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Fyrius's avatar

If not for compassion or punishment, why not be a selfish bastard?

Asked by Fyrius (14506 points ) December 20th, 2009

Please curb any purely emotional responses in this thread, they’re no help here. Thank you.

Here’s another ideological problem I’m struggling with.

I’ve been haunting Omegle for a while now. It’s an anonymous chat site that pairs up users at random.
A few days ago, I ended up talking to someone who collected child porn. A guy who openly didn’t mind contributing to child abuse, who admitted he “would happily encourage someone on webcam to abuse a child for [him] to watch”. Who only cared about not getting caught. Simply put, a heartless bastard without a conscience.
An intelligent and reasonable man, too. He conceded any reproaches I flung his way, he was very willing to hear me out on whatever I had to say about why he should change, and he calmly and apparently open-mindedly examined my every argument.

And I eventually found myself running out of things to say.

Compassion? Responsibility? Conscience? He didn’t care. Nothing there to appeal to.
Self-respect? He had no problems with himself.
Getting caught? He was careful enough to get away with it.
Divine judgement? He didn’t believe in that. (And neither do I.)
Human judgement? I pointed out nobody will ever truly understand him and love him at the same time in this situation, and that anyone who knows the truth about him will hate his guts. I’m not sure to what extent he cared about that.

Perhaps this is my cue to abandon the notion that reason can solve any problem it can reach. Perhaps the only thing one could do is forcing one’s own sense of right and wrong on people like him. Even if they are willing to listen to reason, and you just can’t refute their position.
And I find it hard to think of this as a lesser evil.

What are your thoughts?

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93 Answers

Bagardbilla's avatar

Selfrespect.
When you have it, all else elavates you.
When you don’t, one is mearly content with justifications and imaginings.
as in “I have no problem with that…”

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

That is why we must have laws, to externally control those who have no internal ethical compass or allow greed or lust to override those signals. You should be aware that some people adopt a persona online as a “throw away” just to debate a certain point. That same person may adopt a completely different line on another day and/or different screen name.

JustPlainBarb's avatar

@Bagardbilla Excellent answer! I agree.

nebule's avatar

I think people like that are mental; that just don’t care about anything other than themselves….at the expense of others…. ick ick ick

dpworkin's avatar

You encountered a sociopath. He has a different brain structure than we do. He has no empathy. He has a complete inability to identify with his victims. He has no quotidian human feelings, and doesn’t really believe we do. He has learned to simulate humanity, but has only drives, and is not amenable to reason.

iphigeneia's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land You are very right! This reminds me of my Sociology class, when we played around a lot with theories of deviance. This man (or this character) slipped, and continues to slip, through the net of social control. He doesn’t hold the same values as most of the rest of society, though I can imagine him at work, out with his mates, with other people who assume that he’s just as connected as their are, having no idea of his disregard for morality.

That’s why we have a system of law enforcement, to make sure people who didn’t learn/weren’t taught right, and who don’t care, are kept off the streets and away from the children.

phillis's avatar

I’ve run across this type many, many times. I grew up with one of them. I can tell you from experience that there is nothing you can say, no matter how profound, that will get through to them. They are essentially a reflection of a human being in a mirror; complete and unique down to the last detail, but there is no substance. It is a one dimensional image of a person. Like a clone of a human being but without the layers of human emotion that complete a person. They are reflecting back to you exactly how they view the world.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@pdworkin… you hit the nail square on the head.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land .. Good insight. I’ve only encountered one of those types in my entire life, and I have NO desire to repeat the experience!

HasntBeen's avatar

This really is a great question.

You probably already concluded that you can’t “talk somebody into” moral maturity, it’s not primarily an intellectual undertaking—rather, it’s a matter of their own development and fulfillment. Lots of people have become “stunted” in that arena, sort of lost in their own little sideshow, having left the road that leads to wholeness as a person. It’s hard to show them that, because their entire heart and mind have been twisted by spending too much time in this odd shape.

But the short answer to the general question of “why not be a selfish bastard?” is just that—all forms of ‘selfish bastard’ cut one off from one’s true self, which is pretty much the same thing as saying “guarantees chronic dissatisfaction”. A human being really does have to develop a certain level of integrity with regard to their relationship to the rest of humanity in order to be whole, complete, and satisfied. Anything less and they’re left perpetually trying to solve a sense of gnawing emptiness… with self-gratification, ego-stroking, power chasing, whatever.

In Buddhism, there’s this image of a man with a huge belly and a tiny mouth: a massive appetite, but a restricted capacity to eat. That’s this guy’s personal Hell: he can never get enough child porn to make up for the sense that something fundamental is missing in himself, and he lacks the reflective courage to acknowledge that it really isn’t getting the job done.

Cruiser's avatar

I often wonder where the societal breakdown occurs that children do not have the sense, courage and wherewithal to say something about this abuse to someone that could help end that cycle of abuse. Clearly the child is coerced or threatened not to report the abuse so where or how do we empower children to know the right thing to do in these situations…that there is help for them to stop what is happening to them so rat bastads like this douche can be apprehended.

daemonelson's avatar

I share a very small patch of common ground with this individual of whom you speak. You were correct in telling him that most people will never understand him. He probably already knows.

I’ll get the question out of the way first. Why not be a selfish bastard? Too much effort. Waaaay too much effort.

In other news, it seems as though he’s considered his position many times before. Tried to analyse it objectively, and his own desires have just met with his conclusion.

One of the most annoying parts of delving into philosophical method is realising there are multiple points of reason.

I’m not entirely sure what I was supposed to be answering with.

ucme's avatar

I would throw many descriptions at the guy but not that of a selfish bastard. Here we have the polar opposite a classic case of self loathing. For whatever reason made this guy manifest into his own private hell he well knows the consequences of his actions. Indeed his telling people of his sick twisted deeds is probably his way of wanting closure hoping he’ll be traced & incarcirated. I anticipate his demons will haunt him well after his demise.

Fyrius's avatar

Thanks for replying, everyone.

The reason why the existence of law enforcement to keep people like this in check doesn’t really solve the ideological problem for me is that if those laws are not based on arguments that hold regardless of compassion, isn’t that arbitrary? In other words, from an impartial point of view, where we have people without compassion and people with compassion who disagree about what is right, can we really just proclaim the ones with compassion are right and those without are wrong?
If reason is not the judge, what is?
Not that I would hold back if there were any way for me to get this guy in trouble.

That’s why I think @HasntBeen raises a more satisfactory point.
I hope you are right about what you said, that the human mind really works like this. That it’s really a matter of maturity, rather than point of view, and that it does take integrity to be happy.

phillis's avatar

Cruiser, that starts with caregivers of children from a VERY early age. Or, at least it should. As @HasntBeen said, that guidance never happened a a very early age, obviously. It’s hard for me to fault people who are not educated in how to empower a child. They know nothing of giving him choices, asking for, and showing appreciation for, his input, and giving him the message that he is valuable. Even if that were in place, some children are unable to absorb the message because it isn’t yet in their nature. It’s a winding maze of complicated issues that are hard to unravel without professional input.

Fyrius's avatar

@ucme
I don’t think that’s what he was doing there.
He started out the chat mentioning that he was “interested in CP, and [wanted] to discuss it, and maybe trade.”

I also mentioned he was taking the risk of getting the FBI (or whoever) after him by mentioning this to random strangers. He pointed out it’s an anonymous chat service with one router, and he was using a proxy. He seemed to put enough effort into being untraceable.

Perhaps he did go there to talk about some guilty feelings he didn’t let on. That would explain why he wanted to continue talking after finding out I’m not like him, and why he agreed that the world would be much better off without people like him.

iphigeneia's avatar

@Fyrius As you say, from a very impartial point of view, it’s not necessarily correct to say that people with compassion are right and those without are wrong. Not sure where I’m going here, but bear with me :). I’m almost certain that a community of people without compassion has little chance to develop or progress.

Even if some people don’t care much for how or whether the human race continues, an argument could be made that laws are based on interpretations of the human instinct to survive. eg. laws about education ensure that children are cared for. Therefore laws are not arbitrary, they draw from millennia of evolution and internalised knowledge. Of course, in such a complex species there are bound to be many like this man who have different ideas about what they ought to do and have been resistant to the socialisation process. The main point is, reason-as-judge may not have run into as great a challenge as you think.

Cruiser's avatar

@phillis I appreciate your input. I know it comes down to crappy parenting. I am a scout leader and because of my leader role I see first hand some huge disconnect between parents and their kids. Far too many of these kids are left to their own devices with little to no parental input over their kids behavior. This subject matter irks the hell our of me.

phillis's avatar

If you want, we can take it to private. I have my own feelings about it that the author specifically did not ask for

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

Perhaps this is my cue to abandon the notion that reason can solve any problem it can reach.

It is most difficult to reason with unreasonable people.

phillis's avatar

@Kelly_Obrien -—I don’t want to assume anything. To what are you refering?

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

@phillis—- Am referring to your statement, “Perhaps this is my cue to abandon the notion that reason can solve any problem it can reach.”

phillis's avatar

Thank you! I didn’t say that, which is why I was confused :)

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@Fyrius, how did you extricate yourself from the conversation?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@Fyrius… The human race evolved to its current dominance by means of cooperation, not by the Lone Wolf syndrome.

Shegrin's avatar

While reading your post. I had one recurring thought about this guy. Abusers were abused. He is not as without remorse as he seems. He hurts deep down, where someone else (probably an adult to his kid) hurt him. It’s never okay to abuse children, no matter how you are able to justify it. Adults can overpower kids, so there’s no chance at winning a fight. Personally, I think people like him should be turned in to authorities.

Kelly_Obrien's avatar

@phillis Oops…sorry, that was meant for @Fyrius

Fyrius's avatar

@Kelly_Obrien
Yeah, that was me, who said that. :)
I’ve long since accepted that some people won’t listen to reason. What disturbed me in this case is that this guy did – and I found myself unable to present adequate arguments.

@PandoraBoxx
I didn’t. We continued discussing his position until he decided he had to leave.
When I end up talking to someone in a situation that worries me, I stay with them as long as I can, looking for ways to help. Chats on Omegle can be ended without warning at any moment, but you’ll never see that person again in your life.

phillis's avatar

No worries :)

AstroChuck's avatar

Everything that we do in life is ultimately selfish, whether it’s helping others or stealing cash from our mother’s purse. The fact is that altruism doesn’t really exist. And even though we may undertake concern for the well-being of others, we do it so that we may feel good about ourselves. We may not want to admit it but the fact is that that is selfish.

Fyrius's avatar

@AstroChuck
Like I said elsewhere

“There are those who would argue that compassion too is selfish, being only a matter of how it makes you feel yourself. But I say this is a good kind of selfishness.”

Redefine “altruism” as selfishness from compassion, if you want. I think that’s semantics.

PretentiousArtist's avatar

What? everytime I go on omegle, I always get “asl?”

MagsRags's avatar

My favorite sci fi/fantasy author, Sheri Tepper used a plot twist in her Jinian Footseer series that has stayed with me for many years, maybe partly because of the midwife connection. It relates to this, even though it’s set in a world where most of the middle and upper classes have paranormal abilities.

Basically, one of the qualifications for becoming a midwife in the world of the True Game is the ability to discern whether any given individual has a soul. The midwife has the sacred responsibility of examining each newborn baby she delivers to look for a soul. If the soul is not there, the baby is not human, and the midwife is obligated to kill it, the way a vet might euthanize a puppy or kitten that is hopelessly handicapped. In this world, some of the richer and more arrogant families choose not to have midwives attend their births and examine their newborns, and those families become gradually more and more ruthless and cruel.

Silhouette's avatar

I don’t have an answer to the question for you, but I noticed many people think it has a great deal to do with upbringing, development. I don’t think it necessarily does. People want to think this because it helps them sleep at night. We like the idea that if we are vigilant against the causes, we can avoid becoming or parenting a psychopath. Some psychopaths are born, not made.

ninjacolin's avatar

^ i disagree with you vehemently on that point.
^^ you too mags

ninjacolin's avatar

Awesome question and sooo many great answers.

“If not for compassion or punishment, why not be a selfish bastard?”

@Fyrius If you ask the wrong question you won’t get the answer you are looking for.

@AstroChuck answered your question best: We ARE selfish. @Fyrius your reply to astro misses the point. he answered your question head on. It’s not just semantics, your question is now dead thanks to astrochuck: We ARE all selfish. Fact. This is important to realize because a new question has to be asked: Instead of “Why not be selfish?” since we already know we always are, the important question becomes: “What ought we be selfish about?”

And with this question, I believe you can tackle a person like the “sociopath” that you just spoke to on omegle. (assuming that he was real) He was a clear thinking person, obviously so reason alone would stop him. (fyi, i believe sociopathy is a state of mind in a person but I doubt that it is inescapable.)

@iphigeneia has this question locked down: “A community of people without compassion has little chance to develop or progress.” (Even your sociopath himself admits that the world would be “better” in his opinion without sociopaths.) Reason has it, then, that the best thing to do is prevent people from behaving sociopathically.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: You ought not spend your time doing certain things simply because there are more productive, better, more holistically pleasing things to do. If you want to be selfish, you ought to pursue those other things instead as the abuse of others simply is not a worthwhile goal.

MagsRags's avatar

There is emerging research showing differences in brain functioning between people with different approaches to morality and ethics. It’s not just emotion and intellect, unless you believe that the bad childhood events lead to the brain changes.

ninjacolin's avatar

^ possibly. i guess we’ll have to resort to killing babies after a brain scan if that’s the case. would you like that?

MagsRags's avatar

@ninjacolin is the rhetorical suggestion that I would enjoy killing babies a corollary to the Hitler comparison move? because if it is, I think I just won the argument ;-)

And BTW I wouldn’t/couldn’t enjoy it because that part of my brain functions very well.

ninjacolin's avatar

actually, i think my fallacy was an appeal to consequence. just because i don’t like the idea of killing babies, it doesn’t prove that some babies aren’t born evil. :)

however, I think we’ve seen enough humans to know that the chances of someone being born with a violent version of ODD is low and manageable. we’ll never have to resort to killing babies.

anyway, humans only ever act on what they know. if a person is taught and continues to benefit from equitable behavior, i don’t think a problem would develop.

dpworkin's avatar

If we discover that there is a genetic basis for Antisocial Personality Disorder, then we will have begun the discovery of a protocol to treat it. I remain optimistic. Right now, sadly, it is fully untreatable.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@pdworkin… I agree with you, but there are more ways for someone to become antisocial than genetically. Brain damage, diseases of the brain, being treated violently during childhood, and perhaps other means, can all form the basis for an antisocial personality.

Pazza's avatar

My thoughts are, what happens if these people end up in government?

dpworkin's avatar

@CaptainHarley Oh, absolutely. I was expressing some limited optimism about one area.

dpworkin's avatar

There have been plenty of them in government and in business. Rod Blagojevich is a likely sociopath. The Enron team were sociopaths, Bernie Madoff, the list goes on and on.

MagsRags's avatar

I think I’d like for therer to be an optional brain scan test for people who are running for office to see if they have a moral compass. I wonder what Dick Cheney’s scan would look like?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

GQ – why not be selfish, you’re right. the only reason we’re is because we understand that the same can be done to us – I’d tell the guy on omegle ‘I don’t know about your sex life, but if you ever had a sex with a female, she may have given birth to a daughter – and later one someone took inappropriate pics of that daughter and you’re now contributing to a world that takes advantage of your child’ or I’d tell him ‘maybe someone is watching you through a camera on your window that you don’t know about and making money of you jerking off – does that matter?’

Fyrius's avatar

@ninjacolin
I appreciate your input.
But even if you say that, I still think I already addressed this issue. What ought we be selfish about? We ought to be selfish in such a way that the desire for others to be happy and the desire to consider ourselves a good person have the last word in our decisions. And then the problem remains as it was; since a sociopath does not have either of these desires, these cannot override his desire to fap to CP.

Thus, I say, we redefine altruism as not selflessness but selfishness from compassion. And we redefine selfishness proper as selfishness from desires that go against compassion. And I think that if we thus replace the common definitions with these corrected ones, not much else changes in the discussion.

I suppose I addressed it too quickly and too briefly, presuming this train of thought was not much more new to everyone else than it was to me.

But I gladly acknowledge @iphigeneia‘s point, and your concluding paragraph.

ninjacolin's avatar

Maybe there’s something to be compared in this way: I certainly like bad guys in movies who do terrible things. (Like Joker for example) But it doesn’t mean I want bad people to exist in the real world. While I love hearing about bad guys being thwarted, i would rather there be no bad guys at all. When your sociopath admitted that the world would be better off without people like him, he admitted to a vision about how great humanity could be even in his eyes.

@Fyrius asked: “since a sociopath does not have either of these desires, these cannot override his desire to fap to CP.”

He does have those desires. He admitted to it. He understands that his actions aren’t ideal. This is why I doubt whether sociopaths are “true” sociopaths. A real sociopath would be unable to claim that his actions aren’t ideal. His desire to fap isn’t the issue. The abuse of the children is the real issue.

Everybody thinks that what they want at face value = “the desires of the ‘real’ you.” and then they apply the adage: “Just be yourself” at utterly inappropriate times. If someone overweight wanted to be healthy and had strong urges to eat like crazy.. would it be a violation of his/her individuality to go on a diet? of course not! You do whatever it takes to achieve the world you wish existed: a world where you are in better health.

Similarly, this individual has a vision for humanity that precludes abusive people, as he has admitted. Knowing that, he ought to pursue it. Failing to pursue it is akin to an overweight person who claims to want to get healthier, but who doesn’t do anything to help his/her cause.

I’ll call this the approach from human potential: What a person momentarily prefers, in this case CP, isn’t as important as that person’s grandest vision for the way the world could be. Yes, he is living in a period of intense desire for something he considers wrong. But he gives that desire power the more he thinks positively about it. He could spend the same time and energy developing new habits in thinking to train himself differently. He has the potential to react differently to the stimulus of children just as someone with an eating disorder has the potential to react differently to their thoughts about food. It’s something he would have to create in himself. It takes work. But as long as it is inline with his grandest vision for the way the world ought to be, then he should do it. And he has already admitted that it is. He needs to dwell on that thought more.

It’s commonly refered to as “self control”.. children just happen to be his vice. but so what? i say: stop hiding behind the sociopath label and deal with it.

HasntBeen's avatar

Damn. Long thread!

I don’t think you can really make sense of ethics, or get morality grounded on something reasonable, unless you understand that we are usually thinking about this topic while handicapped by a pretty serious superstition—the illusion of separate self. The whole notion, for example, that everything a person does is ultimately selfish is grounded in this fallacy that “myself” is a separate and isolated unit of existence, set off in opposition and absolutely different than “the rest of the world”. This is simply not so, we are all intertwined in many ways, and there is no sharp line between “myself” and “someone else”, although of course there are many places you can draw lines.

Consider a mother and her child—the kind of mother, like most, who will die for her baby. What’s selfish about that? You really have to spin the word selfish pretty hard to make that seem like her ego protecting itself. It’s much more sensible if you recognize that the mother and baby are a collective being, in a certain sense. The mother conceives the baby as an extension of her own being… and in that sense, yes—her behavior is “selfish”. But the kind of self we’re talking about here is not the kind that the word “selfish” was intended for.

Likewise, great spiritual leaders often see themselves and the world as being deeply intertwined…. Gandhi’s fate and the fate of India were inseparable to him.

That is where altruism comes from, and ultimately that’s how morality gets grounded in something other than ancient superstitions: there’s more than one kind of “myself”, and at the highest levels, that self includes the entire world. That’s why we care about what happens to the whole… we sense, instinctively, that we are that whole.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

The mark of a mature and fully developed adult is the ability to consistently demonstrate BOTH critical thinking and moral reasoning.

An intelligent 8 year-old can demonstrate critical thinking while showing a clear lack of moral development. They may insist that we should do the right thing out of fear of getting caught or getting in trouble. Mature moral reasoning sees the imperative for moral behaviour in terms of what is required to maintain a civilized society and to set good examples for others and the role they may play in the moral education of children and adolescents.

Those who have failed to develop mature moral reasoning may be likely to act out and even commit crimes if they believe they can get away with it.

Sociopaths not only lack mature moral reasoning but lack not only the ability to be concerned with the consequences of their behaviour for their potential victims but show no concern for consequences they may face for engaging in their harmful or lethal behaviours.

HasntBeen's avatar

Well said.

Janka's avatar

This is not a very easy question, but my reasoning goes something like this.

I start from accepting as facts that
1) I exist,
2) my perceptions of pain and suffering are real and unpleasant,
3) other people that seem to exist actually do,
4) they too probably experience pain and suffering, and
5) there is nothing that I can see that would suggest that my pain or suffering are on a universal scale worse or more meaningful than theirs, or the other way round (e.g. no God that has decreed that some group of people that I belong to is more important than others).

It sort of follows to me form there that I should avoid causing suffering and pain for others as much as for myself, simply because of the subjective unpleasantness.

But if someone does not accept these facts or this reasoning, there is nothing we can probably do to convince them to. I think you cannot prove to someone that other people matter, or even exist, if they do not accept it as a likely theory.

I do feel that one of the major functions of a society is to protect its members who do accept this from the actions of those who don’t.

Also, I think talking about this to you might mean he has not been careful enough after all. I would encourage you to report this to the police and/or the admins of said site and see if they cannot dig up some logs to nail the bastard.

Merriment's avatar

It is a good thing to understand that reasoning with a person who has dedicated their life to justifying their twisted actions is pointless. It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing. It frustrates you and annoys the pig.

It is also worthwhile to note that your abhorrence of his actions and your attempt to reason him out of them is an added thrill for someone like that. The old “I can be as gross as I want and you can’t stop me” perk. Kind of like the serial killer sending the cops a “I did it, and you aren’t smart enough to catch me” letter.

People who have no respect for the right of a child to have a childhood free of the deviance of a twisted adult are in it for the POWER they have over said child. Their getting you to spend the time to appeal to their reason so that they can present their carefully scripted rejection of your logic is to give them power.

The way to effectively punish someone like this is to refuse to be the rag they masturbate into while they reveal their twisted thoughts. Shut them down. Dismiss them for the filth that they are. And if it is within your power to do so, report them. Give them an opportunity to defend their actions to the highest courts of the land.

Fyrius's avatar

@Janka
Omegle connects several thousand people at any given moment, and even if they document what IP connects to what IP and there’s any way to find the right chat back, he used a proxy. And there would be little point in telling the police that somewhere in the UK there is a paedophile who was on Omegle last Wednesday night.
I think he knew what he was doing.

MagsRags's avatar

@Fyrius I think he knew what he was doing too, and I think @Merriment is right on when she said it probably gives him an extra level of enjoyment to witness your sincere attempt to reason him out of it.

ninjacolin's avatar

personally, i don’t care what he enjoys. i would enjoy a chance to haggle it out with him.

he can’t help but remember what he hears. he may as well get some new thoughts to mix in with his usual, especially if everyone else only gives him shitty responses. I applaud you @Fyrius for taking the time to try to give him new ideas. The risk of failure is not reason enough not to try.

One idea a person like this needs to re-learn and understand is that in this world you really do become more perfect at whatever you practice. It’s easy to think that this only applies to sports but it doesn’t. It applies to everything from sleeping in, murder, going to the movies, self-loathing, diverting your attention from something, baking, handling your alcohol, thinking clearly.. everything!

If you practice indulging in your vices, you will get better at indulging in your vices. If you practice avoiding your vices you will get better at avoiding your vices.

From the conclusion: “A perfect world would include me not abusing people.” you can begin to teach yourself how not to abuse people by practicing avoiding that vice. But unfortunately, people don’t realize that they can do this. They literally forget and need to be reminded that it is available to them to act however they wish to act by focusing their attention on the ideas of that perfect world they envision.

MagsRags's avatar

When @Fyrius says the sociopath agreed that the world would be much better off without people like him., I don’t think he was admitting to a vision about how great humanity could be even in his eyes or having a vision for humanity that precludes abusive people.

I think his observation was far more detached, akin to a hunter admitting that the herd of animals he is stalking would be better off if hunters didn’t exist. Hunters don’t empathize with prey.

phillis's avatar

I’m new here, so I don’t know everyone the way you do. I can see how his comments could be taken that way, but I don’t believe that was the intent. No disrespect intended.

Merriment's avatar

@ninjacolin – if we don’t care what he enjoys then his enjoyment of little children’s private parts shouldn’t be our concern. But it is. Anything that harms the children of our world harms the flock as a whole.

Giving him new thoughts is a noble ideal. But as the asker indicated the man was totally resistant to any new data (and this is typical). So the only thing he likely gained from the interaction was an opportunity to revel in his outlaw status which is a positive reinforcement for his actions. So there is a cost to indulging a person like this.

The likelihood of changing the perpetrator must be weighed against that possible reinforcement. Yes, it does feel good to try and set them “straight” but if the result is an emboldened offender have we helped or hurt the children of this world? Is it worth it?

Your point that practicing his vices will improve his practicing of those vices is right on. Unfortunately, the reinforcement of his sickness that even having an audience to listen to his past “triumphs” is nearly as valuable as the reinforcement of the vice itself. Serial killers keep trophies to relive their moments of glory. This pedophile just shared his trophy verbally and that can do nothing but reinforce his sickness.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Merriment and @MagsRags both really well thought comments.

@MagsRags I don’t believe it is real that he is detached from the rest of the world, I believe that is merely a fallacy in his mind that needs to be exposed. A hunter vs prey on the veldt is one thing but this is a man talking with another man about mankind. I think the situation is different enough, at the very least, that he can be shown that he is a part of the herd that he is hunting. I believe an undeniable argument can be made for this. Lawyer-like skills required? Maybe. But that undeniable reality is there for his his brain to grasp, should the argument be presented well enough to him.

Once he agrees to that, the next set of arguments would have to come in.

@Merriment I care enough to want his malfunction solved, obviously, i know you see that. But your charge is: The risk of encouraging him further isn’t worth attempting to debate with him.

I would have to say that that’s a personal decision one will just have to make. I haven’t put much thought into this yet, so why don’t we go ahead and weigh it out right now on the fly. As we know, there are 4 possible approaches and 4 sets of probable consequences so I’ll consider each and form and opinion that way:

Approaches:
A) Try and Fail.
B) Try and Succeed.
C) Don’t Try and He continues.
D) Don’t Try and He quits on his own.

Consequence: A
-He’s inspired further.
-Children get harmed
-He will remain aware of the arguments he’s heard so far
-The more crimes he commits, the greater the chance he will get caught

Consequence: B
-He stops. Hooray!
-Maybe turns himself in.

Consequence: C
-He may find some other chatter who will acknowledge him anyway
-He may be bolstered more from weaker counter arguments or lack thereof entirely.
-He doesn’t have access to the ideas you could share with him.
-Children get harmed.

Consequence: D
-He stops. Hooray!
-Maybe he got caught, maybe he turned himself in.
-Maybe another chatter stops him with a great argument.
-Maybe he was just joking the whole time.

(feel free to add to the list if you can think of anything pertinent)

overall, i think the greatest risk is C.
that’s the one version of the world I wouldn’t want to risk.

B and D are both great. But there’s no way to guarantee D.
There is a chance to achieve B, however.

A sucks.. but you never know if one day in the future one of your ideas may strike a note with him. Whereas you can guarantee that they won’t by choosing D. Also, for all we know he’s at the worst level of his career. Maybe we’re dealing with someone who already buys and trades children and keeps them in cells. It’s not clear cut, but I really believe the best thing would be to try. At the very least, you get to steal 20mins – an hour away from his evil acts, possibly even delay him while the cops close in at his place.

Merriment's avatar

Anyone who can chillingly declare their detachment from the harming of a child simply for their own twisted pleasure is giving you all you need to know about the likelihood of anything you could say actually impacting them. If a child’s horror and suffering can’t change his thinking nothing you or I or anyone else can “say” to him is going to make the merest dent.

That being the case, the best choice is to shut him down before he gets himself all excited at the thoughts his verbal fondling of his favorite vice has created.

Is ignoring him going to cure him? No. And neither is participating in his illness. Containment is the best that you can hope for. Let him keep his filth to himself. Plainly sharing it brings him pleasure…cause if it didn’t a guy like him wouldn’t do it.

If it were a situation where you were keeping them talking while the cops close in…I would be a smut talking Svengali…but that isn’t the case here.

I do understand what you are saying. It is tempting to believe that if you hit the right note…some glimmer of decency or some awareness would seep in. But if all the messages of society haven’t impinged on him it’s unlikely a stranger on an anonymous site is going to be the catalyst for a epiphany.

My choice would be to give him an anti-climatic experience.

Janka's avatar

@Merriment “If a child’s horror and suffering can’t change his thinking nothing you or I or anyone else can “say” to him is going to make the merest dent.” I am not sure if that is true. Maybe you or I could not say anything else in a web chat, but I think “anyone else” particularly somewhere else might have a chance. People who cannot be motivated by compassion can sometimes motivated by e.g. disdain and disapproval from others and threats of consequences.

Merriment's avatar

@Janka – I base this conclusion on the depressing stats connected with treatment of sexual offenders. I mean if the offenders themselves are seeking castration they have surely exhausted all other options? And that would include endless counseling by professionals. So what chance does a layman have?

Also, the disdain and threats of consequences among other tactics were tried by the asker of this question and were met with a brick wall of resistance. Which, I think, is what sparked the question.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Merriment said: “But as the asker indicated the man was totally resistant to any new data (and this is typical). So the only thing he likely gained from the interaction was an opportunity to revel in his outlaw status which is a positive reinforcement for his actions.”

Resistance is expected, that’s okay. Can you remember counsel from when you were a little kid that you ignored only to realize the wisdom later in life? That is what can happen with him. He can resist at first, sure, but if the point made is substantial enough it can come back to haunt him even years down the road.

Merriment, I think you and I disagreed on this point before, but I don’t believe that people can simply choose to believe whatever they want. They are slaves to evidence and good arguments. If you say something and it happens to make perfect sense to him, he can’t simply choose to ignore it. I believe it is impossible.

I believe (for reasons) that strong evidence and/or a good argument, well communicated, will always take a toll on the hearer.

Janka's avatar

@Merriment Why would they be seeking castration if by some method they had not been convinced that what they were doing is wrong and something they need to get rid of?

Fyrius's avatar

@Merriment
I think you have the wrong idea of how this chat went. He didn’t challenge me to try to talk him out of it and then sit back and laugh at my futile attempts. It went more like a debate in which both of us participated. He evaluated my arguments and gave intelligent replies.

He didn’t make the impression of getting a kick out of it. He seemed more like someone enjoying an intelligent discussion. Throughout the chat, I was the one who wanted to stay on the subject of his position, while he digressed a few times.

Incidentally, he mentioned being from /b/ (a web community that can be summarised as anarchy incarnate), and his behaviour was consistent with someone who has been on there for a while. I’ve come to know the people and general mind-set of that place.
I believe the basic sentiment of /b/ is indifference. It’s an anonymous place, so anyone can be as outrageous as they want with no consequences, but it gets old. Everything gets old.

Given that background information, and given his behaviour, I’m pretty sure he didn’t talk to me just to show off how much of a bastard he is and enjoy the fact that there’s nothing I can do about it. That freedom and safety is the first thing you get used to on /b/.

So I’m not worried about my reactions reinforcing his vices. They probably didn’t affect him much at all.

Merriment's avatar

@Janka – you said ” Maybe you or I could not say anything else in a web chat, but I think “anyone else” particularly somewhere else might have a chance. ” And my comment agreed that I can’t say that there 100% could not be a situation where “anyone” could reach the conscience of a pervert but that their resistance to change based on talk counseling is somewhat proven by the failure of intense professional counseling alone to “solve” the issue of pedophilia. Hence the perverts themselves seeking a more radical solution of castration.

@ninjacolin – Sure resistance is to be expected and if logic alone could overcome that then Fyrius, who seemed to have a very rational and logic “against” argument, would likely have had more of an impression on the guy. Instead the guy sifted through and dismissed each argument with his seemingly well-rehearsed counter argument. I can’t imagine that the perv has not been confronted with many societal messages that what he does is wrong…and yet he persists. And worse, seeks out new audiences to “wow” with his tale of horror.
@ Fyrius – I didn’t think he would have been that overt in his enjoyment of flaunting his obsession. His enjoyment is more indicated by the fact that he feels protected enough and impervious to threat enough to trot out an unspeakable “fact” about himself to a stranger. I’m sure you didn’t just guess his predilection to this activity.

I have no trouble at all imagining him seeking out a community of people who are “indifferent” to most everything. Where else can he find apathy significant enough to harbor his twisted thoughts? That he is there, instead of at a true recovery site shows that he is invested in justifying and protecting his choice, not changing it.

You are, sadly, most likely right that any reaction you had or any words that you said had zero affect on this guy’s troubled thinking. It is the act of getting to tell his tale to “normal” people who are powerless to affect his behavior that would be the pleasure and reinforcement of his twisted thoughts as it emulates the powerlessness/dominance that is part of the turn on for a child molester.

My position on this is my own. I would register the most profound disapproval of his actions with a simple statement to that effect and I would deny him the pleasure of attempting to change my mind.

Fyrius's avatar

@Merriment
I continue to think that you are wrong about the “seeking audiences to wow with his tale of horror” part, for reasons I expounded above.
Like I said, he’s undoubtedly used to the safety of anonymity, and has long since stopped considering his habit unspeakable in this context.

Merriment's avatar

@Fyrius – I understand that you think I am wrong. I’m okay with that.

If he wasn’t seeking to share this with audiences why would he ever tell you? To seek help? Surely there are better avenues for that than a site dedicated to people who are indifferent to “most” things.

I agree that he has long since stopped considering his habit unspeakable, but I do not think he limits that to any particular context. What I am fairly certain he is aware of is that it IS unspeakable to the vast majority of people. That he feels compelled to share it with people says that he either is looking for people who share his deviance or he is seeking to shock people who don’t. Only under the cloak of anonymity, I doubt he is as free spoken at his workplace.

Bottom line to me is there is totally limited opportunity to impact someone who as you say “has long since stopped considering his habit unspeakable” and to give them the opportunity to talk about it with any other goal in either person’s mind is unthinkable.

ninjacolin's avatar

Strangely, I might accuse you of demonizing the pedophile, @Merriment.

I think you abhor the actions so much that you really believe he is evil. It’s an interesting thing. You seem to have a “no-remorse” kind of approach to the whole issue.

Can I ask you an odd question:
If you could push a button and this man would totally change his ways and never investigate pedophilia ever again OR you could pull a lever and subject this man to life behind bars…

which would you choose?

Fyrius's avatar

@Merriment
“If he wasn’t seeking to share this with audiences why would he ever tell you?”
I think he was bored and looking for some conversation. Like most people on Omegle.

This is how the chat started out. I logged it. I’d rather not copy-paste the whole thing though.

You’re now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
Stranger: Obviously I expect most people not to be interested, hence pasting this rather than writing it out in full…
Basicly I am interested in CP, and want to discuss it, and maybe trade. If you don’t know what it is, go to Urbandictionary – Then disconnect, because if you don’t know what it is, I am not interested in talking with you – sorry!
You: I do know what it is.
You: And I wish there were a hell for you to burn in.
You: Bastard.
Stranger: fair enough
Stranger: At least you speak english!
You: Are your standards for people that’ low?
Stranger: how long have you been on here?
Stranger: standards aren’t high

Seems more like he was just happy to have found someone to talk to who was not a dolt, if I may say so myself, and CP happened to be the subject the chat started out with. You must understand that Omegle does not have the most intellectual user base on the web.
Incidentally, notice he explicitly mentioned not wanting to talk to people who don’t know what CP stands for. While these would be the people most shocked about the fact that he’s a paedophile.

Like I said, he showed no particular interest to stick with this subject. He digressed. He changed the subject to what proxies can do, the flaws of biblical law, the future of humanity, an earlier chat I mentioned as a side note where someone called me an unpragmatic idealist, and /b/. When I let go of the subject of his personal life, we talked about idealism and cynicism and whether either can be “right”, and about ethics based on logic and reason.
He showed no compulsion to talk about his situation, nor even any strong interest. I was the one more interested in pressing the matter.

I agree with @ninjacolin, you might be demonising the man. He was a heartless bastard, but except for his lack of compassion and integrity, just a human being.

nebule's avatar

Happy Christmass all on this thread!

phillis's avatar

Merry Christmas, Lynne!

I hope the season finds everyone, and those they love, filled with joy :)

Do your happy dance every day!

Fyrius's avatar

Merry Winter Solstice to you too! XD

phillis's avatar

<Buries head in hand> I knew there was SOMETHING I would leave out no matter how hard I tried.

Fyrius's avatar

Oh, if you insist on being all-inclusive, you should also wish us a nice Sol Invictus, Kwanzaa, Yule, Saturnalia, Midvinterblót, Sanghamitta Day… well, see the list for yourself.
If you want my advice: don’t insist on being all-inclusive.

Edit: I particularly like HumanLight too.

dpworkin's avatar

Please don’t leave out the Fast of the Tenth Day of Tevet. Today is Tevet 7, 5770.

phillis's avatar

@Fyrius I don’t know if you meant to or not, but that was so funny it made me laugh my ass off! I think my original idea of just sticking with “Merry Christmas” fully embodies the well wishes and warmth I was hoping to convey in the first place works just fine :)

Fyrius's avatar

Hahaha, I’m happy you’re amused. And sure, for anyone who’s not a nitpicker, “merry Christmas” is fine. I’ll just try not to be a nitpicker for a while. XD
At any rate, your kind wishes are appreciated. :)

Merry whatever you’re celebrating! :D

phillis's avatar

We’re boring! Christmas comes to our house :)

Merriment's avatar

@ninjacolin – Accuse? That’s a strangely passionate word to use.

Not at all do I see him as simply “evil”. To see him as simply evil would be to discount the choice I feel he is making. Instead I see him as human who is choosing to feed off other humans. And as such I feel about him the way that nature sees all such predators. That being, they exist so what can the rest of the flock do to minimize their ill effect on us?

I accept that he has a right to his poor character. I also respect the right of the rest of us to be spared the sight of it.

No remorse? Au contraire, I have loads of remorse. I have remorse for what ever triggered the erosion of his humanity that left him this cellular human devoid of actual human compassion for children. However, there is an even stronger remorse in me for the children he is willing to see victimized.

In a perfect world my compassion for this man would “cure” him. But the world is not perfect. That being the case I have to be pragmatic about the which “victim” I will champion. This too is the pattern in nature. Wild animals understand that protecting the offspring is vital to our survival as a species and will risk all to see that they remain unharmed.

In answer to your question, If I could push a button and cure a person of malignant issues of course I would push it. Placing him in the storage facility of prison does little except limit his opportunity to harm children. Which, if that is the only option available beats the pants off allowing him to victimize.

It is very PC to see everyone with a character flaw as the victim of circumstances beyond their control and to treat them as injured and incapable of personal responsibility. However, I am a bit more of a realist than that these days.

Merriment's avatar

@Fyrius – The first line of the chat you posted showed that his intent was to find fellow CP afficandos ” I am interested in CP, and want to discuss it, and maybe trade.” He was offering to share his collection if you would share yours.

He wasn’t seeking new thoughts, just new pictures and videos. He confirmed this with his statement of “if you don’t know what it is, I am not interested in talking with you – sorry!”

He was, as I suspected, seeking new stimulation. If not actual pictures than at least to talk with someone who shared his views.

When you expressed that you didn’t share his views, he did not, as he said he would “sign off”. Instead he stuck around to “educate” you on what makes him tick. This is what I would consider attempting to “wow” his audience. It wasn’t his first choice, but he was willing to “make do”.

You say that he digressed and changed the subject. But the topics you list all seem to have in common the theme of CP and/or protecting the purveyor of CP. Proxies/anonymizers – to keep them hidden. Rejecting the bible – the moral compass many would use to condemn his choices. The future of humanity – which I am betting he saw as flawed and destined for extinction (another way to excuse his actions – we are all doomed any way so he may as well feed off the carcasses.)

While it would be tempting to demonize a person like this, that is not how I see him. I see him as a human who is choosing his actions. To see him as evil would be to dismiss the responsibility he has in what kind of human he is choosing to be.

I stand by my original answer as to this man’s motivations. I understand that you do not agree with me. As a pragmatic realist I am well prepared for this to be the case many times in my life.

Fyrius's avatar

@Merriment
Oh, stop it. Just stop.
This is not going anywhere.

Obviously, the topics had the theme of CP in common because that’s the subject I insisted on talking about, and which the others branched off. Otherwise he would have had to introduce a complete non-sequitur.

I will say again that I – who was the one who talked to the guy, and who is familiar with the people of /b/ – think you are dead wrong about his motivations for not disconnecting. I do believe I’m in a more informed position to make that judgement. I’m sorry to have to resort to that sort of argument, but I tried my best to make you understand.

Let’s just stop talking.

Merriment's avatar

@Fyrius – LOL! Feel free to discontinue commenting to me any time you wish.

You seem very invested in me seeing this the same way you do. I don’t. So deal with it.

While you may have been in the best position to “know” what you talked about you are also in the worst position to be objective. After all if you admit that he was doing what I think he was doing you:

A. Encouraged him
B. Were the rag he used to masturbate into.

Your resort to “that sort” of argument was wholly unnecessary…all you had to do was drop it…way up there :)

ninjacolin's avatar

Okay, @Merriment. I agree that he is the way he is and we need to do everything we can to protect ourselves against those who would do us harm.

I just don’t like to stop there. Myself, I don’t understand why we put people in prison for their way of life just so we can let them out again to live their way of life if they choose. That doesn’t seem to me like “everything we can do to protect ourselves.”

Merriment's avatar

Okay, @ninjacolin – I’m glad we agree on that!

I guess I don’t see this guy’s sickness as simply “a way of life”. He is choosing to deprive innocent children of the opportunity to grow up undamaged and to choose their own way of life unmarred. That goes beyond a “way of life” choice in my book.

No, putting them in prison isn’t the perfect solution. But it is a solution.

I’d support any effective treatment program…but the thing is..there don’t seem to be any. Especially for the offender that is remorseless.

To do “everything” we could to 100% protect ourselves from the threat of people like this would require a permanent solution. Either life with no possiblity of parole or death.

A bridge that few would support crossing.

ninjacolin's avatar

Still to reiterate, i don’t really believe in choice the way you do. I don’t think they choose to live their life freely, i think they’re bound to it by some bad logic and possibly some mental deficiency. hence, i do believe in possibility of rehabilitation.

the system currently is so bent on keeping the idea in their heads that they are sex offenders.. and these people, like you and other laymen, simply believe what they say, take it at face value and continue living their lives according to these labels. I’m positive it has an effect on them. I think the system, being the way it is, kinda helps them to reoffend.

Fyrius's avatar

@Merriment
So be it.

I hate agreeing to disagree.

Merriment's avatar

@ninjacolin – I realize we do not agree on this being a choice they are making and I’m okay with that.

I don’t think the system is bent on keeping the idea in these people’s heads that they are sex offenders. I think they are attempting to contain the damage they do when they exercise their perversion. That they can’t eradicate their faulty thoughts has more to do with the commitment the offender has made to their choice.

I’m sure you could dress them up as deacons at the local church and have everyone treat them 100% as normal and guess what? They will not only still offend they will offend with greater ease.

Treating someone “as if” in hopes that it will be contagious and lead to a epiphany of sorts is magical thinking and a bit naive.

To say that the label that they earned being applied to them is to forever limit their ability to change is just silly. After all, we all assumed, at one time or another, that they were wearing the “normal” label and treated them accordingly and that did nothing to change their bent. And, in all likelihood provided them the cover necessary to perfect their illness.

Merriment's avatar

@Fyrius -

I don’t mind agreeing to disagree, practice makes perfect

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