We Like to be Shocked Because It Means We’re Innocent

The other day, sitting in a cafe here in Nicosia, Cyprus, I glanced at CNN International on the TV as the anchor ran through the headlines. Serious dispatches from Africa, from Europe, from Colombia, and then…from the leader of the free world…balloon boy!

Lee Siegel, on the incident that dominated the headlines, writes:

Along with the primal terror of a threatened child, there is something about the ordeal of innocence that strikes deep in the American soul. We are still shocked by everything, by sex scandals, by marital infidelity, by corruption, by violence, by public displays of anger—not an hour goes by when society is not rocked, briefly, by alarm, and then hysteria over Something That Happened Out There. We like to be shocked because we like to think of ourselves as innocent enough to be shocked. So in the spectacle of a child endangered and of all the country’s law-enforcement, and military, and technological resources used to try to save the child, we perhaps see our innocence put to the test, and our strengths and virtues fully on display in response.

It recalls Robin Hanson's interesting essay on Innocence vs. Insight. Why are we so taken with innocence, an apparently attractive form of ignorance?

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I have yet to find a series of insults and defenses more impressive or hilarious than those that Lee Siegel-in-disguise hurled against his detractors.

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Here's Robin Hanson on why people do not care about inequality of beauty (while we do care about inequalities related to genders or ethnicities). Should we compensate ugly people for their bad luck?

Here's Hanson, in response to David Letterman's forced admission that he slept with female producers on his show, in praise of blackmail.

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