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David Livingstone Smith quotes (showing 1-27 of 27)

“Before dehumanizing a population, we set them apart as a "race." That is, a variety of people who are fundamentally different from "us." The folk notion of race is very much an artificial construction.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“To perceive others as fully human means to be saddened by the death of every single person, regardless of the population, group, or part of the world from which he comes, and regardless of our own personal acquaintance with him. If we accord him identity, then we must individualize his death [and] … if we accord him community, then we must experience his death as a personal loss.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“Dehumanization isn’t a way of talking. It’s a way of thinking—a way of thinking that, sadly, comes all too easily to us. Dehumanization is a scourge, and has been so for millennia. It acts as a psychological lubricant, dissolving our inhibitions and inflaming our destructive passions. As such, it empowers us to perform acts that would, under other circumstances, be unthinkable.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“Social psychologists confirm that we are likely to perceive people outside our own community as more alike than those within it. We perceive members of our own group as individuals, but see other groups as more or less homogenous (psychologists call this the “outgroup homogeneity bias”).”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“Rather than looking for explanations for why all people deserve to be treated with compassion and respect, we ought to be working at creating a world in which people are treated with compassion and respect. Human rights aren’t lying around waiting to be discovered. They’re made, not found.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“Self-deception is an indispensable element of war, and that despite the fact that wars are calculated and planned, there is a sense in which human beings do not know what they are doing when they cut one another down on the battlefield.”
David Livingstone Smith, The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War
“Terrorism" is a word with little content - it is a label for brutalities committed by "the enemy", and from which one's own acts of destruction are exempted. It is an inchoate and emotionally laden concept, a semantic mirror of our dishonesty and a repository for everything about war that we would like to disavow. Making a sharp distinction between war and terrorism is at best a self-deceptive game.”
David Livingstone Smith, The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War
“We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds; and by a natural propensity, if not corrected by experience and reflection, ascribe malice or good-will to every thing, that hurts or pleases us. Hence … in poetry … trees, mountains, and streams are personified, and the inanimate parts of nature acquire sentiment and passion.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“A poll of U.S. servicemen indicated that 44 percent would like to kill a Japanese soldier while only 6 percent felt the same way about Germans.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“Three years earlier, when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq became public, Rush Limbaugh—the most popular radio broadcaster in the United States, whose syndicated radio show has, at last count, 13 million listeners—described the prisoners who had been killed, raped, tortured, and humiliated by or at the behest of U.S. military personnel, as less than human. “They are the ones who are sick,” fumed Limbaugh.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“Sometimes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are presented as a hunting expeditions (“As British close in on Basra, Iraqis scurry away”; “Terror hunt snares twenty-five”; and “Net closes around Bin Laden”) with enemy bases as animal nests (“Pakistanis give up on lair of Osama”; “Terror nest in Fallujah is attacked”) from which the prey must be driven out (“Why Bin Laden is so difficult to smoke out”; “America’s new dilemma: how to smoke Bin Laden out from caves”). We need to trap the animal (“Trap may net Taliban chief”; “FBI terror sting nets mosque leaders”) and lock it in a cage (“Even locked in a cage, Saddam poses serious danger”). Sometimes the enemy is a ravening predator (“Chained beast—shackled Saddam dragged to court”), or a monster (“The terrorism monster”; “Of monsters and Muslims”), while at other times he is a pesky rodent (“Americans cleared out rat’s nest in Afghanistan”; “Hussein’s rat hole”), a venomous snake (“The viper awaits”; “Former Arab power is ‘poisonous snake’”), an insect (“Iraqi forces find ‘hornet’s nest’ in Fallujah”; “Operation desert pest”; “Terrorists, like rats and cockroaches, skulk in the dark”), or even a disease organism (“Al Qaeda mutating like a virus”; “Only Muslim leaders can remove spreading cancer of Islamic terrorism”). In any case, they reproduce at an alarming rate (“Iraq breeding suicide killers”; “Continent a breeding ground for radical Islam”).”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“Mark a hen’s comb with an oddly colored spot, or tie it so it hangs in a peculiar direction, and her former flock mates will attack her mercilessly. Jane Goodall, who was the first scientist to observe chimpanzees up close and personal in the wild, noticed that crippled chimpanzees were rejected and attacked by apes that were previously on friendly terms with them.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“A 1945 film called Japan: Know Your Enemy, directed by Frank Capra (who directed several popular motion pictures during the 1930s and ’40s, including Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It’s a Wonderful Life)”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“The history of humanity is, to a very great extent, a history of violence.”
David Livingstone Smith, The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War
“Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts. —Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand”
David Livingstone Smith, Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind
“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”
David Livingstone Smith, Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind
“Note that having a large brain is biologically costly: the brain is an expensive organ to run, and large ones consume many precious calories (the human brain accounts for a whopping 20 percent of our energy expenditure).”
David Livingstone Smith, Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind
“Like it or not, war is distinctively human. Apart from the raiding behavior of chimpanzees and the so-called wars prosecuted by certain species of ant, there is nothing in nature that comes anywhere near approximating it.”
David Livingstone Smith, The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War
“Michael Savage (the pseudonym of Michael Alan Weiner) is another popular radio host whose syndicated radio program is followed by 8 to 10 million listeners. Like Limbaugh, Savage derided the detainees as “subhuman” and “vermin,” and suggested that forcible conversion to Christianity is “probably the only thing that can turn them into human beings.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve. —THE KORAN”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“Early Muslim references to dehumanization were overtly ethnocentric. Almost without exception, the people who are transformed into subhuman creatures—specifically, pigs, apes, and rats—are Jews.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“Unlike these verses from the Koran, references to dehumanization in the hadith compiled two or three centuries later have a distinctly anti-Jewish flavor. They describe how a group of Israelites were transformed into rats, how unbelievers are turned into monkeys and pigs, and how Abraham’s father was transformed into an animal and hurled into the raging fires of hell.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“The disconcertingly fecal image of Moroccans as “undifferentiated brown stuff” has a counterpart in imagery used more recently in discussions of illegal immigration from Latin America to the United States, a country alleged to be “awash under a brown tide” of Mexican immigrants (as almost a century earlier, the American anti-immigrationist Lothrop Stoddard had warned that white America was soon to be swamped by a “rising tide of color”). The significance of the expression “brown tide” may not be obvious to all readers. The term refers to an algae infestation specific to the Gulf of Mexico that turns seawater brown.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“Slavery is as old as civilization, and has been practiced all over the world. It was ubiquitous in antiquity, and is taken for granted in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible (you may recall that Paul enjoined slaves to obey their masters “in fear and trembling” as they would Christ),”
David Livingstone Smith, Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind
“n medieval Europe, a new slave would place his head under his master’s arm, and have a strap placed around his neck, in imitation of a sheep or cow, and in eighteenth-century Britain, goldsmiths advertised silver padlocks “For blacks or dogs.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“In a typically grandiose description of the military exploits of Pharaoh Amenemhet I, who ruled Egypt from 1985 to 1956 BCE, the enemies of Egypt are represented as nonhuman predators. “I subdued lions, I captured crocodiles,” he boasted. “I repressed those of Wawat, I captured the Medjai, I made the Asiatics do the dog walk.”
David Livingstone Smith, Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others
“If people with good reputations are a resource for whom others compete, this leads to all the dirty tricks that people use against one another when they are competing for something of value. One such move is to “poison the well,” to destroy the perceived value of the resource. When the resource is a person’s reputation, some individuals will spread malicious gossip to destroy or damage it (Roland Barthes described this as “murder by language”).”
David Livingstone Smith, Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind


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