Right wing bloggers call Brett Kimberlin “evil” and “Satan” because it justifies their all-out war against him. Furthermore, this justification extends to anyone they associate with Kimberlin. Just ask Bill Schmalfeldt. Team Akbar decided to invent “Team Kimberlin” so they could name their demons, and Bill was one of the first they identified. But anyone who gives Team Akbar heartburn can be listed in a stupid “Team Kimberlin” post at KimberlinUnmasked, whereupon Kimberlin obsessives feel free to denounce and demonize that person. This pattern of behavior has led Team Akbar to approach Bill’s ex-wife on Twitter and encourage her to tweet against him. In July, it even led Aaron Walker and William Hoge to approach Tetyana Kimberlin in the flesh and recruit her for attempted perjury against him.

Why is it so important for them to assassinate the characters of any and all critics, even at the risk of becoming criminals? How do they not see that they are acting exactly like the imaginary demons they denounce? We wanted to understand this phenomenon a little better, so we went looking into the psychology of demonization this weekend and ran across an interesting post at Scientific American.

…belief in the power of human evil seems to have significant and important consequences for how we approach solving problems of real-world wrongdoing. When we see people’s antisocial behavior as the product of an enduring and powerful malice, we see few options beyond a comprehensive and immediate assault on the perpetrators. They cannot be helped, and any attempts to do so would be a waste of time and resources.

But if we accept the message from decades of social psychological research, that at least some instances of violence and malice are not the result of “pure evil” — that otherwise decent individuals can, under certain circumstances, be compelled to commit horrible acts, even atrocities — then the results of these studies serve as an important cautionary tale. The longer we cling to strong beliefs about the existence of pure evil, the more aggressive and antisocial we become.  And we may be aggressing towards individuals who are, in fact, “redeemable.”  Individuals who are not intrinsically and immutably motivated by the desire to intentionally cause harm to others.

To his obsessives, Kimberlin is a horror movie villain driven by insatiable bloodlust. He supposedly spends all day, every day scheming to destroy them, not unlike Jason systematically destroying every new group of teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake. But three years of constantly repeating that Kimberlin is “pure evil” has led Team Akbar to become aggressive and antisocial themselves. At times, this behavior comes across as unhinged, or as mental illness, but it is actually the normal result of long-term engagement in demonizing propaganda. Consider some behavioral characteristics of the phenomenon.

  • Constant paranoia and blaming: remember when Hoge found his doorknob broken and instantly blamed it on Kimberlin? And how many times has Hoge sued or charged Bill Schmalfeldt with harassment because some random stranger left an unkind or mocking comment on his blog?
  • Systematic disregard of positive events: when this blog stopped updating in April, we expected that Team Akbar would declare victory and go find something else to do with their time. Instead, Hoge continued his “lawfare” against Schmalfeldt and Aaron Walker suborned perjury from Tetyana
  • Agitation to destroy the enemy: not only do they want him in jail and sued into penury, they aim to shut down Kimberlin’s nonprofits by smearing him. By constantly calling him a “convicted perjurer,” Aaron Walker has tried to prevent Kimberlin from being able to defend himself in court. Lee Stranahan and others have actually argued that Kimberlin somehow does not enjoy the protection of the First Amendment
  • Readiness to engage in, and escalate, conflict: do we even need to provide examples at this point? Just tweet at any of these people in an argumentative fashion to see how quickly and vehemently they react

If it was just one person acting this way, we might prescribe talk therapy. But this problem involves perhaps two dozen people who have no other story to tell themselves anymore. Their lives are now entirely defined by the Demon Kimberlin chasing them around the cabin with a machete. As they constantly reinforce each other, they cannot be helped, and any attempts to do so would be a waste of time and resources. Yet we must recognize that they are not intrinsically and immutably motivated by the desire to harm Kimberlin. They are not evil. They are just people who need to get a life and move on, but no longer know how.