Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Prisoners of Hate by Aaron Beck

HarpersCollins, New York

(Biased thinking)
P 8
I noted the same type of hostile framing and biased thinking in encounters between siblings, parents and children, employers and employees. Each believed that he or she had been wronged and the other persons were contemptible, controlling, and manipulative.

People in conflict perceive and react to the threat emanating from the image rather than to a realistic appraisal of the adversary. They mistake the image for the person. The most negative frame contains an image of the adversary as dangerous, malicious, and evil. Whether applied to members of a family or an unfriendly foreign power, the fixed negative representation is backed up by selective memories of past wrongs, real or imaginary, and malevolent attributions. Their minds are encased in “then prison of hate.”

(Aggressive beliefs, Kenneth Dodge)
P 9
  • The offender wronged them in some way and is responsible for feelings of hurt or distress
  • The injury was deliberate and unjustified
  • The offender should be punished

(Imposed rules of conduct)
  • People must show respect for me at all times
  • My spouse should be sensitive to my needs
  • People should do what I ask of them

P 12
The urge to extract revenge ... is so powerful and so primitive that it may be suspected of having evolved from an ancient ancestral setting, where inflicting the supreme punishment for betrayal and treachery had survival value.

The formula “kill or be killed” defines the [ feelings of a solider at war ] in simple unambiguous terms.

Soldiers on a rampage of killing innocent villagers are oblivious to the fact that they are destroying human beings like themselves. They do not realize that the impetus for their violent actions from their highly charged, primitive thinking. The malevolent images of the victim spread across the group like wildfire and they driven by thoughts of vengeance, evil doers must be exterminated.

(Master plan)
P 16
The moguls troops that laid waste cities that opposed their sweep through Europe had no specific hostility toward the inhabitants of the cities. The master plan rationally conceived by Genghis Khan called for the destruction of recalcitrant cities in order to intimidate other cities into submitting to them with out a fight. Undoubtedly reinforcing the troops was the pleasure of pillaging, like violence from any cause.

(Procedural violence)
P 18
Along with instrumental violence (the end justifies the means) and reflexive, emotionally charged, violence, procedural thinking can be attached to the carrying out of destructive assignments. Attention is fixed on the low level of the details of the destructive process in a kind of tunnel vision blotting out the inhumanity of it.

Accountability for the cold violence lies in the author of the grand design, ideology, or political dictum that claims that the desired goals justify the violent means of achieving them. Crusaders during the Middle Ages implemented a well articulated ideology when they massacred “infidels” on their way to doing “Gods work.” Framers of these master plans fail to reflect on the consequences of their goals and impose higher moral standards but choose not to.

The international community needs to make it clear that those who carry out destructive instructions are as guilty as those who frame them.

(Guilty Feelings)
P 19
Guilty feelings are the main deterrents to harmful behavior (Roy Baumeister) but those feelings are not experienced during a hostile sequence. People feel guilty after committing an act they consider wrong. The memory of an incident may influence their behavior the next time an incident happens, it acts as a deterrent since it prods the individual to avoid something which creates feelings of guilt.

Empathy for the object of the hostility is often sufficient to inhibit an angry person from inflicting an injury in the first place. In cognitive therapy, techniques of empathy training are used to help an angry person identify with their target victim.

(The twist of logic)
P 21
The Bible and Koran divide the universe in to absolute categories of good and evil. Through a reverse twist of logic, religious faithful who engage in murder view their victims as evil.

(Good in people)
P 24
There seems to be an innate program that reinforces sociable behavior. Because people feel pleasure when they are altruistic educators can utilize this force to counter hostility.

(Bias and feelings)
P 25
We select and and process information and attach meanings to conditions. If we do it properly we extract what is appropriate and attach relevant meanings to the conditions. If “I am in danger”, I feel nervous; if “I am wronged”, I feel angry or hurt; if “I am alone”, I feel sad; if “I feel loved”, I feel joy.

If meanings are falsely attached to conditions, anxiety might appear instead of calm, and joyfulness may felt instead of sadness. When information is affected by bias, we act inappropriately. Bias affect thinking at a very early stage. A hypersensitive woman interprets a hearty compliment as a slur and she may snap angrily. Because she expects rejection, she misinterprets innocent remarks as demeaning.

(Chain of hostility)
P 31
Event -> Distress -> Wronged -> Angry -> Mobilized to Attack

(Evolution of a group to hatred)
P 144-145
Camaraderie, commitment to a cause or leadership allows a person to transfer his own perspective to a group's frame of reference. Events are interpreted in terms of the group's interests and beliefs. Selfishness becomes groupishness as individuals subordinate their personal interests to those of the group and they oppose the interests of those outside the group unless they are compatible with the interests of the group.

Confrontations accentuate a positive bias for toward the group and a negative bias outside the group. Ingroup members are viewed and evaluated with a reciprocal relationship to outgroup members. As opposition is perceived from the outside, ingroup persons elevate their evaluation of themselves. Ingroupers become more worthy and moral and others become worthless and immoral.

Group members are tuned to special meanings assigned to events affecting the group through the subtle communication of beliefs and images. They readily accept the opinions and policies of the leaders. They can be extreme, yet they are plastic; followers of mass opinion can be swayed in any direction. People have a tendency to adjust their perceptions of the evaluations of other group members. Such collective thinking, which may be distorted, binds the group.

The gratification of sharing goals and opinions accentuates commitment, sacrifices and and risks further increases group cohesion. There may be a willingness, even eagerness, to abandon normal ethical values which results in intense destruction such as torture and killing.

(Communication of the group)
P 148
There is no limit to the capacity for a group's collective imagination to conjure up images of unspeakable acts by those outside the group. Rumors surrounding inflammatory issues can result in communicated images that enhance the credibility of a group's possibly outlandish beliefs to point of reality even though they may be pure fantasy.

P 150-151
The human mind must think with the aid of categories, (Gorden Alpert), once based, categories are the bias for prejudgment. We cannot avoid the process, orderly living depends on it, it makes life speedy, smooth and consistent.

The tendency to think in categories, the prototype for prejudice, readily leads to over simplifying and consequently to distortion.

(Outsiders do not belong)
P 153
People who are not even members of an oppositional group may get a negative appraisal simply because they do not belong. All outsiders may be devalued and excluded because they do not belong because they have unacceptable values or beliefs, lack virtue or purity, or possess repugnant traits.

(The closed mind)
P 154
Prejudiced people are not only affected by what they think but how they think. Intolerance belongs to people with closed minds, they are rigid in their problem solving behavior, show concrete thinking, and are narrow in their understanding of what is vital to them. They make snap judgments, dislike ambiguous situations, and show a distortion in their recall of certain events.

Acceptance for those who agree is as intolerant as is rejection for those who don't agree (Rokeach)

Tolerance is the acceptance of others despite disagreements. The closed mind rejects information that contradicts highly charged beliefs within it its frame. Certain conditions contribute to the mind's closure, feeling helpless and miserable, living in a lonesome place, fearing the future, looking for others to solve problems.

Need for approval by a group or authority figures freezes the beliefs of closed minded people and leads them to reject those with different beliefs. A relationship exists between rigid thinking, ideology and prejudice. A person with an extreme commitment to a religious belief tends to “sacrilize” the difference between believers and non believers. Religious fanatics are prejudiced.

The thoughts of the group – groupthink-- can result in dehumanizing actions directed against an opposition based on the assumptions that “we are good” and they are bad.” (Janis) Any deceitful actions that we perpetrate are justified, and anyone who is unwilling to go along with our version of the truth and our actions is disloyal. Groupthink creates the illusion of invulnerability, rationalizations for destructive acts, and prejudice. Groups have self-appointed “miniguards” whose role is to exclude outside information that might contradict the group's beliefs and decisions. Miniguards suggest that some in the group may not have wholly transformed their beliefs and, consequently, require pressure to conform.

Decision making becomes defective, since much information is rejected, and risks may not be fully appreciated nor will reappraisals be tolerated after setbacks.

But if there is an ample flow of information and circumstances are clearly understood, groups can function successfully.

Closemindedness and groupthink not only promote enmity against others but can impair the judgment of the aggressor so much that they become their own victims.

(Black Panthers)
P 161
The Panthers were influenced by Che Guevara, Malcolm X, Ho Chi Minh and Mao Tse-tung. They initially emphasized cultural nationalism but converted to terror when after a member was killed by the police. They had gun battles with the police and used explosives.

(Milita Paranoia)
P 161-162
The government is believed by the militas to have formed a conspiracy to subordinate the US to a world government.

Markings on federal highways are secret codes for UN invasion, Russian tanks in Michigan are proof of Russian presence in America. Helicopters hovering over militiamen is proof of their being monitored.

Video tapes have been altered to give the appearance that the blaze in the Waco attack was set by the government.
** My recollection was that I saw on a news programs a tank spewing flames from what appeared to be a gun barrel. In Newsweek I read that witnesses to the event, from the inside, alledged that the government flooded a buried school bus with gas killing the inhabitants. This was a bunker outside the compound that held children. It was reported that the Texas courts involved in the case refused to hear some testimony and sealed testimony that had been given.

They believe that there is an international conspiracy to take over the world and change the weather.
**Could this be Mumford's “machine” causing global warming protected the “new world order” concepts of corporate trade control tribunals promoted by the WTO? It sounds as if the militas understand something is very wrong, but then from reading the papers and talking to average Americans, one can only conclude that certainly are serious global threats to the nation and that infiltration is more the case than the exception. The militas, however, suffer from the same lack of access to global trade control resources (as everybody else does), and being isolated, have limited guessing powers. They know something is wrong, are not sure what it is, and having lived in rural isolation, could not know what a successful plan for change looks like.

P 163
Paranoid groups and delusion persons both have closed minds. Their beliefs are impermeable to contradictory evidence their mythology (groups) or delusions (patients). Deception is the primary tool of the enemy and therefore proof of deception. Deception is therefore an acceptable defense in counter attacks of deception.

(Milita members)
Militants confine their beliefs to the narrow domain of their politics. Otherwise they are outwardly normal, socializing, working and raising families. They are rational when testifying in court.

P 165
Herdsmen are universally associated with a readiness to retaliate violently for affronts to their reputations. They have been historically vulnerable to rustling which results in economic disaster and have developed a social image of toughness and violent retaliation. Because of their sense of vulnerability, they have a low threshold for provocation.

** I have never heard of shepherds as being described as thugs; they are usually a symbol of self-reliance and reflective loneliness, they become one with their herds and probably represent a key growth passage for human society.

But let us say hypothetically there is a shepherd community that is under the stress of brigand and lacking a peaceful solution, they are forced to protect themselves. Giving an outward impression of weakness might encourage someone with less than normal values to come steal animals knowing that nothing of consequence will happen to them whereas a tough reputation would certainly encourage thieves to look elsewhere. Meeting Beck's standard for social acceptance would certainly result in a fight in a remotely located area, reducing the herdsmen to helpless victims, very likely leading to their deaths. Beck, of course, would run for safety, while innocents died. Here social correct behavior yields the worst results, and Beck's concept that self-protection is unacceptable would lead to the deaths of these hypothetical herdsmen.

(Black Culture)
Since there does not seem much likelihood for adequate alleviation of the socioeconomic conditions in the predictable future, it is necessary to look elsewhere for other remedies.

(Hunter Dilemma)
P 199
A 1960s and 70s theory regards aggression as an expression of man as a predator, in fighting wars humans are carrying out a program that facilitated hunting earlier environments. A more recent theory has us fear larger animals as predators where supposedly our ancestors were at the mercy of wildlife.

War itself causes hostilities rather than hostile aggression causing war. A process takes place once leaders have initiated war where the populations lust for a fight is encouraged. The intoxication of anger spreads while the leaders remain rational and calmly calculate the next steps. They may even be paralyzed with fear at the consequences.

With the exception of the UN there is no over riding structure to deflect military intentions.

(French and Russian Revolutions)
P 236
Mass executions during the French and Russian revolutions were justified by the succeeding governments on the basis that the upper classes were depraved and deserved to be punished, even though the victims had no sense of guilt.

**Revolutions, for the most part, have been simply an exchange of power where one depleting power replaces another where the replaced power suffers the consequences of their damage. This cycle can exist within a government as each succeeding Soviet leader killed his predecessor, ending, of course, with Perestroika (which means openness.)

(Dualistic belief systems)
P 245
** Does this mean that if I adhere to Beck's Altruistic-Humanistic code I am a better person, better deserving of resources.

  • we are superior
  • outsiders are potential enemies
  • our rights supersede others
  • other's lives are expendable
  • if I help in-groupers, I am better

  • all are equal
  • outsiders are potential friends
  • no groups have prior claims
  • all life is sacred
  • if I help outsiders I am better

If well self-actualized shouldn't one feel like they have succeed where most fail ??
Outsiders-- who does he mean? Many countries are dangerous and the people who represent them have only been reinforced by corrupt practices where those resources not stolen by the elite and exported to forgiven banks can be obtained only taking those of peaceful and well adapted “others.” All are not equal, all have equal rights, but not all are equal. Many are highly beneficial and generous, others function purely to accumulate wealth amorally unconcerned with longterm results. Those who help are far better than those who hurt. Outsiders can be potential friends, yes, or they may fly airplanes into cities specifically to kill as many as possible. Or they may be group leaders, or they may simply seek to take what is not theirs from those who have successfully shepherdded the land.

Fishermen's families who have developed and yielded sustainable harvests and raised exemplary families, many of whom I have personally met, have inherited rights to their fisheries. Beck would take these and give them to, simply, anyone, no matter how many felonies they have committed in their journalese seeking better resources.

Once attacked a human has not just a right, but a responsibility to preserve his life. Life, otherwise, has no biological meaning. Attackers relinquish the “sacredness” of their lives during the duration of the attack. Afterwards, the law takes over and rehabilitation is a preferable way to solve the problem. Victims have a right to life and its protection, this right exists in virtually everywhere, yet Beck finds it an abhorrent relic of history where humans had to protect themselves against animal predators (which never existed) or marauders, (P 33). While animals have never been a threat to humans with the exception of insects, I have long lived in the woods have never had a single aggressive encounter, marauders definitely exist in our society and wander the streets seeking violent encounters. Beck describes violent and genocidal behaviors, he attributes them to leaders with rational and calculated plans. Unfortunately, when time comes for self-protection, especially during attack, Beck describes the same people he has analyzed with precision as being members of a “phantoms world composed of individuals who are poised to to dominate, deceive and exploit” which has been constructed by the victim.

Beck clearly seems to live in a split reality of highly biased beliefs. When this book had been written, there had already been in New York the exposure of the “Street Crimes Unit”, a group of plains clothes police who worked under direct supervision of the Police commissioner autonomously of the presents they patrolled. Beck discusses problems in the Black communities of the Northern US so he must have been familiar with a particular case where the street crimes unit shot at a man forty times “because he wouldn't go down.”

Of the forty shots fired only twenty-one bullets struck the man, but the force had been such that he was pinned to the wall and therefore could not fall. The police had killed the man, as he supposedly had a gun which, if you know the case, was a wallet. The case was moved from the Bronx, where it occurred, to the somewhat racist rural city of Albany where the policemen involved where quited as having “followed their training.”

Assuming that they had in fact followed their training, and that the act was not that of rogue police, life for young blacks must have been truly terrifying during the reign of the street crimes unit. I had seen, many times, treatment of blacks by police, and every time, the youths and homeless seemed to narrowly avoid violence or death by immediately becoming physically submissive, stretching their arms in the air. From what I could tell, these youths did nothing to deserve to lose their dignity as the police had never seen them before. The mayor at the time, Giuliani, still enjoys a reputation of having saved the city through a tough approach to crime.

Giuliani is also given credit for his work during the World Trade Center rescue. I was there the day of the attack, and he definitely wasn't. I also know that the government, as well as all other organizations, were excluded from the effort for three months. Autonomous control by the rescuers ended only after an attack by the police which put the Red Cross in control; they then immediately replaced all the existing support groups. The Red Cross was revealed to have collected funds for the disaster by misleading contributors into believing that they were contributing to the disaster which were really collected for other projects as well as higher salaries for the Red Cross leadership. Unfortunately, the true story of the organization of the rescue is still obscured, probably by the unwillingness of rescuer organizers to re-visit the traumatic illness they undoubtedly experienced. The WTC was as remarkable as an altruistic event as it was as a gadgetry. Beck could not have written about it in this book as it was published in 1999, but events and reactions to them happen around the world frequently. There is, in fact, good and evil, and good people must protect themselves while being attacked.

Beck documents a world full of horrors continuously perpetrated by leaders, yet when push comes to shove he suddenly proclaims that we live in a perfect world, where authority is to be blindly trusted as danger appears. Those who would “self-protect”, operate outside his narrow set of beliefs and must be “re-taught” (with cognitive therapy) to think as Beck believes they should.

If the resources of enforcement were available to Beck, would Beck enforce his narrow protocols with imprisonment and the violence and death it causes? Having created a major branch of psychology he has many followers, it would seem more likely than not that some of them may be attempting this compliance using ingenuine practices to gain authority and therefore legal control of people. In many respects Beck is similar to Skinner. In the social arena he is weak and often, unlike Skinner, admits it. Like Skinner one gets the impression that Beck would take the cowardly route of running into his gated mansion if his policies of cognitive control backfired while being social implementations.

I have concern about his flippancy over rights to resources. He implies that groups of people who have been victimized by their own deliberate uncontrolled population explosions, who, for religious reasons, will very likely continue the process in compliance with the their cultural interests, should be given the resources of those who have interacted prudently with their environments in ways including population control. Cultures that practice mass population growth are nationalistically and religiously motivated and tend to react violently when their goals are interrupted.

Beck consistently seeks to have better people allow themselves to be victimized by the abusive ones. This will always be resisted because it is wrong, and behaviors such as Beck's simplistic proposals constantly lead to aggression. Since Beck, like the French and Russian aristocrats would not be “aware” of his guilt, and would not, therefore, be responsible for deaths caused by any contributions he makes to global policy.

(Jarvis on diplomacy, from notes)
P 314
  • Leader's belief system greater impact when there is less factual data
  • Confidence in those beliefs will increase impact
  • Information has different meanings depending on sides' perspectives.
  • Messages are interpreted to conform to expectations. Messages are accepted more readily if they are closer to the belief system. Messages are commonly distorted to produce
  • Decision makers over-use historical analogies and past experiences to analyze the meanings of present events.


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