Why We LOVE WAR: Pornography of Violence (with Scott Jacobsen)

Uploaded 1/5/2024, approx. 10 minute read

So today we've had an exchange about war, war, a sponography, and war as a form of entertainment.

It started by covering familiar ground, but then if you're patient enough to listen to the interview to its end, I think you will be rewarded with a few politically incorrect insights to use the understatement of this century.

Scott Douglas Jacobson asked me, actually said, "Welcome back, Dr. Wachny.

I returned from Ukrainian territories visiting several cities in rapid succession over two weeks in late November and early December.

I have war on my mind, which makes me think about the mind in war.

What is the nature of war?" And the aforementioned Saint-Wachnyne responded, "Welcome back in one piece.

War brings out the best in us and the worst in us.

Throughout the ages, war has been perceived as the epitome and quintessence of masculinity, even when women like the Amazons had been doing the fighting.

So war was about valor, heroism, courage, overcoming fear, selflessness, altruism, self-sacrifice for the greater good, and protectiveness of the weak and the meek.

These are all allegedly masculine traits.

But violent conflict leads to negative identity formation, defining oneself in opposition to the other by dehumanizing, objectifying, and demonizing your enemy.

Most wars are cast as morality plays.

Good, our side, versus evil, the other side.

Good guys versus bad guys.

Wars amount to role-playing in an adversarial, role-based game.

This is revealed when, for example, veterans, veterans on both sides of a conflict, meet after the war is over in their convivial and chummy that shows you it's all been a game.

Winning a war validates the triumphant party, the victors take it all, and is proof of a divine blessing, of having adopted right over wrong and of having been chosen.

This is reminiscent of the Protestant work ethic, which regarded success in business as proof positive of God's favor.

Even the Nazi SS had got mitt uns, God is with us, carved on their daggers and belt buckles.

And finally, war mediates the tension between individual and collective by the concept of self-sacrifice.

Special ops may be the only exception, the middle ground.

Okay, let's move on.

Jacobson asked, what happens to human psychology around war at a distance, a remote war, when you witness war, when you see war on television, what's happening to you?

On the one hand, I answered, there is the pornography of extreme, gory battle. War is perceived as the ultimate reality TV.

A video game come alive, a horror film incarnate.

There is vicarious gratification in witnessing all this safely from the comfort of one's living room, of having been spared the atrocities on screen.

There's a smug sensation of accomplishment, of having gotten away with this somehow.

Remote wars also legitimize aggressive and entitled virtue signaling and competitive morality, a noxious self-aggrandizing ostentatious form of self-imputed altruism and virtue and sanctimonious sanctimony.

There are of course those who empathize with the dying and the wounded and the suffering and they do their best to help people without seeking the attendant accolades of the professional do-gooder.

Jacobson persisted, what happens to human psychology in a war up close?

Sam Vaknin answered, from personal experience, war is a grind. There is no clear end or horizon to it all.

War feels like it could last forever.

PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, is very common and so is a mounting and all-consuming paranoia, a sense of extreme isolation and ubiquitous threat.

It is as if war is a giant gaslighting experience where the very fabric of reality is torn asunder and is suspect.

In many wars there is little movement, very few accomplishments. The scene is frozen, surreal, gruesome death and mutilation, constant companions.

There is an acute fear of abandonment, of getting lost and an extreme dependency on other people, an external locus of control.

When war regresses its participants to infancy, they are like babies.

Primitive psychological defense mechanisms take over, splitting, alloplastic defenses, defiance, acting out, crazy-making, moral collapse, magical or superstitious thinking.

Jacobson said, what separates the psychology of a bystander in war versus a combatant in war?

I answered civilians in war are instantly and all-pervasively traumatized.

They react with a form of trauma-bonding or Stockholm Syndrome.

Civilians perceive soldiers, even their own soldiers, soldiers on their side, as looming, inexorable, hot-headed, trigger-happy, demented and reckless threats who are hell-bent on endangering all and sundry.

It is as if the civilians are caught in the crossfire between two rival criminal gangs.

They are wary of both parties of combatants.

This radical loss of ability to trust and to feel safe, this no-secure base, this yields terror, emotional dysregulation and self-destructive acting out in some people.

In others, there is a freeze response.

Jacobson, when it comes to politics and its psychology before, during and after war, what characterizes the minds of the political class citizen from high to low status in each of these phases of war?

I answered all politicians regard war as a legitimate and integral part of the toolbox of human affairs and, I must say, justly so.

Companies are always in the background of diplomacy.

Violent conflict is ineluctable, inexorable and periodic.

In many cases, warfare is considered a superior form of geopolitical signaling and the only efficacious way to secure goals.

Politicians are therefore fatalists.

They are resigned to war.

They are inure to it.

They comprehend it as a force of nature and the reification of being human.

Jacobson, when it comes to politics and its psychology before, during and after war, what characterizes the minds of the non-political class citizen from high to low status in each of these phases of war?

I told him vociferous protestations aside, people love a good war.

It is a prime variant of dramatic entertainment, a kind of exalted sport.

They exult in it.

This state of mind comprises also extreme anxiety and fear.

Every experience is rendered sharper, more crisp and memorable.

In clinical terms, war is a psychotic fantasy, a mass psychogenic illness of sorts.

Jacobson, what factors of human psychology increase the odds of war and what decrease the odds of war?

I answered, nothing decreases the odds of war.

It is a myth that economic prosperity and democracy are bulwarks and defenses against the eruption of violent conflict.

They are not.

Firstly, literally everything in human psychology predisposes us to aggression.

Even empathy makes us choose sides and aggress against the abuser on behalf of the victim du jour.

War is therefore the natural state of the human mind.

It caters to numerous deep-set psychological needs.

War cleanses, establishes a new equilibrium.

War catalyzes the replacement of the old with the new, for better and for worse.

Jacobson, what are the positives and negatives of war in the advancement of human civilization?


War is a cultural social activity that facilitates intimacy, bonding and cooperation.

It also brings about war, technological innovation and the emergence of a cathartic new social or political order each and every time.

It is no exception.

War is a rite of passage, a redemptive ritual, an engine of progress and a demarcator of eras.

Jacobson, what happens to the mass psychology of a citizenry or a society of the original provoking power, the aggressor and the defender in the long term from war after war?

In other words, what happens to people who are exposed to war on a constant basis?

Humans who are exposed to repeated violence, I told him, in wars, in prison, even in hospitals.

Such humans grow insensitive to each.

They dehumanize and brutalize both the other and themselves.

They are suspended in a post-traumatic state replete with infantile psychological defenses, dissociation, cognitive distortions such as grandiosity and emotional numbing.

Jacobson, given the above, what can be the coda, the summative principles of human psychology at war to comprehend individuals and humanity vis-a-vis war?

My answer was succinct.

Like climate change, war is a human phenomenon.

Rather than confront it self-delusionally, we better accept war and adapt to it.

It is not going away, no matter what we do.

So why waste our scarce resources on its impossible elimination?

Jacobson, thank you for the opportunity and your time, Sam.

You notice at the beginning I was Dr. Wackenin.

I ended up as Sam.

The chest-tied Dr. Wackenin responds, "Thank you for enduring me yet again, Scott.

You're a brave man indeed." Thank you. ###

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