On Villainy By Tom Knighton

On Villainy

By Tom Knighton

A hero is only as good as his villain. Personally, I’ve always felt that the best villains are ones that can be related to on some level. They villains seem to have some driving force that we can understand. What makes them evil is that they take this relatable force and use it to cross every boundary that decent people hold dear.

However, villains are another area where what works in fiction doesn’t always reflected in reality.

Right now, the most popular villain is the turdnugget who decided to walk into a church in Charleston, SC and kill people for nothing more than the color of their skin. This is something that the vast majority of us are unable to comprehend. I mean, skin tone is as arbitrary a dividing line as hair color or eye color, so why kill people for just that factor?

We can’t grasp it, yet it happened. I refuse to actually write the turdnugget’s name anywhere, because I don’t want to give him any more press. He already got his fame, which I suspect was a factor in his attack, but I refuse to add to it. It’s a small effort to keep people from mimicking his efforts.

All too often, people think of “villains” as those who oppose them on whatever issue they hold dear. Monsanto is the villain to people like “Food Babe”. The NRA is the villain to the gun control crowd. The Sad Puppies are the villains to the Puppy Kickers. The flip side is also generally true as well.

The thing is, most of us have never truly experienced real “villainy”. We’ve never witnessed the pits of dead Albanians following the break-up of Yugoslavia. We never witnessed the Rwandan tribal slaughter. Many of us have never met a Jewish concentration camp survivor. To us, that level of villainy just doesn’t exist except as an abstract.

However, even the lesser forms of villainy are mere abstractions. Most of us never see the evil that seeks to prey on us. We may have our stuff stolen, but it’s by people we never see. Years ago, someone broke into my home. They stole relatively little, but their villainy was still there.

Since they never caught the person responsible, I don’t even have a face to put with the event, so it’s nothing more than a concept that a person did it. A certainty, to be sure, but still something that’s difficult to wrap my head around.

Relatively few people will be the victim of a crime which puts them face to face with the criminal. Some of us have, to be sure, but those who have are in the minority.

As writers, we try our best to stare into the face of such evil, all to try and create it in a believable way. Racist turdnuggets are good universal villains, after all. You tend not to alienate people with your bad guys when you pick someone everybody can hate. That’s why Nazis are so good at it.

However, I can’t speak for everyone, but I can’t comprehend their thoughts. I get the fear, but I can’t grasp why they’re afraid of those groups. I know too many Jews who I would go to war for. I know too many of every ethnic group I feel the same way about. I can’t get why anyone would hate an entire group.

I’ve always prided myself on my ability to get inside someone’s head and understand their motives. I’ve done it plenty of times and found out just how right I was. In an abstract kind of way, I know what these people think, but I can’t grasp why they think that.

Honestly, I don’t think I ever want to understand it either.

And yet, there are those who are ready to ascribe such motives to us. They’re ready to link this turdnugget to us, despite the fact that most of us not only decry his actions, but we actually supported several authors who don’t fit the “white, Mormon male” narrative (to say nothing of the fact that authors were nominated that we may disagree with politically).

Look, I’m going to make this clear. Bigotry is stupid. Racism is beyond stupid. All we have ever wanted is people and works to be judged based on quality, both the quality of the person and the quality of the work. Anyone who opposes a work because the author is black, or a woman, or gay, or a socialist is a moron. Anyone who dislikes a work because the author is white, or male, or straight, or a conservative/libertarian is just as much of a moron.

There are real villains in this world. How about some of the people screaming the most about villains try something different and start looking at real villains for a change.

164 responses to “On Villainy By Tom Knighton

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    One “individual” elsewhere talked about the “danger of allowing people with deeply held beliefs to ignore the laws”.

    What really annoying is that the “individual” is painting with a too board of brush.

    IE what beliefs is the person talking about and which laws is the person talking about?

    The problem is that it becomes a “fill in the blank” sort of thing.

    The reader/hearer “gets” to imagine what sort of “bad things” those religious people want to be able to do.

  2. Tom I appreciate your comments and agree with them. I would add that the gunman killed in a church, not Walmart, not a bar, not a playground, not a grocery store, etc. These people were targeted because they were black CHRISTIANS. Welcome to Pakistan America.

  3. I suspect that people who have very little life experience and not much in the way of bedrock principles shrink their scale of villainy to fit their experience.

    The best example of this is the root of the Tor boycott; Irene Gallo was upset at people voting for the Hugos in ways that did not benefit her logrolling clique, and she started calling her customers and her own authors neo-nazis and the books she had even worked on “bad to reprehensible.” In her pampered, privileged world, someone not giving a plastic statue to the clique that was certain they deserved it is the worst villainy possible.

    Then there’s my husband, who has traded fire with real, actual neo-nazis and dealt with their carbombs and terror tactics. He was working on ending apartheid and giving every human being in South Africa the vote and the recognition of their human dignity. The worst villainy possible that he’s seen… let us pray fervently to all our spirits and deities that we never see its like again.

    • Dorothy, I think you’ve nailed Ms. Gallo and her entire sad privileged tribe most correctly. Were she to be faced with what is typical in 90% of our world she would be reduced to a quivering lump on the ground and doomed to a short mean life of poverty and strife.
      On a different note, it was a true pleasure to see you and Peter in action at Libertycon. Team Grant would appear to be quite an operation. I used some of your comments there and on line in the short piece I’m working on about first and beta readers.
      I did leave Peter some YouTube links on his blog about the care and feeding of your latest his and hers acquisitions. Hope they prove helpful.
      As to your remark and prayer on the fate of the world I can only say “Amen!” It’s always been my practice to hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

      • It was great to meet you, too! I wish I could clone myself at events like that, so I’d have enough time to talk with everyone and see all the panels.

        Please, let me know when the piece comes out; I’ll be interested in reading your take on it. 🙂

        • I sent the first draft to Sarah, figured given current life events something she could throw up as a post on MGC might be helpful. So if and when is in her hands now.
          I decided to research beta readers after being one for several MGC writers and realizing that I really didn’t know what in blazes I was doing or even what the writers really wanted or needed from me. Being an engineer I could not let that stand. Your remarks on structure, flow, and no copy edit at that stage of development were most helpful.

        • Clark E Myers

          You may be way ahead of me on this but maybe not – given the prepping thrust on your current family blog – you might enjoy asking the apparently vast numbers of white male LDS villains here about dealing with Home Storage Centers local to you so as to prepare every needful thing’ (see D&C 109:8) so that, should adversity come, we may care for ourselves and our neighbors, Interesting motive that for such villainous types to have isn’t it.

    • Clucking tool-mothers like the “peaceful chicken” you quote are perfect illustrations of why they are a neo-gnostic sect that rejects observable reality as corrupt and regards only correct doctrine as pure and trustworthy.

    • There is something to having seen real villainy face to face, or even to hearing the accounts of survivors of the same. A whole lot of things slide well down the scale, from “evil” to “stupid and annoying,” to “potentially dangerous at some point if left untreated,” but not evil.

      • Of course, to those who have faced real villainy at spitting range, some of those things tend to slide down to “stupid and annoying,” and then rather than sliding on down to “potentially dangerous at some point if left untreated,” they shoot back up to “kill it with fire.”

    • I’ve seen real villains as well. (Deployment will do that, even if you’re not one of the ones on the pointy end of the stick.) I think it’s more than shrinking villainy to experience… it’s not wanting to imagine that such levels of villainy could actually be REAL. Because if it’s real they actually have to deal with it and that’s dangerous. Real danger. Real evil. Real problems. Things they may not be actually able to handle. They might FAIL. It might be horrible. The ones with imaginations are terrified.

    • It was wonderful meeting the both of you at LibertyCon. The more I think about it, the more I think the pain of the travel was worth it.

      (snark)
      Clearly Peter was fighting Apartheid wrong! The Right way is the Leftist way, i.e. have benefit concerts and selling bumperstickers and wearing printed t-shirts while campaigning Congress to write strongly worded resolutions with no force behind them.
      /snark
      Because Leftists don’t want to END oppression, they just want to Fight it. And Gallo is nothing if not a Leftist.

    • “shrink their scale of villainy to fit their experience.” And the most effective tactic for looking like a true-fighter-against-oppression is to shrink their scale—and definition—of villainy to encompass people they can actually harm.

  4. “…start looking at real villains.” Most of them would only have to look in a mirror.

  5. c4c. i’m back

  6. I’m trying to write a villain in the current WIP – a manipulative sociopath, who basically views himself as the center of the world, and everyone around him exists for his convenience. It’s a bit of a challenge, but made easier that I did once have a real-life and prolonged encounter with one of those kinds of humans. She was charming, personable, totally convincing, but manipulative and vengeful beyond belief. The world revolved around her, and everyone in it existed for her convenience. Very scary, in a modern way.

    • Sounds like some women I’ve dated. :/

    • I recommend, for less personal info, Theodore Dalrymple’s Life At the Bottom.

    • Speaking of sociopaths, someone left a comment at Instapundit that, I think, totally nails the motivation the Charleston sociopath had. I’ll reproduce it here, because I think he got it totally right. The following is not mine, but was written by user “dicentra” over at Instapundit:

      Part of the problem is that the Charleston shooter — get this — was not actually a racist.

      YES he wanted to spark a race war, but NOT because he’d been nurturing murderous hatred in his bosom and finally snapped.

      According to his black friend, he’d only been talking about racial stuff for about 6 months. Prior to that, he’d contemplated shooting up a university and prior to that he cased a mall, which banned him from their property because he asked creepy “I’m contemplating mass murder” questions.

      Those aren’t “black” targets, they’re general-population targets.

      Trouble is, when you shoot up a general target like that, people freak out for awhile and yell about gun control but when you’re done shooting that’s the end of the body count.

      However. If your massacre can spark a race war, such that the body count keeps mounting even after you’re dead or captured, then how cool is that?

      Given the events in Ferguson and Baltimore, he reckoned that if a white white kid with white white-supremacist views shot up the most innocent black people on the planet, maybe the whole country erupts in an orgy of murder and mayhem.

      MAYHEM is what he wanted, first and foremost. Pretending to be a white supremacist was merely a way to make sure a LOT of people died.

      Read that stupid manifesto of his: totally flat affect. No passion, no anger, no rage, nothing that indicates outrage or even annoyance. Not in the tone, anyway, which sounded more like a “What I Did Over Summer Vacation” essay.

      Those photos he posted show him alone, probably using a tripod and timer. The scowls are forced and phony.

      Even what he said in the church sounded staged: “You’re raping all our women”? That’s what demagogues said 100+ years ago to spur the lynchings. But today? Does the KKK even say that anymore?

      What was not phony was the almighty smirk he gave the cameras upon capture. THAT was the face of a putrid little sh!t who reckoned the riots were just about to start, and he was pleased as punch that the mayhem would continue in his absence and there wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop it.

      Except for the one thing he didn’t count on — because sociopaths never do — the people of Charleston were too decent, too Christian, too good, to start so much as shouting match, let alone a full-blown race war.

      It’s a mistake to look at that little puke as an example of what racism can do, because racism didn’t motivate him.

      A missing conscience and a desire to do something unthinkable motivated him.

      And that was all.

  7. c4c

  8. It is a very … interesting … challenge to create a villain who is not simply a cardboard cutout of the author’s personification of the author’s (and presumed readership’s) fears. This is one reason why popular culture so often creates melodramatic (“a sensational dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions.“) villains — it is easier to convey such over the top personalities as villains and the audience is conditioned to recognize them as (to use Heinlein’s term) “black hats.” A second flaw one often meets in popular culture might be termed “the tautological villain” — one who does evil things because of being evil.

    In comic books (our only significant long-term continuity theatre) one often finds that such villains acquire depth and motivation as writers, tasked with bringing back Dr. Doom for the umpteenth time, strive to create a smatter of character depth by injecting some level of back story explaining the villain’s motivations. Of course, some villains (e.g., the Red Skull) have all of their motivation inherent in their premise and the writer merely needs find new ways of expressing it.

    Good writers (great ones, too, but let us avoid that argument) present villains whose villainy id inherent in their nature, in the way in which they react to their situations. Their villainy is more a matter of character than of characteristic — given their circumstances and their characters such people inevitably become villains. At its most simplistic expression we get such as Lord Valdemort’s tale, or that of The Artful Dodger; to a degree such villains are condemnations of society (although wiser writers will recognize such villainy is actually condemnation of an individual’s response to society.)

    Certain characteristics tend to be common to villains: a drive to power, a lack of consideration for the eggs that must be broken to create the villain’s omelet, a view that the ends justify the means (although this may also be present in some heroes) and indifference to the opinions of lesser beings broader society.

    A well-written villain may even be admirable, seeking to end an acknowledged injustice but by means which entail greater injustices. Such a villain can be the mirror-image of the hero, presenting challenges as the hero recognizes similar values in his own personality.

    Rarely is a villain a villain in his own mind — even the most loathsome bastards seem to feel they’ve just cause for their actions. On occasion a villain might well prove sympathetic, a damaged person trying to do good but uncomprehending of the damage caused.

    • It should be possible to develop a taxonomy of villains, building from the points I’ve touched on above. At simplest level these would be:

      The melodramatic villain: essentially a black hat writ large. Dr. Doom, Magneto, Lex Luthor spring to mind.

      The inherent villain: one whose worldview and goals are antithetical to civilized values. Examples would include the Red Skull, Brainiac, Magneto and (as originally conceived) Namor, the Submariner.

      The tragic villain: one whose personality and circumstances combine to make them unsuited for society. Few of these exist in comic books (one reason comics are considered sub-literature) but in popular literature we have Fagin; I am sure there are many such in Shakespeare but none come to this rather empty mind.

      The monomaniacal villain: an antagonist who has simply focused excessively on a single desirable goal to the exclusion of all other values. Ted Kaczynski, for example. Other such might include Khan Noonien Singh, or Captain Ahab whose desires for revenge overwhelm all other motivation.

      The sympathetic villain: a person whose response to circumstances reflect basic values of kin and klan taken to an extreme. Don Corleone, as developed over the course of The Godfather Cycle represents such a villain: driven to crime by an unjust and corrupt social system that neglected the rights and safeties supposedly accorded all members of society. Such a person can even be perceived as a hero if the social injustice is sufficiently profound (Hera Athena Sinestra, for exxample.)

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Marvel is trying to make Magneto into the sympathetic villain. IE “He’s just trying to protect Mutants from those Haters”. Never mind that when he was first introduced he was into “Mutants Are The Master-Race And I Will Rule The Mutants”. [Frown]

        • Yes – this is an aspect of writers trying to find ways to make what began as cardboard characterizations into more interesting, more realistic characters. Some writers enjoy inverting the natural order by making you feel sympathy for the antagonist. The best such exercises develop the character more fully rather than simply warping him into a more acceptable mode.

          With comics it is important to remember that until the Marvel Revolution (and rather well into it, at that) simplistic characterizations of all performers was the norm; comic audiences were considered primarily boys aged 12 – 14 (or whenever they discovered girls) and therefore in-depth characterization was for the writer’s, not the readers’, enjoyment.

          • comics now are too pc.

            • Comics have always reflected a simlistic and politically unchallenging view of the world. The “PC” comics of today are not really any worse than the “U.S. Stomps the commies” stuff from the 1950’s and early ’60’s.

              Which doesn’t make them any BETTER, mind.

            • Yes, aren’t they. I caught up on my superhero movies recently (I hadn’t seen any since the 3rd X-Men movie, which underwhelmed me). I admit it, I was charmed by the Thor-Loki story and tried the Thor comics (this after having not read Marvel since the 90s). I’d never read Thor in the past, but I started with the delightful Straczynski issues, followed by the amazing Kieran Gillan run – I highly recommend the Kid!Loki Journey Into Mystery series – and even enjoyed the Matt Fraction books. But it looks like 2-3 years ago, the series direction changed completely and I found it unreadable, especially this current run. Talk about someone’s idea of a good story being how much SJ nonsense it preaches. From what I’ve been reading, I get the idea that this is a direction that Marvel’s taking with all their comics.

        • Characterization Marches On.

          They have even gotten to the point where the title “Brotherhood of Evil Mutants” makes sense, as a belligerent declaration to the world that you do not care if you are called evil.

          • This question was raised in an X-men letter column long, long ago*, with the answer being that the Brotherhood had indeed taken the name as a thumbing of the nose at Homo Sap — sort of the way the Continentals adopted Yankee Doodle.

            One important thing to consider about marvel is that it was (so far as I know) the first comics company to use their letters columns to engage the readership in respectful discussion.

            *Within, I believe, the first fifty issues although I confess there is no way in Heck (much less in Kirby or Byrne**) that I go into the stacks to track this down.

            **Obscure comic geek joke

          • MadRocketSci

            One of the settings that I sort of play around with writing about is a sort of near-future cyberpunk sci-fi type setting: The premise is that a group of science nerds, hackers, underemployed engineers, and futurists start a secret society to revive curiosity, inquiry, and the drive to build cool things and use powerful technology. The reason why the secret society needs to be secret is because the surrounding culture has become hostile to any technological efficacy (and consequently broken down and generally dysfunctional.)

            Because of this, these guys are basically branded as supervillians and are hunted by the Bureau of Technology Control, another group that is sort of a twisted version of the Singularity Institute (a group that decays from an AI research group to a group that takes its mission to be squashing anyone that might make any progress in AI for fear of what the technology might do – it’s easier to be histronic about potential consequences than it is to make actual progress), and other organizations that are absolutely paranoid about what someone might do if they get their hands on enough technology.

            It’s basically taking the fact that you can’t buy certain chemicals anymore, or own certain types of tools, or that the villains of *every single freaking piece of popular culture* in the 90’s were some sort of evil capitalists/technologists > taking that leitmotif and turning it up to 11.

            Just because the masses are afraid to use technology for creative/constructive purposes doesn’t mean there aren’t other groups out there in the world that will use it for destructive evil purposes.

            The setting is basically “supervillians” save the world. (Though the “villains” in this case aren’t villainous), and the ‘defenders of civilization’ aren’t doing anyone any favors since they are frustrated politically whenever they try to turn their guns on any of the genuinely evil organizations.

            • A Geek Justice League made up entirely of Batman and the Question– sign me up!

            • so basically you’re talking about now, because from my reading of the popular culture, with the current trends of pc and thought police of the SJW variety that isn’t far off. Sounds Good, and I cant wait to read this story, although it does sound like MSN.com or CNN.

        • dc’s doing evil hai again. john stewart is now corps’ hope..

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            ::Shakes head::

            Of course, I didn’t mention that Marvel is making Scott Summers (Cyclops) into the ass-kicking I don’t care about Laws Protector of Mutantkind.

            They haven’t *yet* made Cyclops into a Villain type.

        • If you want to see a real-life example of this, look for interviews with Eugene Terre’blanche. They’re very interesting, in that he sounds so very reasonable, charismatic, and logical, and then continues right on into Wait, WTF, oh you did not just… yeah, you really do think it’s perfectly acceptable to kill Tribal Africans, Coloured (mixed-race), Indians, and other non-whites with no more concern than swatting flies. *shudder* and that it’s regrettable but necessary to kill any whites who oppose you.

          Do yourself a favor; before you watch any interviews, make sure you can go walk in the sunshine, play with puppies, have someone to hug, and otherwise shake off the stench of that evil afterward.

      • Othello is probably a classic, although he’s not really the villain – Iago is. Lady Macbeth, of course. Shylock. Richard III, except he’s written for the Tudor court, with his faults magnified.

      • Another type of villain — no convenient nomenclature springs to mind — is one who personifies human flaws. This is not a flawed villain (one whose inherent character weaknesses cause them to fail) but one such as that described by Celia Hayes above or, for example, Flashman who embodies common human vices such as greed, cowardice, bullying, and selfishness.

        Obviously, the above taxonomy is not comprehensive. Extension and revision is invited.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          The best that I can tell, Flashman survives (unrevealed as a villain) because he has the author on his side. [Smile]

        • Flashy was a rotter, a cad, a wencher, a bad gambler, a coward, one who sniveled to himself (not out loud so he couldn’t be heard to do it), and an all-around bad person with a knack for being in the right place at the right time and the wrong place at the wrongest time, and outliving those who knew him for what he was (because they got killed off before they could blow the whistle on him. or because nobody believed them.

        • just finished (a couple of books ago) “prince of fools” book one of the red queen by…….. mark Lawrence
          two pages into it … is this flashman? set in sword and sourcery? every few pages, yes i’m pretty sure. well written, very enjoyable. have gone back and started his first trilogy (well my wife has, I get it sooner are later)

      • Randy Wilde

        The tragic villain: one whose personality and circumstances combine to make them unsuited for society

        Galactus? 😉

        • Galactus — a person of enormous, uncontrollable appetites. His simple search for a decent bite to eat forever stymied by gnats until his frustration drives him to extreme.

          Besides, the neighbors’ kids are forever playing on his lawn!

    • I don’t grok this, but I need to.

    • Let us not forget the shallow adolescent who does evil things for shock value. The Satanic poseur.

      Kinda limited, but still has his villainous uses.

      • I remember one of the Neverwinter Nights games played that for tragic/comedy value. There was a side quest where I seem to recall some guy had been asking you to check in on his daughter. She’d gotten mixed up with a bunch of emo/goth teenagers in a rich part of town, and he was sure she was getting into trouble.

        Well, yea. as it turns out, looking for glittery vampires in a world where vampires actually do exist is pretty good way to get yourself turned into a pile of blood sucking thrawls. She is the only one you get out alive.

      • hope this isn’t whal jordan is to be.

    • Patrick Chester

      It is a very … interesting … challenge to create a villain who is not simply a cardboard cutout of the author’s personification of the author’s (and presumed readership’s) fears.

      The comments section of that Guardian article is a good example of how not to do that. O_o;;

      (It’s always amazing, these icky evil white supremacist types that I’m supposed to be an “ally” of… except I’ve never heard of them until a breathless and worrisome article showcases their horrid, horrid existence.)

  9. Not a chance, real villains might hurt them. Actually, with all their enabling, real villains will probably hurt them in the near future.

  10. Charleston was the Media’s dream event, unfortunately, the Media was not at all pleased with Charleston’s reaction to the shooting. Events like the Ravenel Bridge, an outpouring of support for the victims show the side of Southerners Black and White, who have lived together as neighbors in harmony and mutual respect; but that has no place in ‘the Narrative’.
    The Guardian link was interesting in:
    1) I have never heard of Harold Covington, but after looking at Amazon’s book list, I don’t think I will be reading him.
    2) The “contemporary strain of small-press sci-fi Tea Party fantasias”… WOW! That Gallo propaganda has traveled and expanded into the terrorist conspiracy of our time (in spite of the fact that no Sad Puppy endorses stoning women or throwing gays off buildings). I was particularly impressed by the ‘small-press’, TOR/McMillan stops at nothing in their battle against independent publishing.
    3) After the 4-day hiatus in Internet access, I think I’ll have my not-Sad Puppy (who is 11 years old) chew the cable to the Internet satellite dish again, and not call for repair service.

  11. The Other Sean

    Why are you so angry, Tom? :p

  12. Christopher M. Chupik

    Damien G Walter, Jane Carnall, Harold Covington, all Guardian writers. Hmm. There’s a pattern here, I just can’t put my finger on it . . .

  13. There are two general flavors of villany. One is the “Turdnugget”, as you call him. If you dig through all the stuff about him, you’ll find that what really sent him off was a girl. He was very sweet on this one girl, but she snubbed him and soon was going out with a black guy. At least that’s what his black neighbour/friend whom he you to get drunk with on a regular basis told reporters. If true it explains quite a bit.
    Look at a picture of the guy again. He screams low Gamma on Vox’s male hierarchy. The young woman’s rejection seems to have lead to his decent into Omega territory. For those that don’t read Vox’s sites, a Gamma is the socially awkward dork who tries to win female attention by being the white knight but gets friend zoned by women or listed as a creeper. An Omega is the angry loner who hates the world and women that have rejected him. Think the asshat that climbs a clock tower with a deer rifle, or the turdnugget that kills folks in a black chuch because “black’s keep taking our women.”

    That kind of evil feels justified. They feel hurt, wronged, and they feel they have someone they can blame for the crime, real or imagined. Imagine that you did know who broke into your house. Now imagine that it really, really upset you. Maybe they took some family heirloom and you were already a bit on endge mentally. You might get to a place where you felt justified in hunting down the person who did it. If it happened several times and each time it was a black or hispanic or whatever, you might start to allow animus towards all blacks or hispanics or whatever to build up. You might, just might, seek what has become in squeezed and off kilter mind some kind of justice. That’s what the path this guy walked. That’s the path the Nazis walked. He/they get to a point they can convince themselves what they are doing is justice, even necessary.

    The other kind of evil is just some flavor of sadism. Inflicting harm can, for some, feel almost erotic.

    • In all fairness, the guy who climbed the clock town had a brain tumor in the part of his brain that regulates strong emotions and personal restraint.

      From what I’ve read, there as a pretty clear break in his behavior around the time the tumor was suspected to have started. Prior he was apparently fairly normal, afterwards he started flying into rages for no explained reason.

      • He also apparently knew there was something wrong with himself.

        But that’s really a horror story, isn’t it?

    • Only two? What about evil with good intentions.

      Can’t, for the life of me, think of an example. 😉

      • There are people who solemnly tell you that all people think that they are doing good. As if deluding yourself into affected ignorance meant you were guiltless.

        • I know that’s false– I do stupid, selfish things I know are wrong because I’m lazy, or I really want to. (Say, like snapping at my husband when he’s just as hot and uncomfortable as I am, and I already know that he won’t even argue back so it won’t even burn up the annoyance.)

        • Whereas it’s more like (almost) all people think that they’re good people, and most of them rationalize that the “small” bits of evil they do (which they know to be wrong even as they’re doing them) are therefore OK, because it’s “balanced out” by the good they do.

        • I don’t buy that. Plenty of people do things just for their own benefit, however malicious. Also, delusion is no excuse, IMO

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Mary said nothing about an excuse.

            IMO plenty of people delude themselves that they are “doing good” even when they are only doing something for their own good.

    • If Sarah will forgive me, I’m going to recommend you read Peter’s book on being a prison chaplain (Walls, Wire, Bars & Souls). He provides a lot of background into who the people are than end up in max security, why, and how they think – their very worldview, including passages where they speak in their own voice.

      If you want to draw villains true to life, it’s actually rather handy for introducing you to people who really, truly, don’t think like we do, or value the same things with the same weight.

      http://amzn.to/1RWg4el

    • Randy Wilde

      a Gamma is the socially awkward dork who tries to win female attention by being the white knight but gets friend zoned by women

      Hmmm… I remember the “I’m glad I’m a beta” speech from Brave New World, I guess I can adapt that to Gamma. I do need to go buy green clothes, though.

  14. Rather awesome that you’re right– most people have never faced someone who really meant them harm. Even minor, stupid harm; at most, it’s a matter of “…wait, this only makes sense if they were trying to do me wrong.”

    • Yep. Even a pessimist like me has to face the fact that humanity sucks in so many ways, but it’s not as bad as some people try to argue it is.

    • Haven’t most people fought a mugger at some point in their lives? Or a schoolyard bully, for Pete’s sake?

      • Naw, most people submit. Some people have fought lots of both due to an inability to mind their own business. 🙂

        Huh.. they always say, “This is none of your business,” don’t they.
        Wishful thinking?

      • Most of US might have dealt with a bully, but most people in general?

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          The worst type of Bullies have the Law on their side. Just look at those Gay Couples who want no body to refuse making them a Wedding Cake. [Frown]

          • Not entirely true.

            They want no CHRISTIAN to refuse to make to make them a wedding cake. Muslims are still free to refuse apparently.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              True. It may be un-Christian but there are times that I think Muslims have the Right Idea.

              Riot and kill when they “aren’t respected”. [Frown]

              • Clark E Myers

                Notice that individuals have achieved a high level of economic success and I suppose general happiness with the general attitude he dissed me so I shot him but it’s not the way to bet. It is however common among some American populations with little or no connection to Muslim lands.

                Myself, I find an 8th Amendment issue with Oregon fines these days but maybe the Court’s actions with respect to the ACA and others will so deflate the dollar as to justify the level of State action.

          • Relevant:
            http://www.nationalreview.com/article/420743/truth-safeguards-liberty?target=author&tid=900749
            “To learn who rules over you, find out whom you are not allowed to criticize.”
            — Voltaire
            If you’re wondering what Americans can do as our ruling class sets about enforcing its redefinition of marriage, start by looking back at what it did to the citizens of Indiana when their legislature raised the possibility that someone might object to joining in celebrations of homosexual marriage.

            Support for homosexual unions was incidental to the insistence of the likeminded folks atop society’s commanding heights on punishing Indiana. What incurs their ire has less to do with any substantive matter than with the American people’s resistance to honoring their fantasies. These fantasies can be reversed without notice. (Obama opposed homosexual marriage until 2013.) But dissenting from any of them — whether about race, or sex, or science, or anything else — risks ostracism and disqualification from earning a living.

            Indiana’s Republicans, its churches, and conservatives in general pled for the liberty to speak and act according to religious faith. They did not and do not argue the worth of the Judeo-Christian religious beliefs that the ruling class deems odious. This has proved to be self-defeating. Appeals for tolerance of all beliefs in the name of America’s traditional freedoms fail because they concede the ruling class’s assertion of its own moral-intellectual superiority, as well as its underlying assumption that good and evil, better and worse, are just other words for its own likes and dislikes.

            The ruling class’s component groups jointly dismiss America’s traditional liberties because they aim to replace them with their own primacy. Having seized the power to redefine liberty, our rulers tighten their definitions around their opponents’ necks like nooses. Since their desire for primacy has no limit, they can’t stop tightening. The norms that they demand that we honor help sustain each constituency by letting its members feel good about themselves while looking down on others. Their “dignitary interests” (to use Justice Kennedy’s term for who must be honored vs. those who must submit to being vilified) simply trump those of others. This is why the ruling class demonizes any questioning of its demands’ substance by imposing modern equivalents of the slave-era “gag rule.” They wage identity politics as war.

            RTWT

      • Mugger? No, not actually that common, at least not for those of us whose family and friends are mostly country or military. And physical fights with bullies are also down, since any resistance is discouraged.

      • I’ve never been mugged.
        And the worst bullies I ever had to deal with were mean girl types in high school. Sufficient sarcasm kept them away.
        Finally, my super power is obliviousness so I may have missed some attempts.

        • I think I’ve had at least three close calls; in two cases, oblivious-based actions actually reduced the risk, and in the third the person was acting so strangely that it triggered all my anti-terrorism training from the Navy, so I didn’t take the corner at the dark, narrow road shortly before the place she’d said she needed to get to. (Went back in daylight to double-check– it was a really bad apartment complex that has no way to quickly drive off, and there are cinder block walls on all sides. And I’m still not sure what she was messing with in the big bag that I didn’t notice she had when she asked for a ride to the drug store “just down the road.” That changing to the one further down the road was the first warning sign, though….)

  15. MadRocketSci

    One interesting bit of villainy (well, maybe it doesn’t quite fit the category, but it was certainly creepy/violent) that I recall was the smiley face bomber.

    There’s this guy: He went around planting bombs in people’s mailboxes. When they open the box, the bomb goes off, and it badly maimed and killed a few random people with no seeming connection. The FBI was scrambling to try to figure out why these people were being targeted. Did this guy have some sort of grudge against them? Was it like the unibomber case? What was this bomber’s problem?

    One night I looked at the news, and I said: “Oh. I think I know what this guy is doing. He’s using the crime map of bombings across the united states to draw a big smiley face.” That did, in fact, turn out to be the ‘reason’, and it was how they caught him.

    That seems to be a good example of a clinical sociopath: The evil that those guys do doesn’t really register as evil to them. They aren’t being driven by any deep angsty passion: the reason they attack their victims might not have anything whatsoever to do with their victims – they just look at a map and think to themselves: wouldn’t it be funny if I got the nightly news to draw a big smiley face on the map?

    • The Other Sean

      After reading your comment, I searched the web briefly to find out more info. You’re right, that is totally creepy. I’m slightly surprised I’d never heard of that one before.

      • They probably don’t want to encourage the others, or they don’t think it would be a good idea for him to hear too much about his own exploits.

      • I don’t remember the smiley face thing, but I do remember ‘leave your mailbox open, do not open closed mailbox, postman will not close your mailbox, call police if you find your mailbox closed and do not approach it’. So our area must have been predicted to be a target, either of that guy or some other.

    • Couldn’t find the right key words to google it. A few years back, a man walked up to a woman at a bus stop, I believe in Baltimore, shot her in the head, and walked away rapidly. No one chased him. Seemingly totally random; the woman was a nurse. Someone in the PD decided they were going to find him. Got statements as to what direction he went off in, then went after security feeds, business by business, block by block, and followed his path. Took a while. Tracked him into the hospital where the woman worked. Sure enough, he worked there. When confronted, he readily admitted to shooting her. She deserved it; she had been beaming up x-rays from her department to read his mind or some other such nonsense. And, he admitted to, and had proof, of other murders for much the same reasoning. He wasn’t a suspect in any of the murders, because to a sane person- there was NO motive. And if you’re sane, how do you postulate an insane motive like that?

      • MadRocketSci

        How do you postulate an insane motive like that?:

        Maybe you could code a quick python script to do “random motive generation”, then try to string the words together into motive of a nutty serial killer.

  16. BobtheRegisterredFool

    The man you call turdnugget, per reports, was abusing Xanax recreationally. This can be used medically to decrease anxiety. A psychiatric drug changes concentrations of certain chemicals in the brain. The human body tries to kept chemical concentrations in balance. Once a drug leaves the system, the body’s balancing can be confused and can permanently or temporarily force things opposite of where the drug put them.

    I do not know the specific details of Xanax, but the general principle suggests that a person abusing it can end up in a state of extreme anxiety when off it. Turdnugget’s statements could be explained by anxiety beyond what he was capable of dealing with. Of course, his means of acting demonstrate a weak and evil character.

  17. RealityObserver

    Totally OT (and maybe I just noticed, I tend to go straight for the article).

    Sarah, the new banner is a keeper!

  18. I have met an old Jewish lady who had an Auschwitz tattoo. I met a Vietnamese man who’d been a General in the Army, who ensured all his relatives and friends got out during the fall, but he himself was left behind, and had to walk, avoiding people as he trusted no one, from Siagon to Thailand then get to the USA and find his very scattered family. Had another Vietnamese who suffered “reeducation” and managed to come to the US, saved all his money to bribe out his wife. Had dealings with another Vietnamese gentleman who had a son who was a bicycle racer and the VC gov’t refused to allow the son out until the old man saved enough money to bribe enough people to allow his release (Commies hate the US, but do so love American Dollars). I worked with a Cambodian who’s family had to flee from the Rouge, being a successful farmer, his jealous rivals pointed the Rouge towards him hoping the Croc would eat them last (seems none of those rivals survived the Rouge, so fat lot of good that did them …. like always). Except for the Jewish Lady, who I knew little other than having exchanged pleasantries, I know none of those folks would be fans of any of the leftoid policies and methods used. They suffered villany and it came from those methods and beliefs. That they are not fans of them, comes as a shock to leftoids.
    We see now the attempts to tie the KKK and Nazis to those of us not in line with the leftiods, because they have to rewrite things to hide their past, because so much of their present is tied to the same kind of policies, modified just enough to try and hide their true meaning. Turdnugget was a product of them, from them, and by them. The KKK was a dem faction, and still holds dem stances on things (just not for those of particular color, or religions) and we all know what Nazi was an abreviation of and their “step to the Right” was to the Right of Stalin … by maybe 0.00001 of an inch added to the fraction they started out to the right of him.
    Yesterday Sarah pointed out how we are always asked why we are so angry. Gee, we get slandered with the crimes of our opponents, kicked when we are down and yelled at by totally unreasonable sots, and we are not supposed to get our dander up? Stay “civil”?
    No.
    Want me to be civil to you? Try acting civil towards me. Hard, I know, because you then have to think about what you are doing, and if you start having to do that, you may well have to realize what you are doing is wrong.

  19. Christopher M. Chupik

    Considerate of you to give the 770 Club some fresh content for them to sneer at. They’ve been reduced lately to posting random tweets by Larry Correia and my blog comments. 😛

  20. Harold Covington, my reaction is who? I checked on his books and admit that I have never read one. After a scan of them I see none I want to read. A Sci Fi writer, really?

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      The Guardian’s idea of one, anyhow. And we all know what kind they like.

  21. Btw, Steven Den Beste recommends the new anime series Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There, and so do I. It’s by Takumi Yanai, a guy who was actually in the Japanese Self-Defense Force and decided to write a sort of Tom Clancy meets Doomfarers of Coramonde free webnovel. It got very popular, and a for-pay set of light novels, manga, and this anime have ensued. So yeah, he’s basically John Ringo’s Japanese cousin.

    Premise: Guys from a fantasy land think it’s a great idea to open a magical Gate and invade Japan. Japan resents this and invades back. The main character is a fannish soldier. Nice JSDF guys scout around, fight evil, and help civilians on both sides of the Gate, basically modelling themselves on US soldiers. (Yeah, I went there. But they do.) Some of the fantasy-land denizens become translators and helpers, including the statutorily required female elf, female mage, and homicidal demi-goddess.

    I’ve read the manga, which is fun. There’s a nice mix of JSDF and fantasy-land characters for viewers to follow. All the characters have backstory and adventures of interest. The fantasy world is pretty messed up, and you will eventually find out why they’re doing stupid things like invading other worlds without doing recon.

    Gate will have a new ep every Friday on Crunchyroll. If you don’t have a C-Roll membership, you can watch it for free (with commercials) starting next Friday.

    • Oh, but I forgot my point. That this show features a wide variety of villains, just as there are a wide variety of good guys. The revenge villain is definitely one of the nastiest ever invented.

    • Ascher Goodrich

      I second this. Its so nice to watch an anime that isn’t populated entirely by high-school students.

  22. darleenclick

    So much everyday “evil” is committed by the petty; sad-sacks who make bad choices out of a desire to take a shortcut to what they want when they want it. (yes I see this everyday – I’ve worked in the judicial system for 16 years now)

    There are standouts in villainy, acts that take one’s breath away, and still the person committing it may be doing it for the most insanely banal of reasons. (see the current trial in the murder of the McStay family http://www.cbs8.com/story/29453814/33-redacted-search-warrants-released-in-mcstay-murder-case )

    In regards to the risible Guardian piece, the efforts in trying to make a grand conspiracy over the Charleston murders to tie in everyone to the right of Laurie Penny is a naked partisan piece in shutuppery. Scratch a leftist, reveal a fascist.

    • who make bad choices out of a desire to take a shortcut to what they want when they want it.

      Indifference to the cost to (at least some) others. *shudder*

  23. But I CAN’T be a villain! I smile, and smile…