, it's actually the least common, and if you read the mechanical distancing one it says how social distancing "is generally fading as a form of killing enabling in Western war".
PetersSmith says2015-04-10T12:26:06.0007091-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: It may not be the most common, but that doesn't mean it's not effective.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-10T12:58:35.4693194-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: No, it's actually the least common, and if you read the mechanical distancing one it says how social distancing "is generally fading as a form of killing enabling in Western war. A very small percentage of deaths in wars are from Mechanical distancing, the majority killing in wars seem to be from social distancing. American civil war, American revolutionary war, French revolution, vietnam conflict, etc. all situations where it was easier to kill your opponent by being socially distant from them.
PetersSmith says2015-04-10T13:00:06.0074415-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: All those examples you gave except maybe the French Revolution are examples of moral distancing.
Mathgeekjoe says2015-04-10T13:00:23.4552166-05:00
Mechanical distancing really doesn't seem to be a strong form of emotional distancing. It really isn't much more of an emotional distance as considering your enemy a target.
PetersSmith says2015-04-10T13:01:55.0254556-05:00
Mathgeekjoe: I never said mechanical distancing is effective, but the description for it is from the same book and states that social distancing is fading.
Kreakin says2015-04-10T13:02:26.8960552-05:00
I find it hard to choose an option tbh. I guess all but mechanical distance gives hands on experience of killing and as so probably makes ones convictions harder to disown. Seeing and causing death up close hardens peoples to it more maybe.

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