Sunday, May 11, 2014

QotD: Yeah, What He Said! Edition...

Whole theories of conflict are built on a "study" that supposedly proved an inhibition in killing each other. There's a problem with it...
(FYI, before anyone starts citing BG SLA “Slam” Marshall, do more background research into the repudiations of his “research.”).
If you won't listen to me, listen to him. After all, he knows a bit about killing folks.

Most of the really deadly carnivore species seem to have a deep reluctance to use their built-in lethal hardware in intraspecies conflict, and this makes sense; if lions or wolves went to full-throttle throat-rippin' every time there was a question of who got to use the drinking fountain first, pretty soon there wouldn't be any more lions or wolves.

Thing is, we're not long-term dues-paying members of the Really Deadly Carnivore Species Union. We just moved into the neighborhood relatively recently and where we were living before, we could get pretty medieval on each other to sort out social problems without worrying about accidentally killing the other monkey.

Ever since we figured out how to tie sharp rocks to sticks, we've been reliant on learned social behaviors to serve as a check on our capacity to do lethal harm in an eyeblink, and those learned behaviors can be a pretty thin veneer at times. Some folks never seem to get the hang of them at all.

Anybody who has read Ordinary Men or who owned a television set between April and July of 1994 should sprain their eye-rolling muscles every time they hear this theory that human beings have a "hard-wired" reluctance to harm other humans.
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18 comments:

Chris said...

Even the socially-learned restraints (on the majority) disappear once a group of "others" has been identified as "not-of-us" and suitably demonized.

Tam said...

You mean like "Libprogs" or "Teabaggers"? ;)

Robin said...

Oh, sure, at least you had a warm rock...

--Yorkshireman #2

Paul said...

We are never far away from the ability to do violence on one another. I am reading a treatise on civilized war versus more primitive styles.

There is not real difference in the lethality but the big difference is in surrender. Modern armies accept surrender. Primitive's not so much.

It is an interesting read.


RandyGC said...

FYI, before anyone starts citing BG SLA “Slam” Marshall, do more background research into the repudiations of his “research.”

IIRC David Hackworth was rather "disappointed" is probably the best word, when he met SLAM Marshall in Vietnam and in the way Marshall conducted his research.

Chris said...

Nah, I'll give both of those a pass under most circumstances. Drivers going slowly in the left lane of I-95 while chatting on their cell phone? It's close, some days.


Oh, almost forgot: ;)

Seerak said...

Pretty much any concept of genetically "hard-wired" ideas is BS. Urges, sure, but that's not "ideas"; hunger is an urge, but it has no idea which mushrooms are poisonous.

Bubblehead Les. said...

One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was to pull the trigger on another Human Being. And I hope to never have to do so again. But I never felt any sort of "Hard-Wired Inhibition" from doing so. Him or Me, and I wanted to Live.

And from the news reports lately, it doesn't look like that "Theory" seems to be holding up too well.

Anonymous said...

I'm reading Grossman's On Killing for the first time right now. He seems to use Marshall's book (and other sources) to show a variant of the same idea: that with the exception of aggressive psychopaths, people don't naturally want to kill other people, that doing so takes a toll on unprepared killers, but that people's aversion to killing can be overcome.

I'm not qualified in the slightest to address the subject, but I do wonder if you've got the same opinion of Grossman's slightly nuanced perspective.

PhilaBOR said...

Lt. Col. Grossman makes a pretty good case in the book and in his one day seminar for a resistance to killing. He cites evidence going back to the civil war and beyond. He also spends time on the conditioning which can make soldiers (or others) able to kill much more easily. As Mountain Guerrilla does here.

Tam said...

PhilaBOR,

I have no real urge to delve into it in the constrained format of the comments section here, but a lot of the evidence cited by Grossman is misinterpreted or flat out wrong.

There's an excellent discussion on the the book, the author, and his theories here, including commentary from some extremely clueful dudes. A+ recommend. Would read again.

Tam said...

Sorry, un-borked link: http://www.pistol-forum.com/showthread.php?540-Book-On-Killing-by-Lt-Col-Dave-Grossman

Matt said...

It could be we don't kill readily any more because it is just to much hassle, drama, wring of hands and gnashing of teeth. Must not worth the effort most days.

Kevin R.C. O'Brien said...

Grossman has always been looked at askance by the SOF community. He's a militant self-promoter, and has played fast and loose with his own credentials (he never actually lies, he makes insinuations that lead uninformed people to draw false inferences favorable to him).

He makes prominent "Ranger" claims but never served in a Ranger unit, he did earn the Ranger tab, a two month school (58 days when he... and I ... went through it) that has been from time to time functionally mandatory for infantry officers and light infantry and SOF NCOs.

The real Rangers are the guys in the Regiment (in Grossman's day, in the two active Ranger Battalions). The rest of us, like me and Dave, just have a nice cloth badge, and some stories of sleep and caloric deprivation.

Grossman never served in combat. He cooked up his theories, as Tam notes, based on Marshall (who also cooked up his theories), while a professor at West Point, which is about as far from combat as you can get.

Like Marshall, he expresses himself well and has been very influential, because some of his ideas seem logical, but there's no substance there.

About 6 years ago I was with a group of retired special operations guys, of whom I was by far the least distinguished, at the Silver Eagle Group range in northern VA. (Nice range complex, good folks, no idea how they ever thought it would make money). We into Grossman (he bopped into the lounge to rub shoulders with us). When he found out that (1) we had all read his book and wanted to discuss it, and (2) we had at least some empirical leg to stand on, he beat a retreat and went back out to his group of mall-ninja fanboys who just wanted him to sell them an autographed book.

Again, some of his ideas make sense. But it's glib and prolix theorizing, and his supposed scientific basis is gauzy and evanescent.

I don't think he reads the psychological or neuroscience papers. He seems to pay more attention to less rigorous disciplines, like criminology.

He recently (last 2 years or so) cemented his PNG status with the SOF world by backing another bullshit artist, John Giduck, who used to make even grander SOF claims than Grossman's wink-and-nod insinuations, untill someone FOIA'd Giduck's actual service records -- he was a trainee discharge who boloed basic training. But he and Grossman recommend each other!

Sigivald said...

It amused me that one of his requisites in that list as "objectivism" (I think "objectivity" was what was meant).

I'm pretty sure one does not need to subscribe to Ayn Rand's philosophy to be effective in interpersonal violence, just a a guess.

Jeremy Brock said...

I've never met Col. Grossman, but from some of his published comments I gather that his support of civilian firearms ownership is tepid and reluctant at best.

Admittedly, my introduction to his work was his 'Sheep/Wolf/Sheepdog' model, which rubbed me the wrong way from the get-go. The idea that anyone who isn't military/LE is therefore a predatory criminal or an essentially mindless herd animal doesn't incline me to take his research seriously, let alone adopt his social views.

I won't even get into the merits(?) of his anti-gaming fatwas.

He'd probably look awesome on horseback, though.

mikee said...

The Gulag Archipelago and The Rape of Nanking might be added to your Ordinary Men to make a trio of modern societies making a contribution to genocide.

Steve Florman said...

RandyGC, up above, hit the nail on the head. I clicked to the comments to add that David Hackworth thought that SLAM's research was essentially worthless. Hack could be a pain in the backside, but he was a great combat leader and an astute observer of soldiers under stress. I'd take his observations over Marshall's or Grossman's any day.