Liars and Maligners

The skeptical doctor examines human nature, dishonesty, and “malign triviality” in this week’s Takimag column.

I have spent practically the whole of my professional life investigating the dark recesses of the human mind, but I did not imagine the existence of such malign triviality, or trivial malignity, as this. It is the very triviality of it that appalls.

How could anyone truly imagine that a workman relieving himself at a hedgerow in a deserted country lane was trying to expose himself? To whom? The mice, the weasels, and the magpies? This is surely a manifestation of what Coleridge, with mistaken reference to Iago in Othello, called “motiveless malignity,” that is to say malignity for the sheer pleasure of being malign.

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