The Voices of War

LTCOL Dave Grossman - On killing, combat, sleep, ‘blind spots’ and everything else in between

August 30, 2021

Today, my guest is LTCOL Dave Grossman. He requires very little introduction, as I’m sure most of my audience will be intimately familiar with his books, most notably the one that has revolutionised the way we think and talk about combat. The book is of course ‘On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society’, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; has been translated into multiple languages; is on the US Marine Corps Commandant’s Required Reading List; and is required reading at the FBI academy and numerous other academies and colleges around the world.

He is now the director of the ‘Killology Research Group’ and is on the road almost 300 days a year, training elite military and law enforcement organisations worldwide about the reality of combat.

During our chat, we discussed a range of topics, including

  • Non-firers in combat and how we made killing a conditioned response
  • How anonymity can enable violence and the importance of non-verbal communication
  • The logic behind the term ‘killology’
  • What LTCOL Grossman means by the phrase ‘no pity party, no macho man’
  • Sleep deprivation and its effects on our societies
  • The issue with high doses of caffeine in energy drinks 
  • The impact of sleep deprivation on ethical decision making in soldiers and first responders
  • Social blind spots and how they impact our decision making
  • The blind spot of creating a generation desensitised to violence and war
  • How medical technology decreases murder and death rate, and thereby hides an increase in violence
  • How otherwise good people come to do bad things, particularly in war
  • ‘Killing enabling factors’ and how they can lead to atrocities
  • ‘The virus of violent crime’ and its implications for our future
  • The need to understand causes of violence, not means to carry it out
  • The power and danger of information

Since I’ve barely scratched the surface of LTCOL Grossman’s extensive biography, you can find an extended version here. You can find a list of other books he has written over the years, including the two mentioned in our chat—'On Combat' and 'Assassination Generation'—here.

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