Fanaticism in moderation

Judging whether someone is a fanatic is not straightforward. Unless you have access to their private or closed-circle conversations most fanatics do not look like fanatics. In fact, they may even look as normal people 99% of the time. You may not even see them or hear them for the other 1% of the time. Now, if you do get a glimpse of the 1%, what do you make of it? Is the person a fanatic or a moderate who had a bad day? Is there such a thing as a part-time fanatic?

As it happens, the fanatic part of part-time fanatics expresses itself in the company of other people like them. So, if you get a mixture of tolerant people and part-time fanatics you will probably observe absence of fanaticism (unless the part-time fanatics dominate the mixture by a large proportion). Leave those part-time fanatics by themselves and you may well observe a 100% fanatic crowd.

Hate preachers have discovered this loophole in our poor understanding of fanaticism. 99% of the time, when the tolerant people are watching, they appear as benign religious leaders. 1% of the time, when they are among a receptive crowd of ‘otherwise moderate people’, they preach, say, jihad in the name of Islam. When they are caught they invoke their 99% non-fanatic activity in their defense.

Part-time fanaticism is a sham. There is no such thing as a tolerant person on average. A part-time fanatic is a fanatic with legalistic language and good PR.

The follower’s moderation is also a sham. That moderate is a closet fanatic waiting to be in proper company.


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