Photo Credit: courtesy SK

At the heart of everything from the debate over the Gaza War to DEI to toxic interpersonal relationships is a disastrous loop known as the “self-reinforcing victim/villain” cycle.

The self-reinforcing victim/villain cycle is a deceptively simple and incredibly destructive paradigm for any kind of relationship, national, communal or personal, in which one party constantly attacks the other while claiming that it is the victim fighting against oppression.


The paradigm is guided by the idea that there is a permanently fixed victim and villain, that the victim is constantly suffering attacks from the villain and that anything the victim does is justified because he or she has no agency except to resist the assaults of the villain.

While some Hamas supporters have lied or tried to cover up the atrocities of Oct 7, Ghazi Hammad, a Hamas official, initially denied them, but then burst out with, “the existence of Israel is what causes all that pain, blood, and tears. It is Israel, not us. We are the victims of the occupation. Period. Therefore, nobody should blame us for the things we do. On October 7, October 10, October 1,000,000 – everything we do is justified.”

“We are the victims”, “nobody should blame us” and “everything we do is justified” perfectly capture the cruel workings of the cycle. So many westerners have sided with Hamas because they accept, incorporate and make use of the same cycle in their own politics and lives.

The very same arguments adapted from Marxism and therapy culture play out routinely in “whiteness” and “colonialist” discourse in America, Europe and other free world nations.

The “self-reinforcing victim/villain” cycle dispenses with arguments, evidence or any reasoned assessments of rights. These may occasionally be thrown in when convenient, but make no real difference because the central premise of the cycle is the lack of any objective standard that both sides have to meet. International law, racial tolerance, peace treaties or negotiations are invoked in a purely one-sided fashion. It is understood that the officially designated victim never has to abide by international law, to stop hating or to sincerely agree to stop the violence.

Any of the invoked appeals to any larger principle are usually rigged in such a way as to render mutuality meaningless. For example, racism has been redefined to mean racial hatred practiced by those with power, making them the officially designated villains, while racial hatred from victims has been designated “reverse racism”: a justified response to the racism of the majority.

Once again, “we are the victims”, “nobody should blame us” and “everything we do is justified”.

Similarly, international law is held to apply only to Israel as the “occupier” while no one can expect anything of the Muslim terrorists who are “occupied” and therefore have the right to “resist” by invading Israel and burning Jewish families alive in their own homes.

The perpetrators are omnipotent by virtue of being helpless, since they can do nothing, they can do everything, as victims of oppression they have no agency and also no restraint under any norms, either those of decency, humanity, the laws of war or any concept of right and wrong.

They cannot be asked not to rage, that’s “tone policing”, not to hate, that’s “reverse racism” or even not to kill because that’s “dictating to oppressed people the forms of their resistance”.

Whatever they do is not a reflection on their own morality, but on the oppression they suffer.

If they hate, it’s because they have been hated and if they kill, it’s because they have been killed. The worse the crimes they commit, the more we are told that the horrors they perpetrate are a reflection of the horrors they have suffered. When suicide bombers emerged on the scene, we were told that they were a sign of how desperate the killers must be after such suffering.

No crime, not even those committed on Oct 7, was allowed to be seen as a deliberate choice.

The moral numbness of the self-reinforcing victim/villain cycle has long haunted liberal minds. As Nazi Germany invaded Poland and began the process that would lead to the mass murder of millions of Jews, the poet W.H. Auden penned a hasty condemnation of Nazism, but threw in four lines that became the best known from the poem. “I and the public know/What all schoolchildren learn/Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return.”

Those same four lines appear in disguised or undisguised form in every account of the Oct 7 attacks and in every account of the violence committed by leftists and their allies.

How often during the BLM riots were we treated to the MLK quote that, “a riot is the voice of the unheard” which was never intended to be a blank check for urban violence, but is used to shift the agency from the young men beating an old man in the street to the body at their feet.

The insistence that evil is a cycle not a choice, that the Nazis were victims rather than perpetrators, that every terrorist and rioter in the world could not do otherwise is an unlimited license for evil. And evil is not a cycle: it is a choice that each and every one of us makes.

Oct 7 is far from the first time that “we are the victims”, “nobody should blame us” and “everything we do is justified” licensed genocide. And it will certainly not be the last.

Why did so many radicals jump into supporting Hamas after Oct 7 rather than disavow it?

The atrocities did not alienate, they incited. The crimes offered the same heady promise that the Left had since the French Revolution of committing the worst possible crimes while being morally righteous because each horror was a response to the horrors visited upon them.

When there are no objective standards, all that remains are the propaganda narratives that justify violence. The self-reinforcing victim/villain cycle sheds standards. It asserts pain and suffering. It spends all of its time demonizing those it wishes to kill. And then it kills them.

The crybullies, the victims who kill, spend all of their time asserting their trauma, they project hate as pain, murderousness as trauma and assaults as resistance. Even as cities and countries burn, they always talk about themselves while raging when anyone mentions the damage.

Attempting to find common ground with them is futile. Proposals for reforms or compromises are treated as admissions of guilt. Negotiations are blown up because the professional victims don’t want a deal, they want to continue the hate and violence, and they only use negotiations to assert their endless suffering which can only be remedied with the destruction of their targets.

Some attempt to meet them blow for blow, by asserting their own victimhood, and yet this strategy is bound to fail because the underlying premise of the self-reinforcing victim/villain cycle is the “punching up” and “punching down” one of wokeness that only some people’s pain and some people’s lives matter, that those who have “power” are always perpetrators, and those who claim to be “powerless” are always their victims no matter who is actually doing what.

No matter how much those charged with having “power”,deny it, back away from it, leave, turn over control, and cut deals, the underlying dynamic can never be allowed to change anywhere.

Pro-Israel activists, especially liberal ones, still don’t understand this dynamic and are pained and shocked at how their former allies can justify mass murder and rape at a music festival. But the answer is that it’s the same way that supporters of BLM justified torching cities. The self-reinforcing victim/villain cycle rejects any morality except assertions of powerlessness.

Whoever has the most power is accused of setting the cycle into motion and can never assert innocence again even as the Nazis are goose-stepping their way into Poland.

What is the answer to the self-reinforcing victim/villain cycle’s endless “you made me do it”?

Giving up power isn’t the answer. Some adopt a Stockholm Syndrome strategy of admitting guilt and promising to “do better”, they clamor to be “allies” and loudly denounce their own people. But when the violence begins, the Stockholmers don’t do any better than anyone else. Whether it’s the Hamas attacks or BLM riots, the appeasers and the apologists were caught up in them.

Some died.

An argument cannot be won by arguing using the self-reinforcing victim/villain cycle’s rules. It is important to think back to a time before the cultural poison reduced every exchange to Marxist logic and social media narcissism when we actually knew what right and wrong looked like.

And the only way to do that is by demolishing the cult of victimhood.

Right and wrong are not determined by expressions of pain. While some people may have more power than others, no one is truly powerless or lacks agency. Whatever happens, everyone has a choice in how they respond to it. That choice defines who they are for as long as they keep making it. People are not the products of impersonal forces, but of those choices.

Anyone can be a victim, but no one has to choose to continue being one unless it’s a role they want to play. And anyone from narcissists to aspiring tyrants finds that to be a useful role.

Most of those who assert victimhood were never victims at all. The most malignant victimhood behavior comes from the powerful and the privileged who use it to claim moral immunity. Lenin came from a noble family and Castro was the son of a plantation owner. Osama bin Laden came from a billionaire family. Hamas had its origins in high officials who were displaced by the fall of the Ottoman Empire and whose families have become millionaires through terrorism.

Every evil movement, including the Nazis, claimed to be the victims, but they’re only the victims of their own thwarted ambitions. Today’s totalitarians who claim to be victims are like them the victims of their futile dreams of conquest and of grinding everyone else under their boots.

{Reposted from the author’s blog}


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Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli born blogger and columnist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. His work covers American, European and Israeli politics as well as the War on Terror. His writing can be found at These opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.