Emotions and Uncertainty

by John Holbo on May 19, 2011

One thing we’re getting a lot in the Strauss-Kahn case, which we always get in the early days of any high-profile case, is a lot of conditional expression of emotion. ‘Our sentiments are firmly with the alleged victim, if indeed she proves to be one.’ ‘I am profoundly outraged by DSK’s behavior, should he prove to have behaved in this manner.’ This is appropriate, even obligatory, but also somewhat absurd. There is no such thing as conditional anger. There’s just anger. Either you are angry or not. It’s not as though you will find out how you are actually feeling now only at some distant point in the future when the facts are in.

OK, you get the point. So what is the appropriate emotional state to be in now, when you are in a state of uncertainty? Should everyone be emotionally neutral but laying down markers promising high emotionality after the trial? ‘I’m cool as a cucumber, but, should the victim prove to be one, I will feel a sudden upsurge of sentiment on her behalf.’ Or, alternatively, if you are 80% confident that DSK is guilty, at this point, should you feel the level of outrage that would accrue to actual guilt, but discounted 20%, affectively. So, in effect, you ought to be as outraged now by DSK as you would be if you were 100% certain he had done something 80% as bad?

What’s the right way to feel, under uncertainty?



Glen Tomkins 05.19.11 at 2:27 am

“What’s the right way to feel, under uncertainty?”

Emotionally neutral, of course. That’s why we try to settle the truth in such matters by putting it in the hands of neutral parties and an as emotionally neutral procedure as we can manage.


David Bloom 05.19.11 at 2:29 am

How about merely sick, with the consciousness that whatever the story turns out to be is not going to be very pleasant or edifying? That fits well enough with all the opinions one is supposed to maintain. I don’t see why our emotions are supposed to directly reflect a considered political position anyway, like those self-righteous headlines in the New York Post.


John Holbo 05.19.11 at 2:32 am

“Emotionally neutral, of course.”

Wouldn’t it be possible to respond: yes, you are supposed to decide and judge neutrally. To put your emotions aside, if necessary. But the fact that we say ‘put your emotions aside’ reflects the inevitability of having them. We don’t say ‘you shouldn’t have to put your emotions aside, because you shouldn’t have them.’

I’m just trying to be troublesome, of course. And you could respond that we don’t choose our emotional responses, so it doesn’t make much sense to praise or blame ourselves for them. But we can try to condition ourselves emotionally, around the edges. Would it be more morally ideal to try not only to set our emotions aside, when we have them, but never to have them, to begin with?


David Kaib 05.19.11 at 2:58 am

Those ‘conditional expressions of emotion’ are really something different. They are public positions, couched in emotional terms. They are an announcement that we abhor certain types of behavior, yet are also fair minded. For me, the question is why can’t we just speak in those terms – why must it be dressed up in emotion-speak? (That obviously doesn’t answer your question, but I’m also being troublesome).


Omega Centauri 05.19.11 at 3:23 am

I’m not sure we can afford emotions about news items concerning people we don’t know, and likely will never meet. The world is full of unfortunate cases, mostly caused by people who have a character defect that they didn’t get help for, and if we get emotionally involved in even a tiny fraction of them, we would be overwhelmed. It sounds like DSK has a sex addiction problem, and rather than seeking professional help chose to feed it. So now it brings his career to a very ugly end. Of course there are other more innocent victims, but this sort of thing isn’t an expression of human’s evil nature, just that dealing with mental/emotional issues is hard, and the cost of denying them can the steep. So I feel sadness. Sadness for DSK, whose weaknesses have lead him to this point. And the maid to a very uncomfortable position. And the many people who were relying on DSK have been puit into an ackward state.


John Holbo 05.19.11 at 3:25 am

“I’m not sure we can afford emotions about news items concerning people we don’t know, and likely will never meet.”

This is a fair point, but the puzzle also applies to people we know or are likely to meet. If you think there’s an 80% chance your husband cheats on you, how mad should you be?


David Bloom 05.19.11 at 3:27 am

@4. Exactly. It is not an emotion–I’m very upset, if there is reason to be so, but otherwise not. So the question of what emotion one ought to feel belongs to a different family of problems.


Andrew Burton 05.19.11 at 3:36 am

My primary emotion has been puzzlement. It seems as though a lot is known to a lot of people about DSK’s prior activities, so that it’s much less surprising to those in the know that he’s in this situation than had it been, say, Tony Blair. (If the whole British press corps chimes in that Blair is a notorious skirt chaser, I give up).

But I get womanizing, in the sense of making overtures to lots of possible partners. I don’t get the forcible compulsion aspect here, at least as a one-off; which makes me think that (a) it likely wasn’t a one-off, and (b) what else is out there about other powerful men that is routinely brushed under the carpet?


Dr. Hilarius 05.19.11 at 3:52 am

I’m with Omega Centauri on this. Although S-K is a person of some influence, he is a total stranger to me and I have no strong emotions about the case. If I was 80% certain that my partner was cheating, I would be extremely upset, perhaps even to a dangerous level. The two situations are in no way comparable.
My apathy is not confined to the S-K case. I could never fathom the emotions over Michael Jackson either (other than those with money at stake). Yawn.


praisegod barebones 05.19.11 at 4:13 am

Andrew Burton: if the story about Tristane Banon is true – and there doesn’t seem much reason to doubt it – it’s not a one-off.


Ted Lemon 05.19.11 at 4:18 am

The correct emotion to have is the one you are having. The question is not how to feel about this: it’s what to do about how you feel. Suppose you feel angry at S-K for what he may have done. If you act as if he definitely did it, that would be wrong. If you deny your feelings about it, that would be nonsensical. You just have to deal with them. The good news is that for most of us, it makes no difference: only the judge and jury for his trial actually have to try to be impartial.

It’s a sickness in our culture that we focus so much on things that have nothing to do with our lives, and fail to focus on the things that do.


Aaron Boyden 05.19.11 at 4:19 am

I don’t have an answer for this. There doesn’t a clean separation between our emotions and our judgments when it comes to moral issues like this, which means both that feeling anything risks prejudging the issue, while putting aside feelings risks prejudging the matter anyway (as being one where there wasn’t much of moral consequence). I am myself inclined to think that being objective is probably the way to go, but it’s dishonest to pretend that the fact that we’re terrible at being objective doesn’t have any consequences for the advisability of attempting that route.


Jamie 05.19.11 at 4:19 am

The point has been made that public declarations of conditional outrage have to be made. Which, of course, makes them no-outrage.

I guess I’ll admit to not being emotionally invested. I mean, yeah, I do, in fact, believe the victim. *I* don’t need to qualify that – I’m not on a legal team. I could be wrong, and I hope I can eat crow if that turns out to be the case.

But I don’t feel much of anything. I don’t know these people, and, sad to say, rape happens all the time. That the (alleged!) perp is high-status, and we’ focused on it, doesn’t change the overall minor sinking feeling I have. I would Ike to think that jailing a hi-status rapist would change something, but I strongly doubt that it will. I see some progress in the behavior of men with power over time – slavery is almost universally kept underground these days, and first-world women who failed to choose good parents have it better than a certain philosopher would like, which is good.

But just looking at the crime stats, there’ were seven reported rapes in the last month in my urban hellhole. I have trouble getting all aflutter about the one that (allegedly!) perpetrated by Famous Entitled Guy somewhere else.


CRW 05.19.11 at 4:23 am

I keep being boggled by how the (alleged of course) rape/forcible sexual assault keeps being conflated with “sexual addiction,” “cheating,” “skirt chasing,” etc. Rape/forcible sexual assault is not even in the same category as having an affair, being a womanizer, being afflicted with an unfortunate character defect, or whatever else. Or maybe it just seems categorically different to me because I am female. I’m unable to have the proper objectivity, apparently.


quodlibetor 05.19.11 at 4:30 am

I feel like what’s actually going on is not that people are saying that they are “Profoundly outraged by DSK’s behavior, should he prove to have behaved in this way” but rather that they are “profoundly angry by this behavior, and if DSK is the one who behaved this way then I am going to focus it on him. Of course, right now it looks like he did so I’m going to be angry with him, with reservation because I also believe in justice, in some sense.”

That is, it’s not the emotion that people are putting caveats on, it’s the target of the emotion. I recognize that, humans being what they are, this is still a difficult problem, but it doesn’t seem nearly as nonsensical to me as putting caveats on the emotion itself.


Myles 05.19.11 at 4:32 am

Well, I don’t feel for either side at the moment, except an initial irritation at the rush of people to readily ignore the presumption-of-innocence aspect of the legal system.

The simple fact is that any emotion we feel here will, in all likelihood, turn out to be idiotic and misguided (as I found out already to my disadvantage).


JM 05.19.11 at 4:45 am

I think that the real issue is not how “we” should feel but, rather, how I feel.

I just spent the last few days in the jury pool of the New York Supreme Court. Outside the building directly across from us was a media circus. Fourteen news trucks in the parking lot, seven news tents with earnest looking reporters in their half suit/half jeans and sneakers attire standing on milk crates while speaking to the camera, a hoard of photographers with large telephoto lenses jabbering in French and English, and the back drop of the Supreme Court building. We came out at lunch only to run into the scrim – lawyers on the steps, cameras and lights and pressing bodies surrounding them in a rugby huddle. It was pure Hollywood.

The jury pool filtered past on its way to Chinatown in search of sustenance. Besides the jury and the media, there was virtually no one else on the street. A few lawyers. The drama was for you. It played to your televisions and radios, appeared in your newspaper, and entertained you at work. For us, it was more a curiosity of spectacle. The Great Oz had pulled back the curtain and we could see the media machine at work.

Inside the jury pool, despite the curiosity outside our window, there was really very little discussion of the tribulations of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The pool sat silently reading and waiting. And while all of us knew that we would not be chosen for that trial, which would be some time in coming, the only comment that was made was that it would have been interesting. And this is, perhaps, the best way for a jury to feel – interest in the trial. Without an a priori emotional state, there is hope for a fair judgement.

Ironically, I imagine that we have DSK to thank for the very few cases on the docket. The Supreme Court seemed too busy to have any trials. Nearly all of us were sent home without having even been called to be potentially empaneled.


glenn 05.19.11 at 5:25 am

NO. Sympathy, first. And yes, anger, too, but secondarily. Whether or not the court agrees, there is a victim in this case. The woman certainly feels victimized despite any judge’s rulings. It seems natural and just to feel for her. It also seems natural to assume – because she believes she’s been victimized – that DSK did something ‘wrong.’ And that’s where the anger comes in. In my mind, emotions aren’t and shouldn’t be predicated or determined by what may or may not happen in the courtroom.


glenn 05.19.11 at 5:30 am

And frankly (couched and restrained) anger toward Banon, as well. I can understand her not wanting to get involved, press charges, etc. but if she’d done the right thing then, perhaps this woman would not have been a victim. Because DSK allegedly got away with it then, more or less, he’s empowered and willing to engage in such behavior in the future.


hilzoy 05.19.11 at 5:31 am

There is no such thing as conditional anger, but there is such a thing as being angry about the behavior described in the criminal complaint against DSK (in the same way that you might be horrified by the actions of Iago), but unsure that the actual DSK actually performed those actions, and so unwilling to be angry at the actual DSK until such time as you feel confident identifying him with the guy described in the complaint. That’s how I normally feel in cases like this.


Alex H 05.19.11 at 6:42 am

There is something in my case that is like a conditional emotion: when I contemplate someone plausibly accused of a serious misdeed, I sometimes feel angry at that person. In particular, I feel sometimes feel angry in the way in which I would be angry if I believed he had committed the misdeed. What is peculiar about the cases I have in mind is this: I don’t quite believe the accused is guilty, but I slip into thinking as if he were from time-to-time. Maybe this is the way to put it: I experience a temptation to judge — which has the phenomenology of judgment.

Shortly after the quasi-judgment, I remind myself that the person might not have really committed the misdeed. Then I might say: “ooo… I am so angry at him! …if he really committed the misdeed, that is.” My anger — really felt — is nonetheless also conditional anger. [Its conditionality reflects its functional role. For example, the anger here ought to be susceptible to a modus tollens. So: if I become confident that the accused is innocent — my anger ought to entirely extinguish.]

*I am not sure that the best way to describe things is Hilzoy’s — which sounds like it is anger at a behavior type (which would be a weirdly abstract object of anger) or perhaps anger of the sort we direct at fictional villains (which I’d expect to be less keenly felt).


dave 05.19.11 at 7:05 am

I don’t care to have moral feelings. Aesthetic feelings, fine. Ultimately, DSK’s is a boring, banal story. Worse (arguably), it’s ugly. It’s best that he should be killed.


Martin Bento 05.19.11 at 7:08 am

“Whether or not the court agrees, there is a victim in this case. The woman certainly feels victimized despite any judge’s rulings.”

Let’s outline the possibilities here:

1) The woman is telling the truth and DSK is guilty pretty much as charged. This is the simplest case, and, so far as I know, nothing strongly undermines it, unless DSK’s alibi of eating with his daughter can be confirmed, and the fact that, apparently, he voluntarily told police he was at the airport, which is not clearly (though it may be) consistent with “fleeing” as early reports had it.

2) Mistaken identity. I don’t buy it, which is why I reject the statement above. She pulled him out of lineup, and it probably would have been very difficult for anyone else to get into his room.

3) Something happened between them, but it is or can fairly be seen as much more innocent than the woman claims. If what the woman is alleging is substantially correct, this is a non-starter. We are not in an ambiguous realm of how men and women interact. We are way over the line.

Rejecting 2 and 3 means that either DSK is guilty, or the woman is lying. This leaves:

4) The woman is lying on her own. First question is why. It’s hard for me to see what she would gain from this. Is she from some African country that really got screwed by the IMF and was to reciprocate? That almost sounds like a joke. I don’t see anyway this one is plausible unless some really surprising facts emerge later.

5) The woman has been put up to lying. DSK is obviously going to have some rich and powerful enemies, so I would regard this as slightly possible. It eliminates the concern expressed in the other thread about why would the woman sacrifice her own career. It would not hard for rich people to pay someone enough to give up their chambermaid career. Nonetheless, I’m having trouble seeing someone put together a scheme that would have a high enough likelihood of success to be worth the risk. I would want some affirmative evidence or serious fishiness in theory 1 before I would be inclined to take this at all seriously.

Nonetheless, I do think it comes down to DSK is guilty (likely) or conspiracy (very unlikely).

Emotionally, I don’t feel all that invested.


Guido Nius 05.19.11 at 7:13 am

10: a two-off is kind of like a one-off so 10 is not really a full answer to 8. I also wonder: is this a thing that’s going to be like the priest-pedophile thing? Where suddenly one person gets a story through the thick walls of conventional silence and then there are others and others. If so, then we might be in for a rocky ride. It has the potential of a priest-pedophile thing because after all if it is so everybody will be able to say: “It was no surprise. We knew something was off but that it was this ugly and big was something we never came to realize.”

[As to John’s question: curiosity is the right feeling. You want to know as it would be relevant to know so you will remain interested until you know. I think this is compatible with being angry it might have happened.]


Mavis Beacon 05.19.11 at 7:24 am

The dimension of time is missing. I am upset the 80% of the time I imagine him guilty, and cool the 20% I imagine him innocent or or at least feel compelled to hold my judgement. Or I’m mad and covering my ass. You decide.


derrida derider 05.19.11 at 7:25 am

Feh, feelings are just feelings. There’s no right or wrong wih the id. OTOH actions, including blog comments, most definitely have a right and wrong.

So the question ought to be how far our actions should reflect particular feelings.


Ralph Wedgwood 05.19.11 at 7:25 am

Hilzoy is right. There is something quite a lot like conditional anger — which is the sort of emotional reaction we have to fictions, like Iago. I.e., one can imagine a certain sequence of events, and then react to that imagining in a way that reflects the way in which one would react if one actually believed that that sequence of events had transpired. There is nothing “absurd” about this at all!


Henri Vieuxtemps 05.19.11 at 7:34 am

Every time a power individual reveals himself as a psychopath, I accept it as a self-evident truth. I gloat. I am a bad person.


Chris Bertram 05.19.11 at 7:41 am

Surely the appropriate emotions to have under uncertainty are ones like, anxiety, hope, dread, etc.

OTOH, when you feels less than 100% but assign a high probability to the facts being such and such, then genuine anger etc may be right, but then you might express a caveat about the appropriateness that might come out in the conditional form (which, taken literally, makes no sense).

Also, there’s there conventional signalling that such and such an emotion would be appropriate if the facts turn out such and such, which is quite independent of actually feeling the emotion in question.


Phil 05.19.11 at 8:06 am

I teach Criminology, and I hear a lot in class about the killings of James Bulger, Stephen Lawrence and a couple of other ultra-high-profile cases: they’re exemplary stories which let us think (and feel) something quite definite. The facts in those cases are well known and pretty much undisputed, but the stories would be just as good if we didn’t know for sure they were true; in fact they’d probably be better (cf. Barry George, Colin Stagg). Similarly, the Tale of the International Bureaucrat and the Chambermaid is a terrific sleazy story with a good moral, irrespective of whether or not it’s true.

What interests me is the question of how much difference there is between a vicarious moralistic reaction to a grubby story which may or may not be true, and the same kind of reaction to a grubby story that’s been made to stand up in court. I suspect the answer’s “not a lot”, and I wonder how much of our emotional response is really keyed by sympathy with the people involved and how much by the appeal of a story with a good moral.


SKapusniak 05.19.11 at 8:21 am

Emotions being what they are — one having the emotions one has, rather than the emotions one decides to have — the notion of ‘correct emotion’ seems far more absurd to me than ‘conditional emotion’ which is surely just another way of expressing the quite standard and traditional idea of ‘mixed emotions’.

I don’t mean to say that we are slaves to our emotions, but in my view our point of purchase on them is in choosing what decisions to make and what actions to take in the face of them, or motivated by them, not in choosing which ones to have.

Of course, we value knowing the emotions of others; precisely because emotions are mostly unchosen and they precede our actions, making them in a sense the foundation of our character. We treat them as predictors (however uncertain) of other actions, and therefore as with any predictor of action by others as criteria for whether we wish to associate with them. This make admiting to having particular emotions in a given situation, or alternatively admitting to not having particular emotions in that situation, potentially extremely socially dangerous.

So whilst asking ‘what emotion should I have’ is quite absurd, ‘what emotion should I display’ is a home question . Especially for a politician in a democratic system whose social milieu is every potential voter.

Oh Happy Politician, whose true emotions are always in accord with those required by their electorate!


Harald Korneliussen 05.19.11 at 8:23 am

Andrew Burton wrote: (b) what else is out there about other powerful men that is routinely brushed under the carpet?

Isn’t that kind of backward? After all, this powerful man is now in a notoriously brutal prison without bail, based on the accusation of a single person – a poor immigrant woman working in a low-status profession at that. We found out immediately too, not three months after due to a hush-up campaign. He will almost certainly lose his job and political prospects, even if he’s found innocent. As I see it, this is evidence against the idea that powerful men can do as they like and get away with it.


Harald Korneliussen 05.19.11 at 8:27 am

Skapusniak: While you may not be able to control your initial emotions, you can and should check with your intellect whether those are reasonable. If your initial emotion is outrage, and you stop and think “Wait, we don’t really know what happened here”, then most people will lose their sense of outrage. (Not all, of course. There are those who will use their intellect to go looking for justifications for their outrage instead – with smart people, that can be rather scary).


chris y 05.19.11 at 8:58 am

And frankly (couched and restrained) anger toward Banon, as well.

Disagree with glenn here. If we believe what Banon is saying now, she was very young at the time of the attempted rape and was put under intolerable pressure by people she might suppose to have her interests at heart, including her own mother, not to report it. Mainly, as far as I can see to safeguard the mother’s political career aspirations. So there’s one person in the story I have absolutely no problem with being angry at: Banon’s mother – on balance I prefer Grendel’s.


novakant 05.19.11 at 9:39 am

Considering all the truly terrible things human beings do to each other on a daily basis, I don’t see why we should be especially emotionally invested in this particular case just because the media thinks it’s a great news story.


Pete 05.19.11 at 10:17 am

“What is the appropriate emotional state to have” is a bad question: people either have emotional states or they don’t. At best you can make them feel guilty, shamed or excluded if they have the “wrong” emotional response.

“What is the appropriate emotional state to express publicly” is what’s going on here, hence the hedging.


ajay 05.19.11 at 10:31 am

So there’s one person in the story I have absolutely no problem with being angry at: Banon’s mother – on balance I prefer Grendel’s.

Absolutely. Grendel’s mother at least looked after her kid; some Scyld-Dane thug tears the wee man’s arm off and she’s down the hall the very next day to complain.


glenn 05.19.11 at 11:17 am

Chris y – I see your point and partially agree, which was why my anger was couched and restrained. But Banon was an adult at the time, and yeah ceded to her mother’s wishes, apparently. But in the end, it was her choice all the same. If her story is true then her mother was callow and entirely self-centered. But Banon allowed her to be.


Matt McIrvin 05.19.11 at 11:20 am

Does “should” even enter into it? It’s not as if we can apply a moral calculus to consciously choose to feel a certain thing and then have that feeling.


Peter B. Reiner 05.19.11 at 11:30 am

The accepted wisdom from modern neurobiology is that emotions are heuristics – neural shortcuts to allow us to decide how to behave without time-consuming reflection. They evolved to help us deal with dangerous situations – such as when we are threatened by predators, or otherwise have to act quickly. Clearly, there is ample time for reflection in this case, and so it seems to me that the appropriate response is to stop, take a breath, and think things through. In fact, the presence of uncertainty in the absence of any required action should only act as a brake on us relying upon emotions. At least if we profess to be rational people, and not just slaves to our emotions.


Nick Barnes 05.19.11 at 11:57 am

It’s not as if we can apply a moral calculus to consciously choose to feel a certain thing and then have that feeling.
Sure we can, at least some of the time.


Michael 05.19.11 at 12:10 pm

Let me go right back to David Kaib at comment 4. These very public utterances — ‘I angrily deplore the conduct of the guy, but demand that justice be evenhanded’ — are really invitations to join the speaker (and so to legitimate them) in moral positions which are known to be unassailable and whose expression beautifies the speaker. Though the utterances could interpreted as an invitation to take up a balancing act internally, trying to be mad and fair at the same time, they are better interpreted as the speaker doing political work on their own behalf (or maybe on behalf of some project).

But there’s something else too, namely a sense of sentimental education, of the rehearsal of moralizing narrative: the story hits the news, then the story is rehearsed with various colours and spins. The story works because we can all add our more or less appropriate reactions to great basic material (‘if it bleeds, it leads’). So out there in bars and across breakfast tables people are exercising their moral imaginations, trying out various versions on each other. And if some people don’t find the exercise edifying, that may be because we’ve had too many opportunities to work this through already.


Daniel Elstein 05.19.11 at 12:15 pm

I’m not sure why the option of just being (100%) angry doesn’t seem more popular. Given that we have to choose between different emotional reactions, having the reaction which (you believe) is appropriate 80% of the time looks at first blush pretty sensible. I wonder if people are assuming that the cost of being angry when that anger is not appropriate is higher than the cost of not being angry when anger is appropriate. That would be a complicating factor, but absent such qualifications I’m inclined towards accepting the following principle: when it seems highly likely that the situation is such as to warrant emotion X, go ahead and feel emotion X, but be prepared to take some kind of remedial action if the situation turns out to be otherwise. Of course those involved with the criminal justice system will have to be careful to put such feelings aside. And everyone will want to avoid acting on such feelings in ways that can’t be remedied afterwards. But withholding the emotion itself because it might be inappropriate? Excessively cautious.


dsquared 05.19.11 at 12:16 pm

Surely Matt McIrvin is basically right and what’s going on here is a bit of equivocation. The sense in which we “can’t feel conditionally angry” is one in which we’re talking about something that’s more like a physical event happening in the body – the rush of adrenalin, etc. But this isn’t something that it makes sense to think about whether we should or shouldn’t; it just happens, for the reasons set out by Peter in #40.

The sense then in which your emotions can be considered to be correct or incorrect is one in which you “take ownership” of them by endorsing them as correct. And that can be as conditional as you like – it’s perfectly sensible to say “I have an immediate emotional reaction of rage to this news, which will be perfectly correct and appropriate if he is found guilty, but which I will regret having and unendorse if he turns out innocent”.


Colin Reid 05.19.11 at 12:29 pm

@CRW: I had the same reaction (male, for what it’s worth) – ‘sexual assault’ doesn’t fall under the heading ‘sex’, rather under the heading ‘assault’. Regardless of what DSK has done, the reaction from parts of the media (in France especially) of conflating sexual violence with “seduction” seems to be a classic case of rape culture in action.

If the stories and accusations about DSK are true, of course we should be angry at him, but not so surprised (it’s not like sexual assault committed by powerful men is a rare occurrence). What makes me more concerned, though, is the prospect that the French press has known for years that DSK is a sexual predator (often because the journalists themselves have been victims!), but has adopted a code of silence on the matter. I couldn’t care less if some politician is a “ladies’ man”, and the French are right to steer clear of the Anglo-Saxon obsession with their politicians’ marital fidelity. But non-consensual sexual acts are a completely different category, and they are definitely not a private matter: the public has a right to know if people in a position of power are violent criminals.


Anderson 05.19.11 at 12:59 pm

I’m not sure we can afford emotions about news items concerning people we don’t know, and likely will never meet

That is a strange idea, because people have such emotions ALL THE TIME, such that it seems to be a significant part of how humans behave.


MR Bill 05.19.11 at 1:00 pm

I think Hilzoy (“Ah, Hilzoy, thou should’st be blogging in this hour…”) nails it. The other responses I’ve had are to reactions to this ‘news’ in the media, similar to other commenters, to some really ugly sexism and classist attitudes..Ben Stein’s amazing excrescence of male and Establishment privilege in ‘the American Spectator’ (see http://spectator.org/archives/2011/05/17/presumed-innocent-anyone ) set me into competing anger and grim hilarity at the sheer unconscious arrogance of it. I’m hoping the French responses I see in the media are not as baldly prejudiced as the might seem, and are in reaction to the ‘perp walk’ (barbaric, but so American..)
I understand the attractions of the conspiracy theory, but, Occam’s razor and all that…


Lilypod 05.19.11 at 1:26 pm

Given we’re discussing emotions and being frank, the following left me unconditionally irked, even if qualified as being “couched and restrained”:

glenn: And frankly (couched and restrained) anger toward Banon, as well. I can understand her not wanting to get involved, press charges, etc. but if she’d done the right thing then, perhaps this woman would not have been a victim. Because DSK allegedly got away with it then, more or less, he’s empowered and willing to engage in such behavior in the future.

I will move away from alleged victims and proceed on the basis that actual victims of sexual violence do genuinely exist so that I can lose some of the necessary conditionals for a paragraph or two. Given the appalling statistics worldwide for convictions in cases that make it to court; the cases which are reported and believed but which never make it before a jury because of little confidence that a conviction could be secured; the lack of understanding that still exists surrounding the crime, even amongst those who should know better (nice to see your hammy fist flailing about, Ken Clarke); the casual, often unconscious, victim-blaming that constantly pervades discussions of the crime and the myths that still persist, it would seem more appropriate to readily understand why there is such underreporting than to feel anger towards those who choose not to subject themselves to the further trauma or invasiveness of medical examination, police interviews, court proceedings and public scrutiny when there is little statistical chance of success and a profound fear of not being believed or of being harshly judged. And why add even more to victims’ misplaced, culturally-conditioned sense of guilt by chiding them for not “doing the right thing” or criticising them for empowering an attacker when they are wrestling with the aftermath of physical disempowerment and trying to regain a degree of decision-making and sense of control? In my own country, the chances of securing a conviction after reporting a rape is a nice, stark, squat seven percent, so I don’t believe in levelling criticism at victims who may not want to battle those odds.

If an attacker is an international figure possessed of financial and legal resources and a fan base, it hardly becomes an easier decision to report, knowing that the world’s media will direct its gaze to your doorstep, and the viral online world will breach your anonymity and happily hunker down to trawl through the minutiae of your life (what you should/shouldn’t have done; possible motivations; what you should/shouldn’t have reported)? Even in cases where convictions are secured or guilty pleas entered, there is still reluctance to believe victims in many quarters and a desire to minimise their experiences: search the web for discussions of any high-profile convicted rapist or one who actually entered a guilty plea and examine what is written, the ambivalence about whether a crime was actually committed, and from whence it comes (it’s not all courtesy of online trolls salivating for a reaction).

Also, I am in agreement with CRW in that it constantly confounds me how, in the media and elsewhere, an allegation of sexual violence is conflated with allegations of someone being a bit of a “libertine/womaniser/seducer”, being prone to “peccadilloes” or having “a problem with women”.


Anders Widebrant 05.19.11 at 1:47 pm

I think the appropriate rhetorical trick to use here is to say that “the image/idea of X inflicting Y on Z makes me feel…”

IOW what Hilzoy zed


Tangurena 05.19.11 at 2:12 pm

OK, you get the point. So what is the appropriate emotional state to be in now, when you are in a state of uncertainty?

As usual, I’m in a state of but someone on the internet is wrong! The “conditional anger” of people appears to me to be some sort of dishonesty that reminds me of that scene in Casablanca: I’m shocked that gambling is going on here!.

On another note, DSK appears to be housed in the west facility in Rikers. Normally this is for inmates with contagious diseases, but a NY Post article claims that the victim was living in an apartment complex that only rents to HIV+ people. That article contains other details that may bother people with squeamish sensibilities (as do almost all other articles by the Post). For people who want to parse that article and pick on the living arrangements of the victim, I think this quote from Harlem United’s website is appropriate:

The program is the lease-holder of each apartment for the first 12 months, with the expectation that each client will graduate the program 12 months after admission, at which time the lease is moved into the client’s name and supportive services cease.



Theophylact 05.19.11 at 2:29 pm

The conflation of “womanizer” and “rapist” isn’t all that uncommon. By any ordinary standard, Don Juan/Giovanni is the latter. And Schwarzenegger was known as “The Gropinator”; not exactly suave.


James Kroeger 05.19.11 at 2:33 pm

John Holbo:

Either you are angry or not. It’s not as though you will find out how you are actually feeling now only at some distant point in the future when the facts are in.

This statement is incorrect. If one feels anger at Strauss-Kahn, when only limited ‘facts’ have been brought to light, it can only be because one has made some guesses re: The Accused’s culpability. One would not feel anger at the man, if one’s guess was that he is innocent of the charges.

Of course, people get angry all the time at various ‘enemies’ of their country, based only on the rumors re: the enemy’s intentions/motivation/etc. that various politicians have passed on to the public. It simply depends upon what you are assuming re: the as-yet-unknown facts.

I feel no anger at the man simply because I fear making a hasty, ultimately-mistaken guess about individuals accused of such acts. We can only hope that public officials share the same kind of fear.


b9n10nt 05.19.11 at 3:07 pm

w/r/t JM @ 17 (at the Supremem Court this week, in a jury pool, observing the spectacle):

This really makes me reflect on the effects of passivity on emotion. If I were to be a jury member, putting aside my emotions and cooly weighing the evidence would be relatively easy. If I have no active role or responsibility and assigning guilt, I really have fewer internal resources to temper my emotional reactions.

Just sayin’


CJColucci 05.19.11 at 3:14 pm

“What is the appropriate emotional state to express publicly” is what’s going on here, hence the hedging.

But what is the point of addressing these issues in the language of emotions, hedged, conditional, or otherwise? Why not simply say: “I don’t know what happened here, but if the accusations are true, the conduct is horrible and DSK should be severely punished.”? If someone then insists on asking “well, how do you feel?”, I would answer, depending on how I felt at the time: “None of your damn business”, “I don’t have any particular feeling at the moment”, or “I don’t have anything to base any feelings on”, or “I don’t have any reason yet to make an emotional investment in this case,” or, if I had some feeling, whether baseless or not, simply report what the feeling happened to be?


bh 05.19.11 at 3:43 pm

It seems hard to get past the public signaling aspect — certainly there’s a lot of it on this thread.


Billikin 05.19.11 at 4:00 pm

“What’s the right way to feel, under uncertainty?”

Uh, uncertain?

Seriously, there is no right or wrong way to feel, is there?


TW Andrews 05.19.11 at 4:14 pm

It seems like the conditional expressions of emotion are less conditional and more of a way of acknowledging that if the circumstances turn out to be other than one believes them to be, the feelings of anger will have been inappropriate.


JS Thomas 05.19.11 at 5:02 pm

“What’s the right way to feel, under uncertainty?”

There is no right or wrong way to feel, but there are right and wrong ways to understand and explain your feelings.


Adam 05.19.11 at 5:06 pm

I think we’re supposed to be feeling serious and grave, with appropriate accompanying frowny faces. Also, we should at all times maintain a state of general indigance toward the French.


Patrick S. O'Donnell 05.19.11 at 5:37 pm

Re: “Would it be more morally ideal to try not only to set our emotions aside, when we have them, but never to have them, to begin with?”

Well, the Stoics certainly thought so, as do the Buddhists, albeit only with what we might call “negative emotions,” like anger, greed, envy and so forth, while “positive’ emotions like loving kindness and compassion are to be cultivated. With a neo-Stoic theory like Martha Nussbaum’s, anger has an indispensable cognitive function as a judgment of value: “Emotions view the world from my own point of view of my own scheme of goals and projects, the things to which I attach value in a conception of what it is for me to live well.”

I don’t see any compelling reason why a state of epistemic uncertainty cannot be emotionally “neutral,” which in this case might be supported by a corresponding belief in the legal presumption of innocence until the outcome of a process of adversarial adjudication. However, I can readily imagine myself being angry should I discover during the course of a trial or as a result of a plea that Stauss-Kahn is indeed guilty (more or less) as charged. Such anger no doubt differs in intensity from the sort of immediate and deeply visceral anger that arises in situations where one is a witness to or victim of egregiously immoral or criminal behavior.

Given the spate of high-profile cases of politicians and other individuals in power behaving badly, I may have a sort of diffuse anger directed not so much to Strauss-Kahn as an individual (at least for the time being), but toward a cultural ethos and social system that attracts and often rewards individuals who publicly display many of the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. The object of such anger would include my fellow citizens who vote for these politicians or fawn over the powerful (as part of a compensatory and malign power relations for which we share responsibility, i.e., we are complicit in their creation and persistence).


R.Mutt 05.19.11 at 5:55 pm

“What’s the right way to feel, under uncertainty?”

Contempt for BHL.


Josh G. 05.19.11 at 6:21 pm

Patrick S. O’Donnell @ 58: “I may have a sort of diffuse anger directed not so much to Strauss-Kahn as an individual (at least for the time being), but toward a cultural ethos and social system that attracts and often rewards individuals who publicly display many of the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder.”

I would go further than that: our social system, especially in its advocacy of unrestrained capitalism, tends to reward individuals who publicly display many of the symptoms of antisocial personality disorder – in other words, who are sociopaths.

The field of economics seems to be dominated by people who are high-functioning autistic at best, and flat-out sociopathic at worst.


Andrew Burton 05.19.11 at 6:47 pm

praisegod barebones @10 and Harald Korneliussen @32 both respond to my earlier musing @8: “(a) it likely wasn’t a one-off, and (b) what else is out there about other powerful men that is routinely brushed under the carpet?”

There’s a kind of Bayesian process at work: we encounter a news event with a set of priors, which may be based on facts and/or may be based on biases or prejudices. Ben Stein’s priors, Myles’ priors and mine may be quite different. We can use the kind of framework proposed by Martin Bento @23 to characterise the set of possible explanations for what actually happened, and possibly (depending on our personal priors) we assign probabilities to those explanations.

So I might, hypothetically, think that there’s a 75% chance that “1) The woman is telling the truth and DSK is guilty pretty much as charged”, and so on down the list. Ben Stein might think “5) The woman has been put up to lying” has a 90% probability. And so it goes.

But then, over time, we learn more – we learn about Tristane Banon, for example, and other things that seem to have been known to lots of people in the French governing classes and media, not so much to the rest of us. We learn about Piroska Nagy’s characterization about her relationship with DSK in 2008. So this may have the impact of creating new posterior probabilities, based on how much weight we give to this conditional evidence. For some folks, of course, there’s a strong urge to reject any evidence that doesn’t serve to confirm priors (confirmatory bias).

My second thought, “what else is out there about other powerful men that is routinely brushed under the carpet?” goes to the difficulty of forming even modestly accurate priors to start off with. As well as the Duke Lacrosse scandal, there have also been (in the last decade) charges laid against Kobe Bryant by a hotel employee and against Al Gore by a massage therapist that I can think of off the top of my head. Each of these cases was different, and each resolved very differently. But I honestly have no way of going from a few anecdotes (and likely others that I’ve forgotten about) to any kind of improved understanding of whether lots of powerful men routinely attempt to forcibly compel women they encounter into unwanted sex, or whether it’s (happily) extremely rare.


Salient 05.19.11 at 6:54 pm

I’m okay with being upset with someone because I think they did something, and then discovering they didn’t do what I thought they did and then being [less upset with them / completely unupset and remorseful for my error in rough proportion to how stupid I was being / even more upset with them / furious] depending on what I discovered they actually did.

I’m also okay with signaling a rough quantification of my level of uncertainty by focusing more attention, or less attention, or no attention, on these hypothetical projections of my likely future emotional state.

It’s less “conditional emotional response” and more “I’m implicitly including in my statement a prediction of my emotional response under a few different projections of what might turn out to be true.” Which, yes, is intentionally signaling that I’m uncertain of my judgment, it’s signaling that my intuition is quite fallible. Really, it’s [a] giving listeners information about what sort of person I am, and what sort of emotional reactions I tend to have, [b] acknowledging and reinforcing some level of publicly sustained self-awareness, that I know myself well enough to provide good information for [a], and [ c] implicitly acknowledging my respect for the validity of a wider variety of intuitions and emotional responses that others may express.

I will trollishly hope that anyone who feels ornery about the language we use to talk about ourselves and our self-hypothesized responses to new information are similarly rigorous in their interpretation of the question “how are you?” (nah, I don’t mean it.)


paul 05.19.11 at 7:02 pm

It’s not right to think of the emotional state is timeless; it’s a dynamic thing.

If you hold an 80% prior is that DSK is guilty, the appropriate emotional response is to feel fully outraged at DSK 80% of the time. That is to say, you should feel outraged for approximately 48 minutes out of every hour. The remaining 12 minutes can be spent feeling outraged at the maid, or in some intermediate state depending on your guess of what could have happened, conditional on DSK not being guilty.

And in fact this is what I guess most of us are doing, so we are not acting with as much irrationality as your post implies. While we ponder the prospect of his guilt, we feel fully outraged… then as we consider alternate explanations, our outrage is temporarily muted or redirected. As long as we mull over possible outcomes in congruence with our priors about their likelihood, our aggregate emotional response is appropriate.


Omega Centauri 05.19.11 at 7:26 pm

14. I’m more interested in how a smart person, who must clearly understand the risks he is taking can get to such a point. I submit that the average smart person isn’t excluded from developing a personailty disorder that can eventually get them into big trouble, if they don’t recognize it. I really don’t think DSK was acting rationally, but was playing some sort of fantasy that had been building for years. Some fantasy he probably thought justifiably was just innocent enjoyment, no-one will ever have to know I can entertain myself by imagining. But, then with constant repetition, those inappropriate brain connections grow stronger and stronger, till eventually they start coming out in real life…. The lesson for the rest of us, is that when we enjoy fantasies that we know would be highly dangerous/unacceptable in real-life, we should stop and think “do I really want to reinforce this inapproriate (emotional) connection?”. Not doing so puts one at risk of eventually developing some really nasty personality traits.

My theory for the event, is that he had made some sort of arrangement with an escort service to play out his fanatasy, and the poor maid showed up at his door instead and became the victim. KInd of a mistaken identity of another sort. If such is the case he’s more like a raunchier version of Eliot Spitzer, with really bad luck/judgement.


Martin Bento 05.19.11 at 7:55 pm

Omega, a possibility I hadn’t considered. We’ll see if any evidence of this emerges.


CJColucci 05.19.11 at 8:20 pm

Then there may be a pissed-off escort service worker who was done out of a paying gig. Probably out her expenses, too.


roac 05.19.11 at 8:34 pm

Either the guy is a violent sexual predator OR the accuser is a cold-blooded liar. Clearly we ought to be angry at one of them; we just don’t know which.

(I’m surprised nobody has invoked quantum mechanics yet — or did I overlook it?)


Tangurena 05.19.11 at 10:01 pm

@CRW, 14 I keep being boggled…

Things have changed a lot in the past few decades, but not for every one, nor every where. To observe the “old way” of thinking, I refer you to any James Bond film: where the most unwilling, hostile, woman becomes magically transformed into an ally and sex partner of Bond by the “right” kiss and the “right” sexual encounter. This attitude overflows into other areas, such as the condescending attitude towards lesbians along the lines of “you just haven’t met the right man yet”.


Cee Jay 05.19.11 at 11:06 pm

I judge that Ted Lemon, SKupusniak, Pete and JS are all on the right track. In general, I don’t think it is helpful to judge one’s emotions as right or wrong. It is better to simply notice how one is feeling and to explore why one is feeling that way.
Also, keep in mind that one can hold many emotions (and judgments) at the same time.

For example, I might feel angry while considering the notion that DSK may have raped. I might feel sad while considering that DSK may be wrongly accused. I might feel sad that DSK was perhaps himself abused at some point in his life. I might feel sad for his parents and the alleged victims’ parents. I might feel afraid that people I love are vulnerable to rape and/or that people I love might be falsely accused. There are many emotions available here.

These emotions need not be right or wrong. For example, I might feel anger at the alleged victim because somebody I know was once falsely accused of rape. Hopefully, I am self aware enough to know that I am projecting onto the alleged victim and that I don’t actually know that a false accusation has been made. If so, I can own that my feeling is about me, not about them. Despite being present to the error in my logic, there is no need to judge my feeling as wrong. Now if I act out by sending nasty letters to the alleged victim, well that’s a different story then. In that case, I am consciously acting on my projection even though I am aware that I do not have sufficient evidence in support of my act.

Uncertainty, in my judgment, actually invites many, many possible emotions because it is a rather spacious environment within which I can consider multiple perspectives.

Thank you for posing this question.


Dan 05.19.11 at 11:43 pm

I think that there’s a big “maybe” category, and people aren’t very sensitive to probabilities as long as it’s in the maybe category. So believing that there’s an 80% that he’s guilty feels a lot like believing that there’s a 20% chance (although a little bit stronger), since they’re both in the maybe category, and they both feel different from seeing it as 100% or as 0%. See:

Rottenstreich, Y. & Hsee, C. K. (2001). Money, kisses, and electric shocks: An affective psychology of risk. Psychological Science, 12, 185-190. pdf


MattW 05.20.11 at 12:18 am

I’m 100% angry that an accusation ruined his life. A mere accusation shouldn’t have these types of consequences. If he’s innocent and there’s no conviction, can he sue the woman for false accusation and messing up his life’s work?


Tomasz Wegrzanowski 05.20.11 at 2:28 am

Intrade says I should be 84% outraged. That’s the lower bound. As I estimate large portion of this 16% is various ways to not be found guilty legally (settling out of court, plea bargaining something unrelated, being able to afford much better lawyers, dying before it all ends etc.) in spite of actually being so, I’m pretty much 100% outraged.


Glen Tomkins 05.20.11 at 3:04 am

“Would it be more morally ideal to try not only to set our emotions aside, when we have them, but never to have them, to begin with?”

I didn’t mean to imply that people should just put their emotions about DSK and his accuser (or whatever govt conspirators might have set this whole thing up to bring down DSK, etc. etc.) on hold until our hopefully dispassionate legal system results in a verdict, and then gin up an emotional storm against whoever proves to have been the villain of the piece. Not only is that justice system highly imperfect, and a guilty or innocent verdict may not do much to lessen the uncertainty of what actually happened, but that system, wisely, doesn’t even try to line up with morality, to either find out all our sins, or criminalize only immoral behavior. At our best and wisest, we settle for the inglorious end for our “justice” system of just trying to keep order, just trying to keep disputes over who did what that supposedly wronged whom, from themselves spinning out of control into a cycle of retribution and counter-retribution whose damage ends up dwarfing the original wrong. DSK, or his accuser, could be found innocent or guilty of rape or perjury, and still have acted either quite immorally or quite innocently in the affair, but what we need is a process that lets all parties have some imperfect redress short of the much worse alternative of having their friends and family shoot it out with the other side’s friends and family.

And it’s not as if there is any difficulty remaining quite dispassionate about even much more serious wrongs done to the billions of folks who share this planet whom we don’t happen to know personally. A case like this one tends to provoke passionate, often quite intemperate, reactions out of perfect strangers to the principals, not because we are overly prone to emotional reactions about what happens to strangers, but because we tend to refight our own wars in such stories, and most of us have to been to war over sex. We may not understand much about the debt ceiling, but we have all been seducers and/or seduced, have been accused, or accused others, of behaving, if not illegally, at least immorally and selfishly in ways that uncomfortably parallel his alleged rape or her alleged vindictive perjury.

So people seem oddly calm about the prospect that the Republicans seem poised to release the Kraken and force the US into bankruptcy, but are up in arms about DSK, pro or con or conspiracy.


garymar 05.20.11 at 10:19 am

What a contrast with Garret FitzGerald!


lemmy caution 05.20.11 at 5:46 pm

My theory for the event, is that he had made some sort of arrangement with an escort service to play out his fanatasy, and the poor maid showed up at his door instead and became the victim. KInd of a mistaken identity of another sort. If such is the case he’s more like a raunchier version of Eliot Spitzer, with really bad luck/judgement.

I thought this for a while, but it doesn’t make sense given that it was past checkout time. He probably just did what he did with the reporter. Grope her, attempt to have sex with her and ignore her resistance and complaints.


Charles Peterson 05.21.11 at 8:21 am

I don’t have any feelings whatever toward DSK or his accuser. I think if it turns out that DSK is guilty, I could become very angry at DSK or myself that my attempt not to rush to judgement (when it sometimes seems like I am the only one who hasn’t) has turned out to have been shielding a crook. This is how it turned out in 1974 after I had campaigned for Nixon, presumed his innocence, and defended his innocence before my friends who mostly called me foolish. A key step on my personal journey toward socialism. But now very ironically I join those who look back at the Nixon somewhat fondly, as Chomsky says, the last liberal President, and wonder if people like Woodward’s friends had an extra agenda to bring an end to moderately socially democratic conservatism.

I do have considerable anger, however misplaced, toward those who have rushed to the judgement that DSK is guilty, and worse anger toward those who say this is just how men are generally. I just finished my 3rd posting on Katha Pollitt’s blog, not defending DSK (though having suggested there may be alternatives to the accusation made against DSK) because I fear he might indeed be guilty, as Nixon was, but rather pointing out the hypocrisy of her literally concluding that DSK is guilty while simultaneously accusing French media of a rush to judgement blaming the accuser.

Honestly I find it hard to picture how a man such as DSK could make attacks such as have been alleged (or proven?) and still be nearly in position to have been elected President of France, after having been one of the least antisocial chiefs of the IMF. Can someone point me to movies to help educate my imagination on things like this?

This is not at all comparable to (at least how I have imagined) priestly pedophilia because that is in some sense consensual, just that we don’t extend the authority to consent to the victims. Rape is non-consensual period; that is definitional. It seems hard for me to imagine DSK as a violent criminal. He seems more like the boring kind.

I perceive a kind of gray area involving lack of communication or differing cultural norms that is yet another kind of unproven hypothesis. Need I ask permission to touch my date’s hand? Normally, I now think not, though she is certainly entitled to refuse, and if done politely I should not be in the least offended. But I have had dates (even one continuing sets of dates with one woman that had gone on for a month) where the first such touch led to lectures, denunciations, or realized or nearly realized threats of dissociation (that in one case required vast apologies to overcome). Apparently I was supposed to have asked permission, though with others that might be seen as fatal weakness: an avoidance of risk taking that some women demand.

In this grey area, if you concede that it exists, it also makes me wonder why *attempted* rape, if quickly shunned or avoided without injury, need be seen as a crime of the same magnitude as murder. Clearly it is a matter of dignity and respect for the victims that we view rape as so evil, though sometimes I wonder if the premature executioners don’t protest too much. But what about the other side in cases like I described above. Say if a hand touch leads to a lasting ostracism and a long lasting personal crisis. Couldn’t that also be seen as a violation of dignity and respect? A crime of love rather than a crime of sex?

It seems to me that some feminists are sexist, and that the masculine role is a lot more difficult and complicated than they perceive. This kind of news brings them out, and that makes me angry, and also makes me angry at men who don’t recognize that this is going on, and might therefore be inclined to join the chorus of those calling me a misogynist.


SusanC 05.22.11 at 2:51 pm

Good catch, John.

Perhaps sometimes when people say they are “outraged” (etc.) they are expressing disapproval, rather than anger.

Actual anger is a rather dangerous emotion, and perhaps not a very respectable one in political discourse. It often involves anticipated violence–that the angry person is about to use violence against the target of their anger, or the angry person anticipates an imminent need to defend themselves against violence.

(So, e.g. if Strauss-Kahn is about rape you, then anger and/or fear are certainly possible emotions; but in the case of journalists who weren’t involved blogging about it, it’s less clear).

I can think of some recent instances where I’ve seen people who were genuinely angry over a political issue (the issues being the Lib/Con coalition in the UK; and denialism over global warming).

Although the possibility of imminent violence seems to be a characteristic of anger, it seems clear that a person can be angry without actually acting on it. (e.g. a person might be angry with David Cameron without actually taking concrete steps to murder him, e.g if they are restrained by the thought that he almost certainly has bodyguards, etc. As I said, anger is perhaps not a very respectable emotion in political discourse)

But now you mention it, I find it almost remarkable how un-angry political protest tends to be (rioters look like they’re angry; people on protest marches often seems quite calm).

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