Misanthropy by Numbers
By Bryan Caplan
Suppose you’re a self-doubting misanthrope. You want to malign a group of people, but don’t feel up to the job. I’m here to help. If you stick to the following four easy steps, you can and will craft a rhetorically effective case against those who displease you.
Step 1: List as many negatives as possible. Start by rattling off all of the popular complaints against your chosen group. Then brainstorm. Don’t bother quantifying your complaints. Even if you have scary numbers, it’s more rhetorically effective to spend your energy lengthening your list than fleshing out details.
Step 2: Studiously ignore all positives – or twist them into negatives. Listing positives, then refuting them, is more trouble than it’s worth. When you enumerate negatives, most listeners will be too lazy to devise their own objections. Yet when you enumerate positives, most listeners will be too lazy to follow your objections. The ideal approach, though, is to twist positives into negatives. If the maligned group is hard-working, call them “coolies” or “helots.” If they’re respectful, call them “slavish” or “docile.” If they’re frugal, call them “greedy” or “cheap.” If they raise property values, say “They’re making housing unaffordable.” This makes lazy listeners feel like you’ve covered all your bases, and deprives your opponents of their best arguments.
Step 3: Ignore all remedies other than exclusion, expulsion, and extermination. Every specific problem has many specific conceivable remedies. But if you’ve followed Steps 1 and 2, most listeners will barely remember your specific complaints. All they’ll know is that your target group is awful. And if a group is sufficiently awful, “getting rid of them” is the obvious one-stop solution. In relatively civilized countries, this means keeping the maligned out or sending them back where they came from. In relatively uncivilized countries, this means discouraging the fertility of the maligned, or actually killing them. (If you don’t mind a little cognitive dissonance, you can enslave them instead).
Step 4: Ignore the welfare of the maligned group, or the possibility that the maligned might have valid complaints against you. If you’ve followed Steps 1 and 2, listeners will have little sympathy for the maligned group. Anyone who inquires about the well-being of the maligned will seem “soft on awfulness.” Indeed, even the most draconian actions on your part will seem like self-defense.
Warning: These techniques are likely to backfire unless your audience already finds your target group somewhat annoying. In the modern United States, low-skilled immigrants, Muslims, and Arabs are the only promising candidates. But don’t despair. In other times and places, misanthropes have used these four steps to malign Jews and Germans, blacks and whites, rich and poor, even intellectuals and illiterates. Misanthropes who hone their skills and bide their time may yet realize their dreams.