What makes an armed man kill an unarmed civilian? What makes him join the killing of many hundreds — or hundreds of thousands — of civilians?University of Amsterdam Professor of Social Science Emeritus Abram de Swaan takes a hard look at the subject in his new book, “The Killing Compartments: The Mentality of Mass Murder.” History is appallingly dense with examples, from medieval warfare to Nazi Germany to Stalin’s purges to Rwanda in the 1990s.De Swaan talked with the Gazette ahead of a Tuesday lecture at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies.GAZETTE: You point out that genocide did not arise in the 20th century. Has it been with us always?DE SWAAN: I’m afraid so. I avoid the term “genocide” because it has a very precise but rather problematic legal definition. I use “mass violence” for very large-scale, asymmetric encounters between organized and armed men — it’s usually men — and organized and unarmed other people.In many times and places, a victorious army would routinely kill off whoever it could get ahold of, rape the women, enslave people, burn. Until, say, the 15th or 16th century, the chroniclers exaggerate the amount of bloodshed with glee and pride in what their army has accomplished and how much carnage was [done] in honor of the king or the great leader.What is modern about genocide or about mass violence is the embarrassment about it.GAZETTE: So it is not the practice that has changed, but our interpretation of it?DE SWAAN: You could say that the scale has increased, with the emergence of a state system in which states are an enormous accumulation of the means of violence, including huge nuclear stockpiles. Internally, there is a domestic pacification, relative peace within every state territory, and so the overall figures for homicide, etc., decline in the course of centuries. This has been known by people in the profession for quite some time, and [Steven] Pinker in “The Better Angels [of Our Nature]” has popularized that insight. On the other hand, violence between states becomes ever more lethal and destructive on an ever-larger scale, but it happens more rarely.Once war starts, victorious soldiers often regress into a state of triumphant rage and go on a rampage. The My Lai massacre [of the Vietnam War] is a classic example of what happens all the time in guerilla warfare, almost always in the colonial conquests of the Western powers. In a way My Lai was routine; what was new about My Lai was that the domestic audience found out. If this [kind of thing had] happened at the end of 19th century and a reporter had known about it, he probably would have shut up.GAZETTE: Are there mass killings — and I assume we’re leaving out war itself — going on now?DE SWAAN: I’m afraid so. Two examples that come to mind right away are Darfur, which has not stopped — very tragic and awful ― and the other, of course is ISIS.GAZETTE: You drill down into the motivations of the perpetrators and poke holes in the idea of the “banality of evil” and the thought that any one of us in a similar situation might behave that way. Can you talk a little about that?DE SWAAN: There is a rather surprising consensus in the entire literature on mass violence that ordinary people in what they call extraordinary — genocidal — situations commit extraordinary evil.The first thing is, yes, that’s true. The second thing is that some people are more likely to get into those situations than others. And the question is, what sort of people are more likely to? Obviously people who are professional experts on violence: police, military people, violent criminals.One could, with many caveats, say that certain characteristics are more likely to occur more frequently with genocidal perpetrators. For example, they have a working conscience, [but] restricted to family, their superiors, and their comrades-in-arms. Everyone else doesn’t count. Now, this is not that unusual a pattern of conscience formation, but usually education tries to inculcate a broader sense of identification with other human beings.They [also] show a remarkably low sense of agency. This just happened to them, they didn’t know, they didn’t particularly want to, but one thing led to another. That may be an artifact of the fact that most of what we know is from when they appear before judges, so they have an interest in not looking like someone who knowingly and willing committed these acts.GAZETTE: Is it hard to get at the truth of that part of the picture?DE SWAAN: Yes, because you must realize that we know very little about these people. First of all, if they’re victorious, they’ll be heroes. If their side is defeated, then maybe some of them will appear before the judges and we’ll find out about them. This was the case in Germany. It was the case in Serbia and Rwanda, but think of China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia. It boggles the mind that, of all of these hundreds of thousand of killers, no one ever appeared before a judge. I say it’s one of the safest professions on the planet: mass murder.The most striking thing is they seem to lack sympathy, compassion, pity. Sometimes it seems as if they don’t know what it is. There is a classic exchange in which the judge said, “Don’t you feel pity for all those you killed?” And the man said, “Oh yes, your honor, it was awful, I got all this blood and brains on my uniform. And the shouting and the shrieking of those women was impossible to bear.” The one he had pity for was the guy with the soiled uniform, which is just eerie if you think of it.GAZETTE: You also mention the personal preparation — the individual circumstances — that needs to happen. You talked a bit about what Germany and individual Germans went through.DE SWAAN: The general cultural or specific professional upbringing is enormously important. All Germans were exposed to 12 years of what may be the vilest lies and propaganda and vilification campaign in history. It was relentless; you could not hear alternative truth. And SS training [in particular] was specifically aimed at numbing any kind of compassion in almost perverse ways, sometimes so perverse that you don’t even want to talk about it.GAZETTE: What do we know about SS training?DE SWAAN: For example, they were made to shoot their own dogs. Dogs were highly valued, but you had to learn — a true SS man had to learn — to overcome their feelings if it was necessary for the Volk.GAZETTE: What do you think is most important for the public to understand about these issues?DE SWAAN: First, how often it occurs, how hard it is to realize that, yes, it really happened, and how difficult it is for any nation face its own crimes.The Dutch have genocide in their history — in Aceh [Indonesia] — and there’s only one book — by a nonprofessional historian — about it. That’s the Dutch past, more than a century ago, but it was pretty bloody, about 100,000 people. And the terrible history of the Belgians in the Congo is very difficult to face. And the same goes for America.GAZETTE: Clearly the treatment of Native Americans could qualify, but what’s your point of view on where America’s crimes of this nature have occurred?DE SWAAN: I’m afraid that the Vietnam War and the bombing of Cambodia were horrible. I do not mention air war [in the book] because of the distance between the perpetrators and victims, but also maybe out of a shared Western blind spot.Once the German air force was overcome, the Allied forces, the Western forces used the air war very intensely and sometimes very effectively and at relatively little cost. This has served the Western powers very well. And I am among those who have an underdeveloped moral capacity to judge that. So maybe somebody else should stand up and explain what the West has done.GAZETTE: Dresden and Hiroshima and Nagasaki?DE SWAAN: I feel very uneasy about it. Even at this very moment, we use bombing from the air. Those who are the object of that, for example ISIS, could say, “Look, they don’t even come out into the open, they’re manipulating their drones and bombing us and our families. Let them come out into a fair fight.”And then we take literally the moral high ground and criticize them for their barbarous methods. But there must be a discourse going on — on the other side — which is not entirely devoid of moral dimensions. It’s a pity we don’t talk to those guys and those guys don’t talk to us, except in the most horrible way. They have a point and it would be a conversation — and I’ve never had it, nor have you, nor almost any of us. It would be interesting to see how we would come out if it.GAZETTE: You stop beheading people and we’ll stop sending drones — that sort of conversation?DE SWAAN: That sort of deal, yes. But probably they can muster as much moral indignation about our bombings as we can about their beheadings. I’m not saying that the truth lies in the middle. I’m not saying that both parties are equally evil. I’m just saying you might be in for a surprise if you were in an open conversation with one of those people.GAZETTE: If you look at Nazi Germany, it almost sounds like an entire people were steeped in the propaganda. Is that situation, in a way, being recreated on the Internet, where people with a certain mindset can visit only areas where people who have the same point of view are, and create a similar echo-chamber effect?DE SWAAN: I don’t know, I don’t much look into those sites. But the amazing thing is that, globally, you can find people exactly like you all over the world and then shield yourself off from any other opinion. So you can be secluded, provincial, parochial, on a global scale.
The Ireland team for tomorrow’s crunch Women’s Rugby World Cup Pool match against France is due to be named shortly.Coach Tom Tierney is said to have a fully fit squad to choose from.He rotated his team for the hard fought win over Japan, making seven changes from the side that overcame Australia in their opening game. © Womens Rugby
Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t 100 percent certain we were going to see this happen this year,” Justin Turner said in a pre-game Zoom conference. “The fact that we are here, (with) the sacrifices and choices and responsibility that players across the league have taken to ensure that we’re getting to this opening day is unbelievable.”It was weird and will remain so, in a season like no other. But if there is a run to a championship and it’s the Dodgers who get there first … well, history does repeat [email protected]@Jim_Alexander on Twitter We’ve seen this before. And if you are a Dodger fan, take the omen and run with it.The scheduled Opening Day starting pitcher comes up injured. A promising but untested rookie gets the call on short notice, gets the win, and the Dodgers go on to win the World Series in a shortened season.That was Fernando Valenzuela in 1981, with a group that had lost a couple of previous World Series but had at least one more championship run left in them. Sound familiar?And if this Dodgers group goes on to win a World Series following this year’s 60-game trophy dash, remember these circumstances. And May very well might have gotten a standing ovation from real, live fans.There are good reasons why the Dodgers picked him in the third round in 2016. He throws strikes, lots of them (46 out of the 60 pitches he threw), his two-seam fastball can be absolutely nasty especially when it pushes 100 mph, and he seems unfazed. Aside from a few brief moments in the third when the Giants loaded the bases and he seemed a little flustered, he was, as Roberts described it, “unflappable.”“He wasn’t nervous or intimidated it, by the amount of cardboards that we have in the stands,” cracked Hernández. “And he was pounding the strike zone with all his pitches. I think it was around the third inning that I looked up at the pitch count and he’d thrown like six balls.“That’s the most impressive part about it, his ability to throw strikes. He throws really hard, his ball moves a lot. Sometimes it’s not that easy to have good command of your pitches when your ball is moving so much. And tonight he was just executing.”May learned some things in his first big league stint in 2019, and sometimes the lessons were hard. But he had a 2.82 ERA as a starter with three walks in 22 1/3 innings, and right-handers hit .188 against him. (Lefties, on the other hand, hit .346 last year, 18 for 52, and the six left-handed or switch-hitters Giants manager Gabe Kapler stacked his lineup with were 5 for 12 against May.)Any jitters he might have had disappeared quickly. He’d been told Tuesday that he was going to be optioned out to the off-site players working out at USC. Then he was told Wednesday that there was a chance he’d be starting the opener because of Kershaw’s back issues, which is quite the roller coaster ride in itself.“My thought process all (Wednesday) night was that I was going to get the ball, and then it was confirmed,” he said. “I just went on as if I was getting it, and I got it. And then (Thursday) was just a straight, normal start day for me.”He said he slept well Wednesday night. And any jitters were less because of the magnitude of the occasion and more because intrasquad games don’t really prepare you for the real thing.“I was anxious just not being able to be in a game scenario since pretty much October,” he said. “We’ve had intrasquads but it’s not really the same as facing other opponents and having the stats matter at that point. It was just the anxiousness of wanting to get started. And then once the first pitch was thrown, I was all good and ready to get going.“I probably could have thrown more off-speed (stuff) early, but for the most part I was getting ahead. Guys were swinging and they were very aggressive tonight. They just hit a few where they weren’t, (but) for the most part I was hitting my spots and stuff was going the right way.”When May took the mound Thursday night he was 22 years, 321 days old. That made him the youngest Dodgers Opening Day starter since Fernando – Fernando of 1983, in his third full season. Valenzuela was only 22 years, 155 days old when he started the opener on April 5, 1983, and by then he already had 34 big league victories, a Cy Young Award, a Rookie of the Year award and a World Series ring.One difference is that Fernando’s starts truly were Opening Days. This was more like a Thank Goodness We’re Actually Playing Day. The precariousness of trying to start, much less finish, even a shortened season in the midst of a global pandemic hit home earlier in the day when it was announced that Washington’s Juan Soto had tested positive for coronavirus. He was said to be asymptomatic, but that is the fear: One guy in a clubhouse is infected, and everyone else is in jeopardy.Related Articles It was a just a bit after 3 p.m. Thursday when the Dodgers revealed that Clayton Kershaw would not make his ninth Opening Day start because of back stiffness resulting from a session in the weight room Tuesday. Manager Dave Roberts held off making a decision for a day but had told Dustin May to be ready, and Thursday night he gave the right-hander with the curly mop the ball against the Giants.That made May the first rookie to start Opening Day for the Dodgers since … Fernando, on April 9, 1981 (which was also a Thursday, to add to the eerie similarity). That day, scheduled starter Jerry Reuss strained a calf during batting practice. Burt Hooton, who would have been the No. 2 choice, had a painful ingrown toenail. So Valenzuela, who had impressed in 17 2/3 innings as a reliever the previous September and had been penciled in as the No. 5 starter, stepped in and shut out Houston 2-0, the start of a stretch in which he would go 8-0 with five shutouts and seven complete games and launch Fernandomania.(As legend has it, that first start was two days after Fernando had thrown batting practice.)May-mania? We probably shouldn’t get carried away yet, but this is a young man with a bright future. He did his job in his 4 1/3 innings Thursday night, leaving with a 1-1 tie in a game the Dodgers ultimately broke open, 8-1.That may be a template for what we’ll see a lot this season from this team. The starting pitchers keep it close, and eventually the batting order hammers an opponent into submission. With a five-run seventh inning, a four-hit, five-RBI night with a home run from Kiké Hernández and a huge gap between the Dodgers and Giants in the ability to execute fundamentals, this was the kind of night that would have had The Ravine rocking if real people had filled the seats, rather than cardboard cutouts. Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies
That gave Peterson the opportunity to go after a break and it arrived immediately, with Williams wearing a bemused grin as the underdog repeatedly defied her and broke again before securing the set.Williams repeatedly bellowed for the Miami crowd to back her at the start of the third, yet she required a Peterson double-fault to belatedly reclaim the lead.Back in control, it was smooth sailing from there as Williams set up a meeting with Wang. Serena Williams came through her opener unscathed at the Miami Open as she defeated Rebecca Peterson 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 on Friday.The 23-time grand slam champion retired from her clash with Garbine Muguruza at Indian Wells last week with an illness, but she was fit to take on Peterson at Hard Rock Stadium. Williams made a shaky start and was worked hard by the Swede, seeing her form desert her entirely in a punishing second set.But the home favorite recovered her composure to power past Peterson in the third and set up a third-round clash against Qiang Wang.Perfect play at the net, @serenawilliams!#MiamiOpen pic.twitter.com/uld98rxlzd— WTA (@WTA) March 22, 2019A series of early errors saw Williams collapse from 40-0 to lose her first service game with a backhand into the net, but a similarly scrappy second game brought the 10th seed level.The match settled from that point, yet a blazing return at the net handed Williams two break points and the second was seized as she backed Peterson into a corner.A subsequent hold to love saw the favorite take the opener, although Peterson managed to stay with Williams early in the second and produced one particularly gutsy hold at 1-1.