How a Few Awful Individuals Increasingly Threaten Our Future

By Evan Anderson

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

- Margaret Mead

There are many ways to read history, and the human interactions that are woven into the stories of the past are never easy to dissect. There has long been a dance in literary circles between two camps: those who believe that individuals primarily drive history, and gather forces around them, and those who believe that individual agency is often caught up in the overwhelming tides of the era (Tolstoy, anyone?). While both are likely partly true at varying times, today we're going to cover an emerging narrative that could better describe the modern era: while much of the world works toward relatively common goals, a handful of ill-intentioned individuals work to break everything.

Those of us who grew up on the playgrounds of public schools, or going to the beach with other youngsters, likely remember countless examples of this "tyranny of the minority." One bad apple, as they say, can kick over 100 sandcastles in minutes, or ruin a perfectly good game. Of course, most children do not try to ruin what others have created for their satisfaction. The same is true of adults.

In fact, the vast majority of human beings spend their days trying to build things. Whether we examine criminality or simply antisocial behavior, the negative examples are usually notable in that they are, well, notable.

The novelist Stephen King wrote in The Dead Zone: "Ninety-five percent of people who walk the earth are simply inert. One percent are saints, and one percent are assholes. The other three percent are people who do what they say they can do." As many of you know, one of the things we celebrate most about the SNS community is that its members tend to fall into that 3 percent.

But what about that 1 percent? While we are clearly speculating here, if we imagine that 1 percent of the human population really are "assholes," then many of that percentage are also clearly "misbehaving" in more minor ways, and often for reasons with which we can empathize, if not appreciate. A smaller percentage, however, are truly working hard to break things on purpose. (Dark Knight fans will recognize another relevant quote from fiction: "Some men just want to watch the world burn.")

I propose that we can call those people the "half-percent." Imagine the most destructive, the most obstructionist, and the most difficult and antisocial among us. This week's issue is about them: getting louder, stronger, and more unmanageable.


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