A New York psychiatrist tells an audience at Yale School of Medicine of her fantasies of “unloading a revolver in the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless, with a bounce in my step. Like I did the world a fucking favour.” She later prays for the rapper DMX, who died of an overdose.
One of the founders of Extinction Rebellion boasts that he wouldn’t let an ambulance through if he was blocking the road, even at the cost of a patient’s life.
A biological male with criminal convictions for kidnap and attempted murder says at a Trans Pride rally: “If you see a Terf, punch them in the fucking face.” The crowd, holding placards about love, kindness and human rights, cheer and applaud.
Students at California State University glorify a Hamas terrorist paragliding into Israel to slaughter the innocent, while Harvard students write an open letter blaming Jews for their own execution. They grieve the “slow and sudden” deaths of Palestinians.
Acts of kindness bear witness to our shared suffering. But when kindness becomes pathological, it is cruel and divisive — as with these examples. And it is on the rise. In the West today, there are people whose suffering is deemed to be non-existent or of little value, and so judgement takes the place of understanding, punishment that of mercy. The result is a purity spiral whereby extreme kindness towards an in-group gives unlimited licence to act with cruelty towards an out-group. It’s this licence that gives progressive activists permission to clothe antisemitism as anti-colonialism.
Following the Hamas massacre, a lecturer at Stanford University used “identity-based targeting” to force three Jewish students to stand in a corner so they could feel “what Israel does to Palestinians”. He asked them how many Jews died in the Holocaust. One of the students said “six million” and the lecturer replied that “colonizers killed more than 6 million. Israel is a colonizer”. In New York, activists tore down posters pleading for the safe release of Jewish hostages, many of them women and children, while London saw a 1,353% increase in antisemitic attacks.
In the intersectional narrative inhaled by activists, kindness for the “oppressed” legitimises unspeakable cruelty against the “oppressor”. For normal people, whose instincts are not numbed by ideology, the dissonance of cruelty clothed in kindness is disorientating. In 2021, Milli Hill, founder of the Positive Birth Movement, challenged use of the phrase “birthing person” to describe a pregnant woman. Fellow birthing professionals denounced her — in the name of kindness. As the attacks intensified and the language became increasingly violent, Milli lost her sense of reality, telling an interviewer: “Am I the person I think I am? Do I have this dark side that’s violent and hateful and toxic and all the things they say I am?”
Polish psychiatrist Andrew Lobaczewski, who spent his early life under Nazi occupation, analysed the political and psychological processes that generate this loss of reality. He called it ponerology, or the “the study of the origin of evil”. Collaborating, in secret, with a number of dissidents in post-war communist Poland, he sought to explain the “pathological inversion of a normal social hierarchy” in which “psychological deviants” take power and create a “pathocracy…wherein a small pathological minority takes control over a society of normal people”.
This minority is the “pathological underbelly” present in every society, about 6% of the population, of which a tenth are psychopathic — characterised by grandiosity, narcissism, personal charisma, impaired moral and psychological reasoning, a systemic incapacity for self-criticism and the sadistic pursuit of pleasure. Under communist rule, Lobaczewski witnessed such people, riven with mediocrity and oblivious to their incompetence, become leading members of the party. As their grip on power tightened, one malignancy bred another, until academics, scientists and psychologists succumbed to communist ideology. They acted as if in possession “of some secret knowledge; in their eyes we became their former colleagues, still believing what the ‘professors of old’ had taught us”.
From Mao’s attack on the Four Olds — old ideas, old customs, old habits and old culture — to the assault by critical race theorists on the universalism of the civil rights movement and the sublimation of antisemitism into support for Hamas atrocities, a defining factor of pathocracies is historical amnesia and psychological naievety. This allows for the separation of the “Old” from the “New”, and the metastatic transformation of what Lobaczewski called the “pathological underbelly” of society into the ruling elite.
In the West, progressive activists are denying their cultural dominance, despite using this dominance to shame, de-bank and destroy their enemies. They compete for status by aligning themselves with intersectional destitution to manufacture a world in which discrimination, inequality and climate deaths are increasing, when the evidence shows the opposite is true. Ultimately, elite pathocrats become totally isolated from the world of normal people. Their language becomes esoteric and they speak only to each other. The Polish philosopher Angnieszka Kolakowska described this descent into unintelligibility among Communist Party members as a defence mechanism: when they “feel cornered, they automatically lapse into textbook communist jargon”, she wrote. “Their words simply fail to refer and the result is gibberish.”
Gibberish, in the mouths of elite pathocrats, becomes wisdom, creating a utopia of nonsense, detectable in sentences like this, from the activist Rosa Lee: “By remembering the metaphorical character of any scientific model, we can draw out the insights of the theory of performativity while putting it into conversation with our other Marxist metaphors.” The end point is “communisation, the transition to new communist selves”. The mystique of this language cements the separation of ideology from reality and pathological elites from the “normal man”. Faced with struggle sessions, shaming, bullying and violence — and fearing for their sanity — normal people lapse into silence, unable to comprehend the pathocratic trauma unleashed upon them. When an individual is compelled to violate what she knows to be true, to substitute an ideological fantasy for reality, the result is psychological disintegration.
When an individual is compelled to violate what she knows to be true, to substitute an ideological fantasy for reality, the result is psychological disintegration. Such a spectacle is a source of pleasure to the dominant elites for whom “forcing others…to feel and think like themselves becomes an internal necessity, a ruling concept”. This “necessity” can never be satiated. No level of deindustrialisation can cleanse the West of its “abuse” of Mother Earth, no ritualistic recitation of pronouns can redeem the “sins of the cis” and no atonement can ever be sufficient to repay the debt owed by the Jews for their “crimes”.
This impossibility of salvation makes sadism eternal.
This process is viscerally described in Juliette, a novel written by the Marquis de Sade. In it, the eponymous heroine meets Pope Pius VI and demands that he offer up a dissertation on murder. The Pope obliges, arguing that to commit murder is in accordance with Nature:
“from time immemorial, man has taken pleasure in shedding the blood of his fellow man and to content himself he has sometimes disguised this passion under a cloak of justice, sometimes under one of religion. But, and of this let there be no doubt, his purpose, his aim has always been the astonishing pleasure killing procures him.”
Ideology, in other words, is used to conceal the sadistic desires of the libertines, to legitimise the raw exercise of power. Normal, virtuous people are imprisoned, tortured, brutalised and killed by aristocrats, priests and popes — purely for the pleasure of it.
Pathocrats who seek the collapse of open societies do everything they can to conceal the “astonishing pleasure” they get from having the power to punish. They do so by redefining concepts like “justice”, “safety” and “kindness” in a language accessible only to the elite. Like contemporary identitarian progressives, Sade’s libertines speak only to each other. This enables them to hide the sadistic psychology that drives them.
And because it is impossible to prove that people are thinking “correctly”, the elite’s desire can never be satisfied. Pathocrats and libertines cannot be appeased. In a futile attempt to appease her attackers, Milli Hill offered her online platform to a Bame birthing expert. For this, her accusers amplified her guilt by adding racism to the accusation of transphobia. They shamed her for not paying the Bame woman for her work, and accused her of being a “white saviour”. The simple fact of Hill’s continued existence was an irresistible invitation to degrade her further. But still, they cloaked their cruelty in the language of kindness. Lacking the courage of the Sadean libertine, her tormentors clung to their progressive ideology, for fear, as Lobaczewski observed, that without it “nothing would remain except psychological and moral pathology, naked and unattractive”.
It’s that nakedness we see when a mob is implored to “punch a fucking Terf” or a Hamas terrorist decapitates a dying Jew with a garden hoe. Yet those who raise their fists in support are, without doubt, on “the right side of history” — that is, the winning side. Pathocrats almost always win, the few silencing the many, because it’s easier to be kind than to love.
If we are to survive this cruelty in the name of kindness, we need to separate what’s benign and beautiful in progressive ideologies from the pathological underbelly that’s overwhelmed them. We need to salvage tolerance and inclusion for all trans people from the attack on science and single-sex spaces undertaken in their name. We need to rescue the universalism of the civil rights movement from an anti-racism that reverses the terms of a malevolent racial hierarchy in the name of justice. We need to protect present and future generations from the consequences of environmental degradation without sacrificing the poor to gratify an apocalyptic vanity. And we need to seek justice for Palestinians without glorifying unspeakable violence.
Lobaczewski concluded that normal people protest against pathocrats “from the depths of their own souls and their human nature”. They protest against the evisceration of their language, the denigration of their values and the unjustified status of the elites who govern them. If we allow pathocrats to control our institutions and corporations, the future will #BeKind.
We must remember that it’s their weakness, not their strength, that compels the pathocrats to silence dissent. As the anti-apartheid campaigner Nadine Gordimer wrote: “No social system in which a tiny minority must govern without consent over a vast majority can afford to submit any part of control of communication.” To break their power means isolating the minority within the minority from the decent people who have become cruel out of fear, contagion and opportunism. In this struggle, we’ll find unexpected allies.
Having been one of the last prisoners in the Bastille when it was stormed in July 1789, the Marquis de Sade later found himself in the improbable position of a revolutionary judge. When the family of his estranged wife, responsible for his long years of incarceration, were brought before him for judgement, he chose mercy and spared them from the guillotine, saying: “Such is the revenge I take upon them.”